Encased in a Pokeball, Ruth the Elephuk was currently in the motionless, ethereal form that was typical of such a state. Normally, a Pokegirl in such a state would take the opportunity to rest. Given what she had been told right before having been put in the ball, however, Ruth was doing something entirely different.
She was giving herself a guilt trip.
After the Navy’s troops had discovered the building used as an ivory farm, they had come back with disturbing news. Apparently, in the aftermath of Ruth and the Megami’s escape, all of the other Elephuks had been slaughtered. The criminal who ran the farm, along with his harem, had disappeared, taking the evolutionary stones with them. The soldier informing her of the situation had hypothesized that because of her escape, that given Elephuks’ good memories, the criminal was scared one might remember something if caught. As such, it was most likely that the entire reason the other Elephuks had been killed was, in a roundabout way, because of her.
Ruth agreed with that assessment.
At the time she was making her escape plans, the Elephuk had never considered that this might be the outcome if she was successful. If she hadn’t escaped- if she had never come up with that plan, and instead waited to be rescued- the others might still be alive.
Her mother might still be alive.
Part of Ruth was trying to be reasonable and reassuring, saying that the military had seemed completely unaware of the illegal ivory farm, making rescue unlikely. The other part of Ruth was full of recrimination for her part in making an already tragic situation even worse. The third part of Ruth was just full of self-interested gratification that she had escaped the torture that would have continued if she had stayed. Ruth hated that third part.
Less than an hour after being told the bad news, she had been informed that the owner she had been stolen from had, through the computer, signed the paperwork needed to sell her. After being told that her new owner was some construction worker in the city of Dis, she had been put into a Pokeball to await being given to him. And given how soon after everything she was going to be given away, that’s why she couldn’t afford to rest. Instead, she needed to stay awake, and spend her time in the Pokeball trying to process the raw emotion.
Part of Ruth- a heavily suppressed part that she would never dare to speak aloud or act upon- couldn’t help but think that a human would never be treated this way. If a human had spent months being held captive and facing repeated torture before escaping, or had then found themselves indirectly responsible for the deaths of other captives, or had even faced something as mundane as the loss of one of their parents, they would be given time and space to process it. They certainly wouldn’t be given even more headaches by being sold right away to somebody they didn’t know, in a city they had never been to. And they certainly wouldn’t have to worry about facing any sort of taming cycle if they didn’t handle the stress in a way that was seen as appropriate.
At the point the Elephuk had made the escape to the Silver Island military from the ivory farm, she was fully aware it was not an escape to freedom. All it was had been an escape away from torture. The Silver Island League was anti-abuse, even if it wasn’t always due to empathy for Pokegirls’ suffering. The captain of the ship had illustrated that point nicely, when she overheard him saying it was ‘messed up to purposefully destroy such valuable property’. He had been referring to the murder of her mother and the other Elephuks.
Still, Ruth reminded herself, she needed to avoid showing any emotion once she was let out. Depending on what her new master was like, if she showed what he deemed to be too much emotion over the event, he might put her through a taming cycle. If he felt that the emotion was distracting her to the point of effecting her work, the worst case scenario was a Level 4 taming cycle. As scary as a Level 5 was, that would destroy the construction-related education she had developed, which made it unlikely as a worst case situation. Still, Level 4 would be bad enough- and that’s why she had to use this brief window of time in which to figure out how to cope. She had already lost so much- there was no way she was going to risk losing any portion of her mind as well.
Just as she was thinking that, the Elephuk found herself released from her Pokeball, standing in what looked to be the main room of a reasonably spacious apartment. In front of her was a young and attractive human-appearing woman, flanked by two females who were obviously Pokegirls. With her impeccable memory, and her readings of the Pokedex, Ruth was immediately able to pinpoint the species as being a Gorgon and a Peruva. Peruvas were closely associated with construction work (albeit a daintier form than typical), and Gorgons were occasionally used to help with finishing touches on intricate stonework. The Elephuk guessed that the human-looking Pokegirl had some sort of use in construction, as well.
“So you’re the Elephuk I purchased from Mr. Sombilon?” And the question made by the svelte woman quickly shattered that assumption. It was obvious from that question that she was human- and that she also was not the burly male of a construction worker Ruth imagined.
“Yes. Mr. Sombilon had been my former owner before I was sold.” Ruth was tempted to ask this woman why she would need an Elephuk for construction work. The Elephuk was skeptical as to whether this human woman even had the strength with which to work most construction tools. Still, she decided to remain quiet, and wait for the answers to reveal themselves. It wouldn’t do to risk accidentally saying something that might irritate her new owner.
The human woman- a pale-skinned brunette- nodded. “So now that I have the purchase the company wanted me to make, I’m all set. Anyways, my name is Emilia Jordan. I’m an architect- and you’re going to memorize the draftwork my colleagues and I prepare so as to help manage and perform their implementation. Not only do you have the strength that was requested, you also have the memory I need. The memory of an Elephuk is exactly what I need to ensure the precise installation of my works of art!”
Now the situation made more sense. Her new female owner’s only relation to actual construction work was sitting at a desk, studying textbooks and drawing designs. It would also explain why her only two Pokegirls she had before now were associated with the more artistic side of construction. If Emilia viewed her buildings as works of art, then of course she would prefer that delicate touch- or in Ruth’s case, a precise and well-memorized touch.
“I was told when purchasing you that you already had some experience helping out with construction work. Is that correct?”
Ruth nodded. “Yes ma’am- my mother had taught me the skillset she used in her own construction work. I’ve only ever helped with practical buildings, before, so if you’re creating art, then I might need to be taught some of the art terms.”
Emilia smiled, waving her hand to the side as if to brush off the Elephuk’s concerns. “No worries- you won’t need to understand any of that to do the work. Just follow the architectural designs precisely, and my art will be built. For example, right now my company has recently gotten assigned a project to build an auditorium for a local art museum. Its primary purpose is going to be art auctions and sales, but it’s also for art lectures and perhaps even business meetings. Given that the Aloha Architecture company provides the most innovative architectural designs in the League, it makes sense they would choose us. And I have been given the responsibility of helping the lead architect in collaborating on the overall design of the piece.”
“We’ve come up with the perfect design- something that visitors to the building will find truly memorable! The museum said they wanted visitors to feel like they were inside an artwork. The design features a motif of arches and counter arches, and then creates a disorienting space, where the arches are precisely reflected in mirrored walls. The museum is, after all, most noted for its pieces of neo-surrealist art. Inspired by both pre-Sukebean surrealists like Dali, and post-Sukebean neo-surrealists like Iwasaki, it will truly fit the bill.”
“But anyways, whether or not you learn the details or appreciate the art of the design is up to you. All you have to do is memorize what we’ve designed, and then do the heavy lifting and some of the management for that. Got it?”
“Yes ma’am. I understand,” Ruth said. That had certainly been a long-winded answer to her question- almost all of it centered on Emilia herself, or her work for her company. Given how short a time she had known her, the Elephuk wasn’t quite sure whether her new owner was self-centered, or just loved rambling about art. She was hoping the latter, but knew better than to assume the best.
“Great!” Emilia beamed, completely unaware of the Elephuk’s internal appraisal of her new master. “The actual construction work starts tomorrow, so you get to relax until then. I ordered some restraints from Titan Taming so I can safely tame an Elephuk- but for some reason, they didn’t arrive in time. I’m going to leave to remedy that situation- I mean, I paid for it and everything- and by the time I get back, they WILL be here. I promise. In the meantime, why don’t you get to know your new harem sisters? I’m sure you’ll get along great!”
With a bright smile and a cheery wave goodbye, Emilia left the apartment. After she closed the door behind her, the three Pokegirls looked at each other in what Ruth thought was an awkward silence. At the point the Peruva started clinging on to the Gorgon like a security blanket, the serpent snapped to attention.
“As the Alpha, I suppose I should take the lead in starting the introductions. I am a Gorgon, and my name is Natalya. This plant-type beside me is a Peruva, and her name is Bria. Our master Emilia has given me permission to name you in her stead, just as she gave me for Bria. So do you want me to give you a new name, or do you want to keep the one you have?” The Gorgon was the one who broke the silence. The very first words out of her mouth had been to point out she was Alpha. Beyond that, it was obvious that she was trying to not only take lead in a situation where nobody was acting, but also to portray herself as taking lead.
“In the past I’ve been known as Ruth- but a new name is really up to you, it sounds like, depending on what you want. I’m glad that somebody else has the position of Alpha- I’d hate to have all of that responsibility for myself.” Ruth calculated that if Natalya was putting so much effort into asserting authority, then she might feel insecure in her position as Alpha. Or at least, that’s the vibe the Elephuk was getting from the Gorgon- and judging by the way the serpent was relaxing and smiling, it would seem she had been correct. Not to mention, her declaration of a lack of interest in the position of Alpha was a completely truthful one.
“If you’re used to being called Ruth, I see no reason to think up something different. Now Bria- why don’t you talk to her some? No need to be shy around our new harem sister.” The Peruva hesitantly stopped hugging her Gorgon Alpha- only to walk up to Ruth and embrace her. The Elephuk was glad she had read the Pokedex previously- the Peruva’s behavior was easily explained as a quirk of the breed, in which they felt a compulsion to hold others. Beyond that, she also recalled that they were variable in personality. It seemed like Bria was a more timid variety of the breed, though.
“Nice to meet you,” Bria said, still embracing the Elephuk. “Emilia won me back when she was in her junior year of college. I was a prize she got after winning an architectural design competition which only allowed Silver Island citizens under the age of 25. I hope that you’ll be just as nice to me in the harem as both Emilia and Natalya have been.”
“I certainly plan to be nice,” Ruth said. Halfway returning the embrace, she draped a single arm around the plant-type Pokegirl. In response, the Peruva clung on tighter.
The Elephuk’s integration into her new harem proceeded smoothly from there. As she got to know her harem sisters, she learned that they had a definite fondness for Emilia, viewing her as being nice to them. Apparently Emilia’s mother and grandmother had both been Pokegirls themselves, so it was a surprise to her when she didn’t threshold. As such, she tried to be kind to her Pokegirls, regularly giving them treats and rewards. From their description of their master, her worst quirks were that she often rambled about art, and sometimes got distracted from what she was doing.
When the Elephuk questioned them as to what Emilia had meant by saying the company had wanted her to make this purchase, Natalya was quick to explain. Of the two Pokegirls Emilia had, neither of them were good at heavy lifting. While they were both valuable for construction work, Aloha Architecture wanted Emilia to purchase a breed with more strength. The company had given Emilia a deadline for making her purchase- and by buying an Elephuk within that timeframe, Emilia easily fulfilled the requirements. In fact, the company was rather pleased that Emilia had, in their view, ‘splurged’ by purchasing a rare Pokegirl who was so valuable in construction. Although Emilia’s real intentions hadn’t been quite so company-focused. Emilia had apparently been paranoid about not wanting dumb muscle that might mess up the precision of her design. As such, she had taken out a loan from the bank in order to purchase an Elephuk.
As the conversation focused on the company, it became obvious why Aloha Architecture, despite being a high-end business, was located in Dis rather than Purgatory Bay. It was certainly true that Purgatory Bay was both the business capital and the official capital of the Silver Island League. It was also true that Dis was the art capital in the League- lacking any notable competition for the title. ‘Innovative’ definitely was a mild term for what she was hearing about the company’s architectural design. Many of the buildings created by Aloha Architecture had actually become tourist attractions, visited alongside the various other art-based destinations in the city.
Then the conversation moved on to Natalya’s introduction into the harem, Bria’s introduction already having been explained. Natalya had actually been childhood friends with Emilia- having known her before she thresholded into a Naga. After spending over a year on a ranch, due to a lack of buyers, Emilia turned up at the ranch asking about her. By this point, Emilia had turned 18, making threshold extremely unlikely and entitling her to purchase a Pokegirl. Until she graduated college and obtained a Tradesmen license, she had a Pet license which she used to purchase her friend.
Throughout the entire conversation, the Elephuk couldn’t help but notice that, just like Emilia, neither of her two new harem sisters mentioned the ivory farm. She was starting to suspect that none of the three were even aware of that bit of her history. As much as Ruth was grateful not to have to talk about it, she probably should mention it eventually. But just as Natalya was finishing with her story of meeting Emilia, their master entered before Ruth could potentially begin.
Accompanied by an Amazon carrying a heavy package, she smiled at them upon entering. “Alright- you can just hand the package over to my Elephuk, and she’s strong enough to set it up.” As Ruth accepted the package- marked with the Titan Taming Incorporated logo- a new kind of nervousness set in. At the time she was kidnapped, she had only been 15, and was just now barely 16. She had never actually been tamed before. She wondered what it would be like to experience her first.
The next few days went pleasantly enough. Ruth easily settled in to her new role in Emilia’s harem, getting along with both Emilia and her harem sisters rather well. During the day, she was kept busy with her new job at the construction site, and at night… Well, it turned out that taming was indeed extremely fun. The first time she experienced it, she didn’t even suffer taming shock the way most Pokegirls did during their first.
Over the course of the next few days, she did mention the ivory farm. It turned out that Emilia and her Pokegirls had indeed been unaware of that bit of history- and they found it quite disturbing. Fortunately, they seemed to recognize that Ruth preferred not to talk about it, and didn’t inquire much into it.
Ruth felt that she was doing a good job healing from the experience on her own, and that she was now actually able to feel somewhat at peace with the situation. She may have lost her only real family- given that her mother had never had other children, and her father saw Ruth only as a Pokegirl- but once she had more free time away from construction, she could cope with the grief by visiting a chapel for the Church of the Thousand Gods. Her initial self-blame, while not completely gone, were subsumed by the more logical realization that everything that happened was the fault of the human and his harem. And most of all, she had escaped the torture of the ivory farm- with the entire experience simply a bad memory to leave behind her.
It was evening, and Ruth and Natalya were relaxing in the apartment’s living room, while Emilia and Bria were taming in the bedroom. Natalya was watching the television, and Ruth, with her greater capacity for multitasking, read a book while listening to the television. With her enhanced hearing, she heard some kind of serpent Pokegirl slithering to the building, but thought nothing of it, assuming it to be one visitor out of many.
She was thus taken completely off guard when the Sideviper from the ivory farmer’s harem crashed through the window, launching herself at the Elephuk with a snarl. For all that Ruth had successfully fought off the Hottie’s attack at the ivory farm, she had been alert and ready for combat before it had started. Taken off guard by this particular attack, the Elephuk didn’t manage to react in time to get out of the way.
Natalya, by contrast, was able to react in time to intercept from a distance. Less than a meter away from Ruth, the Sideviper was encased in a thin (but strong) crust of rock that spread to cover her body. The Elephuk immediately recognized it as the Gorgon’s Stone Gaze technique. In this case it was used as a typical attack- but every other time she had seen or experienced it, the Natalya had used it for her own entertainment during taming. Given that use of it, Ruth also knew from experience that enough strength could easily break through the stone shell. The Elephuk fled, just in time to avoid the Sideviper as she successfully broke free of the rocky encasement, lunging to bite at what was now empty space.
If it wasn’t for Ruth’s enhanced memory, the Sideviper’s speed, combined with the danger of the situation, Ruth might not have recognized her u-turn as actually being a Quickturn attack. Darting not near the Elephuk, but instead near the Gorgon, the Sideviper passed the other snake-woman by, barely grazing the soft flesh on Natalya’s torso with her fingernails. The effect was immediate, as Natalya immediately froze in place, seeming to struggle even to turn her head to try to keep track of the intruder. As a former Naga, it was possible she recognized the paralyzation venom which both Sideviper and Naga were able to secrete.
There was no way an Elephuk was going to match a Sideviper’s speed. As such, she needed to do something to deal with that, first. Ruth had some minor level of training in combat. While she lacked a stone with which to use an Elemental Cannon attack, and she had never mastered Quagmire Twister, she had partially mastered Headbutt. And by partially mastered, she meant that she only took damage from the attack herself about half of the time she tried it, lately. More importantly, the move could potentially paralyze an enemy- which was going to be necessary against such an agile opponent.
Lowering her head, Ruth lunged towards the Sideviper right as the powerful snake lunged towards her. Unexpectedly, the Sideviper’s attack either had been planned as a feint or turned into a feint, as the serpent moved to the side, twisting to face the Elephuk’s back. Stumbling as her head met nothing but air, Ruth didn’t even have time to turn and face her nemesis before the already off-balance Elephuk was knocked down by a powerful blow. If she had been any other breed, she would have likely been too busy focusing on the shock of the painful impact to recognize what it was. Given she was an Elephuk, however, she couldn’t help but recognize it as Thunder Tail- a ground-type move, despite its electrical name.
As she was flung against a sofa that Emilia used for watching television, the furniture loudly broke under the hefty Pokegirl’s weight. Dazedly, Ruth found that she couldn’t properly move her body. After all, her impeccable Elephuk memory reminded her, the Pokedex said that Thunder Tail had a good chance to paralyze if it hit. As she stared at the ceiling, not able to properly move her neck to turn her head, she heard two individuals- most likely Emilia and Bria- rushing over from the bedroom. Shortly afterwards, she heard something flying past, before exploding into a powder.
As the powder drifted down, sounds of the Sideviper’s movement briefly stopped, before she heard the serpent collapse to the floor with an audible thump. Given the pattern of her breathing, it would seem that the snake woman was asleep. It was a good thing, Ruth found herself thinking, that one of her harem sisters was a Peruva. No other breed was able to turn Sleep Powder into a long-range attack. Peruvas could accomplish such a feat by surrounding the powder with a proto-resin and launching it. Once the grenade exploded, anything within range would be exposed to the powder- making it ideal against opponents difficult to hit.
“Ohmigosh what happened is everyone alright and what happened?” Still not able to properly move with the paralysis, Ruth heard her owner’s frantic voice.
“I think they’re paralyzed. Do we have any P-Meds to deal with that?” This question came from Bria.
“Yeah- even if I don’t battle, I got one or two of each of the common P-Meds in a first aid kit. Hopefully I have two of P-Med Paralyze instead of just one…” Emilia’s voice trailed off as Ruth heard her rummaging through the pantry. Shortly afterwards, she heard her owner walking first towards Natalya to heal her, and then to Ruth herself. As the Elephuk felt the mild sting of the P-Med injecting its medicine into her system, she suddenly regained the ability to move, her paralysis healed.
Sitting up, she heard Natalya talking to their owner. “She just came out of nowhere- crashed through the window and started attacking us. She didn’t speak, so maybe she’s feral?”
“The city is supposed to be a feral-free zone! How could something like this happen?” Emilia’s voice was panicked. It was obvious that the human woman had no idea how to react to the situation, likely never having faced real danger before in her life.
“She wasn’t feral. I recognized her as the Sideviper in the ivory farmer’s harem.” Ruth’s stunned voice broke through Emilia’s frantic one. There was a pause, as the Elephuk’s owner and two harem sisters stared at the newest addition to their harem. The staring was definitely making Ruth uncomfortable, but she didn’t know what to say. It was obvious that the reason for the attack in their own home was due to the Elephuk’s presence. As such, she wasn’t even sure if it was possible to say something that could make up for such a serious event.
It was Natalya who finally broke the silence. “Maybe we should call the police?” The Gorgon asked, turning to Emilia. The human woman nodded, taking out a cell phone and proceeding to do so.
“Hello? We live in the Kamehameha apartment complex on South Maheha- so you’ve already gotten calls about a battle in the- that was our apartment. Yes, we were the ones attacked. A Sideviper burst through the window and attacked us, and my Peruva managed to put her to sleep after she paralyzed my other two Pokegirls. My Elephuk recognized her as belonging to a wanted human criminal. No, it’s not just ‘the memory of an Elephuk’- she had been held in an ivory farm not too long ago and the human criminal was the one who ran it. So the police are almost here? That’s a relief.”
As her owner was chatting on the phone, Ruth blankly stared into space. There was only one thing on the Elephuk’s mind- that her troubles with the ivory farm were somehow far from over.
Author's Note: When describing the building that Emilia was designing, I was inspired by a real-life piece of innovative architecture called the 'hongkun art auditorium'. Given that I took inspiration from somebody else's artwork, I felt it was necessary to mention it at the end of the chapter. If you want to be impressed, go ahead and google it- the pictures are definitely interesting!