Hey guys, I'm back with a new story for you all. This one I've been working on for awhile and I've finally finished it. The first chapter at least. I hope you guys like it and enjoy it. Ignore the Pikachu and Piplup cover. It's a placeholder until I can get some actual art of my mouse and rabbit baby. If anyone would like to draw them, you're welcomed to do so!
Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the chapter. Farewell for now!
"We're wasting our time. They expect us to be back."
"No! I swear I felt it! It was unmistakable!"
In the waning sunlight of the early evening, two figures slashed their way through the overgrowth of Dusk Forest. Once marched forward with determination, the other followed reluctantly behind. One was a gray-furred raccoon with a long striped tail and red eyes. The other was a small brown meerkat with large brown eyes that scanned the woods around them.
"I swear! It came from this way. We need to investigate!"
The twosome foraged their way through shrubs and saplings as the sun sank out of sight, filling the sky with hues of red. Soon, night would be upon them. The trailing figure cast a worried glance upward, knowing they'd soon be out of precious sunlight if he didn't get his stubborn partner to listen.
"Sly, are you certain you're not just hearing thing again?"
"I don't know. That's why I need to see for myself."
"But nothing lives in this forest expect for some dumb Kinglet and Flutternyx."
As the two emerged into a clearing, a startled flock of red and black Kinglet scattered and hid themselves into the branches of nearby trees. The frustrated Meerkit grumbled in resentment, knowing inside it was all probably just a bad idea.
"Sly, it's almost night, and we're still miles from the base. It's too late for this! If we don't head back now, the Watchers will catch us. Are you sure you're in the mood to pick a fight with them?"
"And what if I'm right?!" the Crookcoon snapped, as he turned to face his partner, causing the meerkat to jump at the sudden reaction. "What if I'm right and I did hear something coming from there. If not, what's the worst that could happen? We get back a little late, and the team worries about us for a few extra hours? Somehow, that doesn't worry me. However, Zaru….. What if the Call is here? Consider that. What if this is our only chance to capture the Call before our enemies do? We can't turn our back on this possibility."
"I know, I know," the Meerkit said. "But the time isn't right for the Call. That's all I'm saying. We still have another three years at the most."
"I know the time is not right," Sly grumbled. "It doesn't matter. This could be some kind of an anomaly. However, speaking of one of the only Kurisuta sensitive enough to the Call to notice it, I feel obliged to look farther. And frankly, I'm growing frustrated that no one else seems to take this matter as seriously as I do."
The Meerkit shook his head. He knew it was hopeless. The same exchange had happened between them at least three times in the prior months, and it always ended the same way. The raccoon was stubborn in his obsession.
"If there is someone there, we need to get to it before the Watchers do," Sly spoke, focusing on the path ahead. "We cannot afford to have it fall into the wrong hands. Zaru… if you don't agree with me, you are free to return by yourself. I'll go on alone."
The Dark/Normal-type smiled wryly to himself, knowing that the Meerkit was too much of a coward to part ways and venture back on his own. There was a reason the team followed a strict buddy system. It was difficult—in more than one way—to recount all of the Kurisuta who had been defeated in dungeons or captured by the Watchers because they had been separated from the team, either by accident or by overconfidence.
"I'll go with you," Zaru replied with a sigh of resignation. "I trust you. Besides, I'm a bit rusty at fighting the Watchers. I could use the experience. But just one thing… It's been twenty-four years since the Call. Are you sure you remember what it sounds like?"
"It's not something one can easily forget," the larger Kurisuta said.
Bracing himself for the unexpected, the Meerkit followed his partner deeper into the woods.
It was nearly nightfall as a small light blue rabbit made its way through the forest all on its own.
"No!" it cried to nobody in particular. "No! No! I won't! I won't! I won't do it!"
Deftly leaping over rocks and fallen logs, the Hydrani followed a path through the woods it knew well. As it ran, it seemed intent to violently share its anguish with every passing tree in eyeshot.
"No, no, NO!" it shouted, extending its ears out and snapping away the twigs and dropping tree limbs that hung in the way. "I can't take it! I won't do it! I-I can't! You can't make me! You can't!"
The little Kurisuta had long since reached the end of her patience. She dashed off the path and repeatedly whipped her ears against the nearest tree as hard as she could manage. With a scream, she put another gash after gash into the tree's bark. After she'd done quite a bit of damage to the poor tree, she leaped to another and tackled it with all her might, barely even feeling the painful pulse she sent through her forehead. She wrapped her ears around the tree trunk and squeezed, pulling and constricting it violently, as tears trickled out from under her closed eyes.
"Why?! Why are you doing this to me?!" the Water-type cried out in anguish at nobody but the setting sun. "By Ochrine, why?!"
She released the tree from her grasp and tumbled to the ground. Lashing out an ear, she grasped a nearby rock and flung it at a different tree, and then threw another rock, then a twig, then whatever else she could find within reach, grunting loudly with each projectile she launched.
"I don't care what they say," she seethed as she felt the weariness set in. "They're not going to make me do it. They'll never go! I'll… I'll hold my ground, and… if they try to make me go, I-I'll run away. Yeah! I'll run away! And I'll stay away!"
When the Hydrani had spent nearly all her strength, she stood in the dimming light of the woods, gasping for air and trying to endure the throbbing pain from her self-inducing headache. It took her a moment to realize how deeply her rampage had taken her into the forest, a place she loved and treasured. Tonight, these woods seemed like the only place she belonged; she felt a measure of happiness knowing she was so far away from her own. At the moment, her home was the last place she wanted to be.
The environment calmed her. As her furious heart returned to normal, she could feel her rage slowly fading, turning into misery. She knew there was nothing she could do. She knew she would have to accept the fate that was decided to her—or suffer the consequences. She wondered how it could have happened like this, that this beautiful forest, and everyone that she knew and loved, was about to be taken away. That her free will was about to be taken away…
Looking up at the sky, she caught a glimpse of the first star of the night.
"Oh great Kurisuta of legend…" she whispered in pray, just as she was taught to do from childhood. "Great and immortal Ochrine, please… if you find it within yourself to help one of us Kurisuta of the earth…. Please do something."
Soon, many more stars appeared in the sky. A Grimprowl fluttered down from somewhere and landed on a nearby branch. It stared at the little rabbit creature on the forest floor below with its white face and red eyes, as if to ask what it was doing out at such an hour.
"Night…" the Hydrani suddenly realized, wide-eyed. "I have to get somewhere safe! The Watchers are coming!"
The Hydrani knew that, at night, legions of ghostly Kurisuta known as "the Watchers' rose up from beneath the surface of the earth. For as long as any Kurisuta could recount the Waters surface every night as soon as the last of the sunlight faded away. They were wild spirits, lacking the intelligence of the sentient Kurisuta or the ability to understand speech. To every Kurisuta, children and adults alike, only one thing was certain about them; if they caught you, they did unspeakable, horrifying things to you. Accounts told of Kurisuta captured by the Watchers getting cursed, losing their memories or their intellect, being kidnapped and pulled into the earth, or being cast into a nightmare from which they would never awaken….
In the dim rays of the remaining sunlight, the rabbit found the path she had taken deep into the forest, and started to follow it back toward her home.
"No…" she realized, stopping in her tracks. "I can't go back home. I might not make it back… I have to go the other way. I have to get to the cave."
The full moon was high in the sky by the time the Hydrani found the path she'd sough. She thanked Hatluni for blessing her with the moonlight, a bright beacon that kept the Watchers at bay for perhaps an extra hour, and turned her attention to a solid rock cliff-face that marked the outer boundary of Dusk Forest. By tradition, she glanced all around to make sure nobody was watching. When she was satisfied that she wouldn't be seen, she extended her ears to wrap around a medium-sized rock. Clutching it tightly, the Hydrani yanked, pulling the rock to the side and revealing a cave entrance.
It was the Water-type's secret clubhouse, a place that only she and a select few others knew about. It was the place the bunny would always come when she just wanted to be alone. Tonight, nothing would make her happier than simply being by herself.
After waiting impatiently for a flock of Noibat to swarm out of the cave, the little Kurisuta crawled inside. Using her ears, she pulled the rock back into place for privacy.
Comfortable and content with her newfound solitude, and wary from her anger, the Hydrani laid herself down on the gravel-covered cave floor to sleep. She knew in the back of her mind that her family would be furious about him going missing overnight, but somehow, she didn't care about them anymore. At least, not for tonight.
They can spend all night looking for me if they want, she told herself. Serves them right.
Soon, the wind began to pick up outside, making strange whistles and howls as it found its way through cracks in the door-stone. A light storm was brewing. It was early spring after all, and storms were common around the time of year. The Water-type took even greater comfort in the fact that she had found shelter from the rain—if dark clouds covered the moons, the Watchers would most certainly be out in full force.
At last, once the Hydrani calmed her thoughts, she felt herself pulled down into the dark hallows of sleep…
However, something caught her attention.
It was a tiny annoyance, something so minor that only the most perceptive of senses would have noticed it. Truth was, the rabbit had spent the night here in this very cave many times before—when she'd lied to her parents that she was staying with her brothers in Freebe City—and he she had grown accustomed to the cave's feel. Tonight, something was different from usual—something he couldn't quite place.
Feeling irritated, the Hydrani's eyes snapped opened. She glanced around at the cave's walls for a few moments before realizing what it was that bugged him.
I can see?
Except for when she'd intentionally leave the cave door open, the cave was normally pitch black—the kind of absolute black when it doesn't matter whether or not your eyes are open. He was used to finding the way around the cave's interior by the feel with her ears. However, not today; today, he could dimly see the rocky cave walls, which surrounded him. It was such a faint light, like the image that stays on the back of the eyelid after closing it, but there was no mistaking it: there was light coming from somewhere.
The Hydrani checked the cave door. The door only responded with dull roar of thunder as the storm edged closer to the forest. It was sealed shut, as usual. That much was clear to see.
The light, the bunny realized, it must be coming from deeper inside the cave. But… I can't go too far in. Just one-step too far and I'll be lost. Maybe even for good.
Gritting her teeth, she warily prowled into the depths of the cave, hoping to find the source of the light before she reached the point that she'd resolved never to cross. As well as she knew the cave, she knew that it held certain secrets deeper down that she wouldn't be wise to try exploring on her own.
Her search didn't last very long. She turned the corner… and she saw it.
There, propped up against a rock, with its tail crushed beneath is body weight, was a Denachu. The fire that it most likely built, cast a faint, dancing light upon the cave walls.
"Whoa!" she croaked in disbelief. "A… Denachu! It… It can't be! There aren't supposed to be any Denachu living around here!"
Indeed, the little mouse was such a rare sight around the Water-type's corner of the world, she couldn't even remember the last time she'd seen one.
As she approached the intruder, countless questions dance around her mind. Who is this? Is it wild? Or is it intelligent? Should I wake it up? Is it… dead? No, it can't be dead. I can see the chest rising and falling still. Where did it come from? How young is it? Had it been running from the Watchers?
The Hydrani's eyes widened as she made her way towards the other. It looked pained, as if it had just sustained a major headache. Extending both ears very gently, she tried to roll the Denachu on its side and off is tail. However, her anxiety got the better of her; she flinched and slipped, accidentally touching the tail, getting a small spark of electricity shooting up her body.
"Owww! Ouch!" she hissed, whipping her ear against herself to try to help stop the sting left behind by the shock.
Once the pain subsided, the bunny stepped forward to nudge the little mouse with her forehead, taking great care not to collide with its tail again.
"Hey," she whispered. "Hey, wake up! Are you okay? Wake up!"
There was no response.
"C'mon, wake up!" the Water-type pleaded further, whispering a little louder into the orange rodent's ear.
She looked down at the lightning bolt-shaped tail, which was mostly smothered below the Denachu's belly as it slept in such an awkward position. She imagined how painful it must have been for the sleeper, and wondered if that was the reason for the unpleasant expression on its unconscious face. Mustering her courage once more, the rabbit sat her forehead against the Electric-type's shoulder and pushed until the tail was free and the sleeper lay on its side.
With a heavy gasp, the Denachu suddenly jumped up, slamming its head onto a large rock that protruded from the wall.
"Ahh!" the Water-type responded, jumping back. "S-Sorry! I was just… You were… Are you okay?"
"Ugh…" the Denachu groaned, slumping back down to the floor. "Ugh… My head…"
"Who are you?" the female Kurisuta asked impatiently. "There aren't supposed to be any Denachu around here. How did you get here? How did you find my cave?"
"My name…?" the Denachu moaned, barely paying attention. "It's Keme…"
"I'm Keakle. You must have hit your head pretty hard. Hold on, I think I have some Oran Berries stashed away back here in the Shrat haven't gotten to them yet."
The female Kurisuta turned and begun walking away, feeling the walls with her long ears. A few moments later, she returned with a dark blue berry in her paw.
"Here, have this," she said, holding it out to the male mouse. "It'll make you feel better."
The two sat in silence for a little while as the Denachu bit into his berry. He immediately felt it when the dark blue berry began to take effect. His body tingled, leaving behind a relaxing, strengthening sensation. His headache faded away a little bit, and his thoughts started to form orderly patterns. Electricity sparked from his face, lighting up the room around them a little bit more with the added light from the fire.
"You never answered my question by the way," Keakle stated, once he had finished the berry.
Keme blinked, looking at the blue rabbit beside him. "What?"
"I asked you what you were doing here and how you had found my cave," she repeated.
"Oh…" The Denachu glanced away from her, his tail flicking behind him nervously.
"What's wrong? Did something happen? Where you being chased by the Watchers?"
Keme sighed, turning back around to face the Water-type. He began to explain what had happened to him. He was out looking for some berries to help his sick brother with, when he was jumped by the bullies in his village; two Voltchu and another Denachu. They had taken him to the river in Murky Lake and threw him into it, laughing as he was swept down the stream. He had washed up onto dry land a little while later, half drowned and soaked to the skin. Another Voltchu and a Dechu had found him and helped him into this cave. The Water-type chalked it up as being odd too, as Dechu, Denachu, and Voltchu weren't normally found where she lived. She figured they were travelers that went all around the world or something like that. The other two Electric-types had gone off to find something to help him with and hadn't come back yet. There was also an Embrit that had wondered deeper into the cave, having smelled berries, but also had yet to return.
"Yikes… That must have been really scary," Keakle replied once he had finished his tale. "I hope your friends found somewhere safe before nightfall. I didn't see the Embrit when I went to get the berry for you. I hope she's okay."
"I hope they're okay too," he agreed. "What about you? Don't you have a family? They must be worried sick about you."
"My family's stupid," Keakle complained, biting into her own Oran Berry. "They want me to—"
Keme looked at her in silence, wondering what had made her stop mid-sentence. Her face had suddenly turned full of worry, her gaze quickly shifting in all directions.
"Shh!" Keakle quickly warned. "I heard something."
Expect for the tiny sound of the fire, and the ominous but barely audible rumbles of thunder from the outside, the cave became completely quiet.
… For a few moments, at least.
It came: the distinctive sound of talking.
Although only a few fragments of a few words had escaped to their ears, Keakle silently gasped in fright. The voices became louder. A lump formed in the Water-type's throat.
"… in here…"
"Find them! They're in here! I swear!"
"No!" Keakle gasped. "No! Keme, I thought this cave was secret, but.. I think someone found it!"
"Who would it be? Should we run? Should we hide?"
"I don't know," she said through worried gaps of breath. "But whoever they are… if they can brave the Watchers, they're nobody I'd like to be around. They might even be.."
Keakle seemed frozen in fear. The Hydrani chocked on her last words, wishing to the gods of all Ikimon themselves that they couldn't be true.
"They could be… them!"
There was no time to answer. Without warning, the echo from a horrifying rumble tore through the cave. It was the sound of the door-stone being shoved aside.
"We've found them! Go! Get them! Now!"
"Keme…" Keakle chocked in the tiniest, most petrified whisper possible. "We have to run. It's them.. The Master's soldiers.. They're going to kidnap us!"
"I know you didn't!" yelled one of the voices from the front of the cave. "We came here because of you. We followed them here. Now find them! Don't let them escape, after all this!"
"Keme… You have to trust me," Keakle creaked silently. "Please.. You have to follow me and trust me. We've got to go deeper into the cave."
"Do you know the way?" the Denachu asked carefully.
"No one knows the way…" the Water-type answered gravely, extending an ear to him. "It's impossible for anyone to know the way. Hold onto my ear and don't let go. Keme, if we go just a little bit deeper into the tunnels, we might be able to lose them."
Keme obeyed, taking hold of the rabbit's long blue ear. However, something about what the Hydrani's reply didn't make sense to him.
"What do you mean impossible for anyone to know the way?" he asked.
"Keme.." Keakle said as she began to retreat into the cavern's rear tunnel. "This place… This cave… is a mystery dungeon."