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Chapter 18 - The  Invasion

"Miri, do you ever just sit sometimes and think about what life is all about?"

Roxy gazed over at the Audino sitting nearby, and saw that she hadn't quite expected that question.

"I…suppose so," Miri answered hesitantly, "I think it must be something that everybody thinks about at some point or another."

"Hm."

Roxy was sitting with Miri on one of the raised walkways between two of the village's treehouses. The former was sitting down, slumped to the side and lazily resting her head on the six-inch parapet that encircled edge of the walkway. The latter was sitting nearby in a more dignified position, idly weaving together something with vines.

"…Why do you ask?" Miri spoke up.

Roxy shrugged. She saw out the corner of her eye that Miri was frowning at her.

"Roxy, are you feeling all right? Is there something you want to talk about?"

The Pikachu simply breathed in through her nose and let out a long, drawn out sigh. "Not really…" she murmured. In truth, she was just feeling moody and down in the dumps. She hadn't felt like this yesterday, but today she had just woken up with storm clouds over her head. The snow that had accumulated had already started to melt, and Roxy knew it would only be a week or two before things finally started getting warmer. However, her mood had nothing to do with the weather.

"If there is anything you want to talk about, you know that I am right here for you."

"I know, I know…" Roxy mumbled, as Miri had said that very same thing at least five times already, "I don't really have anything to talk about. I just feel bleh…"

"'Bleh'?" Miri replied with a tilt of her head, "Is that a human word?"

Roxy tilted her head and looked over at Miri. Then, after a moment, she chuckled quietly. "Thanks for caring, Miri," she said.

"Of course, Roxy. Of course. That is what I am here for."

"I just feel kind of down…"

Miri sidled herself a little closer to her. "Well, tell me how you have been feeling as of late."

Roxy let out another heavy sigh. She could feel it in her heart. "It's been three weeks…"

A somber look appeared on Miri's face, and she simply nodded.

"It still hurts…Deep down there's this hurt whenever I think of him…I'm trying so hard to be strong, like I know he would want me to be…"

"I know that must be difficult for you, Roxy, but I also think that it is to be expected. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things to go through."

Roxy swallowed a lump in her throat and nodded. "I guess…sometimes it's hard to see the future. Even before I fell in love with him, he was always there in my future in one way or another. I always thought he would be the one to…lead me home."

Miri glanced away for a moment, giving this some thought.

"Right now, the biggest challenge is getting the strength to move on. I'm just trying so hard…"

"But, I think you are doing quite well, Roxy. Especially considering that, well…death is not so common to you."

Roxy flinched at the word 'death'.

"It was not any of us that made you get up, leave the hut, and start living life again. That was all you. We knew it would be tough for you, but I think many of us had faith that you would be okay given enough time." After a pause, she added, "To be honest, we were more concerned about Taka…"

"I kinda was too…"

"We were very glad to see him return, though he still expresses no desire to speak about his brother…"

"He's just…We both lost a loved one, so…" Roxy glanced away and took a few calming breaths of the fresh forest air. "On the other paw, I'm glad that I don't have to worry about training or fighting anymore. That's a load off of my mind. I guess I'm thankful that it came at such a helpful time."

"I have seen you at the training area quite often, though," Miri said, "You seem to be continuing your training anyway."

Roxy waffled with her words a bit before replying. "It's…different. I started doing that at first to keep my mind occupied, y'know? Then I just sort of…kept doing it. It's a lot different when Taka's not there doing what he calls 'teaching', and there's no pressure to learn fast. If it's just me at my own pace, I enjoy it a little more."

"I see," Miri said with a nod.

"But, I mean…" Roxy continued with a half-hearted chuckle, "I'm still not a fighter at all. I can barely swing a spear around properly. I wouldn't be able to fight anyone in this village or this whole forest…not even you!"

Now this made Miri laugh. "Roxy, come now. You know that I do not fight."

"You'd still beat me."

"Oh, I think you are being ridiculous."

Roxy simply shrugged, the faintest hints of a smile on her lips. Talking with Miri was helping her bad mood a little, but it wasn't a perfect cure. At the back of her mind, there was still the memory of Makari, and the sadness that came with it. It was something that was always there. A burden of sadness that she had to carry with her everywhere.

At that moment, though, they both began to notice a commotion. Pokémon on the ground and in the distance were talking, yelling and making a ruckus. Roxy and Miri both stood up and made their way to the parapet, where they looked down to see what was happening.

The villagers directly below them looked confused, apparently still unsure of what was happening. In the distance, though, they could see warriors running about. Something was happening, and from the sound of the shouting, it wasn't good.

Roxy saw one of the wise ones, Karizu, in the distance looking like he was trying to organize the growing chaos. He held his spear out like a giant pointer and directed Pokémon around.

Hearing a familiar voice, Roxy and Miri glanced down to see that Natoka was below them. He was asking the nearby villagers what was going on, but wasn't getting many answers. When he saw the other Raichu in the distance, he started to run towards him.

But, Karizu was already running towards him. Natoka slowed down when he saw this, and soon the two Raichu met up. "Karizu!" the latter shouted, "What is happening?"

"They are here!" Karizu replied, slightly out of breath.

"Who? Who is here?"

There was a loud crashing sound in the distance, drawing everyone's attention. More Pikachu warriors started flooding through the trees and into the village, running past the Raichu or staying near them. Roxy gasped when she saw blood dripping from wounds on many of them.

Roxy whimpered quietly and watched in both fear and awe as suddenly, the whole village was on the move. Most Pokémon were rushing towards the two Raichu, who were standing in a small clearing about the size of three huts. Other Pokémon, mostly females, were running in the opposite direction. Most of them were leading or carrying cubs away.

"Miri?" Roxy squeaked, "What's happening?"

"I…do not know."

A rather sizable group of warriors had now assembled in the small clearing, including Ozu who had showed up in the midst of the confusion. Everyone was talking and shouting, but Roxy couldn't make anything out. Many warriors were holding their weapons up and rushing into the nearby trees. However, even more were fleeing back out of the trees.

"I need to get down there," Miri was saying, "They need medi-"

There was a loud crunch that nearly made Roxy jump out of her skin. Her frantic eyes scanned their surroundings until she saw a tree not too far away snap and fall to the ground. It made a tremendous, frightening crash as it hit the forest floor. One brave Pikachu ran forward to the tree to investigate.

A moment later, a powerful limb reached over the fallen tree's trunk and swatted the Pikachu away like a tiny Bug-type. Roxy had to stifle a scream. Then, from behind and around the tree, the enemy finally made itself visible as they advanced towards the village. Roxy's pupils shrunk to pinpoints as she felt her heart nearly stop.

The Earth Tribe was back.

The entire Earth Tribe.

Roxy watched in horror as tons of Thunder Clan brethren ran for their lives away from the slowly advancing group of Ground-types. The more she looked, the more Roxy realized that this was more than just a group of Pokémon. This was an army.

There was a line of at least ten Graveler marching forward in near-unison. They were at the front of the group, smirking as weapons from the Thunder Clan bounced uselessly off of their bodies. Amidst their ranks was a single Golem, who was humongous. Roxy didn't doubt that he was the one who had knocked over the tree.

Behind them were scores of Pokémon, all manner of Ground-types. There were tons of Sandshew and Sandslash, Marowak and Drilbur. She saw some Diggersby as well, and a couple of Rhyhorn. She even spied two or three Quagsire in their midst. Some of them had brown body paint like the Thunder Clan did, but most did not. Few of them were carrying weapons, but that didn't make any of them look any less threatening.

Roxy cowered behind the parapet, looking down with frightened eyes as the Earth Tribe continued to advance. One of the wise ones shouted an order, and then everyone gave up fighting the intruders and fell back to regroup.

She was too terrified to even think straight. It dawned on her at a painfully slow pace that she was watching the Thunder Clan getting invaded. This group had already pushed past the villagers out on patrol, and hadn't been slowed down by their combined efforts to push back. Now they had reached the village and they didn't look any worse for wear. Like so many times before, she broke her own record for level of fear in that moment. Frozen to the spot, she could only watch in terrified anticipation.

"Roxy, I need to get down there," Miri whispered, "I will be needed."

The little Pikachu didn't look away from the scene below, but she did whine quietly.

"Stay here," Miri instructed in a firm tone, "Stay out of sight. You will be safe here. If anything happens, climb higher into the trees."

She whined again in response.

"It will be okay, Roxy, but I have to go."

Roxy then heard Miri make her way to the ladder and slowly climb down, leaving her alone up on the walkway. She was shivering like mad, feeling sick to her stomach as she watched the very formidable and very dangerous tribe continue to advance. The Thunder Clan were all grouped together at this point, standing strong and facing down their enemy, but Roxy could see many worried faces.

Finally, once the Graveler reached the edge of the small clearing, they came to a halt. The rest of the tribe behind them halted as well. Suddenly, the entire village fell into a terrifying silence.

At first, no-one moved or said a thing. After a moment it looked like Natoka was going to say something in anger, but Karizu stepped in front of him and held him back. He then addressed the newcomers. "Earth Tribe!" he proclaimed, "What is the meaning of this?" There was no anger in his tone, but there was also an underlying demand for answers.

The Earth Tribe continued to remain still. Some looked smug, while others looked rather eager. Then, a few seconds later, a lone figure jumped up on top of the massive Golem, making Roxy quietly gasp.

Tazoka looked down at the assembled Thunder Clan from his high vantage point, wearing that same sickening smile that he always had. "My, my, my…" he said, his voice practically dripping with venom, "This certainly is a full reception, is it not?"

"Tazoka?" Karizu called up to him, "What is going on?'

The Excadrill simply smirked at the Raichu and chuckled darkly.

"Why have you intruded upon our land?!" Natoka demanded in a rage-filled voice. In response, some of the Ground-types began to stir and shout things back at him.

"Oh, such harsh words, Natoka…" Tazoka practically purred, "Such a temper…"

Karizu held out his spear to the side, once more holding Natoka back, and took a step forward. "Valued allies of the Earth Tribe," he announced, "You did not arrive last moon to receive your berries, but we still have them here for you. We are happy to provide them, as well as the berries for this moon." He paused, looking up at Tazoka with brave eyes. "We do not wish to break the agreement, Tazoka," he stated firmly.

Tazoka crossed his forelegs. "That is very amicable of you," he replied. Then he grinned, and Roxy could practically see the 'evil glint' off of his teeth as if she were watching a movie. "We, on the other paw," he continued, "do not see reason to continue this agreement."

Many in the Thunder Clan gasped.

"Your land," he went on to say, "is where the best and most freshest berries grow, and in such plentiful supply. We are quite capable of foraging on our own, so there is really no need for lesser species like yourselves to do it for us."

Roxy shrunk back a little. The logical thing to do was to duck below the short wall, cower, and hide. Yet, she couldn't tear her eyes away from what was happening. She was witnessing the breakdown of the agreement; the only thing that kept this group safe from Ground-types!

"Furthermore…" Tazoka continued, letting his voice dip a little lower, "Not all of us, in this tribe…can subsist entirely on berries."

Roxy's eyes opened even wider, a nervous sweat running down her neck as she understood the connotations of that statement.

Things were tense on both sides, though luckily there was still no-one charging forward. Karizu remained a step ahead of his tribe, still bravely maintaining eye contact with the Excadrill. "Tazoka…" he spoke, "You must reconsider…This agreement has kept our two tribes happy for such a long while. This goes further back than you or I. My father and your father met on equal grounds, and they were very happy with the agreement. And their f-"

"My father was a sentimental old fool!" Tazoka exclaimed, cutting him off, "Ever since he died and I took his place, I have been considering this rather pathetic state of affairs. We are the Earth Tribe! We are strong, we are mighty, and we have no place bowing to the demands of a few tiny spark pups!"

Behind him, the whole tribe let out a cheer.

"This is an insult!" Natoka boomed as he stepped in front of Karizu, who this time was powerless to stop him, "Our tribe works hard, day and night, simply to please you, and this is how you repay us? Do not underestimate our might, Tazoka! This agreement was forged on the grounds of equal strength, so that we could benefit each other."

Tazoka smirked. "Do you really believe that?"

"I do!!" Natoka exclaimed without hesitation.

Roxy, meanwhile, was nervously scanning the ranks of the Thunder Clan. She picked out quite a few of them who had bloody injuries from their efforts to prevent the Earth Tribe from entering the village. Trails of blood on the ground marked the passage of many who had already retreated to wherever Miri was hiding. Comparatively, there was not a scratch on any member of the Earth Tribe.

"Perhaps there was a time," Tazoka continued in his sickening voice, "when our tribe did see yours as, hmm…capable? It is admittedly impressive the things you are able to construct out of mere wood, rocks and plants." He then lowered his gaze slightly, causing the blade on his head to cast a dark shadow over his features. "However strong you may have been, though, you have grown soft. You are weak and sentimental, too kind for your own good.  You no longer command the same level of respect, I am afraid."

Natoka growled, while some of the Pokémon behind him gave each other concerned glances.

"Tazoka," Karizu spoke up, "Please consider what you are doing…"

"Oh, I have," Tazoka replied with an eager grin, "and after careful consideration, I have decided that your territory shall become ours. Perhaps, though, you have convinced me to reconsider my options. Okay, I have reconsidered them and my decision remains the same." With that manic grin of his, he began to chuckle.

In response to this, many Thunder Clan warriors held up their weapons to show that they were ready to fight, but Roxy didn't see very much confidence among them.

"Oh, do not try to fight back," Tazoka chided them, "You know it would be a waste."

Natoka glanced back towards Karizu and Ozu, and all three shared a glance. Afterwards, though, the Raichu were all silent. They continued to appear steadfast and resilient, but things were quickly turning from bad to worse.

"I will give you five minutes to leave," Tazoka spoke, "After that, well, I cannot promise what will happen."

"What will happen is that you will be gone!"

Tazoka's grin vanished as he sought out who had dared to shout those words. He didn't have to search long, because Taka was already pushing his way to the front of the crowd and marching forwards. Karizu and Ozu half-shouted at him, trying to keep him from advancing. He ignored them.

There was no other way to describe it. Taka was pissed. Roxy wasn't sure she had ever seen a Pikachu so angry before in her whole life. Just looking at that scowl on his face made her feel intimidated. Taka bravely marched across the clearing, heedless of any danger, until he was only about two metres in front of the Golem. None of the Earth Tribe had moved in response, though Roxy wasn't quite sure that was a good thing.

Taka then lifted his boomerang and pointed the tip right at Tazoka. "Turn around and leave us!" Taka demanded, with a threatening gaze in his eyes. Roxy subconsciously shrunk a little further down behind the wall.

Tazoka made a graceful leap off of the Golem and landed right in front of Taka, who didn't flinch even in the slightest. When the Excadrill stood up straight, he crossed his forelegs and looked down upon the smaller Pikachu before him. "Taka," he said in an uncomfortably calm voice, "I am surprised it took you this long to speak up."

"Leave."

Scoffing once, Tazoka shook his head. "Every last one of you has delusions of grandeur… If I say 'no', which you know I am going to say, then what exactly do you plan to do? You should consider yourself lucky that my tribe is standing still and not tearing you all to pieces right now. Try as you might, you know that you cannot harm us."

"I will not ask you again," Taka spoke, "Leave now. Take your berries if you wish. We still freely offer them to you. Either way, turn back and leave. Your Tribe is not welcome here."

Tazoka began chuckling, which sent a chill down Roxy's spine. "Do you speak for your tribe now?" he asked.

"It matters not which one of us speaks it. We all share the sentiment."

"My, your temper seems particularly venomous today…"

Taka said nothing in response to that.

"On any other day, Taka, I would have at least entertained your petty little threats. Even I will not argue that you are the strongest member of this tribe. Now, though, your threats mean nothing. Stand aside, Taka, or I will kill you."

Roxy watched, her heart caught in her throat, as this tense situation unfolded. Tazoka was waiting for Taka to move, but the Pikachu was not budging. She got more anxious with every passing second. This felt like an elastic band, being pulled farther and farther and getting that much closer to snapping.

It happened in the blink of an eye.

One minute, the two had been standing there. The next, Taka had suddenly swung his boomerang upwards, aiming for Tazoka's face, and the Excadrill had blocked it with his claws. A loud tang rang out through the air.

The area fell frighteningly still once more. Roxy couldn't breathe.

Then, Tazoka swung out and Taka blocked. Then, Taka retaliated but Tazoka blocked that as well. In a matter of seconds, the two were fighting. Taka began using his boomerang as a blunt weapon, darting about and swinging wildly at his opponent. Tazoka, meanwhile, slashed out with his claws, aiming for the smaller Pikachu that dodged every strike or blocked them with his boomerang. How strong was the wood in that thing?!

Roxy whimpered and quivered on the spot as she watched their fight begin. "This can't be happening…" she whispered to herself in a trembling voice, "Please, don't let this happen…!"

Taka and Tazoka seemed evenly matched, with neither seeming able to land a hit on the other. They had been fighting for about 15 seconds before others began to move. The rest of the Thunder Clan, at the command of the three Raichu, quickly began to rush forward to assist Taka. When Tazoka saw this, he used up a brief opening in his duel to snap his claws and point forwards.

It was as if he had opened the floodgates. The Ground-types that had been standing patiently behind him all rushed forward at once. The ground seemed to quake as they all moved quickly, like a powerful landslide. Though, astonishingly, every one of them moved seamlessly around Taka and Tazoka, letting them continue their duel.

Roxy wanted to close her eyes and cover her ears, but she couldn't look away. Before her terrified eyes, the forces of the Earth Tribe intercepted the Thunder Clan before they could reach Taka, and the brawl began.

Suddenly the air was filled with war cries as the two armies met one another. The Thunder Clan warriors scattered and tried to use their agility to gain the upper paw, but the Earth Tribe was like a solid wall that none of them could get past. Though some were probably trying, none of them was able to get through so they could help Taka.

Roxy's anxiety spiked to a new all-time high. Her heart pounded painfully against her ribs as she watched the Thunder Clan, so many Pikachu and Pokémon that she knew, that were her friends. They all wore brave expressions, and they used their skills and their weapons as valiantly as they could.

Yet, they were beginning to lose already. Despite their best efforts, they were still horribly outmatched against the forces of the Earth Tribe. Not a single bolt of electricity could be seen, considering just how useless they would be. Roxy actually saw many warriors stab, smack and skewer the Ground-types with their weapons, and some even managed to dig their spears in a bit. However, each successful blow was laughed off as if they had been hit with a feather. The thick skin of the Ground-types, especially those that were also Rock-types, were proving just how difficult it was to hurt them with sticks and stones.

The most vulnerable of the Earth Tribe, though more susceptible to damage from weapons, had their own defenses. Some like the Sandslash were shockingly fast on their paws, even managing to outrun other Pikachu. Some, like the Quagsire, had more varied attacks at their disposal. She saw Water Guns and other such attacks used to fend off the Thunder Clan and keep themselves from getting hurt.

While this was going on, Tazoka and Taka continued to duel off to the side. Roxy saw that Taka's boomerang had been broken in half, and now he was using a spear. The two circled around one another, darted left and right, and struck out whenever they saw an opening. Neither seemed to be wavering, though she saw more blood on Taka's fur than on Tazoka's. She hoped that this was just due to the colour of the Excadrill's fur.

Roxy whined once more, muttering to herself, "Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh gosh…" She was watching an all out brawl, with pretty much everyone she had come to know down there fighting. She saw Kimi get thrown through the air, leading to a rough landing. Roxy had just shared berries with her this morning. There was a painful, growing fear in the depths of her heart, and it was much more than fear for her own life. She had already lost someone. She didn't want to lose anyone else.

On top of worrying about the lives of herself and everyone else, Roxy was also terrified of the aftermath. Even if everyone survived and ran away, then what? She would no longer have this village to keep her safe. She would be out there, possibly all alone, against the dangers of the forest. If this battle ended in defeat, she would lose her shelter, her food source, her safety, and any hope of getting back home.

This was more than a catastrophe. This was a nightmare come to life. And there wasn't anything she could do about it.

It seemed, at the very least, that the Thunder Clan were fighting back defensively. They were being smart and not taking unnecessary risks, considering the formidable foes they were faced with. How long would that last, though? She had already seen at least ten Pikachu stumble away from the fight, clutching wounds to stop the bleeding. Miri was down there somewhere too. Was she safe?

Roxy found she was hugging her tail, and really tightly as well. It took a moment for her to feel the stinging pain from squeezing too hard. Roxy hadn't hugged her tail in quite a long time, but she couldn't stop herself now. She was simply watching this unfold and hoping for the best.

But what was the best? Could the Thunder Clan really win against such odds? Even if they did win, would the Earth Tribe just come back? Should the whole tribe flee before anyone could die? Things were so chaotic down there, that someone she knew could very well have died and she hadn't even noticed. Was there any positive outcome to this, or was this invasion doomed to succeed and she was now trapped in the depths of hell?

She let out another worried whine when she realized something else. Except for Tazoka, the Earth Tribe warriors were going easy. Many of them were standing still, and not doing much except for fending off attackers. When an opportunity presented itself, they would strike, but Roxy could easily see that they weren't using their full strength.

And her stomach twisted when she realized the reason why. If the Earth Tribe just came in and attacked mercilessly, then their opponents would have taken the defeat as a sign to get stronger and strike back. By doing this, though, they were showing that they could be stronger. Why would any opponents come back later if they knew that the Earth Clan could do so much more? This was more than an attack, it was a psychological manoeuvre.

A Pikachu let out a cry as she was thrown to the ground.

Another stumbled after his spear failed to make more than a scratch on the Graveler.

An Emolga screamed in pain as she was hit with a Rock Blast.

A Raichu was struck down.

Roxy was beginning to cry now. They were going to lose this battle. There was no question about it. She tried to figure out what she was going to do next, but she couldn't think straight. All she felt was that familiar, horrible feeling that everything around her was crashing down. She was convinced that this was going to be the end of her journey, one way or another.

A loud grunt could be heard, drawing Roxy's attention back over to Taka and Tazoka, who were still dueling on their own. Taka was definitely showing the scars of battle by now, but the worrying thing was that his spear was now broken as well. Taka was facing the Excadrill with no weapon. Both combatants looked like they were starting to get winded, but Taka had his teeth grit and looked like he was in pain. Roxy was witnessing the impossible; Taka was losing.

Tazoka was currently standing in between Taka and the rest of the fight. The fact was that Taka was backed into a corner. If he kept on fighting, it looked like he would lose. But, with Tazoka standing in the way, he couldn't run to the rest of the villagers and their battle, nor could he escape off to where Miri was hiding. He could turn around and run away from the village into the forest, but how far would that get him?

Before she could ponder this any further, Taka took a chance and quickly lashed out at his opponent. Tazoka effortlessly blocked his attack and threw Taka back down to the ground onto his back. Taka groaned and tried to sit up.

Tazoka leapt forward and plunged his claws right into Taka's hind leg.

"No!!" Roxy cried out in horror, and then quickly cupped her paws over her mouth. No-one had heard her, though. She had been drowned out by the blood-curdling scream escaping from Taka's throat. Tazoka's claw had gone deep, maybe even all the way through. To Roxy, it looked like a fountain of blood was erupting from the wound.

No… she thought to herself. She couldn't lose him too.

Most of the rest of the Thunder Clan had heard his cry, and many immediately tried to come to his aid. Once Tazoka ripped his claws out of Taka's flesh, he snapped his claws once more. The Earth Tribe members stopped fighting back, and instead formed an impenetrable wall so that none could reach the two.

"I told you…" Tazoka said to his downed foe, "You cannot win against us."

Taka had both of his forepaws pressed to the wound to stop the bleeding, so all he could do was look up at the Excadrill and growl.

"I gave you a chance to flee, but you chose not to take it."

"You are despicable," Taka spat, "This is a coward's victory."

"I will not stop you if that is what you choose to believe…"

Tazoka then took a step forward, so that he was looming over the downed Pikachu. Thunder Clan members were desperately trying to break through, but the Earth Tribe was impermeable. Taka was a sitting Ducklett. He couldn't move with an injury like that.

The dread in Roxy's heart felt like heavy black tar. Her breath caught in her throat and she was sweating like crazy. Before her very eyes, the 'invincible' Taka was going to be killed. A frantic voice in her head told her that she had to stop this. She had to help. She had to save him!

But what could she do? Roxy whined at her own inadequacy. Taka was going to be killed, and she couldn't do anything about it. If a whole tribe of strong wild Pokémon stood no chance against an army of Ground-types, then what hope did she have by herself? Running to his aid would only end up getting her killed as well.

Tazoka grinned and sharpened his claws. The moment was approaching. Taka continued to glare at him for a moment, and then closed his eyes and lowered his head, accepting his fate. Roxy's heart beat even faster. This couldn't happen! Someone had to do something! Someone just had to, except there was no-one left to do anything. Those would could fight were trapped by the Earth Tribe, while those who weren't trapped were those who couldn't fight.

Roxy was the only one who could do anything, but what could she possibly do? She had the same weaknesses as everyone down there, plus a whole heap more. What did she have that they didn't? Unless she could somehow, within seconds, find somebody who knew Hydro Pump, or Ice Beam, or…or…

Her eyes shot open wide and she gasped as the thought hit her like a speeding train. Her pupils shrank to dots, though, as this new thought brought with it so much fear and anxiety.

Time seemed to slow down as she considered her options. Her eyes darted everywhere, from Taka to Tazoka to the rest of the tribe, and everywhere in between. She tried her best to see if there were any other possibilities at all, but there was simply no time. Each second that passed was a second closer to Taka's execution.

Roxy's heart hammered against her chest like a gong. Every thump felt like it was asking her the same question.

Are you really about to do this?

She bit her lip. Indecision and anxiety worked together to gnaw away at her confidence, and she was rooted to the spot by fear for a brief second. It was almost enough to make her stay put.

But almost was not enough.

Roxy scrambled on her paws and took off like a bullet. She darted over to the ladder and climbed down faster than anyone had ever climbed before. She was practically jumping down the rungs. She hit the forest floor about a second later, landing just the way she had been taught in training. Without a glance back, and certainly without paying any heed to the voices in her mind screaming at her to stop, she took off running.

"Roxy?!" Miri shouted in disbelief. Roxy caught a brief glimpse of the Audino as she ran past, seeing that she was hiding behind a bush and tending to the wounded. All she saw was Miri holding her paw out to her before she disappeared from view. "Roxy, stop!!"

She didn't stop. She pushed her little paws harder and harder, so they could carry her as fast as possible. There was no time to stop. No time to pause, to breathe, or to think about what in the world she was doing. She harkened back to the very first day in the forest, where she had run faster than ever before in her life.

The difference this time was that she was running towards the danger.

Roxy was small and unassuming, and she was entering the fray from off to the side. With the Ground-types focused on herding all of the Thunder Clan, Roxy was able to skirt by them nearly unnoticed and completely unmolested.

Tazoka's claws were raised in the air. Any moment, he would bring them down and end Taka's life. Roxy pushed her body past its limits. She strained herself to get there on time. The reality of what she was doing came crashing down on her, and she suddenly became convinced that she had just signed her own death warrant.

But, she couldn't stop now. Roxy closed her eyes, braced herself for the pain and mutilation that would come, and made her move.

"STOOOPPP!!!"

The forest fell frightfully quiet. One could have heard a pin drop, and on the leaf-covered ground no less. Everything became still and silent.

Roxy's eyes were closed and her face was cringing away. She stood there, having placed herself between Tazoka and Taka, and kept her forelimbs outstretched as if to shield the downed Pikachu. She quivered like crazy, absolutely expecting to be torn apart in a most painful manner. When, after a few tense seconds, nothing happened, she cautiously opened one eye.

Tazoka was standing there staring down at her, his claw held up in mid-slash. He looked quite surprised, and even a little baffled. "Well, well…" he said after a moment, lowering the claw to his side and tapping his chin with the other, "This was unexpected…"

"Pet…!" Taka hissed from behind her, "What are you doing?!"

Now that she saw he wasn't attacking her, at least not immediately, Roxy opened her eyes fully and stared directly into the eyes of the Excadrill. She kept her paws outstretched to shield Taka from Tazoka, and stood up as tall and as firmly as she could.

"I did not expect to see you until our siege was complete," Tazoka spoke with a little confident smirk, "What, oh what, has gotten into your little head?"

"Get out of here…!" Taka urged. His voice sounded weak.

Roxy turned halfway and glanced back at him. His leg had been painted red, and his forepaws were still pressed tightly to the wound. There was a serious, fierce look on his face, the kind one might give to a misbehaving child. She could tell just by looking at him that he would not be moving any time soon.

"Young one…" he hissed, "Run! Do not be a fool, and run!"

Instead, she turned back around so she was facing Tazoka. Behind him, she could see many shocked and worried faces among the ranks of the Thunder Clan. Her appearance had somehow slowed the energy of the entire battlefield. Now, it seemed, everybody was just waiting to see what happened next. Perhaps some of them thought that if they tried anything, she would be killed in response.

The thought had occurred to her as well.

"Go on, little pet…" Tazoka purred, his voice once again sending a shiver down her spine, "This battlefield is no place for someone like you. I do admire your bravery, and I am sure this little pest that you are protecting does as well, but I would advise you not to stand in my way."

Roxy stared up at him, and the two remained silent for at least half a minute. Her nerves were going crazy, and she simply couldn't stop herself from shivering. She was expending a lot of energy just to force herself to ignore all of the warning signs in her head. She knew all too well that Tazoka could kill her in the blink of an eye, and at any second.

"…Leave," she demanded.

Tazoka blinked. "Pardon?"

"Leave," she repeated, and then said, "D-don't hurt him. Leave us alone. W-we don't want to fight." Roxy knew there would be no way to keep the quiver out of her voice, so decided to just ignore it.

Roxy couldn't tell if Tazoka was baffled or amused by her actions.

She gulped, shoving all of her fears down into the depths of her mind, and forced herself to be unwavering. "T-take your army…and go. We don't want to fight. We don't want to break the agreement…"

Tazoka arched an eyebrow but continued to say nothing, which made Roxy feel even more terrified.

"T-take the berries…They said the offer's still there, so…take them." Roxy took in a quick deep breath and let it out slowly. "Please…Don't hurt anyone else…" She stole another quick glance back at Taka. "Don't hurt him. I…I-I won't let you."

"Pet…!" Taka's voice was getting desperate now. "Run! Run away before it is too late!"

"You should listen to him," Tazoka commented casually.

Roxy gulped but held her ground.

"This battleground has no place for the likes of you. If you are not careful, you could get seriously hurt," he said while leaning down closer to her, speaking in a parent-like voice, "Run along and let the grown-ups play."

At this, she gave him a flat look. "I'm not a child…"

"Listen, my dear," he continued, ignoring her, "The law of the forest is taking place here, and I am afraid there is nothing you can do about it. Change is inevitable, my little doe, and it does not favour the weak."

Roxy shook her head. "I said 'go'." She cast a furtive glance at the tribes standing behind him, all of whom were still watching to see what would happen next. The tension was as thick as bone.

Tazoka sighed. "Listen, little pet. I quite like you. I think you are rather charming. If you want to flee now and save your own life, go ahead. I will not stop you. In fact, I will make sure no-one chases after you." He paused for a moment and idly tapped one of his claws on the ground. "However," he continued, "I would advise you to do so before you deplete my patience!"

Roxy took a breath of air in through her nose and calmed her wild nerves as much as she could. It was now or never. She had to decide if she was brave enough for what she needed to do next.

"I-If you don't leave…" she stated, firmly but cursing the ever-present tremble in her voice, "Then I will…I-I will make you."

Tazoka snickered loudly. Roxy would have been insulted had she not been terrified. "I beg your pardon?" he asked incredulously. Behind him, Earth Tribe members were giving each other grins and nudges, while Thunder Clan members looked shocked at what she had uttered.

"I will…" Gulp. "…force you leave. A-and trust me…It'll hurt…"

As expected, instead of the reaction she wanted, Tazoka gave her a smirk and a shrug of his shoulders. "Cute," he commented, "Now get out of the way."

When he took a step forwards, Roxy took one back but remained standing strong with her forelimbs outstretched. "I-I-I'm warning you…!"

"Pet, stop this!" Taka hissed, "He has already defeated me. There is no need for you to do this and waste your life as well."

"Your friend is wise," Tazoka continued, "His advice might save your life."

Roxy could feel the threat of death encircling her completely, crushing her down with the weight of a thousand bodies. She was almost expecting death at this point, and had so many mental voices asking her why she had done this crazy thing.

But still, she couldn't stop now. The moment she stepped aside, Taka would die. "This is your last chance…" she warned the Excadrill with as much bravado as she could muster.

Tazoka gave a huff of frustration. "Fine. You want to die? I will deal with you after this one," he said as he stepped forward, intending to shove right past her.

A chorus of audible gasps filled the clearing a moment after Roxy had forcefully shoved him back. Now, Tazoka was staring down at her, once more dumbfounded. She could see him silently asking himself, 'Did she really just do that?!'

"Leave us…alone!!" she shouted, meanwhile praying that this would actually work. After another moment of tense silence, Tazoka uttered four frightening words.

"That was a mistake."

He took a step forward and raised his claw up into the air. Roxy grit her teeth and grimaced, bracing herself for the worst.

"Tazoka, no!!" Taka shouted.

She just needed a little more time.

!

Her ears snapped up and she gasped softly. Got it! The energy within her was practically brimming at this point, and she was finally ready. No-one had noticed the grass blowing nearby, despite the utter lack of wind.

Roxy drew in her forelimbs, then let out a loud cry and thrust them outward. She felt the powerful energy draw up from the Earth, use her body as a conduit, and burst outwards all around her. Large, softly glowing tendrils of grass spread out from her hind paws and encircled her, forming an elaborate floral pattern on the ground. Before Tazoka could do more than stumble back a step, she raised her forepaws up. The lengths of grass followed her command and rose up around her, as if the flower had closed into a bud. She held them there, surrounded by a curving, glowing cage of thick grass strands.

Many of the Pokémon surrounding her had gasped in shock when she had first unleashed her Grass Knot, and now they were all staring at her in silence. Tazoka had stumbled a few steps back, and was staring at her in utter confusion. She even saw a bit of disbelief in his eyes. They darted around, taking in the entire construct she had created with the grass, but no words came out of his mouth.

Roxy sighed. She could feel the immense amount of energy she had pulled from the Earth. It had taken quite a bit of time, and she had been secretly drawing the energy since the moment she first stepped in front of Taka, but now her gambit had been successful. Ground-types were weak to only three things. Luckily, one of them happened to be Grass Moves.

While everyone was frozen in shock, she tilted her head back to regard Taka. He was still lying there in the same position, but he wore the same expression that Tazoka had. He was staring up at her, eyes wider than she had ever seen them before, with his mouth hanging open in a perfect 'O' shape. It was the most emotion she had ever seen him show. He looked like he had just seen Arceus itself descending from heaven.

She then turned her attention back to Tazoka, who was starting to recover from his shock, and quickly thrust her forepaws out. She idly noticed that her fur was dimly glowing green. That had never happened before.

Some of the blades of grass separated from the 'bud' and suddenly lashed out towards the Excadrill. His quick reflexes allowed him to deflect one of them, but the others moved too quickly. They wrapped themselves around his forelimbs and held him in place, while a third, rather thick, blade of grass swept along the ground and caught his hind legs from behind. Tazoka let out a cry of surprise as he was knocked off of his paws and landed on the ground in a heap.

Roxy had read that Grass Knot was useful for tripping larger opponents. She had never dreamed she would ever put her own Grass Knot to such use.

Tazoka quickly stood back up, swiftly slicing up the grass into ribbons with his claws. He glared at her, seething quietly. She could tell that he was in pain and trying to hide it. Grass-type Moves were usually executed with the same type of energy that Roxy used for Grass Knot, which allows Pokémon to move plant life. Roxy knew from the encyclopaedia that this energy felt hot and painful to Ground-types, which is why they were weak to Grass-type Moves.

Roxy didn't even give Tazoka a chance to make another move. With a flourish of her forepaws, more blades of grass rose from the ground. They snaked through the air like vines come to life. These ones, she used to snap at Tazoka like a Vine Whip. She grouped a few of them together to make a thick grassy vine and sent it directly towards him. He tried to dodge, but it impacted him in the shoulder and sent him staggering back once more.

After knocking him on his rear end again with another low sweeping strand, she pulled the grass blades back in and reformed the 'bud' around her. Tazoka quickly stood up, and glared daggers at her. She could see the way he was holding his paws to parts of his body where he had been struck. Roxy also knew that the energy of Grass-type Moves weakened the typically thick, rough skin of Ground- and Rock-types.

Tazoka whipped his head around and glared back at his army. "What are you all standing there for?!" he barked, "Kill her!!"

None of them needed to be told twice. At once, they all turned around to fully face her, and adopted intimidating glares. They didn't all charge at once, much to Roxy's gratitude. A couple of them did, however, begin to run towards her at a frightening speed. Others began to follow behind them at a slower pace, but this made them no less frightening.

Roxy froze for a moment as fear and anxiety consumed her whole body, but she shook it off, grit her teeth, and thrust her paws forwards once more. This time, every single blade of grass that was under her control shot forward like a mass of tentacles. She focused on each foe one at a time, lingering on them just long enough to get a blade of grass wrapped around them in some way. This was usually enough to bring them to a stop, or at least to a crawl. There were so many of them, though, and some of them were beginning to get uncomfortably close.

A collection of valiant war cries erupted through the clearing. Roxy witnessed the wonderful sight of every able-bodied Thunder Clan warrior quickly rushing to action. They dashed forward on their speedy paws, zeroing in on those that Roxy had already wrapped in Grass Knots.

She watched a group of three Pikachu converge on the Graveler that she had just attacked. They all began slashing and thrusting with their spears, digging into the Graveler's skin and managing to draw blood. The Graveler was forced to abandon its focus on Roxy and defend itself.

Roxy smiled as this continued with the rest of her foes. The Thunder Clan kept those that she had weakened with her Grass Move occupied, and allowed her to focus on those that were still coming after her. With careful, deliberate movement of her paws, the grassy blades moved to her whims and sought out opponent after opponent. Each strike was like a flurry of living ribbons, wrapping up each Ground-type like a Christmas present.

She panted as she continued her Grass Knot assault. This was ten or twenty times more blades of grass than she had ever had under her control before. This was requiring much more effort and concentration compared to just showing off for her master in the garden. She didn't let it get to her, though. She just kept her focus on the continuous wave of enemies, and did her best to make sure that none reached her.

This was working. This was actually working! Though she wasn't very strong or powerful, the energy from her attacks was weakening the Ground-types enough that the Thunder Clan were able to attack more effectively with their weapons. Slowly, but surely, they were starting to turn the tide of the battle.

Through all of this, Roxy was continually forced to focus on Tazoka. The Excadrill was relentless in his approach. Though the Grass Knot was clearly hurting him, he kept pushing himself towards her with those deadly claws of his. Any Thunder Clan warriors who tried to engage him were easily swept aside, and he was frighteningly fast at cutting up her grass with his claws.

Sweat was running down her neck. This was getting really difficult, but she refused to stop. No matter how hard this was getting, she couldn't back down. If she did, things would just go back to where they had left off before. Taka would be killed and the tribe would be run out of the village.

There was so much going on, though. She had to split her focus among many different foes and all of the various grass blades she was controlling. It was like a difficult puzzle, and it was quickly giving her a terrible headache. Through fleeting glances, she saw that many Earth Tribe warriors had been beaten down into submission, and others were retreating to the sidelines. The Quagsire, in particular, were nowhere to be seen. Grass Moves, after all, were especially volatile against them.

Tazoka, though, was a relentless foe. He was not giving up, no matter how many grass blades she slung at him. Slowly, but ever so surely, he was advancing closer to her. Roxy couldn't move without stopping the Move entirely, and then it would take her a while to get it going again, assuming she even could.

Roxy half growled, half groaned through the intense exertion she was pushing herself through. This was leagues longer than she had ever thought she could maintain a Grass Knot, especially considering that she had never tried one for so long before. The fact that it was working was the only thing giving her the energy to keep going. The Thunder Clan were holding their own once more. Maybe she really could help them to victory!

A vicious claw swipe severed one of the blades of grass forming the 'bud' around her, and she cried out in surprise. She nearly lost her focus, but strained to keep the Move going. Earth Clan members were lying on the ground defeated now, blood leaking from the wounds on their weakened skins. This could be the end. No-one else had to die.

Of course, this all depended on what the one behind that claw swipe would do next. Tazoka was seconds away from skewering her before she rose more blades of grass up from the ground and tied them tightly around his forelimbs. He growled and struggled to free himself.

With a mighty roar, he ripped free of his bonds. "Enough of this!" he bellowed.

Roxy tried to summon even more grass, but she just couldn't do it fast enough.

Before Tazoka could attack her, a pair of brown paws reached under his forelimbs and hooked around his shoulders. They hauled him back out of striking range from Roxy. The Excadrill tried to retaliate against Karizu, but Natoka was too quick for him. The latter Raichu leaned back on his tail and delivered two devastating kicks with his hind paws, reminding Roxy of a Breloom. Tazoka was knocked to the ground, and the two Raichu quickly followed him.

"To your right!"

She quickly heeded the advice that Taka had yelled at her, and sent blades of grass to the right. The charging Sandslash was interrupted, and he cried out in pain as the grass curled around him. A Jolteon was quick to take him out of Roxy's paws.

Roxy then gave Taka a quick glance back and smiled in thanks. Taka hadn't moved a muscle, and was still holding his paws against his wound, but he had a determined look on his face and nodded at her.

She then turned back to look at Tazoka. The two Raichu had delivered a nasty beating to him, and now he was standing apart from them with a defiant look. By this point, a lot of the Earth Clan was now standing behind them, hiding and resting on the sidelines and away from the brawl in the clearing.

"You have seen what we are capable of!" Karizu proclaimed.

Tazoka simply growled at them.

"Our young warrior here," Natoka continued, holding a paw up in Roxy's direction, "can take on your entire tribe without moving from that spot. We know your weakness to the energy of nature, and certainly you are intimately familiar with it."

"She is a weak pet!!" Tazoka spat back, "She will run out of strength before long!"

"Can you really afford to take that risk?" Karizu asked.

Now that the fighting had paused, Roxy had drawn back all of the blades of grass towards her, and they were spread out below her in the flower shape once more. She continued to hold the Grass Knot in place, even as the fighting had stopped. Intimidation was the important thing right now.

At first, Tazoka looked like he was going to say something defiant and charge forward again. Then, however, he turned his head and glanced at the rest of his warriors. They were all hurting. They were weakened from Roxy's Grass-type energy, and injured from weapons that had now found purchase thanks to their weakened skin. Roxy had no doubt that the majority of them would not hesitate to keep on fighting, but the advantage was no longer theirs.

The Thunder Clan held the power right now, and Tazoka knew it.

He growled, indecision written across his face. Now that things had slowed down, it seemed like he was taking notice of his own injuries as well, as if for the first time. How much more of his strength would be sapped away before he would be defeated by the 'pathetic' Thunder Clan? How many more times could Roxy sweep his hind legs out from under him? Running away would be admitting defeat, but staying to fight might end up doing even more damage to his pride.

After a couple of very tense minutes, Tazoka scowling the entire time, the Excadrill finally came to a decision. He raised one of his claws, which caused Roxy to flinch, but then he snapped his claws and pointed into the forest. Without missing a beat, the entire tribe began to retreat.

Tazoka remained standing there as his tribe left the clearing and made their way through the trees and out of Thunder Clan territory. No-one stood in their way. If any of them were grateful or upset, Roxy couldn't tell. They all wore expressionless masks, and moved with military-like precision.

Soon, Tazoka was the only non-Electric-type left in the clearing. He was continuing to glare, immeasurable rage in his expression. Specifically, he was staring at Roxy. If looks could kill, Roxy would be dead on the spot.

She tried to keep her nerves under control and look as threatening as possible. She even raised a few blades of grass up into the air threateningly. Inside, though, she was just desperately hoping that he would leave already.

Finally, Tazoka tore his eyes away from her and took a few steps away. He turned his back on the Thunder Clan without a word and took a grand leap into the air. As he crested through the air, he pulled his claws up above his head and began spinning rapidly, and when he hit the ground he drilled right through it. A tiny noticeable bump under the soil quickly slinked away from the clearing and out of sight.

Roxy immediately let go of the energy within her, and the grass fell back to the ground limply. She let out a huge breath of relief.

A moment later, the whole tribe began to cheer. They raised their paws and their weapons up into the air, yelling with joy and celebrating their victory. It was the happiest that the tribe had ever felt, even more than during the ceremony. A great sense of relief and pride was sweeping its way through the village.

"You did it…!"

Roxy slowly turned her head to regard Taka, sitting on the ground next to her. There was a mix of disbelief and amazement in his eyes.

"You did it! We won! The village is saved!"

Roxy then turned around to face the rest of the tribe. The warriors were all gathered around one another, cheering and hugging each other. The females who had hidden with their cubs came rushing out, children in tow, to join the celebration. Miri was already rushing over so that she could treat Taka's wound.

And so many of them were looking at her. Smiling at her. Cheering for her. She saw so many grateful faces, and heard all their shouts of amazement and congratulation that all blurred together into a wonderful white noise.

A petite little smile graced her lips. She had done it. She had chased off the invaders, she had saved Taka's life, and she had saved the whole village. She had done something that she never, ever would have imagined herself doing before. Now everyone was safe, the battle was over, and she could finally relax.

Roxy promptly fell face-first to the ground and passed out cold.
GOOGLE DOCS LINK

The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

This work of fiction, its setting, characters, and ideas are © Giga Bowser.

Do not use without permission

---


Roxy the Pikachu is not part of a Pokémon Trainer's team. She does not take part in Pokémon battles. No, she is happy to spend her days relaxing at home and enjoying the company of her loving human master.

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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