My first story.Please Review and comment on my mistakes so I can fix 'em!It starts out a bit short and bad on the earlier chapters, but rewrites for them are being done as I write this. So, if you don't get too hooked by them, please read on, and give this a chance.Reviews are very much welcome. But, if It's gonna be a bad one, please explain what went off so I can work on it. If It's just like 'Hey your bad I dun liek you 111eleven', then please refrain from reviewing.Anyways, enjoy.Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.Comments, questions, or anything like that? I can be reached by pressing that 'contact' next to my penname and sending me an email.
===THE FOURTH DAY
The sun had risen high up in the sky as a new day began. It would be a great day, full of hopes and dreams for most. Flocks of Starly flew through the sky and the fresh morning air was so calming that it could have brought a smile to anyone. However, down in the forest, things were different. The air was loaded with tension in the murky darkness that reigned in the deepest region of the woods. It was in this area that conflict was taking place between eight Murkrow and two Altaria.
One of the Altaria was standing with his wings spread, covering the other. He had the elegant, thin build that was typical of his kind, but was also - though it was not so visible because of the cloudy fleece that covered his body and wings - quite well- toned and muscular. He had a short white beak and cheeks. A single, long feather reached from his head to just a few inches from the ground. Another feather followed it, but it had been cut to half its length. His dark blue eyes were glowing with rage, focused on the dark purple Murkrow that stood behind the others.
The other Altaria was quite different. She had all the graceful, elegant traits the male that was protecting her lacked, yet she was not as muscular, and had no traces of a fighter on her. She had her wings wrapped around and object, one that she didn't seem to have any intention of letting go of.
"This is my last warning!" The male spoke in his soft, melodious voice. "Go away! You can tell the Don he can get himself another innocent to please himself with... And two other assassins, for that!" He focused his stare on Nocturne. "And you... I trusted you. I told you where we were going because I thought you were our friend!"
"Cut the chatter, Bolero," Alvise stepped forward. "Just move aside and let Aria come back. You know she wants to... Don't you, Aria?" He focused his sinister stare on the Altaria behind the first one.
"Don't answer, love!" Bolero told her. "Stay with that egg... Let me handle this."
"Stop trying to control her life... She liked it back at the mansion!"
"You and I both know that's not true," Bolero answered, not moving an inch.
"You're not letting her come back the nice way, then?" Alvise asked. "And how about the egg? We can take it back as a replacement and let that be that!"
"Here's my answer..." Bolero said, then shot a blast of fire from his mouth, which intentionally hit the ground just before Nocturne's feet.
Nocturne just stepped further back with a look of guilt on his face.
"Take notice, boys!" Alvise told the other Murkrow. "He attacked us first! Let's get him!"
Six Murkrow took flight towards Bolero, while Alvise and Nocturne stayed back, one cruelly grinning while the other stared sadly.
"I warned you..." Bolero answered lowly while readying his wings. " I am the Gentle Death." As soon as one of the Murkrow reached him, Bolero took him in his wings and made a swift motion. A snap was heard, and the Murkrow fell, lifeless, to the ground. The Altaria then made a quick, dance- like turn just in time to avoid another Murkrow that flew right past him. He started to glow, and all of a sudden, it was like his movement had become much faster. With this strange power, Bolero launched himself and crashed against another Murkrow, sending it flying towards a tree trunk.
"Swarm him, you morons!" Alvise squawked. "He can't take you all on at once!" Just then, Bolero's wing slammed against him. The soft- looking wings of the Altaria hurt as if they had been coated in steel. The Murkrow shook his head and looked at Bolero. "I didn't know you knew Steel Wing!"
Just then, Alvise and the four remaining Murkrow swarmed around Bolero. The Altaria realized he had no chance surrounded like that. He gave Aria one last look and yelled. "Take the egg and run!" He wrapped his wings around himself. "For once, I'm going to give a life for someone instead of taking it..."
The other Altaria did as she was told. She held the egg in one wing and took off flying with the other, fleeing deeper into the woods. She fled as fast as she could until her attackers were no longer in sight. This had turned out to be more tiring to her than she thought, as she was not used to making the least physical effort.
"And we're done here," Alvise said, looking down at the near- dead Altaria that was lying down on the ground, white feathers covered in a dark red. "Hey, Nocturne!" He looked at the other Murkrow. "You're supposed to be the boss here! Why don't you do something so it actually looks like you are? Finish this guy!"
Nocturne fluttered forward with a grim expression. He stopped right in front of Bolero, who looked up at him.
"If you're going to be a traitor," Bolero uttered. "Do it right... Do it."
Nocturne just stared at his agonizing friend. This was the one thing he loathed about his heritage. Had he been an average Murkrow, he wouldn't have thought twice before killing anyone, even his best friend, but no... He had to be what he was. He couldn't stand the thought of killing Bolero. Making that final choice, he shook his head and flew backwards. "I won't do it," He said. "I'm not gonna kill him. Aria can run and disappear from our lives, as can this one... Let's go back and say we lost them."
"I...Diot..." Bolero faintly looked at Nocturne as he said this. "Rule number... One... You don't cross Don Krow..."
"The Don and I figured you'd say something like that," Alvise replied. "What with you and Bolero being friends and all... But we've still got one order of business here, and it ain't Aria nor Bolero."
"Who?" Nocturne asked, nonplused that there was a third target he did not know of. He realized who it was all too late. His eyes shot open as he reached the conclusion of who the third target was.
"Get this traitor, boys!" Alvise pointed at Nocturne with his wing. Immediately, he and the four Murkrow swarmed around their would- be leader, pecking him with their strong, curved beaks and slashing at him with their talons. Under such an intense attack, Nocturne did not last long. Soon, the bloodened and injured Murkrow collapsed.
"Put him next to the other dead guy," Alvise ordered one of the Murkrow.
"Um... Neither of them is dead."
"Who cares? Our brothers and sisters in this forest will be more than happy to finish them off! After all, a meal is always welcome!" Alvise finished with a squawking laughter. Once Nocturne and Bolero were put together, he disdainfully looked at the two. "And that's what you get. That's what anyone like you should get! The family is just for pure Murkrow such as myself! We shouldn't allow Altaria for anything other than the smaller businesses like whores or music!" He then directed his stare at Nocturne. "And half- kinds like you shouldn't be allowed anywhere beyond the bottom rung! I'm amazed either of you made it to the positions you had, but I don't care! With both of you out of the way, the Underboss position is open for ME!" He laughed some more before turning to the other Murkrow, which were awaiting his orders. "Let's go, everyone! We've got an Altaria to chase down... And an egg, too!" He said this in a louder tone so the half- dead Bolero could still hear, then took off, followed by the others.
Bolero and Nocturne were left lying, bloodstained and half- dead on the forest's dirty soil. Both of them knew what this meant: They had been abandoned, left for dead to be finished off by the forest's wilder Murkrow. It was a slow and painful death, as they would be ripped apart and eaten before their deaths arrived.
"Bolero... You still alive?" He asked. His voice was weak and near inaudible.
"I am," The Altaria answered in the same way. "But being here with you makes me wish I wasn't just so I could not see you."
"I did not tell them, Bolero," Nocturne replied. "Alvise found out where you were and told all the bosses about it. If I hadn't told the Don, Opera or Requiem would have... And it would have been worse."
"But... How'd he find out?"
"You agreed to perform in the opening to the Neri Festival. Word of it reached him, and..."
"What?" Bolero sounded surprised. "Aria and I never agreed to that!"
"You ne- wait, what?" Nocturne sounded just as surprised. "Then how did you..."
"We wanted to stay as low as possible, at least until the egg hatched."
"Yeah... That egg," Nocturne asked. "Is that why you fled?"
"She made a good point that the mansion was no place to raise him when he was born... I fled here with her in hopes to leave our life of crime behind. What an idiot I was for thinking we could do that!"
"Ah, Bolero..." Nocturne sighed with what little breath he had left. "Before I depart the world, I want to hear you forgive me..."
"There's nothing to forgive if you never did something to begin with. But that Alvise... That blood- obsessed, backstabbing bastard..."
"He'll get what he has coming," Nocturne told his friend.
"I hope he does... Nocturne," Bolero's breath was becoming heavier.
"Why didn't you kill me? All that got you was to be left here, near- dead with me."
"I dunno. I guess my Altaria half got the best of me," Nocturne answered, turning to face Bolero. "It was a stupid thing, I know, but that's what I was taught by my father."
"Don Melodia was an admirable one," Bolero said deeply. "No doubt about that... I'm sorry for doubting you, friend."
"Nah, I deserved it. I should have warned you they were coming."
"Nocturne. If either of us survives this..."
"Will you be godfather for my kid?"
Nocturne turned around so Bolero couldn't see his expression. "I'd be honored... Stupid me, I should have fought them with you!"
"What's done is done," Bolero replied. "Now let's just pray Aria gives them the slip..."
"Yeah... Let's," Nocturne closed his eyes. Consciousness was slipping away from him. The only thought that remained in his mind was Aria. What if they caught her? Would Bolero's death - and his - have been in vane? Bolero did the same. He was weakened and far closer to dying than Nocturne was. His concern was the safety of both his love and his unborn child. If they caught them, they'd be doomed to that life they had run away from. He took those last moments of his life to cherish the memories of all he and Aria had done in their lives. Perhaps most of them were not something to be proud of, yet he still enjoyed thinking of all of them. Now Aria's safety was entirely up to her. Bolero took his breath before letting out one last tune - - One of both regret and forgiveness, hoping that both Nocturne and Aria, wherever she was, could hear him.
Meanwhile, in Richard's den...
"Read 'em and weep!" Sasha said with a satisfied smile as she put her cards down.
"Grats, Sasha," Leon answered in a dull tone, flicking a coin forward."For the third time."
Richard pushed forward a small pile of money. "And that's my last five Poké," he shook his head. "Guess I'll have to start living of nothing but the hunt again."
"I'm out," Estelle, said sadly, pushing forward an even smaller pile, yet her smile didn't leave her face. "Nicely done, Lexy!"
Phoebe placed her cards down and pushed a much larger pile of Poké forward, this one even had a Ruby in it. "Luck has really failed me today."
"And this is the last of mine, too," Tiffany said, pushing a pile about the same size as Richard's.
They were placed in a circle around the center of the cave. Sasha was down on the leaf bed, as usual. Estelle was lying to her left, and Richard sitting to her right. Leon and Tiffany were sitting together in the other end of the circle, but kept enough distance as not to see each other's cards. Phoebe was to their left, humming in a low tone as she waited for the next round, where she could - hopefully - get her money back.
"So, next round, or...?"
"Sure," Sasha answered, staring at the money she had just earned. "Let's make my already vast fortune even bigger!"
"I can't," Leon said as he was getting ready to get up. The Pikachu had just lost his last coin in that game. "I just lost everything... Whose dumb idea was it to play for money, anyway?"
"Um..." Tiffany and Estelle giggled. "That was you, Leon!"
"I've got no money on me, either," Richard added.
"All out," Tiffany joined them.
"Nope," Estelle said. "I'm out!"
"I guess it's just you and me, Phoebe," Sasha told the Espeon.
"Nah, If no one else is playing, I'll back out, too," Phoebe answered.
"Oh, come on!" The Glaceon answered, annoyed. "You're the ones who wanted to play Two Paws Down so we could kill some time!"
"I've got a better idea," Richard told her. "What if you let me see your wound?" He approached her and tugged on the makeshift bandages around her leg, revealing that the cut had scarred, but was still visible.
"So?" Sasha asked. "Will I be okay, 'doctor'?"
"Starting tomorrow, you'll be ale to walk," Richard told her. "But no running, jumping, or fighting."
"What's the point, then?" Sasha replied impatiently. "Not only will I be unable to keep up, but I've got that big mark in my thigh, and my favorite scarf is ruined!"
"Well," Phoebe told her. "At least you'll be able to move on your own and get some sun... Not to mention that means we can head for the train!"
"Besides, you can get another scarf!" Tiffany added. "And I'm sure that scar will go away sometime! Remember the cut Don Krow left on you, Leon?" She turned to look at the Pikachu.
"Yeah," Leon answered. "It was gone within the week, but then again, I'm no ordinary guy."
"You're still pretty, Lexy," Estelle told her. "And, like you said, you can always wash your scarf!"
"Nah, I still have a bunch... Can you hand me my bag?"
"Sure!" Estelle answered as she took Sasha's bag from near the cave's wall and placed it in front of her.
"Okay..." Sasha began to dig into her bag. "Green? Nah... Yellow? No, not now... Here," she pulled out a red scarf, which she put on. "Ta- dah!" She looked at everyone, waiting to hear their response to the scarf.
"...Dashing," Phoebe said, rolling her eyes upward. "But, quick question: Is your bag full of those?"
"Got one for you, too," Sasha told the Espeon, once again searching her bag and pulling out a dark purple one. "Try it!"
"Um... How many scarves have your got in there?"
"H- Help..." The words came from the cave's entrance. Everyone turned to see an Altaria, dirty and dust- coated flutter in. Her breathing was heavy and she was holding something against herself in one of her wings.
"She's about to pass out!" Leon said as he ran towards her and helped her move on. Tiffany approached and held her from her other side.
"What happened to you?" The Buneary asked.
Tiffany then noticed the egg the Altaria was carrying. "An egg! She's holding an egg, Leon!"
"Quick, let's lay her to rest somewhere!" Leon told Tiffany, who nodded.
"Hate to break it for you, but this is still my den," Richard told the two. "And she ain't staying here. I let you two stay because you're Sasha's friends, but this one..."
**Really? If I were like that, would you have liked it for someone to deny me a place to stay?**
The Luxray shook his head before turning back to Leon, Tiffany and the Altaria. "This one... Can stay too."
"Thank... You.:." The Altaria looked gratefully at Richard before fainting, letting the egg go. Estelle quickly catched the egg before it hit the ground.
"Okay..." Leon and Tiffany carried the Altaria to the place Sasha was lying at and put her down.
"So," Tiffany asked nervously. "She's gonna be okay, right?"
"There's no way to tell that, I'm afraid," Phoebe answered, putting the scarf on. "Well, what do you know? It does suit me."
"She looks like she's had a bad day," Estelle pointed out, lying down, holding the egg.
"Not just a bad day," Sasha added. "The way she was so shaky and asking for help, she was probably running away from someone."
"That's right," Leon said. "But... From who?"
"That doesn't matter," Richard interrupted. "As soon as she's up and ready, she's getting out of here."
"But she'll go back to whatever trouble she was fleeing from!" Tiffany answered.
"It's not our problem," The Luxray crudely answered.
"Don't be an ass, Richard," Phoebe told him. "Let her stay."
"Okay, tell you what," The princely feline answered. "We'll decide that when she wakes up."
"Okay..." Estelle proposed. "In the meantime, how about some more Two Paws Down! But no betting, please, I'm out!"
"Yeah, I don't need money to beat you all again!" Sasha triumphantly replied.
"Well see about that, 'Lexy'," Phoebe answered, imitating Estelle.
"Whatever you say, 'your highness'..."
"Okay," Leon said, picking the cards up as everyone sat in a circle near Sasha and the unconscious Altaria. "Time to see if my luck has changed... Tiff, you shuffle."
"Sure!" Tiffany answered, taking the cards from Leon's hand and shuffling them at an incredible speed, then handing six to everyone. "Okay, let's play!"
"YES!" The voice echoed through the cave, making Aria's mind shake as she slowly came to herself. She opened her eyes to see an Absol excitedly place some cards down while singing. "I- Beat- Lex- y! I- Beat- Lex- y!"
"Well done, Estelle," She saw a Glaceon a bit further say in a bored, yet amused tone. "It only took you five hours."
That's when she remembered what she had been doing. She had been fleeing from the group of Murkrow that were chasing her after her beloved one had stayed behind to give her some time... What became of him? Her doubts were answered when she heard a tune full of sorrow and love some time later, one that, no doubt, represented Bolero's last, loving farewell. And Nocturne... Her friend who had betrayed them both... What became of him? When her pursuers were catching on to her, he was no longer among them. But she didn't have much time to think about it. After all, she was fleeing while protecting her... Her...
"My baby!" She cried, snapping to her senses as she got up, making everyone in the cave look at her.
"Well, she's up now," Sasha said, staring at her.
"Good to see you wake up," Leon approached Aria and held her wing. "Are you okay? What happened to you?"
"Where... Where's my baby?!"
"Oh, It's right here!" Estelle, who was holding the egg, rolled it towards her. "I kept it warm for you!"
"T- Thanks..." Aria answered, still shaky as she took the egg and held it close to her.
"Now, can you tell us what happened?" Tiffany asked.
"I was fleeing," Aria answered, taking a moment to calm down. "From some horrible fiends that wanted to take me back to a place you could call 'a lovely hell'."
"'Lovely hell'?" Leon asked.
"A mansion with all the luxury and pleasure I could possibly wish for, at the expense of handing myself to that disgusting bird whenever he feels like it."
"What disgusting bird?"
"Don Luca Krow," Aria answered. Leon and Tiffany shared a look upon hearing this. "Me and my love tired of the life we lived and fled, but they found us... He stayed behind to buy me some time while I fled with this egg..."
"That damn old raven!" Phoebe said, enraged. "Whenever something goes wrong, he is somehow involved in it!"
"I'm on the run from them right now... I've lost everything because of that stupid choice... This egg is all I have left... That's why I'm begging you," She looked at Richard with pleading eyes. "Please, let me hide here, if only for the day... I can pay if you want."
"Richard..." Sasha told him in a scolding fashion.
"You can stay," The Luxray answered. "Forget the money. I'll just take it from what you won," He turned to look at Sasha.
"Take what you want," Sasha answered. "I have about a thousand times that back at home!"
"Thank you so much..." Aria said as she flew to a corner of the cave and positioned herself to sleep while holding the egg. "I'll try to avoid interrupting you. You were playing Two Paws Down? Please, continue."
"Don Krow," Phoebe said, meditating. "I wonder when he'll get what he deserves."
"Someday," Richard answered.
"So," Leon said as everyone took their places and picked their cards up. "Guess what? Two Paws Down!"
===THE FIFTH DAY
Sasha slowly got up, struggling with herself. After all the time she had spent without moving, her entire body was numb and heavy. Her legs were quaking, but after a while, she was able to stand firmly.
"Okay," Richard told her. "Take a few steps, just remember: Only walking. Don't push yourself too hard."
"Oh, yeah..." The Glaceon let out a relaxed sigh as she stretched after a few steps. "I missed doing this..."
"So," Leon approached them. "We can head for the train now?"
"It leaves..." Phoebe looked into her bag. "In an hour. Given the place we're at, we should be able to reach it with plenty of time even if we walk."
"And what about the Altaria?" Tiffany pointed at Aria, whose eyes were still closed. The large bird Pokémon was holding the egg close to her body.
"I'm awake," Aria answered. "Thank you for letting me stay last night. Hopefully they've given up the chase by now and I can be on my way." She slowly got up, took the egg, and began to fly towards the exit in such a slow, calm pace that it made her look like she was floating.
"Bye! Take care of that eggy, now!" Estelle called out to the Altaria as she flew away. "And come back whenever you feel like it!" She said those last words to spite Richard. "If Kitty says you can't we can just tie him up!"
"Right," Richard said sarcastically. "'Cuz you can do that."
"Careful, Richard," Phoebe told the Luxray. "You didn't think Comet and I could tie you and Misha up, and we did."
"We let you do that," Richard replied.
"Sure, just like you-" Phoebe didn't have time to finish her sentence as a panicked scream came from outside the cave. Everyone rushed out of the cave as fast as they could to find Aria surrounded by five Murkrow. She was hanging on to the egg looking in every direction, trying to find a way to escape.
"It's the Murkrow!" Leon exclaimed, looking at the scene.
"Leon, shouldn't we do something?" Tiffany said, hugging Leon's arm.
"Of course we'll do something!" Leon answered, making sparks come out of his hand, then told Tiffany. "Ready to cross the Don again?"
"It's a dumb idea, but do what you please," Richard looked at them. "It ain't our problem as for us to meddle in it."
"A hero steps out of his way to help those who need him!" Leon replied, running toward the Murkrow.
"Dumb kid," Richard growled as he saw the Pikachu run into battle. "Half the soldiers that died in the war were like that..."
"Now, Aria..." Alvise was getting ready to speak when he was hit on the face with a Thunderpunch from Leon. He flew backwards and shook himself aware, trying to understand what just happened. He then saw the Pikachu standing ready to fight, sparks coming out of his body. "What the hell?!"
"Leave the Altaria alone!" Leon demanded. "Or I'll send you back featherless to your Don!"
"Just... Who is this guy?" Alvise asked curiously, looking at Leon.
"He's someone who will show you what happens when you mess with the weak!" Tiffany answered, standing next to Leon. She still hadn't gotten the hang of fighting yet, but she was willing to try her best.
"Oh, a Pikachu and Buneary!" Alvise replied. "We're so scared!" He turned to tell the Murkrow. "Right, boys?!" They all began to laugh in a loud, squawking way. Catching his breath, he continued. "We'll just have to show you why it's better to mind your own business!" Right then, a Shadow Ball hit one of the Murkrow, knocking him away.
"They're not alone," Phoebe said, taking a few steps forward and stopping in next to Leon and Tiffany. "I'm tired of you Murkrow having your way with whatever your boss commands."
"I expected that from a dream- chasing runt like the Pikachu, Phoebe," Richard growled. "But someone who knows the consequences of just charging into things like you do..."
"The consequences of charging into things," Sasha said, walking forward. "Are trouble, misunderstanding, and plenty of adventure."
"Sasha, don't!" Richard called her. "You're not supposed to strain yourself!"
"Screw that!" Sasha yelled back at the Luxray. "I wanna get in trouble. If you're too scared to try and fight them, it's your problem."
"Go, Lexy!" Estelle cheered as she, too, stepped forward. "Let's kick some bad guy butt!"
It was five against five now. While the Murkrow were distracted with Leon and the others, Aria slowly moved backwards, getting out of what could end up in a fight. She didn't know who Leon, Tiffany or the others were, but she was thankful at them for their help. Slowly, she hid behind some of the trees, peeking out to watch the battle.
Richard snarled. His thoughts were in conflict. He shouldn't meddle in the problems of strangers. As life had taught him, doing so would only get him into trouble he didn't need, and the results were never good... On the other hand, he couldn't stay back and let Misha's sister - who wasn't even supposed to strain herself yet - get hurt again. He wasn't so worried about Phoebe or Estelle; The war had toughened the Espeon up, and he had personally taught the Absol how to fight, so they shouldn't have a problem... In a moment, he made a choice he was sure he would regret: He would help. "Ah, wait..." He growled lowly, stepping forward and stopping in front of Sasha. He looked back at her and spoke. "Stay back, you're not supposed to strain yourself. I'll get this."
"You're not the boss of me!" The Glaceon answered. "If I feel like fighting, I will!"
"I'm not asking you as a boss, I'm asking you as a friend who worries about you. Step back." By now, Richard had gotten the hang of how to deal with her: Not by trying to impose an order, but by asking her to do things.
"Okay, 'friend'," Sasha replied, stepping back while grumbling something. "Wannabe gentleman, who do you think..."
"Well, what a weird crew!" Alvise pointed out, then burst into laughter along with the other Murkrow. "Of all the crazy jackasses we've put down, these ones are easily the weirdest! Let's waste 'em, boys!"
The five Murkrow flew forward into battle, but it did not last long. Leon quickly dispatched one of them with a punch to the face, then turned to zap another one Tiffany threw at him. Phoebe jumped back just in time to avoid a hit from one of the Murkrow's wings. The gem in her forehead began to glow as a strange, dark energy began to form in front of her. She then hit the ball, which went crashing against her enemy and knocked him down. Estelle just tackled the Murkrow towards Richard, who turned and charged himself with electricity, shocking the bird and leaving it out of the fight. The Luxray then leapt at Alvise and hit him with all his might. He pinned the Murkrow down and readied himself to kill him when Alvise pecked him in the face. Richard staggered , stepping backwards and giving the Murkrow a chance to escape.
"Bad luck!" The Murkrow called back at the Luxray, then turned to search for his target. He caught sight of Aria and flew towards her. "Hello, Aria!" He squawked, slamming against her and taking the egg in his talons. "You want your egg back?! You'll have to come with me!" With these last words, Alvise took off to the sky above the forest, cackling. He was sure he would get away and the Altaria would follow after him, but just as he thought his plan had worked, a shard of sharp ice flew by him, slashing his wing.
"Gotcha!" Sasha cheered, seeing how her Ice Shard hit her mark.
"Damn!" The surprise combined with the pain made Alvise drop the egg, which fell down into the trees of the deeper parts of the forest, lost from sight. He looked back at Aria, who hadn't moved an inch.
The Altaria was frozen in the panic of both Alvise taking her egg, and that of him suddenly dropping it. The only thing she could do was hope that the egg wasn't hurt in the fall. She watched in silence as the injured Alvise flew away.
"I'll be back later, Aria!" The Murkrow shouted menacingly, flying back to inform the Don. "And It'll be much worse! For you and for these weirdoes who helped you! Shame about your kid, though, I hope it shatters!"
"My... My baby..." Aria's expression had gone blank and her stare was lost in the depths of the forest. She turned around to look at everyone. "Thank you for helping me... But now my baby..." She began to cry. "My baby's gone! He was all I had left... And now he's lost in that forest!"
"We'll help you get him back," Leon told her, sounding as reassuring as he could, then turned to the others. "Right, guys?"
"Speak for yourself, idiot," Richard answered, heading back to his cave. "This isn't our problem. Let's just pack what we need and head for that train. If we're lucky, we'll still catch it."
**You're not even gonna try? Maybe my kid was better off not coming the world...**
Richard looked down and shook his head again. 'That's not true!'
**Prove it, then.**
He growled, hating himself for what he was about to do. He shivered for a moment, then turned around. "Okay... Let's look for that egg. It fell somewhere in the deep forest, so this is what we'll do: Phoebe," He looked at the Espeon. "We're doing what we did in Brimstone Creek."
"Right," Phoebe answered. "Sounds like a plan."
"Hello?" Sasha told them. "Four Pokémon who were not there over here!"
"This," Richard went into the bushes and took six straws in his paw, then held them so everyone could see. "We'll each take one. The two longest straws will go together, then the next two, and then the last two. Pick."
"Okay..." Leon approached Richard and took a straw.
"Let me be with Leon, please..." Tiffany whispered as she took another one.
"Weird way to make teams, but whatever," Sasha took another straw. "Now, off to some adventure!"
"Smart idea from you, Richard," Phoebe told him, taking her straw.
"I hope I get you, Kitty!" Estelle took another straw, leaving just one left in Richard's paw. This was the one the Luxray would use.
"Okay, then," Richard started, pacing around the group and looking at their straws. "Mouse kid, you and your mate will go that way." He gestured to the right.
"YES!" Tiffany said excitedly. "At last, some time to ourselves!"
"Excuse me..." Aria approached the two as they began to head into the forest. "Can I plase go with you? I want to find my baby..."
"Sure, come along!" Leon answered, not noticing Tiffany let out a slightly annoyed sigh.
"Thank you," Aria made a slow nod, then whispered at Tiffany. "I'm sorry if I'm getting in the way..."
"Meh, we'll have plenty of time later," The Buneary whispered back. Soon, they were gone from sight into the depths of the forest , and Richard continued.
"Phoebe, you and Estelle will go left."
"Me and you, Sunny!" Estelle said cheerfully. "Now, stay close so you won't get lost!"
"Well, it's a chance to know each other a little better," Phoebe answered. The two then ventured off into the thicker group of trees to the left.
"And that leaves me and you to go straight forward," Richard turned to Sasha. "Let's get moving."
"Oh, what fun I'll have with you holding me back every second!" The Glaceon answered sarcastically as she walked along Richard. "It's like having Jacques nagging me. As if I didn't get enough of that at home."
"I remember Jacques... Annoying Butler, right?"
"Yeah, and he hasn't changed one bit." The two kept their conversation and walked ahead, leaving the four knocked- out Murkrow lying on the ground outside the cave. They wouldn't be getting up in a long time...
Leon, Tiffany and Aria were making their way through the woods. They had gone into the worst part of the forest- - the one in which the trees joined together so tightly that one had to squeeze through them in order to keep moving. This wasn't such a problem for Leon and Tiffany, as their size made it easy for them to pass between the trees. Aria, however, had trouble navigating the woods due to her larger size. This part of the woods was the one that unnerved Leon the most: No light, no noise apart from that of his and Tiffany's steps, and that of Aria's wings.
"Thank you for helping me, again," Aria spoke. "I don't know how I can repay you for what you've done, giving me shelter, fending of my attackers and even helping me find my son.
"You could start by giving us your name," Tiffany answered. "It's weird to refer to you as 'the Altaria'."
"Right, where are my manners?" Aria made a slight bow. "My name is Aria Harmony."
"Nice to meet you, Aria," Leon replied, pulling aside a low branch so Tiffany and Aria could pas through another narrow space. "I'm Leon. And this is Tiffany."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, too," Aria told the two. "I understand, from what I've heard, that you're mates?"
"Yeah," Tiffany replied. "For almost a week now!"
"Congratulations to the both of you," The Altaria said. "May your life be full of happiness... Of more than mine is, at least."
"I'm sorry about your loss," Leon tried to express sympathy for Aria. "I hope your love is alive."
"He sang his last song," Aria answered sadly. "His last farewell to me, and forgiveness to the one who, I'm sure, told the Murkrow where we were."
"Okay, let's forget about the sad stuff and focus on finding that egg," Tiffany interrupted before Leon made Aria revive more sad memories. "I think that's what your love would have liked."
They kept going, deeper and deeper into the woods, The terrain here had turned to a downwards slope. The trees themselves were growing in a more slanting fashion than in the previous areas of the forest. This, however, made the walk a lot less tiring, and the way in which the treetops were positioned let more light in, allowing them to see where they were going.
"The egg didn't land too far from here, I think," Leon pointed out, stopping to look at the sky. "From what I saw, it fell a bit ahead."
"I hope you're right," Aria murmured.
Right then, a rustling was heard in some nearby bushes. Leon turned around with lightning forming at the tip of his finger, ready to strike what was to come out of them while Aria and Tiffany moved behind him. Yet nothing came out of the bushes... Leon stood, waiting for what was hiding there to appear. After a while, a dark lump crawled out of the bush. The moment some light shone on it, the black took a purplish tint. That was enough for Aria to recognize him.
"Nocturne!" She sounded surprised to see him so badly hurt.
"A... Ari...a?" Nocturne looked up to see her, too tired to even speak her name. "It's... You?... Aria!" The Murkrow reacted and crawled closer using his wings, staining them in the mud.
"I have nothing to say to you," Aria answered crudely, turning to Leon. "Let's go, we have to find my baby."
"Your... Egg?" Nocturne asked. "What happened?"
"Your friend Alvise happened," The Altaria didn't even look back at the wounded Murkrow.
"That evil son of a-"
"I'm not going to continue wasting my time with you," Aria kept moving forward. "Leon, Tiffany, let's go."
"Please... I understand if you want to leave me here to die," Nocturne begged. "But... Let me help you find it... Please, Aria... I... I owe it to Bolero..."
"What," Aria's soft voice turned harsh all of a sudden. "Killing him was not enough? Ruining our lives wasn't enough?!"
"It wasn't me... It was Alvise," Nocturne groaned. "Bolero forgave me... Please, let me help..."
"You can stay here and die for all I care!" The Altaria's face was red with rage. She moved on, followed by Leon and Tiffany, leaving Nocturne behind.
"I'm Godfather to your son!" The Murkrow called with the last of his strength. "Bolero asked me before dying!"
"What?" Those last words made Aria turn around. She didn't know that Bolero had asked him that. She fluttered back to the now unconscious Nocturne and stopped next to him. She didn't now what to think anymore. All her life, she had followed the judgment of what Bolero considered best, and to hear that he had forgiven Nocturne and trusted him enough to name him Godfather... Could it be that Nocturne wasn't the villain here? She stopped to look at the Murkrow's wounds. They were done by crooked beaks and sharp wings. Bolero couldn't have inflicted them. She made her choice. Turning to Leon and Tiffany, she spoke. "Can you help this guy?" She looked down at Nocturne. "I don't know why I'm doing this, but..."
"Yeah," Leon approached Aria and Nocturne, followed by Tiffany.
"I have some Oran berries," Tiffany told Leon. "Maybe we can give him some so he regains some strength?"
"Yeah, let's try that," Leon reached into Tiffany's bag and pulled out two Oran berries. "Here, bird," He pushed the berries into the Murkrow's beak. Nocturne swallowed the berries and opened his eyes. "He's back up." The Pikachu told Aria and Tiffany.
"Nice, Leon," Tiffany answered. "Just one thing: reach into my bag without my permission again, and I'll pound you."
"Thanks," Nocturne said faintly, then looked up at Aria. "I owe you my life, Aria..."
"Don't say a thing," Aria answered. "Bolero made you Godfather for our son, but that doesn't mean I have to like you."
"Please, forgive me," Nocturne regained his strength and got back up. "I'll do anything to earn your trust again... Let's look for that egg, I'll help."
"Then do it," Aria coldly answered. "Let's go."
Phoebe and Estelle were walking down the path to the left of Richard's cave. They were heading into the somewhat calm area of the forest. The trees were not as close and their tops were not as thick, so the sunlight filtered down and covered large segments of the path, the clear blue sky above was easily visible in most of the road, resulting in a beautiful mixture of blues, greens and browns. The Espeon was quietly walking forward, following the path ahead of her, while the Absol was skipping about and humming happily.
"So, Sunny!" Estelle started, taking a deep breath of fresh air before continuing. "What's up with you?"
"Can't say too much," Phoebe answered. "I guess Richard must have told you about me."
"He said," Estelle frowned, trying to imitate Richard's voice. "'We fought together in the war. She's smart, and she's got plenty of power to show off, too.' But that's all."
Phoebe couldn't help but laugh at Estelle's imitation. The fact she had just made Phoebe laugh brought a smile to Estelle. "If that's all he told you," Phoebe said, still laughing a little. "We've got a lot to know about each other."
"So talk!" Estelle cheered.
"Well, first thing you should know if we're going to be traveling together, and also because everyone else that'll be coming with us knows, is that I'm a princess."
"Princess?" Estelle asked curiously. "Awesome! With, like, the palace, the jewels, and stuff?"
"Pretty much," Phoebe replied. "But I've kind of put that aside ever since my parents split up."
"Now, let's hear something about you."
"Well..." Estelle started. "I'm from this forest... I've never left it in my entire life, except from when I head into town to warn about a disaster... Or when I just go there with Kitty."
"Yeah, about that: What's your relationship with Richard? I'm surprised he lets you cuddle up with him at night. Are you mates?"
"Nope," Estelle sounded a bit down when she said this. "Sometimes I wish he was, but he never pays attention to me in that way... He's really nice at me, though."
"I know I said this the other day, but it's strange to see him open up like this to anyone. It took me a month of trying just to get him to talk to me."
"I like him a lot," Estelle continued. "And, just between you and me..." She reached into a small black bag she was carrying. "Here!" She pulled out a small Luxray doll. Its right foreleg was greyed out.
"Is that Richard?!" Phoebe was surprised that there was a doll of the soldier.
"Yup! He had it made for me one time we went to town," Estelle put the doll away and kept walking. "Now, I hug it whenever he's not around... I know everyone says he's real bitter. In fact, I know he is, but he's never been like that at me!"
"You're lucky," Phoebe answered.
"So, what about you?" Estelle continued. "Do you like him?"
"Well, we were together like that," Phoebe said, recalling the past. "But only for a few weeks. After that... Well, we realized we had different interests."
The road began to get steeper and steeper as the two continued their path uphill. The trees had become far scarcer in the area, and now, much to Phoebe's enjoyment, the sun above was shining down on them with all its warmth and light.
"Y'know," Estelle said as they walked uphill. "I used to live at the top of this hill with my sister. I wonder if she's home..."
"A sister?" Phoebe couldn't believe that the Absol had a sister. 'Whoa,' she thought. 'Is she just like her? That'd be weird...'
"Yeah, I have one," Estelle answered. Why is it so hard to believe? Leon reacted just like you did."
"No, it's not hard to believe, I was just asking."
They reached the top of the hill. The view was marvelous, indeed. All of the forest was in view. The vast extension of trees ahead, combined with the colors of the sky, reflected in the stream that flowed below them made an amazing sight.
"Beautiful," Phoebe said, marveling at the sight.
"I know! Waking up to this every morning was amazing!" Estelle answered.
"Good afternoon, Estelle," The voice came from behind them. Phoebe and Estelle turned around to find a blue- eyed Absol behind them. "Who's your friend? Is this the 'Kitty' you speak so much of?"
"Astie!" Estelle greeted cheerfully. "It's great to see you! And nope, this isn't Kitty, she's sunny! My new friend!" She approached Astra and whispered. "Have you told Lethy yet?"
"No," Astra answered. "I was planning to tell him today, actually."
"I don't mean to cut this," Phoebe interrupted. "But we're looking for something, Estelle."
"Oh, right!" Estelle jumped a little. "Speaking of... Have you seen an egg around here? An Altaria egg?"
"Something fell a bit further from here not too long ago," Astra answered. "I think a Murkrow dropped it."
"That's the one!" Estelle replied. "Where did it fall?"
"Estelle," Came Lethe's voice. "What a pleasant surprise..."
"Hi, Lethy!" Estelle turned to greet the other Absol, who had just arrived.
"And you brought a friend," Lethe said, sounding annoyed and disappointed. "Well, at least you are not with that freak today."
"You're with the Midnight Voices," Phoebe noticed the 'IX' band Lethe was wearing.
"And you're Selenia's princess," Lethe calmly answered, not paying attention to the Espeon's surprise.
"I know things," Lethe cut her short. "Astra," He turned to the blue- eyed Absol. "I brought you some more berries... And this was lying near here. It was about to roll downhill when I stopped it." He placed Aria's egg in front of Astra. "Whatever's here hasn't even been born yet. It didn't feel right to leave it to die when it hasn't hatched."
"It appears you've helped Estelle and her friend find they were looking for," Astra rolled the egg towards her sister.
"Thanks, Lethy!" Estelle took the egg and tried to put it in her bag, but it was too big to fit in. She didn't worry about that, however. With the egg stuck in her bag and looking like it was about to fall anytime, she turned back and began to walk back to Richard's cave. "Good bye, you two!" She called back at Astra and Lethe. "Good luck with your own kid!"
"What?" Lethe asked, looking seriously at Estelle. "What are you talking about?"
"I have to tell you something..." Astra looked him in the eyes as she said this.
"Whoops... Let's go, Sunny!" Estelle told Phoebe, continuing her walk back home, the egg bouncing dangerously in her bag with every step she took.
"Estelle, are you sure you don't want me to carry that?" Phoebe asked nervously, noticing the egg moving.
"Please, Sunny... What could go wr- Eeek!" Estelle tripped on a root, falling over and sending the egg flying away. "Eggy!" The egg flew and fell into the woods below the hill.
"Oh, No..." Phoebe had no voice to scream. The sole thought that the egg could break made her feel her spirit leave her body.
"L-Look out below!" Estelle feebly called in the direction the egg had fallen. She brought her paws to her face and started to cry. "Eggy's dead... Because of me!"
"Calm down!" Phoebe tried to help her compose herself. "Maybe it fell somewhere soft..."
Their worries were put at ease when the answer came from below.
"Thanks for the heads-up!"
Richard and Sasha were going through the path that went straight from Richard's cave. They got to move through a somewhat simple section of the forest. Light scarcely filtered down on them. The atmosphere was strange. The woods were even quieter than usual. Some Starly were flying from tree to tree, filling the silence with their occasional chirp. The Luxray was deep in thought with his eyes lost on the road ahead, while Sasha moved along silently behind him.
"So..." Sasha broke the ice - as strange as that might sound on an ice type - What have you been doing with your life, Richard? Haven't told me much, apart from the bitterness and all that."
"I've been living here with Estelle," Richard answered. "That's all... I thought I was in for a quieter life, when suddenly you come along and send me after some egg..."
"Excuse me?!" Sasha was offended by Richard's answer. "So, I sent you after that egg?"
"No, I didn't mean you," The Luxray tried to correct himself. "I meant that Leon. For what I've seen, he is some ideal- stuffed kid who wants to help anyone in trouble. I just think this egg hunt is pointless. Why does that Altaria worry so much about it? It's just some Swablu that hasn't even been born yet."
"Well, we don't understand her worries right now because we don't know what that's like," The Glaceon said. "Maybe we'll be able to understand that the day we have one of our own." These words made Richard freeze. He looked down, sighed, and slowly shook his head.
"I understand," The Luxray answered sadly, upping the pace. "I understand better than you think."
"Wait, what? Hey, Richard, wait up!" Sasha began to walk faster as well, even though she was not supposed to. In time, this just resulted in her stopping and letting out a pained grunt.
"What happened?" The Luxray turned back and walked to where she had stopped.
"Nothing," Sasha said, pretending to be fine as she got up. "It's just a little cramp, that's all."
"You want me to-"
"I don't need you carrying me," She interrupted before he could say anything and kept walking forward. "I'm just fine."
"You know, if you don't worry about your own health, you're just doing wrong to others'," Richard said as he began to walk along her. "Or... Are you just pretending you don't worry so I get worried?"
"Oh, you're worried about me?" Sasha looked at him with s cynical grin. "That's mighty sweet of you, Richard!" She scoffed at the Luxray's attitude.
"I'm not worried about you," Richard answered. "I'm worried that your brother, assuming he's alive, he'll make Luxray barbecue out of me because I didn't take care of you!"
"Well, thank you so much, but I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself. Now let's just find that egg and go back to your so- called 'home', 'cuz there's no way we're catching the train today!"
"Really?" Richard chuckled. "Well, 'big girl', if you can indeed, take care of yourself, then you don't need me here at all! Just remember... Danger lurks in every corner..." Saying this, he jumped into the bushes and hid.
"Wha- Fine, be that way!" Sasha called into the bushes, laughing a little. She knew what was going on: Richard and her brother had played that same prank on her once when she was little, leaving her alone, then jumping out to scare her.
She kept walking on her own, further down the path. Every now and then a few more Starly would flutter above her. The feeling of numbness in her leg had gone away, and she was back to normal. The woods had started to thicken, and soon, most of the sky was obstructed by a large hill that rose to her left, while a large chasm to her right separated the forest. Several Rawst trees adorned the path on both sides, yet the Starly were gone now. The only noise she could hear was that of her own steps.
She wouldn't have liked to admit it, but all that quiet, apart from the sound of a river in the distance, was starting to get her nervous.
"Ri... Richard?" She called, trying to hide her nerves. Her shaky voice, however, did little in her favor. "Richard? Come on, this isn't funny anymore!" Then, a rustle came from one of the nearby bushes. "Richard? Heh..." She walked closer to the bushes with a devilish smile, ready to jump at him. "Gotcha!" She jumped into the bush, hitting someone and knocking him down, laughing. "See? You ca..." She cut her words and let out a short, surprised gasp when she realized the one she had hit wasn't Richard.
"Wow," The Houndoom said with a lustful smile. "You must like me a lot, huh?!"
Sasha growled, stepping back as fast as she could, trying to distance herself from XIV, who got up and began to walk towards her.
"Ge... Get back!" Sasha warned him. She was aware she wasn't able to fight him. Not only did he have the advantage in type and strength, but her condition didn't make it possible for her to move as fast as she usually did. "I can still take you!"
"Oh, yeah..." XIV murred. "You're about to take me alright... Or am I the one that'll be taking you?" He chuckled at his own words. "But first... How about a little 'foreplay'?" He spat a fireball that barely grazed the Glaceon, making a few drops of cold sweat fall from her face.
"Well, I warned you!" Sasha got ready to fight, hoping to make an impress XIV enough to scare him off, but it didn't work at all.
"Really? You're gonna fight me now, when five days ago you couldn't even walk? Ha!" XIV was getting ready to pounce her, when the growl came from somewhere in the bushes.
"Bad choice, idiot."
"Huh?" XIV looked everywhere for the source of the voice, but the shadow cast by both the hill and the trees, didn't allow him to see very far. "Where are you?! There's no point in hiding... I can smell your fear!"
"Really?" The growl came from a different part of the woods. "I doubt that's me... I feel no fear."
"Well, then!" XIV leapt at Sasha and pinned her down, making her let out a pained grunt. "Now you can't hurt me without having to come out of hiding! Aren't you scared you'll hurt this here beauty?!"
"I don't need to come any closer;" Richard whispered. "As it turns out... I'm already behind you."
XIV let go of Sasha and quickly turned around, yet saw no one. "Stop toying with me! Where are you?!" He was starting to panic with this invisible foe. He quickly leapt into the bushes again and hid behind a tree.
"Like you said," He heard the voice. "There's no point in hiding... I can see you, wherever you are. And, like I said," Richard whispered into XIV's ear. "I'm already behind you." Before the Houndoom could react, Richard clamped his jaws on XIV's neck, making sparks come out, accompanied by a pained yelp before the canine fainted. "Learn the lesson," Richard disdainfully growled at the unconscious Houndoom. "You can't beat me... In power or in smarts." He kicked some dirt back at XIV, then went back to Sasha, who was still panting heavily from the scare she had just gotten.
"Gee, I thought you could take care of yourself now that you were a 'big girl'," Richard looked at her, amused.
"Okay..." Sasha took a deep breath and continued. "Okay... This," She moved incredibly close to him, then suddenly swatted him on the face. "Is for not getting that I hate to be a damsel in distress... And this," She pecked him on the cheek, with her face reddening a little. "Is because I'm not an ungrateful bitch. Thanks." Before the Luxray could answer, she kept walking forward.
They walked for a long time, neither of them saying a word to each other, when their attention was called to something above.
"L-Look out below!"
They both looked up to see the egg they had been looking for falling towards them.
"I got it!" Sasha jumped and caught the egg in her paws. She looked back up to where the egg ahd fallen from and yelled. "Thanks for the heads- up!" However, her satisfaction was short- lived, as she looked back down to realize she was heading straight for the chasm to the left of the road. She closed her eyes and let out a low "Oh, damn..."
"Oh, damn..." Richard said the same words at the same time before jumping and grabbing hold of her leg to stop her from falling (fortunately, it was her left leg, meaning she didn't get hurt.). "I got you!"
"Hey, you got the egg!" Phoebe looked down from where she and Estelle were to see the two below. "Oh..."
"Don't let go of eggy, Lexy!" Estelle called out to them. "And don't let go of Lexy, Kitty!"
"I think that's common sense, Estelle!" Sasha yelled, looking at the river below. If the egg fell there, that was the last they would see of it.
"Just wait, I'll pull you up!" Richard was sweating at the thought of what would happen if he let go, at the same time looking away to avoid seeing Sasha's nether regions, which were in plain sight to him from the way in which she was hanging. That's when he remembered: That day, two years earlier, when he had been in a similar situation with her brother. Once again, it all hinged on him. Her fate, much like her brother's that day, was in his paws, but this time... This time they'd both make it. With all his strength, he pulled back with a loud roar. He was successful, as he pulled Sasha back to solid ground with ease, but the egg was not so lucky. The way in which he shook Sasha when he pulled her back up had made her let the egg go.
"Oh, man..." All four said, seeing the egg fall towards the river below.
Leon, Tiffany, Aria and the repented Nocturne had finished making their way through the forest. They met the end of the road in a river that was running with a loud noise right ahead of them. The river was apparently very hot, as steam came out of the sand around it.
"Dead end," Leon commented. "But I'm sure it fell somewhere around here..."
"We'll have to go back," Tiffany said. "Hopefully Soldier boy and the others had better luck..."
"I hope they did... My poor baby..." Aria whimpered.
"We'll find it," Nocturne told her. "I swear... And when we do, I'll go and tear Alvise's black heart out!"
"Well, let- HEY!" Leon saw the egg falling towards the river. "There it is! Quick It's gonna fall into the river!" He ran ahead, ready to catch the egg, but the river ahead prevented him from reaching it. "Either of you!" He looked at the Altaria and Murkrow. "Get it!"
"I'm here!" Nocturne flew toward the egg and caught it in his talons, then handed it to Aria. "Here... Please forgive me..."
"Hey!" Sasha called out below. "Thank goodness you were there to catch it... Wait, what's that Murkrow doing there?!"
"Don't worry, he's helping us!" Leon called back up at her. "Good thing we were here to get it, huh?"
"Cut the talking!" Richard roared at them. "Let's meet back at the cave! I'm letting her stay for today, since it seems she's in a bigger mess than we thought!"
'What a sudden change of heart,' Leon thought before answering. "Okay! We'll meet you there!"
Everyone had reached Richard's cave. Leon's team had just arrived to find the others waiting by the entrance. Night had fallen, and navigating the dark part of the woods they were on all the way back to the cave had not been an easy task.
"Again... I'm sorry..." Nocturne kept saying.
"I forgive you," Aria didn't pay much heed, holding her egg close. "It's what Bolero would have wanted..."
Just then, Alvise darted out of the darkness, flying towards her. "Goodbye, Aria!"