From the moment I could stand, I loved to run.
This is what my mother has told me, at least. I was barely able to see, my eyes having recently opened. My bleary sight tried to focus on everyone and everything, those unfocused black orbs curious to look at everything around me. Supposedly I had managed to stand on my own feet, all four paws shaking as my tiny body tried to stay steady. Thrilled with this realization, I had attempted to dash away- and promptly fell flat on my face, skidding slightly on the cold stone floor.
“You need to learn patience, little one,” my mother had said. “You'll grow into your legs eventually, just give it some time.” She had then apparently scooped me up in her mouth, walking further into our pride's den as if to deter me from wanting to venture outside. The attempt had been shared among the hunters when they returned inside the cave, and I was told everyone thought it was amusing.
“Not even able to speak, and already wanting to venture forth,” Sari, one of the younger Pyroar, said. “He's going to be a handful for you, that's for sure! Better hope his sisters are better to deal with.”
To this day, I swear my mother had made up that story. It seems like no matter what I wish to do in life, I must wait.
“Hey, slow down already!”
I stole a look behind me, chuckling as I saw who was trying to catch up. In addition to my family, there was a small pride of Luxray located just on the outskirts of our borders. While both groups tried to leave each other alone, there was always a bit of uneasiness whenever one crossed territories...at least, if they were caught.
Charge was an odd Shinx, who seemed interested in getting involved in whatever task I was doing for the day. I had originally ran into him, literally, when the oddball was exploring on the wrong side of the watering hole. The little blue-furred kitten had puffed up its fur in fear and shot a bolt of electricity out of instinct, and I had nearly burned a tuft of dry grass lying nearby out of poor aim and retaliation. Still, ever since that day (and trying to convince each other that yes, we had totally seen each other and meant to crash on purpose,) we had been friends.
Still, I wasn't going to stop for Charge. My speed was improving, I was sure of it! To anyone observing, I was probably a mostly black blur across the savannah, my brown paws barely striking the earth as I dashed ahead. “Not a chance!” I shouted back to the Shinx. “You know the rules, have to catch up first.”
I caught a glimpse of Charge's face, the blue kitten sporting a pout as I sped out of sight. It always confused me whenever my friend refused to run along with me. Shinx were supposed to be Electric Pokemon, and I had been told that most who shared that typing were supposed to love speed. Charge, on the other hand, was never able to outrun me. “You're just going to win again...”
Sighing, I turned about and headed back to Charge, slowing to a stop in front of my friend. “You're just no fun,” I teased, sticking out my tongue. “Watching Magikarp swim about is a better past-time than listening to you whine.”
“But it's true, you always outrun me,” Charge replied, his ears swiveling back in annoyance as one of his paws drew circles in the dry earth. “You, my older brothers, even my younger sister.”
“Your brothers also evolved already, right?” I asked, lying down to face my friend eye-to-eye. That's hardly a fair race. That would be like me trying to out-speed my mom, and I've seen her take down a whole Gogoat!” as I saw Charge open his mouth in reply, I added, “Your sister is something else entirely as well. From what you've told me, she has to have Growlithe blood in her or something!”
“Yeah, but that doesn't change the fact that I can't run faster than you,” the Shinx muttered, only halfway listening. Suddenly his head shot up as my words registered. “...wait a moment, but she's my sister! Are you saying I got all the bad genes or what?”
“Huh...maybe,” I said, singsonging the words. “Maybe you have a Hippowdon grandfather or something.” Seeing that Charge was beginning to collect a large clump of dirt I laughed and backed up. “Take it easy, you know I'm just messing with you. Besides, you're lucky you know.”
“How am I lucky?” Charge asked, saying the words slowly as he mulled them over. “If this is another joke-”
“Nope, no joke at all!” I replied, falling on my side to roll about in the yellowed savannah grass. “For one, you have a name. We don't have our Naming Ceremony until the same night we become Pyroar. Something about us 'growing into our name,'” I grumbled. The fact that I wouldn't have a name, and therefore wouldn't exist, until I finally evolved was something that always bugged me. “Plus, you get to evolve TWICE! How awesome is that?”
“Okay, I get it! We both have our own problems,” Charge shouted in mock annoyance. Gone was his sullen stance- the Shinx was smirking as he watched my actions in the grass. “We do have to agree on one thing though. At least you don't have three older brothers to deal with.”
“Nah,” I said, laughing in reply. “But I do have three sisters. Want to trade?”
“And just where were you, young man?”
The first sight I saw once I made it home, like nearly always, was my mother. She was stationed outside the den entrance, her large leonine body lying down as she waited for my return. Currently her light blue eyes were staring right at me, as if they could judge my answer before I could even speak.
“I lost track of time,” I mumbled, walking inside. “I'm pretty sure I beat my old time though! The sun didn't move nearly as far by the time I was done running my laps.”
“For someone who runs everywhere he goes, I'll never understand how you are always late,” my mother replied, shaking her head slightly and causing the flame-hued mane behind her head to move slightly. Behind her, three heads poked out curiously- my sisters, enjoying the show as always. “Maybe if you slowed down a bit, you could manage your time better?”
“Mother does have a point, you know,” my oldest sister stated, giving a lazy yawn. “You were gone so long, most of your supper is gone!”
“It was sooo good, too!” my youngest sister piped in. “The Skiddo was pretty big, you should have seen it!”
I rolled my eyes, ignoring my sisters for now. Unlike myself, they seemed content with just lying about all day and talking about the weather, who was going where, and what Pokemon they had seen the other day. I had even overheard one of them talking about an oddly-colored flower they had nearly stepped on, which had then been saved by a tiny Pokemon and dragged away. She had to be lying- no Pokemon was that small!
Still, my mother did have a point about one thing. Missing out on most meals was starting to take its toll- my stomach grumbled more often than I'd like to admit, and each time it did my sisters would just give a knowing smirk in my direction. If my plan worked though, I'd never have to worry about food again; if I ran fast enough, the effort would probably push my body far enough to evolve. That way, all of my problems would be solved! No more gloating sisters, no more worrying about not eating enough (if I was fast now, I'd probably move like lightning as a Pyroar!) and best of all, I would finally have a place in the pride. Figuring I better look and see if any of tonight's kill was still edible, I headed further inside the rocky enclosure that was home.
The next morning, like many others before, I left the den as soon as possible. My sisters, as always, were chattering nonstop as soon as the sun rose and showed no signs of ceasing anytime soon. As I inched closer towards the exit, a few of the Pyroar shook their heads knowingly- they had seen me leave before in the same fashion, so none of them paid it more than a cursory heed and focused on their own children instead.
“Be home before sundown,” my mother called out, glancing over to lock eyes with me. “I mean it this time! There will be no supper for you at all tonight if you're late again.”
“I'll try,” I said, giving a small grin before turning back around to dash out into the sunlight, reveling in the warmth. As Fire Pokemon, my family loved heat. While I was no different, I also loved the sun for a second reason; it was an excellent timekeeper, so it helped me determine whether my latest lap around the savannah was getting faster or not. Plus, it served another purpose today, in that Charge and I were supposed to meed at the watering hole at mid-day. Plenty of time to practice beforehand, I thought to myself, and ran on.
By the time I made it over to the watering hole, it was nearly deserted. This was the plan, so I wasn't too worried- while both Charge and I were pretty certain that our family didn't know about our friendship just yet, we still tried to meet when none of our pride members were nearby to make sure neither of us got in trouble. What I didn't expect to see though, was the fact that there was no Shinx waiting around.
Beside the shallow water's edge, two Pokemon were staring each other down. The first, half-hidden in the scraggly yellow plants that surrounded the area, a small grey bunny-like creature was frozen in fright- a Bunnelby. Its long ears, the tips tinted an earthen hue and twitching nervously, were standing straight up in attention. The second Pokemon possessed the blue fur and black mane of a Luxio. Compared to Bunnelby, the Electric-type looked ready to attack as it lowered to pounce on its target.
Seeing the Luxio, I immediately ducked down to hide, my mind racing with a million thoughts per minute. Had Charge's friendship with me finally been discovered, and this was one of his brothers? What if something had happened to him, and this was just a random Luxio terrorizing the local prey? Worst of all, what if he had decided he longer wanted to be friends with a Litleo? I cautiously crept forward, trying to remember what little of hunting I had learned from my mother. It seemed like nothing she had taught me had stuck though- every movement I made in the grass made a noticeable rustling sound, and I even managed to somehow stumble over a loose rock.
One of the Luxio's ears swiveled in my direction, and the owner gave an annoyed sigh. “You know...even though you're fast, you are easily the crappiest hunter ever.”
Recognizing the voice's owner, I stood up, staring in amazement at the Luxio. “...Charge? When did you evolve?” the voice was a little deeper, true, but it could only be my friend.
“About a day ago, actually,” Charge admitted, the now-Luxio looking my way and grinning sheepishly. “Believe me, I'm as surprised as you are. Heck of a weekly visit, huh? Now, help me snag this thing so we can eat lunch!”
“Uh, Charge...” I said, nodding over to the empty spot in the plants, “It sorta ran away.”
Upon hearing my words, the Luxio's grin faded. “You're joking, right? It's not going-” he took a lazy glance over, looked back at me, then did a quick double-take. “You gotta be kidding me! I thought I scared it enough to stand still!”
Seeing Charge's incredulous expression, I couldn't help but laugh. “So, now who's the crappy hunter? Come on, let's get out of here-”
At that moment, an angry head popped out of the ground, possessing two long ears like the prior Bunnelby. Unlike that Pokemon though, these moved about like they were almost another set of limbs entirely. Huffing in annoyance, the creature crawled entirely out of the hole it had created. It had nearly the exact same color scheme as the Bunnelby Charge had been terrorizing, but towered over both myself and the Luxio. Plus, it looked much, much angrier.
“Running looks like a good option right about now,” I said, voice slightly shaking. Who knew rabbits could get that big! I backed up slowly, ready to turn tail and dash away at a moment's notice.
“It's just a bigger meal,” Charge said, sounding brave. I wasn't fooled though- the Luxio's form was shaking. “Just watch!”
With those words Charge pounced forward, sinking his fangs in the furry ruff on the Pokemon's side. Sparks flared from the Luxio's mouth, attempting to shock its target. Instead of being electrocuted though, something entirely different happened- that is, nothing at all save for the large bunny getting angrier.
“I come out here hearing that my child is getting attacked, and this is what I find?” the large Bunnelby spoke, looking down at the still-attached Charge. “A child and a teenager who clearly doesn't know a thing about the world.”
Shocked, Charge released his hold and ran over to where I was cringing. “My Electric attack, it did nothing?” he said, half in awe and half in fear.
“Can we go now, Captain Obvious?” I asked. If that thing shook off Electric attacks, who knew if it resisted Fire as well? “I think we made that Bunnelby angry enough as is.”
“That's because I'm a Diggersby, nitwits,” the Pokemon said in reply, crossing its arms. “I don't want to fight children, but I will if you two keep on!”
Something lit up in Charge's yellow eyes when it heard Diggersby's words. “I'm not a child!” he roared, sparks flaring from his mane. With those words, the Luxio pounced forward and latched onto the large rabbit's left foot with his fangs. Judging from the lack of electricity used this time, I could only assume that he was aiming to use force over elemental power.
Diggersby yelped in pain, hopping back and shaking the leg to attempt shaking its assailant off. Once Charge was detached, it swiped at the Luxio with an ear to force a dodge from the creature. Judging from how livid Diggersby looked at the moment, it was done talking to us.
Seeing that Charge was unable to do anything but skirt away from the Pokemon's blows, I lowered my head and charged forward blindly, aiming to distract Diggersby. Judging from the grunt of pain and the way it staggered back, I was successful... though my head ached. It was like headbutting a pile of rocks! While I reeled from whiplash, I heard something odd- a loud splash. “Charge, was that you?”
“Nope, even better,” Charge replied, chuckling. “You knocked it into the water.” Sparks danced about the Luxio's form, giving off a soft crackling noise. Moments later, they fired off towards the now thoroughly-soaked Diggersby. The large rabbit, still scrambling to get to its feet in the water, was caught unaware and jerked involuntarily from the electric shock. After a couple moments, it slumped head-first into the water
“We did it!” I crowed, walking over to my friend. “We took down a Pokemon all by ourselves! Well... I helped do most of the damage, of course.”
Charge was still shaking, looking over at the defeated Pokemon in fear. Eventually the look in his eyes changed from terror to realization for what he had done. “We..we did, didn't we?” he said, giving me a weak grin.
It was at this moment that Diggersby's form moved once more, shooting back upright and glaring at each of us in turn. “I tried to be lenient, and this is the thanks I get,” the Pokemon said, speaking through gritted teeth as it stepped out of the water. “Now, both of you...time out!”
The large rabbit stomped the ground, causing the earth to shake. Within moments, both Charge and I fell flat on our face from being unable to balance through the tremors. Seeing that Diggersby was hopping towards us, I attempted a technique that I had seen my mother use once to deter a charging Gogoat; I opened my mouth and roared. While the sound-wave was much smaller than something my mother would have produced, it still landed on my target. To my shock though, it barely slowed Diggersby.
“Nice try, but try again when you're a little older, cub,” the Diggersby replied, her tone sounding strange. In another situation, I would have thought that it was chuckling. In both of its rolled-up ears, I saw something odd; contained within was large globs of mud. “Now, say goodnight.”
With one swipe, I blacked out.
“So...what are we going to tell our family once they find us?”
“Wha?” I replied somewhat dazedly, ears still ringing from the blow. After trying to stand up and finding myself unable to do so, I craned my neck to look about. My body was currently trapped in a hole, with only my head peeking out for air and possibly for any passerby to look at and laugh. Beside me, Charge was in the exact same predicament. Judging from the way his ears were turned back and the low growling emanating from him, he was less than amused. “Well...we could tell them that we fought an army of Bunnelby. Would make it less embarrassing, right?”
“Nah, let's make it an army of Bunnelby and a Bibarel. Makes it more believable,” Charge replied, rolling his eyes. “And here I thought I could share my first hunt with you, now that I evolved.”
Now that I was forced to stay still, I figured the best thing to do was mull over just how we ended up mostly-buried in the most public area on the savannah. “So... what did we learn exactly? You wanted to prove you could do things on your own, and I need to learn to not rush in and save your butt without thinking.”
“We learned nothing,” Charge stubbornly replied, hurt in his voice. “Learning makes the grown-ups win, so don't let them know.”
At that both of us laughed. It was sort of a shared pact between us- do things out own way, no matter what anyone said. Then again, that seems to be the agreement among all non-adults. Once the laughter died down, I tentatively asked, “...Charge?”
“Yeah, what is it?”
“Thanks for being my friend,” I looked down, not wishing to see the Luxio's reaction. “Even if you're now taller than me.”
“Don't mention it.” There was a couple moments of silence before Charge quietly added, “Just don't ask me to race you again, okay? My sister still outruns me.”
I grinned in reply, but said nothing back.