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Private/Closed Dexter's Eye

Discussion in 'Pokémon Role Play' started by rawheight, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. It had been a few hours since the sun had set and the earth had cooled. Somewhere in the trees a Hoothoot called out, and a Noctowl answered its mournful song. The moon was only a sliver in the sky and provided little illumination, despite the isolated location of this small town away from the gaudy haze of fake light in the bigger cities. North of the Lake of Rage, nestled in the mountains, Marigold Village lay in perfect peace and harmony.

    From the relative safety of the treeline, Null watched the lights of the hamlet go out one by one. Autumn was now upon them, and he knew that there was precious little more time he could hide here amongst the foliage. In just a couple months the trees would be bare and he would have to find new cover. Supposedly there were any number of caves dotting the cliffs in this region, and if one could find such a cave not previously occupied by an Ursaring and her cubs then perhaps one might be able to avoid being sighted and turned in for the reward on ones' head. Hypothetically speaking.

    Null let out a breath through his nose he hadn't realized he was holding, rubbing at his left eye. He hadn't been sleeping well lately. For half a week he'd had upsetting dreams where the machine inside his head had come to life all on its own, calling out to its creators and bringing Team Rocket running to drag him back home. It made him wary of sleep altogether, and recently he had become more nocturnal in order to avoid the nightmares that came in the dark.

    Hmm. "Home". Technically Team Rocket HQ was the only thing he had left that resembled the word, as recently he had been lying his head down to sleep on whatever moss-covered rock or bed of soft branches he could find. And yet he couldn't bring himself to really call it that anymore. "Home" was supposed to be someplace safe. Someplace happy. Someplace you wanted to go back to. Someplace your parents didn't sell you off to be experimented on.

    Again he rubbed the eye. It didn't fit quite right. It was a close fit - the closest, which is why he was chosen - but just off enough to be uncomfortable. Like a contact lens with a small tear in it. And then there was the burning when it was activated. The little machine didn't use a lot of power, but the heat it created when it was running had nowhere to go but inside his own skull. That was what his most recent dreams had been made up of. The Eye calling and calling and calling back to its masters, drawing them ever closer, and all the while heating up so drastically that the skin began to melt its way off his face.

    Yeah, overkill. And he knew it. But the fear lingered in his chest nonetheless.

    There was a snorting noise and a paw clawed at his shirt. Null looked down and gave a brief smile, resting his hand on Hanzer's head. The Typhlosion had been with him since it was a freshly hatched Cyndaquil. His parents, on a raid for Team Rocket, had stolen it from Professor Elm's Laboratory. It had been his first Pokemon and his introduction to the life of a Trainer, and they had been inseparable ever since.

    Hanzer, while not especially inclined to care about anything or anyone other than himself, was a student of his trainer. He studied the human carefully and was quick to obey any command, spoken or unspoken. And after all they had been through together, he was rather overprotective of Null. Sometimes, that included saving the teen from himself and his own thoughts.

    "Thanks, bud. Let's go get some food, huh?" Null asked, looking back out at the town as one of the few remaining lights went out. Wintering in the mountains would be difficult, but with a powerful fire-type like Hanzer at his side, he knew they could make it. What did people do without Pokemon...? He couldn't imagine.

    ---

    He knew stealing was wrong on some kind of moral level. Of course he believed that what Team Rocket was doing - taking Pokemon from trainers who had spent years bonding and strengthening them - was wrong, but it was difficult to see all thievery as immoral when it was what you were surrounded with on a daily basis (and in fact, when being the best thief there could be is what put bread on the table and kept you from being put in prison). For example, he had no qualms with what he was about to do in this little town. He had been smelling the delicious aroma of freshly baked goods wafting up the valley from Marigold Village all day. The bakery here was famous and drew all sorts of vacationers in during the warmer months. They made plenty of money. They wouldn't miss a scone or twelve.

    Null was grateful for the deep darkness of the night. He wasn't exactly a small target at nearly six feet tall. He was built on an average frame, more muscled now than he probably had ever been in his life due to the months of trekking off the beaten path to hide from his pursuers. His right eye was a bright, vibrant blue; his left eye the same hue but lacking the vibrancy of its companion. With the Eye deactivated he was as good as a cyclops. It really wreaked havoc with his depth perception - something he still wasn't quite used to. Hanzer had only barely been able to stifle a snicker the few times Null had run into objects or walls, believing them to be further away then they were.

    His hair was white, short, and usually straight but due to the weeks of sleeping outdoors it was uncharacteristically unkempt. The same could be said of his clothes - a red t-shirt that had been old to begin with worn over a (stolen) long-sleeved plain black shirt, the sleeves of which were ragged and torn in a few places around the cuff. His jeans had once been a nice deep blue but were now rather washed out with a jagged cut in one knee and the hems fraying where they kept getting trapped under his shoes when he walked.

    The village only had streetlights along the main strip, so Null used the sidestreets to creep up to the back of the bakery. Hanzer had begrudgingly accepted a temporary respite in his Pokeball due to the fact that his mane of fire would undoubtedly draw unwanted attention to his human.

    The smell was almost unbearable now, even with the bakery being closed for a few hours. Null took in a big whiff of the scent, salivating and reminding himself just how hungry he was. It wasn't difficult to find trees loaded with berries in the forest, but it took a lot of berries to fill the stomachs of a teenage boy and the bottomless pit that was his Typhlosion. Hungry almost beyond words, Null reached for the knob on the back door to the bakery (people were unbelievably trusting in these small towns and often left doors, even to businesses, unlocked), and suddenly froze when he thought he heard footsteps in the alley behind him.
     
  2. Thank Arceus for small mercies, grumbled the teenager as she trudged home, footsteps heavy after a long day at work. Nyx's mood had been foul for a while - how long had it been? It neared months, she reflected with a tired sigh. Nothing had gone right- well, not quite nothing. As she had said, thank Arceus for small mercies.
    Never mind the passing of her father, or the living in a foreign town by her lonesome self. Or the long work hours in a sterilised lab, and the part-time job after to earn enough to pay her rent, save some for rainy days and still somehow manage to scrounge up enough to send back to her mother, who Nyx knew to be living alone, handling the tough farm life by herself, as guilt gnawed at the young female, who knew she should've been there to help her.
    No, never mind all that. The said small mercy to drown her woes in nestled comfortably in her arms, and Nyx could barely keep herself from attacking the delicious smelling gift her kind employer had given her. Hushed consultation with Abyss had them agree on the fact that it was indeed bread with some mysterious condiment. Jam? Sugared butter? Nyx couldn't wait to find out!

    Her fellow consultant padded silently next to her, passing from shadow to shadow, and blending in alarmingly well despite the fact that most of him was white. A lifetime of living in the mountains had given the young canid a steady foot, and the Absol seemed to glide along the footpath seemingly effortlessly, poised on his toes. The prodigal teenager watched her charge, knowing he watched out for her as she made her way home in the late hour, and she knew not many would want to tussle against the powerful pokemon, with claws sharp enough to leave light grooves along the stones of the road as his weight pressed down on his knuckles.

    In hindsight, the girl mused, Abyss was one of the mercies too. Small, beautiful mercies (and wonderful to cuddle against in winter too!) Only, she wished, the mercies weren't so small and difficult to notice in times of hardship. The latest reason for her great annoyance was the theft of her baby, the thing she had worked on tirelessly for a good while. A machine to act as a sustained, organic PokeDex; Dexter's Eye. It had been months since the infernal thing had been taken, but time had done little to take the sting out of the whole affair. What kind of low-life would steal someone's life's work?

    Evidently the kind of low-life in the act of what seemed to be a break-in. Nyx paused in her stride, acutely aware of the figure standing before her. Her eyes had adjusted to the dim light of the poorly lit alley, but she knew Abyss' vision was far greater than hers in the current setting.

    Heh. The current setting. This was rather awkward; a young girl returning from a particularly late part-time job (bearing compensation, though. Oh marvelous food) catches a male trying to...trying to what, exactly? Logic said not to pause and stare, but instead move on quickly in the hopes that the male would have no murderous intentions, or better still, wouldn't notice her - but with Abyss by her side, a large, young walking blade; with rippling muscles and armoured with fur, the Absol stood four feet tall at the shoulder, a fine specimen of strength and speed - Nyx felt a good deal braver.

    Rational minds would know nothing lurked in the darkness around her, but fear trickled into the female, who cast about a quick glance around her surroundings. If Abyss had noticed anything, he gave no sign of it; as it stood, he bristled and quivered slightly, glaring at the offender before them, standing poised, silent and ready to strike. Nyx's hands tightened over the paper bag carrying her precious gift of food, and stepped in front to partially cover the quadruped from view (it's difficult to cover him completely, after all)

    She took a breath to calm her nerves, gaze settling on to the man before her. He looked slightly older than her, although taller by at least 5 inches. His scruffy clothes were difficult to make out in the darkness, although it was easy enough to imagine what kind of condition the man might have lived in to take to stealing. For stealing, it seemed, was what the male was up to. His hand hovered reluctantly over the knob of the backdoor of the best-known bakery in town - a bakery, she might add, she had frequented and knew the owner by name. The owner, who this man certainly wasn't, kept assistants for help, of which this man wasn't either.

    The scientist couldn't help bristling in indignation. She knew that in her casual clothes - a dark blue hoodie under which she wore a tank top, accompanied by light blue jeans - she didn't strike much of an intimidating figure; although her lab coat wouldn't really have helped in this situation either. But beyond the moral question of stealing, perhaps she wouldn't even have said a word to the boy if it hadn't been a breach of trust. To rely on each other, and hold the community highly enough in regard to leave a door unlocked...to violate everything coexistence and trust stood for...
    Obviously this man wasn't a local. Nyx flicked her lengthy hair out of her eyes, letting the moments pass on in ever-increasingly heavy silence. Since she had spotted the man and stopped dead in her tracks, she hadn't spoken a word - all that punctuated the night air was her breathing.

    What would be a good way to break the silence? She mused, brows furrowing in confident puzzlement - it didn't take a genius to know she held the upper hand here. She had walked upon an attempted crime, where the male was neither expecting her nor hoping for any to come across him. Chances are she had lost the element of surprise, since he had likely already noticed her - by footsteps if nothing else. She almost rolled her eyes - was it too much to ask for a night where she could return home and contemplate her difficult existence? Her one-room apartment was not much of a home, barren and cold, but even that looked appealing next to her current condition.

    She could, of course, turn around and walk away. Pretend she hadn't seen anything, pretend to be surprised the next morning when the bakery was found ransacked. The question was of moral conscience. She wanted as little to do of this as possible. Surely a loud bark of 'Hey!' would be enough to startle and scare the man away, and yet...

    And yet empathy slipped in a niggling doubt at the back of her mind. This man was obviously hungry, and quite possibly cold too. Even under her hoodie, she could feel the cold laying fingers against her neck, and biting at her fingers. Perhaps yelling at him would be overkill. Not to mention a startle at this hour would not bode well for anyone's heart. She chewed on her lower lip, mossy eyes never leaving the man.

    She could feel Abyss' burning eyes burrow into her back as the vulpine waited for her to take a decision. It felt encouraging to have silent support behind her (support with horns sharp enough to cut through metal, no less) - a support, she idly mused, this man very well might not have. It was a lonely world. Her grip shifted to hold the paper package in her left hand, as her right dropped to her side. Almost immediately, she felt the warm breath of her white-furred companion against her freezing fingers. She hadn't sensed him drawing close, and neither would the male if he tried anything funny, but for now, she was willing to give him a fighting chance. "Excuse me," she called out.
     
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  3. Just act natural.

    Null could have kicked himself for the words that passed through his mind. "Just act natural," really? Thanks, brain. What exactly was natural in this case, anyway? The footsteps were drawing closer and closer until he was sure whoever it was could see him, if they were looking. And he was frozen with indecision. Finally he decided to go with his original plan and just open the door. He could pass off being an employee, right? People usually didn't question motives if you acted with confidence. His fingers wrapped around the handle and he twisted his wrist and - yes, it was indeed unlocked.

    And oh my, what a heavenly aroma.

    All kinds of sweets and fried doughs and pastries and cakes. He swallowed the unsolicited saliva collecting in his mouth. Food. Real food, too. Not just the handfuls of berries they had been eating along the journey. And sure, while he would really appreciate something with substance, some kind of meat or starch or something filling, this was here and now and it was oh so real.

    But the footsteps behind him stopped. Null froze, all dreams of being surrounded by the smorgasbord of pastries banished from his mind. While he considered his options, he unfortunately let the moment linger just a second too long. Heat began to rise up his neck and into his ears, turning them red with embarrassment and shame. He had been caught. He could no longer play it off and "act natural" (stupid brain). Here he was, discovered with his hand practically glued to the unlocked door of a local attraction, his hesitation having betrayed the option that perhaps he belonged there. He chanced a glance over his right shoulder.

    The light was dim in the late night, but he could make out a girl, more or less his age, and some kind of Pokemon behind her. What it was exactly, he wasn't sure. It seemed to be shifting with the shadows, obscuring its true form. Was that his mind trying to compensate for the lack of information from just one eye...? It was hard to tell. But whatever the Pokemon was, it was big. And then, while he was still trying to size up the situation and decide on his next best option, she spoke. It startled him, as if even though she had been looking directly at him he still hadn't been completely certain she had seen him, which was an absurd notion. He found that he had lost his grip on the door handle and had turned to face her completely.

    Lying had never come naturally to Null, at the great shame of his parents. For being one of the few children to actually be born into Team Rocket, he wasn't very Rocket-like. Nonetheless he had picked up deception as a skill, the same with thievery, and he was decent at it. Nothing at all like his father who could grace and charm his way out of any sticky situation, big or small. But perhaps it would be just enough.

    "Er, hello there," he said, resting a hand on the small of his back. There, just beneath his fingertips and attached to his belt, were his four Pokeballs. "Hey uh, I know what this looks like," Null held out his other hand in an apologetic, defensive manner. "But please, I'm just passing through and I've heard so much about this bakery... it's sweets are renown, you know," he could have slapped himself. If she lived here, which it seemed like she did, casually roaming the streets at night, then of course she knew that. Just act natural, just act natural...

    "Anyway, like I said I'm passing through and I didn't have time to wait until morning when the bakery is open, I'm really in a hurry you know, and I thought there would be no harm in just taking a few pieces and leaving some money on the counter for them to find in the morning," he finished in just about one breath, nerves getting the better of him. That big Pokemon... who should he use? Hanzer? Lambo? His Haunter and Rhyhorn were barely trained, neither of them would be much help. But those first two at least he knew he could count on.
     
  4. So fixated had she been on the presumed fact that the man was a thief who would bolt at the first sight of trouble, that Nyx didn't expect what came next. She watched as the man hesitantly opened the door a crack, and she felt Abyss tense against her. Even as a delicious, sugary aroma wafted out to wreath around the girl and her Absol (who recoiled at the smell) she saw the man turn, guilt writ large on his face. Was the jig up?

    He hesitated for a moment, a moment too long - each passing second only reinforced her notion that this man was up to no good. She watched him closely, smug with satisfaction at her self-inflated opinion that you couldn't hide anything from a scientist. She watched as the male's eyes flitted over her, to rest, with some - ah, was that worry? - on Abyss. The Absol must have sensed his doubt and indecision, because he slunk further back into the shadows; Nyx couldn't see him, but she felt certain he wore a leering grin across his face.

    There was a pause, a heartbeat where the man stood frozen, his hand tightly clutching the knob, and Nyx felt strangely grounded to the present, as though wondering what she was doing here. A throbbing ache began to build up under her skin, her body begging her to retire for the night, as a headache seized hold of her lucid thoughts. Her brow furrowed, and she pursed her lips, wondering where exactly the chain of events would lead.

    He spoke. Nyx's half - lidded eyes fluttered open as the male stepped away from the door, and began speaking - rather wearily, she thought. Well, neither of them would rather be in such a situation, she realised with a wry smile. Well, might as well finish what she started, right? Regardless, she couldn't disguise the surprise in her gaze as she found herself wonderingly staring at the male.

    To be honest, she admitted she hadn't been expecting an excuse, a reason; an answer. She hadn't thought...that she could've been wrong. She stared blankly as the man stuttered his way through a rather unsure answer, and blinked once when he was done, lips parting slightly in an answer that never left her. Though her ears had registered the offered explanation, Nyx continued to remain unreactive, uncomprehending. Silent. She released a breath that had choked her throat, in something akin to relief. Her soft green eyes closed in a quiet moment of contemplation.

    She wanted to believe him. She really did. So why did she automatically assume the worst of someone she didn't know? It had never occurred to her that there might be a second face to the story, no matter how difficult to believe. Circumstances could be strange after all, and Nyx recognised her own condescension in her handling of the whole affair. Perhaps...perhaps there was truth...

    A warm nose touched her hand, and she returned from the abyss of her own mind to the present, as though snapping awake. Her breath hitched again in a sort of internal struggle, and suspicion rose afresh to her accusing gaze. But her own preconceived notions had little basis, except for the fact that the whole explanation seemed rushed, and was spoken in an uneven tone. A breeze picked up, racing through the silent alley in a low howling, loudly rustling the paper bag in her hand. Her free arm reached out for comfort, in her time of indecision, and found it in a fistful of fluffy, white fur. God, she loved this Absol.

    Wait, she was getting side-tracked. Valiantly attempting to gather her scattered thoughts, she sucked a lungful of air and drew herself to her full height. If it was any comfort, the man seemed genuinely guilty about his questionable behaviour, and a thief wouldn't hang around to bandy words, would they? Logically, they would probably leave and try again later, now that he was armed with the knowledge that the door was, indeed, unlocked, but she wasn't going to go give him any ideas now.

    She didn't reside in the town - her humble establishment was actually in a smaller dwelling an hour's walk away from the main town - but she knew where the owner of the bakery lived, and where to head if she wanted to create a ruckus, or inform the police. She frowned again, checking her wrist watch discreetly, staring at the face of the clock for a minute, trying to decipher the time in the dim lighting. It was rather late in the evening, but the night was still young, and the owner might actually still be up. Surely he could walk the few blocks down and...?

    It hadn't particularly occurred to Nyx to join the man - to sneak in with or after him and help herself to a few buns. She had sampled a scone once, dubious at first, but at the first bite...had melted into a puddle of sensory delight...is what she would've liked to say, but to be honest, her doubt continued as she thoughtfully chewed the soft bread. She wasn't sure how she felt about it; funny how she could share an opinion about both bread and a robbery. In a way, she was secretly glad such thoughts hadn't come naturally to her.

    An impatient snort brought her back from her reverie yet again. Abyss was growing restless, and the package in her arms was beginning to cool. The thought of cold, hard bread made Nyx impatient and irritable too, and she hastened to wrap the matter up. The man was fidgeting, while doing his best to appear casual, so Nyx didn't suspect anything as his hand crept towards his pokeballs.

    "I see. Well, the owner lives a few blocks away, so I'm sure if you'd ask him, he'd come formally serve you. He's a kind old man. And..." She bit her lip, stepping closer to get a better look at him. Tattered, well-worn clothes, scuffed shoes...there was no hiding the reluctant doubt in her eyes. Perhaps it would be rude to ask, but...

    "...This is one of the most expensive bakeries in town. Are you sure you're carrying enough?" There! That was the most diplomatic she could've got! Polite conversation, or heck, conversation, had never been her forte. Then again, Nyx had never noticed any sort of lacking on a daily basis, especially not interaction, naturally disposed to a lonesome, brooding company. Never mind her clinginess to the equally silent Abyss; that was a different matter altogether.

    But despite her solitary tendencies, Nyx found herself inexplicably curious about the man before her...
     
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  5. The silence was killing him. His heart pounding in his chest was telling him to quick do something, anything, but thankfully he had the presence of mind to do absolutely nothing. Not yet. To act rashly would be to condemn him and his actions in her eyes, and at that point he might as well just turn himself in. What he needed now was to find a diplomatic way to end this conversation and escape. The longer they lingered here, the greater chance some other person would stumble upon them and make the situation even worse.

    The breeze that kicked up through the alley rustled his hair, the stark whiteness of it reflecting both the blue light of the moon and the yellow of the streetlights. He was grateful at least that he'd had the chance to bathe recently. Just the day prior they had stumbled across a fresh stream running down the mountain. Hanzer had graciously warmed the water for him as he cleaned both himself and his clothes. So now at least he didn't smell as homeless as he looked.

    The moment drew out like a piece of taffy stretched and stretched, retaining intrinsically everything that it was but simply lingering, seeming to defy all physics. When the young woman finally spoke again, Null could feel the tension leaving him like a physical weight. She believed him...? He was stunned. Maybe his father had something to be proud of anyway.
    Proud of the son who fled Team Rocket at the first sign of discomfort? Yeah right.
    He blinked the thought away. She was moving. Moving toward him.

    Null swallowed and took a step backward but found himself already pressed up against the wall of the bakery next to the door, the door still cracked open. Up until now the darkness of the evening had been a gift to him. It had hid distinctive features that would be easily recognizable if she came any closer. Namely, the deadness of his left eye. As soon as he had escaped with his Pokemon, Team Rocket had wasted no time hijacking television and radio frequencies and broadcasting pictures and descriptions of his appearance. They were offering a reward, quite a large one at that.
    And Team Rocket wasn't the only group after him. As soon as the police found out, they were on the manhunt as well. Naturally, they were not searching for him for the same reasons - Team Rocket had not divulged information about Dexter's Eye in their description. But if the vile, Pokemon-stealing group was hunting down a teenage boy, the police wanted to know why.

    It didn't matter who picked him up in the end. Team Rocket or one of the Officer Jennys, either way he would be subjected to endless questioning and poking and prodding and likely more surgery. He didn't want any of that. He didn't want to be a lab Rattata trapped in a cage - he just wanted to be Null.

    "Oh, the owner?" He managed as the girl began to speak again, hoping his discomfort at her drawing near wasn't too obvious. But really? It was only a matter of time before her suspicion overcame her generosity and he was sold out. And it was the young lady's next comment that did him in. Her most diplomatic response was like a knife in his chest. Could he afford the pastries? Of course he couldn't. He didn't have a cent to his name. Embarrassment overcame him, flushing his ears red and dragging back on top of him the weight that had been so easily cast off a moment ago. He couldn't stay here any longer.

    "I'm sorry," he mumbled quickly, and in a split second turned on his heel and disappeared into the bakery, shutting the door behind him. His heart was absolutely pounding now, and he could see his shirt moving forcefully with the agency of the muscle. After a brief moment he reached out and turned the deadbolt lock that no one previously had the mind to actuate. Yeah, that'll stop that monster Pokemon that was lurking behind her. Null cursed himself under his breath, grabbing the Pokeballs from his belt that belonged to Hanzer and Lambo, releasing them.

    The Typhlosion shook himself unceremoniously, as if to shed any lingering particles left from the undesirable cage that was his Pokeball. His Flaaffy just stared at him, eyes wide and bright and eager, its tongue characteristically sticking out the side of its mouth and feet tapping one after the other in anticipation.
    "Grab everything you can," he said, handing them some bags he took from behind the counter. "Then we've got to run." He paused for a moment, shutting his eyes tight and drawing a hand down his face. "I'm afraid I might have gotten us into a bit of trouble."
    Hanzer huffed a little flame, giving his trainer an 'I told you so' look. Surely if he had been allowed to tag along outside his Pokeball, none of this would have happened.
     
  6. Fool. Fool that she was. What had made her even remotely believe him? Muttering a string of curses under her breath (nothing too scandalous - it was in times of crisis one must remember their morals. Her parents had made sure of that) she stood helplessly before the door, hand desperately twisting the knob at the slightest hope that perhaps...perhaps he hadn't. Grasping for the slightest hope that he hadn't lied to her.

    But of course the accursed door was locked. No, that accursed boy had locked it. Why? Why hadn't she stopped him? Was it her that had stopped dead in her tracks? Her distress was rising, inexplicable, baseless. It was curious to be so distraught over a robbery she played little role except as a bystander, of a bakery she had little emotional or fiscal attachment to. And still...still a niggling voice persisted, urging her to do something, stop this.

    She almost dropped her package in alarm, and steadied herself; panic would do no good, and she couldn't go around dropping her food. Food was important; was that one of the reasons she couldn't let this man rob an honest man of his hard-earned earnings? She gave the knob a last jiggle and stepped back, still hearing the rattle of the metal ring in the air.

    It had started off looking up. As she had stepped closer, she was met with startling blue eyes and shining white hair. Her eyes widened as she felt unnervingly as though she were looking at a familiar face. No, not human. Strikingly similar to the canid who walked the night, by her side. A face she had stared at unceasingly, time and time again, as though she could never get her fill of it. One who held a very special place in her heart - her best friend. That would never change. Would it?

    She swallowed hard, returning to her thoughts. A certain look of disbelief had spread across the male's face when she had mentioned the owner - a statement he evidently obliged to repeat. But she realised too late what a bad idea her second statement was. The male flushed furiously, and Nyx pursed her lips disapprovingly. It was all she could do as she stood frozen, rather morbid at how he had reacted to it - how she had made him react; she could only watch as the man turned and swiftly strode inside. The stone-cold sober part at the back of her mind idly noted how there was none of the previous fumbling as the male carried out what was now undoubtedly his original intention. Theft.

    Why could she not have anticipated any of this? Her hands clenched tightly into fists, and she stepped up to the door. Abyss turned his face up to look questioningly at the girl, and received a rough caress for his troubles. Nyx swallowed again, trying to calm her racing heart. "Let's do this," she whispered into the night wind.

    Raising her free hand, she looked down at first the bread in her other hand, then at the Absol - the latter gave a curt nod as his mouth thinned into a line. Taking a breath, she did what could be considered the most clichéd thing ever. She knocked.

    "Hey, if you're there, don't do this. Just...I can't let..." It was as though words were hot marbles. They rolled about in her mouth, and she was barely able to form a coherent sentence. No...it wasn't her mouths fault. She could barely think straight. What should she do? She hesitated, pausing and staring at her shoes. Frozen out there, with her hand still hovering next to the door, she felt singularly stupid. She squeezed her eyes shut, biting her lower lip. What was she doing?!

    "Don't make me come in there!" She warned loudly, stepping back from the door, weighing her options. Waking the figurative neighbours or calling the police didn't seem particularly appealing in this situation. Should she wait him out and apprehend him? What if she couldn't stop him? Maybe it would be best to strike while the iron was hot? Wait, what that the right proverb? Was it a proverb at all? (Was it figure of speech? Aren't those proverbs...?)

    Well, questions about literary devices later. She stepped further back, pressing against the opposite wall - the cold stone pressing against her back helped her ground herself. This was here. This was now. "Abyss." The Absol crouched, both pairs of gazes fixed on the door. A sheen spread across the dark type's ebony claws; they seemed to inexplicably lengthen. "Not too much..."

    The words were whispered, light, husky in the cold air. The quadruped drew a single paw across the ground, the dragging causing grooves to appear; Nyx could've sworn she saw a spark. The commands were quiet, undetected by any ears save the Disaster Pokemon's. "Cleanly now...and maybe I should take that thing off..." She reached out towards the pokemon's neck, then thought better of it and decided otherwise. "Alright. And... go."

    Nyx braced herself as the Absol darted off in a flash. It was a simple Tackle, aiming to break the door in. The female knew how much explosive power Abyss stored inside him, now only heightened by the Swords Dance, and she wasn't particularly expecting any resistance from the door. The body of the pokemon struck the door with a resounding thud, shoulder first; as soon as contact was made and momentum stopped, he flitted back in a blur of black and white. It was always touch and go with the Absol. Strike first and strike hard.

    Nyx had expected the door splintering, or maybe falling off its hinges as best. Damage to property - something that made her cringe and brace for the inevitable (she didn't want to compromise the food either, which is why she didn't break a window. Glass in food...what a waste) What she, yet again, hadn't expected, was the wooden barrier flying clear off its hinges. She hoped there hadn't been anyone standing behind or close to it, as she hurried to the now-empty frame. "Razor Claw," she hissed accusingly at the now dead-panned Absol, who seemed to be scrutinising his work with a mild degree of pride.

    The sound of wood breaking against the far wall echoed deafeningly into the quiet twilight, and Nyx found herself fidgeting as she stepped in cautiously, lips pursed and tongue pressed against cheek. Well, this was going to be awkward.

    (I'm assuming they aren't immediately visible to her?)
     
    #6 MegaAbsol, Jul 21, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
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  7. Hanzer and Lambo wasted no time gathering pastries into their bags. Hanzer was far more methodical, despite his suddenly surging, growling stomach, and swept armfuls of delights into the bag Null had given him. Lambo, on the other hand, was following a procedure that seemed to require he stuff one sweet snack into his mouth for every one he put in the bag - and to forgo chewing. The Flaaffy was dancing all over the place and dropping crumbs everywhere.

    After taking a moment to compose himself, Null had joined them in lifting the choicest of treats. This hadn't been his original plan at all. In the beginning he was only going to steal a few items, just enough to curb their hunger. But now desperation and alarm had taken hold of him. Who knew the next time they would have a chance like this? They had already been found out, what was the worst that could happen? Better to die on a full stomach.

    He started at the sound of the doorknob rattling, whipping around to stare at it even though he knew he had locked the door. "We have to get out of here..." he muttered to himself under his breath, looking to Hanzer and Lambo and nodding them toward the opposite door. That was their cue to leave.

    But then something strange happened. He heard the girl speak again, almost... pleading with him. It froze him to the spot. Something in his soul stirred with the tone in her voice.
    What did she care? Did she have some kind of investment in this location? Not financial, she was too young for any of that. Familial? But she had spoken of the owner as a friend or an acquaintance, not as someone she knew intimately. Then what? And why did he care? Her words had stirred up in him guilt as easily as rain stirred up silt in a riverbed, and now everything was murky. Why was he so conflicted? He shouldn't be. She didn't matter. People didn't matter. Power, success, and deception mattered. None of these (he had realized at a young age) he was particularly interested in, but that was the way of the world he came from. In the world of Team Rocket, there was no room for warm, fuzzy feelings.

    And then again, like a second knife in the chest, she spoke once more. All pleading was gone, and now she was demanding. She didn't care about his situation at all! He even let out a small laugh at how foolish he had been. The intense emotion of the whole evening - the fear of being caught and dragged back somewhere he could never escape from - was blinding him to the reality of it all.

    "Come on," he urged his Pokemon again, turning with certainty this time toward the front door of the bakery. And in the next few moments, the whole world seemed to explode.

    There was a thud from behind them of that great, shadowy Pokemon slamming into the door. A split second prior Null had seen out of the corner of his eye Hanzer's ear flicking backward, and as soon as the door came rocketing off its hinges the Typhlosion was prepared. It pushed its trainer down, causing Null to slide backward across the floor behind a display case, and simultaneously let out an eruption of flame. It easily caught the dry, treated wood of the door on fire, but more importantly the force of the attack pushed the projectile off its trajectory and kept them safe from its path. But it wasn't over yet.

    Hanzer had seen an Absol once before, restrained and in a cage at HQ. Team Rocket would load up rare Pokemon in tight cages into even tighter trucks and send them off to be auctioned at underground and black market trades. The Pokemon would be used for all manner of things including trophies, breeding, and illegal "to-the-death" fighting rings. Even then the unnatural nature of the Disaster Pokemon had made him uneasy, and this time was no different. It shredded the solid oak door without any hint of strain, taking pride in its power. Hanzer snorted blue flame.

    "What the heck is wrong with you?!" Null shouted at Nyx from behind the display case, covering his head with his arms to protect himself from the flaming, flying remains of the door. Perhaps she had recognized him. That would explain it all - the bounty on his head would be enough to make anyone act this rash. It could put a girl like her through whatever school she wanted, with enough left over to buy a nice home and start a family.
    "It's just a little food! These guys make bank," he said incredulously. "I'm warning you," he added, crouching down and trying to locate where exactly she and her Pokemon were through all the feet of the display cases. "Let us leave peacefully, or my Pokemon will make you wish you'd never run into us." It wasn't exactly an idle threat, either, cliche though it was. After sizing up the Absol, Hanzer had determined that they were probably on a similar level, evenly matched. And that was without taking Lambo into account. Speaking of... where was the little fluffba- oh.

    Lambo, true to its addle-brained, derpy self, was standing mere centimeters from Abyss, far too close for comfort. One fin was stuffed in its mouth as it finally took to chewing the goodness knows how many pastries were in there. In the other fin, which he was holding out innocently to the Absol, was a pristine, freshly baked scone. And that was Lambo.
     
    #7 rawheight, Jul 21, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  8. Fate was cruel. Not for the first time, Nyx cursed her current state of affairs that an unfortunate mix of entropy, karma, bad luck and destiny had got her into. Mostly bad luck. Just as she had hoped to step, a massive plume of fire rose from inside the shop, and she hurried back outside. Where had it come from? The ovens? Did the male have a fire pokemon? If yes, it was a powerful one, by the looks of it. This complicated things; she nervously chewed on her lower lip, casting a fleeting glance at her fragile, fluffy baby before retrying her entry.

    This time, she managed a safe step or two before stopping dead in her tracks. Splinters of burning wood met her surprised gaze, along with a few angry shouts and snarls. The startling new environment caused her shrink back instinctively; anyone as socially inept as her required sufficient warning before drastically changing the stimulus. She felt frustration rise within her, a natural response to fright and pain. Pale, cold moonlight flooded in, dwarfed by the illumination provided by the several small embers scattered around. Abyss shouldered past her and stood contemplatively, half in and half out. His gaze never met hers, but she heard him give a comforting huff.

    Almost immediately her wandering eyes fell on a towering Typhlosion, burning gaze fixed upon them. The tall pokemon standing amidst the smouldering environment, snarling face illuminated by a raging fire mane was enough to make anyone think twice about messing with it, and Nyx tensed. How did that man obtain such a powerful pokemon? If it was stolen too, the sudden disorientation at being released in an unfamiliar surrounding with strangers would make it a dangerous force to be reckoned with.

    If it was any comfort, the leviathan seemed to be sizing Abyss up, who was returning the look in kind. The trainer flexed her free fingers in despair; was there any way to settle this dispute peacefully? If there was, she had probably thrown it out the window long ago - her string of bad choices had made sure of that. Abyss lifted his upper lip to reveal a row of gleaming, razor sharp teeth and placed a massive paw before Nyx, making it clear he had something to protect. His crimson glare never left the Typhlosion, filled with anticipation and apprehension. If it came to blows, perhaps he could outmanoeuvre the massive beast. There was an air of general malignant aggression in his stance, but he emitted neither growl, nor any sound. It wouldn't be in his best interests to provoke this foe, especially inside such cramped quarters.

    Nyx tightly gripped the door frame as she heard the male cry out from somewhere behind the display cases. "I'm sorry to have done this," she began calmly enough, her voice betraying her tumultuous emotions. Her insides felt as though they twisted and crawled within her. "But this man has a family to support. I couldn't just let you-"

    Her accusing gaze swept the shop, looking for the perpetrator, but instead pausing on something else. Scattered across the floor were a couple of bags, overflowing with the shop produce. What unnerved her was that there was a distinct lack of shiny, metal, monetary units.

    "...wait, you're stealing food?" Suddenly, the tantalising gift protectively clutched in her arms gained the properties of lead, weighing heavier and heavier in her arms until she felt she could hardly bear it anymore. Her mouth hardened as realization dawned upon her that he hadn't been out for money. Idle observation revealed that the Typhlosion didn't react at the male's voice; he was probably used to it. So it was his pokemon after all! So...was it protecting him?

    A twist in the plot had labeled her the villain in this unlikely tale, and she felt the irrepressible urge to curse loudly at him. "You...you absolute (absol-ute :3) walnut!" (Walnut? Thanks, brain...) Nyx could hardly stem her own voice, as words escaped her faster and faster. "Why didn't you say so? Wait, that's still theft. But now I feel obliged to apologise to you for keeping you from a meal. Darkrai above wept!" Gone was the time when she carefully measured each word and rehearsed it in her head before speaking it out loud. Anger loosened her lips, and Nyx found herself babbling, but unable to stop.

    The threat went all but unheard by her ears, as she continued scanning the floor for the offender, reaching out to stamp out a small flame before her. The absurdity of the situation made her want to laugh, cry, oh she didn't know anymore. "Leave? Yes, leave. Take this and get out." She almost hurled the packet down, but gaining sufficient restraint at the last minute, drew a deep breath and held out the packet to the Typhlosion. Just as she was suspiciously eyeing the crumbs on the floor, a surprised yip brought her attention to the source.

    Abyss had been glowering at the fire type, trying to intimidate the foe into backing down, when bread was suddenly, unceremoniously thrust into his face. The Absol started and followed the sight of the bread down to the one holding it - a Flaaffy. Abyss hadn't sensed the sheep drawing closer, and with a loud exclamation, drew backwards. As a canine, instinct drove him to worry the sheep pokemon, but common sense pulled him ever away from the unusual offender. He blinked once, twice, unable to draw his wide-eyed gaze away from the proffered sweet, and the one offering it. He felt he should regain his usual condescending air and indignantly turn the offering away but he simply couldn't master his surprise. In fact, his fluffed up fur and facial expression was the very epitome of an 'um' gesture, which is likely what he would've been saying if he could speak. Nyx scrutinised the Flaaffy with some curiosity, setting her gift down on the counter. She felt an obligation to feel some resentment or hesitation at giving away the meal she had been looking forward to so, but she had less need for the food. As it stood, her entire attention was focused on the little Electric type - a lapse in vigilance!
     
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  9. Wait, you're stealing food?

    What did she think he had been stealing? All this time hounding them and chasing after them and busting down doors, what was it she assumed he had been -- oh. Oh.

    Null shut his eyes tight, gritting his teeth. She had assumed he was here to rob the place. Not take a few pastries here and there, maybe a pie or a cake, but steal everything this baker had that made him anything. No, he wasn't here for money. Not even Team Rocket stole money. They had no qualms about taking everything that meant something to someone, but it was always possessions, an item of some kind that they could sell for money. Now that he thought about it, that was a strange way of going about things. Why didn't Team Rocket steal money...? He pushed that question aside for later scrutiny. Right now there was unjust anger rising in his chest that needed to be addressed.

    Of course this girl, whoever she was, had no way of knowing who he was or the position he was in. But that didn't stop his indignation. He was exhausted, sleep-deprived, starving, and hunted. For nearly six months now he had spoken to no one but his Pokemon and had avoided all civilization just to try and stay alive. It was worth it, to keep from being dragged back to Rocket HQ and having who knew what else done to him. But it wasn't easy.

    And here she was, casually labeling him a monster. Someone who took pleasure in relieving someone from all their hard-earned work and money. Everything he was fighting to keep, she was suggesting he was taking from someone else.

    "Walnut?!" Null sat up straight, then whipped around and glared at her from over the top of the display case. From here he could only see her head, and the very tip of the horn that he assumed belonged to her Pokemon.

    Smoke was curling up from underneath Hanzer's top lip. He had remained exactly where he was when the girl and her Absol had entered the room, just watching. Taking in everything. He was strong but he was not rash. In certain circumstances, he could even be downright sly. And right now, he had only one goal: protect his human. That meant not attacking, not unless he was attacked first. Even the flamethrower he had used previously had only been to save them from the impact of the door. His eyes slid sideways for the briefest moment as Null stood and he issued a small, warning growl. The Absol... was it possible it would trigger the Eye? He didn't know, but he wasn't going to take the risk.

    In its wool-addled brain, Lambo seemed to believe that they had reached some kind of trade. It set the pastry in its fin at the dark-clawed feet of Abyss, patted him twice on the head in a manner of gratitude and care, and then grabbed the bag off the counter that held the treat given to Nyx. Before it could be stopped it trotted over to Null, handing the gift over, its tongue poking out the side of its mouth.

    The tall teen had seen the girl shove the bag in Hanzer's direction, knew she meant it for them. Cautiously, only after a nod from the Typhlosion to know he would be watching every move their enemy made, Null took his eyes off her and looked down in the satchel. It was... food. Some kind of sweet bread? The smell of it made his stomach growl involuntarily, and loudly. Frowning, he quickly closed the bag again and shot Nyx a look. "I don't understand you," he said, stepping out from behind the display case to face her. It was the last fully conscious move he would make for a while.

    The moment his blue eyes met the crimson of the Absol's, a deep, searing pain arced across the back of his left eye. He dropped the bag with Nyx's tasty treat in it, pressing his palm into the socket of his eye. Any memory of what he had been about to say, what he had been about to do, was banished from his mind. Instead, through the cloud of suffering that now assaulted his mind, he had to find a way to clear everything out of his consciousness and shut the Eye down. Even now it was running through its self-tests, booting up, triangulating its location... all to send out in one simple, cohesive message the coordinates that would tell Team Rocket exactly where he was hiding. And all of this, just for a full stomach.

    Another wave of heat flashed through the machination in his skull and Null dropped to his knees with a grunt of pain. There was too much to think about - he couldn't focus on either the situation at hand in the bakery, or the one happening in his own mind. "Hanzer," he gasped, pleading.
    The Typhlosion was already on it, huge volumes of ashcloud billowing from his open mouth as he sought to fill the building with a smokescreen. Even through the commotion the Pokemon's strong hearing picked up the noise of both humans and Pokemon racing down the street toward the bakery. Someone was coming to see what all the fuss was about.

    No more dealing with this girl and her Disaster Pokemon; Hanzer was done. In the thick smoke Lambo's tail lit up like a beacon for them, and the Typhlosion grabbed his human under the arms and did his best to try and haul him back to his feet, but Null wasn't helping. Only a few seconds remained before the Eye finished its initialization, and then the message would be sent. They were doomed.
     
  10. The surprise in Abyss was quickly replaced by alarm, and an uneasy awkwardness as the Flaaffy placed the creamy bread at his feet and drew closer. Resisting the urge to spring away, the Absol cringed further and further away from the Flaaffy's approaching paw. Stubbornness demanded he cling to the ground with all four paws, so he ended up crouching lower and lower until he was basically an indignant ball of black and white. Fluffed up with discomfort, he squeezed his eyes shut as though awaiting a punishment as the dreaded appendage descended...

    His head bobbed under the pats, rather like a spring toy, as the rest of his body remained as tensed as a taut wire. It was with some relief that the ordeal of physical touch finally ended for the reticent Absol, and he watched the Flaaffy totter away with curiosity. As a final attempt to retain some of his dignity, he half-heartedly waved a massive paw at the retreating sheep - evidently meant to be threatening, but not really succeeding.

    Nyx couldn't supress a smile throughout the little dramatic overtures of the Absol - to be honest, they had been the only things she had enjoyed since the theft of her project. She refocused her gaze onto the Typhlosion, emitting thick clouds of smoke from his maw. So far having displayed no signs of aggression, only wariness and apprehension not unlike Abyss, she was forced to assume a connection between it and the would-be thief. Surely someone who could raise such a fine specimen of a good - natured pokemon couldn't be all bad?

    But then her eyes fell on the scattered sweets again. Theft, even if not of money, was still theft. These products had time and effort invested into them - the source of their income. Their business flourished and succeeded because of the old man's endless dedication and perseverance towards an honest living. If one would excuse the pun, he was the literal bread-earner. And...oh wait, one more, one more. The bread was their source of daily dough. Both figuratively as well as literally, it turns out.

    Ah, damn it. Her mind had gone too long without focusing whole - heartedly on one thing, and was beginning to redirect its efforts into terrible jokes. That needed to be stopped. Maybe just to keep her brilliant mind busy, she ought to take up on a hobby...maybe knitting...or start a new project. Move on. The first sign of defeat and acceptance that maybe the Eye was gone for good.
    How wrong she was.

    She tensed as she realised the evident thief had stood up from behind the counter - not before a loud growl was audible; had he really been that hungry? - and begun striding around before disaster struck. She almost didn't catch his first moment of pain; almost.

    She watched in growing horror as the male sank to the floor with a groan of pain, clutching at his face. What was wrong with him? Abyss hadn't moved, so he couldn't have struck out at him. There was no external wound, or flow of blood, so she had to assume it an internal pain, perhaps even one that was old, since he wasn't in complete panic. Since he behaved as though it was a familiar pain.

    Suddenly, time slowed for the girl, as epiphany began to crawl towards her. A soft whirring...what was that? It sounded foreign to her ears, but how could her mind ever forget that sound? After all, it had birthed it of it's own self. In the heartbeat of shocked silence, the male changed drastically yet again in her eyes. He...

    Nyx remembered. The grief, shock, even denial and anger. When the Eye had been taken, she had felt as though she had lost every purpose in life. It hadn't just been a project to her. It had been her life's work; her life itself. Her pride, her light. It had such potential; an improvised PokeDex, with upgraded functions. Such potential. Her first project - one that she hadn't chosen to work upon, but one that had called her, drawn her to itself like a Mothim to a flame. Never mind the long work hours or careful, delicate work, surrounded by coworkers much older than her. It had been a part of her.

    She had been unable to shake off thoughts of it, six long months after it had been taken. Stolen. She felt unjust anger rise in her at the mere thought of it, or debilitating confusion. As though her mind couldn't quite think straight; as though it had lost a solitary support. It had been in such a state that she had been stumbled upon this male but a while ago. But now she felt her doubt wash away, and clarity arise. Perhaps she had been right to stop him when she did, despite all her self-doubt. It was lovely, watching the pieces fall into place after such a long time of stumbling in the dark. She was sure of it; sure of what he held. How could she ever forget that familiar whirr, even as the Eye was changed and distorted to near unrecognisable corruption? She knew he held the Eye, now but a defaced shadow of its former self, defiling everything its ideals had stood for.
    And she hated him for that.

    But just as she made to move, to rush towards the conveniently crippled male, the Typhlosion let rip of a massive plume of smoke; with a cough of alarm, she realised she was being yanked back by Abyss. "But-" was all she managed before she was roughly shouldered out the door by the large canine, in a manner that clearly said 'no buts'. To be fair, the Absol was indignant too - at the fact that the boy had dropped their generously given gift. Abyss had been looking forward to that meal too, so while he had grudgingly accepted the giving away of the meal, he was apalled at the wastage of it all. He cared little for the apparent pain of the boy; protection of his human came first, and then came food. (Food is important to both of them!)

    He darted back in towards a single, glowing dot in the smoke-filled room once he had made sure Nyx was safely out of doors, away from the stifling smoke. With a warning growl, he swiped downwards at where the Typhlosion had been standing, hard enough to crack the tiled floor, but of course he had moved since then. Holding his breath (he knew enough to not inhale the smoke, ash that it was) he stood for a moment, hearing rapid shufflings as the Fire type hurried away with his human, along with the glowing beacon he had to assume as that odd little Electric type. If it had been just the pokemon, he would've had no qualms chasing after him...but he had something to protect. With an indignant huff, he turned, only to erupt from the door a moment later.

    "Abyss," Nyx breathed, kneeling to run her hands over her pokemon. Relieved to find he hadn't been injured, she drew the pokemon's head closer, even as she heard the patter of approaching feet. "Abyss, he has the Eye." She watched the twin crimson orbs widen in momentary surprise, before releasing the quadruped's head, allowing him to turn towards the source of the sound. Wherever they would escape from, wherever they would escape to, he would follow them, and he would find them. "Go."

    She stood for a heartbeat, alone in the alley, listening to the wind rustling quietly in the alley, before turning to the approaching crowd. The townsfolk knew her well enough that she was obliged to help them in minimising the damage done tonight (considering how ironically she had done most of it) She waited for the police officer to approach to give her a statement, sparing a last glance down the alley, where she knew the wolf chased the shepherd.
     
    #10 MegaAbsol, Jul 24, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2017
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  11. His brain was a muddled haze; three separate pressing issues trying to access his motor skills and gain priority, and all of them losing. The smokescreen was beginning to close in, and he felt the absence of clean oxygen like a wet cloth across his nose and mouth. He tried to push himself back to his feet but stumbled and fell onto one knee, only to be caught and hauled back up by the strong arms of his Typhlosion. That urgent strength was just what he needed to fixate on Priority One - escape.
    "Lambo, show us out!" Null wheezed toward the small light before them, using Hanzer's sturdy frame to leverage himself to his feet and pulling the collar of his shirt up over his nose. He would have to deal with the Eye in a moment. There was no way he would be able to shut it down now - it was already beginning to deploy its Pokedex information on Absol.
    Grateful for his human's newfound focus, Hanzer helped support the teenager as they raced out of the rapidly suffocating building. He himself had little problem with the ash, and he was surprised at how well his teammate Lambo was handling it, but Null was obviously struggling.

    They kept a brisk pace out of the bakery, away from the girl and her Pokemon who - yes, Hanzer knew because he checked over his shoulder every few seconds - had stayed behind and probably fled out the rear exit they had first entered. The teen was coughing and spitting out mouthfuls of ash, but now that they were away from the source of the irritant his breathing seemed to be coming easier.

    Null was trusting his Pokemon to lead him to safety. For now, the Eye had pretty much entirely hijacked his sight, spitting out rows upon rows upon rows of scrolling information that fed through his vision like movie credits. It was similar to a heads-up display, except that nothing was actually being projected into the real world - instead, the information was being fed directly into the visual processing center of his brain.
    What Null hated to admit the most about this horrendous period of his life was just what an incredible piece of technology the Eye was. Even now it was processing information on that girl's Absol in particular, making calculations about its weight and muscle mass based on the amount of force it was exerting on the ground. Then it was also judging the Pokemon's age and level based on size and claw and horn length. This information and so much more was then fed into graphs and tables and displayed immediately in the continually scrolling feed of his left eye. There were peer-reviewed articles it brought up about whether Absol, the "Disaster Pokemon", caused the natural disasters it was associated with or simply warned of them (there were scientists on both sides of the field). There was even a bright red alert to warn him that seeing this Pokemon meant certain calamity was to come. Yeah... a little too late for that.

    Finally the feed was just too much to process and Null pushed back against Hanzer and fell to his knees again in an exhausted heap. "Stop, stop, just wait a moment," he said, wincing and pressing against the Eye to try and relieve some of the pressure. Priority Two: shut it down.

    Hanzer gave a low growl, casting its eyes about warily. They were just outside the town now, and there were an uncomfortable number of lights on in house windows. It was as if the whole hamlet had been alerted to the commotion and was now awake to help hunt them down. They couldn't stop for long.
    Lambo as well had paused, its tail light extinguished now that they were out of the smokey haze. It now revealed, however, that over its shoulder was the bag with Nyx's treat that Null had dropped when the Eye was activated. The treat was already half devoured, and the crumbs around the sheep's mouth were a dead giveaway of where it had gone.

    Null shut his eyes tight, which unfortunately did not stop the feed of information that comprised the Pokedex entry for this specific Absol, though now that it had finished processing the scroll had at least slowed. He leaned forward until his forehead pressed against the cool ground and he rested there, his hands over his ears so he could concentrate fully. It took a little bit of time to access the Eye and terminate it. It was a blessing and a curse that he didn't have much experience in doing so - it had been two months since his last 'incident' (an unfortunate run-in with a boy who had an absurdly strong and large Rattata that had taken him completely off guard), and before that he'd only had to shut it down a handful of times.
    He could feel it niggling into his neural pathways, machine taking over natural processes, but in just a few moments he finally managed to take control again and turn it off. The last thing he saw before the display vanished from his vision was the number 78, orange and surrounded by a similarly-coloured chamfered border. Despite his empty stomach, the tumultuous turn of events that night combined with this numeral almost made him vomit. He dry-heaved once, shuddered as a chill ran through his body, and then he was okay.
    The program Team Rocket introduced into the Eye gave every Pokemon a ranking depending on calculated power, rarity, and desirability. That number determined just how much effort Team Rocket would expend in order to capture that Pokemon, and also determined who got the alert about the monster. What truly sickened him, however, was the complete lack of compassion or empathy that went into this number. Pokemon were decomposed into stats, then given a ranking separate from their personality, their sovereignty, and their intrinsic value as a unique being.

    "Ty, typhlosion," Hanzer was getting antsy, staying in one place. His ears were flattened back against his skull as he peered into the dark night toward the little hamlet that was now buzzing with life.
    Null nodded in understanding, sitting back on his feet and taking a deep breath to calm himself. Lambo, having finished all of the sweet bread that had been proffered to them, now came and pressed against its human's side, gently patting his chest and resting his head against the teen's shoulder.
    "Thank you," Null murmured, stroking the wool ruff around Lambo's neck, taking comfort from the silly little sheep Pokemon. He sucked in one last deep, steadying breath, and then got back to his feet. Priority Three - run.

    ---

    Fifteen minutes later found him at the riverbank, rolling up the legs of his pants. They had used this method to escape once before - travelling in the water would mask his scent and keep him from leaving any footprints that could be followed. Lambo was already returned to its Pokeball, which was now resting in its place on Null's belt. Hanzer stood on the shoreline, its lips curled in a semi-permanent snarl as it viewed the treacherous liquid. He was not happy. Of course his human would choose an escape path that prevented him from being at his side, even though it was this exact situation (Hanzer being stuck inside his Pokeball, that is) that put them here in the first place. Stupid humans.
     
  12. "Yes officer...theft...no, no...I did that..." Nyx rattled off answers with growing impatience as smoke continued flooding out of the building. People and had gathered, and deployed pokemon to assist in the clearing out of the place. The owner, the elderly man she had spoken about, hovered about anxiously. Just as well that there had been no fire; it took a powerful pokemon to create that kind of a smokescreen, which was often accompanied by the accidental ember. Even so, no amount of wind-based moves could clear the smoke out of the unfortunately spoiled products. Looks like the bakery would be out of business for a few days.

    Her agitation caused her gaze to avert, the lapse of attention allowing her to sweep the growing crowd for a familiar figure of white. She shouldn't be here - okay, so maybe she was a little responsible for the damage - she should be out there with Abyss chasing that guy down! Irritation writ large across her face, she turned to face Officer Jenny again.

    "So, you knocked that door down?"
    Well, this was awkward. "Er, yes, Officer. He locked it from the inside, so..."
    "How much did he steal?" The blue-haired woman's gaze was sharp as she scribbled with haste in her notepad.
    "No money...as far as I know. It seemed he only wanted to steal food." Nyx bit her lip, recounting the incidents of old. Well, okay, of a few minutes ago.
    "Alright. Could you provide a description?"

    This. This was what she had dreaded. Conflict warred within her, as indecision contorted her face. Should she tell her? Well, logically, there was no reason not to. The police could help her in locating him and retrieving the Eye. Quick, efficient, humane. And yet, something in the pain on the boy's face when he had seen Abyss made her hesitate. Eyes downcast, she played the scenes over in her mind. Officer Jenny mistook the hesitation for recounting memories and waited patiently.

    The male had sunk to his knees, clutching at his face. No, his eyes...one of them. And the soft whirring...it was difficult to believe, but Nyx was forced to assume that, willingly or unwillingly, the Dexter's Eye had been stolen and implanted into this boy's head. But why? It was meant to be an advanced PokeDex, to store specifications of Pokemon and record their data. Perhaps the sight of Abyss had activated it, and Nyx knew that in the event of correct functioning, it would show streams of data on the particular, recognised pokemon. But hooked to a biological being...what was happening here? The surfacing of her project had created so many questions, and Nyx's mind was overworking. She could feel her headache returning, along with a certain heat building up around her temples...heat. The machine created heat. But a human skull was an almost perfect insulator, built to contain most anything. If this boy really did have the Eye implanted into his face, every activation, every whirl of the miniature cooling fan would flush incredible heat inwards towards his brain. And heat properly used would behave like radiation, gradually corrupting cells. That poor boy.

    Whoever did this to him (because almost certainly no one would want such a fate upon themselves - the Eye was never meant to be implanted, so the boy definitely had surgery to do so) no longer hung around, which was why the male was driven to stealing to fill his stomach. Had he been abandoned as a failed experiment? Had he escaped? Whoever stole the Eye meant to keep it with themselves, so they would've finished the one feature that Nyx had left to implement - a tracking device. Would that mean he was being tracked? Hunted? Possible. There was so much more she wanted to know. If there was a third party involved, perhaps it would be better to be discreet.

    "Miss?" Concern flashed in the Officer's eyes, and Nyx faked a frown. "Oh, I'm sorry. I don't really remember all that well. I couldn't see him through the darkness," a vivid memory of white and blue flashed past her eyes, "but he was tall, and wearing tattered clothes,"
    Nyx knew the details she gave were useless, and inwardly something twisted, but she managed to keep a straight face in the silence that followed. Careful to keep her breathing even, she stared the Officer dead in the eye, able to keep up the facade of confidence until Jenny was forced to accept it.

    "Alright then, ma'am. Thank you very much for your help. Would you like a police escort back home?" Nyx's eyes widened slightly. "O-oh, no thank you. I need to find my pokemon, and besides, I live in Mahogany. It's quite a walk aways. But thank you for the offer." Awkwardly bowing (she didn't know what else to do) she nodded her head and sped off before Officer Jenny could fit in another word edgewise. Abyss...where was he?

    Said pokemon had long since abandoned his attempts to keep hidden in the shadows. A rare break of houses had caused moonlight to pelt down upon him, his fur practically glowing bright. With increasing dread, he had followed the duo - moving quickly despite their evident handicap - until the Typhlosion had glanced over his shoulder to fatefully catch Abyss red-hand- er, pawed. Despite his glistening white specter-like look, the sullen Absol felt rather like the metaphorical black sheep (Mareep?) as he followed the company from a safe distance. Grudgingly, he had to admit that despite his human burden, the Typhlosion was pacing himself incredibly well, displaying uncanny strength - and the Flaaffy was a different ball-game altogether. One he wanted no part of.

    When the gasping human had asked to be put down for what appeared to be a moment of respite, Abyss lingered in the shadows. Relieved to find all pokemon attention centered on their assumed trainer, he hesitated a moment longer before turning to retrace his steps. Without having to adjust to another pace, he could move back faster to make up for lost time, as well as the hope that perhaps the incapacitated human would take a while to recover sped the Absol's pattering footsteps further. And then there was the matter of escorting his relatively slow human down the same route again. The troubles he had to shoulder.

    Turning headlong round a corner a few moments later, Abyss almost collided with a cloth-clad leg. Who was this? Where did this crowd come from? Growing nervous, the reclusive pokemon scanned the crowd for his partner - equally antisocial. What a pair they made. His wide eyes finally settled on a slender figure moving erratically through the crowd, as a drowning man might through a tumultuous sea. He was tempted to watch her struggle through the crushing crowd for a while longer, but his own anxiety caused him to shrilly call out. Almost before the sound had left him, the girl turned, and relief flooded her face. Awkwardly pushing through the roiling mass of people (mostly dodging through small gaps in between) she staggered to a halt beside the tall canine, who seemed to be mapping her progress with a hint of amusement. "Not a word," she grumbled, as the Disaster pokemon turned once again.

    When it came to running, Abyss could teach her a thing or two. Nyx strained to her utmost, panting and heaving as she pushed every fiber in her body to speed ever onwards. In front of her, almost mocking, the Absol glided on effortlessly, soundlessly, his paws hardly touching the ground. His smooth run was interrupted by the occasional glances over his shoulder as he did his best to pace himself, and his niggling doubt that his human might just collapse from a heart attack. "I...need to get...out more," Nyx panted, as she gasped for breath. Well, to be fair, she did spend most of her day inside a lab.

    Wishing she'd hurry up, Abyss slowed as they neared the spot where the boy had crouched but minutes ago. As Nyx staggered closer, drawing great lungfuls of air, Abyss agreed that perhaps it had been more than a few minutes. Nose to ground, he had little trouble tracking that ash-like smell, the scent that reeked of trouble. His teeth bared in a soundless snarl, he started off in pursuit again. "H-hold up..." the girl whimpered, beginning her reluctant chase again, spurred on by the thoughts of the Eye. This wasn't a chase anymore. This was a hunt.

    (Sorry for the wait! Assume in the next post, that Abyss and Nyx come upon them just as they're crossing the deepest part of the river. You may then auto Nyx in whatever way you feel appropriate. Maybe have her slip? Or she can jump after Null, that's cool too~)
     
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  13. (Sounds good :D *insert mischievous laughter here*)

    The crowd could not be satiated. This calm, peaceful town had, in mere minutes, overcome their sleep and confusion and had turned into something of a monster. Word of what happened (or what they assumed happened, or what they imagined happened... did it really matter?) passed from mouth to mouth like a bad game of telephone. Many of the men and women in this town had moved here after a long life in the hustle and bustle of nearby cities. They had worked hard and stripped their fingers to the bone, for thirty, forty, fifty years in order to earn the peace and quiet of Marigold Valley.

    But now, the peace was upset and the quiet disturbed. Someone had taken advantage of their kindness and destroyed all the goods their dear baker had created, and at the height of tourist season, too. Their hands clenched into fists and their teeth gnashed in their skulls. Who cared if the offending boy had stolen money or possessions or just a few pastries? It would take days, maybe weeks to air out that foul, volcanic smoke smell. All those sales were as good as forfeited. Their community depended on the success of this business to help them through the winter. Unsatisfied with Officer Jenny's attempts to reach justice, the unruly masses decided to take matters into their own hands.

    Pokemon were summoned, winter coats donned, and torches lit as the mob spread out in a careful line to scour the forest.

    ---

    Null was in the river now, testing bare feet against slippery, moss-covered rocks. His shoes were tied together by the laces and thrown over his neck in an attempt to keep them dry, but it was a futile endeavor. He was only a quarter of the way into the river and already the water was up to his chest, tall as he was. An early snow further up on the mountain had left the streams gushing and swollen, with the water ice-cold.
    Hanzer, demanding to be left out of his Pokeball until he saw that his human could navigate the stream safely, let out a bark of alarm as Null lost his footing and disappeared momentarily under the roiling surface of the torrent. A half-second later the teen's head broke through the water again, just a few feet down, as he found his footing once more. The Typhlosion let off a tirade of barks and snaps at its human like an angry mother until Null, teeth chattering as he fought against the cold that clung to his frame like the clothes he wore, snapped back.

    "That's enough, Hanzer," and then, immediately regretting his tone, he relented. "We don't have another choice," he added more softly this time, voice barely heard over the ripple and snap of the river. His shoulders were slumped in defeat, arms cross over his chest to try and keep in any heat he could. "That girl saw us, she can easily identify us and turn us in. The Eye sent Team Rocket our coordinates, I'm sure they're already on their way to snatch us up. This is the best, the fastest-" but his Pokemon was no longer listening.

    Hanzer's head had whipped around, his ears on a swivel, listening intently. He had heard... and then the smell. That Absol again! And the girl, too! And so many, many more. But in an instant the smell was gone again, carried to him on a stray breath of wind that decided to travel opposite the others. There wasn't enough time to act - the two were already upon them.

    Null's eyes widened as he saw Nyx emerge from the forest, her brilliant shadow-white Absol at her side. Thankfully, due to the numbing effect of the cold water and the fact that he had already seen the creature once before, he was easily able to keep the Eye powered down. Regardless, he still flinched at the memory. "You followed us?" he asked incredulously over the roar of the rapids.
    Hanzer was barking another warning, but this time it was more frantic. He kept looking back toward the forest, his mane beginning to blaze red-hot in anticipation of attack.
    When the young man followed his Pokemon's gaze into the forest, what he saw there caused his eyes to widen even further. A line of lights, some electric, some fire, some Pokemon, at least a hundred wide spanned the riverbank, about fifty yards away. There was still time to act - he had his hand on Hanzer's Pokeball and was ready to recall the Pokemon when a bolt of electricity passed directly over his head, the static of the passing shaft causing the hair on the back of his neck to raise. Everything that happened next, happened in a blur.

    "Look out!" The attacks were coming fast and furious now from all manner of Pokemon as the villagers descended upon their prey. Despite his lack of depth perception, Null had noticed one blast in particular straying off its path and heading directly for Nyx. It impacted right behind her, propelling grass and dirt and roots and body into the ice-cold water of the tumult.
    As soon as he had seen what was happening, Null had surged forward against the flow of the river toward the girl, desperate to catch her before the current did. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Hanzer yapping his concern at his fool-hardy human, and then with frustration at the attacks that were still being thrown their way the Pokemon whipped around and returned fire - literally.

    Null felt something hit his leg and quickly dove his hand underwater, catching Nyx by the arm and bringing her to the surface for air. For the briefest of moments his eyes, full of concern, met the green-grey of hers. And then the second massive attack hit.
    He felt like a dead fish being flushed down the toilet - completely at the mercy of the water that surrounded him on all sides, all action useless. The concussion of the sonicboom attack, or whatever it was that hit them, had completely knocked the wind out of him and he couldn't even call out for help. Not that anyone would hear, ten feet under the water. The one thing he remained sure of, even despite the numbness in his fingers, was that his grip on Nyx's arm remained true. Firm, unrelenting, but gentle enough not to cause undue pain - he knew they had a far better chance of surviving these rapids together.

    On the shoreline, Hanzer had been momentarily deafened by the aftershock of the sonicboom. He was yelping loudly in response to watching his human disappear with the girl under the surface of the water, but he couldn't even hear that. Ears flat back against his skull, the Typhlosion took off into the undergrowth, away from the attacks still bombarding the river from the forest. He followed the shoreline on all fours, bounding over bushes and under fallen trees. Relief overwhelmed the creature as he saw his trainer surface once with the girl, gasping for breath. He was doing everything he could to fight against the current and keep them afloat, her most of all.
    The river, however, was raging and was moving the two teenagers downstream faster than Hanzer could run. With growing anxiety he began to realize they were growing ever distant, and he was growing ever breathless with the exertion of keeping up. He refused to stop running, even after they had long since disappeared from view further down the slopes. Far in the distance, he could now hear the roar of the waterfall that fed the Lake of Rage.

    Null could rarely remember a time he had been under such a barrage. Perhaps during his tutelage under his father on how to be a good trainer - how to beat people into submission. But that was a long time ago. He was fighting to keep himself downstream of Nyx, using his body as a shield against the rocks they were thrown into, trying to save her from the worst of the river's attack. There was no chance to talk, and no air to do so even if he wanted to. No opportunity to try and reassure her, whether she needed it or not. It was impossible to tell how she was feeling when half the time his head was under water.
    He knew she had likely turned him in to the police. Remembered just how angry she had been with him when she found out he was stealing. That look when he had slipped past her questions in the alleyway, taking solace in the bakery behind a locked door. Contempt? No, maybe that was too harsh. But despite her antagonizing him, he never meant her any harm. He never expected things to end up like this, certainly. She was only trying to live her life, just as he wanted to. She had the freedom to stop and challenge a stranger in a dark alleyway, and no matter how badly he wanted that freedom, he wanted her to keep it too. It was a right every human deserved.

    Funny how much time he had to think when he was half drowning.

    There was a brief lull in the rapids in which Null managed to surface completely, taking several huge gulps of air before coughing up a lungful of water. He still had a grip on the girl's arm - perhaps a little too tight now, he realized, and slackened it slightly, but didn't want to let go until they were safe on the shore.
    "Are you alright?"
    At least, that was what he tried to ask. But he realized there was a deafening roar that was drowning out any sound he tried to make. With a glance over his shoulder and a sinking feeling in his stomach, Null realized what it was.
    The visual before him was as odd as it was beautiful. The river just stopped, as if it were the horizon itself. Vegetation on either side of the bank just dropped off as if on a cliff. Because that's exactly what it was.
    "Hold on!"
    He didn't know if she could hear him or not, but he hoped she at least got the point as the river threw them bodily over the side of the mountain, out into nothingness.

    He twisted in midair, his muscles working purely on the adrenaline rush that was feeding him physically and the instincts that were feeding him mentally. If he could break the surface tension of the water first, she would have a much easier and less painful time entering after him. He kept waiting for the crash, waiting for the crash, waiting for the --

    Null hit the water with a loud smack, the impact immediately knocking him unconscious, hand finally breaking its grip on Nyx's arm. As the pounding water drove them from the roiling cauldron at the bottom of the waterfall and toward the shore, his senseless body slowly began to sink in the murky void.
     
    #13 rawheight, Jul 30, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
  14. Regret swamped Nyx in waves almost as strong as the river itself. Just how, she managed to calmly think, as her eyes strained against the endless onslaught of water, and why, had she turned up here? When had things gotten this bad?

    As the struggling runner had managed to break through the dense foliage, albeit with spiteful cuts and a few grazes from the bitter undergrowth, she had ungracefully descended roundly in the face of an escape. Abyss had leaped through before her, and had stood growling at the Typhlosion, legs firmly planted apart. So engrossed had she been in wondering how to intercept the man making a quick getaway that she hadn't noticed the crowd snaking its way closer until they were almost upon them. She noted them first when Abyss whipped around with a surprised huff, and her own surprise was evident in her wide eyes as she stared at the nearing line of lights. "What the...when did they come here? How...did they follow us?" She frowned, obviously disgruntled at the fact that she couldn't apprehend the boy on her own conditions, but her irritation quickly gave way to fear.

    She stood in between two warring factions, and now the Eruption pokemon before them seemed ready to return fire. Suddenly attacks flew through the air, eliciting squeals of alarm from the girl, who scrambled to clear the way. Abyss growled, a rumble deep in his chest, before bounding alongside his partner. "That way," Nyx huffed, kneeing her Absol in the appropriate direction - dodging and anticipating the attacks, she stumbled to a halt beside the river.

    "What is wrong with you all?! Stop attacking at random!" She yelled out above the din, frustration boiling over. Uncertain that she and the townsfolk were on the same page, moving towards the same goal, she'd rather have the boy unharmed than dead. Almost immediately, guilt washed over her as realization dawned on what she had just thought. Did she really see him as just a vessel for her project? He was an individual with his own personality, a life as vivid as her own, his own set of emotions, and his own struggles - of which she had been only adding too. Please...let me do just this one thing right, for once.

    A stray attack narrowly missed her, and she heard the Absol give a bark of alarm. The barrage of attacks was only intensifying as the company drew closer, and Nyx chewed on her lip, irritation growing. She was angry too; she had pent up frustration too, but if someone ended up getting hurt for it...
    Her eyes strayed over to the male, struggling in the middle of the river. He had his own escapade to worry about, along with trying not to get swept away while dodging any projectiles thrown towards him. Almost all of this was because of her meddling in a situation that didn't affect her. Maybe he would've gotten away with a few pastries, amd slept tonight with a full stomach, while the bakery could continue their business as usual, but she, oh meddling self, had descended upon him like the pestilence incarnate. An uncomfortable feeling twisted within her as she continued with a moral struggle she had deemed buried, and through the mist in her half-lidded eyes, she breathed out an apology.

    "I'm sorry-" Barely had she completed her syllables than thunder struck behind her. Whatever it was - a kinetic attack, she suspected, as she fell - it knocked her limp form clear off the bank into the raging river. It was late autumn, and her body hadn't been prepared for the slam of icy cold water against her ill-prepared self. The oppressive, biting frost hit her first, driving deep into her bones and threatening to freeze and choke her all at once. Pain ran up and down her rapidly numbing nerves, and her body couldn't squeeze out enough of a response to form tears against the pain. Her back hurt from the attack that she evidently had taken some brunt of, and as her relaxed body flowed further downwards, she could only scan the murky depths for her partner, her best friend. Was Abyss okay? Was he hurt? Did he fall in with her? She wanted to swim to the surface, back to her Absol, but her limbs refused to obey, and as her lungs burned for the lack of oxygen, she could only hope he wouldn't miss her too much - was this how she was to die?

    Suddenly a foreign force wrapped around her arm and yanked her to the surface. Her face broke the water, and dizzying relief swept over her as she returned to the world of the living. Stimulus flooded her senses again, other than just the cold, and she could see the ebony night sky, studded with sparkling stars. She might even have felt peaceful, lying in a bed of water and watching the skies, if she wasn't drowning in a Darkrai-forsaken river that rivaled Kyurem's realm itself. Her ears hummed against the cold - now soaked, the air was colder than ever against her skin, and as her skin screamed in agony, writhing away from the cold, she pried her mouth open to draw for breath. Maybe scream for help.

    Her lungs refused to work, so she was forced to deeply inhale through her mouth in an attempt to force air into her reluctant body - but as her lips parted, freezing water flowed in and she swallowed it in sheer panic and instinct. Still wanting for oxygen, she feebly flailed against the current, trying her best to remain afloat. She might even have formulated a plan like sink to the bottom and after finding the river bottom, push off strongly to bob to the surface but...
    But she was afraid. Afraid of the vast, dark grave that the bottom of the ice cold river was. Not even light filtered through the treacherous surface, and it was only a comforting, cold darkness that woukd embrace her. If she went down, she was afraid she'd never come back up.

    "Abyss," she tried to choke out as she realised her body was pressed against another, a warm, live body that held her helpless form to itself. Realising someone had come to her aid, she tried to stay as still as possible - as much as one could while being swept downstream - since flailing would only hamper her evident savior. But...it felt different. The body lacked the fur of her expected canine companion, and was larger too, as well as more muscular than what she was used to. Her fingers twitched in an effort to plant her freezing hands against the body and distance herself slightly, but the river had different thoughts.

    Trying hard to stay aware and mentally present, Nyx thrashed feebly to try and stay afloat, panic setting in at the growing realization of her situation. Her helper seemed to keep themself downstream at all times, and once or twice she felt the slight rebuttal of a presumed impact of a jutting rock. It was actually one such jolt that gave her enough of a glimpse of her saviours face - the male she had been following.

    Why? Why would he try and save her, even go as far as place himself in bodily harm to assist her? Doubtless, if he hadn't been toting around her dead weight, he might even be able to anchor himself to a rock and make his way to the other side. She didn't understand - plain sense would say this male should be feeling a sense of resentment towards her, which should tilt his sense of justice towards abandoning his sense of empathy. Why would he bother to rise above base human sentiment, and put aside his own anger for the sake of her well-being?

    -×-

    Abyss hadn't been blown off the bank like Nyx had, but he had quickly grown frantic as he realized what had happened. With a furious roar, he released a single sphere of miasmic energy into the underbrush, in the general direction of the nearing line of pokemon. The contained energy exploded into slips of dark, ethereal rips in the fabric of space, disintegrating into spreading shadows. Without waiting for the aftermath of the Shadow Ball, the Absol leaped off with a powerful spring, brushing past the Typhlosion that was displaying a similar aggression at having potentially lost their human partner. After all, they were so much more than simple companions. They were...family. And in that one moment of expressive distress, Abyss felt a sense of kinship with what could only be considered a foe. And then, in the next moment, it dissolved, and the Absol wondered why he had ever thought that way. There was no confusion within the canid's mind, unlike the indecisive human girl, where these strangers fit into the system.

    Running full-pelt along the river, baying loudly in an effort to keep calling and calling and calling to his human, the quadruped's paws thundered along the ground in a quick patter. Vaguely, he was aware of the Typhlosion giving chase, whether out of spite or concern for his own human, but he didn't spare as much as a glance. He could see her struggling to stay afloat, and momentarily even jumped in, at the indignant realization that that thief of a boy was anchoring her to himself, but soon realised that no matter how strong a swimmer he was, he couldn't drag the three of them out. He heard Nyx choke out his name, and he hesitated mid-stroke, before heading back to the bank. His thick pelt meant he could barely drag his own dripping wet self back out - a coat which had to be dried out well, else it would retain water and start growing mold. But despite the energy he had sapped by taking a plunge, he continued racing alongside the river, never taking his eyes off the duo.

    Well, this was awkward. Nyx stilled for a minute as she realised how uncomfortably close the male was holding her. It was even amusing, how she could think of how awkward the situation was when she was going to die of hypothermia soon. Famous last words. Her eyes connected with the brilliant blue of the male's, and as her gaze shifted slowly, ever so slightly towards his left eye, the look of which was both foreign and familiar to her, she heard it.

    Nyx heard the growing roar of the waterfall long before she realised where they were heading. Despite traversing this route hundreds of times, she had forgotten about the abrupt end to her rather unpleasant journey so far. "Go-" she sputtered before another mouthful of water entered her ajar maw, this time travelling up her nose, just as the male's grip tightened on her arm. She would have flailed in pain, but it was already too late. Before she knew it, the man and she were free - falling, falling in an endless descent*. The wind rushed past her ears in a comforting whirl, lulling her hearing into a silence. Her eyes watered against the air until she finally squeezed them shut, in anticipation of-

    With a fearful splash, the two of them struck with water with all the force of gravity. The man had once again positioned himself to take the brunt of the impact, and Nyx's hands had curled into bunched fists, entangling in his ill-fitting shirt. Idly, she noticed in the split-second before the plunge how worn out and faded it was, and slackened her grip slightly, afraid to tear the well-worn shirt with the force she knew they'd hit the water with. She had anticipated the numeric value, but the truth of reality was sadly different - and so much harder than she had expected.

    Her head snapped backwards as her body turned sideways for an easier entry into the water. As the shock of the body-shattering impact wore off, the first thing she noticed among the rising streams of bubbles was the lack of a certain warm grip around her upper arm. A vice hold that had persisted throughout the winding journey was now absent, and almost instinctively, Nyx reached out blindly for that familiar feel of cloth and skin again.

    She could see him; gently drifting downwards through the murky water, as though to enter deeper into the waters freezing embrace. Her lungs screamed in protest as her cheeks puffed up with her escaping breath. Finding her limbs had loosened sufficiently for respectable swimming - all those years in the countryside paid off - she hesitated, eyes glued to the sinking body. Unconscious.

    She could have left him, she reasoned as she dragged his body upwards, towards the tantalising promise of light and air, lungs ready to burst. She only needed the Eye, she told herself as she broke through the surface before holding the boy's head up above hers. The difference in height was making it a good deal more difficult, but she managed by pressing the back of his head against her neck. Holding him thus, she strained her spent body to slowly paddle towards the banks, away from the thundering descent of the falls. Her state of weariness after her sprint to the woods was now but a mocking shadow in front of the utter exhaustion her body was experiencing, and Nyx felt as though she could throw up.

    Once her feet found land, she stood there for a minute, letting the realisation sink in that she was going to live. Half-dead from the exertion, but she'd live. Her hands had closed in a tight embrace around the boy's mid-section, and as she began uncomfortably shifting her hold, her knees buckled under the pressure, momentarily dunking her under water. Her hands let go, and almost immediately the male began sinking downwards after her. It was only a mere 5 feet of water, and he would have doubtless had little trouble in wading through it, except for the small problem that was his persistent unconsciousness.

    Nyx scrambled to her feet, looping each arm under his armpits after a moments indecision, before slowly making her way landward. As more and more water fell away, removing her support one drop at a time, one by one, she felt the heavier body's weight wax more and more with each step. Finally, released by the final binding of water, she struggled as far up the slope as she could. Gently setting the man's head down on the ground, she collapsed on to her back, breathing deeply for a few minutes. Her waterlogged passages couldn't have burnt more if she had been coughing up blood, for that's what it felt like as she turned to her side and coughed up any water she had inhaled. Her throat constricted with a buildup of ice water, she coughed once before dry heaving. Shivers ran up and down her body, and as Nyx felt absol-utely terrible, she lay back down on her back, wishing for that one small moment to be dead.

    Dead. Right. Groaning with the exertion of it, she rolled to her side, took a minute to steady her breathing, and getting to her hands and knees, crawled her way over to the male. Her body felt as though it weighed a metric ton, and her trembling arms threatened to give way multiple times, but she finally crossed the few feet that separated them and loomed over the body. The Eye, her mind persisted, even as her gaze lingered over the man's face, as though trying to remember every detail of it. Perhaps it better he die, she reminded, as her hands ran over his head, brushing some hair aside before checking for a pulse. His skin was deathly cold to the touch, striking a primal fear within her. Not him too.

    Her hands clutched themselves together in a compact fist, the heel of her right hand exposed, and supported by the left. Enough force to do the necessary. Her hands settled over his chest, just where the ribcage ended, as her eyes wandered over his face yet again. She didn't care for him, she reprimanded, as she pressed downwards fiercely, in an attempt to perform CPR and resuscitate the man.

    -×-

    Abyss watched the duo disappear over the brink of the falls with stark horror, stopping dead in his tracks as his claws drove themselves deep into the ground. Should...should he jump after them? He dismissed the thought as quickly as it had arrived. Not only was there the danger of him hurting one of the two with his claws and horn, if he managed to injure himself on the way down, he wouldn't be if much use to anyone, least of all his trainer. Fortunately, keeping his senses much better than his rather useless human, he knew the area well, having traversed it twice everyday for a couple of years now. He knew the way down and - he smirked - the Typhlosion likely didn't. They definitely weren't locals, that was clear, although perhaps the wandering company might have camped here often enough to know the layout. Regardless, being a mountain pokemon, Abyss knew the quickest way down, and a spark of competition arose in him. He could race down to assist Nyx and corner that boy - without the protection of the Typhlosion, he wouldn't account to much resistance. It was quite convenient, really - consider how useless Nyx would be without him. She'd be alone and scared and unable to do a thing...

    His paws shifted on the ground before he took off in a loping run, casting a glance over his shoulder to check on the Typhlosion, mapping out the way down in his mind. A jagged, somewhat steep descent downwards - difficult for a human, perhaps doable by a pokemon, child's play for him. Having gone no more than a few steps, he paused and called out loudly - this time to the fire type pokemon. A summons - a demand to follow. A choice. A path.

    Strange, he thought, as he took to running again, without waiting for a response, sharp red eyes riveted on the road. He wondered why he could not leave him.

    (*I realise I made a double sentence here xD it can either be the two free in the sense they aren't in contact with anything, or free-falling, if you eliminate the spaces in between xD)
    (Took me a couple of hours to write this monstrosity @-@)
     
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  15. There was peace in the absolute pitch blackness of his unconsciousness. If Null had any ability to be aware of his senselessness, he might have found he actually quite enjoyed it. No fear, no pain, no treachery. Just peace. Just existence. But unfortunately, that was not the case. It would be a long time yet before he found the pleasant joy of simply living. The road ahead was arduous and paved with thistles - but there would be a few flowers, too.

    Only a few minutes had passed from the time he had hit the water to when Nyx finally managed to drag his limp form up onto the safety of the shore. Upon impact his body had immediately overridden any conscious action and entered a unique state of shock that kept his blood concentrated in his brain, heart, and other vital organs in order to conserve oxygen. This was the only blessing the cold water could bestow upon him - it was the catalyst to his body shutting down so promptly.

    It was Null's youth that allowed him to respond so quickly to the girl's attempts to resuscitate him. That, or perhaps more likely, the large amount of adrenaline his body was still pumping through his heart. After just a handful of chest compressions his eyes shot open and he sat up violently, coughing up several lungfuls of water. He had rocketed forward onto his hands and knees to allow the purge of now luke-warm water from his system. It was then that his brain finally caught up with his body, the darkness began to peel back from his vision, and he began to understand where he was.

    The boy groaned and gave a shudder, sinking into a soggy heap of torn and tattered clothes. The red t-shirt he wore over the stolen long-sleeved black one had snagged on several rocks during their "thrilling" trip down the river and was now torn beyond repair. It was the last thing he had from home - the only thing that had survived this long.
    Wait... their. Slowly his mind was coming up to speed, but he was finding it incredibly difficult to think. His body had begun to shiver violently all on its own, and he had no control over it. The slight wind struck his frame like icicles, causing several spasms as it fought to fend off his plunging internal temperature.
    "'I'm sorry,'" she had said from the bank of the river. But he had no time to respond and express his shock before the concussive blast hit and knocked her into the river. Sorry...? Sorry for what?
    He tried to curl his fingers and bring them to his mouth to breathe warmth on them, but the digits wouldn't move and all he could do was wheeze. Null shut his eyes tight, jaw clenched with teeth bared as he rested his forehead against his hands.
    She tried to push away from him once or twice, but he held her firmly in his grasp. It didn't sit well with him that he was physically forcing her against her will to remain with him, but he truly believed this was their best chance of survival. When she was finally able to fight off the river long enough to look up into his face... well, the shock registered there wasn't something he would soon forget.
    Slowly, with all his effort going into taking stock of the situation, Null reached back to his belt for his Pokeballs.
    "Hanzer," he croaked, searching for the Pokeball that wasn't there. He needed warmth, and not just the physical warmth that would save his life but the companionship of the Pokemon that had been by his side since he was ten years old. It was then he remembered the Pokeball had been in his hand when all hell had broken loose, and in an effort to rescue the girl from the rages of the river, he had simply let the ball go.
    For the first time that night, no longer obscured by darkness or smoke or water, she looked at him. Really looked at him. Despite the icy grasp of the water on his soul he felt the heat rising up his neck and into his ears, which would have turned red if they weren't already from the cold. It had been so very long since someone had truly seen him. That simplest of human connections was overwhelming - and thankfully short-lived as he noticed her gaze travelling now to his dull, lifeless eye. His embarrassment grew all the more, now joined by feelings of revulsion at his own disfigurement. That, too, lasted only a fraction of a second as he tore his gaze away from hers and they were promptly launched off the edge of the cliff. And then he remembered nothing.
    Null looked out at the surface of the water, calm and peaceful here away from the roiling cauldron of the waterfall's finale. He didn't recall swimming here, to the shore. No, indeed he had only just woken up. Which meant... He sat back on his feet and chanced a glance over his shoulder, seeing there the girl that had stared at him with so many different emotions in just a matter of... what? Had it even been two hours?

    "You... saved me," he managed, turning back toward her with a weak attempt to get on his feet. His legs failed under him in the first few milliseconds and he sank back down into the sand, chest heaving for such a little bit of air moving in and out of his lungs. He looked up and saw that she, too, was struggling mightily. Honestly, they were lucky to both have survived, and with no physical harm more than some scrapes and bruises. But they weren't out of the danger zone yet. The river had lost its contact with them, but left its calling card in the frosty chill that still threatened to destroy them.
    "Need fire," Null managed, but found his strength sapping fast now that his body had shut down adrenaline production to conserve energy for more important things, like breathing. He had been weak already going into this ordeal, without sufficient food or sleep for several days. There was only a short window of time before death took its toll.

    ---

    Hanzer growled and snapped at the Absol as it passed him by, and especially as it jumped into the river to try and save the humans. Showoff. He had honestly considered doing the same, but he knew with certainty that if he had done so, it would only be to join his person in death. Null might have survived, but he would not have. Not with the water clawing him and snuffing out his flame and sinking him into oppressive - the Typhlosion shook himself and quickly ran off after the Disaster Pokemon once more.

    The closer they got to the pounding of the waterfall, the flatter his ears fell against his skull. He knew what that was. He knew what it meant. He knew just how long of a drop it was down to the lake below. If they fell just right, they might be able to survive that distance. But if they didn't...
    He saw the single-horned beast in front of him glance backward, and if his ears could flatten anymore they would have. What was he doing? Challenging him, at a time like this? Hanzer liked to think he was above such childish provoking, but the look on the fellow Pokemon's face did indeed spur him on to pick up the pace, even though his heart was already racing in his furred chest.

    As they reached the edge of the cliff, however, the Typhlosion slid to a stop, sending shale and dust over the edge. The Absol had effortlessly began the climb down, and as he peered over he could see the brute leering back at him and taunting him forward. Hanzer snapped his teeth and spit in disgust at the cool display of dominance from that girl's Pokemon - as if one well-placed fireball wouldn't send him careening off the treacherous cliff and straight into the watery pit below with its human. Hanzer growled at the thought, more of a reproof for himself than anything else, thinking like that. That was Team Rocket. Well... and maybe a little bit of Hanzer.

    His limbs were relatively short, and his claws were made for things like slashing and burrowing, not climbing. He had never scaled such a sheer cliff in his life. His view of the lake beyond the waterfall was obscured by trees, but he knew his human was down there somewhere. Null would be waiting for him. Null would need him. The freezing water would threaten to take him away forever.
    So with steeled nerves, not really sure of what he was doing, Hanzer began the steep descent down after Abyss.
     
  16. As Abyss nimbly jumped from stone to familiar stone, smirking slightly at the thought of how Nyx would’ve screamed if she saw him right now, his paw suddenly slipped slightly on the stone. Snapping out of his thoughts in a flurry of rapid jumps to finally steady himself on the precarious cliff, he took a moment to calm his rapidly beating heart. That was close; the water dripping from his thick fur had wet the stones more than the Disaster Pokémon would’ve liked. His claws tightened around the rock, watching the water pool around it, and glanced back up to see the Typhlosion slowly make its way down. His lips stretched in a strange hybrid of a snarl and a grimace – as though it physically pained him to see the fire type follow him, albeit being unable to suppress his amusement at watching him clumsily make his way down.

    His body had gained a fine glossy sheen from the water still running in rivulets down his body, and he drew ever closer to the waterfall descending noisily alongside the cliff face he scaled. It wouldn’t be difficult for the Eruption Pokémon to take careful aim and spit a few embers or fire off full-blown attacks at him from his higher vantage point, and Abyss hoped the residual water within his pelt would protect him at least slightly against the potential onslaught. The cynical quadruped actually believed such a strike to be imminent, hesitant to be as generous about his trust as the human he kept company. As the Absol stood there, feeling the cold wind run its fingers through his coat, he couldn’t help but shudder – not from the cold, but at the thought of how Nyx might be. It had been a long drop, and the Absol’s crimson eyes followed the descent of the waterfall down to where it ended in a churning whirl of water and foam. He couldn’t see her, and tried theorizing that she had probably swum to shore, but found himself unable to shake off the feeling of uneasiness that had settled upon him like a dark cloud. If the human male was anything like his Pokémon – Abyss swiped his tongue over his drying nose; so cold – he’d like to get to her as quick as possible.

    He wondered, as he twisted his neck to check on the Typhlosion’s progress again, if the fire type felt a similar sense of worry and concern for his human. In his eyes, the human was wrong and hence by extension, the Pokémon too. But that wouldn’t prevent the Pokémon from staying with his human, so in the fire type’s eyes, well, it probably returned the feeling in kind. Was he wrong as well? Was Nyx? Would he leave her side if she was? Feeling particularly vulnerable out on the side of a cliff, alone and in the cold, the Absol frowned, pressing his side against the rock wall. It was odd how despite being in his natural condition, doing what he had been doing for years, he could still feel this…lonely. When had the human girl become such an integral part to his life? Hmm, he rather missed her noisy company.

    His musings were interrupted by a small shower of dust and pebbles on his head, and he froze, snapping out his reverie yet again. This was hardly the time to get lost in thoughts, and he scuttled down a few more layers of rock before once again steadying himself to look back up at the fire type. The Typhlosion was making painfully slow progress, although the Absol couldn’t blame him for prioritizing safety. His eyes wandered over to the damp patch of cliff he had left behind, and wondered if the biped was warm enough to cause the water to evaporate. As it stood, considering how close the awkward climber was clutching the cliff to himself, he doubted a bit of water would be sufficient to cause him to fall – an event that would likely be funny, if the fire type wasn’t set to fall right on him. From a height. While they were both on a cliff. With a soft, impatient huff, he raised his voice to snap out at the Typhlosion, impatience getting the better at him. His magnanimous feelings towards the creature hadn’t waned one bit, and Abyss hid no pride – albeit unjust pride – at being able to scale the cliff thus, which in his opinion gave him the right to drive the Pokémon to hurry up. A few well-placed barks should do just that, as well as a warning grumble about the water he might very well soon step on. Yeah, he should probably warn him, huh? The Absol stood staring dead ahead, straight at the Pokémon, dodging another small shower of grit. Yeah, he should. Hind legs tensing, he reared up to rest his front paws higher up along the cliff, face inclined towards his reluctant climbing partner. A few short, sharp barks rang out in the silence of the night – barks of good intention, but having lost none of the malignant sting of before. Barks, and a grumble…


    -x-


    Relieved to find the man breathing again – well, as best as he could, anyway – Nyx staggered back into a slumped sitting position, the weariness of her activities finally catching up. Her lungs still burned, and her eyes were finally beginning to water up. Her clammy clothes clung to her, and her shoes were hopelessly waterlogged. She’d have to dry them well, but at the moment, those and her wet socks were most unpleasant. And considering the time of the day and year, it was freezing. Her arms rose to wrap around themselves, trying to rub warmth back into them. However, the fact that she was a young and relatively fit individual meant she was better off than most. Certainly better off than the boy before her.

    Guiltily turning to stare at the piece of red cloth she clutched tightly in a fist, she reluctantly glanced up to see the shirt she had grabbed at hopelessly torn, the shreds of cloth still clinging to the male’s body. However, the male – now crouched over, with his head in his hands after coughing up an alarming amount of water – still had a layer of clothes on him, much to her relief. It was bitterly cold, and if the man had really been hungry enough to steal, it meant he would also be weakened by the lack of nutrients. She watched him shudder, as though trying to regain control of a body in shock, before reaching towards his belt. She stiffened, legs defensively curling to rest against her chest. Now separated from Abyss, she’d be defenseless against a Pokémon, and she remembered the male having a Flaaffy.

    However, she noted with curiosity that it was for a particular sphere that he reached for, one that wasn’t there. “Hanzer,” he managed weakly, and the simple word brought back waves of guilt Nyx’d rather not have now. The simple fact that he was a trainer who cared as much for his Pokémon as she did for hers was startling, now that she was witness to a gesture the male had performed naturally. Was ‘Hanzer’ the Typhlosion? The Flaaffy? How many Pokémon did he have? Either way, the cold glint of metal at his waist was telltale of the possibility that he probably didn’t have the required pokeball at his waist at the beginning of the little fiasco. That meant that he was probably holding it – which would mean, he had simply dropped something so precious to him to save her. Why? She meant nothing to him. Her eyes screwed shut as her lips thinned into a line – she couldn’t understand this boy.

    “You saved me,” he struggled to form those words, and her gaze settled on him again. He had managed to sit up, although fatigue was evident in his posture, and as her gaze met his, she turned away out of sheer embarrassment. Flustered, to say the least, she ‘ah’d and ‘um’d quietly, before finally pursing her mouth shut, unable to come with any sort of coherent response, as though she had been looking for an excuse to justify her actions. Breathing becoming shallower, she glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes, before turning to fully face him. Watching him sitting there, silhouetted in moonlight that brought aglow his white hair and sapphire eyes, she tilted her head, puzzled. Who was this man? A thief, a voice said in miniature at the back of her mind, but she didn’t hear it. There was so much she was curious about, about this man, and her questions had nothing to do about the Eye. Strange.

    The male struggled to get to his feet, but had evidently decided to act thus too soon, for he soon fell to his knees again. He mumbled something about needing a fire, which triggered basic survival instinct to come alive in Nyx again. Blinking twice, her gaze cleared from the questions buzzing in her mind – curiosity will be the death of her – and she stared at the male for a moment or two before beginning to respond again, if only mentally. Her otherwise well-rested body protested to the sudden burst of activity she had undergone, and muscles were beginning to cramp up, but Nyx tried her best to ignore the pain and breathe deeply. In any case, she was doing a better job at generating body heat, she realized, as she watched the male curl up and try to breathe on his fingers. His fingers…the ones that had clutched at his waist…

    Time to return the favour, she supposed, as she grasped at a nearby tree for support before getting to her feet. It was an ordeal, and she was left breathing like she ran a marathon at the end of it, but she managed to scrounge together enough energy to stand. Once she was on her own two feet, it was easier to move. Blood rushed to her extremities again, and she cringed as she took what felt like the first step in a long time. It hurt, too, and she spat out a silent ‘gah’, head down to veil her face, twisted in pain. Her hand shakily relinquished the trunk she had held in a death grip, moving to her neck. Fumbling with frozen fingers at the zipper to her hoodie, she carefully watched the male. She couldn’t make a fire, atleast not reliably, but she could do this. It might be for the best anyway…

    Whipping off her hoodie, she uncertainly strode closer, stopping further away than desirable, to awkwardly bend-stretch in a manner that seemed uncomfortable, to carefully lay the thick cloth on his shoulders. She wouldn’t need it for what was to come, but once the protective clothing was off, she regretted it almost immediately. The cold air whipped like a knife against her skin, and Nyx gritted her teeth, cursing her own foolishness at wearing a tank top, leaving her shoulders and slim arms bare. Suddenly self-conscious, she hotfooted her way, swaying slightly, to the edge of the water. She wondered, as she carefully stepped in, did pokeballs float?

    It felt like she had just stepped into hell. If hell froze over. Hehe, she just combined two figures of speech. Clenching her jaw to grind her teeth, Nyx continued her ginger steps further into what was quite possibly the worst decision ever. Jump half-naked into a freezing cold lake. To get a pokeball back. Lovely. Even her thoughts were becoming fragmented. Her shoes were squelching uncomfortably on the river bed, and Nyx was already up to her waist in the ice-water, lengthy hair trailing after her, marking her trail in streaks of brown. She had initially held her arms above water, but soon decided to just be done with it, and with a hop, submerged herself in water. Thinking she’d be prepared for the frigid blast had been a sad mistake, as the sadly familiar chill of the water threatened to choke her once more, and she surfaced, sputtering, sneakered feet reluctantly leaving the ground to allow her to paddle slowly toward where the raging waterfall frothed in all its wrath and splendor. Where could that troublesome ball be?

    Vaguely remembering that when people fished, the pokeball at the end of their rods tended to float partially out of the water, she theorized that the pokeballs were dense enough to float out of water, considering they were designed after acorns, but the metal on them made them float slightly below the water surface. Finding a bright red sphere would’ve been no trouble in the day, even in the tumultuous waters of Lake Rage, but the night was unforgiving, and Nyx desperately scanned the dark waters for a blurry, hazy image of anything resembling red. Hoping there weren’t stray pokemon lurking around her, she cautiously stopped moving – even though she had been doing little more than drifting along – to reassess her movement. Would thrashing movements attract the water-dwellers? Her limbs coiled closer to her body, fear beginning to lurk in. She’d better get out of here, pronto.

    Her heart jumped every time she splashed a little too hard, flicking drops of water on her face – the cold was gradually driving her numb, and she was afraid of touching something and not realizing it. Or worse still, touching something and realizing it. She could still feel the flow of water between her fingers, and she pushed on ever onwards, not allowing her thoughts to wander and settle on how exactly she ended up here. Fatigue was beginning to set in, not exactly allowing her to think of anything else, and if she had any motory senses left, she would be shivering, but as it stood, she continued making slow circles in the general vicinity of where they had fallen, head desperately held above water. Puffing for breath, she turned her eyes skyward when a rare break in the clouds appeared, moonlight filtering through to set the lake ashimmer. In that single moment of the monochrome world, a different glint of light caught her eye. There! Was that it?

    She could hardly believe it. Thanking her stars, she eyed the dull red object, hoping it was the item of her quest, begging to be set free of this ordeal. Adjusting her swimming to that of a frontstroke rather than just paddling to it, Nyx hurried to her one hope, her goal. Yes, it was – round, well-worn and clearly not an astray scale that might have shattered her dreams. Finally. Slowing as she approached the elusive pokeball, she carefully reached out, grasping the sphere in a numb fist. Her fingers protested as she tried prying them further apart to gain a better grip, and she bit back an exclamation of pain. Painstakingly turning, she allowed herself a moment of respite, eyes slowly fluttering shut as her muscles began relaxing. It was a moment she quickly scrapped when her face went underwater, making her sputter and frantically flail to return to the surface. She could feel the warmth leave her body in waves as she oriented herself enough to face the shore before plucking at the last of her hope and begin swimming again. She wasn’t sure how her body was still responding, being pushed to the limits of human endurance thus, but she wasn’t complaining – only questioning her sanity about the whole affair.
     
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  17. The girl met his gaze for only the briefest of moments before she looked away again, and Null found himself doing the same. He was embarrassed...? Why? Surely he had every right to sit here and accuse her for ruining his chance at a half-decent meal, for having a stupid Pokemon rare enough to set off the Eye, for sending him on an escapade down some river rapids and off a cliff, and for-- Well. He supposed he couldn't be mad at her for saving his life. After all, that was the only logical conclusion of what had happened. He had taken in so much water on their descent, and then was left unconscious after the fall... that wasn't something he simply would have woken from on his own. She must have administered CPR. Idly his mind wondered just how far she made it...

    He shook his head to clear it, looking up again as the girl desperately clung to a tree to get to her feet. Still, she had said not a word in response to him. What was her deal, exactly...? He let his head hang again, eyes half closed and arms tucked in against his chest, bent over his legs to try and keep any body heat at all close to his skin. He was tired, so tired. The good news was, his constant shivering meant he had not yet entered the most dangerous stage of hypothermia yet - if the shivering stopped, well... perhaps then would be cause for concern.

    He felt the sudden weight of her hoodie on his shoulders (he hadn't heard her draw near? He hadn't been keeping an eye on her at all. Where was Hanzer... he relied on the Pokemon so much) and flinched, looking up in alarm. Initially, the movement had felt identical to a strong hand on his shoulder - Team Rocket come to drag him away. But it was just the girl again. Acting as strangely as ever. The skin of her bare arms glistening silver in the brief moonlight. He had a better look at her now than he had at any other time that night - they were definitely similar in age, he noted as he watched her move past him down the beach.

    The hoodie was a nice gesture, but it was just as sopping wet with icy water as his own clothes. The sheer thickness of it kept the wind from biting so fervently at his skin, but unfortunately he knew from the survival classes he had taken in school (because for some reason, those were the kinds of things you studied to become a member of Team Rocket) that the best thing to do in a situation like this was shed all wet clothing altogether. It kept the cold next to your skin, and any of the heat your body tried to produce was quickly sapped away by the moisture in the fabric. If he had been alone, he would have stripped down to his underwear, but as the case was... he felt his ears turning red. Funny how he could be more preoccupied with a woman he didn't even know seeing him in his skivvies than surviving the night.

    It registered suddenly that said woman was walking back toward the lake. "Hey, w-wait!" he called out to her, and then she did it. She got back into the water. "Are you insane?!" he cried out after her, asking in earnest. Without being sopping wet the night was chilly but not freezing, except that it was only going to get colder. Not only was she risking losing all the body heat her frame had managed to produce up to this point, but also drowning again. Not to mention the namesake of this place. Not the Lake of Dandelions, the lake of Rage. Surely she knew the stories? About the vicious, violent red Gyarados that lurked in these waters? Many sailors had taken to the lake on nights just like this, never to return again.

    Null pushed himself upward, faltered, made the attempt again, paused halfway in a crouch so he could summon enough energy to stand the whole way. The benefit of being a young male was there was nearly no end of testosterone and adrenaline his body could pump out. Enough even to make him do ridiculous, crazy things like ride rapids down a waterfall and then get back in the lake that nearly killed him afterward. The girl reached out for something -- grabbed it. And that was when he saw the ripple in the water, just a few hundred yards behind her. A trick of the moonlight? His delirious imagination...? He hoped so, but apparently he wasn't betting on it. Already he had shed the hoodie and was running - well, stumbling - back toward the water. Thankfully by the time he entered she was making her way back, and he only had to go in waist-deep before he could grab her arm and start dragging her back toward the shore. His grip was more intense this time even than when they had been shooting down the river.

    "What in Arceus' name are you thinking?" He asked incredulously as they made it back onto dry land, his chest heaving from such little exertion. He couldn't feel his legs, but somehow he was still standing. "Do you want to die?" Null scolded her, unable to understand whatever it was going on in her mind that had caused her to rush back into the frigid deep.

    ---

    Hanzer glanced down just once. That was enough. If his human wasn't in danger at the bottom of this stupid cliff, he would have found some other way, any other way, to get back down. But as it was, this was it. Gods above, if he was meant to be this high in the air he would have been born a flying-type.
    The incessant goading of the Absol was no help either. Every yap and bark left him pressing his ears against his skull in annoyance. Hanzer had been born into Team Rocket, and like his human he had never known personal freedom. Neither had he experienced any kind of normal puphood where 'toys' and 'play' would have taught him to enjoy the frivolous things in life. Because of such, he deemed his four-legged companion's challenges as childish and immature and, most of all, a distraction.

    Speaking of distractions... he saw a movement in the corner of his eye and glanced out at the lake. There, he could see just over the treetops... there was a figure in the water! A human figure in the water. Long hair...? The girl! She was alive and moving! But where was Null? Where was his human? Alarm gripping his heart, the Typhlosion began a new tactic.
    Lessening the pressure on his hind paws he began a slow, sliding descent down the cliff face, using his front claws to measure his pace and guide himself. This new method resulted in a lot more shale being loosened and an equal amount more noise. It was a clumsy approach, but had effectively tripled his descent rate.

    Because of the noise of claws scraping on rock and the concentration it took not to begin an uncontrollable slide down the side of the mountain, Hanzer was deaf to Abyss' new calls. He hit suddenly the rock slick with water from the canid's soaked pelt and his back feet slipped, causing him to lose command over his descent. The large fire-type then began an unheeded and unceremonious slide at a rapid pace toward the Absol, giving a yap of alarm as his claws scrabbled against the unforgiving rock in an effort to gain control again.
     
  18. Just as Nyx’s feet were beginning to reach downwards in the hopes of finding ground again – curse her height – she found herself alarmingly close to the male she hadn’t heard splashing towards her. Her ears had grown red and numb from the cold, and Nyx swallowed hard as he reached out to strongly grip her wrist. It was a powerful hold he had on her, almost painful, but Nyx could barely feel the fingers pressing against her skin, and stumbled after him, eventually giving up on finding the ground and just drifting after him. When the river bed finally brushed her bent knees, she staggered to her feet, possibly slowing the man down, but also tugging slightly on him for support. It was worse the second time around, standing up on solid ground when the body wasn’t ready to support it.

    Her feet painfully came to life in the form of sharp, painful stabs on the soles as her weight rested on them – it felt as though she was pulling the skin of her soles taut. She choked on the discomfort of her body, but obliged in following the male regardless, nearly forgetting the sphere her hand had frozen over. She could feel her heart hammering under her chest, and while her limbs quivered slightly from the adrenaline – caused more by the male’s grip than the actual swim – her body was rapidly heating up as a response to the hormone released. She heard the male snap at her, and felt her face bloom furiously in shame, and embarrassment. Well, this was awkward.

    To be fair, his questions were rather justified. Her actions had been on a mere whim, based on the slightest of obligations. But…why did he care if she swum back to her certain death? Human empathy? Feeling rather like a scolded child, she tilted her head slightly, quizzical eyes settling on his face. At times, her childlike curiosity got the better of her, but that was no excuse for her near-suicidal behavior. Her lips parted, and she averted her gaze again, lowering them to focus on her shoes. She had no answer.

    But she did have something else. As her gaze shifted to the pokeball still clutched in her right hand, she raised her chin slightly, staring at the object. Scuffed, well-worn. Older model, possibly more than five years old. There were a few scratches on the surface, telling of both its age as well as its state of upkeep – didn’t the man polish them? She turned back to face the male, licking her lips to return warmth to the extremity, questions arising to them. Despite wearing less than she would’ve liked, air was a better insulator than water, so while the dark fabric sticking to her upper body was quickly warming up to an unpleasant state of lukewarmness, it was the passage of flowing air that made the girl shiver in the wind. She would have very much liked to take off her top and wring it out, but…

    She eyed the male up and down, with a glint of defensive suspicion. Her fingers flexed slightly, feeling the indentations along the sphere still clutched in her hand, before glancing at her left wrist, the one the male had clutched but a moment ago. If he had wanted to hurt her, it would’ve been all too easy to simply abandon her in the river – so perhaps he had no ill intentions towards her. She couldn’t say it was true vice versa, considering how she had been single-mindedly antagonizing the boy, from denying him a meal and a quiet getaway down to having him fall down the waterfall of Lake Rage. It must look bad to the boy, so what stopped him from whipping out that Flaaffy from before and electrocuting her? Heck, she was dripping wet – an ideal conductor. It wouldn’t even take too much electricity to knock her out…forever.

    Giving herself a small shake to clear her mind of such thoughts, she returned to contemplating the pokeball in her hand. Surely if he already possessed Pokémon, it wouldn’t particularly matter if she returned what was rightfully his – he couldn’t use an empty pokeball against her, so she wasn’t in any immediate danger from her actions (for a change). Besides, she didn’t want to find out what would happen if she withheld what was clearly important to him. Was it fear that drove her actions? Yes, she admitted she was wary of the male, but afraid? Just because he hadn’t hurt her so far was no reason to assume he wouldn’t, but something about him made her want to trust him. Now, she could have saved everyone a lot of discomfort if she could only have felt this when she had first stumbled upon him.

    Her fingers felt as though they had frozen, cemented into a permanent claw-like curve – both her hands, although the right was more uncomfortable. Bringing her left up to her mouth to cough and blow on it – as well as a sneeze she hadn’t anticipated – she swung her arm up to pry her fingers apart and mutely offer the pokeball on her palm to the male. “Here,” she would’ve liked to say, but the words escaped as a whisper, scarcely more than a breath of air wheezed out from creaking lungs.


    -x-


    So this was what he got for his generous actions. Abyss lowered his calls when the Typhlosion all but turned a deaf ear to them, and the Absol bristled with indignance. What was his problem? His grudging concern was met only with a larger cascade of dust and grit – one, Abyss suspected, the Pokémon was rather reveling in making. Well, fine then. See if he cared. With a sniff, the white-furred Pokémon turned with an exaggerated gesture, the equivalent of turning one’s back as well as they could given the limited space (not that the fire type could see him do it) and ignoring the biped’s rather dangerous descent, the Absol began making his own way down. Without waiting for the Typhlosion, the canid made his way down much faster than even the sliding Pokémon.

    And so it was quite ironic that the Typhlosion slipped on the puddle Abyss had been trying to warn him about, leading him to befall as disaster onto the Disaster Pokémon. Worse still, the dualchrome Pokémon hadn’t been expecting the incoming body. So when the scrabbling sounds intensified, along with a greater volume of rubble beginning to descend, Abyss could only coldly regard the regular avalanche, pass it off as a practical trick to needle him, and turn to stare – a stare which quickly turned into a horrified glace.

    Just as well that Abyss had hurried on his way down; when the large Typhlosion struck the Absol, who had been bracing himself for the weight of the incoming Pokémon, the canid simply dropped off the cliff, fell rather unceremoniously for the last 15 feet or so, and rolled along the ground to rid his traction. He knew the trick of falling on his fur-armored shoulders to minimize any potential damage, but his pride as a mountain Pokémon was severely hurt. As he lay there, catching his breath again and experimentally rotating a painful paw, he could only glare at the Eruption Pokémon from a distance, face dark with anger. You idiot.
     
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  19. Hanzer had tried everything save for stabbing his claws into the solid rock face before him, but unfortunately gravity had already worked its magic on his momentum. There was no stopping the avalanche of rocks and shale and Pokemon descending the mountain now. He felt suddenly the impact of his body against the canid's (while not exactly pleasant, it was at least softer than a rock of similar size), and then bounced off the Absol into free air. The knowledge of the impending drop caused the Typhlosion to tuck himself into a neat, defensive ball whereupon he bounced several more times as he finally hit the ground, then rolled to expel the rest of his kinetic energy. Hanzer finally came to a full stop on his stomach and with a huff about twenty yards beyond Abyss.

    "Ty," he groaned, covering his face with his paws. Oh, he was going to ache from this in the morning. Thankfully his kind were very impact-resistant, but really there was a limit to how far genetics could go. Lifting one claw he peered through his paws down his snout, saw a rock on the end of his nose that he puffed away with a breath out of the corner of his mouth. Then with a sigh he sat up, looking back at where he thought the Absol would be. He was met with that cold, brazen stare, and Hanzer huffed again, this time with a little flame. Well, they got down the mountain, didn't they? Wasn't that what the Disaster Pokemon kept urging him to do? Wasn't that what all the taunting was about?

    Coolly Hanzer got to his feet and brushed some of the dirt off his coat before he remembered why exactly he had taken the tumble down the mountainside. His ears pricked up and he stood for a moment, listening, before he thought he recognized the sound of human voices. At that very moment he took off toward the trees where maybe his human waited on the other side, disregarding the Absol altogether.

    ---

    Null stood over the girl, his shoulders shaking with the cold and teeth chattering in his head, waiting for her answer. Her eyes landed on him and stayed for once, and he returned her gaze. What was she waiting for? He had asked a direct question, and still she just sat there. And there! Averting her gaze again. What was wrong with her? She had shown no such hesitancy when she called him out in the alleyway, or when her Pokemon busted down the door to the bakery.

    Was that it? Was the Absol the missing piece to all of this? She wasn't mute, he had heard her voice before. But perhaps, without her Pokemon at her side, she had lost her courage. At this realization, Null quickly began to deflate and his shoulders slumped. What was he doing...? Was he just some Team Rocket grunt, berating a young woman who apparently had no other Pokemon with her? Demanding she answer him? He was no better than they.

    He let out a heavy breath, closing his eyes. Weariness began to take over him again, and he wondered when this awful night would end. He had yet to find food, not only for himself but for his Pokemon. Five mouths to feed... it wasn't exactly easy. That bakery would have been a goldmine. No, it was a goldmine, until this girl came along all high-and-mighty thinking she was going to save the world and probably turn him in to the police and get a gold star or something like that.
    Null's brow furrowed at the ugly thoughts. He had no energy to erect a filter in his brain to weed out the worst his mind proffered. Instead it just all came at once, a flood like the information from Dexter's Eye fed right into his stream of consciousness. He was so very tired.

    It was then he heard her voice, so soft he almost mistook it for the water lapping at the shore. Opening his eyes once more he saw the Pokeball in her hand, and looked up at her without recognition. So she did have another Pokemon...? Is that what she went to go fetch in the lake when she dove in a second time?
    And then, slowly, he began to recognize the scratches on the ball, the areas of design that were faded and had been rubbed away by the oils of his fingers. And now guilt and shame sat heavily on his chest.

    His Pokeball. She had jumped back into the freezing waters of the lake to fetch the Pokeball he had dropped when she was blasted into the river. It was Hanzer's, the one missing from his belt. Selflessly, potentially at the cost of her own life, she had just now rushed into the water to gather it again. "You're a fool," he muttered as he reached out to take the item, unable to filter out that thought either. One Pokeball was not worth her life. Hanzer didn't even like it that much anyway. And yet... his thumb smoothed across the familiar dull sheen of the orb. His first throw. His first catch. His first Pokemon. Every memory was etched into this one piece of equipment.
    "Thank you," he said softly, unable to look at her.

    It was quiet for a long, uncomfortable moment as he had to deal with the demons inside that had caused him to be so rude, so demanding. Not that he was confident he would be able to keep them at bay for the rest of the night - he was simply too exhausted. But that was when he began to hear the high-pitched yipping he recognized all too well.

    It was a sound he didn't hear very often; one of pure ecstasy. His Typhlosion in a moment of rare emotion, bounding across the sand at break-neck speed toward his trainer.
    "Hanzer!" Null perked up in overwhelming relief, minimizing the Pokeball in his hand and stashing it on his belt. However, nothing could have prepared him for the full-bodied impact of the large, badger-like Pokemon. He would have been knocked back several yards if it hadn't been for the Typhlosion's strong arms wrapping around him during the instant of the collision, pulling him in deep to his densely-furred chest.
    The Eruption Pokemon didn't even seem to mind that his trainer was soaked to the bone with the hated water, ice-cold. He emitted gentle waves of heat to begin drying him out and bringing him back from the edge of death, nuzzling the human's head with his own.
    Null sank gratefully into the warm embrace, closing his eyes and letting his fingers disappear deep into Hanzer's thick fur. It felt like it had been so long since he'd felt his Pokemon's unique warmth. But with his body's raising temperature came all the pain from the ride down the rapids that had been numbed by the cold. Bruised ribs from being thrown into rocks, numerous cuts and scrapes from debris flowing down the river with him, and then ultimately his sore back from the final crash into the lake from the waterfall. He held tightly onto his Pokemon for more than just comfort now, weakness overcoming him. They needed to find shelter, and soon. They couldn't stay out in the open, not tonight with Team Rocket looking for them thanks to the Eye. They couldn't even light a fire - it would be like a beacon. Otherwise he would have done so the moment he woke from his unconsciousness. One thunderbolt from the immensely overpowered Lambo would have burst a whole tree into flames. They would have had no end to warmth for drying themselves out. But it also would have been a death sentence for him.
     
  20. After experimentally flexing every voluntary muscle, Abyss carefully concluded that he was mostly unharmed, except for the ugly gash he'd gained on the shoulder he'd fallen on. It wasn't his weight that had done it; a piece of debris or the like he had the misfortune of falling on had struck a spot not protected by the thick ruff of fur. He could feel the blood beading through the cut and got to his feet with a groan. Curse him for bringing the Typhlosion along. Even more so for actually waiting for the infernal thing; he should've just scurried on downwards and let the pokemon find his own way.

    As he haughtily stood there, sizing up the pokemon yet again, who had taken the fall surprisingly well - well, no wonder, considering what, or who he fell on. He saw the fire type spit out a small flame, and immediately abandoned all notions of licking his wound; no show of weakness before a foe. Shifting slightly to cover the patch of red slowly expanding its way through his dense fur, he watched the Typhlosion with contempt and no small amount of dislike as he got to his feet, brushing himself off before-

    Oh. As the biped raced off in the distance with an ear twitch, guilt flooded in as Abyss realised his preoccupation with the hated foe had momentarily distracted him from his original goal. His paws were still quivering from the adrenaline rush from the climb and the fall, but unsteady footsteps they were, if that's what got him to her.

    Nyx flinched when the male continued glaring at her angrily for a good minute after she remained mute to the question. What was it? It was a simple enough question; one she should've simply said a firm 'no' to. Easy enough, if she hadn't been wondering where her voice had disappeared to. Maybe because it had been so long since she'd spoken to, and looked at, really looked at another person. Her lab work was always done in relative silence, one that she preferred, and her part-time job was a simple account-keeping one as well. Her skills made for a quicker worker than the rest, so her pay was relatively better as well, but beyond that, there had been little interaction between her employer and herself. That too, as she preferred. When was the last time she had looked up and seen her landlady in the face?

    But really, Abyss was all the company she needed, right? Their communication was hardly ever verbal; he understood her regardless. He pointedly ignored her when she tried to read stories out to him, but on more than one occasion she had caught him following her around the room with his eyes, gaze full of affection. That's how it was, the two of them laying side by side, in their own dreams.

    But was that it? Her existence had been so centred around him that she could feel her heart rate accelerating without the familiar brush of fur at her side? The rare moments of affection when he butted her hand with his head, or the rarer still event of him actually vocalising around her. He'd sometimes sit still, staring up at her, and then snort softly through his nose while rolling his head. She knew this action to be prüsten, the body language betraying it to be a question; or perhaps a quiet mew if he needed her attention. Yes, no matter what, she needed him, her own little fluffy Abyss.

    And yet, despite her heavy dependance on the canid, here she was somehow managing to calmly interact with a male her own age, when going to the store was all but impossible without the Absol. The Dark type himself was averse to social situations, so their tendencies complimented each other's very well; and still she somehow eluded the feeling of judgement and the social anxiety that came with it. She couldn't make eye contact with the male, now gazing at the proffered pokeball, but somehow...somehow she felt at ease.

    And then the male reached out to accept what she had (stupidly) risked life and limb for, and the short brush of contact broke her reverie. Her thoughts flooded back in her mind, and she found herself chewing on her lip. She had nearly forgotten the reason she had chased the male thus far. The Eye. Certainly, the focus had shifted for a while - what had it been on, she wondered? What was so strong as to so casually overwrite what she had been pining for for months? Empathy - or survival? She found her breath quickly becoming uneven as discomfort returned at being in close quarters with another human.

    "You're a fool," said he, emotion evident as he struggled what must've been preconceived notion - or simply an incorrect assumption? And Nyx whole - heartedly agreed, fool that she was. Thoughts bitter, she looked aside, aping the male who uttered a quiet "Thank you."
    Her actions had redeemed no gratitude, but she couldn't stifle a soft smile from spreading across her lips. So much to curse her for, and the male chooses to thank her instead. Strange.

    The silence lay heavy on the scene, and Nyx shifted awkwardly, rubbing her hands along her arms to warm them. The winter wind bit with cruelly sharp teeth, and her wet hair plastering itself along her back was not helping. Breathing out what felt like the last vestiges of warmth within her and watching the plume of air condense into smoke, her gaze following its ascent was interrupted by a crash from the nearby undergrowth. She jumped as a massive pokemon bounded out from the darkness - illuminated almost solely by the glitter of fire before stepping out into the moonlight, she recognised it to be the Typhlosion she had seen by the male's side. How in Arceus' name had it gotten here so quickly? Nyx wasn't sure if she felt dread or disappointment...or a bit of both.

    And then time seemed to still all over again; her frozen mouth managed to curl into the brightest smile she'd given all week. Just when she'd first laid eyes on the Absol - the canid stood gracefully, silhouetted by the stars and the lake's shimmer as he did his best to strike a regal, majestic figure despite his heaving chest and ruffled fur. Only, this time she knew he wouldn't go anywhere, as she blinked away happy tears she didn't realise had formed.

    Abyss had intended to contemptuously stalk over, snort at Nyx's stupidity and remind her what he thought of the whole business - really, what had she been thinking? - instead of full-body-tackling his human like the graceless Typhlosion had; not even a hint of gratitude after all the quadruped had done for him. And yet...and yet when his gaze settled on the dishevelled, trembling girl, back against the lake as though it were a wall, afraid but facing the world anyway, he couldn't help the piercing whine he emitted, along with a cloud of warm breath. And his paws were thudding hard against the ground, and he was in front of her before he knew it, before he could stop himself. The only thing holding him back from a wild romp and a boisterous meeting was the fear of hurting his fragile human - his raw strength held him back with reins of iron, but even that was forgotten in one sheer moment of pure happiness at seeing his partner again. He was glad she was safe.

    Pausing before rearing up on his hind legs to tower taller than the girl herself, he placed his front paws on the surprised female's shoulders, as he had done so many times before. Only, perhaps she hadn't been expecting it or couldn't support the sudden weight placed on her, she collapsed unceremoniously onto the rocks and sand below, with a quiet 'oof'. Guilt and shame returning in unhealthy amounts to stifle his happiness, he worriedly hovered around Nyx, gently nosing her and pressing his face to her own shockingly cold head. The fragility of the thin shoulders he had felt in that moment had frightened the vulpine - how had he never sensed it before, when she had borne his weight with a laugh, albeit left panting at the end of it?

    He knew he himself was in an unpleasant state of damp, dusty Absol, and as he began drawing away, a pair of familiar hands reached to pull him, soggy fur and all, into a hug. The embrace wasn't often carried out, as he always wriggled his way out with a few loud complaints, but today the stoic canine cuddled ever closer, wishing he had so much more to give to her. Shifting slightly, he pressed his forehead against hers, noses just touching; red eyes looking into green ones. He saw her eyes crinkle into a smile, and her lips mouthed his name, a rich rumbling rose deep from his chest. He was purring, a soft, pure sound reverberating within both their beings.

    And just like that, Nyx closed her eyes, revelling in the moment, the warmth and the pain of it all.

    The night air was suddenly punctuated by a series of sharp, dry coughs, ones which shook Nyx's very frame; each one felt as though it were stripping away pieces of her throat, and she expected to be coughing up blood any minute. The night air cut like knives into her already chilled self, pricking like needles down her passageways, and Nyx swallowed hard, feeling her tonsils almost choke her. Abyss had been startled by the sudden loud sound, and while his eyes were wide and pupils dilated, he hadn't moved. Nyx whispered sweet nothings to him in an increasingly hoarse voice, fingers brushing over his wound as softly as a Mothim's wing, drew him closer for a kiss on the forehead, and holding on to the ever steady Abaol for support, began to struggle to her feet. Back to his cynical, protective self, the Absol turned to the male and his pokemon, making it clear with a display of teeth and elongating claws that despite his previous show of emotion and care, he was not to be trifled with.
     
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  21. He wanted nothing more than to remain where he was, surrounded by the soft warmth of his usually abrasive Typhlosion. Hanzer was a hard Pokemon, uncouth and uncaring, and Null was grateful to be the singular recipient of the fire-type's care and concern. But it was a challenging life. Pokemon weren't meant to be alone any more than humans were. They not only needed each other, they also needed their own kind. That was one of the many reasons Null finally decided to escape the clutch of Team Rocket; the Eye was simply a rather effective catalyst. Hanzer pushed other Pokemon out of his life - sometimes physically. It was only by necessity that he had anything to do with Lambo, or Scaller, the stubborn Haunter. Not to mention the yet-unamed and yet-untrained Rhyhorn, the baby that it was. Hanzer needed to know that other Pokemon could be good. That it wasn't all like the world presented to him by Team Rocket. At least, that was Null's hope. That there was maybe beauty and kindness and mercy on earth like he had seen in some of the contraband movies the other teenagers snuck into HQ.

    He found that he had already slipped into a kind of half-sleep. Just a few moments in the comforting, strong embrace of his Pokemon and Null's mind was ready to shut down. This evening had sapped what little strength he had left. Six months on the run without a break, without a home, without even a bed to lie in. He didn't know how much longer he could make it -- this kind of life really wore on him. And now there was the problem of the Eye. It had called to Team Rocket and they would be on the hunt. Their trip down the river had certainly shaken them off the right path for the time being, but it wouldn't be long before the cult's sleuths picked up signs of Hanzer's trail down the mountain.

    Null heard a rumble deep within the Typhlosion's chest - a threatening sound; a warning. With great effort he slowly forced his eyes back open, turning his head to see what his partner was responding to. The girl's Pokemon, the Absol. Null shut his eyes tight as he felt a quick sear of pain from the Eye. Taken off guard, his defenses down, it had tried to re-activate but found no energy to do so. He was completely depleted of all resources. The expanding and contracting of the metal machine inside his head with the temperature of the ice-cold river and now the base heat from Hanzer was causing a dull ache and pressure on his sinuses. It was uncomfortable and inconvenient, to say the least. Just one more pain to add to all the others.

    He watched their reunion with something akin to relief, but deeper than that. Somehow, some way, the four of them had made it down the mountain without more than surface wounds. It was a beautiful thing, to watch the way the girl and the Absol responded to each other. There was something there, a relationship of how things should be between a human and a Pokemon. Null was glad for them, and also sorry that he had put them through such trial and separation. His fingers stretched out and spread slowly over Hanzer's fur, taking comfort in the familiar feeling, and then closed again in fists against the creature's chest. No matter how grateful he was for their safety and reunion, the girl and that Pokemon were his enemy as long as they continued to pursue him. Their proximity would put him in constant danger, if they were determined to capture he and his Pokemon and turn them in. Something had to be done.

    Null watched the girl fall to the ground with the weight of the Disaster Pokemon on her shoulders and let out a small sigh, finally pulling away from Hanzer's embrace, though not too far. He was relying on the Typhlosion to keep him upright.
    "Hanzer, dry them out," he nodded to the soggy, freezing pair. They'd catch their death like that. Did the girl know nothing of survival in the wilderness...?
    The Pokemon protested immediately, whining and pinning his ears back as if his human had just ordered him to do something absolutely detestable.
    Null closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. He had no patience left, no energy to argue with his Pokemon that somehow pulled reserves of power out of nowhere. "Please. Just do it. It's too cold out -- we can't just leave them like this."
    Hanzer hesitated yet, glaring at the white-pelt Pokemon that was now taking an almost offensive stance toward them. What was his deal? Still sore about their little tumble down the mountain? If he was a Jolly natured Pokemon, Hanzer would have chuckled. But he wasn't. Finally, guilt at disobeying his trainer gnawed at him enough that with one last snort of frustration to show his human that he didn't like what he was doing, the Typhlosion used Flame Wheel to create a whirling bauble of fire about the pair. The attack lasted for a few moments, tongues of flame licking out at them but never harming, leaving the air heated to a warm, comfortable temperature even long after the inferno had extinguished.

    And now, already despising himself for what he was about to do, Null hardened his gaze and and stared down the girl and her Pokemon. Team Rocket had training on how to portray yourself as threatening - how to command a situation and put yourself in a place of power over your opponent. Not that he was really in any physical condition to do any such thing, but appearances went a long way. He took in a deep breath, one that strained his weak lungs, and spoke.
    "Look, lady. I don't know what your deal is, what kind of trick you're trying to play or who you're trying to impress, but I'm over it. I've been patient with you long enough, and I'm done," he began, the sentence punctuated by a threatening growl from his Typhlosion.
    "You haven't even seen half my Pokemon, and you've all but admitted that sorry excuse for an Absol is the only one you have," he looked down his nose at her canid, hoping his bluff would pass. Sure, she had only seen two of his Pokemon, but she had seen the best two by far. The others would be practically useless in battle. Indeed, sending the Rhyhorn in against another Pokemon would be just inhumane. That, and her Absol wasn't a sorry excuse for anything. Even injured as it was, it would be a tough opponent for Hanzer to beat in battle. Lambo might have a better time of it, but the dear foolish thing wouldn't appreciate being sent into such an aggressive situation. At least, not unless its trainer was in danger.
    "You have no idea what kind of mess you've put yourself in. You've stepped right into a pit of Seviper and you don't even know it," Null shook his head. Alright. Time to start wrapping this up. He still needed to somehow get far enough away from this river to avoid being found by Team Rocket, and find a safe place to spend the night. And get food, he reminded himself with another wave of exhaustion, his stomach turning at the thought of the bagged baked good the girl had held out to his Pokemon what seemed like so long ago.
    "If you care about your Pokemon, you'll back off. You keep pushing my buttons, I'll have to do something about it." At this, Hanzer breathed flame and the wreath around his neck jumped a few inches and gained in intensity. It was almost as if he was itching to do something to that pompous, stuck-up, four-legged, horned thing that called itself a Pokemon. "So stop following me." Null punctuated every one of those last words, narrowing his eyes to emphasize his point. She'd get the hint, right? She couldn't be that dense, even if she was suddenly struck mute. It was dangerous for both of them if she continued to follow him. If for nothing else, he was saying these things for her own safety. At least, that's what he told himself. But he found a very small part of him that was dread to part with the only human he'd really talked to (well, if you could call a one-way conversation 'talking') in six months. Even if she was infuriatingly confusing.

    After a brief moment to make sure his words had sunk in, Null looked from the girl to her Pokemon, that incredible merit to its species, if the Eye was to be believed (and it always was), and then back once more. "Goodbye," he finished simply, somewhat awkwardly now, turning to leave. He wasn't looking forward to what the rest of the night would hold. He didn't know how in the world he was going to survive. The chances that he passed out somewhere in the forest, or simply became too weak to carry on, or became captured by Team Rocket uncomfortably high. It would take a miracle, and the help of all his Pokemon, to prevent any of those things from happening, let alone all of them.
     
  22. Dusting off her clammy, scratched hands, Nyx rubbed her chin against her quickly chilling shoulder. The night waned ever colder, if even possible, and relief at having overcome one ordeal was quickly replaced by the looming possibility of death by hypothermia before ever reaching the prospects of shelter. Abyss might be able to help out a bit, and as though he heard her thoughts, he began shaking himself to dry out his saturated fur. Water spattered everywhere, and Nyx grimaced, protecting herself with a bare arm.

    As she looked around for the piece of clothing she suddenly remembered, her hoodie, she spotted the male gazing at the two of them, and anxiety and recollection returned all at once. She could hear him murmur something quietly to his Typhlosion, one who seemed to be rather glad at being reunited with his trainer, as she held out a hand to gratefully accept the sodden apparel Abyss fetched for her. Watching the large Eruption pokemon all but cradle the male in its embrace drove a thorn into her, guilt and reconciliation needling its way into her mind. This hadn't been a black and white conflict at all, and yet Nyx continued to doubt how far her initial impression had been incorrect. She'd trust anyone a pokemon could trust, and yet viewpoints were subjective. She'd even be duly regretful if he didn't possess the Eye. Right. The Eye. That's what it was about, right?

    Regardless, she couldn't help but feel apologetic for the turn of events her actions had singularly caused. She had found herself accepting little blame for the circumstances, one the male had taken much of the consequences of, and that atleast was one thing that was clear in her muddled, confused mind. Her desire to make up for the inconvenience she imagined to have caused him overshadowed any raw resentment she may have continued to harbour against him, and she passed her gaze over him, picking up on fresh details she had somehow managed to miss out previously.

    His quickly drying clothes limply hung to a thin frame, padded with muscle but clearly spoke of less than ideal conditions. His visage was drawn, and she imagined hardship and hunger had roughened the edges of what was a handsome face. And even in his current state of what was undoubtedly weakness and fragility - a porcelain doll who a gust of wind might blow over - he still had the look of a caged animal, dangerous and not to be trifled with.

    A snort from the Typhlosion drew her attention, and Abyss tensed when the fire mane on the pokemon flared up. The Absol prepared to jump away when a careening circle of fire came to surround them, licking tantalising at them with deadly heat, as a though a promise of what was to come. The white-furred quadruped stopped in his hostile advances, puzzled. The intent of that attack had clearly not been to, well, attack. The moisture in his fur sizzled lightly as it relinquished its hold on his fur and rose in a light steam, illuminated in moonlight like a ghostly specter. Nyx had twitched in anticipation of painful contact of fire against flesh, but all the wheel of fire had left was a wonderfully comfortable atmosphere of warmth, and her muscles slowly began relaxing as waves of heat began running over her.

    Why? Nyx just couldn't figure the man out, who she stared at through half-lidded eyes. With comfort came drowsiness, a desperate need to sleep the day's events away, but the events currently unfolding called for her attention. Her stomach squeezed out a small squeal, and Nyx grimaced, unhappy with how her priorities were sorting out. Idly, she noted that when she first met the boy, way back when, it seemed, she might actually have received a cash prize for turning in a would-be perpetrator, a sum she would have much appreciated. And yet somehow the idea of turning in theman made her hesitate, made her squirm in disgust and self-derision.

    There was indeed much she wanted to know about him, and she had the unpleasant inkling that to do so, she couldn't confront him as a trainer threatening him from behind the support of a powerful pokemon, but as a person trying to...trying to what? Reach out to a sense of empathy she herself had displayed none of? Make a connection when she had made clear that she'd only accentuate his suffering by setting a whole town to hunt him down and add to his miseries? Her lips curled in a painful smirk, half-hearted, and one of defeat. Of course, her so called well-meaning overtures could also just as easily get her roasted, literally.

    Her eyes widened as the male in question began and unceremoniously ended a monologue, a deliverance of a speech that spoke of the finality of the matter. She had nothing to input at any given point in the passage of time she had taken to glare her down, and while she had bristled at the part he'd labelled Abyss a 'sorry excuse' for a pokemon, she couldn't quite bring herself to interrupt him. However, her gaze hardened and a good deal of her respect washed away, and she found herself listening to him not in fear or compulsion, but with fierce competition, as though it was a debate and each word he spoke could be used against him. The back of her mind brought up an oddly timed joke about how the situation was rather like-pokemon-like-trainer, and how the rather savage male spat fire (albeit in a different manner than the Typhlosion), and she allowed her features to twist once again into a smile, simply for the hopes of annoying the puzzling male in front of her.

    Abyss seemed none the worse for the insult, simply deadpanning at the duo, as though not quite interested in proving his worth. His gaze did momentarily travel upwards to meet Nyx's as the stranger and his pokemon turned to leave, as though seeking validation to stop them. They did have the Eye after all, didn't they? And so Nyx's hesitation and a silent negative answer confused the Absol, otherwise single-minded in his objectives. Besides a grudging respect to the male for saving his human, he owed the duo nothing in his opinion, so why was his partner behaving otherwise? Was she concerned about their well-being?

    The partner herself struggled mightily as a million words rose to her throat and choked her. What was she to say? Wait? Stop? Start with a wisecrack? Maybe not. Dash over and stand in front of them? As though she needed any further reinforcing of the idea of her...eccentricity. Was she even right to stop him any further? Maybe it really would be in everyone's best interests to just let him go? A fine thought, to abandon him in the soup she had gotten him in. But wasn't it her sense of honour that had gotten them here in the first place?

    She rather hoped this whole...thing wouldn't come down to blows in the end - that sentiment alteast hadn't changed, and she conveyed as much to Abyss with a small air pat. She wouldn't stop the Absol from defending himself - or her - if it came to that, but she'd have to step out from behind him if she was to resolve this...somehow. Exactly how much of this was for the Eye, and how much for her own sentiment? Her pride, concern and stubbornness? Let's find out. But what was she- "Excuse me," -to say- oh.

    Her own decisions made her cringe sometimes. Well, most of the times, actually. It really was easier to be alone. People complicated things. That, and her tendency to jump in with both feet. As it stood, she had uttered the syllables she regretted already, and stood there uncertainly, unsure of how to proceed. "I- er, look," Her conversational skills dazzled her sometimes. So natural. "I'm...sorry for everything that happened so far, I really am," She nodded her head to emphasise her point, adrenaline flowing through her veins at the prospect of having to speak to someone such, and behind her Abyss cringed. "But you have something of mine."

    'That went well', said her mind. 'Well, shit,' also said her mind. Eyes shining in eagerness, her lips pressed together as her brain finally caught up to the full extent of her words. What was she expecting him to do, read her mind, walk over and casually pop out an eye? She...rather hoped he didn't. But it was either stand around in awkward silence or have her begin to babble (also awkwardly). It had been made clear by the male that there was where the buck stopped, and here she was prolonging a matter that would be better deemed ended by both of them. She let out an inward groan; why was she like this?

    (I haven't mentioned this yet but Hanzer sounds so. very. fluffeh *v*)
     
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  23. His world weighed on his shoulders like an anchor trying to drag him back down to the deep depths of the Lake of Rage. (He shuddered at that thought; a death he had just narrowly avoided.) Not that the world was an altogether bad place, or even that it was usually this overwhelming. But that his current situation - running from the vile society that had carved the eye out of his skull to replace it with one of their tools - and his even /more/ current situation - trying to shake this cumbersome young woman - left what little hope he had eclipsed by a saturating darkness of doom.

    Every second that ticked by brought Team Rocket one step closer, and left the young man with the realization that he really had no energy left. He had been running on fumes and the faux fuel of adrenaline, and now his tank was just plain empty.

    Null froze suddenly in his tracks, half because the girl finally found her voice, and half incredulous because of what she was insinuating. He had something of /hers/? He most certainly did not! In his whole life he had never seen her before tonight. How could he have something that belonged to her?

    He had nothing against the girl personally. In fact, his respect for her as a fellow human was the reason he had kept Hanzer from attacking her, and had taken that tumble down the river with her. He honestly couldn't say that, if the tables were turned in that dark alleyway, he would have done anything differently.
    But that didn't keep her actions from being troublesome, particularly for the situation he was in. So the moment she moved from behind the safety of her Pokémon he turned, despite Hanzer's warning growl, and stepped to her.

    "Look, you've got your jacket, your Pokémon, your /life/," Null emphasized the last word through barred teeth. He was playing the bad guy again, but it was even less convincing this time than the last. He grabbed the front of her tank top, flimsy thing that it was, and leaned in with eyes narrowed. "I have /nothing/ that belongs to you," he spoke clearly, oblivious to the fact that the lifeless colour of his left eye was exactly the object she spoke of.

    Perhaps the gesture would have been threatening if his hand clutching her shirt wasn't shaking from the exertion of merely clenching his fingers in a fist. His grip was a far cry now from what it had been during their heart-stopping ride down the river. His shoulders raised and lowered with each weak, shallow breath as if it took his whole body to do that one simple, life-giving task. And then there was the blood.

    Hanzer noticed the stain on Null's hand almost at the same time he recognized a similar crimson patch on his own fur. Where had it come from? It wasn't his, he was certain of that. The Typhlosion's heart suddenly ran ice cold, gaze traveling down to a dark stain on his human's side. How had he not noticed it before...?

    Their bout with near hypothermia had prevented Null's injury from bleeding like it should initially. During one of the few times he had slammed into a rock on their descent down the river, he had also caught a trapped branch on his side. Before the river could sweep them away again, it had left him with a deep, ragged cut, several inches wide, on his left side just below his ribs.
    Once his blood had finally started flowing properly again with the heat from Hanzer, it had taken several minutes for the viscous fluid to soak through his black undershirt, where the stain could not be seen, to the tattered remains of his favourite red shirt, now a darker, more sinister colour.

    Null faltered now, letting go of Nyx's top, his eyes briefly rolling back in his head. He stumbled several steps to the side before he caught himself, but now all colour had drained out of his features and all energy was focused on simply staying conscious.

    Hanzer let out a whine and then a yelp as his human stumbled to the side. His gaze went from Null to the girl to the Absol, looking for any sign of an impending assault now that his trainer was in a truly weakened state. Whatever they wanted with him, now would be their best chance to attack.

    Null had managed to keep himself upright for a moment, but his eyes had a glazed, far-away look as his vision went dark. This wasn't so bad, he thought. Maybe now he could finally just rest...

    Hanzer darted forward and caught the man's head before it hit the ground, his human collapsed in a senseless heap. Quickly, before that single-horned beast could attack and take revenge for their tumble down the mountain, the starter reached down for Null's belt and pulled out Lambo's Pokeball, slapping the button that would release the creature from its momentary prison. Hanzer was afraid the weakness his human had shown was going to do them in. This was exactly the moment that Disaster Pokémon had been waiting for, he was sure of it. As for the woman... she was a wild card. He had no idea what to expect from her.

    Lambo emerged from the Pokeball with his eyes shut tight, crumbs from the delicacy he had devoured still dotting his muzzle. The Flaaffy blinked twice and then looked up, tongue sticking out the side of its mouth. It saw the girl from earlier, her not-so-friendly Pokémon, Hanzer, and... Null. Unconscious. Injured. Lambo's eyes widened and the sheep let out a concerned bleat, immediately jumping into action.

    To Hanzer's dismay, who had released the other Pokémon as reliable backup in the event of a battle (which he deemed inevitable at this point), Lambo bypassed his own human and went straight for the girl. Still bleating in alarm, the sheep-like Pokémon grabbed Nyx's hand and tried to drag her over to his human. The Flaaffy, having deemed in its simple mind that she was a Good person and not a Bad one, was now essentially begging for her help.
     
  24. That was clearly not the correct course of action, Nyx realised, as her words seemingly spurred the male to fresh fury. He had made to leave, and she, fool, fool that she was, drew him back. She wished she wasn't so conflicted about her priorities. She wished the Eye hadn't fallen into this male's hands, she wished she knew what to say and do and oh she wished she knew how to feel. She swallowed hard as the male drew closer; exasperation led to more lasting chagrin than anger. Why did she continue to associate with this male she knew nothing about? He could be a serial killer, and she was lining herself up to be the next victim. Persistently antagonizing him when she had no such intentions to couldn't exactly be currying favour against her, and there was only so much even the best-behaved man would take. So when he reached out and grabbed her top, she thrashed her legs slightly, genuine fear filling her at the realization that without Abyss' interference, he could hurt her - badly. And given all he had survived and more, he could probably hurt her despite Abyss' intervention.

    "I have nothing that belongs to you," He had hissed, and her lips pressed together in a thin, quivering line, eyes set focused on the dead-centre of his face. For months, her project had been all she had thought about. She had given up everything for it - money, family, a social life. It had changed her like nothing else, and she wasn't sure she liked it. Thoughts of how the result would be worth it drove her on, sparing little thought even for the faithful pokemon by her side; who stood steadfastly to support her, unable to forget the kindness once received. Her project had been worth years of her life; had been her life. But was it a life she wanted to go back to? Suddenly finding herself face to face with another human, in who knows how much time, Nyx swallowed again, uncertain and frightened. He had what she had craved for months, what had depressed her enough to withdraw for six months. Metal. Metal and her mind. Did it not belong to her? Was it...was it not worth it?

    Her gaze faltered, and finally lowered in shame. Bittersweet memories, she carried of it. Of her blood, sweat and tears...- wait, blood? Her eyebrows arched as she noticed bright crimson smears on the boy's hand, the same time his grip trembled and loosened. Her body relaxed and her feet slumped back to the ground, released of the arching tension she hadn't realized she'd been feeling. She staggered a bit, still fatigued, but the male seemed to be worse off than her. The blood appeared to be his, as he stumbled sideways alarmingly, gaze unfocused, and Nyx flung out an arm to catch him. The Typholosion beat her to it, though, and only when she stood there, frozen, confused, did she realize she didn't flinch from trying to help this man. A fine sentiment to harbour now...

    The Typholosion seemed to have acted in panic and anxiety, for with a burst of light, the Flaaffy from before appeared. Ah, the feared Electric pokemon. There had been something so sweet and innocent about the Sheep pokemon, when it had toddled over to pat an uncomfortable Abyss - Nyx could see that overlay with raw fear and concern as the pokemon's gaze fell on its human. Abyss had fluffed up with undue fright when the Flaaffy made a second appearance, and a low growl emanated from his ribcage as he realized he was more frightened of the small ovine than of the towering Fire type. What a thing to fear - he could knock over the fluffy pink thing with a single paw! But as he watched the Electric type panic and rush to his human's side, he wasn't sure he'd care to do that.

    Only, the Flaaffy wasn't heading to it's human's side, it was heading to his! Abyss stifled a bark as he crouched, prepared to attack if the pokemon so much as charged up a spark. Electricity made for a more potent killer than fire; a good jolt was all you needed where a few minutes of burning would need to suffice. Nyx grew hesitant as the Flaffy drew closer, wary of any possible approaching attacks, but much to her surprise, the little sheep grabbed her arm and began pulling her to the boy, bleating in alarm. The Typhlosion seemed to disapprove, but Nyx ended up rather close to the fire type as the pokemon continued to drag her. Was it...asking for help?

    Why? Was a little food all it took to win over a pokemon's trust, to the point where they'd rely on you to protect what was important to them? If so, what did she owe to this male, who had all but saved her life? She closed her burning eyes, feeling her lungs ache from the water she had inhaled and coughed up. Could she trust him? As he had trusted her during their trip down the river - to help him as he had during times of need. He had owed her nothing. So would it matter if she harboured a potential criminal? To him, it would.

    Dropping the hoodie, she took tentative steps towards the Typhlosion in whose grasp the male now lay. Till the point of unconsciousness, he had never once asked for help; her lips pursed as her gaze swept over him. A slowly spreading stain were the telltale signs of his wound, and she reached out to examine it, dress it, do something. What could she do? She wasn't a doctor. What if she made it worse; her efforts led to infection, sepsis and ultimately death? But he's already dying.

    She could have cried in frustration, from the helplessness of it all. Her hands tightened into fists on her lap as she could feel her face shamefully heating up with the arrival of unsolicited tears gathering at the corners of her eyes. Strange, how painful it was to remotely care for and form a connection with a living being. She turned back to Abyss as a tear rolled down her cheek, helpless, afraid and feeling so, so alone. Almost immediately, he was beside her, Flaaffy forgotten, gently nosing her face but not quite touching her, so she could only feel whiffs of warm breath. The concerned gesture tickled, and with the Absol by her side, she felt inexplicably better. Did he trust her to give him strength when he needed it? ...should he? Her lips parted in a hiccuping gasp, and she buried her face in his collar, feeling him gently place her head on hers.

    An awkward cough reminded her that she wasn't to cry herself to sleep while a man bled out to death before her. Managing a watery smile, she pulled away with red, but dry eyes to cautiously study the Typhlosion. Any hint of aggression and she'd withdraw - she valued her limbs too much - but as it stood, she slowly extended her hands to touch the male. To take a pulse, feel the dimensions of the wound and to bind it somehow. She knew large wounds could be burned shut, and she dubiously scrutinized the Eruption pokemon again; such endeavours would be painful for the victim, and leave a permanent scar. The pokemon would almost certainly not inflict such pain on his human unless absol-utely necessary.

    So what was the next step? Almost as though they telepathically communicated, Abyss let out a quiet 'Sol'. The girl and her pokemon lived on the outskirts of the closest town, maybe a 20 minute walk. They would have to carry him to the Pokemon Centre so a licensed physician could tend to him, an additional walk from their house. If they stayed off the paved road and took a forested path, it may or may not be faster - it depended on the foliage. She couldn't hear the murmur of the angry townsfolk over the waterfall cascading to a raging roar, but given the choice she'd rather not confront them again, even if she did have a few well-chosen words to say to them.

    She managed to touch the man's chest, trying not to recoil at the contact. She angrily cursed at herself at her behaviour; she wouldn't have shied away from a hurt pokemon, so why...she better get a grip on herself. She could feel the gentle, regular breathing of a relaxed body, but the breaths were too shallow for comfort. She deduced the cloth was sticking to the wound, and decided against pulling it away and exposing the wound to the air. She wasn't sure what he had cut himself on and how long it had been there, but when it began clotting, the cloth would hold it better than no support. The doctors would probably disinfect and bandage him, so she had better get him there as soon as she could.

    "Abyss, clear the way. We're taking a back road," She said, turning to the Typhlosion. "I, er," She began awkwardly, fumbling for words. "We'll...take him to the Pokemon Centre in Mahogany," She managed, with a fair amount of hand gestures and waving about as though the Typhlosion couldn't understand her. "He can get admitted there, and they'll look after the wound," Nodding at the distraught Flaaffy, she reached out to pat it on the arm with what she hoped was a reassuring smile. Picking up her hoodie, she got to her feet, feeling the lump of cold metal in one of the pockets. Her PokeGear. Hopelessly soaked now. It might still function, and she could call the PokeCentre in advance to prepare some medical personnel to take care of the man, and she glanced up at the Fire type for confirmation of their plans. Sure, she'd have to put her name in as the responsible guardian, but not like anybody would access the records, right?

    (
    I wasn't sure about this since she doesn't know they have to stay off the radar. Feel free to have Hanzer agree or disagree. Disgareeing would just mean they make it to Nyx's house instead and she'll have to dress him.)
    (I keep mentioning the phrase 'fool that she was' xD)
     
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  25. Hanzer watched the foolish Flaaffy with an expression of ultimate betrayal. He should have known he couldn't trust the little sheep. A dull, dim-witted creature like itself had no way of understanding the gravity of the situation and being able to piece together in its mind the seriousness of-- He stared as the woolly Pokmeon grabbed Nyx's hand and started trying to drag her toward his human. Hanzer's mane flared up dangerously as she drew near and he tensed.

    But what was there to be done? If left here on the sand, out in the open and exposed to the elements, his human would die. It wouldn't be a pretty death, either, nor a quick one. Likely it would ultimately be infection that overtook him, and that would only be after days, maybe weeks, of burning, raging fevers. And that was if Team Rocket didn't find them first.
    What would be worse? Waiting to be found by the criminal organization and sparing his human's life? Or letting Null die here, unconscious and unaware of the world turning around him? Hanzer looked down into the face of his human, almost peaceful in his senseless state. An unfamiliar, powerful emotion washed over him: deep sorrow.

    The noise of the girl approaching shook him from his reverie and Hanzer looked back up with a snarl, teeth barred. He could not bring himself to simply stand as a sentinel over this two-legged twig boy as he passed into another life, not with everything they had done for one another; everything they had shared. So he watched Nyx liked a trapped animal as she drew near, ears pressed impossibly close against his skull, for that was what he was. He was trapped between his nature - which told him he could not let this girl lay so much as a finger on his human - and his knowledge - which told him she was, unfortunately, their best hope at surviving both this injury, and Team Rocket.
    If only his human had listened to him. If only Null had let him out of his Pokeball when they first approached the bakery. He would have taken care of the woman that now hovered over them and that rock-jumping furball behind her before it ever got to this point.

    Hanzer remained crouched where he was, paws acting as a cushion for Null's head against the sand and gravel of the river beach. He did not for a second take his eyes off of Nyx, but as she began to examine his human the Typhlosion's gaze jumped from her face to her hands in rapid succession, unsure which would first belie an imminent attack. Every time she touched his human, or indeed even came close to doing so, she elicited a snarl, growl, or snap from behind his flashing fangs. But until she showed some evidence of further harming his person, the Eruption Pokemon stayed his volcanic power, kept it wreathed around his neck.

    Lambo seemed content with the work he had done, bringing Nyx over to help his trainer. While the Flaaffy was clearly a few marbles short of a full set, it was not quite as dim-witted as Hanzer liked to think. Now that the girl was near his human, however, Lambo seemed to have lost the stream of urgency which had propelled him to drag her over there. He tapped the tips of his two fins together lightly as he looked over Null, as if wondering now why the human was still sleeping. He had done the thing, right? Problem should be fixed.

    For the simple creature it was difficult to converge cause and effect and create a continuing storyline of what was happening. So in the Flaaffy's world there was simply the here and now, and that was it. No other reality could be constructed in his mind to react to. Therefore, the moment he heard the first sniffle from Nyx and his gaze departed his own human, Null was, for the moment, forgotten. The creature's strange, strong empathy took over and it waddled back over to the girl, wrapping its fins around her legs. The wool around its neck produced a soft, tingly kind of electricity that was somehow warm, comforting. It held her with its eyes closed, unaware that she was likely not taking any comfort from him at all, but rather from her own Pokemon. It wasn't until Nyx returned her focus to Null that Lambo did the same. The sheep started shedding small tufts of wool from the ruff around its neck, taking them and placing them ever so gently over the wound on his human's side. It was using Cotton Guard, which would do absolutely nothing for Null, but that was a fact to which the Flaaffy was blissfully unaware.

    For Hanzer, the few moments it took for the young woman to assess the situation and decide on a path to take dragged on like hours. He watched every single move she made and kept an eye on Abyss as well. The girl at least was a decent trainer, he had to give her credit for that. The Absol's respect for her was surely the only reason Null and his small group of weakened Pokemon had yet to be attacked and finished off. Keeping track of every move and determining whether it was hostile or not was exhausting. the Typhlosion felt an overwhelming sense of relief, therefore, when Nyx finally moved back from his human, his aching muscles gaining a moment's respite. But not for long.

    The Pokemon Center?! The flame around his neck jumped a whole five feet and he barked his disgust and incredulity, digging his paws under Null's arms and dragging his human up. His short, stocky arms weren't made for carrying six-foot humans, but if that's what it took to escape this woman and her dangerous ideas, then that was what it took. The Pokemon Center?! he thought again, turning his head to the side and spitting a stream of fire to show what he thought of that idea. They might as well waltz right into the police station and hand themselves over to Officer Jenny! The Pokemon Center in any town was a hub for trainers and information that trainers needed. There would undoubtedly be posters and signs depicting Null's appearance posted all over the building. There might even be Team Rocket members inside! And then there was the fact that Nurse Joy was Officer Jenny's cousin. No matter what town you went to, that was always true. It would only take one phonecall from Nurse Joy to bring Officer Jenny running to arrest his unconscious trainer! Was this girl just trying to pull one over on him? Was she after the reward? Did she really think he would be fooled that easily?

    But Lambo was not ready yet to give up, bleating again in alarm as Hanzer suddenly hoisted Null's limp form up into his arms. The Flaaffy looked from its fellow Pokemon to Nyx and then back again, stumbling frantically first from the Typhlosion to the girl. It grabbed her arm once more, further urgency in the way it pressed its flippers against her skin. This was their last chance. She had to help them. If she didn't, they were lost. Hanzer would do what he could, of course. But likely it would mean finding a cave somewhere in the mountains to try and nurse their human back to health, without any knowledge of how to treat wounds or what medicine to use and all the while trying to stay hidden from Team Rocket.

    They had nothing to offer her for her help. Null had no money to his name, no food, no items. He barely even had clothes on his back, less now with his shirts all torn to shreds and shoes lost to the torrential waters of the river. The only thing he had of any worth was his Pokemon. Slowly, the Wool Pokemon let his fins drop from Nyx's arm. Turning his head he spotted what he sought lying in the sand where Hanzer had dropped it earlier. The simple creature trundled its way over to its Pokeball, bent over, and picked it up. It looked over the object for a moment, everything it meant and represented. Then, after an agonizing turn it shuffled its feet as it returned to Nyx. He now took her hand in one of his fins, turned it over palm-up, and rested his Pokeball there against her fingers. Not done yet, Lambo plucked a crumb from the delicacy he had eaten off his muzzle and put it on top of the Pokeball as means of an apology. This sweet, simple creature was offering itself in trade for her help in saving its human's life.
     
  26. The explosive reaction of the Typhlosion was one Nyx watched with a mix of slow realization and puzzled anxiety. Fear kicked in late, as the girl stood there staring with wide eyes at the towering Fire type in his attempts to drag his human away. It was only when the fire mane blazed to an alarming height that reactions kicked in and the girl flinched and ducked away from the searing wall of heat. "Wha-" she mumbled, taking a step back, hands protectively held against her face. Abyss, who had turned away and was making his way through the undergrowth, swirled around, lips bared in a snarl, torso heaving with deep breaths as adrenaline kicked in. And to think he left her unattended beside that out-of-control inferno! His crimson eyes aglow as the Typhlosion spewed out a massive stream of fire, he dashed forward, war cry bubbling at his lips. Here was the aggressive confrontation he had been expecting! Almost waiting for! Even in he couldn't get the pokemon himself, he'd make sure the townsfolk would! So, with an explosive sound not unlike a roar, he sprang towards the Eruption Pokemon-


    A sharp "Abyss, no!" shot out in the crisp night air, but this time the Absol didn't waver. The stupid human girl clearly didn't know what was good for her, and with fury in his eyes, he landed and dove again, straight for the pokemon's face- until his form dissipated in a beam of red energy and light. Nyx trembled as Abyss' silhouette disappeared into his pokeball, which began wiggling furiously, desperately. If Nyx were to really burn to death, he wouldn't be able to break his way out of the pokeball, left in there to die and decay as well, but at the same time, the Typhlosion would've been unable to protect himself, his first priority being the injured human.

    Clutching the sphere tightly in her hands as she let the consequences of her action sink in, she didn’t dare look up to meet the Typhlosion’s gaze. Eyes riveted at her shoes, she waited for…for what? For something to happen, anything. For the universe to rebuke her for her thoughtless action, for the Typhlosion to finish what he started and incinerate her, for the ground to collapse in on itself and just…take her. Her eyes fluttered shut and she mumbled something incoherent at no one in particular, before stashing the pokeball away decisively. Abyss may have been headstrong in his actions , but even he could see clearly as to what he should do. Why was it that she could not?

    Her eyes strayed hesitantly, and almost immediately settled on the Flaaffy plucking little bits of wool from its ruff and holding them against its trainer. An involuntary smile spread across her face, soft and genuine. Comfort and concern seemed to come naturally to the sweet little Sheep pokemon; she could still feel the remnants of the electricity tingling at the tips of her fingers. It had startled her, but there had been something relaxing about the weak jolts passing through her, like a good stretch or a flex of the muscles.

    The blood soaked through the tufts of wool almost instantly, and Nyx pressed her lips into a hard line. The nature of the wool collar reminded her of Abyss, but the Flaaffy’s offering wasn’t quite as dense as the Absol’s. The panic of the initial explosive reaction of the Fire type having died away, she watched the small pink pokemon scuttle to her, bleating in panic as the Typhlosion hauled the human to his feet. Her breath caught and she flinched; judgement said that moving an injured person wasn’t a good idea, but apprehension and fear silenced her. The Eruption pokemon was unpredictable and volatile…and yet, and yet the pokemon scared her less than the comatose human did.

    At a thought, her eyes narrowed as she scrutinized the duo. The negative reaction had been at the mention of the PokeCentre, a violent disagreement. What made them want to stay away from the best medical facilities she could offer? Was he still contrite over their attempted robbery? Surely the nature of the kind and sympathetic Nurse Joy would overlook the conditions of the unfortunate male? In hindsight, it was curious how the boy, with a pair of such well-trained pokemon (with a hint at more) couldn’t find an occupation to earn enough to feed the company. Thievery was petty, and the male seemed above that.

    The wrapping of the Flaaffy’s little arms around her own wrist made her look down at the anxious face of the pokemon. It grounded her to the present reality, to how badly the male needed help, and immediately. Nyx exhaled lightly when the warm, pink appendages slipped away, and with a lightly furrowed brow, she watched the Flaaffy shuffle away and pick up a pokeball – presumably his. She was about to turn away and best gauge how to transfer the male – to where, even? Where could she take him? – when she felt a familiar flipper against her hand.

    Her lips parted in surprise as with utter innocence, the Wool pokemon proceeded to place his pokeball into her open palm, and before her fingers curled over it, dropped a crumb in as well. She froze for a few seconds, staring down at the pokemon and its dwelling, the gravity of the situation lost on her puzzled self. What was she supposed to do with it? Why had he given it to her? Her gaze flew to the male’s silhouette, settling on his waist, where the edge of a belt was visible through the tatters of his shirt. Cringing at her own handiwork, she plucked the crumb off – the crumb the Flaaffy had placed so carefully, so delicately – and with a reassuring smile at the sheep and a prayer that she was doing what the pokemon wanted her to, she strode over, keeping a cautious eye on the Typhlosion; to clip the sphere on his belt would require her to be nearly face-to-face with the disgruntled, fire-breathing pokemon.

    Her actions would’ve had a completely different symbolism to the expectant Flaaffy, one that was mercifully lost to the ignorant teenager. She maintained eye contact with the pokemon as she neared, trying to ignore the humour niggling at the back of her mind of how it would be a bad time for the pokemon to sneeze. She held the crumb in one hand, still unsure of what to do with it, or why it had been bestowed to her in the first place, and carefully reached around with her right hand. Her strong introversion made her hesitant to touch the male, as always, but she couldn’t prevent a few accidental brushes as she located an empty pokeball slot and pushed the sphere into place. A satisfying click gave her license to back off carefully avoiding the feet of the tall, slumped figure, only to pause halfway through her retreat.

    Dropping the crumb into one of her pockets, she plucked her solitary pokeball from where she had stowed it away. The movement had since stopped, and with a pointed glare at the pokemon within, she released the grudging inhabitant, making a note of pointing the sphere opposite to the Typhlosion. The Absol appeared in his usual burst of light, accompanied by a rumbling growl. He hated being confined in his pokeball, and was clearly deeply dissatisfied; he never growled at her. “Abyss, please,” Nyx tilted her head slightly, wondering how to make it up to him. The bond of friendship between them meant he wasn’t obliged to obey her, and for that she was glad – she wouldn’t have had it any other way, but until today, their interests had never clashed either…

    No words were spoken, but the Absol looked from the Typhlosion to Nyx, and back, and then to his human with wide eyes. Backing off with a defiant shake as though to say ‘no way!’, the Absol fluffed up indignantly. “Please, they have nowhere else,” she took a step closer, but the Absol bared his fangs. Nyx had been bitten once before, deep enough to draw blood, and while Abyss had been deeply apologetic afterwards, she wasn’t willing to try her luck again now. The Absol glared at her and turned around in an exaggerated motion, and the girl heard a quiet huff that made her eyes light up. Such a marvelous pokemon. As she turned to the human and his pokemon, Abyss sprang off and began to rapidly cut a path through the undergrowth. With his claws and horn, wood wasn’t a problem either, a soon an opening wide enough even for the Typhlosion to fit through was cleared.

    Nyx swept her eyes over the Fire pokemon’s grip, and nodded. It wasn’t the most stable of grips, but given the male’s injury, probably the best one in this situation. “Hold him under his armpits, or loop your arms around his chest,” She gestured with a circular hand movement, taking note of the tall pokemon’s claws. They were sharp, but short, likely made for digging or clawing. They’d make for a relatively safe hold, and the pokemon’s arms were long enough for the second hold of looping. She knew the species were capable of walking on all fours, which meant the arms were muscular and strong enough to withstand their body weight, which should make the frail human boy hardly much of a challenge.

    With yet another smile and nod at the Flaaffy, she bent to grasp the male’s ankles – oh, what happened to his shoes? – and carefully lifting them, she did her best not to jostle him as she took a few experimental steps. Her gaze lifted up to the no doubt concerned fire type, and with conviction, she spoke, “We’re going home.”
     
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  27. Hanzer's ears swiveled at the sound of Abyss turning in the trees and ripping through the undergrowth he had just cleared, barreling headlong back toward them. He turned his head toward the creature, eyes narrowing expectantly. So this was finally it? His grip tightened around his human's limp form, not willing to let him go even now. He would not surrender his person, not even if it meant death. He was stuck metaphorically between a rock and a hard place, but he had made up his mind. The Disaster Pokemon would likely get in a few good hits, but Hanzer would make sure he was burned to a crisp before the end.

    He watched the quadruped's approach without fear, calmly staring him down and waiting for the first strike. The Typhlosion noted, without any physical tell, the Pokemon's deliberate disobedience of its trainer's direct command. What pride. Did the Absol have no personal humility and respect of its owner? Of course, Hanzer had disagreements with Null. His simple human could be a daft fool sometimes. But, if he broke that bond of trust between them... what was he worth, as a partner? Disgust rose up in him as he watched Abyss take that last leap, without hesitation.

    Time slowed. Fire roiled inside his chest, bubbling up like lava, almost liquid. He bent over his human, protecting Null's unconscious form with his own body. His ears were pressed against his skull, this time not in alarm or concern but in ultimate concentration. Flames licked perilously around his jaw as he opened his mouth wide, a bright light surging its way out from the back of his throat. The pale-coat canid was so close now, he could see the glimmer of moonlight in the creature's eyes. There was a flash of red light just as Hanzer let loose his Inferno attack. A monstrous jet of flame shot into the empty sky, missing the Absol by mere milliseconds. The Eruption Pokemon had braced himself for an attack that never came.

    As the fire and smoke cleared, Null's prize Pokemon found his breath coming in slow inhale, quick staccato exhale as he searched the area for his enemy. There had been no yelp of pain, no hiss of singeing fur and flesh, and certainly no impact of the quadruped's body against his own. Slowly, Hanzer's red-eyed gaze fell to the only thing moving - the Pokeball lying in the sand, twitching with the furious effort of the Pokemon contained. Smoke curled from under his lips as realization dawned on him, and he switched his attention to the girl. Who was she...? What was it to her that she was so bent on staying her Pokemon and had recalled him in the heat of battle? Was she afraid of his defeat? That thought gave Hanzer a swell of pride.

    But her action gave him pause. He realized with some unpleasantness that, with the Absol contained and no longer in play, he felt an odd sense of relief. He had no respectful fear of the girl, as he did for her Pokemon, which was a revelation to him. He had assumed that his disgust was for them as a pair - trainer and Pokemon together. But was that not true? Hanzer's eyes narrowed again, now in suspicion. What was this young woman's ploy?

    Unphased by the explosive display of his fellow Pokemon's power, Lambo stood at Nyx's feet and looked up at her expectantly. He had made his request clear (as far as he could understand) and waited with eagerness for the young trainer's response. The blue bulb on his tail glowed brightly with his hope. She was the one who could save them -- and he was sure she would. But, as Nyx struggled to comprehend his intentions and did not react with the immediate response he expected, the light of the Wool Pokemon began to flicker. He watched with a distraught bleat as the girl turned away and back toward his human. No! What was she doing...? She would not accept their payment? She would not help...?

    Hanzer turned his head to the side as Nyx approached cautiously, staring at her out of one critical eye. His breath was hot, the whole air around him superheated with the flame he had ejected, causing Null to sweat even in his senseless state. He did not move as she drew near - surely by now she knew the danger she was in. Either she was a base idiot and would get fried, or she was trying... what? To gain his trust? No. She wasn't that desperate. He leaned down as she moved ever closer to his human, ears twitching as her hands approached his belt. The Typhlosion let out a warning growl -- was she going to try to do the same thing to him that she had done to her own Pokemon? Recall him before he could attack again? She had Lambo's Pokeball in her hand as well so he could guess at her intentions, but there was no telling if she was hiding something more nefarious.

    There was the small click of the Pokeball returning to its position on Null's belt, and for Lambo that was the sound of heartbreak. Every step Nyx had taken closer to his human had caused his light to die a little more. He let out an uncertain, questioning bleat, pressing his fins together in one last ounce of hope. But that had done it. It was over. She had rejected his payment and there would be no help. His light snuffed out. Thrown back into the chaos of confusion, Lambo's eyes fell to the ground and he began shuffling around, trying to find some other form of payment. A particularly large, shiny rock. A piece of sea glass. A large scale from some aquatic Pokemon. These all he began to collect in a desperate last attempt, but deep down he knew it was hopeless.

    The Eruption Pokemon remained tense even after the female human had returned Lambo's Pokeball to its home. There was no time to console the poor creature that was now lost again in its addled maze of a mind as he saw Nyx reach once more for her own Pokeball. He again gave a dangerous growl from deep within his chest, always warning of the consequences that would come if she made one false step. But she released her chaotic partner Pokemon a good distance away with herself between the two warring beasts. Her body language made her intentions clear. Hanzer kept his gaze on the two as they worked out their issues, watching and calculating, boiling down their interaction into something he could decipher and analyze. Once they had finished discussing whatever vague thing it was they had to say to each other and the horned Pokemon had disappeared once more off into the undergrowth, Hanzer's red eyes returned down to the girl before him.

    He watched her for a moment, unblinking as she instructed him. But, after a pause he let out a small sigh and his ears lifted ever so slightly off the back of his skull, relenting. The Typhlosion shifted his grip to wrap his arms around Null's chest, holding him strongly. He huffed to Lambo, who had now collected a good flipperful of trinkets, and nodded toward the path in the undergrowth. He was loathe to let the girl touch his human but, well... what choice did he have? She had shelter, whatever 'home' it was she was speaking of. She seemed to earnestly desire to help his human, which is why she had mentioned the Pokemon Center originally -- even if that was the dumbest idea Hanzer could think of. So perhaps he could train her yet. Her intentions since falling down the river seemed innocent enough. But he could not forgive what she had done initially at the bakery, and then when she had led the whole town to their location at the river. Unfortunately, hers seemed the best course of action. Hopefully it was one they would live through long enough for his human to learn from it.

    So with careful steps so as not to jostle his unconscious, injured trainer and with Lambo following erratically along, pausing every once in a while to look at something shiny, they took off down the path the hated Absol had cleared. For now, he supposed, they were begrudging allies.
     
    #27 rawheight, Sep 21, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
  28. Even as Nyx plodded drearily through the undergrowth; moving backwards carefully while glancing over her shoulder every now and then to ensure the road was clear; the strength of the powerful Inferno the Typhlosion had released reflected in her eyes time and time again. The strength of the pokemon was evident and the way the plume of fire had lit up the night sky, dazzling her momentarily remained a reminiscent memory with spots still floating before her eyes. Just as well she had recalled Abyss when she had, even if he was sullen now. The distant sounds of hacking and slashing could be heard over their quiet footsteps, crunching over thick layers of twigs and leaves.

    The attack had been no doubt splendid, and powerful, and she wondered how many of those Abyss could take before going down. Experience reminded her that when battle began, and adrenaline coursed through the Absol's veins, his fur would stiffen and harden, making it difficult to burn should he withstand an attack. But even the reinforced fur had a limit, especially if he wasn't expecting it. She had heard of pokemon combusting from attacks under the right conditions - she believed it involved conditions of strong sun. So just as well it was nighttime, even if the cloak of darkness made the fire attacks stand out all the more.

    The stress of the events of the evening was catching up, and grating on the girl's nerves. Feeling as raw as an exposed nerve, Nyx sighed, furrowing her brow and trying to ignore the headache gradually rising in intensity, until like a crescendo, it peaked. She could feel the blood pulsing strongly in her temples and her grip slackened from weakness. Not that the male was heavy - no, he was almost alarmingly light - but fatigue was simply catching up. Walking along numbly, she found herself caring less and less what the Typhlosion might think of her, or how Abyss was still grumbling. She just wanted to get this over with.

    Her gaze settled on the Flaaffy, and despite herself she allowed a small smile to slip through. Strange, how oddly attracted she was to the curious little sheep. It was almost a polar opposite to the gruff, stoic Absol; wandering around as it was, picking up small shiny objects. It was strangely distraught...but cute. Cute. That was the word. Humming lightly in agreement to her inner dialogue, she continued carefully maneuvering down the path.

    Though at their best pace, they were at a little more than a walk, it didn't take long for the girl to tire. Her awkward hunched figure began to quickly stiffen, considering how unused she was to physical activities, and soon she found her muscles knotting painfully. Her pace began to slow, although Abyss didn't seem exhausted yet, and the sound of slashing and crunching grew further and further from the load-carrying duo. She winced as her heel struck a pebble and she stumbled, not quite in time to catch herself. It led to her teetering sideways, frame screaming in pain from the sudden movement, and her shoulder struck a nearby tree. Just as well it was located there, preventing her from falling any further, and potentially dragging the boy and his pokemon with her.

    "A....a moment's respite, please," She gasped, squeezing her eyes shut against the pain radiating from her shoulder. Gently setting the boy's feet down without waiting for a response, she sank to her knees, gasping as more than one limb began throbbing from the unexpected removal of weight. "Oh, Arceus," Groaning, she settled in to lean against the trunk, hand methodically searching every pocket until she found what she sought for. Her PokeGear.

    Realizing the sound of footsteps had faded, Abyss tilted his head, listening carefully. Behind him lay a wake of destroyed vegetation, and he was in process of sulkily pressing down a batch of nettles with his ruff - even if he was annoyed, he wouldn't stand for Nyx getting scratched (by any other than him). He carved up another bush, absent-minded, as he focused on the faint sounds far behind him. He had fallen into a regular trance, following the routine movements - but as the motions stopped, his focus snapped back to attention. Turning to face the empty passage behind him, he retraced a couple of steps down the artificial avenue, quietly mewling to himself. Where did that girl disappear to now? Did the Typhlosion...? He began bristling at the thought, and with masked footsteps, began making his way back down the trail.

    (Sorry this isn't good x.x')
     
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  29. (No problem! I thought it was fine (: )

    Hanzer was not about to put chivalry over his own self-preservation. There was no way he was going to be the one walking backwards, especially when that meant he would have his back unprotected to that onyx-clawed canid. Being the one to walk forward, he could keep an eye on both of them - the girl and her creature. And keep an eye on them he did. Well, an eye and an ear for Abyss, hidden further ahead in the shadow of the forest.

    He watched as the girl's energy slowly drained, wondering at just how fragile these human creatures were. To be sure, a trip down a raging river (his mind spat fire at the thought of all that water) was no afternoon at the park. But both of the trainers succumbed to their exhaustion so easily. How did humans ever get along without Pokemon? It was a wonder to him. One he would never understand.

    The Typhlosion was not surprised, then, when the girl suddenly gasped her plea for respite. His concern only arose when she suddenly started listing dangerously sideways. His unease was not for her, of course, but for the precarious position she put his person in if she dropped him. He breathed a sigh of relief as she controlled her fall enough to keep from jarring Null too much. He looked over her pitiful state, gasping for breath and groaning with her aches, and gave another sigh. How had he ever been fearful of her? What was there to be afraid of? She had nothing on him or his trainer; she was all bluff.

    Lambo had been trailing behind, having found a patch of soft moss on a rock that he was enjoying the springiness of. He would press down on it with his flipper, listen to the moist squish, then watch it bounce back quickly the moment he drew his appendage away. As soon as he heard the commotion further on down the trail, however, he raced forward again. Seeing Nyx on the ground he quickly dropped all the treasures he had found and ran to her side, bleating in alarm. The Flaaffy knelt right down on the ground in front of her, looking at her intently for any sign of injury and nuzzling at her aching limbs. He had no way of healing any wounds or restoring HP but the creature was determined to find some way to help.

    Hanzer saw the Pokegear being drawn out and his ears pressed against his skull with a low growl. He knew that thing. Null had never had one, of course, but he had seen it in pictures. They even had a few of them in the Team Rocket labs, where they were being tested for usefulness in... other endeavors. You could call another human with that thing. Who was she planning on contacting? And then, to make matters worse, he could now hear the Absol padding his way almost silently back toward them. To be sure, the beast was stealthy. Hanzer hadn't heard his approach until he was almost upon them again. But this game was getting old. The Disaster Pokemon seemed to expect, almost hope, that he would happen upon Hanzer reducing the female human to a crisp. As if he were some base beast who would attack at the smallest provocation.

    Annoyed with the girl, annoyed with his fellow Pokemon Lambo, annoyed with the silvery shadow creature lurking in the trees, and most of all annoyed with his human for leaving him alone in the company of these idiots, Hanzer huffed his irritation and ducked down to gather up Null's legs in his arms. He would carry his human by himself. It wasn't easy, with his stocky arms on a short wingspan, but he would make do. He held his human close to his chest and pressed on down the trail with no regard toward any of the others involved. If they followed and the girl led them to her home where they could rest, fine. If they decided the truce was ended, that was fine too. He would find a way to help his human on his own.

    Glancing down at Null now, Hanzer noted that the motion of blood spreading across the young man's ragged shirt had at least slowed. It hadn't entirely stopped, but this was progress. His body was fighting to clot up the wound and keep him from losing any more of the precious fluid. But, the large fire-type knew all too well, that didn't mean infection wasn't already setting in. The jagged cut had occurred in the blasted river, where who knew how many tiny little evil microbes swarmed and threatened to make survival that much more difficult.

    He could always cauterize the wound. The flash of fire would simultaneously stop the bleeding and destroy any bug attempting to make his human's body its home. But it would also be incredibly painful, and would leave a permanent scar. Here in the forest, faced with such a decision and believing himself to be alone, out of sight of the girl and her Pokemon, Hanzer paused. Tilting his broad head down toward his person he took a few sniffs, trying to sense any change in Null's condition. Then, after a moment's hesitation and second-guessing himself, he gave the boy's head a gentle nudge with his nose, as if daring to hope that was all it would take to wake him up and this was all a cruel joke.

    Of course, that did nothing. Null remained as deeply entrenched in his unconsciousness as before, his features relaxed - almost peaceful. Hanzer let the moment of rare, deep vulnerability pass. For the briefest of seconds he had wished just for his human to open his eyes again. That was all. He just wanted to know that everything would be alright. But of course it wasn't, and it was up to Hanzer to make it so.

    Lambo perked up again as Nyx brought out the Pokegear. It was a pretty, shiny thing. The sheep-like creature jumped to its feet and then settled down once more right next to the girl this time, leaning into her and looking on as to how she would operate the machine. It had beautiful reflective surfaces, and the Flaaffy's eyes remained open wide in wonder as it watched her every move. What did it do? What was it for? Could he play with it? Did it taste good?
     
    #29 rawheight, Sep 28, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
  30. Hollow. That was the word.

    With the onset of a raging headache came a foul mood, and Nyx settled into a sullen silence. What a rotten day. Frustration overlay fear, and she scrutinized the impatient Typhlosion with a critical gaze, following his sharp eyes down to her PokeGear. She stifled an annoyed hiss – his lack of trust in her had already been established, and it would be a small mercy to betray that and turn this evidently wanted man in…but no. She had committed, possibly to an incorrect decision, but committed she had. She flipped the cover open, watching the luminescent display light up with a glow. It was nearing midnight. “My, mighty late,” She commented to no one in particular. Her shoulder awakened with a fresh throb, and Nyx bit her lip, suppressing the natural instinct that led anger to rise within her. Anger was a natural response to pain, and she wanted to hurt something back.

    Quickly looking around for Abyss, she sighed, trying to alleviate the stress she didn’t realize she had been accumulating. But no matter how much she may try to portray herself as the unfortunate victim, it was clear who had the worst of it all. Her gaze wandered back to the comatose male, now completely bunched in the Typhlosion’s arms – she tried hard to evoke some empathy for the human having got the shorter end of the stick, but with her energy went her emotions, and Nyx felt particularly apathetic.

    It was but a moment for her body to unwind, and the Typhlosion wouldn’t allow her that. Nyx felt bitterness rise in her at the impatience of the pokemon, and once again biting back any words rising, like bile, she looked aside. Abyss, making his way back towards the merry company, paused and pressed into the undergrowth to allow the Typhlosion to pass, watching after the tall pokemon in confusion. Was this where they parted ways? A hint of amusement passed through the pokemon’s face – shame.

    It wasn’t in a pokemon’s natural instinct to smile, but it was a mannerism Abyss had observed and attempted to copy from Nyx. A side of his ebony lips quirked up – it didn’t create the desired effect of a smirk, but looked comical enough to crack a smile from the fatigued female. A moment. It was but a moment.

    It was a moment for her body, but her mind raced ahead. In the quiet seconds of solitude, thoughts wandered and decisions evaluated. Despite priding herself on thinking critically, Nyx realized how many of her decisions had been made in but a moment this fine night. Would it be prideful, entitled even to blame it all on an unlucky night? She barely knew this man; she owed him nothing- wasn’t this argument already made? She wasn’t sure she had the energy to see her internal dialogue through.

    If…if she were to continue…should she go ahead with the decision to help this man and his pokemon, how would it turn out for her? Even at the cusp of decisions, she couldn’t seem to put base selfishness aside to take just decisions. She always struggled to say no; it wouldn’t be fair on the opposing person. And yet she couldn’t find it in her to feel much of anything in the moment.

    Abyss sensed quiet distress, and edged closer, muzzle resting against the back of her neck. Nyx closed her eyes, letting his body warmth soak through hers, hoping she didn’t nod off…Such a good boy…

    She jolted awake when a soft, warm body pressed close to her. The Flaaffy stood before her, looking up with liquid brown eyes and a concerned expression. Half-lidded eyes swept over the Sheep pokemon’s face; where Abyss was a rock of solidarity and support, the Flaaffy was a flower of spring. Hopeful, innocent and offering comfort. She reached out hesitantly, wondering if the pokemon would mind very much to be touch by any other than his own trainer.

    Almost immediately the pink pokemon’s attention was diverted to the technical gadget in her hands, and Nyx withdrew her hand with a niggling feeling of disappointment. Abyss snorted his displeasure, but didn’t move, watchfully eyeing the Flaaffy, but never directly addressing the pokemon. The Absol was known for being fiercely territorial, and by extension protective, but almost never jealous…

    The scientist swept her fingers along the cold metal body of the device. Given the good soaking it had got, it would need a few days to dry. She had heard keeping the dismantled parts of the Gear in a bag of rice would dry it out…but as it stood, it was of little good, atleast theoretically. It still worked, the display was proof of that much, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to risk calling someone. She tilted her head, watching the Flaaffy’s keen interest in the Gear, before offering it to the pokemon with a casual wave. He would quickly tire of it and probably drop it anyway-

    That was before she realized why she didn’t want to call someone. A short circuit. She was handing a wet electronic to an electric type. She pursed her lips as her eyes widened, watching the pokemon with nervous anticipation. It would be in poor taste to snatch it back from the young creature, but she did hope he wouldn’t end up sparking it…she cast a glance at the spilled treasures the Sheep had carried a moment ago. Shiny rocks, scales and other objects. Interesting. She got to her feet, feeling her muscles screech in response, before shakily bending to pick up an attractive blue piece of sea glass. Inspecting it carefully, she nodded in agreement to some internal dialogue before wondering what to do with it. Put it back? Just…drop it on the ground? It wasn’t hers, and she wasn’t sure the Pokemon would appreciate her taking his stuff.

    Abyss rolled his eyes (what a human gesture) as his trainer sifted through the shiny objects with a certain childish glee. Hardly the time. Already sitting on a ticking time-bomb of a bad decision, now she was playing with pebbles! He impatiently pawed the ground, drawing her attention. He could see how her stressed muscles quivered with each hesitant motion, and how each step was stiff, but there was little he could do about it. Urging her to action, he pointedly turned at the retreating back of the Typhlosion, walking further and further away from them, along the path. Of course, there was a point he would stop, unless he was willing to force himself through the foliage as of yet uncut, but until they could permanently see the last of them, he considered it his personal duty to act as a judge and a guardian. Arceus knew his human needed…collecting.

    Nyx drew herself up to focus on the task at hand – she could see grim despair in the Absol’s expression, and she gathered herself for the trek ahead. She was trying, she really was, to take a deep breath and set to her task with renewed vigour. But what with her mind disagreeing with itself and her second-guessing every decision she made, she wasn’t sure what to do anymore. Her decision may not be correct, but whose was? Her darkening gaze fell upon Abyss, who tilted his head with a churr, before returning to his pruning duties. Nyx ran a hand through her hair, feeling hot tears well in her eyes. She blinked them away, standing alone and puzzled in the middle of the forest. What could she do? She wondered, as she resumed her steps homeward.

    Hollow. That’s what she felt.
     
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  31. Lambo watched every flash of the Pokegear as it moved about in Nyx's hand, its electronic glow reflected in his glossy eyes, with an intensity that might have been manic if the creature were anything but simple. He didn't presume to reach out and take the object - unlike the coloured leaves and shiny rocks he had picked up from the ground along the trek, he considered her property to be beyond his reach. In his mind, it had not yet entered his world. However - whether she realized it or not - the moment she handed him the machine, the moment she passed on that blazing torch and his fins felt the cool, slick surfaces, the object was all his and she might never get it back. Similar to the baked good she had offered them back at the store hours previous, it would likely find its final home in the pit of his metabolic garbage disposal of a stomach. For the very first thing he did with the Pokegear was put it in his mouth to answer the most important question he could ask - What did it taste like?

    What Lambo was altogether unaware of was that Nyx had been watching out for this exact kind of response, for no sooner had he stuck the object likely to short-circuit into his electron-charged mouth then he was greeted with a quick, buzzing kind of shock that involuntarily lit up the bulb on his tail. "Ba-aa," the Flaaffy bleated in alarm, spitting the Pokegear back out into its fin, looking down at it in surprise. Being an electric-type itself, the charge had hardly hurt him. But with Team Rocket almost never dealing with electric-types, the sheep-like creature had rarely met a thing that spoke his language.

    The Wool Pokemon looked over the machine with renewed interest. That was certainly not the way he would ever consider saying 'hello', but he had learned that the world was absurdly strange with all kinds of odd beings. Slowly, cautiously, Lambo stuck his tongue out to touch the object again, and was met once more with a sharp shock. Ready for it this time, the creature withdrew his tongue rapidly and smacked his lips, looking skyward with his eyes narrowed as if trying to decipher what the pass of electrons could mean.

    In not much time at all, he deduced that the Pokegear was a crotchety old thing and he was bored of dealing with its brief but rude attempts at communication. Suddenly aware of Abyss pointedly not looking at him, Lambo left Nyx to look through the pile of treasures he had collected and trundled over to the stoic Pokemon. "M-baa-a," the Flaaffy intoned, sticking the device straight out into Abyss's face, touching his cheek with it. When nothing happened, the sheep-like creature's tongue slid characteristically out the side of his mouth and he looked down at the object in confusion. Once more he thrust it toward the Disaster Pokemon, once more with no result. Apparently the strange machine had no desire to communicate with the girl's Pokemon.

    Looking down now with distrust at the gadget in its flipper, as if suspecting it was keeping its orneriness bundled up inside just for him, Lambo decided to try one last time. His gaze shifting from side to side as if to make sure no one was watching, the sheep-like Pokemon slowly, casually, brought the Pokegear to his mouth as if nothing were amiss. Then, with a strange, sudden swiftness to try and catch the belligerent machine off guard, he quickly stuck his tongue to it, withdrawing it just as rapidly when he was met with yet another shock. "Baaa!" the Flaaffy said in alarm, the closest thing to frustration it had gotten to yet. It stared down at the Pokegear, hard, before deciding it was simply not worth it and there were more interesting things to take care of. Looking slyly back at Abyss, Lambo then gave a derpy smile (unintentionally - derpy was just the way he happened to look) and placed the contraption at his feet as he had once done with the pastry in the store - a gift. A trade which surely the Disaster Pokemon would recognize as a good one for himself - after all, he got that fantastic shiny object without giving anything in return! The Flaaffy trundled back toward Nyx and would have chuckled to itself if it could. Little did the silly Absol know that he didn't even want the gadget anymore.

    ---

    Ahead on the trail, reaching the end of the path the dark-type canid had carved, Hanzer stopped suddenly. His ears swiveled to a rustling noise off the path to the right side of the forest. Fire burned in his chest, ready to spit -- but then his ears swiveled again, this time to the left. The same noise - a familiar noise. Muscle covered in scales with a forked tongue slithering through the undergrowth. The Typhlosion raised his head up, the fur on the nape of his neck standing straight and a deep growl in his throat, ready for a fight. Two identical noises from two opposite directions - surely it couldn't be Her? After six months of slipping out of her grasp and running from her undetected, she couldn't have found them now, of all times?

    Suddenly there was the noise of a third Pokemon, this time from behind and far more casual than the other two. His ears flicked backward to recognize the sound of Abyss returning to his work, and by the time Hanzer was able to dismiss that noise as unimportant, the other sounds had ceased. He let out a stream of smoke through his teeth from a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Had he imagined the sound...? Frowning, the fire-type looked from his nemesis before him to his unconscious human in his arms, and finally back to the path before them. He was ready for this running to end.

    ---

    Lambo joined Nyx in looking through the treasures he had found. He pulled out a few of his favourites - a large mauve sequin from what one could only imagine was some ridiculously garish outfit, a small glass pebble, oval on top with a flat bottom and perfectly transparent, like a bead from a fish tank, and -- where was the blue sea glass? The Flaaffy sorted through the items again searching for the object. When he couldn't find it the second time either he looked up at Nyx in confusion, wondering where it had gone. It was then he saw it in her hand, and saw the briefest, most faint flicker of something other than gloom in her features, and he bleated happily. She had found her treasure! More than happy to let her have it, even after she had given him that terrible grumpy Pokegear earlier which had not been a nice gift at all, Lambo assembled the rest of his items and stood to his feet with the girl. As she gathered her determination and started back toward her home, his flipper found her hand and he ambled along contentedly beside her.
     
  32. Nyx inwardly groaned as the Sheep immediately stuck her Gear in his mouth; goodbye Gear. But almost immediately, as she saw a small spark arc between the Flaaffy and the device it held, the pokemon spit it out, bleating in surprise. The girl pursed her lips; that couldn't be good for her device, but atleast the pokemon wasn't hurt. She wasn't sure she'd manage to buy herself another one, and would have to ask her Professor for one, but besides her device being customized slightly, she didn't have any significant data in it. She watched on, stifling the urge to slap her forehead, as the Wool pokemon repeated its motions, seemingly experimenting with the electric properties of the PokeGear. It quickly diverted its attention to the unfortunate Absol, who looked just about ready to leave, and even as a smile crept onto her face, the Flaaffy toddled closer to Abyss.

    Abyss stiffened as the pokemon grew closer, and it quickly turned, paws itching to leave- too late! The pokemon came ever closer and suddenly thrust the device in its hand towards his face. With an 'augh!' sound, he sprang away, surprised, and absol-utely mollified at this unpredictable creature. Unfortunately for the poor Absol, his jump drove him into an unpruned bush, and he had to struggle a bit to untangle himself from the twigs and leaves. Even then, as he beat a hasty and dignified retreat, bits of foliage stuck out from his magnificent ruff - a crown of thorns and shame. Sparing nary a glance backwards, the Absol sped away, leaving the proffered Gear on the ground, which Nyx bent to retrieve. Giggling quietly, she good-naturedly slipped the Gear into her pocket - Pokemon saliva was not new to her, as a scientist, though in the matters of such, Abyss was more feline than canid. Even when playing tug-of-war or fetch, Abyss was irreproachably clean; he didn't even lick her face. Quietly jubilant at having regained a very not-fried device, Nyx tilted her head slightly to gratefully smile down at the Flaaffy when a small, soft appendage slipped into her hand.

    Her gratitude morphed into a warm, lingering happiness as her hand tightened around the Flaaffy's flipper, and holding on to it like the precious thing it was, she followed the green twig road.


    Abyss, padding some ways ahead of the now stupidly-happy human and the Flaaffy, soon came across the Typhlosion. Tense as usual. He bristled as the Fire type released a stream of smoke from its maw; was that a taunt? The pokemon had already made his irritation very clear, and while he yet had to trust the pokemon or its human, he had a bemused inkling that all that smoke would be rather easy to trace - strange actions for someone supposedly avoiding notice. His paws crunched over his handiwork, surprisingly loud in the stillness of the carved grove, and any sound the Typhlosion may have heard was drowned out, never having reached the Disaster Pokemon's ears. He cast a dubious look at the biped from behind; if he was to strike, now would be the best time to do so. A surprise attack while he was weighed down. But he merely swept aside, ruffled from the indignation of being denied the satisfaction of a good spat. With one who deserved it so, no less! He couldn't say the pokemon's attitude had improved any, now that he was reunited with the boy; still the cocky pokemon who tried descending down a cliff too fast for his own good.

    He snorted as he passed, a disdainful sound to remind the pokemon who he had to thank, and set about to cutting down the undergrowth in his way once again. His irritation of the past few hours flowed through him into his work, and as with renewed vigour he cut his way through the fores, taking care to crunch a few leaves here and there to elicit annoyance from the pokemon behind him, he could sense the moon rising higher to its peak. As the night would roll away, so would the events of the day, he hoped.

    -x-

    It took the better part of an hour, but a little past midnight found the unlikely company emerging from the treeline, exiting the boundaries of the wood to find solace onto paved roads. Nyx had tired, and while she didn't allow herself the luxury of a second rest, the alluring vision of her home - so close - drove her to pick up her pace. Abyss dropped back by her side, carefully maintaining a wide berth between him and the Flaaffy. He wouldn't have minded retreating to his pokeball but that thing, that arrogant spark-cougher was still out there; besides, he wouldn't begrudge a good groom right about now.

    Dodging past the few houses on the way to her dwelling, Nyx noted with some satisfaction that, as her building loomed into view, most of the lights were off. The apartment in the sixth floor evidently boasted some waking residents, but she mercifully lived on the second floor; she had the misfortune of some grouchy old neighbours who often complained of her irregular timings disturbing them. She had baked them some cookies as a gesture of good will, but it hadn't improved their opinion of her. She pursed her lips before thoughtfully chewing on them. She paused at the door, before turning to the Typhlosion.

    He must be exhausted after carrying the human so far, but she feared the ordeal wasn't quite over yet. She contemplated placing a hand on its arm to call its attention, but decided against it, and slowly loosening her palm to allow the Flaaffy's flipper to drop, called out softly. "Hey," She gestured, clearly referring to the Typhlosion, considering how she was staring at him. The suspicion of the cynical Fire type had driven deep into her, and she had the unpleasant feeling that she would have to make her actions utterly transparent. She had debated if the pokemon would actually hurt her if she acted against them, consciously or otherwise, but the great fiery blasts it had displayed made her shudder if the answer would've been yes. Would pokemons that hurt humans be put down? The Typhlosion was intelligent, that much was clear, when it had recognized the Gear in her hand. Perhaps the boy had one too?

    Shaking her head to clear her internal dialogue, she looked up at the building again. Her hand patted her pockets before pulling out the key to what she hoped would be a restful night. A literal key; the key to her apartment. "We'll have to take the back entrance," Considering the clandestine activities the company had so far performed to stay as undetected as possible, she supposed the Typhlosion would agree with her - this man was possibly wanted, after all. She wondered if she would have ever gazed at the familiar, drawn face on a poster? Did the boy always look so harried, so painfully thin and tired? She squeezed her eyes shut; she couldn't be sympathizing with him! But then...but then why was she helping him?

    She scratched her head as she led the procession round to the back of the building. Quietly opening the door revealed a narrow set of stairs rising up to the floor above. Nyx peeked in, rather enjoying the role of sneaking around like a thief, before reason caught up to her and she opened the door wider. Not only was she behaving like a criminal - possibly what the male was -, she was doing so in her own building. Past midnight. When no one was up. She chewed on her lip as she stepped inside; a leaking pipe dripped water beside the doorway, and she sidestepped the splashing droplets. Abyss waited for the Typhlosion and Flaaffy to go in before him, and casting a furtive glance into the forest after them, snuck in as well. The stairwell was rather crowded, what with the massive Typhlosion and the quadruped Absol, and the stairs themselves would be a bit of a squeeze for the Eruption pokemon, considering the burden it bore. Nyx quickly ascended the first flight, checking the corridor for any people before poking her head back down towards the assortment of pokemon. Her eyes met Abyss'; he knew the floor they lived on, and she relied on him to guide the pokemon towards the house. The Absol defiantly stared her down, looking despairingly at the Flaaffy; the cramped quarters made the Disaster pokemon uneasy, being so close to the object it did not wish to associate with. She stifled a smile and padded back up the first floor, keeping a watch for any waking neighbours.
     
    #32 MegaAbsol, Oct 10, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
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  33. Hanzer's ears swiveled back and forth, trying desperately to once again pick up the sound of the creatures rustling through the undergrowth. He peered into the darkness first on one side, then the other, trying to pick up any sign of the uniquely coloured pattern or flash of fangs that would give them away. Finally, when he was met with nothing but but silence and the sound of that infernal quadruped coming up behind him, he had to give up. They were gone. Or, perhaps he had imagined the sound, tense as he was. But no... no, he was sure he had heard those twin snakes slithering in the dark, primed to attack.

    A sneer of disappointment left one fang hanging over his bottom lip even after the expression had faded, giving the impression of a constant threat or warning. The smug Absol had returned, but the coat he was so proud of had tonight been wet, dusty, and now snaggled with foliage from some kind of encounter with the undergrowth. Though he continued to carry his haughty demeanor, the canid looked a much sadder version of himself than when they had first met that night. Although, Hanzer mused, they probably all did.

    He caught said creature glancing back over his shoulder at him, once again expecting an attack, and the Typhlosion all but rolled his eyes and began trudging forward again. How much longer before they got to that girl's dwelling place? This trip couldn't be over soon enough.

    Lambo trotted contentedly along at Nyx's side, no longer distracted by shiny or interesting objects on the path now that she had his fin captured in her hand. That simple gesture seemed to have calmed whatever it was that constantly addled his brain and he simply walked along side her peacefully, carrying his treasures under his free arm and occasionally burbling nonsense sheep-talk to himself in quiet, almost inaudible tones. He kept his tail light extinguished as if he understood the need to act in secrecy and further ahead on the trail Hanzer's fire mane died down to barely a few embers. They had been far too careless tonight. Now that they had secured a place to go, they needed to keep it that way. Their trainer's safety and possibly his life depended on it.

    ---

    The closer they came to the small town, the more uncomfortable the Eruption Pokemon became. He kept huffing under his breath, disagreeing with their movement toward civilization but knowing they must press on. His human and Pokemon had spent the last six months avoiding just this kind of area and now here they were, marching straight toward it. The eerie glow from streetlights peered at them through the trees like so many pairs of eyes searching them out. The smell of asphalt, paved roads and cars, things so distinctly mechanical and human, put an uncomfortable rock in his gut. This was uncharted territory. He had no idea what to expect now, and drew his human ever closer to his densely-furred chest.

    Lambo seemed to sense his partner Pokemon's unease, and for a brief second the lights around the streets and houses glowed bright, and then suddenly dimmed to almost non-existence. He didn't burst the bulbs or cause any such structural damage - he simply limited the current arriving to each mechanism until the odd group had passed by and were a safe distance away. He could do nothing about the moon, however, which was now near its zenith in the sky, so late it was at night.

    When they finally paused, Hanzer accepted the brief respite as an opportunity to take stock of their surroundings. So far they had run into no trouble. In his experience, such luck would not hold. It was only a matter of time before someone showed up and accused them of something or other. Like stealing food.
    As if she had read his thoughts, the fire-type felt Nyx's hand on his arm and looked down at her with a keen gaze, though there was no malice in it. Just an alertness, waiting for what was so important to her that she had done as much as reach out and touch him. When she explained her thoughts, he merely glanced back at the building and then, after a brief pause of contemplation, nodded his agreement. He knew it was impossible for most humans to mind their own business. They were such insufferably meddlesome creatures. It was best to take every precaution possible to avoid detection. But that space did look awfully small...

    When she dropped his fin in order to talk to his companion, Lambo had looked down at the appendage blankly, as if wondering where it had come from, and then promptly stuck the tip in his mouth for safekeeping. As they entered the building, the Flaaffy squeezed himself onto the stairwell next to Nyx, not wishing to leave her side quite yet even in the cramped space. But after a full stomach from the baked good he had devoured earlier and the long trek through the night, the poor creature was slowing down, drowsy.
    Hanzer, on the other hand, showed no signs of slowing. If he were tired, he didn't show it. Once they were inside the apartment complex in the tight confines of the stairwell, he surged upward behind the female trainer. There were many, many smells inside that enclosed space. Dozens of humans and two or three times that amount of Pokemon. Mostly what people would consider 'pets', Pokemon barely trained except for a few moves to protect its owner in case of a break-in. But a handful of trained, potentially dangerous Pokemon as well. He could smell their confidence far and beyond that of the other scents.

    After ascending the first flight of steps Hanzer paused, looking to Nyx for the next step to take. He thoroughly disliked having the canid at his heels. Something about that position was significantly worse even than the couple times Abyss had been simply behind him. That position of almost herding he and Lambo... it didn't sit well with the Typhlosion. How much longer? He thought he caught a whiff of the girl's scent, stale and lingering, like the smell of a home. But then it was gone again. Surely she could hurry it up a bit more?
     
  34. Abyss padded up along the staircase, claws clicking quietly against the metal. He had squeezed past the foreign duo once they had passed the first floor, and now stood beside Nyx as she patted her pockets for the keys. Apartments these days could often be unlocked with a key-card; so easily hackable - but Nyx had taken residence in a poor enough neighbourhood to still need physical, metal keys. She had heard of some neighbours having trouble with them, especially those with young pokemon or fire type mons, and that led her to quickly glance over her shoulder at the pokemon trudging up the stairs, human held in his arms.

    Abyss was openly bristling, nose serrated in regular bridges as he hatefully stared the Flaaffy and Typhlosion down. As far as he was concerned, this was his territory, his human and his home to protect. He would've been sufferingly welcome to a teammate perhaps, and even tolerated guests, but welcoming absol-ute enemies... he sniffed disdainfully, maw slipping open to display his small, sharp fangs. Absol's weren't pack members, but should he join any kind of hierarchy, he was alpha in his homefield. This was hardly the place to undergo a power scuffle, and Abyss was more than begrudging to let these pokemon share any space - as fiercely protective he was, this was a great insult to the proud canine.

    If Nyx had noticed, she didn't say anything. The quiet chink of a key turning in its place resounded through the floor; nothing unusual. She swung the door open and walked in, hand out as she felt for the light switch. Abyss gave a final glare and stalked in after her. He would concede, for now. As light flooded the room, making the girl blink, she made way for the pokemon to walk in. Personally, she was glad the Typhlosion had volunteered to carry the human himself - she just wasn't attuned to that kind of activity. She moved to close the door after the entry of the unusual guests, wondering for the millionth time what she had gotten herself into.

    Abyss never took kindly to be cooped in, and Nyx suspected the pokemon might well be the same. Their scuffed fur and hardened paws - at least in the case of the Typhlosion - led to the assumption of travel-accustomed pokemon. But secrecy was really such a big deal... She shook her head, running a hand through her damp, coarse hair. A wash was all she wanted right now, despite her fatigue. She should probably call in from work for tomorrow. But that was a issue for another day.

    Her house was rather small; the realization struck her as she noted how crowded it had suddenly become. Abyss was uncomfortably sticking by her side, shoulder brushing against her leg. The others were within arm's length, and not because they were trying to be. Her house had a distinct lack of doors, except at the doorway to the solitary bathroom, and she reached over, dropping her keys in a bowl kept on the kitchen counter. The presence of the hulking Typhlosion made the congested space seem all the more so, and she had to carefully sidestep them, taking off her shoes and leaving them to dry by the door. Her bed called, with all the allure of a good night's rest but she had other things to do first.

    Like tending to a wounded human. Marvelous. The job held no particular appeal to her, least of all in her dead-tired state. Flipping the bed covers back to reveal a spotless white linen, she looked around for any other space to place the comatose boy instead. She didn't own a couch, courtesy of a tight budget and having no visitors, but a flat platform was to be had. Resigning herself to the inevitable with a sigh, she padded over in uncomfortable wet socks to pull out a few old garments. She wasn't sure if the male's cut had stopped bleeding yet; she wasn't even sure if he was alive. Casting a look at the pale white face, she hoped she was right on both accounts.

    Spreading a few pieces on the bed, she moved the covers further back to prevent any sanguineous stains on them, and motioned for the Eruption pokemon to lay the man down there. Duly noting the immense stamina of the pokemon in carrying him thus far, she pottered around busily, searching for bandages and scissors. Abyss had haughtily stalked off to a corner of the room, where he sat sullenly. His coat had yet to be groomed out, and he was feeling most uncomfortable with all the dirt and grit in his fur. He shouldered his way past into the bathroom, where he would be cleaned out on especially muddy days - leading to him having rather poor opinions of the room. But he'd be damned if he displayed as much in front of these pokemon!

    (Keeping this short until we've decided on the layout~)
     
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  35. Hanzer took the steps very carefully, finding them tricky to maneuver in such a confined space with precious cargo resting unaware to the world around him in his arms. As he neared the top of the flight he sensed eyes upon him - a most uncomfortable feeling when you've been on the run for so long - and his crimson gaze rose to meet Nyx's, and then Abyss'. What were they looking at? He took a glance over his shoulder, and then huffed in quiet annoyance. Him, again. Of course. What could they be worried about now? Surely he had shown them immense patience antithetical to his elemental type. "Eruption Pokemon", they called his kind. Had he even once been so base as to attack them without provocation? He had done no such thing, and had thus failed to live up to his family name. Why were they still as skittish as Skitty, then? Surely the quicker they arrived at her domicile and treated the human Null, the quicker they would be out of her hair and the musty fur of her Pokemon.

    After what seemed like an age, the girl turned the key in the lock to her apartment and stepped inside. Hanzer allowed the giddy Flaaffy to enter the home first, its tail bulb flashing with excitement. He took the last few heavy steps, long claws tapping on the tile as he moved into yet another confined space. This was almost as bad as his Pokeball, he thought with a look around. He had to squeeze through the doorway, drawing in his shoulders and almost doubling Null over with that movement to get through the entryway. The apartment wasn't much to look at; little more than his human's dorm-type room back at Rocket HQ. This place at least had its own kitchen, no matter how small. He paid no particular attention to the singular door leading to the bathroom, however, as he preferred the comfort of outdoors for those personal matters, and certainly wouldn't be going anywhere near such sources of water.

    Lambo bounced around the room looking from this to that, expending the very last of his energy. Once Nyx had pulled back the sheets to her bed and covered them with something protective, the Flaaffy settled down in a corner of the sleeping area, its heavy eyelids drooping shut. This place was warm and away from the wind and weather. It smelled just like his new friends, and the possibility of food. He had no qualms about the size - after all, the sheep-like creature seemed to have no recognition of personal boundaries whether his own or that of another's. Settled in, his wool ruff fluffed out in a comfortable pillow, he sleepily watched the goings on between the girl and the fire-type, every once in a while casting a longing gaze at his unconscious human.

    Once the girl motioned that the makeshift covers on the bed were to her satisfaction, Hanzer pushed his way into that crowded space and gently lay the injured trainer down on the proffered apparel. The Typhlosion's arms were stiff from keeping them in that bent position for so long, and the sudden lack of weight across his limbs felt like he was missing a part of himself. Sandwiched between the bed and the wall, Hanzer knelt down with his broad head resting on the mattress and peered at the center of the dark blood stain on Null's tattered shirts. The wound seemed to have stopped bleeding, if only because it had grafted itself to the soaked fabric that now clung to it. The large Pokemon held out one long digging claw and carefully picked at the shirt to see just how stuck it was. His action was rewarded with the shirt peeling away ever so slightly with the gooey sensation of something half-glued on. A thick, dark drop of blood appeared where the shirt had been stuck to Null's skin, showing that underneath the cloth the wound was still primed to bleed.

    Hanzer cast a long glance at the face of his human, concerned that he had caused the boy some pain. But, almost to his disappointment, Null remained as comatose as ever. With a soft sigh that was more exhaustion than anything else, the fire-type got to his feet again and gently rolled his trainer on his side, wound-up, and held him there to give Nyx better access as she approached with the bandages. Hopefully she knew what she was doing, because he had no clue. A flash of black and white across the room signaled his rival getting up and going into the accursed water room. That was fine with Hanzer. Let the things he hated stay together. They would make good bedfellows, as long as one didn't learn how to use the other against him.
     
  36. It was only when Nyx looked down at the desolate collection of medical equipment in her arms that she realized how ill-equipped she was to handle any kind of emergency. Lacking in both materials and surgical knowledge, she could very well be doing more harm than good, for all she knew. And yet... she cast a look over the Typhlosion carefully peeling back the shirt to inspect the wound, and bit her lip. She owed him this much. Did she owe him? She screwed her eyes shut, tight, as though trying to remember, willing away what was quickly blossoming into the beginnings of a headache. While drier than her previous sodden state, she still felt uncomfortable - as wet clothes did - and couldn't help but shudder as she thought of all the unsavoury microbes that may have made their way into her system.

    And if they could invade her, a healthy, uninjured person, the poor boy had the short end of the stick - yet again. Hastily clearing the table at the foot of the bed of its possessions, she set down her precious, sparse collection. A bowl - soon to be filled with hot water - , a clean white towel, scissors, the only bandages she could find (the fact that they were old and not non-stick concerned her) and, should she need them, a thread and needle. She had internally struggled over the last bit for a while - she didn't know how big or how bad the wound was, but anything over a few centimeters needed stitches; she glanced at the Typhlosion again; preferably from a trained medical personnel.

    She couldn't do much for him except wash, dry and disinfect the wound - with the scarce offerings she had, she had managed to dig up some antibacterial cream, but that was all. She could go over in the morning and find a shop that sold rubbing alcohol, for better disinfection, but for now, that was all she had on immediate demand. Infection would invariably lead to fever, or worse, gangrene - she would have to watch out for both, for she knew that illnesses borne of infection spread like wildfire. The only critical concern the male currently had was of bleeding out, but fever could kill him just as easily. Tonight may not be a tipping point as regards his health, but it very well could turn out to be.

    She had never stitched a wound before. It worried her. Injuries were common on the farm back home - getting kicked by a Ponyta or bitten by the stray pokemon, cutting yourself on the tools or even poisoning yourself by picking the wrong herbs. She had once watched her mom stitch a particularly bad cut on someone's leg - she couldn't remember anymore - for all of a minute and a half. What she did remember was quickly turning green and more importantly, turning away. She didn't even have any oral antibiotics to provide, but by the looks of the comatose male, he wasn't in any particular state to ingest them.

    The ping of the kettle broke her out of her reverie, and she hurried over, almost forgetting the bowl. The heavy porcelain vessel waxed heavier with each step, and Nyx found herself with a death grip on the container, even after it began heating up with the warm water. Dipping a finger in confirmed it was rather hot, but not scalding. Heat was good. She pursed her lips and turned back, frustration bubbling beneath at feeling so particularly...brain-dead.

    Well, two vegetables wouldn't do anyone any good. Only when she dipped the towel in did she realize she could've asked for the Typhlosion to warm the water up. Well. Maybe she should stop spending so much time wondering over spilt milk and get a move on. She had watched the Fire type pull the shirt away, with some offered resistance, but first hand experience was different altogether. Easing the cloth away slowly, she physically felt the shirt slowly unsticking itself from the boy's body, and felt her stomach squirm uncomfortably. When was the last time she'd eaten? She wouldn't throw up, would she? Swallowing back the queasy nausea, she persisted at parting the cloth at a snail's pace. And so she knew it wasn't a good sign when blood began flowing before she was completely done.

    What would be better? Washing the whole wound at once seemed to be the best option here, but should she persist in pulling away the shirt while letting it bleed or ripping the shirt away at once? Haste makes waste. Pulling the cloth away harshly could tear away any layer of natural healing the body had already formed. The blood had begun clotting, but the wound was big enough to throw out a few of the clots as well. Oh hell.

    Nyx, like most girls, was no stranger to blood, but dealing with someone else's didn't make it any easier for her. Holding the towel to the wound until it was a squelchy wodge of cloth, she persevered with the assured knowledge that the bond of blood (hmm, blood bond, how ironic) would part, sooner or later. It always did, even dried blood. And so, it was with a small, warm sensation of satisfaction that Nyx finally felt the cloth give way. Of course, with it came the unwelcome gush of blood, but Nyx was ready.

    The water ran red the first time she wrung out the towel, releasing the sharp smell of iron in the air. Abyss stirred uneasily in the bathroom, his claws clicking against the ceramic sides of the bathtub - he was a predator after all, and you never really forget the smell of blood. The more she cleaned of the wound, the more she could see of it. She didn't know what had caused it - a rock, a tree, some glass, a pokemon's attack - but whatever it was, she hoped it hadn't left any debris inside the gaping slash. She inched the shirt a little higher, which reluctantly fell away to reveal the male's lower abdomen. Despite herself, she found herself glancing at the man's stomach, flat and muscular. The only other male in her life had been her father, a hard-working man with rough fingers and a portly belly, so the contrast and the novelty of a body so different to hers caught her attention almost immediately.

    Before reason caught up and she quickly averted her eyes, blushing furiously while half-heartedly mumbling something about wandering eyes, as something of an excuse to any who may have caught her moment of awkwardness. She set back to her work, swallowing her embarrassment to continue gently swabbing the male's wound. When it would begin clotting - for it would begin clotting, it had to... - he'd be confined to the bed to prevent breaking of the wound, even through the protection of a bandage. But for now, Nyx battled against the steady flow of blood, hand inching towards his to take note of a pulse.

    (Waa, I don't have much of an idea of how his wound is, really. Feel free to describe it a little further, since she should get around to bandaging it by next post. Poor Null, though~ v.v')
     
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  37. In the darkest shadows of Null's mind, he awoke. There was nothing to see but the blackness that consumed him, yet he had the awful feeling of being watched. He turned first to his right, then to the left, then spun 180 degrees. Still nothing, and in the complete absence of light and sound, he was lost. Something constricted in his throat, kept him from calling out and asking for anyone there. He sensed, however, that was a blessing in disguise. He had a strange feeling that he was being hunted, and if he made even the slightest noise then his pursuer would be on top of him before he had the chance to defend himself.

    He turned once more and his heart leapt violently in his chest, sending his blood pressure rocketing and the ba-dump sound of the muscle ricocheting around in between his ears as if it had taken the place of his brain. There, a few feet in front of him where previously there had been nothing but the swallowing darkness, stood a mirror image copy of himself.
    "We've been looking for you, Null," the copy said with a faint hint of a smile.
    The original reached instinctively for the Pokeballs on the belt at his waist, but was found wanting. His support was gone, absorbed into the yawning black abyss he found himself in. No Hanzer, no Lambo.
    "You've done a good job hiding, better than we ever had expected of you," the copy continued to speak, now folding his hands behind his back and beginning to pace around the original in a wide circle. It was then Null began to recognize the subtle differences in their appearance.

    The copy had faint lines and creases in his face around his mouth, giving him the look of a man about twenty years older but still youthful, handsome. He was slightly shorter in stature, broader in the shoulders and with a more compact torso. The nail in the coffin for Null's recognition, however, was the copy's eyes. Unlike his own blue orb, the doppelganger had eyes just as luminous but in an eerie orange. In a way, they almost glowed with hypnotic intent. A look he knew all to well. Null wasn't facing himself, but his father. Alabastor Gauvain.

    The elder chuckled softly as recognition dawned on his son's features, standing still now that he was behind the tall youth. "Poor boy, you must be exhausted. No need to worry - we're onto your scent now. She is on your trail. You'll be home soon."

    Null's heart pounded once, twice in his chest before he was able to unfreeze himself from his spot, whipping around to face his father - but the apparition had disappeared just as easily as it arrived. Somewhere above him there was the cackling sound of dark laughter, and then a pair of eyes and a wild, Cheshire smile appeared out of the black before vanishing again. It was Bordeaux, his father's Gengar. Together they had used her Dream Eater move to enter his unconscious mind and attack him the best way they knew how. Null sunk to his knees with a shuddering breath, bracing himself with his hands pressed against the inky black ground. Bordeaux would have no idea where Null was from the dream, as the dreamscape had no parallel to the physical world, but the message had sunk home nonetheless. He was being hunted by his own family, and his carelessness had put them on his trail.

    ---

    Seconds before Null awoke, Lambo scrambled to his feet with a bleat to alert his companions of the coming change and he quickly forced himself into the crowded space already occupied by Nyx and Hanzer. The Flaaffy had been dozing in the corner, quick to succumb to his sleepiness, but a slight change in the electrical activity of his human's body was all it took to let him know what was coming.

    Null's eyes shot open, the blue of his left eye glowing with electric intent before he killed its startup process and it died back to its dull, non-receptive colour. The hand Nyx had been reaching toward his to check his pulse (which was now racing) was grabbed by the wrist in his own and the adrenaline from his subconscious dream rocketed him into a sitting position and almost off the bed altogether.
    "Hanzer!" Null's voice was dry and cracked from the past couple hours of disuse, but the alarm in his tone rang clear. It was obvious for those first few moments that he had no understanding of where he was, or what had happened.

    Then, as quickly as that burst of energy had come to him, it rapidly depleted. Any colour left in his face drained just as rapidly and the strong grasp he had on Nyx's wrist relented to a shadow of itself. Hanzer let out a small "wuf" of alarm and quickly grabbed his trainer by the tattered rags of his shirt, preventing him from falling back onto the bed all at once and instead laying him against the makeshift sheets gently. Null's eyes were closed, but he had not succumbed again to his unconsciousness. Rather he lay for a moment letting his mind sort reality from dream and recall the events of the whole evening, which felt like it had happened years ago, his breath shallow once more.

    His side ached and throbbed, and every once in a while there was a pain that shot all the way down into his toes. When he finally pulled his hand away from Nyx's it was to investigate that pain, and he opened his eyes once more to find his fingers slick with blood. "Where is this place?" he managed finally, looking at the faces crowded by the bedside. He didn't recognize the location at all, but seeing both Lambo and Hanzer there gave him much comfort. "What are you doing to me?" the second question was directed at Nyx, his history with waking up in strange places leading his befuddled mind to assume she had been the cause of the wound. (In a small way, that wasn't entirely inaccurate. The wound had been inflicted on their trip down the river, caused by the perilous state the girl had been in amongst the volley of attacks from the angry mob of villagers. A large branch had been captured against a set of rocks and scraped against his side as the river threw him into it, leaving a gash about four inches long. It was about a half inch deep at the lowest portion, tapering up and becoming much more shallow and superficial along his ribs.)
     
  38. Turning to curiously glance at the sheep that had suddenly jumped to its feet didn't exactly do her any favours.

    Nyx's heart jumped to her throat as the hand she reached for violently grabbed hers in what felt like a death grip at the moment, but in hindsight hadn't been that bad...or terrifying. For a fleeting moment, hope sank as the man's motions drove her mind to (rather senselessly) draw a parallel to rigor mortis, but the dread soon settled as she wrapped her head further around the scenario. He was alive. Alive and amazingly conscious. Not dead. Stifling the strange relief she felt rising, she stared blankly at the male, body tense in reflex and trepidation. The first words to escape him was that name, that name again. Hanzer.

    It was a pitiful sight; this boy no older than her who found himself in unfamiliar surroundings, understandably frightened, reaching out for the only source of comfort he had. His pokemon. What about his family? Didn't he have a home to return to? His cry had attracted Abyss' attention, who was making loud chinks in the bathroom as his claws clicked against the tub. The facility was just about large enough to hold him, and while she was concerned about what would happen when he grew older, he had still managed to trap himself in there somehow; probably entered so that he was facing the wall and faucet.

    Her mind still taking a while to catch up to the implications of the sudden turn of events, Nyx focused on breathing quietly to calm herself down. Her blood pressure was going through the roof, her heartbeat keeping pace with the male's. The wild look of fright in his eyes made him look so much like a cornered animal that she almost felt sorry for him; yet at the same time, her eyes flickered to his own- no, not his. It was hers. Her precious. The mere glimpse of her object of desire so close at hand, devoured her rational mind for a second, and greed and anger rose to her face. Suddenly all she felt was apathy for the male...and yet it subsided as quickly as it had flared. No sudden movements would probably in both their best intents, if she was to keep this male calm.

    The Typhlosion - Hanzer? she found herself wondering for the second time since their little adventure - was by the boy's side, towering over the frail porcelain male, and yet holding him so tenderly. Her gaze drifted down to the pale hand clutching her wrist - it was slender, almost skeletal. Every bit as delicate as the rest of the human attached to it. His grip has since relaxed, but she still dropped the towel in the bowl with a quiet splash, moving to loosen the grip; the contact made her rather uncomfortable. As she tried subtly scraping his fingers off, she dimly noted he had begun to speak... -to her.

    He was staring at his free hand, now covered in his own blood. He'd touched his wound, possibly to find out what felt as bad as it looked, and she bit her lip, hurriedly reaching for the bowl. She contemplated for a while before wringing out the cloth and wiping his side with it again - perhaps with a bit of unnecessary vigour. "Where is this place? ...What are you doing to me?" Nyx flinched, drawing deep breaths again. The accusation in the tone made her bristle with indignation - well! Not like she was saving his life or anything. He's disoriented, she reminded herself. He needs answers, she reasoned. Fatigue kept most of the snap out of her voice, but as always, as she turned her face to look up at him, she found herself at a loss for words again.

    "I, er, um..." She began, "Well, I, uh-" She glanced back and forth between the man and his pokemon; somebody help her out? Her hesitation would've served to only make her seem guiltier... of what? He had known he was injured before he fainted; so surely reason said she was helping him? It was clear he wasn't restrained either. The silence weighed heavier as she struggled to get words out - again. Not for the first time. Yes. This had happened by the lakeside too, hadn't it? Scrabbling sounds continued to emanate from the bathroom, gradually growing softer, implying Abyss was resorting to different tactics to struggle his way out of the bathtub. A lightbulb slowly flickered in Nyx's mind somewhere. He needed an answer, didn't he? What was she to say? 'Helping'? That made her cringe even before she'd said it. Maybe she was helping - maybe she wasn't. Either way, it was clear he didn't see it that way, and if her actions didn't convince him, would her words?

    "It's, um, my house. Don't move," she finally managed, speaking quickly, quickly reverting both attention and gaze to the wound she was nursing, persisting in wiping away the blood. She hadn't even had a decent look at the wound yet. The sounds in the bathroom had stopped, and she thought she heard Abyss whine. The clock read half past midnight - high time for her to sleep, but the prospect was looking increasingly unlikely.
     
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  39. As Null's eyes closed again and he sank back into the bed, he missed the spark of greed and indignation that flashed across Nyx's face at the sight of the Eye. He remained completely clueless to the fact that she might pose just as much danger to him as anyone from Team Rocket. If her organization found out he was here, especially in his weakened state, he would be hauled off as a thief. Or the girl could decide to perform the operation herself right here, right now, and rip the machine from his skull. He never would have thought it possible of her, but if he had been able to see that look in her eye...

    Null's body was weak, cold, broken. But his spirit remained as healthy and vigorous as ever. The knowledge of his wound and the fact that his family was actively hunting him down, for the sake of Team Rocket, posed a significant roadblock but it wouldn't stop him from his dream of being free from it all. He was determined at all costs to remain liberated, or to die trying if that was necessary. It might not be fair to his other Pokemon, but he knew Hanzer at least felt the same way.

    Lambo had jumped up onto the bed and snuggled in next to his trainer, between him and the large window. He gave off soothing pulses of electricity to assuage the human's pain like a living, breathing TENS unit. Even while he worked to comfort Null, however, he kept his dreamy-eyed gaze on Nyx, watching her every move as closely as a young child did its mother.

    After a moment of slowly recognizing his situation and recalling the events of the past several hours (minus those he had been unconscious for, of course), the young man became vaguely aware of the woman's fingers scrabbling at his own. He wasn't sure when he had first taken her arm, or why, but with a sudden flush of embarrassment he quickly let go again, smoothing his fingers instead against the bedsheets as this other trainer - the same one who had cornered him in the bakery, the same one who had chased them through the forest, and the same one who had hauled his unconscious form out of the lake - now struggled for words. Again. This vocal fumbling was the most familiar thing about her.

    Hanzer simply watched Nyx as she struggled to locate some phrase of explanation that always seemed to be so elusive to her. He had an expectant look on his features, almost curious, as if watching her grapple with language amused him. Of course, he offered no help whatsoever. Temporarily, his ears flicked in the direction of the bathroom at the foot of the bed, wishing that horrible canine would stop making those annoying clacking noises on the floor of the bathtub. So much for being a stealthy dark-type Pokemon. Any Pokemon in a mile radius was sure to hear that commotion.

    Just when Null was beginning to wonder again if the girl really had been suddenly struck mute, she offered a rapid two-sentence response that was just as brief as it was to the point. He was about to question why he shouldn't be moving when she pressed the cloth against his wound, sending another shot of pain up his side and into his cerebral cortex. He winced and sucked in a breath between his teeth, but thankfully the pulsing electric waves from Lambo helped quickly dull the ache.
    "This is your house?" He asked rhetorically when he finally caught his breath again, glancing first up at her as she pulled the cloth away, then beyond her to the room that lay at her back. It was... small. Snug. Very functional. Not unlike the barracks he lived in at Rocket HQ, but a little more well-kept and more brightly lit, even in the middle of the night.

    His mind was still foggy, but he had the gift of six months' survival experience on his side and knew how to let urgency and instinct take over when needed. They wouldn't be safe in this small apartment for long. ("They"? Why was he thinking of "they"? He realized that he hadn't meant his Pokemon. Who else was included in this "they"?) Null looked down again at the wound now that it was clean, and gave a small grimace. He had noticed the bandages she had brought and knew that waiting for the wound to heal would not be an option. It would take weeks, maybe longer, for something that deep to mend enough so he wouldn't rip it open again on the road. That was weeks he didn't have, unless he wanted to just sit around and wait for Team Rocket to find him. "We'll have to cauterize it," he told her as she persisted to clean away blood that would not stop flowing, meeting her gaze.
    Hanzer gave a noise of disgruntled approval, recognizing that this wasn't the most ideal solution, but it was the most practical. They could cauterize the wound, get some food into his poor, starving human, and then be on their way again. Hopefully, this time, they could leave the girl and that blasted Absol behind. In Hanzer's "they", there was only he, his human, and his human's assorted Pokemon. Maybe they could even leave Lambo behind with the girl, since the two seemed to get along so well.
     
  40. If she thought being damp and grumpy in the dead of night was uncomfortable, Nyx had clearly not socialized for a while. Her drying hair had grown coarse from the particulate matter of the river, and Abyss' fur would've crusted up to a most disagreeable mess. And yet here she was, elbow deep (alright, not literally, but it didn't feel much better) in someone's blood, an injury she was more or less obliged to see healed. Or so she thought, until he proved her wrong.

    Blissfully unaware of the Flaaffy's gaze upon her, of the dilemma the boy struggled with, hunted for blood and tech, of the perverse amusement the Typhlosion she had so admired took in her social shortcomings, Nyx grimly hung at the boy's side, single-mindedly going through the motions of cleaning out the wound as her mind raced. It was clear her thoughts kept returning to the prospect of abandoning her pursuits and sleeping, to the situation at hand (which she'd more or less accepted as a hopeless case; she couldn't understand her own self) and to the potentials of tomorrow. Struggling to organize her thoughts and think linearly, logic seemed as elusive to her as the comforts of sleep.

    Noting the quiet question of 'This is your house?' and ignoring it, her gaze rose to rest on his face for a second before she shyly dropped it again. The blood wouldn't stop flowing and she was weighing her options of either applying pressure until it did or simply sewing it up as the male spoke again. This time with a suggestion of cauterizing the wound. She looked up again, this time in surprise and a small amount of shock. Her breath hitched; this was the same idea she had considered back at the riverside, but somehow now the idea seemed less appealing than ever.

    She let the silence settle after the male's words, thoughtfully gazing down at the wound. It was true that it was large, and deep, but not worryingly so, and burning it shut might have more cons to it than pros. Digging up what limited information she had regarding this certain branch of medical attention, she pursed her lips, internally debating about the sense of it all. This time, her response came quicker, information easily flowing into a narrative.

    "A wound cauterization would make that side stiff forever. And it'll stop the bleeding for now, but it'll raise the chances of infection. Burning a clean wound shut leaves dead tissue inside, impaired circulation and an environment for bacteria to thrive. You'd also have to drain the infected liquid collecting under your skin," She paused to take a breath here, quickening the pace of her speech, "which would have to be done professionally. Your nerve endings will turn raw," she squinted, trying to simulate a burn wound, "and almost certainly turn gangrenous. Which also would need to be burnt away." There! So many reasons why that was a bad idea. Quite the debate victory.

    She paused again, taking the time to steady her breathing, her heartbeat having picked up at the queerest of times. Perhaps it was the fact that she was lecturing this poor boy who didn't want to hear it, or the fact that she believed she was actively communicating, helping. Either way, she weighed her options, snatching a glimpse of the bandages by her side out of the corner of her eye. "I'd say stitching it would be better." While she had managed to say so with an air of bravado, her clenched fists drew closer to her chest; she secretly hoped he wouldn't agree. Terrible memories appeared in flashes, as best as her memory could serve, and the sewing operation wasn't something she was particularly looking forward to. She hesitantly turned her face to the suture materials she had laid out - just in case. Which, in hindsight, wasn't her brightest idea.
     
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