Tides of Life
The Mutts were always trouble.
Shio was used to being called many things, but that term hurt the most. It spoke of lowly heritage, of tainted breeding. And for what? Because she was a different color from her other Skrelp brethren? True, her maroon body and pale blue face and belly looked less like rotting kelp and more like something to investigate. Her coloration wasn't that of camouflage, but something that grabbed the attention of others. She knew that what the humans called “Shiny” made her a danger to her school, so she tended to remain separate from them to ensure they were never put in harm's way. She fought her own battles, then, when they inevitably came. And the rest simply watched from afar, almost seeming to will the oddly-colored Skrelp would make a mistake and be taken care of once and for all.
But Shio always triumphed, coming out stronger for her battles. And so it was her school began not only to despise her for her coloring, they also started to fear her for her growing strength. If she were ever to get it in her mind that she was more powerful than the school, she might turn on them, render them little more than food for whatever passing scavenger came upon their remains. They watched her, day in and day out, as she aimlessly swam among the grungy brown-green kelp beds, and they grew more hateful and more fearful. As months turned to years, confidence radiated from the Skrelp where there used to be only bitterness.
And the time came, the breaking point. A battle with a stray Clawitzer that had come into Shio's self-proclaimed territory should have left the Skrelp as nothing more than crab food. But she easily chased the intruder off, apparently with little effort, and it was at that point her school decided she had to go once and for all. Such power in a Skrelp was unnatural; if she were so strong, she should have evolved by now. Her bastard heritage had to have something to do with it, for surely no normal Skrelp would have such capacity yet not move on to their evolved forms.
Rallying together, the school confronted Shio. They declared that she had until dawn the next day to be gone, or they would be forced to make her leave. Shio, as strong as she was, knew better than to test the rage of her school. They were many and she was one, and truth be told she'd been growing tired of their baleful glowering and constant scrutiny. She left that day, venturing from the relative safety of the kelp beds into the open ocean.
The seas away from the kelp bed were colder, but Shio saw Pokemon she'd never before encountered in the kelp beds. Her first day as a wanderer saw her meeting a school of Feebas, a small group of Luvdisc, and even a pod of Wailmer. They were all friendly and saw not a Mutt, but a fellow Water Pokemon who was welcomed to spend time with them, regardless of her unusual coloration. Of course, she also met less savory Pokemon, such as a lone Sharpedo that tried its best to make a meal out of her. Thankfully, after making use of a move her father had known and sending a Sludge Wave down the shark's gullet, it had decided she wasn't worth the effort and quickly gone on its way.
Night came, as it does, and Shio had yet to find another kelp bed to settle in. There weren't even any reefs here, nothing but miles of dark open water. Instinct drove her deeper, where the light from the moon and stars wouldn't illuminate her lone form. Even so, she was fearful and uncertain; never had she spent a night outside the cover of kelp. Her pale red eyes constantly darted back and forth, ever vigilant for signs of danger. The current over her fins was calm, but her senses were alert to the slightest change that would signal an approaching entity.
It had been a tiring day, though, and so eventually the little seadragon nodded off, carried by the tide to destinations unknown.
Shio was awoken by a scent.
She shook her head, momentarily confused. Why was she here? Where was she? Where was her kelp bed? It took a moment for the memories to put themselves back in their proper places, and Shio shuddered upon realizing she would have been easy prey for any passing predators. She made a resolution to find somewhere she could be safe at night, even if it was just a piece of stray flotsam. But for now, the scent was calling to her. Her belly reminded her that she hadn't found any food after forging her way into the world yesterday, and whatever that smell was, it was more tantalizing than she could describe.
Shio blindly followed the scent until she came upon a small...well, she didn't know what it was. It was about as long as one of her tail fins, maybe three or four inches in length, and very thin. It reminded her of a Tynamo she'd seen once, only much smaller and a muted brown color. It had no eyes; in fact, she couldn't tell which end was the head and which was the tail. Was it even an animal? It certainly wasn't a Pokemon, if its lazy undulations were any indication. Even the simplest Pokemon would be aware of something much larger than it swimming directly above it.
Shio cautiously nudged the enigma with a fin, but it didn't retaliate. She nudged it again, harder this time, and it seemed oblivious to the prodding. Shio drew a bit closer, tension in her body, before darting in with her head and sucking the unknown thing into her tube-like mouth. Whatever it was slid nicely down her throat, but then a sharp pain in the Skrelp's snout caused her to recoil in alarm. She didn't get very far when a strong force suddenly yanked her forward, causing her to cry out in pain as something sharp dug even further into her mouth. Panicking, the Pokemon thrashed and flailed, but she was no match for whatever was pulling her forward.
Several minutes later, Shio found herself being hauled out of the water. She hung in midair, shrieking in fear and pain, unable to comprehend what was happening. After a few seconds she was lowered back into the water, but only partially. She felt something alien grabbing her mouth, working at whatever was buried in the tender flesh until finally it came free. There was still a sharp agony, but now, at least, it wasn't as bad. Calming down a bit, Shio finally managed to focus on what had pulled her from the sea and took the awful agony from her mouth.
It turned out to be a human. She'd only seen them a few times, mostly divers who were hunting for shellfish or simply enjoying the underwater view. This one looked young, with a short lock of red fur on its head. Shio couldn't tell if it was male or female, but it was currently holding her around the middle, her lower body in the water and the rest of her above it. It was wearing a white pelt on its topside, and on the bottom it wore a black pelt that only covered half its legs. It was a strange-looking beast, but then, all humans were in her mind.
It spoke, its voice soft and gentle, but Shio didn't understand what it was saying. She simply stared, unsure of what to do. She realized now what had happened, having heard tales of this sort of thing when she was younger. Apparently, she'd found a fisher's line and been hooked. The odd little beast she'd eaten was a worm. The Skrelp mentally kicked herself for not having figured it out before being caught, but hunger had made her forget the teachings she'd had before the school became too scornful of her to let her stay near them.
After a moment, the human seemed to understand that Shio wasn't getting what it was saying. It reached into the pelt on its legs and drew out a round object, tossing it into the water. It cracked open with a bright flash of white light and a loud pop, and within a few seconds another Skrelp had formed. Shio stared for a moment, completely surprised. Not at the fact that this human had one of her own kind captive already, but the fact that this particular Skrelp was a Mutt like her.
The new Skrelp cocked his head at the human as it spoke again, nodding after a few minutes and facing Shio. She didn't say anything as he cautiously swam closer, clearly wary of the Wild Pokemon before him.
“My Trainer says she's sorry for getting you caught on the line,” he said softly, as if afraid she would attack him if he talked too loudly. “She was fishing for tougher things like Carvanha. If she thought another Skrelp was going to get caught, she would have used a blunt hook. Are you all right?”
“My mouth hurts,” Shio replied, somewhat amused by this fellow Mutt's manner of speaking. Was this how humans talked? He was using so many words were fewer could easily suffice. She wiggled free from the human's hand and swam closer, ignoring the startled trill of the male as she circled him. Curiosity was gripping her; she'd never seen another Skrelp Mutt before, let alone one who traveled with a human. “Name?”
“Me?” the male asked, clearly confused by the situation.
“No, the sky,” Shio replied wryly. The male was silent for a moment, almost as if he thought she was being serious, before answering with, “My name is Typhoon.”
“Typhoon? No Skrelp name,” Shio commented. “Skrelp name?”
“I...I don't understand what you mean,” Typhoon mumbled. “My name is my name.”
“Name given by Skrelp?” Shio pressed, moving in front of the strange male. “Name given by own kind. Not by humans.”
“I don't have a Skrelp name,” Typhoon told her. “I was hatched and raised by humans, and my Trainer here named me when I was given to her.”
Well, that explained several things. Shio had noticed how glossy and healthy Typhoon's hide was. All her life she'd heard how humans were cruel beasts whose limited intelligence only allowed for them to try and dominate others. But now she was seeing, first-fin, that this wasn't the case. Maybe Typhoon had just been lucky, but if he was in such good health and his human could communicate so easily with him, certainly some humans were decent. He'd been raised and pampered by them, never having to face the harsh tides of life in the ocean. She supposed she should be resentful of what this Mutt had, of what she'd never been allowed to have because of her coloring, but instead she only felt a deep interest.
“What now?” she inquired. Typhoon glanced between her and his human, then dipped his head in the Skrelp version of a shrug.
“I don't really know.”
“You are Fed? Safe? Happy?”
“Of course!” Typhoon replied, seeming to take offense that Shio implied he was ill cared for, and also a bit surprised by the sudden change in topic. “I never go hungry, and Katy makes sure I stay safe no matter what. She doesn't make me battle if I don't want to, and lets me out to swim all the time.” Typhoon suddenly fell quiet for a moment, and when he spoke next, he sounded confused. “Why were you out in the open ocean? Shouldn't you have been in a kelp bed somewhere?”
“Chased off,” Shio replied with a sigh. She waved a fin at her body. “Mutt. My school fears, hates me.”
“Mutt...you mean Shiny?” Typhoon asked. Shio shrugged.
“Other word, same thing.”
“But why were they afraid of you?”
“Mutt color draws attention. Predators spot easily. Danger to my school.” Shio paused for a moment, then added, “Also too strong, but no evolution. School claims unnatural, not to evolve when so strong.”
“You could help protect them but they chased you off? That seems backwards.”
“No need to protect if not around to draw predators.”
“I...guess that makes sense,” Typhoon said, though he didn't sound very convinced. He then looked over at his human, who started to speak at that moment. Shio glanced at her as well, seeing that her mouth had pulled into a strange expression. It looked happy, but at the same time it showed all her teeth, which made Shio uneasy. Still, Typhoon seemed pleased with whatever the human said, nodding with a great deal of enthusiasm before facing Shio.
“Katy says we can hang out for a while if we want to, because I've never really met another Skrelp before, especially not a Shiny like me.” Shio tilted her head at the male, bemused. At first he seemed shy and timid, but now he appeared to be gaining confidence. Maybe it was because Shio was something new and he was just getting used to her, or maybe the excitement of meeting another of his kind was getting to him. Either way, she as more than happy to be able to spend some time with him. She could learn how his life was, hear what he'd seen during his travels, and find out if all those other things she'd heard of life outside the sea were true. And above all else, he was company. Shio was only now realizing how lonely it was to be by oneself after being used to having others nearby, even if they hated you.
“That sounds good,” she replied, feeling happier than she had in a very long time.
The two Skrelp agreed to stay nearby, hanging close to the shore as Katy baited her hook and cast her line back into the ocean. They only went a few dozen yards out, where the tide wouldn't continuously push them ashore, and began to talk.
Shio was amazed to learn many of her teachings were wrong at best, and absolutely ridiculous at worst. Most humans were decent enough, though there were a few that matched the description Shio had learned as a youngling. Humans also didn't mash Pokemon into paste to eat, something she'd been told often when she was very small. For the first time, Shio was beginning to feel glad that she'd left the school. If she'd stayed, she would only ever be hated, feared, and eventually ganged up on by her brethren. Now, at least, she had met another Mutt (or Shiny, rather; it sounded so much nicer, more exotic and less demeaning) and was learning the truth of the world. It was pleasant, being in the company of one of her own who didn't despise her for what she was.
They were idly swimming about, the clear fins on the back of their heads and their sides gently propelling them around, when Typhoon noticed a red form partially buried in the sandy ocean floor. Intrigued, he swam down to investigate. Shio, not facing the other Skrelp as she told an old tale she'd heard shortly after hatching, only became aware that her companion wasn't listening when he didn't reply to a question. She turned to ask again, wondering if maybe he just didn't understand, only to see him drawing close to the object of his attention.
“No!” she cried, causing Typhoon to recoil in surprise. He looked back over his shoulder, a confused expression crossing his face.
“What? What is it?”
“Back! Back!” Shio yelled, swimming towards her new friend as quickly as she could. “Foe! Danger! Predator!” Typhoon only stared at her in bewilderment, not comprehending the other Pokemon's sudden panic. His view was obscured when sand abruptly blew up from below him as a large shape burst out of the seabed; something sharp and powerful clamped around his midsection a second later, causing him to squeal in terror and struggle in an attempt to break free of his unexpected captor.
“FOE! FOE!” Shio shrieked madly as the sand began to settle, revealing a large Kingler gripping Typhoon. The crab's massive right claw held a squirming, screaming Typhoon in its vice-like grasp. Larger than the little seadragons by many times, the red top portion of the Kingler's shelled body was covered in spiny spikes. Four spindly clawed legs grew from the cream-colored lower portion; despite how fragile they looked compared to the rest of it, its hard shell and wide stance made them solid.
It was an intimidating foe, but Shio had faced a Clawitzer in the past. Kingler weren't much larger, though they were heavier. The extra bulk might prove a bit of a hassle, but Shio wasn't thinking in such logical terms. All she knew was Typhoon was in serious danger and she had to do something to help him.
Fury rose up in the little Skrelp, leaving a cold roiling in her gut that spread throughout her entire body. Focusing her energy, she spewed forth a spiraling beam of pulsating blue energy. The beam broke itself down into large rings as it tore through the water; a few went wide and missed their target, but most of them slammed into the Kingler and knocked it back. Startled by the strength of the blow, its crushing grip on Typhoon loosened and the Skrelp was able to wriggle free. Watching the Kingler as it madly kicked at the water in an effort to right itself, Shio swam to her friend as he weakly tried to move away from his assailant.
“Oh,” she breathed upon reaching him. The Kingler's claw had cut a deep gouge all the way around Typhoon's body, blood freely flowing from the injury. Shio positioned herself under the ailing male and helped push him along until they were clear of the still-struggling Kingler.
“Get back to Katy,” Typhoon managed to mutter after several seconds of attempting to speak. Shio nodded and changed direction, heading back towards the shore while continuing to buoy the injured male along. It seemed they'd make it, as Shio was keeping a close eye on the Kingler, but their luck ran out when the crab finally managed to flip itself over. It snapped its claws in anger, whipping around until it finally spotted them. Shio put everything she had into swimming, desperate to get Typhoon back to his human before he was hurt again. Already his efforts were becoming even weaker as he lost more and more blood.
“Go!” she said, trying to urge herself to speeds she'd never reached. “Go go!” Her attention split between the nearing shore and the Kingler charging at them, she didn't notice the faint shimmer of Katy's fishing line as the human reeled in until she swam into it. The thin cord stopped her forward movement long enough for the Kingler to position itself in front of them. It clicked its pincers at Shio menacingly, obviously intent on exacting revenge for the earlier Dragon Pulse it had taken.
“Move!” she shouted at it, aware of Typhoon's weight settling on her more heavier as he grew too weak to hold himself up. “Move, die!” The Kingler seemed unimpressed with Shio's threats of death if it didn't get out of her way, instead opening both claws wide before snapping them shut with such force it sent twin streams of bubbles flying forward. Shio, hampered by Typhoon's weight and the fishing line that kept getting in her way, was unable to dodge the Bubble Beam as it struck her chest and face. She was knocked back by the attack, and Typhoon slipped off her back to float motionlessly to the seabed. Fear and anger clutching at her, Shio let out a shrill squeal before throwing herself forward. The next moment she spat up a thick wad of dark purple goo, which was a special venom secreted by her stomach. The Sludge Bomb moved through the water with surprising speed, and though it became a bit diluted, it was still potent enough to send the Kingler reeling and waving its pincers in distress when it hit.
Shio didn't give the crab time to recover, closing in on it and spitting up a different kind of toxin. A wash of powerful, Acidic bile floated down over the Kingler's body as Shio swam over it, doubling back to douse the Pokemon with a second coating. The Acid quickly set to work softening the crab's hard shell, but it wasn't ready to give up quite yet. As Shio passed it for her second Acid, its huge right claw shot up with astounding force. The Crabhammer slammed into Shio's body just below her stomach, rendering her momentarily immobile as a sharp, fiery pain shot through her. Taking the opportunity, the Kingler swung its overgrown pincer through the water as a metallic sheen coated it, ramming it into Shio's side in a vicious Metal Claw. Shio tumbled through the water, her senses flying away from her as she hit the seabed and rebounded off it. She was only aware of something closing around her throat a second later thanks to the pressure that threatened to slice her head clean off.
No... The Skrelp wiggled feebly, but was too stunned to break free. She was vaguely aware of the Kingler drawing her closer, preparing to begin feasting on the still-living seadragon. Her dazed gaze found Typhoon, lying in the same spot he'd fallen a few moments ago, and felt something within her stir. The other Skrelp wasn't moving at all and blood was flowing from his injury at a slower rate, his form gently pushed around by the ocean's current.
The revelation struck Shio, and the moment she realized what had happened to her friend, her earlier rage exploded to life within her. It burned away the pain from the blows she'd taken, burned away the senselessness that had enshrouded her mind, burned away her fatigue. It filled every iota of her being, blazing stronger and stronger until it burst out of the Skrelp in a wordless scream of pure fury. But the feeling of being filled up didn't fade, instead seeming to grow more and more until Shio thought she was going to bust. But then she felt a warping, a twisting of her body. It didn't hurt, but the sensation wasn't exactly pleasant either.
At some point the Kingler released her, but she didn't process the fact until the twisting stopped. For a moment everything seemed out of focus, jumbled, until Shio realized that the Kingler was now smaller than it had been. It was facing her with a terrified expression, its claws crossed before it in a defensive posture as it hastily scuttled backwards. Shio watched it, hatred leaping within her and mixing with a new power she'd never felt. Without thinking, she swung her large tail around with all the force she could muster. The Dragon Tail crashed against the Kingler's weakened shell, smashing it to pieces on the right side and breaking off the overgrown claw. Letting out a series of fearful, pained chitters, the injured crab continued to retreat, now hampered due to its broken shell and damaged limb.
“Die,” Shio whispered, swinging her tail around again and this time striking the crab atop its skull. Her tail easily shattered the softened shell, sending a jet of translucent blue ichor squirting from around the appendage. The Kingler's legs thrashed for a moment before curling in, and Shio watched it sink, lifeless, to the seabed.
She then turned to find Typhoon's body in the same place. Sadness enveloped her heart as she swam to him, making gentle cooing noises as she scooped his body into her sweeping, elegant fins.
“I'm sorry,” she said, her voice barely audible. Her eyes stung, but neither Skrelp nor Dragalge were capable of shedding tears. Instead, the female let out a mournful trill as she swam to shore. Her head broke the surface, and a moment later she raised her fins as Katy gave a surprised yelp. Obviously the human was confused at first, until she noticed the Dragalge's coloring and spotted the limp form of Typhoon in her finned grasp. Her hands went to her mouth as she dropped her fishing pole, rushing out to meet the large seadragon as she gently released the smaller Skrelp's body. The human instantly pulled him into her arms, crying out in words Shio didn't understand. What she did understand was the human's grief, as obvious and sharp as Shio's own.
“I'm sorry,” she said again, knowing the human didn't understand and that Typhoon couldn't hear. She mourned with the human over a Pokemon she'd barely known, but one that had given her something she had always craved; acceptance.
Shio didn't know how long they remained like that, but eventually the human pulled free the red-and-white ball she'd sent Typhoon out of earlier. She whispered something as a red beam of light shot from the sphere's middle, enveloping the Skrelp's body. Within seconds his entire form broke down into a cloud of crimson energy, which was drawn into the ball. Shio watched with sorrowful eyes as the human stowed the Ball in her lower pelt, unsure now of what to do. She couldn't help but feel it was her fault Typhoon was dead; after all, if she hadn't eaten that worm, she wouldn't have been reeled in. And if that hadn't happened, the two of them would have never met.
Katy looked lost as she abruptly sat down in the water, no longer able to remain standing. Shio felt a pang for the female, who had known Typhoon so much longer than the Dragalge had.
She is alone, Shio thought as Katy rested her elbows on her knees, leaning forward to bury her face in her hands. But she will not stay alone. For the seadragon knew in that moment what she would do. She would honor her new friend's life by protecting what he had so cherished. She felt as though she had finally found her place, that despite the sad circumstances, this was her fate. With a soft trill she moved closer to Katy, gently nudging the grieving human with her snout. Katy looked up at her, and for a moment Shio worried the human would send her away, worried she might hate her because of Typhoon's death. But the moment passed when the smaller female reached out and wrapped her arms around the Dragalge's slender, muscular neck.
I could not protect him, but I will protect you, Shio promised. And one day, we will be able to swim together in the Eternal Ocean...
Note: Using a Story Pass to make one of these guys Medium, as I thought Skrelp was Medium to begin with XD.
Pokemon Going For: x2 Skrelp
# of Characters Needed: 30-50k
Total # of Characters: 24,900-ish