x1 Green Apricorn
Golden rays pierced through the scattered branches above, the soft midday breeze blowing through the forest while the two travelers tried to not to fall, their legs tired from running in half an hour a distance that they should have walked in three. Luna was the first to kneel down, fighting the urge to throw up a breakfast she hadn’t even eaten.
”And that…” She muttered, taking long and heavy breaths. ”Is why we don’t go to the Valley...”
Josh panted, bent over as he looked at Luna. His red hair was matted, clinging to his face as he fanned his face with his hat. “Still, I’d…” His voice trailed off as he caught his breath. “I’d love to go see that windmill again.”
The young woman rolled over her back, staring at the bright sky while gasping for air. ”Sure... why not?” She chuckled, feeling light as the sky seemed to slowly turn to the side. ”I can always add another near-death experience to my CV...” With all the strength left in her body, Luna managed to balance herself back to a sitting position. ”So… how is your first week in Godai going? Having fun?”
Josh glared openly at her. ”Nobody has used an electrode to try to blow up a building. So I’d say going well so far.”
”Just give it some time.” She waved it off with a little smile.
Once her lungs stopped aching and the wasn’t spinning anymore, Luna decided it was time to stand up and keep walking. It wasn’t until that moment that she noticed the sharp pain running through her right hand, with her mind still a little clouded with adrenaline, she had troubles pinpointing the memory linked to the dark smudge on blood and dirt in her palm.
”Oh…” She muttered, scrunching up her nose at the ugly and already closed wound. ”Dammit…”
Josh stopped fanning himself to look at her. One eyebrow rose slightly as he looked at her with concern. “Everything alright?”
”Yeah…” She answered, looking inside her bag. ”I just need to reopen the wound to clean it, no biggie.” Her voice was as reassuring as possible, though the knife she pulled out looked oddly out of place in her small hands.
As expected, she was having problems using her non-dominant hand.
Josh frowned as he watched her, trying to figure out what she was doing. He shrugged as she fumbled with the knife, tilting his head. ”If you say so… Do you need help?” He asked, fighting an urge to wince as it looked like she was trying to take a finger off.
”Oh, no, don’t worry!” She was quick to answer, almost stabbing her hand again. ”I’m used to this!”
She didn’t make a sound while working, flinching every now and then yet managing to stay completely silent through the whole process while Josh just stared, almost expecting her to lose a finger every time she moved the knife. It took a long, awkward silence worth of time until she finally got to the skin, the wound open and bleeding once again.
”See, easy!” She smiled, showing him her wound with more proud than necessary.
”Yeah…” Josh said, purposefully avoiding looking at the wound. He waited for her to finish bandaging it as he shifted uncomfortably on his feet. Trying to keep his mind occupied, he started rummaging around in his pockets, trying to figure out how he wanted his pokeballs.
It bothered him that he had so many. He’d never wanted to be a trainer, though he knew much of the basic principles. It seemed more of a lifestyle suited to other people, and he’d gone from one pokemon which gave him headaches to several new ones, each with their own issues. Part of him wondered if he could just give them away, there had to be someone who wanted them more than he did.
However, he was only able to stay in Godai due to the Trainer Initiative. How long could he go without looking like he was at least trying? The grace period for progress couldn’t be unlimited. It was highly likely that any long-term plans would have to involve getting a gym badge.
”That should do!” Luna's voice interrupted his thoughts. She was done patching her hand and changing the bandage on her foot. ”I don’t think it will need stitching, though I can't be sure. But I suck at stitching wounds, anyway.” She kept on talking, taking a couple of steps to test her injured foot.”Oh, by the way, I didn’t want to use water to clean the wound, since we don't have a lot, so I kinda used most of the rubbing alcohol. So, try not to get too hurt your-” Luna stopped mid-sentence, finally looking up at him. She tilted her head to the side and the tone of her voice changed completely. ”What's wrong?”
Josh shook his head. He realized he’d been standing there with two pokeballs just held out in his hands, blank look on his face. ”I’m fine. I think we’re safe, so why don’t we rest and give everybody some food?” He hastily stuffed the pokeballs into an interior pocket on his duster, hoping Luna wouldn’t point out he’d just suggested letting the pokemon free for a little bit.
And of course she was going to do right that.
”Are you… are you being nice… to the pokemon?” She asked with exaggerated surprise, before cutting the distance between them and putting a hand on his forehead. ”Do you feel okay? Are you running a fever?” She jokingly asked in between little giggles.
Josh’s eyes narrowed. ”Just because they annoy me doesn’t mean I can’t be grateful for their assistance.” His tone was colder than he meant, and he couldn’t help but wonder why he was defending his actions.
Luna’s eyes opened with surprise, her hand falling slowly as she stared up at him. ”My…” She whispered, almost like she was talking to herself. ”I hadn’t noticed… but you really look cute when you’re trying to be mean.” And, without waiting for an answer, she turned around and kept walking, muttering about things she needed to add to her Research Journal.
Josh frowned, making sure to avoid her gaze as he continued walking. The forest was relatively silent until they reached a small campsite set aside for travelers, and he sat on a log, relishing in the chance to relax for a little bit. He dug through his pockets, completely forgetting where he’d put the new pokeballs, and ending up turning out the contents of most of his pockets before finding what he was looking for.
The Murkrow and Grubbin were in bad shape. He set aside a little bit of kibble for them, then turned his attention to the other pokemon on his team. Bounsweet lacked the general energy she’d had for most of the journey, but her wounds had started to heal. Gabby, an energetic Rhyhorn that was as dangerous as she was friendly, was currently trying to get the small grass type to play with her, while the enigmatic Frillish merely observed.
”Gabby, don’t harass Bounsweet.” Josh ordered. His command earned him a quizzical look, and the rock type started investigating a fallen log, nearly knocking it into a ditch as she rubbed it with her nose.
Luna just looked from the side in silence, mimicking his actions as she pulled her own pokemon out for a quick inspection. Sensei, her new Oricorio, was as colorful and energetic as one would expect from a dancing bird. Midnight was fine too, tired after battling and with his Hoothoot instincts calling for him to get some sleep, but fine. Minior’s pokeball went back to her bag almost instantly, as Luna tried to avoid thinking about the poor creature’s situation, repeating to herself that everything would be fine as soon as they reached the Pokemon Center.
Now, the problem was the other two…
”... Sunrise?” She tried to call the Farfetch'd, who just opened an eye and stared at the empty space behind her. Shaking her head, Luna let out a sigh, ”No Sunrise until we reach the town, I guess…” She put the confused duck beside Midnight and left the two birds to cuddle together, before changing her attention to the little bat in front of her. ”Now…” She held the knocked-out Noibat up. ”... what am I going to do with you?”
She shook her softly, trying to not be too hard on the little bat but still wanting for her to wake up.
That was her first mistake.
”NYA!” The Noibat screamed, furiously flying straight to her chest and clinging to Luna’s sweater with all four tiny claws.
”Wonderful. Does it always do that?” Josh asked, trying to get the Murkrow to eat. She looked terrible, with several broken or torn feathers making it look like she’d been beaten up. It took him a moment to realize that she had.
Luna just shrugged, trying to pry the little bat away yet only managing to open bigger holes in her already beaten down green sweater. Parts of pale skin and black cloth were starting to appear underneath it.
”Dude, seriously, let go already!” She complained, but the Noibat just held tighter to her, nuzzling against her chest with all the excitement of a newly adopted puppy. ”I am not your mother!”
It wasn’t until Gabby entered her field of vision that the Noibat finally left go of Luna’s sweater, instead softly pulling her hair in the Rhyhorn’s direction. “Look at me!”, said her big yellow eyes, “Look what I can do!”. Before Luna could say something, the little bat had already jumped from her shoulder, attempting to dive at Gabby. The young woman could do nothing to stop Noibat from crashing head first against the solid mass of rock that was the Rhyhorn’s leg.
”... but why, though?” She asked out loud, as she got closer to inspect the little creature.
Before she could touch her, the Noibat was up again, pretending that embarrassing attempt of an attack hadn’t happened.
”Orya!” She screamed again, trying to scratch Gabby’s thick skin and turning to look at Luna with an out of place pride for someone that wasn’t getting anywhere.
Luna just stared, understanding even less every second that passed.
”... why are you doing this?” She asked the little creature. ”Are you trying to impress me? Is this some kind of courtship or mating ritual?” She kneeled down beside the bat, trying to be as close to her height as possible. ”You can’t do that, I’m not even your same species.”
Josh just snorted. Gabby didn’t seem to be hurt by the pokemon’s attempts to attack it, so he didn’t give it too much attention.
”Orya!” Noibat cried again, annoyed at how the girl wasn’t understanding her very clear message. Without sparing another second, she dived towards Luna’s bag and held a pokeball above her head. ”Nya!” She screamed, before throwing the sphere in the general direction of the resting Murkrow.
This time, Luna understood the message loud and clear.
The girl made no sound as she fell to her knees, her ears burning red as she tried to hide her face inside her sweater, memories of the battle with Murkrow coming back to haunt her.
It just had to be that moment.
Josh just stared as the Murkrow started screeching itself and rustling its feathers in an agitated manner. ”What on earth is all this about?”
Without looking up, Luna pointed a finger at the little bat. ”She liked it when I hit Murkrow in the face with Sunrise’s pokeball and called her out.” She muttered. ”With that kind of body language, I think that what she has been trying to say is ‘That was really cool! Please become my trainer!’”
Josh shrugged. ”Maybe you are destined to be a Falconer. Worst case scenario, you two can be a comedy show or something.” He said, a smile on his face.
”Well, I did write ‘fly’ on that ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ homework...” She whispered, looking up only to have the little bat cling to her sweater once again. ”But that’s not the point!” She exclaimed, falling backwards and covering her face with her hands while her ears turned red again. ”I’m not like that! I… I don’t do those things usually!” She tried to justify herself with any excuse she could find, before stopping to look at him. ”I don’t!” She cried out in a tiny, flustered voice, her face bright red with embarrassment only making her green eyes stand out more.
Josh coughed a little as he looked away, shifting his stance uncomfortably. He turned his attention to Grubbin and the Murkrow, the latter of which was watching Luna with a single eye. It turned that gaze on Josh, as if studying him.
”What do you want?” He demanded of the bird. It gave him another studying gaze, as if expecting something of him. It seemed to Josh that it was trying to figure out if he and Luna were together. Or, rather, were they both going to threaten and attack the small black bird for its previous actions.
Murkrow, let out a small caw, flapping her wings and gliding backwards a foot or two. She let out a louder caw, trying to put as much force as she could into it. It was almost as if the small bird was hoping that the noise would drive the bat back.
Josh turned as he heard a sound behind him, only to find Grubbin was trying to gouge the earth with its pincers. For a brief moment, Josh expected it to dig a hole, but the bug seemed content to just coat itself with dirt and hunker down.
Luna’s pokemon paid little attention to the scene, tired as they were, Midnight and Sunrise had already fallen asleep while her new Oricorio hid behind them, trying to figure out what kind of group he had just joined. The only one that seemed to care was Noibat, who turned to the side and screeched at Murkrow, jumping from Luna’s lap and standing tall in an attempt to look intimidating.
”You’re like a foot tall... what are you even trying to look like?” Luna asked, dumbfounded. ”... for starters, neither of you can fight! Just hold hands and go back to the Valley!”
”I don’t think they have hands…” Josh commented. He looked at the commotion and shook his head. ”Well, the good news is we’re going to release them, right?”
”First of all, bats do have hands. And second, I hope that at least you are planning to release that thing” She glared at the Murkrow. ”It tried to kidnap Midnight.”
Josh fought the urge to stare at her. ”I thought you said both?”
”If she wants to leave, she can leave” Luna said, pointing to Noibat. ”But that thing is not staying.”
Josh sighed. He turned to the Murkrow and held out the pokeball he’d carried it in. ”Alright, I guess you’re safe now, so I’m going to release you.” He started to hold out the ball.
“Kraw!” The bird replied, its tone full of anger. It knocked the ball aside and glared at Josh, then at Luna. Shaking its tail feathers, it purposefully settled on Josh’s shoulders as if in spite. The sharp talons would have gone through his shirt easily, and he was glad he was wearing the heavy oilskin coat.
He gave Luna an apologetic look and started pushing the ball towards Murkrow again. The bird rapped him with her beak, causing him to flinch, which caused her to grip his shoulder painfully.
The girl jumped in surprise, her anger quickly dissolving in worry. ”Hey!” She scolded the bird, holding it by the beak and trying to pry it out of Josh’s shoulder. ”Let go! You’re gonna hurt him!”
The Noibat was clinging to her sweater once again, screeching at the bird as she tried to scratch it, making the situation more complicated than it already was.
With a sigh, Josh took a step away from Luna, hoping that the creatures would calm down.
“Easy, if you two have to fight, don’t drag me into it!” He barked, though it didn’t seem to have much of an effect.
”Why can’t you two just calm down?!” Luna growled to both pokemon, oblivious to how the four were starting to tangle as the situation advanced. ”This is exactly why I don’t want kids…”
Things were starting to get out of control, between the feathers and claws it was difficult to calculate distances or see where they were standing. It was only a matter of time before another problem happened.
”Annoying piece of-” Luna never got to finish the sentence, as she tried to pull the Murkrow once again, her injured foot gave out and she fell backwards, pulling everyone along with her.
There was a squawk and a screech, followed by two small bodies taking flight as they fled. The Noibat and Murkrow had finally agreed on something, just in time for Luna to collide with something warm that smelled faintly like perfume. It was a familiar and sweet scent that she could still remember from their time in Acrelea.
”Ugh…” Josh groaned, his hands pushing against Luna as he tried to get her elbow away from his kidney.
”We really need to stop meeting like this…” She muttered against his chest, her face bright red as she tried to push him and put some distance between them. The lack of space was making her feel more uncomfortable than usual and the sweet smell was starting to cloud her head.
She couldn’t understand. The smell wasn’t really strong, yet she was getting dizzy, and though there was a soft breeze flowing through the forest, she felt suffocated, almost like she was running a fever.
“Luna!” She snapped at the sound of her name, surprised and confused in equal parts. Josh was almost shouting at her. “Are you alright? You’re kind of just laying there…”
”... what?” She could still feel her head spinning. It took her awhile, but after taking a breath of fresh air and blinking a lot she finally managed to pull herself together. ”Oh… oh, yeah, I’m fine, don’t worry…” She muttered, carefully standing up. Her legs felt unstable and she could swear that, for some unknown reason, there was a strange pressure on her chest.
As if by habit, she put two fingers on her neck and tried to read her heartbeat. She was no medic, but she was almost completely sure that it was a little faster than it should.
”... do I have a cold?” She asked to herself in a whisper, yet her symptoms had already started to disappear.
What a strange thing to happen.
Josh dusted his pants off after he stood. He looked at Luna, trying to figure out what was wrong. “You don’t look sick.” He offered. “I think you’re fine…”
Silence settled between them as Luna turned around to look at him with surprise.
He paled. “I mean you look fine!” He corrected himself. ”As in not sick. You don’t look like you’re sick.” He finally settled for a description after fighting with the words for a moment. That wasn’t the first time he messed up with the language since coming to Godai, but it was the most embarrassing one by far.
Luna just chuckled at his reaction, feeling her head light. ”Don’t worry, I understood.” She turned to look at the pokemon, giving Noibat and Murkrow a long stare. ”Now… what are we gonna do with these two?”
Josh shrugged. “I’m not sure. Ideas?” He shook his head. Dealing with stuff like this wasn’t his forte. He preferred books over creatures that spat fire.
”Just… just let it be.” Luna answered after a moment, tired. ”It’ll eventually get bored and go back to the Valley.”
”Yeah, sure.” He looked at the other pokemon, which were looking at the two of them with wide eyes. “Guess it's time to move on?”
They returned the pokemon to their pokeballs and, though Luna tried to leave her behind, the Noibat clung to her chest once again, opening more holes in her sweater. After trying to pull her proved to only worsen the situation of her poor sweater, Luna decided to just let her do whatever she wanted.
The sun was still high in the sky when they got to the main road of the forest.