Arms. Arceus, what I wouldn’t give for a set of arms!
I backed up against the fallen log, my feet skidding on the slippery grass. Several sets of dark, beady eyes peered out from the gloomy forest shadows, trying to see me through the screen of drizzling rain that sheeted down from the sky. I glared back at my fellow Shroomish. Their unwillingness to brave the rains was both a blessing and a curse – sure, it kept me on top in the area of well-fedness and ensured that I would get the freshest, moistest compost. But it also meant that I had no help moving heavy objects like this stupid log.
“You’re all idiots!” I shouted at my audience, flopping my green-speckled brown body against the log, which hadn’t budged a bit despite my efforts. The others looked back at me unblinkingly, unflinchingly, and in an utter and complete silence. The sheer eeriness of the scene made me shiver, scattering a few poisonous purple spores. I sat back and waited for a few moments before rising again to try to move the log.
With a titanic effort, I sent the log rolling. A confused young Wurmple squirmed away, obviously panicked; but I didn’t care one whit about the little bug. All I wanted was the delicious leaf rot that had been sitting underneath its previous shelter. I leaned in, devouring the scrumptious fruits of my labor in huge mouthfuls. Once I had eaten my fill, I turned back toward my watchers, whose expressions had gone from bemused to supplicating. “You guys can have the rest!” I called to them, knowing fully well that they probably wouldn’t take advantage of my generous offer, thanks to this rain. “I’m not greedy!”
Muttering under my breath about the stupidity of a certain colony of fungi, I waddled away on my nubby feet, moving toward the nearest stream - all this water around me was making me thirsty. Ordinarily I didn’t much care for the feel of rain, but this was a nice summer drizzle, and it felt warm like sunlight on my skin. Even better, it felt like sunlight without the whole ‘blinding rays’ issue. A walk would do me some good, I decided. At the very least it would provide a small change in scenery.
The stream was louder than usual, filled as it was with fresh rainwater. A trio of Shroomish was clustered near it; like the others, the three were taking shelter under a tree. I recognized one of them: a smaller Shroomish with lots of green patches. He called himself Leaf, and on occasion, when I felt the need for company, we made conversation. I nodded cordially to him, and he rolled his eyes. No doubt he, like everyone else, thought I was nuts. But really, what was so bad about a little bit of rain?
I took a deep drink from the stream, savoring the taste of the fresh water on my tongue. When I turned around, Leaf was looking right at me, his wide brow furrowed with displeasure. “Windy!” he called out my chosen name in his shrill, staccato voice. “You shouldn’t be out in the rain, you know. It’s a bad idea.”
“Bad idea?” I laughed. “You’re so paranoid, Leaf! For Arceus’s sake, it’s just water. Rain’s good – rain means more fresh compost.”
Leaf glowered at me. This was his problem: he was just so stubborn, not considering any viewpoint other than the first one he took – or that was given to him by these other dull, overcautious fungi. “It’s dangerous to be out in the rain, Windy,” he murmured solemnly and certainly, and the two beside him nodded in agreement. “I’m just trying to help you be safe, you know.”
“Safe? Safe from what?” I asked cynically. “Are you worried I’ll get raindrops in my eyes?” I shook my head adamantly. “Leaf, you’re not right just because you agree with everyone else. The general idea of being ‘safe’ around here involves sitting in a musty hollow until you die, and that does not sound very fun to me!”
Leaf glowered; it seemed that I’d managed to get whatever ire he had up after all. “You’re making a mistake, Windy,” he said firmly. “Think about it for a second. What does rain do? It washes what it touches! And what happens when it washes –”
“Don’t care!” I huffed. “Don’t care, don’t care. I genuinely don’t give a da – excuse me, a darn – about what the rain does. It’s warm and damp and it feels good, and I am going to keep walking in it so don’t bother trying to say yea or nay to me. Have a pleasant afternoon!” I added gruffly before turning around and marching back into the trees.
Drip, drip, drip… A warm raindrop landed on my head as I walked. I shook off the water, now a little less than thrilled about this precipitation. Leaf’s words kept nagging at me, and I got the distinct impression that I had overlooked something important. But that was stupid; there was nothing to overlook. Leaf was just being paranoid – not that he ever wasn’t. Not that anybody ever wasn't.
Why did nobody understand? There was nothing dangerous in Petalburg Woods – and if you asked me, not that anyone ever did, that was kind of a problem. I didn’t want to be fighting for my life all day, every day, of course; but a little bit of excitement would have been nice. Maybe it would finally wake up the other Shroomish and get them focused, so that they stopped drifting around dumbly like a bunch of stupid clouds.
As if to counteract the warmth of the rain and my simmering frustration, a sudden chill ran up my back. I turned around rapidly, certain that someone was behind me. But there was no one. Except for the sound of the rain, everything was still and silent. I turned around, shaking my head, looking back toward the path. There was no one there, ahead or behind. There was no one hiding in the shelter of the bushes before me. There was certainly no pair of red-and-gold eyes gleaming at me from the cover of the undergrowth directly in front of my face.
Dear sweet Arceus, yes, there was.
The Poochyena exploded from the bushes like a black-and-gray tornado, lunging right at me with slavering jaws wide open. I screamed as it slammed into me, pinning me down with its broad paws, lowering its pointed black muzzle to snarl in my face. “I don’t usually eat mushrooms,” it growled contemptuously, “but I’m starving, so you’ll just have to do!”
“No!” I gasped. “No! Get off!” I began to shake my body, attempting to scatter spores. In one way, that plan failed miserably, since no spores went up; fortunately for me, though, my body was wet and slippery. Poochyena’s paws skidded off of my skin, giving me the chance to leap up and start running. Frenzied barking erupted from behind me, letting me know that Poochyena was still on my tail. I forced myself to run faster, pushing myself along on my nubby legs with all the speed I could muster.
As I ran, I realized something that probably would have been more helpful had I not waited to realize it until something was trying to kill me. There was more to my friends’ avoidance of the rain than just distaste for the wetness. Like Leaf had said, the rain washed what it touched; and it was washing me down now and stripping my body of the thin layer of toxic spores that generally coated it. Belatedly I realized that this would probably make my spore attacks – PoisonPowder and the like – utterly and completely useless. Fantastic! I thought, halfway to hysterical. I was going to die defenseless; worse, I was going to be eaten without a prayer of escape! And possibly even worse than that, Leaf, Arceus bless his tender, fragile little heart, was actually right for once.
Teeth nicked my side, tearing into my flesh without warning of any sort. I gasped, stumbling a little, but I forced myself to keep moving on. Much, much more pain awaited me if I didn’t manage to get my delicious little self away from danger.
However, Shroomish are terrible runners at the best of times, and even running out of fear for my life I couldn’t outpace a born hunter for very long. As I planted a foot on the ground, the slick grass tripped me. My foot flew out from under my body and I went tumbling, head over heels, through empty space.
“Oof,” I grunted with pain as I fetched up suddenly against the firm roots of a tree. An upside-down Poochyena approached with stiff legs and a bristling tail as I kicked my feet helplessly in the air, attempting vainly to flip my body over. Poochyena was no longer hurrying. I was spent, my legs and attacks both entirely useless, and the implacable predator before me knew that instinctively. A low snarl ripped from its throat, rich with anticipation, and I felt terrified tears mingling with the raindrops on my cheeks. I should have listened to Leaf, I thought. And now I’m going to die alone. If only –
“Stop right there!” Much to my astonishment, Leaf’s voice rolled through the clearing, rising above and drowning out the sound of Poochyena’s snarl. My friend and savior looked terrified, but his normally shrill voice was uncommonly firm. “Leave Windy alone and go jump in the stream!”
The Poochyena whirled, turning its manic multicolored eyes on Leaf. “You bratty little plant!” he spat. “This is none of your business. I’ll eat you first, then, and save your pitiful little friend for later!”
“Leaf, no!” I screamed as Poochyena charged toward him. I was sure that Leaf would be ripped apart – after all, if I couldn’t fight off Poochyena, how could slight, timid Leaf take such a brutal Pokémon down?
It seemed, however, that Leaf was full of surprises. He dodged Poochyena’s rush skillfully, and as the Dark-type skidded to a clumsy halt on the slippery ground, Leaf closed his eyes and launched a diminutive brown seed from the hole atop his head. The seed landed on Poochyena’s fur, and even from this distance I could make out roots cracking the surface of the seed, glowing with a faint red light as they bored into Poochyena’s body.
Snarling his annoyance, Poochyena lunged for Leaf. However, Leaf was still too fast. As he sidestepped Poochyena’s attack, a green light began to glow from the tip of his head. The light changed into a wavy beam of green energy that arced toward Poochyena, who let out a yelp of pain as soon as it was touched by the beam. Leaf held Poochyena in the light for several more seconds before his concentration wavered, allowing Poochyena to break free. It turned, its growl deepening to a much more malevolent pitch. Once again, it lunged, its eyes wide and mad for blood. Leaf let out a sharp, pained cry as the razor-sharp fangs caught hold of him at last. I have to help him, I thought. Otherwise he’s going to get killed.
I pushed out every spore still left in my body, using all the strength I could muster to create an explosion of toxins that flipped me back onto my feet. Despite the urging of every instinct I had to run in the opposite direction, I charged at Poochyena as quickly as I could. Before it could even blink, I rammed into it, dislodging it from Leaf and knocking it onto its side. It rose almost immediately, lifting its hackles to defy our own defiance. “I’m going to kill you both,” it snarled coldly, taking a step forward.
However, before it could renew the fight, a sudden pain in its side seemed to stop it. The seed that Leaf had attached to its flank was glowing again, slowly stealing away Poochyena’s life energy. The gray canine attempted to take another step, but this proved to be too much for it. It let out a half-bark, half-whine of pain before collapsing to the ground, the insidious roots continuing to burrow into its skin.
Leaf walked up to it slowly. “Be careful,” I murmured, so far beyond caring how strange the admonition sounded coming out of my mouth. “It might snap.”
“You tried to kill Windy,” Leaf said slowly, his eyes glaring daggers at the Poochyena. His voice shook and he spoke slowly, as if trying to contain a lot of anger. “I should just leave you here to rot. But I’m not like you. I’m not a killer, so I won’t kill you. Hold still and I’ll take that seed off you – and then you leave us alone. Understand?”
Poochyena nodded slowly. “All right,” it grunted reluctantly. Leaf stepped forward then, blowing on the roots with toxin-tainted breath until they shriveled up, allowing Poochyena to shake off the seed. It rose to its paws slowly, keeping wary eyes on Leaf, who watched impassively. After a brief, tense stare-down, Poochyena turned around and stalked off, vanishing into the bushes.
A long, loaded pause followed, filled by the sound of rain. Finally, when it seemed that Poochyena's teeth wouldn't have been able to cut through this thick tension, I began to laugh: a quiet, whimpering sound that served to release my terror and stress and to break the quiet. Leaf began to laugh as well, just as shakily, and we continued to laugh until the sound echoed through the trees and over the splashing of the raindrops. By the time we were both done, I was rolling on my back and Leaf looked like he was going to cry.
“Oh, my Arceus, Windy,” gasped Leaf, his voice shriller than ever. “That was crazy. That was so stupid. We're crazy and stupid! I guess you’ll finally believe me now when I tell you not to go out in the rain?”
I started laughing again. “Maybe I will, Leaf – but with you to protect me I think I’ll be fine. That was some sweet stuff back there with Poochyena – where’d you learn to do that?”
Leaf’s cheeks flushed, and he glanced down at the ground. “I don’t spend all of my time sitting around in musty holes,” he murmured, and I winced as I remembered my comments from earlier.
“Ah,” I began, “listen, Leaf. I was thinking, and you know, I might not have been right about everything I said before.” I hesitated. Apologizing was unfamiliar territory for me, and I didn’t want to say something stupid and make the situation any worse than it already was. “I shouldn’t have said what I did. I was being really stupid, and I should have listened to you.”
Leaf grinned. “Yeah, you should have,” he agreed teasingly, “but I won’t hold it against you. As long as you learn from this adventure, that is.”
“Learn what?” I asked, raising one eyebrow. “That Poochyenas are terrible?”
“No, silly!” Leaf nudged me. “That I’m always right!”
We both laughed again; another long, good laugh that helped us both to feel a little steadier. “Come on, Mr. Right,” I said, beginning to waddle stiffly toward the sheltering trees. “Let’s get out of this stupid rain.”