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Basalt Halls Epilogue

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 "Can't this wait until we get back to Andalusst?" Ronnie whined, fidgeting with impatient energy unable to be spent.

  "For the last time, a punishment is most effective when carried out as soon as possible," Edith replied sternly.  "Therefore, you are not leaving this room until I say otherwise.  No exceptions."

  "Aren't these burns punishment enough?" the Sneasel persisted, lifting a now-bandaged foot for emphasis.  Gesturing to the duo's small yet lavish guest suite, she continued, "And look!  That reflective rock sample I collected got us this awesome room!  Stuff like that deserves a reward, if you ask me."

  "Your reward is me not withholding the books you said I should bring for you," the elder Ice-Type shot back.  "Perhaps you should entertain yourself with them while I find us something for dinner.  I won't be long."

  As the Aurorus closed the door behind her, Ronnie flopped backwards onto one of the two silk-sheeted beds with and irritated sigh.  Too frustrated to focus on reading anything (not that it mattered; she'd practically memorized all of the books Edith had brought anyway), she instead glared grumpily at the sandstone ceiling.

  "I bet the other teams are having the time of their lives right now," she muttered.

                                                                          ~~~

  Mirage was lost.

  This wasn't really an unexpected predicament- the Zoroark was still prone to losing her way around Andalusst, let alone a new city- but nevertheless a frustrating one.  The combination of her inability to start a conversation and her comically terrible sense of direction had led to hours of wandering through the dusty streets of Geoda, taking turn after random turn until she had eventually ended up on the metropolis's outskirts, despite them being the least likely place for a Guild establishment or medical attention.  Although her desperation had finally won over her shyness, it was nearly nighttime, meaning that anyone of potential assistance was no longer out on the street.  In short, the Dark-Type was injured, dirty, sweaty, heavily fatigued, unable to change any of these things, and flat-out fed up with all of them.

  You can't just be a normal Pokémon when it comes to these types of situations, can you, Mirage? she scolded herself, kicking up dirt with an aggravated swipe of her foot.  Temperamental, potentially dangerous loyalty?  Oh, sure, go on and talk to him, that's fine!  But a random pedestrian?  Nope!  You're sleeping outside tonight, sucker!  The Zoroark inhaled deeply, preparing to make the who-knows-how-many-th irritated sigh that day-

  -Then paused, and instead began sniffing the air curiously.  Since arriving at the populous desert city, she'd smelled nothing but sand, hot air, and perspiration.  Now there was something else.  The more she took it in, the more disturbed she became.  It was not a scent that belonged in a civil area like this one, let alone with the power to rival the overwhelming stench of the sand dunes.  Even if it had been considered normal, there was still something off about it, as though its source was tainted somehow.  All of those notions aside, there was no mistaking the scent.

  It was blood.

  Driven by a mixture of concern and morbid curiosity, the Dark-Type tentatively traced the odor to the mouth of a short, narrow alleyway, cast into dark shadow by the setting sun.  A figure was huddled at the very back, the obvious source of the smell.  Whether it was dead or alive, she couldn't tell, though she was no longer sure if she wanted to find out.  On the chance that it was the latter, she continued forward anyway, until she stepped in a puddle of what appeared to be bile.  The Zoroark yelped in shock and revulsion, desperately shaking off the foul substance.  After a few minutes of trying not to gag herself, Mirage knelt to examine the form, only to reel with another horrific surprise.

  "Benedict?" Cautiously, she reached out with her uninjured hand and shook the Buizel's shoulder, not eliciting even the slightest response.  His fur was soaked with sweat and mud, and the skin underneath was feverishly warm.  Bloodied vomit stained his lips and teeth, forming puddles in the street nearby.  His breathing was weak, and his heartbeat no better; it was surprising that either continued at all.  When the Dark-Type attempted to pinpoint the cause of his condition, she found only shallow puncture wounds in his feet, still oozing darkened blood despite not being fresh.    While someone more focused or rested might have been able to infer what this meant, Mirage was currently neither, and really only cared about getting the Water-Type to a hospital.  Not without difficulty, she hoisted Benedict into her arms and sprinted towards what she was fairly sure was the center of Geoda.

  If I were a hospital, where would I be? the Zoroark thought as her sense of direction once again proved useless.  She dashed blindly though the empty streets, hoping she would somehow stumble upon her destination.  All the while, the throb of the Buizel's pulse grew weaker against her fingers.  Come on, it's gotta be around here somewhere…  Please…

  Mirage sped past the opening to a wide street, realized that someone had been standing in said street, and hastily turned back.  She wasn't really sure who she expected to be there- and as long as they had directions, she didn't really care, either- but a familiar face certainly wasn't among the candidates.

  "Quincy!?  What are you- uh, never mind.  You have to help me; there's something wrong with Benedict.  You're his partner, right?  Do you know what happened?"

  The Furfrou, unlike his partner and the Dark-Type who carried him, appeared to have gone through the dungeon completely unscathed.  That, or he had found a place to get rid of any evidence that he hadn't.  He also, to the Zoroark's confusion, seemed rather unconcerned by Benedict's condition, showing only mild surprise at being suddenly confronted.  Nonetheless, the Normal-Type's gaze quickly took in his partner's state, and after a moment of thought, he reached into one of his vest pockets and retrieved a vial of muddy water.

  "It appears the idiot managed to get himself poisoned.  Giving his this should alleviate the toxin's effects," he began, presenting the glass container on an upturned paw.  "That said, there will be internal damage, so it would be best to take him to a hospital.  If the maps at the Guild lodgings are correct, the you should continue the way you were going for three blocks, take a left, go six blocks, take another left, and it should be the third building on your right.  Now, if you will excuse me, I need to tell the Guild leaders that my partner has been found so that they'll stop pestering me for his whereabouts."

  Mirage had only just processed this volume of very quickly given information when she realized that Quincy had placed the bottle on the ground and was walking back the way he'd come.  "Wait… so you're just going to leave?"

  The Furfrou paused and glanced back.  "I have more important business to attend to."

  "More important that your partner's life!?"  Perhaps it was unwise for the Dark-Type  to waste time arguing, but with this particular subject, she just couldn't help herself.  "You guys are on a team!  You're supposed to have each other's backs, look out for one another.  At the very least, you're supposed to care!  But here you are, acting like you couldn't care less if he dies!"

  The Normal-Type wheeled around, his face showing more exasperation and impatience than the defensiveness one would have expected.  "I gave you the antidote, didn't I?"

  "Anyone would have done that!"

  "Not if they knew who they were helping!  Believe me, if it weren't for…. recent events, there'd be no way in all of Parai I'd bother assisting him.  This is merely a form of rectification, if you will."  The harsh declaration elicited a small gasp of shock from the Zoroark, but Quincy continued before she could retort, having had something occur to him.  "You, however, have no iniquities against him.  You also know the extent of his crude and violent behavior.  You've seen him attack me on multiple occasions, going so far as to attempt to kill, yet you still find him worthy of help.  Why?"

  "I don't know what kind of skewed moral code, you have, but using someone's temper as an excuse to let them die is not okay!" Mirage shot back.  "He's nice enough to me, and to most other Pokémon, too.  He at least tolerates them!  The only one I've ever seen him get mad at is you, and from what I can tell, it's only because you provoke him!  So… so when he attacks you, well… with all of the stuff you just said, I-I think you deserve it!"

  The Furfrou's eyes widened in surprise, caught off-guard by such words from someone who, during other encounters, seemed fairly mild-mannered.  As stunned as he was, the Dark-Type herself was even more so, for she had very little idea of where the accusation had come from, let alone what gave her the audacity to say it.  In all honesty, she was beginning to question the validity of instigating such a quarrel in the first place.  Not wanting to look foolish and, even more so, not wanting to lose, she stared down the Normal-Type anyway, daring him to strike back with some stinging insult of his own.

  Instead, Quincy merely shrugged.  "Fine, think like that if you must.  See how far helping his kind will get you."  With that, he turned away again, trotting around a street corner before Mirage could form a proper response.

  I hate 'mons like him, she thought, glaring at the space where he'd been.  Ones who are supposed to help you out, stick with you, and be your friend, but end up abandoning you and leaving you for dead.  One day, I'll teach those Pokémon a lesson.

  One day, I'll teach
Blood a lesson.

  Subconsciously, she tightened her grip on Benedict.  While this still had no effect on the Buizel, it did remind the Dark-Type of the  far more pressing matter at hand.  Gently, she propped him up against the nearest wall, then snatched up the vial and fiddled with the stopper.  After several attempts to open the bottle with her uninjured hand, she managed instead to pry it open with her teeth, nearly spilling the contents in the process.  Finally, the Zoroark administered the questionably-smelling fluid, pouring it into the Water-Type's unresisting mouth.  After a second or two, he began hacking up a large amount of dark bile, causing Mirage to scramble back in alarm.  While she managed to avoid the foul substance,  Benedict himself ended up covered in it, along with the repulsive stench it carried.

  Well, at least it's not inside of him anymore, the Zoroark thought somewhat numbly.  Though I would've preferred to know exactly how that mud-water worked before using it…

  Trying her best not to touch the poison-tainted vomit, she picked up the Buizel again.  While still far from awake, he was a bit more responsive than before, shifting slightly as she adjusted her grip.

  Alright, now to the hospital.  What were the directions, again?  Three blocks ahead, take a left, six blocks, another left, third building on the right.  The Dark-Type started into a brisk jog, claws clacking against the sandstone bricks.  Three blocks ahead, take a left, six blocks, another left, third building on the right.  Three blocks ahead…
                                                                                                  ~~~

  It's disorienting to wake up after thinking that you're going to die.

  This wasn't actually the first time this had happened to Benedict- and with his disposition, it probably wasn't the last- but he was nonetheless confused when he awoke to find himself in a hospital bed, rather than wherever it was you ended up when you died, if there was such a place.

  He sat up, only to immediately regret it as his arm and back muscles went from numb to aching more than most would have been able to put up with.  Through either experience-formed tolerance or outright stubbornness, however, the Buizel remained upright and surveyed his surroundings.  The room was small and plain, with no furnishing apart from his bed and the nightstand beside it, on which sat his gloves that had, apparently, been recently cleaned.  There were also a few I.V. tubes hooked up to him, though he didn't really think that those counted as furniture.  A window was above the bed, showing the walls of nearby buildings framed by a night sky brimming with stars.

  "Awake already, hm?  That's rather impressive, considering the extent of your injuries," a voice remarked calmly.  Benedict turned his head to see a Krokorok in a nurse uniform standing in the doorway in the opposite wall, regarding him with mild interest.

  "I guess," the Water-Typre replied.  He winced; his throat felt rather sore, as though he'd been doing a lot of yelling, or, more likely, puking.  "Er… How did I get here?"

  "A young Zoroark brought you in," the Ground-Type answered in the same unhurried tone, making their way to the stand of I.V.s  to check them.  "Said you were a friend of hers, seemed very worried about you.  It was very lucky that she got here in time; the internal damage you've suffered is quite severe.  To be honest, it's rather surprising that you lived at all."

  Benedict only heard about half of this report, his mind becoming immediately hooked on any information regarding Mirage.  She saved me?  Even after seein' what I tried to do to Quincy?  She… she called me her friend.  I'm still her friend!

  Perhaps it was not the romantic relationship he desired to have, but compared to where he thought he'd been on terms with her, it was downright fantastic.
...And then the nurse tells him that his injuries will keep him bedridden for a while, and he goes from being very happy to being very mad.

Ohmygoodnesswhydidthistakesolongwhatiswrongwithmeahhhh
Well, it's finally done!  I actually knew exactly what was going to happen, I just had no clue how to write it.  It's the worst type of writer's block, and, unfortunately, the one I suffer most from.  But hey, it's here, so enjoy!  Also, expect more stuff!  I'm just one final exam away from summer!  Speaking of which, I should probably study.
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