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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 22
Chapter 22 - Tensions Rising
Roxy sat on a low branch in a tree in the middle of the village, twiddling her paws anxiously.
She could hear yelling.
Well, perhaps it couldn't really be called yelling as much as 'heated discussion', but nonetheless she could hear it despite how far she was from the wise ones' mound. She could hear them quite well. Even though she couldn't hear their words, it wasn't hard to imagine what words they were saying.
The wise ones weren't happy.
Roxy sighed, feeling a cool breeze pass over her. She was pretty down in the dumps. She was the one who had accidentally let it slip that she and Taka were going to leave, and yet Taka was the one they kept yelling at. No-one had said a single cross word to her. It made her feel guilty.
Taka, on the other paw, wasn't speaking a single word to her at all. Whenever they crossed paths, he would ignore her questions and just give her a disapproving glare. He was obviously upset with her, but it was so much wor
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 21
Chapter 21 - Class is in Session
"Anything?"
"No…"
"Are you sure?"
When Bamaka nodded in response, Roxy sighed and slumped her shoulders. "Don't worry about it," she told him, "You gave it a try."
Her old friend Bamaka was just one in a long line of Thunder Clan brethren who had tried and failed to learn the Grass Knot. As she had expected none of them could manage to pick up on the subtle energy that was needed to perform the move. It was just something she herself was familiar with and couldn't share.
"I will not give up," Bamaka told her, "I will try again later."
Roxy just groaned softly in frustration. This wasn't going as planned. No-one had even taken a step forward in learning the move. She was running out of Pokémon to try it on! Someone had to learn this, but she wasn't sure if anyone could.
It was at least a week, probably more, since Taka stated his intention to lead her to the forest's edge. Upon his request, she hadn't yet told anyone about the pl
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 20
Chapter 20 - Everything Changes
"Left! Right! Right again! Dodge!"
Roxy was sweating bullets while she did her best to adhere to Taka's directions. She held the spear tightly in her paws, keeping it always at the ready so she could fend off anything that came her way. She blocked, slashed and dodged away from the imaginary enemies called out by Taka.
"End!"
She let out a sigh of relief and relaxed. That had been tough, to be sure, but Roxy was smiling at the result. She had handled herself pretty well during that session.
"Good," Taka said. It was a compliment, even though it didn't really sound like one.
"Thanks, Taka," she said through her heavy panting. She sat down on a nearby log and fanned herself with her paw.
"Next round. Ready?"
Roxy shook her head. "No, no…Need to breathe…"
If Roxy had uttered such a response only a few short months ago, her teacher Taka would have berated her for being weak and forced her to get up and go anyway. Now, though, she di
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 19
Chapter 19 - Waking Up
Ugh…
Uuuuuughhh…
Roxy didn't want to wake up. She was just too tired. Must not have gotten enough sleep last night. She felt like a flat lump of pudding, completely incapable of movement. Would staying in bed forever really be that bad?
She was exhausted, she felt weak, and she had a terrible headache. All she wanted was for that blissful sleep to come back to her. She didn't want to wake up. Just five more minutes, or maybe five more hours. Laying down just felt so nice, and she wasn't entirely convinced that her muscles were functioning.
Roxy had to get up, though. Master didn't like it when Roxy was late for breakfast.
After she scrunched up her face in distress and groaned softly, Roxy cracked open one of her eyes. She then immediately decided that the waking world was too bright for her, and that she would rather sleep forever. Then she sighed and called herself ridiculous.
After squinting and blinking her eyes for a b
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 18
Chapter 18 - The  Invasion
"Miri, do you ever just sit sometimes and think about what life is all about?"
Roxy gazed over at the Audino sitting nearby, and saw that she hadn't quite expected that question.
"I…suppose so," Miri answered hesitantly, "I think it must be something that everybody thinks about at some point or another."
"Hm."
Roxy was sitting with Miri on one of the raised walkways between two of the village's treehouses. The former was sitting down, slumped to the side and lazily resting her head on the six-inch parapet that encircled edge of the walkway. The latter was sitting nearby in a more dignified position, idly weaving together something with vines.
"…Why do you ask?" Miri spoke up.
Roxy shrugged. She saw out the corner of her eye that Miri was frowning at her.
"Roxy, are you feeling all right? Is there something you want to talk about?"
The Pikachu simply breathed in through her nose and let out a long, drawn out sigh. "Not really
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 17
Chapter 17 - What Makes You Special?
It took three days for Roxy to get up and leave the hut for more than a couple of minutes.
She had spent that time lying uselessly in Makari's old hut, without the strength or energy to do anything. She spent every minute thinking about Makari, and every thought left her with a heavy pain in her heart. Miri stopped by twice a day to see how she was doing and to talk to her, and a few other villagers visited to give their condolences.
Finally, though, she was up on her paws and stepping through the doorway into the chilly winter air. Roxy had heard that time healed all wounds. She wasn't sure if that was completely true, because she still felt completely awful, but she did feel a little better.
Perhaps it was the thought that Makari was somewhere watching her, which was a thought that she had often. She realized how pathetic and sad she must have looked if he was indeed watching her. Roxy had no solid beliefs about life after dea
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 16
Chapter 16 - The Pain of Loss
Roxy found herself wandering despondently through the village. Her head held low and her tail dragging along the ground behind her, she walked without purpose or direction. She just felt completely aimless. Like a zombie Pokémon wandering the Earth, searching for something she couldn't remember.
Her spirits were low, maybe lower than they had ever been before. Honestly, she was amazed she could even make herself walk. She didn't want to think about the past because of how upsetting it was, she didn't want to think about the future because of how terrifying it was, but she also didn't want to think about the present because it just hurt too much.
So she wandered forward, as if in a daze, not caring where she ended up. Joyful memories filled her mind, tainted black with tar by the knowledge she would never be able to experience them again. That chapter of her life was over and gone forever, torn right out of the book, and she felt like she
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 15
Chapter 15 - Farewell
"They have not arrived yet…"
"Troubling indeed…"
Roxy glanced down from the raised walkway at the two Pokémon walking below. Karizu was speaking with a Pikachu she didn't know the name of, but it was clear that both of them were anxious about something.
Roxy sighed. She had lost track of time, but it had to be at least one month and a half into her 'exile', if not much, much more. It had been just over a week since the incident that had shaken her to the core. After a day of recovery, training with Taka had resumed, but that was all. No-one had asked her to join any more expeditions outside of the village. At least, not yet.
She had tried her best to come to terms with what had happened, and she was just now starting to feel okay with herself. The more she, unwillingly, thought back to the incident, the more and more she viewed it as a freak accident. If she had actually been brave enough to fight back against the Houndoom, she knew
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 14
Chapter 14 - The Power Within
Roxy hugged the warm blanket around herself like a cloak as she sat on the little bed. It covered her from head to toe, even covering up her face. She was shivering and whimpering, tears streaking down from her eyes. To her, this blanket was the only thing protecting her from the scary, dangerous world outside.
There was a loud BANG and Roxy cried out in terror. She scrunched herself up even more into a tightly-wound ball of stress. Everything around her was so terrifying. She wanted all of the scary things to just go away and leave her alone. This was way too much to handle.
Roxy had never been more terrified in her whole life. She felt sick. Fear had such a tight grip on her, that it felt like a ghostly claw had reached through her body and was squeezing her insides. It was hard to breathe, her stomach wouldn't sit still, and her heart wouldn't stop beating. She couldn't take much more of this.
She heard footsteps nearby, but she har
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 13
Chapter 13 - Excursion
It was astonishing.
Still, to this day, it was absolutely astonishing to Roxy. It was like living in a dream that never ended, though not one that was all bad. Three weeks had passed since the festival. Three whole weeks, and she was still here.
And she was still alive.
The sun rose, the bird Pokémon crowed, and Roxy was awake. She yawned, stretched her paws, and got out of bed, only to find that Makari had woken up earlier once again. A warm hug, a peck on the cheek, and Roxy walked over to the far side of the hut. Her collar was put on, the flower was put behind her ear, and Makari was back with breakfast.
It was so routine at this point. It felt familiar. It felt…normal.
Five minutes breakfast. That was all she could afford before Taka would be mad at her for being late. Breakfast with Makari was pleasant, and it made her smile. With food in her belly, she stepped out the door and made her way to the training area. Makari would
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 12
Chapter 12 - Racing Pulse
The early morning sunlight filtered through the vines covering the hut's door, and Roxy's eyes fluttered open. She yawned and brought up a paw to rub her eyes, trying to clear away the lingering feeling of sleepiness.
She smiled. Upon Roxy's face was a bright, genuine smile. It was the first time she could think of where she had woken up in this place with a smile.
Roxy's dreams had been sweet. Usually her slumber was plagued with nightmares or mournful dreams of her home and her master, but not this time. She was still trapped in this village, and she was still in a dangerous place, but right now she was waking up with a flock of Butterfree in her stomach.
The good kind of Butterfree in her stomach.
Roxy lazily rolled onto her back, feeling the brush of fur against her side. She turned her head and glanced to her right, still with a warm smile, and let out a happy sigh. She gazed fondly at the sleeping form of Makari, still with one of hi
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 11
Chapter 11 - The Marking Ceremony
"Nice of you to join us…"
Roxy shot the Pikachu a glance. "Taka, don't start…"
"She was sick, Taka," Makari retorted, "No-one can blame her for that."
Taka simply shrugged and walked off to the middle of the training area, ready to begin for the day.
Roxy let out her breath slowly, moving her joints about and stretching. Complete recovery from her illness had been a slow, week-long process. She had been saddled with congestion, mild fever and an upset stomach that didn't seem to go away. It had been pretty unpleasant, but nothing that she couldn't handle.
Especially since Makari continued to stay by her side while she got better.
Now she was feeling better, though this meant an immediate return to training. Roxy had enjoyed her brief vacation from the demanding Taka, but the downside was that she felt a little out of practice.
"We are going to spend half of the day going over everything you have learned so far," Taka an
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 10
Chapter 10 - Fever
A few days had passed since the visit of the Earth Tribe. On this particular morning, Roxy found herself waking up in tears.
She gasped in confusion for a moment, feeling the tears staining her fur. There was a hurt deep in her heart, and at first she didn't know why. After her eyes adjusted to the light and she saw that she was still in the safety of Makari's hut, it hit her. Memories of what she had just been dreaming about returned to her.
"Roxy…" Makari was at her side in an instant, laying a comforting paw across her shoulder.
The distraught Pikachu shivered and let the tears flow for a few moments. This was nothing new. It was almost routine at this point. Sleep was never pleasant because it was always filled with dreams of home. In those distant, fleeting moments of subconsciousness she was back at home, safe in the loving comfort of her master's arms.
To have that suddenly yanked away from her the moment she woke up was hard on her. Someti
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 9
Chapter 9 - Visitors
It was a relaxing day in the forest, something that was quite rare to Roxy.
She was seated on a small grassy knoll just off to the side of the village centre. She had a big Chesto Berry gripped in her paws, and a demure little smile on her face compliments of the one she had just finished eating. Sitting next to her was Miri, whom she'd met up with after the day's training.
To Roxy's shock and elation, she was actually starting to gain skills. She'd been training for more than a week at this point, but signs of progress could definitely be seen. She still had a long way to go when it came to using weapons, but she had started picking up skills in close-quarters combat and self-defence. She was even getting better at defending oncoming strikes with a stick or spear.
She sighed and gently leaned her head against Miri's much larger form. The atmosphere of the forest seemed different on this day. It seemed calm and serene, the perfect way to wind d
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 8
Chapter 8 - Stepping Up
Taka narrowed his gaze and simply said, "What?"
Roxy remained steadfast. "Please, train me to fight." She took a deep breath and then added, "I am ready to learn."
Once again, Taka arched an eyebrow. "Really?" he asked, "Is that so?"
Roxy nodded.
"Where is this coming from all of a sudden?"
She sighed and lowered the blunt spear. "You know I was attacked yesterday?"
"I do."
"It was very frightening," she spoke, "I went out into a dangerous place, let my guard down, and nearly paid for it with my life."
Taka scoffed, but Roxy ignored him.
"I guess I just realized how little choice I have in the matter. I don't know how I got here or why it happened, but I'm here. It's dangerous here. I…I might not be happy about it, but…this is something I need to do, isn't it?"
She glanced over at Taka. The warrior was giving her a scrutinizing gaze, but after a few moments of silence he didn't say a single word.
"Taka," Roxy continued, "I want t
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Literature
The Thunder Clan - 7
Chapter 7 - Enough
Morning arrived without any fanfare.
Roxy struggled to wrench open her eyes. She felt sluggish, worn out and utterly devoid of motivation to get up. Her whole body felt like it weighed twice as much as usual. She moaned quietly in aggravation. Her limbs felt too stiff to move.
The distressed little Pikachu sighed mournfully. It was another morning dawning on the hell that she was currently in. She wondered what she had to look forward to today, but none of the answers she thought of were any good. At least it sounded like it had stopped raining.
Roxy lethargically forced herself to sit up. She had no idea what time it was, but why would she? There were no digital clocks in this Arceus-forsaken place. She felt uncomfortable and brought up her paws to scratch her fur, discovering to her dismay that she was still coated in dried mud.
She sat there for a few moments like a lump on a log, trying to wake herself up. It was surprisingly difficult, despite what
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Please stop giving me llamas. I would much prefer you actually check out my work and either favourite, follow me, or (most preferably) leave a comment. Llamas mean nothing to me and I don't care about them, so if you actually do enjoy my work, please do something that actually shows it.

Thank you everyone.

Activity


Chapter 22 - Tensions Rising

Roxy sat on a low branch in a tree in the middle of the village, twiddling her paws anxiously.

She could hear yelling.

Well, perhaps it couldn't really be called yelling as much as 'heated discussion', but nonetheless she could hear it despite how far she was from the wise ones' mound. She could hear them quite well. Even though she couldn't hear their words, it wasn't hard to imagine what words they were saying.

The wise ones weren't happy.

Roxy sighed, feeling a cool breeze pass over her. She was pretty down in the dumps. She was the one who had accidentally let it slip that she and Taka were going to leave, and yet Taka was the one they kept yelling at. No-one had said a single cross word to her. It made her feel guilty.

Taka, on the other paw, wasn't speaking a single word to her at all. Whenever they crossed paths, he would ignore her questions and just give her a disapproving glare. He was obviously upset with her, but it was so much worse because he didn't say anything. His anger seemed loudest when expressed in silence.

This was bound to happen sooner or later, after all. Roxy knew that they weren't going to just sneak out of the village randomly one day without telling anybody. The truth would have come out eventually, but Roxy had said it too early. She didn't pretend to understand the reasons Taka had for holding off on the reveal, but she had still dropped the ball.

Roxy closed her eyes and leaned against the tree's trunk, feeling low. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. Going home was supposed to be a moment of happiness and triumph. Instead, it seemed like the whole village was ticked off.

Karizu said something angrily in the distance. Natoka half-yelled something. It was usually Natoka that she could hear.

Roxy remembered this TV show her master used to watch about young human girls in school. In a few episodes, they had been sent to the principal's office to get yelled at for doing something wrong. Roxy felt like she was waiting outside the village's own principal's office, and yet she was never called in.

No-one was really talking to her, but then no-one was really being standoffish to her either. It seemed like the village as a whole didn't know how to feel about her leaving. Taka, however, she could tell that no-one wanted him to leave.

She had been listening to the wise ones argue with Taka for more than an hour at this point. That is, if it could even be called arguing. Roxy hadn't heard a word from Taka, though perhaps he was just speaking low enough that his voice didn't carry. Either way, she hadn't heard him shout.

Roxy let out a hollow sigh, wishing she could cheer herself up. A part of her wanted to go over and listen to what the wise ones and Taka were talking about, but instead she just continued to sit there and ruminate. She began to worry what would happen if Taka was prevented from leaving. Would someone else be able to get her out of the forest?

She was starting to feel run down. It just seemed like setback after setback, almost as if the universe wanted to keep her there in the village for some reason. Roxy had lost track of how long she'd been lost in the forest, but she knew two whole seasons had passed. She dismally wondered if she would still be in the forest by the time it saw snow once more.

Her ears perked up as the voices began to grow louder. Was the arguing getting even worse? As she turned her head around to look behind her, she saw that wasn't the case. The voices were simply drawing closer to her.

Taka was marching along through the trees, looking straight ahead with a stoic, almost neutral look on his face. Roxy couldn't tell if he was irritated beyond belief and simply keeping his feelings bottled up inside, or just simply bored.

Following behind him were Karizu and Natoka, both of them saying things in rather heated tones. "You know you have responsibilities," Natoka practically shouted, "You can ignore us, but you cannot ignore them this time!"

Roxy gasped quietly to herself. Had Taka just up and walked away in the middle of an argument?

"Taka, be sensible," Karizu spoke. His voice was not quite as heated as his companion's. "There is a reason we forbade you to leave last time, and the reason has not changed. Your decision to abandon us last time does not paint you favourably either…"

Her eyes then opened wider as she remembered what she had been told about Taka's last journey. She had forgotten that Taka had just left in the middle of the night, not even saying goodbye to his own brother.

"You do realize that this is not a time to be letting our guard down?" Natoka barked.

"Our tribe has seen victory recently, yes, but victory and security never last forever."

Still, Taka simply continued to walk without saying anything. He wasn't even walking very quickly, but it was as if the two Raichu behind him didn't exist.

Natoka threw up his paws in exasperation and let out a huff of frustration. "Very well," he spat, "Go home. Do not bother giving us any respect, despite how much respect has always been given to you. The patrol members will not let you leave, in any case." The Raichu then turned and stormed off.

Karizu remained behind, still trailing Taka. "This would be a lot easier if you were more open to discussion," he commented, "Our decision would likely not change, but perhaps a compromise could be reached?"

Roxy didn't hear any more as the two moved out of her range of hearing. She was frowning even more now having witnessed that exchange. Taka was pretty much being a jerk to the two wise ones, but at the same time, it was his position that she sided with. She wanted to go home, but not if it meant breaking everybody's trust and abandoning them. She cared for the Pokémon in this village.

Then, both her eyes and her mind began to drift. She thought about how much she did care about the Thunder Clan. She had gotten to know so many of them very closely, and most of the village she would happily call her friends. She had become best friends with Miri, as well as great friends with the likes of Bamaka, Adi and his family, Roma'a and many more.

It hadn't really occurred to her until now. When she finally achieved her goal and escaped from the forest, she would be leaving them all behind. Once she made it home, she would probably never see anyone from the Thunder Clan ever again.

The thought left a bittersweet taste in her mouth.

She sat up there for a while more, though nothing else of interest happened. When she finally started to get restless, she climbed down from the tree and took a slow walk around the village.

What was to be done now? What was the next step? As she thought about it, she realized that one thing hadn't changed. She still had an unmet goal that was preventing her from leaving, even if the wise ones said it was okay. She still needed to teach someone Grass Knot.

Roxy kicked a pebble and watched it bounce away. The teaching of Grass Knot had been eating away at her mind. She was starting to run out of ideas, since it looked like no-one would be able to learn the Move.

Was Taka still mad at her, though? Was he mad at her at all? She had goofed up, but was he still going to train with her and work towards getting her home? A horrible sinking feeling overcame her as she thought about the possibility that he wouldn't want to take her anymore.

Roxy shook her head to clear away those dark thoughts. Taka wasn't petty like that. Even if she had royally ticked him off, that was no reason for him to go back on his word. It was silly to think like that in any case, since Taka wanted to leave the village anyway.

Eventually, her wayward paws took her back to her hut. Her mood hadn't gotten much better, and she ended up just sitting on the floor and sulking. "Why do things always go wrong…?" she muttered to herself, "Can't I just catch a break? Just once?"

She sighed heavily and glanced around. Being in such a depressed mood was digging up old wounds. She found herself painfully reminded that this used to be Makari's hut, and she had shared it with him. Such wonderful times she had shared with him. One of the happiest moments of her whole life had happened right where she was sitting now.

Roxy hugged herself and let out a distressed whine. In her current state, she started to miss Makari a lot more. Old dark thoughts started returning to her, threatening to make her cry again.

"What would you tell me?" she asked to the air around her, "What…what would you do?" She glanced up, as if looking at someone who was not actually there. "Would you have taken me home? If…If I can't teach Grass Knot to anyone…would you still take me home?" She closed her eyes, a single tear running down her cheeks. "Would you…have come home with me?" She sniffled. "…And stayed?"

No answer came to her, no matter how hard she hoped that she would somehow hear one.

"I gotta keep trying…" she said to herself, though she didn't have much conviction in her voice, "If stuff goes wrong, I can't just stop…Master is waiting for me…"

Roxy unceremoniously flopped down onto her side, a heavy frown on her face.

"…I hope…"







"…Miri?"

The Audino glanced up, slightly surprised from the sound of somebody at her door. "Oh! Roxy, I did not hear you…"

Roxy glanced in Mareepishly, not saying anything.

"…Is something wrong?" Miri asked, "Come in, come in. Talk to me."

Nodding softly, Roxy stepped past the leaves in the doorway and entered the Audino's hut. She walked forward until she was in front of Miri and stood there for a moment, glancing off to the side and fiddling with her paws. Finally, she sighed and asked her question.

"Is the tribe mad at me?"

"What??" Miri blurted out. Then she shook her head and composed herself. "No. No, heavens no… Why would you even think that?"

"Everyone's lookin' at me weird…"

"Aw, Roxy…" Miri said as she walked over and gave Roxy a quick hug, "No-one is mad at you. You have done nothing wrong. It is just that things are…tense, I suppose."

"Because Taka wants to leave and I stupidly said it out loud?"

"Well, I think many of us are actually grateful that you said it out loud," Miri said with a wry chuckle. When Roxy's expression didn't brighten at all, Miri invited her to come and sit next to her, which she did.

"I remember when he left…the first time," Miri explained, "First, everybody panicked. Then, everybody was worried. We thought he had been killed or abducted. Search parties were sent out to look for him, and none returned with success. There was even…a funeral for him. It was not until a nomadic Pokémon was passing peacefully through our borders that we learned the truth. The passing Pokémon told us that he had seen Taka, traveling in the opposite direction.

"So, to round things out, everybody was angry and upset. The whole tribe felt like Taka had abandoned us, and in a way he had. We felt as if he had just casually cast aside his entire family as if we were nothing. We had lost one of our finest warriors, and everybody was concerned. All in all, there was a horrible sense of betrayal that hovered above the village."

Miri then turned to look Roxy in the eye. "No-one wants that to happen again."

Roxy didn't reply, but she did nod in understanding.

"I think the village is angry at Taka, not at you. You are merely…how shall I say…associated?"

"Is that really any better?" Roxy muttered.

Miri patted Roxy on the back. "Young one," she spoke, "Everybody here knows you plan to go home. No-one has once believed that you would stay here forever. It is not a surprise that you are leaving. It is a surprise that Taka is leaving again."

Roxy whined softly.

"It is simply that looking at you reminds them of Taka."

"I guess…" Roxy mumbled, shrugging softly.

"Cheer up, Roxy. It is not as if you are leaving this coming night or anything."

Roxy shook her head. "No, definitely not. We're not ready…"

"Right." She then smiled. "It is a nice warm day outside. Take a walk and clear your mind. Things are uncertain right now, but just remember that we are not mad at you."

Getting to her paws, Roxy glanced up at the Audino. "Are you sure…?"

"I am positive."

Roxy then smiled half-heartedly. "Okay then. Thanks for this."

"Any time, Roxy."

She waved goodbye to the village healer, and then turned around and exited the hut. She was greeted with the warm spring air. Miri was right; it was definitely a nice day. She took in a deep breath of the fresh air and tried to calm her anxious nerves.

Truly, she didn't feel that much better about herself. Even if they weren't mad at her, Roxy still felt upset that everybody was mad at Taka. Was Taka therefore mad at everybody else? Roxy didn't want anybody to be mad. They were supposed to be happy and proud of her for finally being able to go home.

"Who'm I kidding…?" she whispered, "I'm never goin' home…No-one can learn Grass Knot."

She walked sullenly away from Miri's hut and past many other huts and treehouses. There were lots of Pokémon out and about, but Roxy didn't pay much attention to any of them. Her mood was simply too sour to care.

"Raaaawr!!"

Something suddenly latched onto her back, causing her to cry out in surprise. She quickly dropped down onto all fours and tried to reach for her spear, but whoever had jumped her was preventing her from reaching it. Her panic spiked, so she did the only other thing she could think of to get her attacker off. She let out another loud cry, and then rolled onto her side to try and dislodge the other Pokémon.

She ended up on her back, panting and sweating. Her attacker then leaned over and looked down at her. He flashed her a grin and laughed at her, causing her to let out a huge breath of relief.

"Adikai!" she said in a scolding tone, "What was that for? You scared me half to death!!"

The young Shinx laughed again. "I am practicing my great skills! Father says I excel at pouncing!"

"No kidding…" Roxy murmured as she stood herself up and brushed the dust off of her fur.

"What did you think?" Adikai asked, looking up at her with hopeful eyes.

Roxy briefly thought of scolding him further for scaring her like that, but her mood quickly softened. She gave him a smile instead. "It was very good," she said to him, "I didn't even hear you coming from behind me."

Adikai grinned widely in triumph. "Yes!!"

Watching the exuberant little cub, Roxy let out a tiny sigh. At least some folks in this village hadn't changed much since the 'news'. Adikai was just as adorable as ever.

"I cannot wait! I am so excited!" Adikai continued to gush, "They have no choice but to recognize my great pouncing skills!"

Roxy chuckled and reached over to tousle the fur on his head. "Excited for what?" she asked him.

"The next Marking Ceremony!" he replied excitedly, "I am going to receive my name!!"

"Really?" Roxy asked, eyes widening a bit from the news, "That's great! Congratulations!"

"Yes! I am finally strong enough! I shall receive a strong, courageous name and a mark as the best pouncer in the forest!"

Roxy glanced down at the little Shinx cub, hopping around like there were springs on his paws. The more she looked, the more she realized that Adikai really wasn't a 'little Shinx cub' anymore. It had been just a few short months, but he had grown up a fair bit. Marks were so prevalent throughout the tribe that Roxy sometimes forgot that cubs didn't have any, as with Adikai standing before her.

"That's awesome, Adikai. I'm sure you'll get the perfect name." She smiled sweetly. "Your mother and father must be very proud."

That quieted the young Shinx down a little bit. "I…hope so," he said, a tad wistfully, "Father never gives praise where praise is not deserved." He paused and then added, "I will not know if he is proud until the mark is on my fur."

"Aww, c'mon now. No matter what mark you get, what name you get…even if he doesn't show it, Adi is definitely proud of you. You're his son!" She grinned at him, hoping he believed her words. Knowing Adi, though, she wasn't completely sure she believed them herself.

Adikai, now completely quiet and reserved, scuffed his paw in the dirt and turned his gaze up at her. "Roxy?" he spoke, a hopeful look in his eyes, "You…will be there…right?"

Roxy blinked at him. "What d'you mean…?" she asked, confused, "Of course I will be there. It's your big day! How could I miss it?"

Adikai glanced away. "Everybody says you are going to leave us…"

Her eyebrows shot up. "Oh! Ohhh, I see…" She skewed her lips a little, realizing what he meant. Did the villagers think she was going to be leaving that quickly? Perhaps they were all assuming things about her and Taka.

She bent down closer to his eye level and shook her head. "No, no. I'm not leaving yet," she explained, "Either way, it doesn't matter. I wouldn't miss your ceremony for anything, Adikai!"

That made the little Shinx brighten up a little. "Really? You mean it?"

Roxy nodded and smiled cheerfully. "Yup! I promise I'll be there, okay?"

"Yay!" Adikai jumped up excitedly. "Thank you, Roxy!"

"No problem. I can't wait to find out what your name will be."

"Neither can I!"

"I will have to get used to calling you by a different name."

Adikai gave her a big toothy grin. "Okay! I will see you there!"

Roxy nodded and gave him a wave as he ran off. "Bye!"

Once the cub had gone, she set off on her stroll once more. She had a little more pep in her step, the Shinx having uplifted her spirits a little. Things didn't seem as bad as she was making them out to be. She still had the same goal and the same obstacle to get through, and if Taka ended up not being able to go, then that would just be one more obstacle to get through.

Now, with her mood climbing higher, she was able to look back and see all of the obstacles that she had already conquered. Her anxiety usually meant that those accomplishments were clouded over by thoughts of all her failures and problems. It was unfortunately the way her brain worked, but when she was in a good mood those clouds shifted away.

Roxy had managed to escape death multiple times. Even faced against the Zangoose, she had managed to hold out long enough for Makari and Taka to rescue her, thanks to her swift paws and quick thinking. She had made plenty of friends in this village, and she had eventually managed to learn basic combat. She had even managed to save the village from an invasion of Ground-Types once. It was strange how easily she forgot about that.

Roxy's idle paws took her back to the training area, now quite familiar to her. She had spent more time in this place than she had ever thought she would by leagues. Glancing at the targets and the training weapons laying around, she already started thinking about what she could do with them. Skills she had not had when she had first arrived.

As she wandered into the training area, she really thought about the Pikachu she had been the last time she had been in her master's company. What was her master going to say about her now?

"Enough. Enough. I am sick and tired of listening to your endless voice."

Roxy's ears perked as she heard the approach of someone talking. She turned her head, realizing that it was someone walking past the back side of the training area, and they would be passing behind the tree she was standing in front of.

"But, Taka-"

"Stop," said the voice that Roxy realized belonged to Taka. She gasped and held still.

"Do not take that sort of tone with us," Natoka's voice warned him.

There was a short, tense pause before Taka spoke up once more. "Do you not understand…what she is going through?"

Roxy's paws shot up to her mouth to stifle the gasp. He was talking about her to the wise ones!

"What?" Karizu replied, confused.

"Have you once taken the time to stop and think about what is going on inside of her head?"

"Well-"

"Put yourself in her paws for a moment. Think carefully about what has happened to her."

Roxy was frozen in place, unable to stop herself from eavesdropping on this conversation. Taka's voice was so calm, never shouting, but there was a certain intensity to his voice that made even her shiver.

"Do either of you know just how badly she wants to go home? How it eats away at her day and night, knowing she cannot? No. You do not. No-one in this village can understand that, because none of you have ever felt it before.

"Everyone here has lived in this village their whole life. You do not know the sensation of wanting to go home because you have always been home. No matter what you do or where you roam, you are always a paw's length away from home. Not a single one of you can imagine what it feels like because none of you have left."

There was a pregnant pause before he continued. "I have felt that longing," he commented, "I can safely say mine was not as strong as hers, but I still felt that desire to go back home when I was gone. I understand the sensation of being away, and a part of your heart and soul always wants to go back."

Silence reigned for a moment before Karizu spoke. "Taka, we understand-"

"No," Taka cut him off, but without raising his voice, "You do not. Neither of you can truly empathize with Roxy. Your decisions regarding her will always be biased."

"Have you not been listening?" Natoka cut in somewhat gruffly, "We have no issue with Roxy leaving. It is your abandoning of this tribe, for a second time no less, that-"

"Yet, I seem to be the only one willing to bring her home."

A few silent seconds passed, but neither Raichu seemed to have an answer for that.

"If you will excuse me," Taka said, and then Roxy heard his pawsteps leading away.

After a moment that lasted a little too long, the two Raichu once more gave pursuit. "Taka, wait! Do not walk away from us!"

When they were gone, Roxy was still. She was so touched by what she had just heard that she didn't know what to do with herself. She had never heard Taka talk about her like that before, not even to her own face. Did Taka really feel that way, or was he just trying to persuade the wise ones to let him go? Either way, it was a side of Taka she had never seen before.

With a warm, somewhat bittersweet smile, Roxy held on to the hope that it was the former.







A few days passed, and nothing much happened.

The wise ones were still forbidding Taka to leave, but he didn't seem to be intending to rush off without their approval either. He had become a little bit distant from Roxy, but it wasn't like he was outright avoiding her. Roxy knew that he had a lot on his mind probably, so she didn't mind.

He wasn't the only one with a lot on his mind, though.

As the noonday sun passed overhead, its light filtering down through the trees, Roxy was seated at the bank of the river a fair distance away from the bathing area. She was trying to relax and calm her restless mind, letting the smell and the sound of the river soothe her weary head.

It was also an exercise she had imposed on herself. Both a spear and a bow and arrow were on the ground next to her. Though she was still well within the area where Thunder Clan patrols covered, she was still purposefully putting herself in a less than secure place. If she was to go marching through enemy territory with Taka on her way out of the forest, she needed to be more comfortable in unsafe environments so that she could focus on defending herself when and if something went wrong.

It was going well. She felt tense, but just enough so that she was aware of her surroundings and could reach for a weapon at the drop of a hat.

Roxy was depressed, though. She had no idea what was going to happen next, but she also really wanted to find out whatever it was. It felt like she was stuck in limbo at the moment, hovering aimlessly between paths that she could be led down. The atmosphere was so tense, and she was getting tired of it.

The worst part was that she was starting to wonder if not going home was the right idea after all. Hovering around her were worrying thoughts that she just wasn't meant to go home, and that her new place in life was here. Perhaps that's just the way life was meant to go and, no matter how awful it made her feel, it was just something she had to accept.

Roxy quickly shook her head, trying to rid herself of those thoughts. "I gotta go home…" she whispered to herself, "I gotta go home. No matter the cost, I gotta go home…" She clenched her eyes shut. "I can't stay out here forever…I just can't…I need to get back to master…"

"Pet."

Two things happened simultaneously. Roxy's heart jumped into her throat so hard it felt like it was going to get stuck there, and she swiftly stood up on her paws and swiveled around 180 degrees, picking up her spear along the way.

She relaxed once she saw who it was. "Oh," she said after letting out a breath of relief, "Hello, Natoka."

The Raichu simply nodded in answer, his forelimbs crossed and a nonplussed look on his face.

Roxy frowned. Of all the company she could have wished for, Natoka was on the bottom of the list. It wasn't that she disliked him, but he seemed to really dislike her. The two had never really gotten along, he had always looked down at her with an angry expression on his muzzle, and he was by far the most volatile of the Thunder Clan members when it came to emotions. If someone was yelling, then it was probably Natoka.

She had never really tried to get along with Natoka, as opposed to what she had done with other more distant villagers such as Taka, mostly because he frightened her. As would probably be the case for the rest of her life, Roxy was still a little bit frightened of Raichu. Natoka, especially, was frightening to her because of all the old scars on his body. Every time she looked at the thunderbolt shape on his tail, half of it bitten off, a shiver ran up her spine. She couldn't imagine going through something like that.

Natoka simply gazed at her with a slightly furrowed brow and a frown on his lips. He didn't seem happy to see her, but then again he never seemed happy. Roxy had done her best to keep distant from him, and likewise, he had seemingly done the same. Yet, here he was, all by himself.

Roxy gulped, and then spoke to him. "Can I…help you?"

The Raichu just stood there, staring at her. He stood there without moving or saying anything for a good two or three minutes, making Roxy feel more and more uncomfortable. Was he mad at her? Had she done something wrong? What did he want?!

"Umm…Is this your spot…or something?" she asked somewhat timidly.

"I understand that you are planning to travel to the forest's edge with Taka."

She flinched slightly, having not expected his sudden answer. She gulped once more upon hearing the touchy subject, smiled awkwardly, and said, "Yeah…I, um…Sorta…"

Natoka narrowed his eyes just slightly, but only for a few seconds. He shifted his weight onto his other hind paw, and then spoke once more. "I also understand that neither of you are leaving until someone in this village learns your…power."

Roxy frowned once more. "Yeah…" she lamented, "Taka was pretty serious about that. I've tried teaching…almost everybody in this whole tribe. It's not working."

Again, Natoka was silent for a relatively long while, making Roxy squirm. His presence was so intimidating that she wished he would just say his piece and get it over with.

"I see," he said at last, "That is certainly commendable…if nothing else." He then took a few steps over to the side and sat down, facing Roxy.

"Teach me," he said.

Roxy nearly did a double take. "Wh- Huh?"

He didn't repeat himself.

"You…" Roxy mumbled, "You want to try to learn Grass Knot?" she asked. Then, after a moment's thought, she realized that Natoka was the only one she had never tried teaching. It had completely slipped her mind.

"Whether or not Taka leaves, which he cannot," Natoka said, "there is great value in passing this technique to somebody else. So, teach me."

Roxy gulped, sizing up the Raichu once more. Her intimidation hadn't gone away even a little. "Um…Y-You know that, uh…it probably won't work…right? I mean, I've tried with everyone! I don't think it's a thing that can be done."

Natoka didn't say anything to that. The implication hung in the air that he was commanding her to teach him and not fail. She wasn't sure if that was his actual intent or not, but it certainly put a lot of pressure onto her.

"Well, uh…Okay then," she said with a small shrug.

The Raichu simply nodded.

There was a brief silence. "…Oh! Right now?" Roxy babbled.

Natoka raised an eyebrow.

"Right, uh…Okay, let's see…" Roxy glanced away for a moment and held a paw to her forehead, trying to remember the steps she had taken in her previous failed attempts at this. She had no confidence whatsoever, but Natoka was clearly a Pokémon who wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. What kind of a student would he turn out to be?

"Um…Close your eyes?" she asked meekly.

Natoka immediately heeded her instructions and closed his eyes.

This managed to take a little bit of the stress off of her shoulders. "Right! Okay, good…Now um…" She closed her eyes in thought for a moment. "You have to focus. Like, really hard. You need to shut out the outside world entirely, because what you're looking for is very, very hard to grasp."

She opened her eyes and looked up to see that he hadn't moved an inch. She had no idea what was going on inside of his head. Was Natoka even the meditative type? Roxy frowned, already starting to wonder if it was even worth bothering. Nothing had worked in the past, so if she wanted to have any hope of success this time, she would need to take things a step further.

One of her ears perked up as she had a sudden bolt of inspiration. "Listen to the river," she instructed, "Take a moment and focus on the sound of the river. It's constant, it's steady, and it's flowing. Keep me with you, but block out everything else." She closed her eyes once more, listening to the river herself as well. "Just listen to the river for a while…as the sound keeps going…until it's just background noise."

Roxy once again began the process of gathering up the energy for a Grass Knot, as it was easier to explain while she was in the process of doing it.

"Feel the ground," she spoke, softly but loud enough to be heard over the din of the river, "Feel the dirt, the earth, the grass… There's…an energy there. It's in the ground, but it's very faint. It's spread out so thinly across the entire Earth that it's hard to feel, but it's there. That's what you're looking for."

Some of the villagers, when attempting to learn the move, had commented to her that everything in the world had an energy. Living and dead, moving and still, every single thing had some sort of energy somewhere inside of it. Roxy could only imagine that would make it all the more difficult to pick out this specific type of energy, especially without the knowledge gained from the TM.

"If you find it," she continued, "then that is all you need. When you find it, don't lose it. Draw it up from within the ground, and allow it to fill your own body. It is…very nice…but very fickle. And, once you've gathered enough, you'll be able to do Grass Knot."

Roxy opened her eyes and waved her paw, and a circle of grass blades formed around where she was sitting. She twirled a digit and they all twisted themselves and moved to form an unbroken line that encircled her. Practicing the Move so much now let her initiate the Move a lot quicker than before.

She glanced up at Natoka, seeing that he still hadn't moved at all. This was pretty much the extent of what she could teach. She had never figured out a better way to explain what to do or what the energy was like, which was probably why everyone else had so much trouble learning it. It was just too hard to explain.

Natoka furrowed his brow slightly, and his frown grew a tad larger. Roxy grimaced upon seeing the distressed look on his face. Many of her past 'students' had gotten that same look before they had given up.

She sighed. "Sorry," she muttered, "I tried. I really, really did. I just don't think it can be done, y'know?"

Natoka continued to have that same look on his face.

"If you can't do it, don't worry about it…No-one else could either. You need the TM, and that's something we just don't have."

Then, Natoka did something that she didn't expect. He shifted forward in his sitting position and placed his forepaws down firmly on the ground, forming a sort of slouched forward position. It almost looked like he was trying to push the ground itself downwards. The grimace on his face had gotten worse. It looked like he was struggling.

"…Natoka?" Roxy spoke up in concern, "Are you okay?"

He didn't move.

"Are you gonna be sick or something? What is it?"

Still he didn't answer, and a few minutes of tense silence passed between the two. Roxy, stuck between being confused and being concerned, didn't know what to do or say.

Then, she suddenly jumped back in fright and let out a surprised scream as something erupted from the ground between the two of them.

Once her brief panic vanished, she lowered her paws down from in front of her face and looked at the Raichu to see what had happened. Her jaw nearly dropped to the ground as she stared at the single, very large and very thick blade of grass that had sprouted up in front of him.

Natoka himself didn't change his position or expression even after this had happened. A couple of seconds later, some more grass blades erupted from around him. These weren't as big as the first one, but at least eight of them could be seen.

Roxy stared in shock for a while, not quite believing what she was seeing. Had he just done it? Had Natoka just accomplished what no-one else in the whole village had been able to do?

The Raichu let out a huff of air, and then opened a single eye. Immediately all of the grass blades faltered and wilted a bit, but they all remained standing. He gazed at them curiously. Seeing that they had wilted, Natoka grit his teeth and growled softly. A moment later, the blades all stood tall once more.

"I…don't believe it…" Roxy whispered, her own Grass Knot dispelling.

"This is…it?" Natoka spoke, strain clearly evident in his voice.

Roxy was awestruck for a few more seconds before she realized she'd been asked a question. "Ah- Yes! Yes, it is! You…" She shook her head softly just to make sure she wasn't seeing things. "…You've done it."

Natoka closed his eyes once more and seemed to focus on something. More than a full minute of silence passed, but then Roxy saw the grass start to move. It began to inch its way forward through the air like an Ekans. He could control them too.

Then, something slipped and the grassy blades all twitched and wilted. In a flash, the spectacle was gone, leaving Natoka sitting alone on the ground. He blinked open his eyes and regarded her.

"You did it," Roxy repeated, "You actually did it. You- That was Grass Knot!"

"…Fascinating," Natoka spoke, seeming out of breath.

"I didn't think it was possible. Nobody else could…but you…" A moment of silence passed, and then a huge grin began to form on Roxy's face as she realized what all of this meant. "You did it!" she then exclaimed, "You learned Grass Knot! Oh my gosh, I could hug you right now!"

"Please do not."

Roxy happily hopped on her hind legs a few times, grinning cheek to cheek. "It finally happened. Someone learned Grass Knot. I was so sure that it wasn't going to happen! Yes! This is so good! This means so much!"

Then she calmed down a bit and turned back to regard the Raichu. "I just…Wow!" she murmured, "I don't understand. Why just you? Why did I have to try every single other villager without any success, but you're able to do it?"

Natoka glanced away and sighed softly. "My father."

Roxy tilted her head. "Pardon?"

"I believe the reason for my success is because of my father," he explained, "He was a Breloom."

"Oh," Roxy said, and then she suddenly understood. "Oh! Of course…!" Roxy knew from the encyclopaedias that Breloom could learn Grass Knot naturally. Perhaps there was something in Natoka's genes that made the energy easier to pick up.

"That makes sense…" she spoke, "It wasn't an Egg Move, but still…"

"That is the technique, then?" Natoka asked, his voice still rather gruff, "Nothing more?"

"Uhh…Yeah, pretty much. I guess you'd have to practice, like I did, to get really good at it, but you found the energy and no-one else could find it. You could find it again, right?"

Natoka scoffed. "I did not realize it was this simple."

Roxy's next response died on her lips upon hearing this. "…What?!"

"I have felt that energy before," he went on to say, "Never have tried to interact with it before, though. You are right, it is a very fickle thing and difficult to grasp…"

"Wait, wait, wait. What d'you mean, simple? I tried teaching everybody in this damn village how to do it, and none of them even came close to finding the energy!"

Natoka turned his gaze down at her, making her shrink back a little. "Then, you should have asked me sooner."

"…But-" Roxy cut herself off. She had been about to retort that Natoka could've come to her sooner as well, but she decided to bite her tongue. "I guess," she settled on instead.

Natoka then stood up. "I will practice this now. I shall return to you if I have questions." Then, without even awaiting a response, Natoka turned and walked away.

Roxy stood there a moment, having been left alone rather unceremoniously. She stared after the strange Raichu who had just gotten a little bit stranger in her books. Then, as if some invisible person had slapped her across the face and yelled at her, she suddenly remembered that she was supposed to be excited.

As a grin spread across her face, she hefted a paw up into the air and leapt for joy. "Woo!!" Elation like she had never felt before was flooding through her. This was it. The last checkmark had been ticked off! Someone in the tribe knew Grass Knot now, and Natoka could pass it on to others.

Her excitement didn't last for too long, though. She sombrely realized a minute later that another checkmark had been added to her list as well. All of Taka's requirements were met, but now she needed to convince the others to let him leave.

Roxy sighed in frustration, trying to hold onto the happiness that was slipping away. This was, after all, an exciting accomplishment. She had overcome something that she had thought impossible. Sure there was yet another obstacle in her way, but even if it seemed impossible, then she could probably overcome that too.

The smile returned to her. "Yeah…!" she said to herself, "And any other obstacles this stupid forest decides to throw at me." She then turned over her shoulder and glanced upwards, as if looking at some invisible deity of the forest. "You hear me? I'm goin' home, whether you want me to or not!!"
The Thunder Clan - 22
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The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

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

Do not use without permission

---


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

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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Chapter 21 - Class is in Session

"Anything?"

"No…"

"Are you sure?"

When Bamaka nodded in response, Roxy sighed and slumped her shoulders. "Don't worry about it," she told him, "You gave it a try."

Her old friend Bamaka was just one in a long line of Thunder Clan brethren who had tried and failed to learn the Grass Knot. As she had expected none of them could manage to pick up on the subtle energy that was needed to perform the move. It was just something she herself was familiar with and couldn't share.

"I will not give up," Bamaka told her, "I will try again later."

Roxy just groaned softly in frustration. This wasn't going as planned. No-one had even taken a step forward in learning the move. She was running out of Pokémon to try it on! Someone had to learn this, but she wasn't sure if anyone could.

It was at least a week, probably more, since Taka stated his intention to lead her to the forest's edge. Upon his request, she hadn't yet told anyone about the plan. Taka's departure last time hadn't gone over so well with the others, and he didn't want anybody jumping the gun this time until they were closer to actual departure.

But now Roxy was getting genuinely worried if that departure would come at all.

Roxy had been working hard. Since that day, she had spent literally almost every single waking minute in the training area. Leisure was pretty much a thing of the past. The real, tangible promise of being taken out of the forest had turned out to be the perfect motivator. Now, more than ever, Roxy was focused on learning as many fighting skills as she could. She was already making vast improvements, and could pull off a number of moves without thinking too much about doing so.

Yet, gaining more skills was only one of the requirements she had to meet. Taka had said that they couldn't leave until someone else learned Grass Knot. If that didn't happen, then Roxy couldn't leave, and this made her feel really nervous.

"Get up. Time to spar."

Roxy rolled her eyes and let out a huff of breath before turning to look at the approaching Taka. Despite all that had changed about him since she had first met him, his bluntness was still the same.

"What's the matter with you?" he said as he came to a stop just behind her.

"I…" She paused mid-sentence, blinked, and gave him a confused look. Then she shook her head softly and continued. "I am finding it difficult, as I have told you before, to teach Grass Knot to someone."

"Ah. Troubling indeed," he replied, emotionlessly as always. That was apparently the end of the conversation, as he picked up a spear and started stretching.

Roxy just sighed and walked over to pick up a spear of her own. At least this part was going well enough. Of course, it didn't matter if the proverbial radio was built if there were no radio waves to pick up.

"Ready?" he asked her.

"I have a headache."

"Well, that may be so, but your-"

"My enemy doesn't care if I have a headache," Roxy interjected, completing Taka's sentence, "I know, I know…"

"Sit down then. We will begin."

Without further protest, Roxy made her way to the middle of the training area and sat down facing away from Taka. This was a training exercise that he had devised as a way to start off their sparring matches. The rules were that she wasn't allowed to move until she heard him, usually marked by a quiet grunt. This was to help train her reflexes in case a predator snuck up behind her. Sometimes, Taka would wait up to 10 whole minutes before making his move, so she was teaching herself not to let her guard down.

Roxy's personal goal was to improve her self-defence skills to a point where she would no longer feel nervous when facing an enemy. She needed to feel confident in her ability to defend herself from attacks. She didn't need to be perfect, since Taka would be there alongside her, but she also couldn't freeze up and require that he do all of the fighting. After that, she planned to learn as many ways as she could to nonlethally incapacitate her foes.

Taka had suggested she learn how to kill. One mention of the Houndoom incident had quieted this idea. Even Taka knew how much she had been traumatized by that.

A soft grunt.

Roxy darted forward as if she were spring loaded, half-rolled and turned herself around, and then brought up her spear into a block. Taka's own weapon connected with it mere seconds later. She held strong and placed her paws in a better position as she continued to face down her opponent. Then, Taka quickly broke away and slashed towards her from the right. Roxy saw him moving to the right and adjusted her stance accordingly. Taka's strike was successfully blocked.

In the brief pause that followed, she took a moment to give Taka a confident smirk.







A couple of weeks later, Roxy was leaning against a tree next to the training area. She was worn out and resting, enjoying the cool breeze of early spring. At the moment, she found herself reflecting on things.

Roxy had proven herself very capable of blocking strikes. It was something she had been taught right from the get-go, and it was one of the first things that she had really picked up on. Now, if she were facing her foe, she could confidently use a spear or a similar weapon to block incoming strikes, be they from a weapon, a limb, a tail, or even claws. She'd had no idea that the Thunder Clan had made 'practice claws' out of tree bark.

After countless hours training with Taka, and then countless more hours training with Taka, Roxy could feel something change inside of her. It was as if a door had been unlocked in her mind and she was finally shifting towards the mind of a combatant. It wasn't as if fighting was now fun or enjoyable to her, but she found herself with a bit more focus than before. There was less of that paralyzing sense of fear that tended to attack her during combat situations, and she was now able to focus as much as she could on analyzing her opponent and deciding where the next strike would come from.

Admittedly, she had only been fighting Taka, but he was a frightening enough opponent on his own sometimes.

On the flipside of the Poké Ball, that was the only thing that she could say she was now adept at. She was still having a lot of trouble when it came to counterattacks and ways to disable or disarm her opponent. She didn't have much of the strength required to force her foe off-balance, or to create distance between the two of them. She was also still struggling just as much as before with her electric attacks. Taka had told her that said attacks were vital for her, since she didn't possess the 'Spark'.

It was a process. It was a routine that she was following. It had been many weeks since his promise to take her to the edge of the forest. She had expected this to make her feel jumpy or impatient, but she felt neither of those things. Things were strangely calm, if a little tense at times. Perhaps it was because she had a clear goal, and a way to work towards it.

"Look what I found, Roxy."

The Pikachu's ears perked up upon hearing the familiar voice. She glanced over at the newcomer and said, "Miri?" Then, her eyes widened and she gasped.

Miri smiled sweetly. "Do you know anybody who would want these?"

"Meee! Mememememe!!" Roxy exclaimed, giggling as she beheld the pile of Leppa Berries in Miri's paws. Her stomach chose that moment to growl, reminding her that she hadn't eaten since breakfast.

"Really? You like Leppa Berries?" Miri asked teasingly.

Roxy stuck out her tongue and playfully snatched a berry from the bunch. She wasted no time in chowing down on the delectable fruit. "Mmmm!!" She smiled at the wonderful taste.

"How have you been?" Miri asked, taking a seat next to her, "I have not seen you for a couple of days."

Roxy swallowed her mouthful of berry before answering. "Pretty good, I suppose…ish…" She shrugged. "Y'know how it is."

"Well, even 'good-ish' is something to be happy about, is it not?"

"Yeah," Roxy nodded. "I've been spending a lot of time here…"

"I had heard. You are continuing to train with Taka? I had thought that requirement no longer applied to you."

"Yeah, but…It's actually going well this time. I'm getting better. Not just with fighting, but, like, in my head too. Things are different now. Taka's become a much better teacher."

Miri smiled and patted her on the back. "I still remember that first week. You hobbled over to my hut, one bruise away from being completely beaten up, all from Taka's teaching…" She sighed. "Have you ever taken a step back and looked at how far you have come?"

"I have…" Roxy glanced off in thought for a moment. "It is a lot, but in some ways I'm still exactly the same. Sometimes, it's even a little scary to think about how much different I am now. I sometimes get this weird worry that I'm changing and I won't be the same Roxy anymore."

"Oh, that is silly," Miri said with a lighthearted chuckle, "No matter what happens or how much you change, nothing can change the very essence of you. You are Roxy, and you will always be Roxy, unless you choose to stop being Roxy."

The young Pikachu smiled a little.

"You love Leppa Berries, so you must still be the same Roxy!"

A giggle slipped past Roxy's lips.

"Where is this renewed interest coming from, though?"

"I…" Roxy paused briefly. Taka still wanted her to keep their plans under wraps for the time being. "…I guess so much has happened to me, that I just want to stop being a victim, y'know? I'm really pestering Taka into focusing as much as possible on self-defence. I never wanted to become a 'warrior' and I still don't."

"That is understandable," Miri said with a nod, "I do think that certain members of this clan, in the early days, saw you as something they could mold. Besides myself, no-one in this village has ever not been a warrior. But also, it was always your intention to go home someday, was it not? I think some of us forgot to listen to that fact."

"…" Roxy stared at the ground for a moment. "Y-yeah…" she murmured quietly. She then gasped softly as Miri suddenly reached a paw over and gave her a hug.

"You will get home someday," she said, "I know you will."

Roxy was about to smile and agree, but pessimism chose that moment to cloud over her mind. She was still faced with a seemingly impossible obstacle to overcome before she would be permitted to go home with Taka. Someone still had to learn Grass Knot.

"Miri?"

"Hm?"

"…What's it like when you use Heal Pulse?"

The Audino didn't reply right away. "You mean my healing waves? Hmm…" Roxy glanced back and saw that she had her paw to her chin in thought. "Goodness, young one. You seem to have asked an impossible question."

Roxy's ears fell. "Really…?"

"It is something that I have been able to do since I was but a young cub. The energy that I use and control is something that I am…innately familiar with. I do not think I could explain it to someone else, no matter how hard I tried."

Slumping down a little, Roxy let out a sigh.

"Why? Have I upset you somehow?" Miri asked, sounding a little worried.

"It's the same with my Grass Knot. It's something I just can't explain to others…"

"Ah…" Miri replied in understanding, "Yes, I had also heard that others were trying to learn your powers. I take it their attempts are still unsuccessful?"

Roxy nodded. "It's…super important that somebody else learns it."

"Quite so. It is an invaluable defence."

It's also important to me for other reasons, Roxy said to herself.

"Well, do not let it get you down, Roxy. I am sure someone will be able to grasp it sooner or later."

Roxy tsked in frustration. "I wish you could learn it," she muttered, "S'probably easier for you since you already know about energy and stuff…" She then furrowed her brow. Could Audino learn Grass Knot? She didn't think so, but then again there were so many different Moves and so many different Pokémon, it was so hard to keep track of them all. The listing in the encyclopaedia had been a huge table in tiny print that still took up about 15 pages.

"I will consider the problem," Miri told her, "I will try to think of a way to explain my own powers, and perhaps that will help you."

"I dunno if it's gonna happen," Roxy said pessimistically, "I think everyone in the village has tried to learn from me…Almost everyone, anyway…"

"Really?" Miri spoke, slightly incredulous.

"Taka, Bamaka, Roma'a…even Karizu tried his best and couldn't get it."

"Oh dear…"

She sighed again. "Makari was so smart…He woulda gotten it in a jiffy…" she muttered darkly.

Miri reached over and patted her on the back. "Come now, Roxy. Cheer up. Enjoy the Leppa Berries! Your favourite treat will lift your spirits."

Roxy glanced at the Leppas that Miri was still holding. Her mouth watered and she already felt some of her cares start to drift away. "I can have another?" she asked.

"Oh, no, no. These are all for you!" Miri said cheerfully, holding out all five of the remaining berries to her.

"What? Really?"

"Of course! They are your favourite, after all."

Roxy gratefully accepted the berries, and by the time she had eaten them all she was feeling a lot better. In the meantime, Roxy and Miri talked about a lot of things and enjoyed one another's company. The conversation moved towards much nicer topics that didn't make Roxy stress out.

She was once more smiling and laughing by the end.

"Well," Miri said after the last berry had disappeared into Roxy's mouth, "I should not keep you any longer."

"Yeah," Roxy nodded, "Thanks for that. I promised Taka that I would practice my Grass Knot."

"Indeed?"

"Uh huh. My biggest problem with it is endurance. It's a huge drain on my energy, and I'd like to be able to keep it going for longer if I can."

"I see, I see. Well, a full belly is sure to give you plenty of energy."

Roxy laughed. "You're right! This should be a piece of cake!"

"A piece of what?"

She turned to look at the Audino, baffled for a moment before she realized just who she was talking to. Instead, she laughed once more. "Nothing. Never mind. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

Miri tilted her head a little, but then smiled as well. "Okay! Good luck with your training, Roxy."

"Thanks!"

Roxy waved to Miri as she walked off towards the village, and then she giggled. Of course Miri wouldn't know what a 'cake' was. Human figures of speech didn't really work here.

She sighed in contentment from her fresh meal and stood up. After a quick stretch, she made her way to the middle of the training area and got ready for some Grass Knot training.

"…Now I want cake…"







Roxy's adrenaline had reached 11 out of 10!

She was panting heavily, eyes wide open and alert, and paws gripped tightly around the spear she held. She kept herself light on her paws, ready to move at a moment's notice. She was sweating profusely, but tried her best to ignore it. She had more important things to focus on.

Taka darted forward and swung. Roxy held up her spear horizontally just in time for his attack to glance off, but this didn't stop the warrior. He immediately slid to the side to attack again. Roxy shifted her body weight just enough so that she could block this strike as well.

Taka then began to circle around her, trying to get in a strike wherever he could. She was carrying a practice spear with a dulled tip, though she wasn't focusing on using it as a weapon at all. Roxy was just focused on staying alive, figuratively speaking. While Taka only carried a simple stick without any spear attached to it, Roxy knew that it still stung quite a bit when he got in a hit.

Roxy closed her eyes, grit her teeth, and pushed forward with her own weapon. Taka's momentum was turned back against him, forcing him to take a step back so as not to fall over. Roxy used this time to adjust her stance and get more distance between the two of them. She watched him closely, breathing quietly but quickly, not letting her gaze leave him for a second.

Taka was the predator. Taka wanted to kill her, and she needed to stop him.

Her heart felt like it was going to pop, or that it was going to never stop beating this hard. She could feel herself being pushed to her limits, but she ignored this too. All that mattered was blocking Taka's next strike. She took a step back and batted away his short jumping strike, causing his weapon to hit a tree nearby instead. Taka then twirled around and brought his stick around to strike her on the opposite side, but Roxy was ready for this strike too.

The forest air was filled with the clacks and whacks of their weapons connecting, like an asynchronous drum beat. It was the only sound that could be heard. Roxy couldn't afford to waste any breath on any kind of sound. Taka was relentless in his attacks, just like he always was.

More dodges, more blocking. Roxy twisted herself this way and that to be able to intercept his strikes as best she could, making sure to always bring her weapon back into a ready state. She knew the follies of successfully blocking an attack, only to be unprepared for the next one. Until the target's guard was down, the dance of spears would not end.

Minutes passed as Roxy's stamina slowly but surely depleted. She grit her teeth, trying to expend as much effort as she could out of those last few drops of adrenaline. She had to keep going. She knew she couldn't stop.

Finally, with one more shove of her own weapon against his, Roxy forced Taka back and the two stopped moving. Taka regarded her while she breathed heavily, trying to catch her lost breath. But she didn't leave her guard down. Taka would sometimes trick her by only pretending that their practice session was over.

"Quite impressive," he said, smiling as he stood up straight.

Roxy stood up straight as well, but gave him a cautious eye.

Taka, however, tossed the weapon over his shoulder and it clattered to the ground a fair distance away. That was more of a sign that the session was over.

She let out a big sigh of relief and held a paw to her chest. She could feel her heart hammering against her ribs, and it felt like nothing would ever get her breath back.

"That was definitely quite remarkable," Taka commented, "You have indeed come a long way."

"Thanks…" she said through her heavy panting, unable to say much more.

Taka looked at her with a curious expression for a moment. "You do realize what just happened, don't you?"

Finally having caught at least half of her breath, Roxy tilted her head at him and replied, "No, what?"

"That was the first time you were able to avoid getting hit…entirely."

Roxy blinked once, a surprised expression on her face as she thought back to the match that had just taken place. It was mostly all a blur but, now that she thought about it, she couldn't recall Taka managing to get any hits in. She certainly didn't have any bruises to represent any.

"…Really?" she asked, just for confirmation.

Taka nodded.

She grinned excitedly. "Oh my gosh, wow!" she cheered. Over the past couple of weeks, Taka had been routinely testing her like this. He certainly wasn't using his full skillset, otherwise she'd have no chance. However, he was using the same general set of moves against her, if ordered randomly each time. To be able to have fully blocked each and every strike was something that amazed her.

"You are improving."

"I…I'm improving," she said with a smile.

"Perhaps this won't turn out as difficult as I had envisioned."

Roxy jumped up a few times in excitement.

"Do not let it get to your head," he immediately cautioned her, "You still need to improve your thunder skills, your special skill, and your counterattacks."

"I know…I know, but I'm just excited! I should go treat myself! I passed one of my courses!"

Taka looked at her in confusion. "You what now?"

Roxy snickered. "Never mind. Don't worry about it."

Taka just furrowed his brows at her, then rolled his eyes as she ran off.







"All right…" Taka said in a slightly frustrated tone, pinching the bridge of his muzzle, "This is clearly your weak point."

Roxy frowned. "Gee, y'think?"

"This is…not normal."

"Hey…!"

Roxy was sitting on the ground, forelimbs crossed, and her ears still twitching a bit from the leftover electricity. She would have liked to say she had been practicing to learn Thundershock, but a more apt description would be to say she was just shocking herself.

"It may not be a nice thing to hear," Taka continued, "but it is the truth. Some Pichu and Pikachu are slower to learn how to wield their thunder, but by your age they can all at least master the basic moves." He then held up his paw. "Before you say anything, I know you are trying very hard. You are doing your best, but the results simply are not what should be expected."

Roxy glanced away.

"If you could only learn the simplest move…" he said, which Roxy knew referred to Thundershock, "…then that would be fine, but you cannot even reach that. The fact is that you will be unable to cause actual damage to anything besides…I don't know, a Caterpie perhaps."

Sighing, Roxy turned to look at him once more. "What should I do? Is there, like, some kind of super training to juice up the electricity in me? I think I saw that on some kid's show once, and that Pikachu beat an Onix."

"Perhaps you should speak with Miri."

Roxy tilted her head. "Miri? Why?"

"I think she might be able to find the problem."

At first she was confused by what he meant. What could Miri know that an actual Electric-type didn't? Then, however, she realized what he was implying. "What?" she blurted out, "You think something's wrong with me? Like I've got some kind of…some kind of…medical problem?"

"At this point, I would not rule it out."

Roxy felt a bit incensed. "You think I've got a disability, like I'm some kind of cripple. Gee, thanks a lot Taka…"

The moment after those words left her mouth, though, she frowned and glanced down at the ground. She began to wonder if it really was true. Maybe she was just born with something that was preventing her from using Electric Moves, or maybe it was something because of her upbringing that she couldn't change now.

A long period of silence floated between the two. Neither one of them looked at the other.

"Well…" Roxy spoke finally in a tiny voice, "What if I do…?"

Taka didn't reply right away.

"Does that mean…I can't go home?" She mentally braced herself, dreading the answer.

Another couple of tense minutes passed before Taka finally let out a sigh. "No…It does not mean that."

Roxy let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, feeling a wave of relief wash over her.

"It would make the journey more dangerous, though. You are already at a disadvantage without the Spark."

"Right…"

"I can do my best to keep you safe, but I am not perfect…"

Roxy whimpered quietly, staring down at the ground. She needed another handicap like she needed a hole in her head. It was going to be hard enough to get through the forest without being able to use Electric attacks. Did she really have some sort of shortcoming? Was that even medically possible?

"Um…" she spoke up, "I don't mean this to be rude or anything, but how good are you?" She glanced up at Taka to hear his answer.

Taka half-rolled his eyes. "I have mastered all of the techniques. It is just that I usually do not need them."

"So you can do Thunder?"

He gave her an inquisitive look.

"Uhh…The move where lightning comes straight down from the sky?"

"Ah. Yes, of course."

Roxy nodded. That was good. At least Taka knew one of the more powerful Electric-type Moves. Still, though, what would it mean for the future if training electric attacks was getting her nowhere? If she couldn't do anything more than a measly little Thunder Jolt, did she have a chance out there?







Roxy was focused. She was more determined than ever before.

She was in a ready position, holding the blunted spear in her paws. Taka stood facing her, ready to begin the day's lesson. As usual, he had that same impassive look on his face. It was Roxy who had fire in her eyes.

The trip to Miri's a few days ago hadn't exactly told her anything conclusive. Miri was a healer, not a veterinarian. She did do her best to examine Roxy, though, and watched her do a Thunder Jolt. Miri had noted that the inside of her body didn't feel the same as others in the tribe. Furthermore, Miri had heard tell of a Water Pokémon living near her original tribe who couldn't perform Water Moves, so it was possible for the same to happen to Roxy.

Inconclusive results, though they may have been, the most likely conclusion was that Roxy wouldn't be able to learn Thundershock, Thunderbolt, Thunder, or anything useful.

That was why she was so determined. She stared down Taka, her teacher and her opponent, ready to put 150% into whatever he was going to teach her. Roxy had decided that if she was going to have a handicap, then she was going to do whatever she could to compensate for it.

"Counterattacks," Taka announced, "They are an important skill to learn. No matter how good you are at defending, if you cannot counterattack, then you will simply be stuck defending endlessly until you run out of strength and die."

That was Taka, blunt as always.

"Even if your counterattack does not connect," Taka continued, "It will often be enough to throw off your opponent's rhythm or upset their balance, giving you enough time to escape, press attacks, or wait for help to arrive."

She nodded. "Right."

"So, we will begin with a sudden jab forward with the shaft of your weapon, using the paw that is already holding it up to block. I will come at you with a series of repetitive moves. Block at least three of them, then choose your moment to strike back at me."

Roxy's ears perked up. "Strike?" she repeated.

"Yes. Strike at me like this," he said, and then demonstrated the jab that she was to perform.

"Uhh…" Roxy muttered, "I, uh…Are you sure? You really want me to…jab you like that? I don't wanna hurt you, Taka."

Taka turned his head and gave her an odd look with a raised eyebrow. "…Seriously?"

"What?"

"Roxy, trust me. If you can manage to hurt me, then you will be able to walk to the forest's edge on your own." After a moment, he punctuated his statement with a little smirk.

She gave him a nonplussed look. "I've hit you before in training…"

"Obviously because I let you."

"Right, sure," she muttered with a roll of her eyes.

"Do you want to learn to counterattack or not?"

Roxy sighed and held up her weapon. "Fine, fine. Let's just do this."

Taka nodded and stepped towards her. Once he was close enough, he rose his weapon and made a rather slow swing towards her right shoulder. Roxy held up her spear to block it. He then did the same but to her left side, and she blocked that easily as well. Then he went back to the right, which she blocked, and continued this pattern while picking up speed. Roxy soon understood what he meant by repetitive moves. It was at least nice that Taka was employing teaching methods that started her out slow and easy.

The sound of wood clacking against wood repeatedly rung out through the air as Roxy focused on blocking the same two repeating strikes over and over again. Her next step was to block one of the strikes, then push her paw forward to jab one end of the spear towards Taka. She realized that if she did it right, she could end up hitting him right in the muzzle.

She briefly hesitated, fearing that she would injure her instructor. However, he had insisted that she do it anyway. After a few more strikes, Roxy chose an opening and suddenly jabbed the lowered end of the weapon forward.

It would have struck Taka in the cheek. Instead, it merely struck air after Taka swiftly moved his head just a few inches to the side.

"Not bad for your first try," he commented.

"Whoa…How did you do that? It's like you knew when it was coming!"

"Instinct, training, knowing my opponent…Take your pick."

Roxy skewed her lips. It was sometimes easy to forget just how good Taka could be when he wanted to.

"Next time," he continued, "Do not wait so long after your opponent has struck. The moment your weapons connect, strike back."

"…Right," she murmured unconfidently.

"Something troubling you?"

"I don't know if I can react that fast."

He shook his head. "That is why you do not counterattack immediately upon blocking the first strike. Parry with your opponent a few times and pay attention for the perfect time to strike."

"Oh…" Roxy said with a thoughtful expression, "Yeah, I guess that makes more sense."

"Good. Now try it again."







Roxy was nervous.

It wasn't because she was facing off against Taka, who was coming at her like a crazy wild Pokémon, nor was it because this was a test for her that involved a full-on, fight to the end, sparring match. It also wasn't because Taka wasn't holding back as much and had managed to get a number of good hits on her.

No, Roxy was nervous because they had drawn a crowd. A large crowd.

Apparently Roxy had shown enough of an increase in her skills that it was now considered a spectacle to see. A large group of villagers was standing just outside of the training area and watching the two of them fight. Among the crowd were both wise ones, Miri, Bamaka, Adi and his family.

With so many Pokémon watching her fight, she was developing quite a case of stage fright. However, she had been in a good mood when the match had started, so the mix of emotions was somewhat balancing her out. Taka had told her that it had been much more than a month since the Earth Tribe's invasion and it looked like they weren't coming back, neither to attack nor for their promised berries. Basically, it meant that one of her three requirements for going home was now officially checked off.

Now, however, she was trying to prove that a second checkmark could be placed, both to Taka and to herself. This wasn't so much a final exam, but it was a chance to prove how much she had learned. It was hard to believe, and even harder to admit, but Roxy had become a competent fighter.

Or, at least she did when it came to defence.

Taka circled around her, crawling on three paws while the fourth held his boomerang ready. He had his back arched and his tail high to the sky, ready to pounce on her or use his weapon. Roxy stayed steady on her hind paws, keeping a close eye on him. He had given her quite a few cuts and bruises already, but nothing enough to slow her down.

Taka, of course, was spotless. That wasn't the point of the fight, though.

He suddenly pounced, bringing the back end of his boomerang swinging forward as he brought it down towards her like a blunt weapon. The moment his paws left the ground, she adjusted her own stance and got ready to dodge to the side if needed. Before that happened, though, she quickly brought up her spear horizontal-wise to intercept his attack. Then she tilted her spear to deflect the attack away from her.

Without missing a beat, Roxy carried the momentum of her block forward and used it to bring her spear around for a jab. Taka saw this and was forced to dodge backwards, away from her. That was a point in her favour.

They had been fighting like this for quite a while, much longer than any of their previous training sessions. She was starting to get quite winded, but she figured that Taka was secretly testing her endurance as well. She knew she would need plenty of stamina to make it through the thick, untamed forest and to run away from foes.

No-one in the crowd made a single sound. None of them dared to create distraction more than what their mere presence already caused. When Roxy caught glimpses of them, though, she could see many wide eyes and impressed looks. A few even seemed to be in disbelief.

This is really happening, she thought, I'm…becoming a fighter…and I'm actually doing it!

A moment later, she quickly scolded herself for getting distracted, even just a little bit. She paid for it a moment later as Taka's boomerang came sailing through the air in an arc, whacking her in the back of her head before returning to its owner.

She growled with determination. She had come too far to leave this fight with her tail between her legs. When Taka then tried to capitalize after his boomerang strike, she was immediately ready for him.

Taka had leapt towards her, ready to swing his boomerang at her like a club some more. Over the course of Taka's lessons, Roxy had come to realize that sometimes, in order to be victorious, one needs to take risks. So, instead of falling back into a defensive position like usual, she took a step forward and met his weapon head-on with her own. There was a resounding clack as the two weapons collided.

Roxy took another step forward, pushing against Taka's boomerang with her spear and forcing him to rebalance his stance. This was something the two of them had done before in training, and Roxy was meant to force Taka's weight off to the side so that he would roll right past her. She had done it multiple times and had eventually gotten somewhat good at it.

Instead, Roxy feigned doing said move, but instead suddenly ducked her head down. Less than a second later, she pulled her spear down as well so that nothing was holding back Taka's boomerang. Before this sudden upset in their little war of attrition could even affect him, Roxy pounced forward and tackled Taka to the ground by wrapping her paws around his midsection. The shock from his Static stung quite a bit, but she ignored it.

Taka took about two seconds to react to being forced onto his back. While not a long period of time, in respect to Taka it was noticeably long. Roxy briefly grinned in satisfaction that she had taken him by surprise, and was then tossed off of him like a ragdoll.

She rolled across the ground and stood up as quickly as she could, shooting the crowd a quick grin. They had all audibly gasped when she had pulled off that move, which was yet another small victory point in her favour.

"Not bad," Taka commented as he sprinted towards her, "Not bad at all!" Taka then leapt into the air, spun around, and aimed a tail swipe directly at her face.

She could have deflected this with her weapon, but she ducked instead. This caused his tail to nick her ears slightly, giving her an interesting buzzing sensation as his Static touched them, but it put her in prime position to jab forward with her own weapon. If her opponent hadn't been Taka, she probably would have hit them.

The crowd was murmuring by now. Another point in her favour. They were all seeing what she could do now. What had changed. With the motivation of truly going home, she had forced herself to learn and to learn well. All of her little worries and anxieties, like not wanting to become a fighter, had been washed away. She had simply told herself, day after day, to learn this stuff.

Sometimes, she didn't even notice how much she had learned. Some of it had started becoming second nature to her. A lot of fighting moves were like weird dances. Watching and practicing over and over again allowed her to see the steps and learn how to do them herself. And, with repetition and constant training, her strength, stamina, dexterity and even reaction time all improved. Practice truly did make perfect.

Now she was holding her own against Taka. She could fight against Taka and not immediately lose! Not even two months ago, she would have thought this completely impossible. Just a few short moons ago, she hadn't been a fighter at all. Now though, with her mind focused on a goal that was so real and so, so close, the transformation was happening.

If she could last this long against Taka, the best fighter in the whole tribe, then things were starting to look a lot brighter in her future.







Her future had clouds in it.

Roxy was sitting against one of the trees in the village, paws crossed and rather frustrated.

"I apologize, Roxy," Baza spoke, "I have tried my best…"

She waved her paw. "I know, I know. I'm not mad at you…" she said with a sigh, "Thanks for trying, Baza."

The Pikachu warrior gave her an apologetic shrug before walking off.

Roxy groaned softly and whacked the tree's trunk with her paw in frustration. "What does it matter?" she muttered, "So what if I'm learning to fight and getting better…I'm gonna be stuck here until someone can learn freaking Grass Knot…"

She let out a heavy sigh. She was pretty certain that every single member of the tribe had attempted Grass Knot with her by this point. Even the young cubs who didn't even have a name had tried. No matter how hard they tried, no matter how few distractions there were, no-one could pick up on the natural energy needed to perform the move. It was imperceptible to them.

A heavy feeling of futility was starting to grow within her. All of her accomplishments in combat were starting to feel meaningless in light of this failure. She could see victory and almost reach out and grab it, but without this final step she would never reach it. So, she wondered if it was worth climbing up in the first place.

"Cheer up, Roxy…"

She raised her head and saw Miri approaching her with a gentle smile. The Audino was running her paws through the fur on her head, which was noticeably damp. Along with the direction she was coming from, Roxy surmised that Miri had just been bathing in the river.

"It can't be done," Roxy said, "I'm certain of it. You just can't teach TM Moves…"

Miri reached up with her paws and grasped one of her fluffy ears, carefully but firmly wringing out the excess water. "Look on the bright side," she commented, "The Earth Tribe seems to be long gone, and you have become an excellent fighter, considering where you started from. I know that you do not wish to be here, but things certainly are going rather well for you here at the moment."

Yet another sigh. "I guess…"

"You never know. Perhaps a traveling Pokémon from another tribe will stop by who can learn your technique."

Roxy scoffed. "That'd be my luck. They'd be able to learn the Move, and then they wouldn't stick around."

Miri frowned, wringing out her other ear. "Aw, come now…There is no need to be so sour…"

"Ugh…" Roxy felt like she had every right to be sour. However, she couldn't tell Miri the real reason why. Only she herself knew just how important it was to teach somebody else Grass Knot. If she could accomplish that, she felt like her and Taka's departure could come in only a few days. It felt so  close and yet so far.

"Come on. Irritated is not a good look for you."

Roxy flinched as Miri suddenly patted her on the head.

"Would you like a berry? I think I still have one or two with me."

Glancing up at the Audino and her kind, selfless face made Roxy's anger simmer a little. She let out one more sigh and tried her best to put a smile on her face. "Yeah. Sure, I'd love one."

"Great!" Miri said with a smile. She then reached down with one of her paws, but frowned a moment later. She patted her stomach and sides a few times, getting a rather bewildered look on her face.

"Miri?" Roxy spoke up, "What's wrong?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake…" Miri murmured before turning her head and giving Roxy an apologetic look. She then said, "I must have left my satchel down by the river. It had all the berries in it…"

"Oh. Oh dear…" Roxy replied.

Miri chuckled in embarrassment and rubbed the back of her neck. "Sorry about that. Dear me. I shall go retrieve it, and then you can have a berry. I hope that is agreeable?"

Roxy smiled. "No problem. If you want, I-"

She was cut off however when the two were interrupted by an approaching Pikachu who looked rather worried. "Miri!" he exclaimed.

"Yaga? What is it?" Miri asked.

"Bamaka was sparring in the training area and he's been hurt. We need you!"

"Oh goodness."

Roxy got to her paws and gasped. "Oh no! Is he okay?" she asked, "Nothing serious I hope…"

"It is not serious, thank heavens," Yaga replied, "but he does require your attention, Miri."

"Of course, of course. I will be right there," Miri replied, and then Yaga nodded and dashed off. Miri then turned to regard Roxy. "I am so sorry, but would you mind doing me a favour?"

"You want me to go pick up your satchel?" Roxy replied, anticipating the request, "Sure. Absolutely. Just go and make sure he's okay."

Miri nodded. "Thank you." She then offered Roxy a reassuring smile. "I am sure he will be fine, but tending to injuries sooner rather than later is important."

"Yeah, it's no problem. I'll go get it."

"Okay. I will see you soon, young one."

The two gave each other a quick wave, and then Miri turned and ran off. Roxy watched her for a moment. She felt a little twinge of worry about the wellbeing of one of her friends, but neither of the two had sounded all that worried about him. Miri would just be there to make sure things went swimmingly.

Speaking of swimming, Roxy nodded to herself and picked up her spear. She then quickly dashed off, heading for the bathing spot at the river. She had come to develop a rather keen sense of direction when it came to the village and what surrounded it, and could easily determine which direction was the right way.

She felt the spear, attached to her backside with a couple of vines and easily within her reach. Most of the villagers walked around while carrying weapons, even within the safety of the village, and so Roxy had begun to adopt that trait. Even now, going to a place where she had once been attacked, she didn't even spare a single thought towards having to use it. It was just important to have it there, and she knew this.

Admittedly, one of the things Roxy still struggled with was running at full speed with a piece of wood and rock strapped to her back. She was doing her best to get better at it.

In no time at all, she had reached the bathing area. This had been the very first place that she had ever felt comfortable being alone in besides the village centre or her hut. Not a single incident had occurred here since the Mightyena that had attacked her, not to her or to anybody else.

Roxy approached the water's edge and came to a stop. She glanced around for a bit before finally spotting the satchel sitting a few yards away. She quickly padded over and picked it up, and then slung it over her shoulder.

As she turned around to head back, she found herself pausing once she was facing the water's edge. She stepped closer and leaned forward, looking down at her reflection in the gently flowing water. Roxy was a little surprised to see herself. She looked a lot different than before. There were tribal markings on her fur, a leaf-woven satchel around her neck, and a spear strapped to her back. She even looked more fit than before.

Her ears twitched.

Roxy froze as her heart dropped like a rock. Worry and panic immediately tried to assert themselves. Everything was now focused entirely on what she had just heard.

Something was behind her.

There was a perfectly good chance that it was just someone from the Thunder Tribe approaching behind her. Raichu especially could be very light on their paws. However, something in her gut told her that this wasn't the case. Something else was behind her.

She tensed up, but focused on keeping herself from locking up completely. An overwhelming sense of dread and panic was there on the horizon, slowly slipping into her. It was happening again. Something was about to attack her at the river again, in the very same spot.

The sound of a pair of paws on the grass, more noticeable this time.

Roxy made a snap decision. She reached up with one paw, gripped her spear, and then turned completely around whilst drawing it.

Not a millisecond passed between her turning to face her foe, and just barely being able to bring her spear up in time to block. She intercepted the pair of paws that were pouncing at her, stopping them from reaching her but knocking her off balance. She staggered back a few steps as her foe righted itself on the ground.

Time caught up with her and she immediately panicked for a brief moment over what she had just done. If she hadn't blocked, then she would've been slammed to the ground under her foe's heavy weight and sharp claws.

A second wave of panic flowed through her as she got a good look at her opponent, her pupils shrinking to dots. "What the hell?!" she exclaimed, taking a cautious step back.

A large, quadrupedal Pokémon was standing before her. It had strong-looking limbs, a long tail, and fluffy fur that got particularly thick around its neck. It was also completely coloured black from head to tail, like something had just been covered in crude oil. It looked nothing at all like any of the seven hundred plus known Pokémon that Roxy knew about.

It quickly became apparent that none of that was important. What she needed to focus on was the Pokémon's razor-sharp claws, razor-sharp teeth, and very hungry look in its eyes.

Time slowed down as Roxy suddenly found herself back in that same old nightmare that she had faced many times before. Something that wanted her dead was standing a few feet away and staring right at her. Whatever this Pokémon was, it looked like it was stronger, faster and bigger than she was by far. She could feel panic and spikes of anxiety consuming her entire body, freezing her on the spot. Her heart thumped like wild against her chest and she could barely breathe.

The Pokémon pounced, landed just before her, and took a swipe at her with its paw.

Roxy took a step back and lowered herself slightly, swiftly bringing her spear up lengthwise to catch the paw before it could connect with her. The impact sent a jolt through her whole body, but the attack was blocked.

The Pokémon attacked with its other paw, but Roxy quickly shifted herself around so she could properly block that strike as well.

A horrible, tense, feeling was running right up her spine. Her eyes were wide, sweat was dripping from her, and she couldn't help but let out a few panicked whines. No-one was there. No Pokémon was coming to help her. She was all alone against this deadly beast, whatever it was.

There was no time to think about that. It was pouncing. It was going to bite her head right off. She quickly ducked herself down and held up her spear horizontally. It caught the creature right between its teeth, allowing her to give a push forward and shove it off to the side. While it tried to regain its balance, she gave a quick jab with the handle of the spear towards its face, not hitting it but causing it to flinch.

Hey…I'm doing it…

Roxy jumped just in time to avoid a paw swipe. A second swipe, higher up, nearly connected with her before she could stumble back. The fur on her chest tickled from the rush of air and it sent chills down her spine.

Roxy was still terrified.

As she took a few more steps back to distance herself from her foe, she vaguely realized that she had been crying. Her cheeks were soaking wet from her tears. Taka's words rang through her head, though. She knew that she was terrified and it was okay to be, but it couldn't control her. The moment she let her fear get control, she would be dead.

She circled back a little bit, getting further from the river. The beast prowled along after her, keeping her in its vicious sight. It quickly jumped a few feet forward and then raised its paw to strike down on her.

Roxy screamed in terror. She also swung her spear and batted the paw away. Sweat ran down her trembling body as she took a daring step forwards and jabbed the spear right towards its other paw. The creature was forced to retreat to avoid getting punctured.

Where was everybody? Why wasn't anyone on patrol coming to help her?

She jumped high in the air to avoid another claw swipe from the jet black predator. Fear had a vice grip on her heart, causing an almost painful sensation in her chest, but she tried as much as she could to stay focused. She had learned how to deal with this. She had spent days and days learning this stuff.

Another successful block. Roxy's mind began to race. Her Electric Moves still weren't good enough. She didn't know what type this strange Pokémon was, so her Grass Knot probably wouldn't be very useful. What she wouldn't give to have someone, anyone here to help her fend this thing off.

Roxy was close to hyperventilating by now, but she couldn't let that defeat her either. The Pokémon darted forward and made another vicious swipe at her, but she ducked down and blocked this as well. She made a jab to counterattack, but it missed her foe entirely. She was barely able to bring her spear back to block the next strike.

This thing was a lot bigger and stronger than her. She had to end this now, or it would end her.

As she continued to warily circle around the Pokémon, she saw what was probably her only chance. When the Pokémon made to attack her again, she chose to block with a swinging strike instead of holding her spear up. This forced the Pokémon to step back so it wouldn't be hit by the sharp point of her spear.

That's when Roxy took her daring move. Before her opponent could try anything else she quickly leapt forward right towards it. Her panic spiked while she was in the air, and her mind told her that she had just killed herself. A terrified scream escaped her throat, but she was still able to deliver a kick right into the Pokémon's muzzle. It cried out in pain, flinching back and holding a paw up to its nose. When Roxy landed, she then performed one of the most recent moves she had learned from Taka. With a quick jump and a twist of her body, she backflipped in the air and whacked the Pokémon under its chin with her tail.

She deftly landed just in time to see the creature rear up on its hind legs, grasping at its injured muzzle. On the one paw, this made it significantly larger than her, giving her a moment of feeling small and powerless. She shook that off though, because she knew she only needed to do one more thing right to end this.

While the Pokémon was still unbalanced, Roxy struck. She let out a shout that was somewhere between a war cry and a panicked scream, dashed forward, and jabbed the butt end of her spear right into the Pokémon's stomach.

It immediately recoiled in pain from having such a tender spot struck. It teetered back for a moment on its hind paws, let out a short, distressed cry, and then a moment later it lost its balance. The Pokémon fell over backwards and splashed down hard into the river.

Run. Run! Run!! This was the moment when she was supposed to run, but Roxy found she couldn't. Her paws were frozen, thanks to a deep-seeded fear of turning her back on the Pokémon, even while it was submerged under the river. It took her far too long to convince herself to finally move, and even then she just ended up walking backwards somewhat quickly.

The Pokémon resurfaced a moment later, letting out a gasp of air. It shook its head, flinging water off of its fur in every direction.

As well as its black colour.

Dumbfounded, Roxy stopped moving. She watched as the Pokémon sat there in the river, all of the black colour draining off of its fur and making a trail of black that swam down the river. Underneath, the Pokémon's grey, blue and yellow fur was revealed. Including its spiky mane and distinctive star-shaped tail.

"…Adi?!"

The Luxray, now fully revealed, shot her a grin. "Not bad," he commented, "I can honestly say I did not expect that."

Roxy's brain was broken. She could tell. On the computer screen in her mind, there was nothing but a blue screen with garbled text. She blinked her eyes a ridiculous amount of times, but the inexplicable image remained in front of her. That terrifying, horrifying Pokémon had somehow traded places with Adi while under the water.

"…Buh…?"

She then nearly jumped right out of her skin as an uproarious applause suddenly filled the forest air. She whipped her head around behind her, finding a huge group of Thunder Clan villagers stepping out from behind the trees, all of them clapping their paws. All of her close friends were there, Taka was there, the wise ones were there.

"Congratulations, Roxy!" Miri said with a big smile on her face, "Well done!"

Roxy, only getting more confused by the second, shifted her gaze between all of the applauding Pokémon. They all had happy smiles on their faces. She, meanwhile, was still stuck holding her spear in a defensive position.

"I am impressed," Taka said as he stepped forward and gave her a single pat on the back. There was a splashing noise as Adi climbed out of the river and shook off the rest of the water on his fur.

"Wuh…" Roxy shook her head and then shouted, "What's going on?!"

A few of the villagers laughed at her reaction, only confusing her even more.

"This was a test, Roxy," Miri said, "and you performed wonderfully!"

"What??"

"You have been doing very well in your training," Taka said, causing her to shift her attention back to him, "You have learned a lot and improved your skills. You have even performed well in battle against myself and others in this tribe." He then held up his paw and a single digit. "However," he continued, "I needed to see if you had yet reached a point where you could still use these skills in an unexpected and stressful situation."

"We all worked together with Taka to set this whole thing up," Karizu spoke, "You were never in any real danger."

"I left my satchel here on purpose," Miri added, "and the others pretended there was a medical problem."

Roxy stared off into space for a moment, trying to shift gears and process this properly. She slowly glanced over at Adi, who was now completely free of his black pigment. "That was…Adi…the whole time?" Roxy murmured in disbelief.

Adi nodded and gestured towards the water, still tainted black slightly. "It is the same paint as our marks, but with a different colour," he explained.

"And more water in the mixture, so that it would wash off easier," Karizu added.

That terrifying, horrible black-coloured Pokémon had been Adi? Roxy thought back to her encounter, and even still she couldn't connect the two. She hadn't recognized the Luxray even in the slightest.

Miri patted her on the back, jolting her out of her stupor. "You passed, Roxy! You performed well beyond our expectations."

"I…did?" she asked. Then, she thought back to the fight she'd just had against the disguised Adi. It was a fight she had won. She had been utterly terrified and suffering from an overload of anxiety the whole time, but she had still managed to overcome that and use all of the skills she had learned. "I…I did!" she repeated, this time with more certainty.

"Well done, Roxy," Taka said simply.

She started smiling brightly. "I did it!!" she exclaimed, "I can't believe it! I did it!!"

The crowd erupted into applause once more, and Roxy couldn't stop herself from throwing her paws into the air and jumping around excitedly. She whooped in delight, more proud of herself than she had ever been before.

This was it. This was the next checkmark. True, the whole thing had been staged, but Roxy had completely believed that this encounter had been real. If an actual wild Pokémon had attacked, Roxy would have reacted in the same way.

And she had won!

"You have come such a long way, Roxy!" Miri cheered, hopping over to give her a hug.

"Yaaaay!!" she yelled, "This is so awesome!!"

All along the way, even when Roxy had been doing well, she'd always had doubts about herself. No matter how good she got at fighting, some part of her brain always said that she would never be good enough to go home. Today was the biggest blow she had ever dealt against that anxious part of herself. She had faced off against one of the toughest and strongest members of the clan. She doubted Adi would have actually hurt her, but she hadn't even gotten touched by his paws at all. She had done it all by herself, and even in spite of that, she knew that she would have Taka with her on the journey through the forest. Roxy's optimism went through the roof.

"Wooo!! Taka!!" she exclaimed, bounding over and giving the stoic Pikachu a huge hug against his will.

"Hey! Stop it, pet…"

Roxy released him and jumped up excitedly a few more times. "Oh my gosh," she gushed, "We can totally do it, Taka! We can make it all the way through the forest now. I know it!"

A moment later, a hush fell over most of the crowd. Cheers and applause turned into confused murmuring. It took Roxy a second to realize what she had just said. She gasped, eyes wide open, and clasped her paws over her mouth.

Her eyes slowly roamed the crowd. She saw many of the Thunder Clan members glancing at one another with concerned looks, most of them muttering things to one another. She saw Karizu and Natoka, looking at her in shock and disbelief. She then turned her head back and looked at Taka, who had his paw pressed up against his face in exasperation.

"Um…" she squeaked, "…Oops?"
The Thunder Clan - 21
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The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

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

Do not use without permission

---


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

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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Chapter 20 - Everything Changes

"Left! Right! Right again! Dodge!"

Roxy was sweating bullets while she did her best to adhere to Taka's directions. She held the spear tightly in her paws, keeping it always at the ready so she could fend off anything that came her way. She blocked, slashed and dodged away from the imaginary enemies called out by Taka.

"End!"

She let out a sigh of relief and relaxed. That had been tough, to be sure, but Roxy was smiling at the result. She had handled herself pretty well during that session.

"Good," Taka said. It was a compliment, even though it didn't really sound like one.

"Thanks, Taka," she said through her heavy panting. She sat down on a nearby log and fanned herself with her paw.

"Next round. Ready?"

Roxy shook her head. "No, no…Need to breathe…"

If Roxy had uttered such a response only a few short months ago, her teacher Taka would have berated her for being weak and forced her to get up and go anyway. Now, though, she didn't fear that at all. She said it with a tired but genuine smile on her face, because she knew that her training partner Taka wouldn't go faster than her own pace.

"Very well," he spoke, "Do not forget to stretch."

"You got it, coach."

Roxy sighed as she stretched her hind limbs out. It felt good to get up and move, even if it really tired her out. Spring was just around the corner, so the air was just cool enough to be pleasant. It had started to rain more often, though not terribly heavily yet. In some ways, it was nice to feel a shower of rain after a long day of training.

It was weird to think of how much she used to hate the rain.

Roxy had learned a lot over the past few weeks training alongside Taka. When he wasn't barking instructions, pushing her too far, and just being downright insulting, she could pick up quite a few things from him. She spent a lot of time just watching him train, and then afterwards trying to do what he did. Taka had commented initially that it was a poor way to learn, but Roxy seemed to be proving him wrong.

With every lesson, Roxy felt more and more capable of defending herself. She didn't put any effort into learning offense, because it wasn't a drive she felt the need to improve. It was more difficult to learn, more dangerous to put into practice, and really wasn't something she wanted to do. The incident with the Houndoom still haunted her a little.

She had, however, learned a multitude of ways to parry attacks with a spear, block with various weapons, strike back defensively so as to disorient or disable foes, as well as tons of dodging manoeuvres.

Roxy practiced what she wanted, and usually Taka obliged. It was a much better system, and Roxy suspected that even Taka was realizing that fact. The two didn't spend any time together outside of the training area, but Roxy didn't really care. They didn't share any common interests anyway.

After stretching some more and feeling a second wind, Roxy stood back up. She went to go pick up her spear, but Taka stopped her.

"Wait," he said, "If you are able, I would like to see your 'power' once more."

Roxy paused and looked at him. "My Grass Knot?"

He nodded.

"Uhhh…Okay, I guess." She shrugged and then walked over to the middle of the training area. She indicated for Taka to step back, and once he did she took a deep breath.

About a minute and a half of silence passed by as Roxy concentrated. She wondered if Taka was getting impatient with her, but he didn't say anything and she had her eyes closed. The energy needed for the Move was still difficult to find and slow to gather.

As always, a sudden peak of energy signalled that the Grass Knot was ready to go, so she immediately swept out her forepaws. A blooming flower-shape of thick grass spread out below her, standing out among the worn-down earthen floor of the training area.

With the move successfully initiated, she opened her eyes and gave Taka a quick little grin of satisfaction. She saw that he was watching her closely, studying her. So, she brought her paws up and drew the grass blades up and around her like a closed flower bud.

"Truly fascinating…" Taka murmured quietly.

"It's hard," she replied, "Even just doing this."

"Indeed?"

"Yeah…" she said, already feeling the strain begin to slowly build up.

Taka nodded thoughtfully. "And it always takes you that long to ready it?"

Roxy frowned. "If you're just gonna give me criticism, then I'm not gonna dance for you."

"My apologies," Taka said, holding up his forepaws, "I was merely trying to understand your current limitations. The key word is 'current', after all."

"Oh…Well then, yeah. I have to really, really concentrate in order to…um…'feel' around me. The Grass-Type energy is sorta concentrated throughout the ground below. I just have to…y'know…find some, and then draw it in. It takes a while."

She then chuckled. "I'm honestly surprised I was able to get enough energy to fight the Earth Tribe. It was kinda hard to concentrate, considering…"

Taka had moved closer, and was now reaching out one of his paws to softly touch one of the lengths of grass. Roxy simply watched him. His reaction indicated that he didn't feel anything more than normal grass.

Then, to her confusion, he stood still and closed his eyes. A minute went past, and he didn't say a word.

"Uhh…Taka? What're you doing?"

He didn't answer.

Then, she frowned. "Taka, are you trying to feel the energy?"

A curt nod was all she got.

Roxy shook her head, even though he couldn't see her. "I don't think you can. The TM's supposed to put the knowledge in my head, or whatever it does. Otherwise it's so tiny that no-one could ever pick up on it."

After another couple of moments of silence, Taka opened his eyes and sighed in frustration. "You are right…I cannot discern anything specific."

"You'd need the TM."

"Evidently," he grumbled.

Roxy frowned and brought her paws back down. The grass blades 'bloomed' out and curled down to the ground, forming a shallow sort of platform around her.

After a moment, Taka said, "I trust that you know the reason why I wish to learn more about this skill?"

"Yeah…" Roxy glanced to the side. "In case they…come back."

Taka nodded. "If you could teach one, just one of us, it would prove to be invaluable."

Roxy called off the Move and let the grass sink to the ground, then she rubbed her forelimb with her paw, frowning. "I, uh…That's a lot of pressure…" she said, "I really don't think I'd be able to…"

"There is no sense in not trying."

"…Yeah. I guess you're right."

Taka clapped his forepaws together, recapturing her full attention. "Do it again," he instructed her, "but this time, tell me out loud everything that you're doing. Describe everything as much as you can."

She skewed her lips. "It'll be hard to concentrate if I do that…"

"If it takes longer, that is fine. That is not the purpose of the exercise."

Shrugging, she replied, "All right…"

Roxy took just a few moments to regain a bit of her strength, and then closed her eyes once more. "I'm…shutting out the rest of the world. I don't wanna see anything or feel anything, and I don't pay attention to anything I hear…"

Certainly, this was not the first time she had been asked to demonstrate her Grass Knot, nor the first time someone in the tribe had tried to learn it. Her answer was always the same. If she herself didn't even know how she had learned it, then she couldn't very well teach the Move to others. Still, she did understand the value in passing the move on somehow, so she continued to engage Taka's curiosities.

"I, uh…um…" She faltered a little. It seemed like it would be impossible to describe everything that happened during the Grass Knot. "It's like…my hind paws are on the ground…I can sorta feel, like, the ground underneath…and stuff." She frowned, not liking the way her explanation was coming out.

This continued for a few minutes as she tried to explain what was going on. Eventually, this culminated in her unleashing the Move once again, but Taka could only shake his head in frustration.

"Sorry…" she murmured, letting the grass fall once again, "I guess I'm not a good teacher."

"It is not your fault…" Taka replied, though it was clear he was a little irritated.

"TM's are weird. I'm not the only one I know who says that…"

Roxy went and sat on a nearby log, allowing herself to recover from using the Move twice in a row. She didn't feel tired, but it did leave her feeling rather drained.

"Well, I am not giving up on this," Taka stated, "What you have is a skill that would prove useful to our tribe for generations upon generations. It is a counter to our only shared weakness."

She frowned. "I know, I know…" Roxy then sighed and gave the problem some thought, but it didn't seem like there was a solution. "I don't think I can teach a TM move to someone else…"

"There must be a way to learn it…"

Roxy put her brain to work and thought back to everything she had read about TMs in the encyclopedia, which didn't amount to much that she had been able to understand. "TMs are usually used to teach Pokémon Moves that they wouldn't normally be able to learn, but not every TM works with every Pokémon. There still has to be some sort of compatibility. If the Move can't be learned naturally, or by Move Tutor, then a TM is probably the only way that Pokémon can learn the move."

She paused and thought back a bit more to what she had read. "Well, except…If the Pokémon that learned the TM move has a child, and the child would be compatible with the TM, then the child usually grows up to learn it naturally, even without the TM."

Roxy sighed and frowned, still not seeing a solution to the problem. Without the TM in their paws, much less without a human-made device to actually use it, then Grass Knot would probably stay inside of her head and her head only.

When she turned to look at Taka, he had a contemplative look on his face. "What?" she asked. When he didn't answer, she furrowed her brow and pressed further. "What??"

Taka glanced up and made eye contact with her, a paw on his chin. He looked like he was considering something, as if he had an idea.

"What? What is it?" Roxy said, starting to get a little exasperated, "Was it something I said?"

Of course, being Taka, he still refused to just open his mouth and say what was on his mind. Roxy gave a huff of frustration and replayed what she had just said in her mind, trying to figure out what he had latched onto.

When she found it, her eyes grew wide. "What?!" she suddenly burst out.

"I-"

"Are you serious right now?!"

"I was merely-"

"Look, I'm all for making sure the Thunder Clan is secure and safe, but some things are just a step too far."

Taka sighed softly and shook his head. "It would work, though?"

Roxy, now blushing furiously for a whole variety of reasons, gave him a pout. "Sure. Maybe. But that's not the point. Did you really think I would agree to something like that?!"

"I never asked-"

Roxy crossed her forepaws with a huff. "I'm not gonna have a baby just so you can get Grass Knot."

"Never mind. Forget I brought it up."

"I wish I could."

"…Are you s-"

"YES!!" Roxy shouted, feeling like the top of her head had just exploded like a volcano. She shook her head furiously, trying to shake off the heat and embarrassment she was getting from this ridiculous conversation.

She then took a deep breath and sighed heavily. "…I can't, anyway."

Taka turned to look at her with an arched eyebrow. "What?"

"I'm a pet," she said simply, "I'm spayed."

"What does that mean?"

She pinched the bridge of her muzzle in mild irritation. "It means the humans made it so that I can't have cubs. It's a medical thing. Most pets have it done."

"…Oh."

"Yeah…"

What followed was perhaps the most awkward silence that had ever been suffered between the two of them. Possibly, the most awkward in Roxy's whole life. Quite a few minutes went past with neither one looking at each other or saying anything.

"I need to run an errand," Taka said finally, breaking the silence, "I will be back shortly."

She glanced up to regard Taka and gave him a nod. "Okay," she replied, and then watched as he dashed off.

With a wistful sigh, she walked over towards where she'd dropped her spear. Along the way, she eyed the other training weapons leaning against the nearby trees and paused. Her gaze was drawn to a boomerang.

She felt a touch of curiosity. Unlike all the other weapons, Roxy had never even touched a boomerang before. It hadn't looked easy, and no-one had bothered trying to teach it to her. Now that she thought about it, Taka was the only one she had ever seen use a boomerang.

Roxy picked it up and felt its weight. It felt really light in her paws, and was very smooth. She swung it around a few times, and felt how smoothly it cut through the air. It felt rather natural in her paws. She walked over to a target on the ground and hit it with the boomerang. It felt like a lightweight club, but still made a painful sounding thunk against the wood.

"Huh…" she remarked to herself.

She then set her sights on one of the targets hanging from the trees, usually used for archery practice. She didn't think she'd be able to hit it but decided to try anyway. Roxy set her paws firmly and tried  to remember the stance Taka took before throwing it. She reached back like she thought she was supposed to, then swung her foreleg forward and let the wooden projectile fly.

It sailed in a low arch, tumbling over itself, and clattered lamely to the ground halfway to the target. Roxy frowned and groaned at her rather unsuccessful attempt.

She decided to try again, and so walked over to pick the boomerang up. She then returned to her starting position and got ready once more. Roxy figured that the reason her first throw hadn't gone so well was due to her form. The idea was for the boomerang to 'carve' through the air, so the arc of her swing needed to be just right.

The intrepid Pikachu set her paws once more, focused on her form and technique and tried to aim the weapon as best she could. When she thought she was ready, she reared back and let the boomerang fly.

She ended up overcompensating her angle, and the boomerang went flying up high into the air. It did, however, look like it was making a much smoother flight, even if her aim had been horrible. In fact, it looked like the boomerang was cresting and turning around.

It was coming back to her, like it was supposed to.

Really really quickly…!

Roxy yelped and ducked her head down just in time to avoid getting hit right between the eyes. The boomerang sailed over her head, touching some of the fur on top, before whizzing past behind her.

She had ducked her head down at the perfect angle to catch a glimpse of Taka standing behind her, who effortlessly held up one of his paws and caught the boomerang.

"Aah…" Roxy uttered in relief as she fell back onto her rear-end, "Wow…"

Taka simply tossed the boomerang off to the side, where it clattered to the ground.

"That didn't go as well as I'd hoped," Roxy commented, "Wow, though. You didn't even flinch! You didn't even throw that one, and you're still the master of those things!"

He didn't reply. He simply stood there with a frown on his face.

"…Taka?"

She studied him, noting how much his demeanour had changed. He looked morose, like something bad had just happened.

"What…?" she asked, starting to feel anxious, "What is it?" When he didn't reply right away, she added, "Taka, tell me!"

Taka glanced to the side, remained silent for a moment, and then walked over to one of the logs lying nearby and sat upon it. He stared straight ahead, not looking at her.

"…Ozu is dead."

Roxy clasped her paws to her mouth and gasped in shock. "Wh-What…?!" she said, sounding muffled through her paws, "What d'you mean…?"

"His injuries claimed his life. Miri did all that she could."

If she hadn't already been sitting down, Roxy was sure she would have tumbled over. Even so, the world began to spin around her and made her feel nauseous. She kept her paws up to her muzzle, afraid to move a muscle, and stared at Taka with wide eyes. The reality of what Taka had told her began to sink in, slowly and agonizingly.

"B-but…" she murmured, "I…I just saw him…a few days ago…He said he was getting better…"

"Well, he got worse," Taka said tersely.

"Oh…Oh, heavens…" Roxy's wide-eyed gaze drifted off until she was simply staring into space. Her stomach felt unwell, sick as if it were literally trying to digest this awful news. Ozu, her friend, one of the wise ones and leaders of the tribe, dead. She didn't want to believe it.

A familiar feeling of hurt began to course through her veins until it reached her heart. That same awful feeling of despair that came with the death of someone else, just as bad as it had always been. Another Pokémon that she had gotten to know quite well…Gone, never to speak to her again.

Roxy closed her eyes and grimaced. There was a reason that she didn't look back upon that battle with the Earth Tribe fondly, even though it had ended in victory. This was that reason. To think that lives were lost, now including Ozu's, simply because a group of Pokémon started to get greedy. If Roxy hadn't driven them off, they might've killed the whole tribe. However, she hadn't been able to save everyone.

Suddenly, Roxy swore rather loudly, even catching Taka by surprise a little. "It's so stupid…" she then murmured, "So awful, so dumb…" A horribly wistful sigh escaped her lips. "Why did it have to be like this…?"

"That is the way of the wild," Taka responded emotionlessly, "We live, we fight, we survive…and we die."

"It's not fair…"

"If you think anything is fair, pet, then I am sorry to say you are deluded."

Roxy flinched a little upon hearing his derogatory nickname once more. Though he may not have been outwardly showing it, Roxy knew this was a sign that Taka was also shaken by this turn of events.

"Why did they even attack…?" Roxy muttered.

"Because they are bloodthirsty savages."

She frowned. "But they weren't like that before. They were mean and rude, but they followed the agreement, right? That's what everyone told me,"

"Mm…"

"Why suddenly change?" she continued to wonder, skewing her lip as she gave it some thought, "To just go from one month of being content, to the next where…Ozu is dead." She choked up a little on those last words.

There was a moment of silence that permeated the area, which was broken by a short sigh from Taka. "That is when he saw you."

She turned towards him. "What?"

"That last trade meeting," he explained, "was when he saw you. He seemed to take a…particular interest in you."

Roxy glanced away and shivered at the memory of Tazoka approaching her and talking to her in that icky sly way of speaking.

"I think, perhaps," Taka continued, "he saw you with us…living with us…still wearing your collar. He probably saw that we had taken you in and thought that we had gone soft or something."

Slowly, Roxy lifted her head up as Taka's words registered in her brain. She turned to look at Taka so that she could answer him, only to find that Taka had already walked off. Instead, Roxy was left to sit there alone, thinking about the death of one of her friends and what Taka had just said.

She didn't move from that spot for hours. She didn't move at all until someone came up to her who was worried.

Then, she silently made her way through the village. Her paws twiddled nervously as she walked slowly, a frown on her face. There was a definite sombre atmosphere to the entire village, and nobody seemed to want to talk to anybody else. It was as if more than just one of their leaders had died.

The trees opened up into a familiar glade with a mound of earth in the centre. Sitting upon it were two very downcast Raichu, both sitting there in silence. Their ears twitched when she stepped into the glade, and the two Raichu turned to look down at her.

Roxy stopped at the base of the mound and looked back up at them, tears in her eyes, cheek fur stained from tears already shed, and her lip quivering.

"Is…" she spoke in a trembling, vulnerable voice, "…Is this my fault…?"







The funeral was a sombre, tragic affair. Roxy cried the whole time, and still couldn't bring herself to keep her eyes on the pyre.

Despite everyone's reassurance that the invasion was not her fault at all, Roxy still found herself carrying a heavy amount of guilt. She reasoned that the Earth Tribe wouldn't have attacked if she hadn't been there, but many including the wise ones disagreed, saying that they would have attacked sooner or later. They noted that the cause for upsetting the balance of peace was Tazoka, not her.

It was hard to convince herself, though. All she could think about was what Taka had said. It seemed like a correct assumption. She remembered the smirk Tazoka had gotten upon seeing her for the first time. Looking back, she could almost see the treacherous gears turning in his head as he sized her up.

Ozu's funeral had a very large crowd, and lasted quite long. His was the death of a prominent member of the tribe, as well as one of their leaders. Roxy had asked Miri, who was sitting next to her, if another Pikachu would be given the Thunder Stone now, but Miri didn't know. Only Karizu and Natoka could decide that.

The wise ones had always seemed invincible to her. She had never seen them fight before the invasion, and yet she had still viewed them as powerful and unstoppable. Raichu were big and scary in her eyes. She had never met any pleasant ones before coming here.

But Ozu had been struck down.

He had tried to hold on, but his strength had given out.

Now he was gone.

Just like Makari.

A few hours later found Roxy lying in her hut, not upon her bedding, just staring blankly at the ceiling. It was dark outside so she couldn't even see the ceiling, but that wasn't an important detail. Sleep was but a distant hope at this point.

Ozu's death was saddening and frightening, and there was a pain in her chest that didn't go away. She hadn't been as close to Ozu as she had been to Makari, though, and her tears were more for a different reason.

No matter what everyone else said, she felt like this was her fault. The more she dwelled on it, she started to feel like a lot of things were her fault, simply by her being there. Life in the village had changed, one way or another, all because she had dropped out of the sky.

Maybe Makari's death was her fault too.

After crying for nearly a half hour and trying to rid herself of that horrible thought, she laid her head back and groaned in despair. Nothing felt right. Everything was wrong.

Her anxiety was starting to take control of her. She had read about anxiety once with her master, and she knew that when things started going wrong, anxiety latches onto it and tries to make things worse and worse. When one worry pops up, suddenly everything is worrisome and scary.

Roxy knew this, but she didn't feel like she had the strength to fight it. Anything positive about the present, or of the past few days and weeks, was just emptiness in her mind. All she could think about was how awful things were.

Ozu was dead…

Makari was dead…

Her master was…

Roxy shook her head wildly. "No!" she said to herself, "You're not going to think about that. Stop it." She then rolled over on her side, letting out a heavy sigh. "Just stop it…" she muttered, "Stop it, please…"

Roxy tossed and turned for hours. Sleep was simply impossible at this point. There was just too much hurt. Like before, all of the strength and defence she had built up had crumbled instantly the moment things had turned bad. She felt so cold, and so lonely.

She was scared. She was hopeless. The dangers of the wild were rearing their ugly heads once more, and she couldn't do much more than cry.

She didn't belong here…







Roxy may very well have been a lifeless doll when Taka found her.

She heard him climb up the tree, swift as he always was. Then, she heard him pause once he was close enough to catch sight of her. The sight of her sitting on the branch near the top of the tall tree, body slumped and leaning limply against the tree's trunk. Her head resting on the bark, the only thing keeping her sitting upright, and her eyes just staring out at the vast expanse of nothingness.

It was probably a bit of an unnerving sight.

"Roxy?"

She didn't move a muscle, not even when he hopped up onto the branch and stood next to her.

"The others are worried about you."

"Mmm…" she groaned.

"You have been up here for hours."

Roxy simply closed her eyes. She felt too tired to deal with this. Her energy reserves were completely empty, and she couldn't even feel the muscles in her own body. She was, for all intents and purposes, just a lump on the tree.

The branch jostled a little when Taka sat down next to her. He wasn't right next to her, but a respectable distance away. She expected him to then say something, but he kept his mouth shut. He just sat there in silence as she did the same.

Time passed. Whether it was ten minutes or two hours, Roxy did not know. Taka continued to sit there the whole time, not saying a single word.

"I tried."

Roxy herself was a little surprised by her own voice. She hadn't really planned on saying anything, but Taka's silent presence had somehow drawn it out.

"Mm?" was all he gave in response.

"I…" She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the heavy feeling of lethargy coursing through her whole body. It felt like even just speaking was too difficult. "I tried…to live out here."

She saw Taka turn and look at her.

"I did try, y'know… I didn't wanna die, so I had to try…and it was hard and it hurt so much, but I gave it everything I had and I still tried…I tried my best."

"Of course."

Taka's surprisingly quiet and empathetic response caught her off guard. "I…I did!"

"I know that you did. No-one can say you did not."

"Ngh…" She shook her head softly. "I…H-He's gone…We won the battle, I did things I never thought I could do, and he's still gone."

"It is the sad truth. Victory never comes without a cost."

"I…just don't think I can try anymore."

There was a moment's pause before Taka spoke once more. "Of course you can."

"Doesn' feel like it…"

"Roxy…"

"I can't."

"Stop this.

"I just…can't."

Roxy let out the heaviest of sighs, slumping even more against the tree's trunk. Taka's words didn't exactly have a reassuring tone to them, but she could tell he was at least a little concerned for her. It didn't matter much, though.

She felt empty inside. Dead but for the fact she was walking. Over the course of her stay here, she had managed to find many silver linings. Now, they were all covered under a thick layer of dark, heavy, depressing tar.

"You have improved…vastly," Taka spoke quietly, "I do hope you realize that."

"Mn…"

"The pet who couldn't swing a stick or swipe her tail, now you are advancing in skill bit by bit every day, learning to use new weapons, and have stood up and won against the Earth Tribe. You are always saying 'I can't' or 'I'm not able to' or 'I give up'…Yet, you have done nothing but take steps forward since you got here."

Roxy closed her eyes wearily as she listened to him talk.

"You are letting this get into your head," he continued, "Despite your bad mood, do you think that Ozu's death has somehow made you worse at combat? Has his passing made you less able to survive out here?"

At that statement, she opened her eyes. She sat up a little straighter, even to her own surprise. Then, she turned and looked Taka straight in the eye.

He furrowed his brow and said, "Right?"

She stared at him.

Taka arched an eyebrow. "…What?"

"Say it again…" she said in such a quiet voice that she barely even heard herself.

"Say what?"

"What you just said."

He looked perplexed for a brief moment, then skewed his lips. "I was merely saying that the sadness will pass, and yet you will still have all of the skills you have gained to live in this forest and survive out here."

"But I don't want to live in this forest!!!"

Bird Pokémon from miles around took to the sky in fright from her loud shout. Even Taka looked a little startled, and had readjusted his grip on the branch as if he had been about to fall off. He stared at her with wide eyes.

Her rage lasted only seconds, and then she was crying again. "Taka, I don't wanna get better at surviving! I wanna go home!!"

"…I, ah…"

She let out a few painful wails before she was able to speak again. "I…can't…do this…anymore! I can't stay out here! I need to go home! I want out! I want out!!" She clenched her paws up tight and held them up against her forehead. "Don't you get it?! No matter how good I get at fighting, no matter how good I get at surviving, and no matter how close I get to all of you, I'm never gonna be happy until I can go back home!"

A very tense, awkward silence permeated the air for a few minutes.

"…I don't belong here, Taka. I never will," Roxy said, having calmed down a little but still sounding very sorrowful.

Taka sighed. "Roxy, listen…It is not that none of us understands what you are going through. We are not blind to the way you feel. All of us knew that you wouldn't be happy while you were here, but the fact is that you are here. The wise ones, our brethren, Makari…even I tried to make things a little better for you."

"Thank you for that…"

"My brother…would say to me that he was always thinking…always trying to figure out a way to get you home, whether he would be able to go with you or not."

Roxy turned to look at Taka. Hearing that Makari had not only been trying to help her, but had actually considered going home with her, made her feel shocked and even a little uplifted. Before she could say anything, though, she saw the troubled expression on Taka's face, and she deflated a little.

Makari's passing was still hitting the both of them hard. It had been a long time since they had lost him, and Roxy had somehow managed to find the strength to try and move on. Her days were slowly getting a little brighter, and she was able to mention his name without bursting into tears, but his memory still caused a little stab of despair every now and again. It was probably affecting Taka just as much. Perhaps even worse, but he was so good at hiding his emotions.

"Taka…" she said after more silence had passed, "Thanks for all that you've done. Really, I mean it. I know we're not friends, but you've still done a lot for me." She sighed heavily. "I just…don't know how much more I can take. You could turn me into the greatest warrior in the forest, but inside I'm still a Vermillion City Pikachu pet who loves and misses her master so very much…"

"I can understand that."

"I need to keep giving myself a reason to wake up in the morning. I feel like if I stay here much longer, and watch more Pokémon that I care about die, I might run out."

"Roxy, you are just having a bad day. Like all bad things in this world, this will pass."

Roxy just frowned and shook her head.

"I have known you for quite a few moons at this point. You are a very sensitive Pokémon, and you too easily let things get you down. I would even go so far as to call you 'fragile'. When something bad happens, all the good in your life becomes impossible to see."

"Gee, thanks…" she said, giving him a flat look.

"You are also strong, intelligent, a fast learner, and brave when you need to be. You are kind and caring, and very devoted to those you truly care about." Taka then glanced away. "I did not initially react well when you and my brother got…close…but I can look back on it now and see how happy you made him. Though he cared for you so much, you cared about him as well. You were worried about him. There is no way I could fault anybody for that."

Roxy sniffled, feeling the tears starting to return. "I cared about him so much…Did…Did he really say that he might've gone home with me?"

Taka nodded, and Roxy wasn't sure how to feel about that. She felt both a warm and happy feeling from the idea that he would be that caring and dedicated to her, but also a cold and sorrowful feeling from knowing that it would never happen now.

She sat there for a moment and thought about this. In the end, though, her defences were down and the latter feeling won. As the sensation of heaviness returned to her whole body, she slumped against the tree trunk once more and let out a sigh that was partly a whine.

A really long period of silence passed. Roxy at times wondered if Taka was going to say anything else or just up and leave, but neither happened. She didn't pay too much mind though, as she just felt too depressed to care about much of anything.

"You truly believe that things will not get better for you, no matter how much time is given?"

She shook her head.

"I know that separation from your human is difficult, but do you not believe that you will eventually adapt and find new life here?"

She shook her head again.

Taka paused before speaking again. "Do you believe that, even after years and years of staying here, that you will never stop trying to find a way home? No matter if it takes your whole life?"

Roxy clenched her eyes shut. "I would…" she croaked, "I…No matter how long it takes…"

"Okay. I just needed to know for sure."

She opened her eyes again and sat up straight, turning to look at him. "…What?"

"You are right, in everything you have said. You do not belong here. You are not safe here. You need to go home." With a soft sigh, he extended one of his forepaws towards her, palm upwards. Then, he said one more thing. Roxy almost didn't register it, for how unbelievable it was.

"I will take you to the forest's edge."

Roxy, still as a statue, could do no more than blink for a few seconds. She gazed down at his paw, gestured to her as if he wanted her to take it so that he could lead her somewhere.

"…Don't joke about that, Taka," she said quietly, "If this is a joke, it isn't funny."

"This is no joke."

"Ruh…" Her heart began to thump against her ribs. "…Really…?"

"Really."

She gulped. "I'm serious, Taka. Don't say that unless you really mean it! You…Y-you really…"

He closed his eyes and held his other forepaw to his chest. "I truly mean it," he said. Then, as if to seal the deal, there appeared a tiny little smile directed at her.

Roxy's loud squeal of joy frightened off any bird Pokémon that hadn't already flown away. Pokémon miles away on the horizon could have probably heard her. She immediately lunged forward and glomped Taka with a hug, nearly sending the both of them careening off of the branch.

"Hey…!" Taka protested.

"Thank you!!" she exclaimed, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!" She gave him the biggest squeeze she could muster, not caring if her fresh tears of joy stained his fur.

"Easy now…"

"Aah…!" Roxy released him and sat back up straight. "You really mean it? You're super duper serious?"

Taka brushed himself off before nodding.

"Oh my gosh! I can't believe it! I…you're gonna…it's…" She closed her eyes and held back another loud squeal. "I'm going home!!" A warm sense of elation flooded through her, erasing every single negative thought that she had. She felt like she was going to swell up and explode! Never before had she experienced this much happiness and excitement all at once. She didn't know how to contain it all!

"Now, hold on," Taka said, holding up his forepaws, "Do not get overly excited just yet. This does not mean that we will be setting out come the following dawn. There are certain things that need to be done first."

Roxy wrangled her excitement down enough so that she could respond, but she could still feel it bubbling up inside of her. No matter what Taka was about to say, that feeling of overwhelming excitement wasn't going away. "Y-yeah! Yeah, okay. What?"

"First," he said, holding up a single digit, "there is more that you must learn. You have come a long way, but if I am going to lead you through dangerous territory, then there are defensive and offensive skills that you need to know, otherwise you will never make it.

"Second, we must take enough time to ensure that the village is still safe. There is still the possibility that the Earth Tribe may counterattack, and so we must ensure that the conflict has ended."

Roxy nodded. "Yeah, yeah. Okay." She chuckled to herself, still feeling just as much excitement bubbling up within her. "That might take a while I guess, but hey…I waited this long, I can wait a couple more weeks…right?"

Taka wasn't done, though. "Third," he said, "and this is the most important. You must teach someone in this tribe to use your grass power."

That managed to put a little dent in her excitement. "Yeah…?"

"It does not matter who. Obviously it cannot be myself, as I will be leaving with you. As long as you can teach someone the very basics of this skill, enough that they will be able to practice it and learn on their own, that will be sufficient."

Roxy glanced away, now feeling a bit conflicted. She had just earlier been considering such a task and had considered it impossible. With the excitement of going home, though, it didn't seem quite as impossible. Still, though, it was daunting.

"You understand why this is necessary, yes?"

"Uh…yeah," she said with a nod, "I guess I sorta became the one you all depended on to deal with Ground-types, and you want to keep that defence after I'm gone." She chuckled again. "Isn't that a crazy thought? The tribe depending on me…"

"If one of our brethren can at least grasp the skill, they will be able to share it with others, and soon the whole tribe will be able to wield it. Our greatest vulnerability will be sealed."

She gulped, feeling a little intimidated by this task. However, there was still enough bubbly excitement to overpower it and allow her smile to return. It couldn't be impossible after all.

"Is that agreeable?" Taka asked.

"Yes! Yes, totally!" she said, her smile fully returned, "Aaaah! I'm so excited! I'm so happy! Thank you again, Taka. You…it just…y-you don't know just how much this means to me. I…" Roxy then fell quiet for a moment as she turned to gaze at Taka. "Hey," she said in a more calm voice, "Not that I'm not super grateful and all, but…where is this suddenly coming from?"

Taka eyed her for a moment, then closed his eyes and sighed. "I have been thinking of leaving for a while now," he answered.

"Leaving? Leaving the village? You mean like forever, or…?"

"No," he said as he shook his head, "Simply to go on a journey. Just like before. I feel like it is something that I need to do. I feel as if this is not where I am meant to be right now."

"Oh…"

Taka then gazed out at the horizon. "I am no longer happy here. Ever since…the loss of my brother…this place has felt less and less like my home. It is, of course, no fault of the rest of the clan. They are wonderful Pokémon and I cherish each and every one of them…but Makari has moved on, and I feel like I need to as well." He paused and then added, "I am certain I will return again. You are not the only one prone to homesickness, after all."

Roxy gazed at him as he spoke. She had been so focused on the idea of being able to go home that she hadn't even considered the fact that Taka would be leaving the Thunder Clan behind as well. He had done so once before, and that had been a journey that had not ended well. Makari had once told her that the journey had changed Taka and he had never been the same since. Now he wanted to do so again?

"Is that really true?" she asked, "You're not just saying that so I won't feel bad about making you do such a big thing for me?"

"It is true," he replied, "but, honestly, if I were not planning on leaving already, I still might have considered it." He gave her a little smirking grin. "Really, how could I not? I promised him that I would keep you happy."

Roxy blinked and stared at him for a moment. She smiled soon after. "You…You're really…?"

"I gave him my word," he continued, "I look back upon things now, and…I know that doing this would make him happy. I want my brother to be happy, wherever he is now."

Roxy was grinning. She hadn't realized that Taka had actually said yes to Makari's last words. What's more, it didn't sound like Taka was just begrudgingly following Makari's request because he felt obligated to. It was a nice sentiment to hear. In a way, it felt like Taka was channeling Makari's own kindness; something that she had dearly missed.

"Taka…?"

"Mm?"

"I can't thank you enough for offering to do this for me. I'll work extra-super hard to do all of those things you need me to do. But…you also have to do something for me, okay?"

He turned and gave her a look with an arched eyebrow. "And what would that be?"

She gave him a gentle smile and said, "You have to tell me what happened on your first journey."

Taka's look immediately soured, but he didn't look away.

a"I know it hurts to think about, whatever it is that hurt you…but I think this is important. You only have to tell me, and I promise that I won't tell anybody else." She glanced away. "Just…Whatever happened to you out there, I want to help make sure it doesn't happen again…"

Taka spent a long time just sitting there, looking at her. Roxy began to wonder if she had overstepped her boundaries. She was about to raise her head and take back what she had asked of him when he answered.

"I will," he said with a nod, "Not right now, but I promise to tell you before we leave."

"Really…?" she said with a smile.

"You are right…This is something I have kept buried inside for years and years now. It has been on my mind as I have considered this journey, and if you are to accompany me, then it is only fair to let you know."

Roxy nodded and grinned at him. Then, her excitement started to bubble over again, causing her to squeal softly and give him another friendly hug. "This is so awesome! Oh my gosh, I can't wait! Master, I'm coming home!!" She shut her eyes, trying to keep herself from crying yet again.

"One more thing you need to do," Taka spoke.

"What's that?"

"Stop hugging me!"
The Thunder Clan - 20
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The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

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

Do not use without permission

---


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

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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Chapter 19 - Waking Up

Ugh…

Uuuuuughhh…

Roxy didn't want to wake up. She was just too tired. Must not have gotten enough sleep last night. She felt like a flat lump of pudding, completely incapable of movement. Would staying in bed forever really be that bad?

She was exhausted, she felt weak, and she had a terrible headache. All she wanted was for that blissful sleep to come back to her. She didn't want to wake up. Just five more minutes, or maybe five more hours. Laying down just felt so nice, and she wasn't entirely convinced that her muscles were functioning.

Roxy had to get up, though. Master didn't like it when Roxy was late for breakfast.

After she scrunched up her face in distress and groaned softly, Roxy cracked open one of her eyes. She then immediately decided that the waking world was too bright for her, and that she would rather sleep forever. Then she sighed and called herself ridiculous.

After squinting and blinking her eyes for a bit, the world became visible, but the light still felt harsh. Didn't the bright lights know that she had the worst headache ever? How inconsiderate…

Roxy didn't know where she was. This wasn't her Master's bedroom. Had she fallen asleep in a tree again or something? It certainly wasn't her comfy little Pokémon bed. She slowly tilted her head and tried to see more.

Ow. Ow! Head hurts. Eyes hurt. Body non-functional. Zero energy.

Isn't this what happened to those silly humans on TV when they drank too much "beer"? Could Pokémon even get drunk? Thinking hurt Roxy's brain. Again, Roxy considered the possibility of going back to sleep, but she was already starting to wake up now and so it didn't make sense to stop. She grimaced and then tried to focus her vision on her surroundings.

Grassy walls, and a grassy roof. The inside of a rural hut.

Oh, right.

Roxy finally managed to shake herself out of her half-dreaming state and realize where she was. She was in the same village that she had been trapped in for about four months now. She cynically wondered how she could even remember her real home. Then she sighed, having thoroughly depressed herself.

So now she knew where she was, but she didn't know why she felt like this. Come on, brain. Remember…stuff. Everything was still a fog in her head, and she couldn't use Defog because her brain hurt so much. Also, she didn't know it. Also, also, she couldn't know it.

She wanted to sit up or roll over, but she just couldn't. Every muscle in her body felt useless. She moaned louder in discomfort and pain. At least her eyes were fully open now. That was an accomplishment, right?

"You have awakened!"

Roxy grimaced as her ears splayed back. He was speaking in a soft voice, but it still made her head throb like crazy. Groaning some more, she forced her weary muscles to move just a little bit, and she rolled over onto her side so she could see who was talking.

It was Taka. He was sitting on the ground not too far away from her, leaning his back against the hut's wall. There was a stiff but genuine smile on his face. "That is good to see," he continued to speak, "We were beginning to get worried about you. Are you feeling all right?"

Roxy didn't answer. Her eyes had drifted downwards and rested upon Taka's hind leg. It was bandaged up tightly with leaves, and a lightly coloured circle of red had stained them right in the middle. His injured leg…

…Where Tazoka had stabbed him.

Oh heavens. Suddenly, Roxy remembered everything.

Her first instinct was to panic, but that only made her head hurt even more. She moaned louder and brought her aching forepaws up and held them against her skull. Forced to remain calm so she did not keep driving that ice pick into her brain, she reflected on the memory of the fight that had just happened. The fight that she had taken part in! Turns out it hadn't been a nightmare.

"Are you well?" Taka was asking, his usual gruff voice a little softer, "Miri should be back soon."

"Taka…?" she spoke, barely above a whisper as it was all she could manage without making her head throb.

"Yes, I am here. You are safe. All is well."

Roxy blinked. Was Taka trying to reassure her? It sounded weird coming from him, she couldn't deny. "Wh'happ'n?" she slurred.

As if on cue, the vines in the doorway parted and Miri stepped in. She gasped quietly when she saw that Roxy was awake, and immediately stepped over to the opposite side of the hut where Roxy couldn't see. A moment later, Miri was suddenly right beside her.

"Eat," Miri instructed, holding a Persim Berry right up to her muzzle.

Roxy whined softly. "But I dun…"

"No arguing," Miri cut her off, "Eat." She gently tapped the berry against Roxy's lips.

The Pikachu grimaced, only partially from her headache. Roxy really hated Persim Berries. They tasted weird and had an unappealing texture. Besides that, though, she didn't feel very hungry. However, Miri was being insistent, and so Roxy gave in and took a bite of the detestable fruit. She cringed a little when she swallowed, only to have Miri insist she take another bite.

"You are very weak," Miri spoke to her in a soft but firm voice, "You lost a ton of energy, and eating this will help bring it back. Once you eat it all, I promise you'll feel good enough to sit up. Okay?"

Roxy wasn't really listening. Every word from the Audino felt like a bullet through the middle of her poor head. She just kept eating the berry in hopes that Miri would go away and let her go back to sleep. It did not taste very good at all, and it did nothing to help her appetite, but she did manage to finish the whole thing. Miri then walked off elsewhere.

The Pikachu lay there for a moment, groaning softly. Taka said something at some point, but Miri apparently told him to shut up. For the present, Roxy just focused on keeping her skull from imploding.

After what felt like an hour but could really have just been a couple of minutes, she felt mobility starting to return to her muscles. The feeling of fatigue started to lift, leaving her feeling a bit restless. With a grumble and a lot of slow movements, Roxy finally pulled herself up into a sitting position. She let out a long breath. The tiredness may have been gone, but all of the pains and aches were still there.

Finally, she slowly turned her head over towards where the other Pikachu was sitting. "…Taka?"

"Yes," he replied with a nod, "I am thankful to see that you have recovered."

She closed her eyes and held a paw to her forehead. "Did we win…?"

First she heard Taka give a short half-chuckle, and then he said, "We did. We won, thanks to you."

Roxy smiled. "Yaaaay…" she murmured lethargically.

Miri returned to view and gave her a smile, though she looked rather strained. "You should be fine in a few hours," she said, "I am needed elsewhere. Yell if you need me." Then she promptly rushed back out the door of her hut.

Taka then continued. "The Earth Tribe has fled from our territory, and no-one has seen them since."

Opening her eyes to look at him once more, Roxy said, "Good…I'm just glad you're all right." Her eyes drifted down towards his wound.

Taka saw this and explained. "Miri has been healing me. I should be able to walk by tomorrow's sunrise. His claws went deep but, well…It could have been so much worse."

Roxy grimaced. Despite it being a victory in their favour, she still found the memories of that battle gruesome and distressing.

"You saved my life," Taka spoke in an uncharacteristically quiet voice, "You saved the lives of so many others here, but it was your bravery that allowed you to stand before me when I had been defeated." He paused and bowed his head slightly. "You have my deepest gratitude."

"I…couldn't just stand there and let you get killed. I had to do something…" she murmured.

"Without you, we never would have defeated our foes," Taka commented, "It is thanks to you that we still have our lives, and we still have a home." He paused once more and looked right into her eyes. "You," he said, "are a hero."

Roxy immediately began to feel flustered and looked away. "Don't be silly…" she muttered, "I'm not a 'hero'."

"I must ask you…"

She turned back to look at him, and saw an expression that she had never seen him wear before. He was looking at her with a sense of reverence. Awe, perhaps. There wasn't a single trace of any of the hatred, malice or prejudice he'd had for her before. "…How?" was all he said.

Roxy blinked and grimaced. Her brain still hurt too much to think. "How what…?"

"How is it possible? How were you able to…to do all of that?? I…There are no other words to describe it. I am baffled. The entire tribe is baffled. All anyone has been talking about is the…impossible things that you did."

"You mean my Grass Knot?"

He studied her for a moment. "Somehow…" he spoke, barely above a whisper, "you were able to call upon the power that is wielded by Pokémon that are not our kind. You summoned the energy that is commanded by those, such as the Nature Tribe."

Roxy presumed that to be a tribe of Grass-types. "Yeah. I dunno what you call it, but to me it's a Move called 'Grass Knot'," she muttered. Her head was still swimming.

"It was incredible…impossible…Even now, I find it hard to believe that what I have seen was true. Please tell me. How could you do that?"

"My master taught me," she replied with a sweet smile.

"Your…master?"

She nodded.

Taka furrowed his brow. "Your…human master?"

She nodded again. Taka didn't say anything after that, and simply turned his gaze away. He looked to be deep in thought about what she had just said, so she decided to elaborate.

"Humans invented these…things called 'Technical Machines', or TM's. They, uh…" She paused and faltered. "Well, I don't really know how they work, to be honest. I didn't really get it. But they, like, contain information or knowledge or something, and it helps Pokémon learn new Moves. My master got the Grass Knot TM as a gift and taught it to me. Suddenly, I knew how to do all of…that."

Taka was looking at her, but still not saying anything.

She reached up and rubbed the back of her neck. "Gosh, I never expected that I would ever use it to fight…Mostly I would just do it to show off. I had no idea if I would be able to do it well enough, and…I guess luckily I did. They were weak against it, so…"

Taka still wasn't saying anything.

"Taka?" she prodded.

He let out a breath and skewed his lips. "Regardless of anything else," he spoke, "It was this talent of yours that saved this whole village. You did something that…none of us are able to do."

Roxy glanced away bashfully and smiled softly. "Well, I, y'know…I'm just glad…" Something then occurred to her and she looked back at him. "Is…everyone all right?"

Taka's expression became neutral. "Thanks to you, the battle was won with much less bloodshed than what could have been. Only three brave warriors lost their lives."

She felt her heart sink into her stomach and her ears fell. "Wh-what…?"

"They shared a pyre together and have gone to the everafter. We have thanked them for their sacrifice."

Something else occurred to her. "Wait…" she muttered, "How long was I out?"

"We battled as the sun rose, and then you collapsed," Taka replied, "The sun has since set and risen, and is now close to setting once more."

Roxy was shocked to hear this news. That meant she had been unconscious for at least 30 hours! That was certainly a frightening prospect.

However, she was more focused on the awful fact that three warriors had died. In the span of a few waking hours, three Pokémon would never again walk through the village. Had she known any of them? Roxy asked for their names, and Taka provided them. They sounded familiar, but not anyone she had particularly gotten to know.

"Oh heavens…" she murmured with her head downcast, "That's horrible…That's so sad…" She grimaced, trying to fight against the tears. "I'm…s-so sorry…" she said as she felt herself begin to tremble.

"Sorry?" Taka replied, "Sorry for what?"

"I…I don't know…"

"Young one, if you had not defeated the Earth Tribe, they would have slaughtered us. I would have died. Many others would have died. Ozu would have died. Many more of us would have died after fleeing from our home into enemy territory. The loss of life is saddening, yes, but it could have been so much worse." He paused for a moment, and then continued in a softer voice. "I am sure that if you spoke to the families of the deceased, they too would be singing your praises."

Roxy let out a heavy sigh, her shoulders slumping a little. "Yeah, I guess you're right…But still…" She closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to focus on the positive. "It's still horrible…Those awful, horrible Ground-types…"

They were both silent for a minute. The deaths of those three Pikachu hit Roxy hard in the pit of her heart, but definitely not as hard as before. She hadn't really known them, and may not have even talked to them before. She knew that she would be okay, but right now she was just feeling the shock of it all.

"Ozu," she spoke after a while, "Why did you mention Ozu specifically? Is he okay?"

Taka neither smiled nor frowned. "He was seriously hurt during the fight, but he is alive. Miri has been treating him. That is where she has run off to."

"Oh," she said with a nod, "Well, that's good. I hope he'll get better soon."

Taka paused for almost a full minute before he spoke again. "Did your human really teach you those impossible techniques?"

Roxy blinked once, then nodded and said, "She did."

"That is…very interesting."

That was as far as their conversation got before Miri suddenly returned. Roxy could tell that Miri was working really hard and probably treating more patients than just herself, Taka and Ozu. She had no time for formalities. From somewhere nearby, she fished out a pair of Oran Berries and handed them to Roxy.

"Do you feel better?" she asked as she indicated for Roxy to eat.

Luckily, Roxy's appetite was beginning to return and she didn't hesitate to bite into the fruit. Since her mouth was full, she nodded in reply.

"Good," Miri said with a strained smile, "Eat those, and then come take a walk with me outside. The fresh air should help, and you should move your muscles."

Roxy swallowed her mouthful and then said, "Okay." Taka and Miri then allowed her to eat the two berries without bothering her with conversation. Roxy suddenly realized that she hadn't eaten in a whole day, and was quite relieved when she satisfied that hunger.

Finally, Miri stepped over and helped her get up. She was a little woozy on her feet, so she was thankful for being able to lean on Miri's side. The Audino helped her over to the door, where they both paused. Roxy turned and looked back at Taka, still seated in the same spot. The village obviously didn't have crutches or wheelchairs, so Taka was stuck in Miri's hut until his leg healed.

"I'm glad you're safe," she said to him, "I…I don't think I could've handled it if you died-" Her voice caught in her throat for a moment before she could choke out the last word. "…too."

"Thanks to you, I merely lack mobility for a few days," he replied with a nod, "I will find a way to repay you for your bravery, I promise." Then, with a small but genuine smile, he added, "Thank you."

She smiled back at him.

"We will talk later, okay?"

"Okay," she replied.

Then, Miri was helping her out the door and into the slightly chilly air outside. By this point, Roxy felt okay enough to walk on her own, but she stayed near Miri just to be safe. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt this tired and weak, if ever.

It wasn't long before the other villagers were alerted to her presence. It was only thanks to Miri that she didn't get completely swarmed. Everyone nearby who had seen her had immediately run over, and the commotion had drawn out further villagers until nearly the whole village was around her.

They were all smiling and cheering, each one giving her praise. Many called her a hero, some all but demanded to know how she had performed her Grass Knot, but almost all of them at least gave her their thanks.

At first, she tried her best to be modest. All of this attention at once was not something she found particularly enjoyable. Multiple times she tried to claim that she was not a hero, but her protests were always drowned out.

Eventually, though, she began to focus instead on the smiling faces of those around her. Maybe she wasn't a hero, but she was responsible for what she was seeing. It slowly became real to her that if she hadn't done what she had done, none of these smiling faces would be here. It was something to be proud of, which made her smile as well.

It was also something to be thankful for, which made her smile even more.

It finally dawned on her that she had managed to reach a happy ending. Her story was still being told, but this smaller book in her history had come to a close with a bright finish. It was something, at last, to feel truly happy about, and everyone else seemed well aware of this fact. She was hugged more times that she could count, and soon all of the praise and thanks melded together until it was just happy cheers.

"Gather together everyone! Give a cheer for Roxy!"

"Hooray!!"







The sun had almost set, and Roxy had returned to Makari's hut. Even though she had spent most of the day sleeping, she still felt exhausted. Speaking figuratively, it had been a very long day. Now that everything was done, she just wanted to lay down in the hut and go to sleep.

Makari's hut. The hut that still stood, and was still there for her. In the village that was still there, with all of her friends whom were still there. Thank the heavens. She shivered when she thought about what could have happened instead.

For the moment, she sat down just outside the doorway of the hut. She found herself gazing up at the sky, seeing the first few stars twinkle into view as the sun disappeared. Everything felt so calm and safe, more than things had felt in a long time.

Everyone was happy and content. She had briefly explained the origin of her Grass Knot to Karizu and Natoka, and promised to go into more detail later. Some of the cubs had begged her to show it off again, but Miri had insisted that she not exert herself. She had also gone to see Ozu, who was resting weakly but with a smile in his own hut, as well as the families of the Pikachu who had died. Even they were smiling, relieved that things had not gotten any worse.

"Did you see me, Makari…?"

Roxy's whisper caught on the gentle breeze. She stared up at the sky, wondering if one of those particularly bright stars was looking down on her, listening to her words.

"Did I do good?" she continued, "Are you…proud of me?"

She wished more than anything that she could hear a reply, but she did not.

"I wish you were here…I wish you had been there." She sighed. "I'm just glad Taka's safe," she muttered in a melancholy tone, "I wish you had been in that battle…so I could've saved you too…"

"He would have been very proud."

Roxy nearly fell over. She turned her head in surprise towards the source of the voice. "Taka…"

The warrior was slowly walking towards her, a noticeable limp in his step. He still wore the bandages around his thigh.

"Taka, what're you doing up?"

He came to a stop on the opposite side of the door, where he sat down on the ground. "Miri let me go so long as I promised to check back tomorrow morning."

"Oh…"

She glanced over at him, wondering if he had just come to talk, but found that the other Pikachu was simply gazing up at the darkening sky. After a moment of silence, she followed his gaze.

"He was right about you."

Roxy's ear twitched and she turned to look at him again. "Huh?"

"My brother," he said as he turned to look back at her, "He told me, many moons ago, that there was something special about you. I can see now that he was right."

"He…did?" Roxy muttered, feeling a mix of emotions rush through her.

"You are still so unlike us. You are very different from anyone else in this tribe. In some ways, that is a weakness, but it is clearly also your strength." Taka sighed and shook his head a little. "I must apologize, young one."

She blinked. "For what?'

Taka glanced away in silence for a moment before he answered. "I have…treated you wrong, and regarded you poorly, because you associate with humans."

Roxy chuckled. "That's, uh, nothing new. It's okay, really…"

Taka shook his head more vigorously. "No, it is not okay. Humans…" He paused and considered something. "Or rather, your human…your master…has given you a strength that I could not have ever imagined. I had considered you weak because of your affection and longing for your master, but…clearly I was wrong."

Thoughts of her master came flooding back, bringing on a heavy wave of homesickness. Roxy bit back the bitter tears. "It's okay, Taka," she answered, "I forgive you. It didn't really bother me that much."

Taka was still glancing away, a troubled look on his face.

"Taka?" she spoke, "You don't seem very happy that I forgave you…"

"I do appreciate your forgiveness," he replied, "It is just…difficult for me."

Roxy tilted her head, not quite understanding.

"It matters not," Taka said, "In a way, your human friend is also partly responsible for the salvation of our tribe, so we all owe her our thanks as well."

While these were nice words to hear, Roxy's lips were still skewed. "Taka?"

"Hm?"

"Why do you hate humans?"

That struck a chord of silence between the two of them. Taka didn't answer right away, but Roxy didn't push him.

He looked over at her with cold, hardened eyes. It was the gaze she was used to seeing from him. Taka had become decidedly more amicable recently, but underneath there was still a very cold heart beating in his chest. Sometimes, it made her shiver to remember.

"…Please?" she asked. A couple of silent minutes passed by, and it seemed like he wasn't going to answer at all. Roxy sighed quietly and glanced away.

"I left our village because I wanted to see what lay beyond the forest."

She looked at him once more, giving him her full attention.

"I detested what I found."

Her heart sank. "Oh…"

"When I turned around and began the journey home, I promised myself that I would never return to that world or have anything to do with it ever again." He gave her a glance. "Unfortunately, you fell into that distinction."

That hurt a little, but Roxy knew that it was in the past now. "So, did you just end up in, like, a bad city? Or did you just not like, uh, y'know…modern stuff? Or…Did something happen?"

He didn't answer, but his silence told Roxy which answer was more likely to be true.

Unfortunately, she also got the feeling that he wouldn't want to talk about it any further.

"I recognize now that I misjudged you, and…perhaps your master as well," he spoke, "But I cannot claim that my distrust of humans has gone."

Roxy shook her head. "No, of course not," she replied empathetically, "And, y'know…I'm not gonna sit here and pretend that there aren't some really bad humans out there…"

"That is true, logically," Taka replied.

The two fell into silence for a few minutes, having reached an impasse in the conversation.

"Please tell me about your grass power," Taka asked, breaking the silence.

Roxy half-heartedly chuckled. "Everyone's been asking me that all day. I-"

"Could you teach it?"

She gave him a look. "Teach…my Grass Knot?"

Taka nodded.

"I dunno," Roxy frowned, "I'm not even sure how I learned it. It was all the TM. I don't think Pokémon learn TM Moves without…the, um, the TM."

Taka scowled a little. "So, it is a secret of the humans then…"

"…Maybe?" Roxy answered with a Mareepish shrug.

"Can you not explain it?"

She skewed her lips. "Kinda…It's like…Well, there's this energy. I know from reading books that Grass-type Pokémon-" At Taka's look, she clarified, "Pokémon like Snivy and, um…Pansage, they can control the energy. They use it to move plant life. As far as I know, it's not perceptible to other Pokémon types, or at least not to Pokémon that can't learn a Grass-type Move naturally."

Taka did not have a very comprehending look on his face, so Roxy backpedaled. "Pokémon like us, like Pikachu, can't feel this energy…but after the TM, I could. I know it's there now, and I know how to focus so I can grab onto it. It's still really difficult for me, and I have to focus for quite a while just to connect to the energy. It's hard enough to perform, and it's hard enough to explain, I don't think I'd ever be able to teach someone…"

"…I see," Taka said, letting his gaze drift away, "That is disappointing to hear."

Roxy slumped a little. "Sorry…"

Taka sighed. "It is not your fault." Then, shaking his head, he sat up straighter. "The important thing is that you can perform this skill."

"Heh…I guess…"

"You are very unique," he continued, "You do not possess the skills that are intrinsic to a Pikachu. You were not born with the same abilities as we all were…but you do have a strength. A fantastic, almost magical skill, and I would be remiss if I did not recognize this."

She smiled softly. "Well, thank you."

"You have my respect, Roxy…I am sorry I could not give it earlier."

Roxy then stared at the other Pikachu for a long while, and eventually Taka gave her an odd look in response. When she saw this, she smiled and shook her head. "Taka, I think that might be the first time you've ever called me by my name that I can remember."

Taka smirked, but said nothing.

"Well, thanks Taka. I, uh…I hope…" She fell silent for a moment, gazing up at the stars that were starting to appear. "I hope we can be friends now."

After a pause, Taka gave a simple reply. "Perhaps…"

Taka then began to stand back up, grunting a little from his injury. Roxy immediately hopped over to his side and began to help him up. At first he resisted, as if he wanted to show he could get up on his own, but it didn't last long. Once he was standing, Roxy gazed down at his bandaged wound. It still made her shiver a little when she recalled what had caused it.

"Karizu wanted me to tell you," Taka spoke, "that he has called for a Marking Ceremony tomorrow night. There will be a festival as well, and you are of course welcome to come."

"Oh, really?" she replied, "Cool! Yeah, I'll be there." She then gave him a little nudge. "Are you maybe gonna get a new green stripe?"

Taka gave her an unamused glance. "No," he replied blatantly, "I fell in battle."

"…Oh. Um…" Roxy glanced away and rubbed the back of her neck, feeling completely awkward. Obviously he wouldn't be receiving any awards. "S-sorry…"

He shook his head. "Yesterday was a loss. A loss is simply a lesson to be learned, and the doorway to further victories." He gave her a confident gaze. "There may be more marks for me, but they shall be in the future. Time will show."

"Right. Yeah. I guess that's a good way to look at it…" Roxy scuffed her paws a little, thankful that he wasn't taking her faux pas too seriously.

Taka nodded. "I must rest. I shall return to my hut now.  I bid you goodnight, Roxy."

Roxy looked at him for a moment, and didn't immediately respond. "Taka…?" she finally spoke up.

"Mm?"

"…Will you promise to tell me more one day? About…what happened out there?"

Taka closed his eyes. "I will not promise anything," he replied, "but…perhaps." Then, with a friendly nod farewell, Taka turned and slowly limped his way back to his hut. Roxy stood there and watched him go, wondering if she should've been helping him walk. She reasoned that he probably didn't want to be coddled, and there was probably something about getting stronger through pain or something too.

Roxy turned her gaze up to the moon that had now appeared in the sky above the trees.

"A festival tomorrow, hm…?"







The next day was wonderful. It was quite warm for the time of year, the sun had broken through the clouds as much as it could, and everyone was feeling rather upbeat. There was a happy sensation that seemed to permeate through the village, infecting everyone it touched. The bloody memories of the battle with the Earth Tribe seemed faded and distant.

Everyone was working, getting ready for the festival if they were not on patrol. In between all of this, many of them still wanted to talk to Roxy about her amazing new powers. This turned out to be a little difficult, however.

Roxy was out and about. She was on the move with a purpose in mind.

Others occasionally caught her moving through the village, or just before she entered her hut. They would see her carrying some things, but most were too focused on her Grass Knot to ask what she was up to. Roxy held polite conversations where she could, but she mostly kept inside of her hut.

By midday, Taka was back on his paws. The bandage had been removed and the wound had been healed. This was accompanied by a very exhausted Miri who was content to just take a nap before the Festival arrived, but she was happy that her patient was healed.

Roxy had caught him in passing and had made him promise not to look into her hut until the Festival. Taka was rightfully confused, but agreed.

Finally, the day began to wind down. Once the light of the sun began to disappear, the torches were lit to signal that the festivities were not far off. Everyone began to gather in the central clearing,  and there was a big cheer once the bonfire was lit. It wasn't long before everyone who wasn't on patrol had gathered there.

Roxy watched this, or as much as she could from the doorway of her hut. A thought occurred to her as she realized that she was now calling it 'her hut', instead of 'Makari's old hut'. She sighed softly. Technically it was her hut, since the wise ones had given it to her, but it still made her feel a touch wistful.

She felt nervous, though she didn't know why. She had been to one of these festivals before, and she both knew and trusted all of these Pokémon. She had been working through the day, making sure things were just perfect. She wasn't sure where the whim had come from, and now she was wondering if she should have followed it or not.

"Stop being silly," she said to herself under her breath, "You just fought off an army of Ground-types. This is nothing."

With a slow, calming breath, she stepped out of the hut and began to walk towards the party. She put on a sweet smile, carried her head and her tail up high, and walked with slow and graceful paw-steps.

Just like master had taught her.

Though the ceremony hadn't begun yet, the Thunder Clan members were already dancing wildly to the music of the drums. It seemed that spirits were higher this time around, and Roxy knew the reason why. They were all moving and swinging about in their wild, unchained ways.

Roxy approached the group, still with a smile on her face, and everyone stopped and stared at her. She felt a twinge of anxiety, a sudden spike of stage fright, but she fought it off. Instead, she simply moved herself forward into the crowd and sat down on the ground.

"Roxy…" one of them spoke up. She turned to look and saw that it was her old friend Bamaka. He was looking at her as if trying and failing to decide what to say.

"Greetings, Bamaka," she said with a bow of her head, "And hello to you all as well. Thank you so much for inviting me to the festivities."

Some of them smiled and nodded back, but a few were giving each other looks.

"Ah, Taka!" she spoke up, picking him out of the crowd, "How lovely to see you here."

Taka stepped forward, giving her a dubious expression that showed off his classic uncensored self. "Roxy, what…What is all of this…?" he asked, gesturing to her.

Roxy glanced back with a smile. The flower behind her ear was gone, sitting safely back at the hut. Instead, tied around one of her ears was a long green ribbon. It was done up in a large bow, with two long flowing strands hanging down her back. Roxy had carefully crafted the ribbon out of leaves, and it had taken her quite a while to get them just right. Tied around the base of her tail was another, smaller bow with the same ribbon.

She smiled shyly, standing up on her hind paws and twiddling her forepaws. "Well, uh…" she murmured, feeling just a little silly, "You've all welcomed me here…and you showed me your ways and your customs." She indicated the ribbon on her ear. "I thought, maybe tonight, I would show you all a little of my world."

That gained her a few understanding nods from her audience. Most still looked rather curious, though. "Oh, I see…" Taka said, studying her adornments with a somewhat critical eye.

"It looks very nice," Karizu commented as he suddenly strode up next to Taka.

"Thanks," Roxy said with a little grin.

"It is different, but in my opinion it is rather appealing," he added.

"Is this what Pokémon pets wear?" Taka asked. Roxy noticed that in this case, he didn't spit 'pet' like it was a curse word.

"Ah heheh…" she glanced away, flushing just a little in embarrassment, "No, not really. This is how we dress up…when we want to look, um…pretty." She sighed wistfully. "This is what I wore to my master's graduation…"

"Interesting," Karizu commented, "Thank you for sharing with us."

"Do humans really make these…?" Miri asked from the side.

"Well, they don't make them out of leaves," she clarified, "I had to improvise. I think ribbons are made out of cloth, or some kind of thread. They're human manufactured in any case."

Everyone began to comment on her ribbons, and most of the Pokémon there seemed to like them. A few even mentioned that they might try making some on their own. Taka never gave her more than a raised eyebrow, but she didn't take offense. She figured that his prejudice against pets ran deep and wouldn't just go away overnight.

Soon, Roxy was smiling brightly. It was the biggest smile she had worn in many days. This had started out as a random idea to show off some of her own culture, but now she found she was enjoying herself. The reason was fairly simple.

She felt pretty.

Roxy had made the ribbons with a lot of care, and tied them up just like her master used to do. She had also bathed in the river and spent a good hour trying to comb her fur down with just her paws, all in an effort to make herself presentable. She felt clean and pretty. She felt like she was her old, cute self once more. It made her feel good inside, and it clearly showed on the outside.

Before long, the drummers played their final number and everybody was seated. Roxy found a log and sat down upon it neatly, sitting up straight and pretending she was on one of those Pokémon Contests. She was dressed to impress after all, and she giggled a little at the thought.

Karizu and Natoka both stepped up to the head of the crowd, standing before the drummers and the bonfire. Roxy noticed with dismay that Ozu was still absent, and she hoped that he would get better soon.

"Brethren of the Thunder Clan…" Karizu spoke once the crowd had fallen silent, "Welcome everyone! Today is a wondrous, glorious day. Only a couple short days ago, our very way of life was threatened. The odds were against us, but not a single one backed down without a fight. The heavens shone upon us brightly that day, my friends, and the battle was won!"

A humongous cheer roared through the audience.

"So many of you displayed courage, bravery and determination in the face of almost certain defeat, and we have gathered here to honour you."

There was another cheer. Roxy joined in wholeheartedly.

"As these are slightly different circumstances," Natoka then went on to say, "We will simply call out your name, then you will come to the stage to have a new mark bestowed upon you."

From there, the ceremony began. One by one, the wise ones called out the name of someone in the tribe. They would make their way to the stage amidst applause and cheering, where Kaziru would congratulate them and spoke the oral rite that was spoken before all of the previous recipients. Natoka would then dip his paw in the green substance and apply their new mark.

This time, Karizu also explained out loud what each mark was for, which was probably because the ceremony was impromptu. It made the ceremony that much more interesting to watch. She was always sure to give a loud cheer whenever the new mark was complete.

The ceremony went on for hours, and it seemed like almost every single member of the tribe was getting a new mark of some kind. At some point, Karizu and Natoka even granted new marks to each other, which was interesting to watch. They even promised the crowd that Ozu would receive a new mark once he was on his paws.

When it seemed like the ceremony was finally wearing down, Roxy had to guess that it was pretty close to midnight. Food had been passed around while the long ceremony took place, so she wasn't hungry, and she hadn't gotten tired because she didn't want to fall asleep again like last time.

As she sat there, watching the last few Pikachu receive a new mark, a soft sigh escaped her lips. It was a wonderful ceremony, just as engaging to watch as the last few, and it felt so good watching these brave warriors get recognition for their accomplishments.

It wasn't the same, though, without Makari. She had no-one to lean her head against.

Karizu stepped forward and faced the crowd. He waited until the Pikachu that had just gone up was seated once more, and a hush fell over the crowd. It seemed like that Pikachu had been the last one, and the ceremony would wrap up. It was getting really late, but Roxy felt like she still had enough energy to dance for a bit.

"My friends," Karizu spoke, "My brethren…You should feel proud of the new marks you wear on your fur. We have been tested in a way that we have not been tested before, but we all worked together to come out on top. If not for the combined teamwork of this entire tribe, victory would have been but a faint dream."

Roxy smiled and nodded softly, silently agreeing with him. It had been a really frightening battle, but it was teamwork in the end that had earned them success.

"…We have one more mark to bestow."

Roxy's eyebrows raised a little. She had thought the ceremony was over, but apparently there was still one more Thunder Clan member left. While she didn't know everyone in the tribe personally, she was finding it hard to think of anyone who hadn't gone up yet. Who was left?

"Roxy."

What?

Why was he looking at her?

What?

Karizu extended his paw in her direction, inviting her to stand up and join him. Roxy just sat there frozen in place for a moment with a confused look on her face, which changed to one of nervousness when she saw that everybody was looking at her.

"Uhh…Wh-what…?"

The Raichu was still beckoning her, and he had the most encouraging smile. He was serious. This wasn't a prank.

"…Really?" she murmured, probably not even loud enough for Karizu to hear.

A few of the Pokémon around her began gesturing towards Karizu with their paws, urging her to go. A few of them said some encouraging words. Roxy glanced around, but she couldn't see a single villager who was upset by this. Everyone seemed to be on board.

"Come, Roxy," Miri said, patting her on the back and causing her to jump in surprise. She hadn't even noticed the Audino's approach. With a nod and a smile from Miri, Roxy stood up on her hind paws. She slowly but surely made her way up to the Raichu standing there waiting for her.

Everyone was still looking. They were all staring at her. She could tell even though she could only see Karizu. She was now centre stage, the main attraction, and all eyes were on her. They could see her stupid bows. Why did you put on the stupid bows?!

"Roxy," Karizu said, snapping Roxy out of her mild panic.

"Ah! Um…y-yeah?" she asked, then mentally face-pawed. That's a real formal word, "yeah"…

"You have been with us for more than three moons, soon to be four. In that time, we have all gotten to know you, and consider you a part of this family." He gestured with his paw to the assembled crowd. "We know that you are different, and that you come from a different world. Things are not the same where you come from.

"Two days ago, however, none of that mattered. At a time where no-one expected anything from you, and no-one would have blamed you for doing nothing, you stood up against the leader of the Earth Tribe. Many of us agree that this is one of the bravest things any of us have ever seen."

Roxy was blushing furiously from the praise. She smiled nervously and tried to think of something to say, but came up empty.

"You are different," Karizu continued, "You come from a different world. Yet, you have become a part of us. You have leant to this tribe a powerful skill that is yours and yours alone, and we are eternally thankful for what you have done."

He then closed his eyes and bowed his head slightly. "For your contributions to our tribe, and harmony with our brethren…" There was a slight pause. "Though these may not be your customs, and though…though we know that you do not intend to stay with us forever…"

Roxy's smile faltered a little, but she didn't interrupt him. It was the truth after all.

"…we would like to bestow upon you, these two marks."

Her eyes shot open wide. She had figured that they wanted to give her her very own mark, but to actually hear it being said was still a shock. It was something she had not expected, nor something she had even considered before. In a lot of ways she was still an outsider, and they wanted to give her one of their special marks that belonged only on the fur of Thunder Clan members?

And they were going to give her two!! In every past ceremony, Roxy had only ever seen recipients receive a single mark. The reaction of some villagers in the crowd confirmed to her that this was something highly unusual.

Karizu was looking at her. She was supposed to say something now, right? Roxy hesitated for a moment, though. She wanted to ask him, 'Really?' She wanted to ask, 'Are you sure? Do you really want to give one to me?' Plus, she wanted to speak up and yet again claim that she wasn't a hero. It still made her squirm in embarrassment when someone called her a hero.

After a moment of silence, though, Roxy smiled. "I…accept," she said. When Karizu then nodded and stepped to the side to reveal Natoka with the bowl of paint, Roxy got Butterfree in her stomach. This was really happening, and it was happening to her. She had never really thought about wanting a mark before, but now she found herself both nervous and really excited. It was as if something in her mind had finally clicked and she knew that this was an honour to receive. An honour they were giving to her. Her!

Natoka sat down quite close to her, which would have been really uncomfortable if Roxy hadn't known the reason. He dipped one of his paws into the bowl of naturally-made body paint. She could still smell the berries that it was made from.

Once his paw was no longer dripping, he then faced her. "This," he spoke to both her and to the crowd, "is the mark of a special skill. Something unique you can do that no other can."

Roxy grinned and nodded demurely. There was no question as to what he was referring to.

The Raichu indicated for Roxy to raise her right forepaw up, and she had a brief moment of panic that she would get ticklish and ruin the design. Natoka was careful, though, and very gently pressed his paw into the fur just above her hips. It hurt her neck to watch him while he worked, so she simply focused on the crowd and all of the smiling faces out there. She saw Miri, Bamaka, Baza, and Adi, Kiga and their son. Suddenly that stage fright didn't seem to be there anymore. These were all Pokémon she knew now. Pokémon she trusted. They were all happy that she was receiving this, with not a single objection.

Natoka finished much faster than Roxy would have expected. When he stepped back, Roxy twisted her body a little so that she could look down at herself. She gasped when she saw it. Now emblazoned on her fur was a green stripe that curved around from her back to her front, ending at a point just to the side of her tummy. It reminded her of an Arcanine stripe. It was quite large, much like the marks on others' abdomens. It would be easily visible from a distance, but no so garish as to make her easier to spot if she were trying to hide.

It was incredible. It was just paint on her fur, but it was incredible. Her very own mark, and she had earned it with her Grass Knot skills. This wasn't some meaningless little gift to make her fit in. She had earned this.

"Wow…" she whispered.

No-one in the audience was applauding, and at first Roxy was confused. Then, however, she noticed Natoka dipping his paw into the bowl once more. She remembered that she was still going to get another one!

"And this," Natoka spoke, "represents courage, bravery and selflessness in the face of not only certain death, but crushing fear." He paused for a moment before continuing. "None of us can know what it was like to cast everything aside and stand up against Tazoka like that. We can only imagine."

A thousand emotions were running through her mind, so she simply nodded.

Natoka then took hold of her left paw, on the opposite side of her body from her other mark. About halfway down the limb, just above the joint, he began to paint her second mark. This time, she could watch him as he worked. Again, she marvelled at the way his paw moved so deliberately, showing a great amount of artistic skill and yet not needing ages to make it perfect. With a flourish of his paw, he was able to draw the paint into a single point, as if the edges had been drawn with a pen.

In no time at all, he stepped back and her mark was finished. Roxy held up her paw and gazed down at it in wonder. She had been given a green 'band' of paint that went all the way around the limb. On the front facing side, though, the two ends came together as a pair of interlocking but unconnected 'hooks'. It sort of resembled the yin yang symbol.

Natoka then stepped back and washed his paws in the bowl of water. It was done. Roxy now had two marks. After giving the one on her forelimb a good look, she dropped her paws down to her side. She ended up accidentally brushing against the mark on her left, but found that the paint on her fur was already dry.

It was then that the crowd burst into applause and cheers. Roxy turned to face them fully, a smile reaching from cheek to cheek. She felt pride welling within her, as if her accomplishments had suddenly become real. All of these Pokémon were happy for her. They were cheering for her. There was no-one out there to be afraid of. No-one to be uncomfortable around.

She glanced down once more at the green marks on her body, just to see if they were real. The applause was continuing, and so she raised her head up again. They looked really excited for her, maybe even proud of her. She even saw Taka, sitting somewhere near the back. He wasn't smiling, as per usual with him, but he was clapping his paws right along with everyone else.

Roxy choked up and almost began to cry.

Concerned, Karizu stepped up and put a paw on her back. "Roxy?" he asked quietly, "Is something wrong?"

She sniffled and wiped away the couple of tears in her eyes. "Sorry," she murmured, "I'm sorry. I-It's fine." Roxy glanced up and gave a wave to the crowd. "Thank you," she said to them, "Thank you all so much. I…I don't know what to say…"

"There is no need to say anything, Roxy," Karizu said to her with a smile, "New marks speak for themselves."

She laughed softly, a smile returning to her face. When Karizu gestured, she walked back down to her place in the crowd. Many of the villagers she passed gave her a pat on the back.

"With that," Karizu announced, "the ceremony is concluded. The night is late, but if you still have the energy, your company is most welcome!"

The drummers started to play an upbeat song not a moment later. Many of the villagers began to dance, though a few tiredly walked off. Roxy found herself so full of positive energy that she needed no coercing to dance. It was as if all of her inhibitions had vanished. Roxy began to dance like she had never danced before.







After three songs, Roxy took a break. She was sitting on a log, watching everyone else dance the night away.

Or rather, that's what she had been doing before getting distracted by the green paint on her forelimb. Yet again, she was staring at it and trying to convince herself that it was actually there. Just a few short months ago, she had been freaking out about being separated from the life she knew and all of the comforts that came with it. Now, she was a bona fide member of a wild Pokémon tribe, and had the look to prove it.

"Congratulations."

Roxy almost fell right off the log. She caught her balance and then shot the Pikachu a look. "Good heavens, Taka! Do you just not make noise? Is that your special power?"

Taka chuckled without smiling. That alone nearly made her roll her eyes. "I do mean it, though," Taka went on to say, "You have my congratulations. No-one has ever received two marks at once before."

She could already feel the embarrassed blush coming back. The high of the ceremony was beginning to wear off. "S'just 'cus I had none…" she murmured.

Taka then stepped over the log and sat down next to her. Roxy hadn't quite expected that, but she didn't really mind. The days were long gone from when she had found Taka unpleasant to be in the company of. Her show of skill, and the revelation that it was all thanks to her master, had earned his approval. In some ways, that may have been a little petty, but Roxy was just glad they were approaching something that might be called 'friendship'.

"Why were there tears?"

Roxy glanced up at him, frowning at his question. "I, uh…" she stammered softly. Taka was looking at her, awaiting an answer, so she sighed and gave one.

"It…just all became so real when I was standing up there. I had won a fight. I was being called a hero. I was being invited to stand in front of everybody in the tribe to receive…" She held out one of her forelimbs. "…these. It was such an honour. I was just so happy and proud of myself and…" She sniffled a little. "…and Makari wasn't there to see me."

She then hung her head. "It's just not fair. I mean…Look at all the things I've done. Things I never thought I would be able to do. I fought an Excadrill! I've never even fought before! Makari, he…he was taken away…before he could see. My accomplishments. Everything that he saw in me that I didn't believe was possible." Roxy closed her eyes. "I just wanted to see his proud smile…"

"You know he was watching you," Taka replied, "You have said it yourself in the past."

"I know…" she murmured, "But it's…different…"

"He was watching you while you fought, giving you strength."

"I wanted to hug him…I wanted to tell him how far I'd come…"

There was silence between the two of them for a moment, so Roxy opened her eyes and glanced over to him. Taka had his own eyes closed, and looked like he was deep in thought.

"But, I know," she said to him, "I know that I didn't need to cry. I told myself that up there, and I shook it off. This is a time to be happy. It's a time to be proud, and…" She gazed downwards for a moment. "I still can't believe this green paint is on me…"

"It suits you."

She gave him an odd look. "What…?"

"In a way."

The two lapsed into silence once more. Roxy sat there and idly pawed at the ribbon hanging from her ear. The slowly dwindling group of villagers continued to dance before the magnificent bonfire.

"For what it's worth," she said at last, breaking the silence, "I think you should've gotten a mark."

"I already told you-" he started to say.

"That's baloney, though," she interjected, "Before you were knocked down, you were the one who…y'know, led the charge. It looked like the tribe as a whole didn't know what to do when the invasion came, but you stepped forward and you stood your ground."

"…"

"Even with their best efforts, not everyone can win…"

He still didn't respond, and it looked like she wasn't going to get much more conversation out of him. Roxy sat there for a while with the enigmatic Pikachu. There was still so much about him that she didn't know, and that he wouldn't tell. After a while, she decided to leave him be and get in a few more dances before bedtime.

"Hey."

Roxy paused and turned back to look at him. "Hm?"

"Will you be in the training area tomorrow?"

She blinked and furrowed her brow. "Uhh…I guess so?" She hadn't exactly been planning on it, but before the Earth Tribe raid she had previously been visiting the training area once a day. Now that the mayhem was over, she supposed it was time to get back to doing it again. She had no idea if it was doing her any good in a physical or technical sense, but it was still quite therapeutic for her.

"Good," Taka replied, and then gave her an inquiring look.

"Why?" Roxy asked with a tilt of her head.

"Would you mind if I joined you?"

Her eyes widened a fraction. "Wha…? You mean-?"

"Not like before. I promise."

"…Oh."

Taka shrugged and gave her a bit of a half smile. "I hear that you have been training there on your own. That is certainly commendable, wanting to improve your skills and such. I do believe, however, that it would be much more beneficial if you had…someone experienced on your side."

"You want to teach me again…?" she asked with a frown.

"'Teach' is a poor choice of word," he replied, "How about 'train'? You have potential in you, Roxy. It just needs to find a way to come out." He paused for a moment before adding, "I believe…my brother was right about you in that way."

"Really…?" Roxy muttered. She gave him an unsure look. Taka really was starting to see her in a different light after all. She had been practicing in the training area mostly to take her mind off of more depressing matters, but maybe Taka could actually help her this time. If he had this new respect for her, maybe she could actually learn how to fight from him. And then, maybe…

"Sure," she said with a pleasant smile, "I'll see you there."

Taka gave her a nod, and then she happily turned around and returned to the dance floor. There was no doubt about it. This was definitely the second-best day she had ever had in this damned forest.
The Thunder Clan - 19
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The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

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

Do not use without permission

---


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

So when Roxy somehow ends up in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by dangerous wild Pokémon, suffice to say her entire world is flipped upside-down.
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Chapter 18 - The  Invasion

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

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

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

"Hm."

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

"…Why do you ask?" Miri spoke up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I just feel kind of down…"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roxy flinched at the word 'death'.

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

"I kinda was too…"

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

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

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

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

"I see," Miri said with a nod.

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

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

"You'd still beat me."

"Oh, I think you are being ridiculous."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who? Who is here?"

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

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

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

"I…do not know."

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

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

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

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

The Earth Tribe was back.

The entire Earth Tribe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She whined again in response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Excadrill simply smirked at the Raichu and chuckled darkly.

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

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

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

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

Many in the Thunder Clan gasped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind him, the whole tribe let out a cheer.

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

Tazoka smirked. "Do you really believe that?"

"I do!!" Natoka exclaimed without hesitation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Leave."

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

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

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

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

"My, your temper seems particularly venomous today…"

Taka said nothing in response to that.

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

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

It happened in the blink of an eye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Raichu was struck down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you really about to do this?

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

But almost was not enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"STOOOPPP!!!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The thought had occurred to her as well.

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

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

"…Leave," she demanded.

Tazoka blinked. "Pardon?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roxy gulped but held her ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"That was a mistake."

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

"Tazoka, no!!" Taka shouted.

She just needed a little more time.

!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"To your right!"

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

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

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

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

Tazoka simply growled at them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You did it…!"

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

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

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

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

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

Roxy promptly fell face-first to the ground and passed out cold.
The Thunder Clan - 18
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The Thunder Clan

A Pokémon by Giga Bowser

Pokémon and all related characters © Game Freak & Nintendo

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

Do not use without permission

---


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

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

Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
Canada
Tis me!

Hey dA! I am Giga Bowser, and I guess we should get all of the crazy stuff out of the way first. I'm an insane fan of Pokémon, even though I'm absolutely terrible at the games. I'm also a furry and a brony. So yeah.

I've been dabbling in digital art, but I feel that my real talent is writing. So watch this page for my prose and fiction!

Enjoy the art!

Current Residence: Vancouver, Canada
Favourite genre of music: Symphonic Rock
Operating System: Windows 7
MP3 player of choice: Sony Walkman
Wallpaper of choice: Beautiful Princess Luna
Favourite cartoon character: Princess Luna
Personal Quote: Allons-y!!
Interests

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:iconmangarrow:
mangarrow Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2016
hey cool i found your picture in a PMD2 remix lma o
well done my dude! Peace 
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:icongigabowserns:
GigaBowserNS Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Oh boy, don't remind me XD

I reacted quite poorly when I saw that and didn't see any credit to me as an artist.
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:iconmangarrow:
mangarrow Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2016
nahhh you had rights to
still a nice picture tho 
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:iconbrickwalldrawsstuff:
BrickWallDrawsStuff Featured By Owner May 14, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
I have 3 favorite fanfics, Past sins, the death of princess Luna, and Lost to the sands.
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:iconbrickwalldrawsstuff:
BrickWallDrawsStuff Featured By Owner May 14, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
When I read "The Death Of Princess Luna" it kept me up all night. It was so tense and just kept you reading.
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:icondashiemlpfim:
DashieMLPFiM Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2014  Hobbyist Interface Designer
Have a watch my dear friend. :)
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:icongoldrose141:
GoldRose141 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2014
just wanted to say that i LOVE YOUR EMPTY DARKNESS STORY!!!!! I am a dummy! 
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:icongigabowserns:
GigaBowserNS Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Well thank you! If you've got any other pony-loving friends, please consider sharing with them :) Sharing my work is the best way to help me out, and I would really appreciate it!

And the next chapter shall be coming within the week! O:
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:iconjinseikyuzai:
JinseiKyuzai Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Two things:
1.) I'm redoing that god damn Distraught Six picture for the second time.
2.) You deserve WAY more attention then what you've gotten.
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:icongigabowserns:
GigaBowserNS Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Don't forget that I'm on other websites as well. My stories are published on five different sites.
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