Thread: In Progress The Worldslayers
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Old 05-23-2018, 12:59 AM
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Default Re: The Worldslayers

Chapter 10 – Belief


The kwazai came thundering in, heedless of any bodies in their path until they arrived at their trainer’s side. Both dropped to the filthy ground next to him as swiftly as their oddly-jointed legs allowed. Both their tails were lashing, and Demi was uttering a stream of prayers and profanity under her breath. Being the faster of the two, she was the one to gather Ren up in her free arms, though both kwazai grabbed for him.

Syr coiled frozen before the siblings, all but biting his tongue in worried anticipation. He couldn’t tell whether or not Ren was even alive. He hadn’t had the wits to see if the man was breathing before the kwazai had shown up, and now Demi’s arms blocked the view. He’d have to get the verdict from her or her brother secondhand.

His jaws parted to ask. But before he could get a breath out, “He’s still with us,” Karo spoke up. “…Right?”

“Right.” Acheron certainly felt some relief at that fact, but there was none of that in his voice. His tail had snaked around his waist to inspect the human and continued to do so; Demi’s was doing likewise, two branches over each shoulder.

“What happened?” Demi demanded, half-hissing. Her sharp teeth were bared. “What the hell happened to him?”

Once again, Syr made to speak. Once again, Karo beat him to the punch. “He caught himself,” he said, and he sounded… excited, almost. “That’s what happened.”

Acheron made a noise that might’ve become a word if something hadn’t plainly caught his attention then. “There,” he said in the next moment, meeting Syr’s gaze and pointing a short distance to the arbok’s right.

Syr glanced in that direction and thought he saw something reflecting a fleck of moonlight. Closer inspection revealed the ball, or what was left of it. It had been blown open, from the looks of it, its hinge bent backward so that the two halves touched. He scooped it up in his jaws but promptly spat it back out; it tasted burnt, and there were other, worse flavors to it that he feared to contemplate.

“It’s fried,” he said. “I guess this means he definitely won’t be catching that weezing.” Another rightward look told him the pokémon in question was still down. Alive, but possibly unconscious and therefore immune to a fresh ball anyhow. But they could’ve waited. Now they had no such option.

“Nnnn…” came a small voice from in front of him. Ren’s voice. The human wriggled feebly in Demi’s hold, lifting his hairless head. “Where…” Apparently that was as much of a sentence as he could manage at the moment.

“Still in the forest,” Acheron answered. “The fight’s over.”

Ren made a faint, disagreeable noise and shook his head. “Somewhere else…” he said, his voice slightly muffled by the mask, “now…”

“Yes,” Syr agreed at once, almost automatically. The koffing could start waking up at any time, and here was Ren, at his most vulnerable thus far. But there were additional reasons to get out of there, and Syr suspected the human had at least some of them on his mind.

Maybe Ren had been able to brave the sight of this place before. But in the wake of his impossible capture, there was no telling what he could handle.

Demi took Karo’s capture ball and recalled the nosepass, then passed her trainer to her brother and gathered Syr into her many arms once more. The two kwazai took off, leaving the clearing and the carnage behind and weaving their way into a part of the forest that hadn’t been withered or blasted away.

But as darkness fell over them once more, the fear of unseen dangers rose anew. It didn’t help that Syr could still smell the smoke and the koffing still lingering back in the clearing. The odors clung to him, furthermore, and to the rest of the party. It made it all the harder to be sure they’d really shaken them off for the time being.

“Water,” he thought aloud. “We need to find water.” Even if it couldn’t mask the smell entirely, it’d weaken it. His nerves would be grateful. His throat would be, too, after all the smoke and exertion.

“We will…” Demi muttered. Her mind was plainly on other things.

Syr realized then that he hadn’t heard a single sound out of Ren since the clearing. He almost asked about him, but no. That wasn’t necessary. If his condition worsened, the two empaths in their midst would give it away.

The sound of running water eventually caught his attention. “There’s a creek up ahead,” Acheron announced soon after. The taste of fresh water on the air arrived soon after, followed by the sight of moonlight sparkling off the water’s surface.

Demi stopped, setting Syr down alongside the creek. The arbok dipped his snout in for a drink, then let himself slip entirely underwater for a moment. When he raised his head above the surface to breathe, he saw a burst of light in the shape of a nosepass. Syr rippled his way through the shallow water, crawling over the stones until he reached the bank once more.

“Shield, right?” Karo asked. Nobody answered aloud, but someone must’ve nodded; there was that brief, full-body pressure again. “You awake, buddy?” he then asked.

“…Yeah.” Ren’s voice suggested an unspoken “barely”. He inhaled audibly; then, “The ball… it pulled me in. How…?”

“We don’t know,” Syr told him, wishing he had an answer. It only occurred to him after the fact that he could really only speak for himself on the matter.

“Oh, I think I know,” Karo said. There was that odd, giddy sort of tone again. Heavy footsteps reverberated through the rocks as the nosepass moved in closer to his trainer. “Congrats,” Karo said. “You’re officially one of us.”

“Not in that sense,” Acheron said. “You’re still human, Ren.”

“And yet the ball got him,” Karo pressed on. “I mean, yeah, it couldn’t hold onto him, but.” Stone scraped against stone, the familiar sound of arms swiveled into a shrug. “So what? Sometimes we break ‘em. Doesn’t mean a thing.”

“It could have been modified to catch humans,” Acheron said.

That hadn’t even crossed Syr’s mind as a possibility. Now that he thought about it, “There’d be people who’d try it. People with an anti-human agenda.”

“Or people with a pro-human agenda,” Demi offered, “wanting to capture them and lock them away for their own safety. Or people just curious as to whether or not it could be done.”

“Guys. Guys. Please. Do you not hear yourselves right now?” Karo was actually starting to sound a little agitated at this point. “Why are you jumping through hoops like this when there’s a much simpler answer right in front of you?”

“Because,” Demi said quietly, “if he were anything other than human, we’d know. We’d feel it. I know you know this.”

Karo didn’t respond at first. Then he averted his gaze with a small sort of huffing sound. “…How can you be cool with that?” he asked. “How am I supposed to be cool with this, when for all we know that virus or poison or whatever could still be floating around? I mean…” There was a moment’s silence, and then another’s. “We just got him back.”

Oh. Syr felt a sudden weight in the vicinity of his heart. Karo really couldn’t accept that a human could’ve survived the plague. Convincing himself that Ren was a pokémon was apparently the only way to stave off fears that it would come for his trainer after all.

Wordlessly, Syr emerged from the water and gently wrapped himself around Karo in an embrace of sorts. It occurred to him in nearly the same moment that he was sopping wet; he let go immediately, though he wished he hadn’t had to.

Meanwhile Ren squirmed in Acheron’s arms. “Let me go,” he said, but not harshly. He sounded as though he’d got a bit more of his strength back.

Acheron hesitated for a moment, then set him down on his feet. Ren immediately hugged the nosepass, and both kwazai embraced the two of them in turn.

Syr gave a faint, grateful smile. Now he won’t get wet, he reckoned, and encircled the rest of his friends.

“Can’t lose him again,” Karo murmured to himself in the middle of it all.

Part of Syr wanted to assure Karo that no, he wouldn’t lose Ren anytime soon. The rest… couldn’t bear to lie to him. He wasn’t sure Ren would be all right. Even if there was no trace of the plague anywhere now, even if Ren was entirely immune to it anyway, there were still innumerable things that could go wrong during this mission. They were facing a relatively unknown and uncounted enemy. There was no way of knowing exactly what sort of danger they were in.

This was, after all, quite possibly a one-way trip. But Syr had the sinking feeling that somewhere along the way, Karo had taken to refusing—and continued refusing—to truly acknowledge that.

“We know you’re worried,” Demi said. Acheron nodded in assent.

“We all know,” Ren put in. “I’m worried, too. Of course I wonder if… if maybe I’m living on borrowed time. I hope I’m not. I don’t wanna leave you, either. But…” Here he raised his head, looking over one shoulder and then the other, meeting the gaze of each of his pokémon in turn. “…whatever happens, I think you’ll be all right. You’re all strong. All of you.” He nodded toward Syr. “That includes you.”

Syr took on a funny sort of surprised expression for a moment before a hint of guilt settled into it. It was nice of Ren to say such a thing, but believing it… wasn’t so easy. “I don’t know about that,” he admitted.

The human kept one arm around Karo but turned to face Syr, or tried to; recognizing this, the pokémon surrounding him loosened their grip and backed up a bit. “You’ve already been through a lot,” Ren told Syr. “And a lot of it was recent, very recent. Anyone—anyone with half a heart—would’ve understood if you’d needed some time before taking this on. I would’ve. Your old friend probably would’ve. And yet…” He spread his free arm as far as he could. “Here you are.”

Syr’s gaze drifted groundward as he absorbed that. He still wasn’t altogether sure he agreed with the human’s words. In the end, all he could think to do with the information was to try and prove Ren right. Maybe, he supposed, he’d convince himself in the process.

At this point, Ren got around to healing the twins. Syr tried to take stock of the kwazai’s conditions in the moments before their injuries vanished, but it was difficult in a number of ways, what with so much blood and filth smeared over their bodies.

“Okay,” Ren said. “Time to get moving again. We’ll detour west a bit, just enough to put more space between us and the koffing.” He reached for one of his capture balls then, only to find an empty space.

“Oh whoops, here,” Demi said as she handed him Karo’s ball.

“Ready?” Ren asked Karo, pointing the lens at him.

“…Yeah,” Karo said. “But hey. Be careful, all right? We still haven’t had that party.”

“I will be,” Ren assured him, then recalled him and nodded up at the kwazai. They scooped up the slower members of their party and set off, splashing through the creek and disappearing into the dark woods beyond.

Last edited by Sike Saner; 07-11-2019 at 02:31 AM.
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