"Runt, this is your fault."
The dim glow from Zack's flashlight barely managed to illuminate the cave at all. All that could be seen were slightly lighter shadows against the darker ones. Zack sat against the cave wall, defeated and hopeless, holding the flashlight so it shined in his eyes.
His face was small and thin, making his blue eyes look huge by comparison. His brown hair fell down across his face, but he didn't brush it away. The flashlight twirled nimbly in his long fingers, then he tossed it up and caught it so it pointed at Runt.
Runt huddled at his feet, drawing her natural cloak closer to her body. She looked exactly as she had the day that Zack had found her, wandering lost and lonely among the rocks on the northern beach. Liza had said that she'd probably come from one of the caves north of the island, which were home to many ice Pokémon. He had tried to take her back, but she had refused to leave him.
What Tate and Liza had been most interested in was the color of her cloak. All the pictures that Zack had ever seen of a Snorunt showed a tan colored cloak, lined with brown. But Runt's cloak was a light blue, and it was accented with a pale yellow.
Her tiny red eyes peered guiltily through the gap in her cloak, and her mouth drooped a bit. Zack reached out and poked her playfully at the pitch-black body underneath her cloak.
"It was you that insisted on exploring down here," he said. "If we had just stayed in the upper caves, I could have caught something. But now we're lost, with no way to get out of here, and my flashlight is about to die." As if on cue, the bulb flickered and became even dimmer.
Runt drooped a little, ashamed. "Ruunt..."
Zack sighed and leaned back, supported by the rough rock wall. He closed his eyes and waited for something to happen, for some miracle to grant him freedom from the cave.
Zack's eyes flew open and he grabbed Runt, pulling her closer to him. He raised the flashlight, revealing a very surprised Pineco hovering just a foot away from Zack's face.
"It's a Pineco!" Zack shouted, jumping to his feet. "I bet it knows the way out!"
The Pineco started and jumped back, yelling, "Pine! Pineco!" Then it turned and raced off to their left.
"After it!" Zack reached back and dropped Runt into his open backpack, then jumped forward and began running across the rough cave floor, keeping his eyes and flashlight trained on the Pineco.
After only a few minutes of racing through the tunnerls, the smell of salt started to become evident in the air. Soon after, he heard the faint sounds of waves crashing on the beach far away. He sped up even though his legs were beginning to burn and his feet were slipping dangerously on the uneven stone. The Pineco was still in his sights, though he was having trouble keeping up with it.
A gleam of light appeared in the distance. Zack pushed himself even faster, starting to feel the wind tease his hair.
"Runt runt!" Runt yelped, squirming a bit in Zack's backpack.
"We're almost out of here, Runt!"
The light from outside began to faintly illuminate the cave's interior. Zack shut the flashlight down and stuffed it in his pocket, still chasing the Pineco, running desperately for the light.
Then he was surrounded by sunlight, and the sound of crashing waves beat into his ears. His foot caught in the soft sand and he stumbled forward, barely keeping upright. Then his foot hit a large spike embedded in the sand and he fell heavily. Looking up, he saw the Pineco floating in front of him, laying down the last of his spikes.
Runt squirmed harder and pushed out of the backpack, jumping forward to stand between Zack and the Pineco. She landed lithely in a soft bit of sand between the spikes, clutching her cloak around her. Then she opened the cloak and a dozen sharp shards of ice shot out, flying at Pineco.
They connected squarely with it, knocking it down into the sand.
"Pine... Pineco!" it growled, jumping back into the air fiercely. An angry glint flashed in its eyes, and it attacked, charging at Runt with intense passion.
Zack pulled himself to his knees, shouting, "Runt! Double Team!"
"Sno!" Runt shouted, then vanished, only to reappear far behind the Pineco as it buried itself in the sand.
Zack stood up, careful not to step on the spikes. "Now use Headbutt!" Runt ran at Pineco, striking it in the back with the sharp top of her head. The Pineco rolled forward pitifully and lay still in the sand.
There was a moment of total silence. Runt was poised to attack, but Pineco wasn't moving. Zack staggered forward through the spikes and kneeled next to it, still shaking from the run through the cave.
"Did we defeat it?" Zack leaned in close to look at it. It wasn't moving at all.
"Snoooorunt." Runt approached the Pineco as well, looking down suspiciously at it. With a small, tentative hand, she reached out and poked it in the head.
The Pineco shot at Runt faster than Zack could follow, with an earsplitting blast. Runt squealed and flew through the air, bashing into a boulder and sliding heavily down the stone. The Pineco shot over the boulder and soared down the beach, embedding itself in the sand. Runt staggered painfully to her feet, whining pitifully. Ignoring the sharp stabs of pain in his feet, Zack ran across the spikes to where Runt lay. He crouched beside her, picking her up off of her feet.
"Are you okay, Runt?" he asked, cradling her.
"R-runt!" she grunted, trying to squirm away from him.
"You can't seriously want to still fight that thing... you're hurt!"
Runt ignored him and jumped away, trying to run on her short legs through the rocky sand to find the Pineco. Zack simply shook his head and ran after, picking her up and carrying her across the beach to where the Pineco had landed.
As they approached the crater in the sand, it started to shift and move, the sand sliding further into the hole. Runt marched up to the edge, shouting "Runt runt snorunt!"
Pineco slowly lifted out of the center of the hole, wobbling slightly in the air. It floated uncertainly in the air before Runt, who was in the same condition. They stood totally still, staring intently at each other.
Then Pineco began to spin, slowly at first, but then more rapidly until it was a blur in the air. His spinning whirled the air around him, kicking up a small tornado of sand underneath.
"Be careful, Runt!" Zack called. Runt barely acknowledged him, as she was watching the Pineco spin.
Without any warning, Pineco shot from his spot in the air at Runt, whirling crazily. Zack didn't have any time to say anything before the Pineco was on Runt, beating her with his whirling body. A cloud of sand blew into the air, floating for a second before being caught by the wind current, becoming a tight whirlwind around the Pineco. Through gaps in the cloud, Zack could spot Runt with her cloak pulled totally around her, Pineco's insistent attacks simply bouncing off of her. The small amount of sunlight that managed to reach the pair glinted off of the thick layer of ice surrounding Runt's body. Zack could only stand back and watch.
The Pineco retreated, eying Runt warily. Runt opened her cloak, letting the ice shed off of her. She stood her ground proudly, albeit tiredly. The Pineco was panting hard, and wobbling in the air. Gradually it began to spin once more.
Runt began to draw her cloak close, but Zack shouted, "Wait! Don't protect yourself, Runt."
She hesitated, but loosened her grip on the cloak, standing vulnerable before the Pineco, which was slowly approaching a lethal speed.
"Just trust me," Zack said, watching the sand underneath the Pineco. It slowly started to swirl on the ground, building a mound underneath him. Then it gradually began to raise into the air, spinning faster. As the whirlwind began to get to its maximum power, Zack shouted, "Now, use Ice Shard, Runt!"
Runt readied herself, then pushed her little arms in front of her, summoning the ice from her previous protection and shooting it at the Pineco.
The shards, though dense, were small and light, and the whirlwind caught them easily, drawing them into a blurred spiral. As the Pineco pushed itself faster, the ice spiralled inward, moving up to speed. Then, finally, they hit the Pineco, slicing it harshly from all different directions. The Pineco's speed dropped off, and the sand flew away from it in a great cloud. It wobbled in midair, a dozen gashes in its skin. Then finally, it fell to the ground, defeated.
Zack fumbled in his pocket, pulling out a small Net Ball that Liza had given him. He pressed the button, letting the ball expand and fill his hand entirely. Then, with a clumsy heave, he threw the ball.
It soared through the air, and bounced off of the pitifully weak Pineco, who lay panting in the sand. The ball opened, and a red beam of light shot out of its interior, targetting the Pineco. Its weary body glowed momentarily red, then disappeared as the ball closed.
The ball fell into the sand. Zack and Runt stood totally still, holding their breaths as they watched it wobble slowly.