Target Pokémon: Vulpix (Medium)
Target Length: 10K-20K
Current Length: 15,383
Warning: this is mildly disturbing near the end, and there's a bit of blood... I'm in a pretty awful mood right now. I blame school. XD ANYWAYS, people who don't like death and maybe a teeny bit of gore should leave now.
Not like I ever write about anything else anyways... =X
Also, I understand that most people capitalize Pokemon names in context. Pikachu, Pichu, Raichu, etc. I didn't feel like doing that here, because it didn't fit with the style of the story. BUT I'M AWARE... XD
The hunting howls that ring in the night chill at her blood as she runs.
White paws strike the ground, first the front two and then the rear, as she surges forwards, a flash of pale white and tan in the nighttime forest. Her emerald eyes glint coldly as she breaks into a headlong sprint—their cries behind her have grown louder, and she needs to return to her den before it is too late. Nine white tails flap behind her in the wind, and her head ducks low to avoid a passing branch. Brambles tear at her once thick and luxurious fur, but her silvery-golden pelt has grown mangled and matted with hunger and hardship. The past winter was a hard one, and the way that her ribs protrude from her gaunt coat is only a testament to that chilling fact.
She will not let them win.
The scent of spring is in the air, although she cannot stop to scent it. The buds are finally beginning to form on the frost-frozen limbs, and new grass is finally beginning to force its way out of the ground still wet from newly melted snow. The sky is clear once more, and the moon is full this night. Its soft light washes through the thick matrix of limbs and foliage in the upper reaches of the forest, creating a lattice of shadows and luminosity that looks oddly like prison bars.
But regardless, the fleeing ninetales does not notice the beauty. She may have survived the harsh winter from before with her cubs, but the new lights of spring cannot bring her joy now. How can she rejoice, after all, in new life when her own is so threatened?
She snarls angrily, glancing backwards uneasily as she sprints through the forest, leaning to the left to avoid a gnarled root. She regains her footing in an instant, paws tangling and then straightening in a split-second. The ruff of fur around her neck whistles in the wind, which blows in her face. Yet another thing in life to set her back.
The yelps and frantic barks behind her only serve to make her run faster. The humans, with their horrible sticks that shoot flaming metal and their creatures that bite deep, will not leave her alone. She growls uneasily to herself, lip curling away from gum and teeth to make a snarl. This is her forest, and hers alone. She knows its secrets like not many others of even her own species do, every twist and turn and gully. And she certainly knows the comforts of these woods better than the filthy humans ever will.
Still, as she weaves through the branches, leaping across a tight labyrinth of brown trunks and pale green newly budding leaves, she cannot lose them. But she will not let them win this race. The wind is not her friend tonight, but it instead takes her scent and playfully spreads it around the night sky, so that the disgusting humans and their sticks and their creatures will find her. She knows the penalty of being caught, and she wants to devour the wind for betraying her like this. But she has no choice. So she runs.
Fire springs up around her as her anger grows, a flaming trail of paw prints in the loamy earth. The underbrush burns easily, with thick veils of smoke pluming around her. She does not fear that the humans will be able to track her all the more easily; already, her scent is her enemy. Perhaps, she realizes belatedly, the smoke will hide her from them.
The loam of the forest gives out beneath her paws and slowly morphs into crumbled and shaking rocks, until the fires can no longer catch on the grass that doesn’t grow on the large, dark boulders. The pink pads of her feet are hardened already from years of hardship, and she feels no pain even as shards of rock dig in to the undersides of her paws. Her tails flick again in annoyance, and her yellow-tan ears twitch. For a moment, there is silence—the crackling of the smoke and flames has faded since she is no longer carving a burning swath through the forest.
She almost halts, panting for breath, and then she hears their howls again.
The ninetales almost freezes, the eternal question of wilderness echoing in her mind: fight or flight.
There are too for her to fight, so she must flee. There is no force in the entire world that would get her to turn back around to face the snapping maws of the humans and their hounds.
She runs again, knowing that she must keep the fires under control lest they betray her up here, here on the plateau. Runs again for nearly half a mile before she realizes how distant the howls are. Has she lost them?
A thought rings in her mind, and she is suddenly afraid. Although she is weary from the chase, worry and a deeply ingrained instinct bring her strength. She leaps up the boulders to her right, nine tails swishing majestically behind her in swaths of tan as she gracefully lands on the top stone, sinking already in to a crouch.
She sees them in the distance, their black noses pressed firmly to the ground half a mile away. Even from her distant vantage point, the night is clear enough and her eyes are powerful enough and her fear is urgent enough that she can see them. The pack of hounds, triangular tails flicking in the air, scythed horns glinting in the moonlight, whine and snort at the base of a hill, padding around with their noses nearly glued to the grass. The humans stand in a pair behind her, resting their metal-spitting sticks on the ground and talking to one another in ridiculously high-pitched and incessant tones to her ears.
The ninetales doesn’t have to look up the hill to know that there is a forked pine at the top, split like that because of bolt of lightning from a stray storm four and a half years ago. She doesn’t have to scent the air to know that it smells like must and the river to the south. She doesn’t have to process the facts to understand that she must move, and move fast, or else all will be lost.
She is already running again, adrenaline and some deeply rooted instinct urging her on. Her limbs surge forwards and she yelps hoarsely, sending tendrils of fire into the air. Anything, no matter the cost, to draw them away from the hollow she knows is among a twisted and bent cypress that bows near the river bank.
To draw them away from her den.
To draw them away from her cubs, four of them and tiny, that are nestled in the bits of fur and leaves, waiting for their mother to return.
She is lucky. The sprint is downhill, and the smoke has dulled the hounds’ senses, and the humans are holding them back for some reason. And so she runs, skidding along the back ways and relying on the twists and turns of the hills and the brambles to keep the humans off of her trail.
She bursts in to the den, panting. Her breathing slows as she watches her cubs, curled together in tiny auburn balls of fluff. She counts them carefully, scenting the air. The hounds have not arrived yet, not with their teeth that burn or their gleaming orange eyes like coals. The humans are still struggling through the brambles around her den, and she can hear their boots as the stumble around in the thorns, ungraceful clods. She knows that the hounds will be faster, but their noses will lead them to her den anyways.
For now, she must focus on her cubs. Their tiny ruby eyes haven’t opened yet; they are only three weeks old. They hear her come in, for they mewl helplessly and turn their heads towards her, eyes scrunched shut against the soft moonlight. Their tiny tails don’t even have six points yet—they are brown like dirt and like their paws, and they flutter limply in the air behind them. Tiny pink tongues lap at their slightly wet noses, and their ears are slicked back to lie flat against their heads.
One of them stumbles towards her on brown paws that are too large for his tiny body, opening his mouth in a tiny yawn. His tongue stretches out and tickles his nose once more, and then he curls himself around her front white paws. The vulpix cub is content, curling up into a ball around her forepaws and tucking his head beneath his six barely-forked tails and snuggling close to the ruff of her beneath her neck.
The other cubs are quick to swarm around her, and soon she is surrounded by a sea of dark red fur. She almost forgets about the humans, about the hounds, about the imminent doom that is quickly approaching, and then she hears the howls again. She stiffens, although her cubs do not sense it. Curled as they are in their warm bundles of fur, they do not sense any of the danger that is quick to approach, either on four legs or two.
She looks behind her, the fear catching in her throat. Already, the humans have come closer. The brambles will only delay them for so long, and the crunching undergrowth will not hide her or her cubs forever. Not with the hounds. Her scent will be their demise here.
The oldest one whimpers, although his eyes are still firmly shut. She can take maybe one of the cubs with her, at best, before her trek will alert the hounds.
Or she can fight. Fight or flight? The question is dire. There are at least half a dozen hounds, and the two humans have sticks that can breathe metal faster than she can breathe her fire. But the lives of her cubs are on the line, are they not? She should fight for them, the only things that would give her reason to face the filthy humans.
But as she thinks about it, pacing uneasily and pushing the four balls of fuzz and fur off of her feet as she stands up and distances herself from them to ponder it, she sees the problem: she will die. That in itself is not her problem; death is part of the cycle. But if she is to die, her cubs will certainly die as well.
Her pacing brings her against the gnawed carcass of a young mareep. The stupid creature had to have been a newborn, barely older than her cubs but already nearly as large as she was, but the thing that had attracted her attention was the fact that the lamb was merely sitting in the grass, merrily chewing and bleating and fixing her with doleful brown eyes. Only a thin mess of sticks served as its protection, nothing like the mazes of roots and branches and brambles outside of her own den, and she had easily slipped in to it and broken its neck before it could even do so much as cry for help.
That had been nearly a week ago, when the winter was still harsh. She had dragged the entire carcass from its pitiful defenses back to her own den, a mere mile away, and her cubs had been fed for once. The winter had been harsh, and they had been nearly as skinny as she was.
All that remains of the pitiful mareep are a few clumps of yellow wool and a collection of well-gnawed bones. The tiny teeth of her cubs are already sharp, no matter how young they are, and she had begun to feed them real meat after she had been unable to give them her milk. They were hardy, and they had survived.
But when she had returned back to the same spot as before, trying to find another mareep sitting haplessly behind those tiny thin sticks, she had been forced to flee as the hounds came. She hadn’t done anything wrong, really; why were they coming for her?
No matter, though. Fight or Flight.
She backs up uneasily, growling and whimpering. She should not leave them. They are her cubs. But what is to gain by dying here fruitlessly? She does not want her cubs to die splattered in their own blood as well as her own. And besides, her species is not one of fighting. They flee at the sign of danger. She is more of a timid, sly sort, and she hates fighting. She would not be able to help them if she fought.
It is the basic law of nature. She should leave them there, should she not? She backs up. There is no shame in leaving them here so she may live. Their world is a feral one. Perhaps they will understand. There is no denying that they will be better off dead. Safer, happier, warmer. They will not have her love where they go, but they will be better off.
No, she feels no shame in leaving them.
The hounds howl again, and this time she can hear the human’s voices, low and excited. They are nearing, and then she decides.
She will not let the humans win this round. No.
They will not get the pleasure of killing her cubs, her beautiful cubs that are so young that they cannot even see her turmoil. They will not take their lives, or even her own. She knows how to fix it.
She can only take one with her. Perhaps she could pick one, to save them from this fate… she glances down at the one who yawned, the one who stretches out blindly for her in the dark, his tiny paws grasping futilely at empty air. She could save him, she knows, grab him by the scruff of his neck and flee. They would survive.
But as she glances at the other three cubs, all mewling so helplessly for her, she knows she could not. Who is she to chose?
So instead, with her blood roaring in her ears, she begins. She will not let the humans win.
Her claws and teeth move swiftly, although her heart aches. She swallows the pain, deafens herself to their frightened yowls, and pretends she cannot feel their blood.
They eyes of her cubs are not open; they cannot see the identity of their killer.
But she will not let the filthy humans win by killing her cubs.
So instead, she kills her cubs first. Their necks break as easily as the mareep’s did, but it is not as quick. They flail around miserably in her jaws, paws trembling in the air before going still. Six-pointed tails stiffen and rise like they are blown by the wind before falling into soft arches, gently drifting back to the ground.
She will not let the humans win.
Their bodies are bitter and broken on the ground in her den, and she noses at them mutely. None of them stir, but of course they do not. She is mute, shaken, but not afraid. The humans have not won. She has not let the humans win.
In their deaths, they look much like they did when they were alive. She nudges the yawning one back in to place with her nose – in two more suns, she had intended to name them all, when they had finally opened their eyes – and soon they are all back as a single ball of fluff, nestled together in the back of her den next to the mareep carcass. If she squints just right, they are only asleep again, blissfully unaware about what will happen next.
She whimpers as she nudges the yawning one again, tucking in his tail gently beneath the one who sneezed in the night. She licks all of them fondly in turn, but she cannot ignore her own bloodstained paws as she leaves her den.
The night is quiet, but this time it is filled with knowledge and the silence born of shock. She growls at the hounds and their masters, furious that they have made her make this choice. But she cannot let the humans win. That thought has consumed her entirely, like a fire, since this hunt has begun. She will not give them that satisfaction. She will not let the humans win.
So instead, she slinks in to the night, taking a longing glance back towards her own cubs. Their eyes are still tightly shut, but the den is scattered with blood alongside the carcasses. There had been only one when she had entered the den, but now there are five.
Perhaps they will understand. There is no denying that her cubs will be better off dead. Safer, happier, warmer. They will not have her love where they go, but they will be better off. After all, they will never know the identity of their killer.
As she slips through the night, her blood-stained paws making no sound on the carpet of damp leaves, she realizes bitterly that this is her victory.