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Mark couldn’t get over just how stupid he had been. Obviously Scyther would kill the trainer. Why was he even taking the doctors there? He really didn’t know. Maybe he should be telling them he couldn’t remember where it was or something. Yeah, he really should.
But his legs walked on and his mouth stayed closed, even while the worry built up in his mind.
The past fifteen minutes or so had been a nightmare. First May had found it suspicious that some Sneasel would have not only been around but also not even been in a hurry to kill their prey at that time, and had wanted to ask endless questions while Mark gradually turned into a nervous wreck. When he finally got her to stop stalling and lend him her cellphone, he had first dialled the wrong number, and then the lady who answered the phone call had not understood him because he spoke too fast. Thankfully, only seconds passed from when he managed to make himself understandable and until two doctors in white coats teleported there with an Abra, and he was now leading the way into the forest with the whole group to show them the victim.
“There?” Alan asked, pointing. Mark jumped, looking distractedly over in that direction; he could see Scyther there, seemingly fighting something. Mark’s first crazy thought was that the trainer had regained consciousness and they were having some sort of a hand-to-hand fight about his life; however, he quickly realized the logical failure in that assumption, nodded and hurried ahead to see what was going on.
What he saw when he entered the clearing was what he had least expected. The trainer, who had been moved more into the open, was still there, and meanwhile Scyther was fiercely fending off two black, catlike creatures with bladelike claws.
The Sneasel ran for it and disappeared into the forest as they realized they had been outnumbered. Scyther turned to the group of humans, his eyes expressionless; the doctors hurried to the trainer with their yellow Psychic Pokémon and started to check him for life signs.
“He’s alive,” one of the doctors confirmed after checking the pulse. “It was lucky you came around and had the sense to leave your Pokémon here to guard him…”
“You may be contacted later for a report. Abra, Teleport!”
The yellow Pokémon yawned and stretched out its clawed limbs as the doctors each placed a hand on the brown armour on its shoulders, also holding the trainer’s hands. Then all four of them disappeared.
“Well,” May said after a few moments of silence, “nothing more to see here. Stormy Town is that way.”
And she strode back towards the road, Alan quickly following behind her.
“Why did you move him?” Mark asked Scyther quietly as they walked after the others.
“I realized it wouldn’t look very convincing that some Sneasel would drag him into a bush after bringing him down but before killing him,” Scyther replied simply. Mark shuddered yet again at how calmly and casually the mantis talked about the incident.
“Why were those Sneasel there, anyway?”
“Attracted by the smell of blood.”
Mark wondered for a split second if it was a good idea to ask, but went ahead: “May said Sneasel are never around this late in the morning.”
Scyther smiled faintly. “The ones in Ruxido hunt later than most other Sneasel because many of the Pokémon they eat here first turn up in the morning. I know; I lived here when I was wild.”
Mark looked at him, surprised. “You did?”
Scyther nodded, looking fondly around at the trees. “I wonder…” he started like he was thinking aloud, but never finished the sentence. They walked on in silence for a little while.
All of a sudden, Scyther started to laugh. It immediately took the prize of the creepiest sound Mark had ever heard; perhaps it was ancient instinct that made it so chilling, but it sent a cold shiver down his spine.
“That was the last one,” Scyther said and chuckled some more, in a kind of ironic fashion rather than the laugh of one who is amused.
“The last… what?”
Scyther turned to Mark with some sort of a crazy smile. “Remember ‘Death is not to be feared’? The first rule of Scyther ethics?”
“There are five,” Scyther said quietly. “And I’ve broken them all now.”
“What?” Mark asked, confused.
“Ever since that duel… Ever since she beat me, I’ve been breaking them one after another… The one I had yet to break before now was not to inflict unnecessary pain… but now I have.”
He giggled insanely with an odd expression for a second; then he suddenly stopped and jerked his scythe up to his throat. The blade trembled for a few seconds as the mantis Pokémon gritted his teeth. “I’m pathetic, pathetic, pathetic…”
Finally, Scyther lowered his scythe and sighed. He looked at it for a second. “Only rule I’ve followed to this day is keeping them sharp.”
“That’s a rule too?” Mark asked, still a bit wary in case Scyther decided to attempt to cut his head off again. The mantis nodded.
“Yes. It’s included in the one about no unnecessary pain, actually… a blunt blade hurts more than a sharp one…”
Mark didn’t reply as he figured Scyther might not want to dwell on the subject, but the Pokémon continued on his own accord:
“I sharpen them every day… I’m proud of them… I sharpen them until they don’t hurt anymore…”
Scyther held his arm out in front of Mark; he was about to ask what that was for when he noticed a row of small cuts on the soft yellow upper arm.
“You… you test them on yourself?” Mark asked with a hint of disgust. Scyther shrugged.
“Nobody else to test them on.”
Suddenly, Scyther froze and looked quickly around.
“Scyther? What…” Mark was cut off by the buzzing of wings; he stepped slowly backwards as two green blurs approached and landed on the ground in front of Scyther, revealing themselves to be two other members of his species.
“Well, Razor, we never expected to see you again,” one of them said in a hoarse, deep voice. He was missing an eye, and the green armour on his body was strangely light, giving him an overall sort of faded, ‘withering away’ look. The other Scyther had a large chunk missing out of its left scythe, but was a very dark green compared to the others.
“Stormblade.” Scyther looked at the lighter one with a small nod and turned to the dark one. “Shadowdart…”
Mark looked confusedly at him; Shadowdart looked suspiciously at Mark.
“What is the human doing here?” He narrowed his eyes and looked sharply back at Mark’s Scyther, who hesitated. He seemed upset and alert.
“He’s… my friend.”
Shadowdart gave Mark a nasty glare before jerking his head back towards Scyther. “Your ‘friend’? Since when did you make human friends?”
“None of your business,” Scyther replied quietly.
Stormblade appeared not to like this subject, and changed it. “Well, did you ever find Nightmare?” he asked.
Scyther nodded. Shadowdart didn’t object to the abrupt change of direction in the conversation, but looked at Mark every now and then.
“So how did it go?” Stormblade asked with interest.
Scyther swallowed, looking at the two other bugs, and then whispered, “She… She got caught…”
Shadowdart looked at Scyther with angry disbelief. “Caught?”
“How did that happen?” Stormblade asked slowly. “She was the fastest I’ve ever seen…”
“He caught her in her sleep,” Scyther said bitterly. Stormblade nodded absent-mindedly before suddenly looking sharply back at him.
“How would you know? Were you there?”
Scyther sighed and nodded, looking down. Stormblade’s expression changed to one of disdain.
“Then you didn’t do anything… You just watched…”
Scyther was very visibly uncomfortable, but simply sighed again, nodding.
“I thought I knew you,” Stormblade muttered, shaking his head. “I never thought you’d…”
“Screw that,” Shadowdart interrupted, looking at Mark once again. “What are you doing with the human?”
“He’s my trainer,” Scyther said after a short silence. Shadowdart snorted.
“You let a human stuff you into a ball? I thought you had some dignity… Then it’s probably true what they all say, that you begged for your life, too…”
“Don’t,” Stormblade warned. “You didn’t watch the duel. I did.”
“Fine,” Shadowdart spat, “then she was just weak. I bet both of you just sit there with your trainers now doing whatever you’re told, like little robots under their…”
Scyther swung his scythe straight at Shadowdart’s face. For a second Mark thought he’d kill him, but Shadowdart quickly raised his own blade to block the blow. Scyther attacked faster and more fiercely than Mark had ever seen him, gritting his teeth as Shadowdart’s scythes clashed with his again and again. Finally slashing forward with both of his blades, Scyther stared murderously into the other’s eyes as Shadowdart blocked.
The two Scyther glared at each other while each pushed with all his might; finally they both leapt backwards and Shadowdart lowered his scythes.
“All right,” he said nastily. “Fine. Be a slave. You’re not worth duelling.”
Shadowdart looked at Mark again. “And your so-called trainer isn’t worth killing, either.”
With that, he took off and buzzed back into the depths of the forest. Stormblade looked doubtfully at Scyther, shaking his head before flying after the other bug.
“What was that?” Mark asked when they were out of sight.
“My friends,” Scyther sighed. “Only proves how worthless I’ve become…”
They walked on, not in a hurry to catch up with May and Alan. Mark hesitated a bit. “They called you Razor – is that your name?”
Scyther shook his head. “Pokémon don’t have names like humans, remember… We made those silly names up ourselves to use for each other. I’d prefer if you didn’t call me that – too many memories I’d rather not think of.” He paused for a second. “I do like calling her Nightmare, though,” he added softly. “Ironically fitting… but I can’t stand the thought of you calling her ‘Scizor’.”
Mark nodded. They silently kept going; Mark could see the sunlight between the trees ahead, and realized the forest’s exit was not far ahead.
“It’s funny, actually,” Scyther suddenly started. “Stormblade hasn’t changed one bit, but Shadowdart was always a wuss. He got scared easily… The day of his First Prey, he couldn’t face ending a life and it took him many, many failed attempts before he finally caught something he had the guts to kill. That was actually the same day as my fateful duel with Nightmare…” He trailed off.
“First prey?” Mark asked.
“A kind of growing-up ritual,” Scyther explained shortly. “You go out on your first hunt and need to catch and kill something all by yourself, and once you’ve done that you’re officially an adult.”
He seemed to be thinking hard for a second. “I just don’t get it,” he muttered. “You saw that piece that was cut out of his scythe?”
“It was always our leader’s trademark to cut a bit from those he defeated… This means Shadowdart has challenged him for leadership, but not just once – with that much cut out, it must be three, four, five times. He wants to be leader…”
Scyther paused. “Damn it, where did all that determination come from?” he suddenly asked loudly with a hint of annoyance simply about the mystery itself. “Not Stormblade. He’s turned into Shadowdart’s toy…”
He sighed and shook his head. “I’ve changed too… but for the better… This is… I really have a bad feeling about this…”
They exited Ruxido into the glorious sunlight of Route 212, only to be greeted by an endless field of tall grass. May and Alan stood hopelessly in front of it.
“We might be able to get around it,” Mark heard May saying as they approached.
“Yeah, but it would take ages,” Alan argued. “It can’t be that bad to walk through…”
“Oh, hi,” May said as she turned around and saw them. “As you can see, this is a very annoying patch of grass.”
Mark stared out at it. “I can imagine.”
Scyther looked at the grass and just smiled before taking a step backwards and then zooming into it with his scythes aloft. Grass blades flew in all directions. Within a few minutes, he had cut down a clear path through all the grass and returned.
“Nice,” Alan said, raising his eyebrows and heading into the newly-cut path. May followed after him, and Mark came last.
“I haven’t done that in years…” Scyther recalled. “Fun, though, and harder than it looks. As soon as our scythes harden – they’re soft when we’re born – we start doing this for practice, all the way until our First Prey.”
“What is the First Prey thing like exactly?” Mark asked. He had always found this kind of thing interesting; wild Pokémon’s culture were something he wished there was more of at school.
Scyther shrugged. “They send you off, and two witnesses follow you to make sure you do it all by yourself. Then you just find something living, kill it, and bring it back to the swarm, eating it there and giving some to those you respect, which always includes the leader unless you plan to be banished. Usually we just catch small Pokémon like Rattata or Nidoran. The more ambitious head for bigger targets and greater glory.”
Mark nodded. “What did you catch?” he asked out of curiosity, wondering what kind of a target Scyther had headed for when he was younger.
“Well…” The mantis looked around, reluctant to answer. Mark looked at him with suspicion.
“You don’t want to know,” Scyther finally said quietly. Not sure if the hint was intentional, Mark felt a cold shiver run down his spine.
“Don’t tell me you…”
Scyther nodded without looking at Mark. He immediately felt sick.
“Why a human?” he mumbled.
“Why not?” Scyther whispered. “Do you think the Nidoran wouldn’t be horrified if I had caught one of them? And the Rattata upset if I had killed their offspring? We are all sentient, Mark… and none of us want to be killed deep down, no matter how many rules of your ethics tell you to be ready to face it.”
Mark said nothing. It still felt wrong, but in a way Scyther had a point. He shivered as he thought of all the Pokémon families that the mantis might have ruined, the children he might have left motherless, the eggs that cooled and died with nothing to warm them… all because he was a predator…
Scyther suddenly started to laugh again. “Isn’t this ironic? I could kill you… I could reach out with my arm and cut your head off if I wanted… but here we are talking like best mates…”
Mark didn’t particularly like this twist of the conversation, but Scyther didn’t notice, he was looking straight forward and muttering to himself.
“You know about the animal world?” he suddenly asked, looking back at Mark.
“The humans there were too powerful for their own good. They practically took over the world, and it… went to their heads. Because they had no natural enemies, they made other humans into enemies instead – those who were different in some way, lived in different places, looked different or had different customs. Of course, it all ended with their society going to Hell. They went to wars, blew each other up and made the animal world into the radioactive wasteland it is now. Thankfully the portal between the worlds had been opened and refugees fled into the Pokémon world…”
Scyther stared ahead at the plains below as they started to walk downhill. Wild Pokémon were becoming less prominent in the area; it was clear that they were entering the Pokémon-devoid part of Ouen from the East. Mark had forgotten that Stormy Town was so close to Sailance; he looked with regret back towards Ruxido, so lively compared to the dull sand ahead.
“Of course, the animal world brought animals here,” Scyther added, snapping Mark away from the sight of Ruxido. “Pokémon are really made to eat each other… Animal meat such as humans doesn’t contain nearly the energy and nutrition that Pokémon need, and when Pokémon started teaming up with humans and fighting the predators, it simply wasn’t worth the bother to hunt them anymore. Since humans don’t even eat Pokémon anymore, having the farm animals, it was possible for this kind of inter-species co-operation to emerge. In the Pokémon world, both humans and Pokémon evolved differently from how the humans did in the animal world. The presence of a technical threat – some sort of a Pokémon revolution – brings more unity among the humans, and trained Pokémon are the glue that ties both species together, because they are loyal to some portion of both sides… It works out, so strangely perfectly.”
Scyther nodded absent-mindedly to himself and then turned back to the uncomfortable subject of earlier: “Are you really never afraid of me, even though I’ve both threatened you and almost killed you?”
“Not… not really,” Mark muttered. “Well, when it happens I am, of course, but…”
The mantis chuckled. “It’s a good thing. A perfect example of the kind of ridiculous trust between humans and Pokémon who have been together for a little while… The species could as well fuse into one by now. If this development continues, all trainers will be like Rob in ten years… Pokémon will be viewed exactly like human friends… Perhaps Pokémon training will even be stopped; it’s not even needed anymore to connect us… We are as one…”
Mark listened, but said nothing; Scyther didn’t appear to mind, and in fact it looked like he had mostly been wondering aloud without expecting an answer. They were all distracted from this conversation as the sight of Stormy Town came into view; scattered buildings that looked depressingly deserted formed an irregular area around a large neon pink, blue and yellow brick-shaped building in the middle. Black thunderclouds loomed over the town and the mountains to its North-West, producing an occasional flash of lightning and thunder.
“Let’s hurry up,” Alan suggested as the first drops of rain wetted their clothes. Mark quickly recalled Scyther and they ran down the last hill.
By coincidence, Mark happened to glance at the shadow under a large rock near the road to Stormy Town. He stopped.
“What was that?”
May came over and looked. “What?”
“I just thought I saw something,” Mark muttered, still staring into the shadow. “Like red eyes…”
“You must be seeing things,” she just said. Mark shrugged and turned around.
May stared into the shadow for a few seconds before finally shaking her head and running to catch up with the boys.
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