"Beryl, to the left!" Austin commanded.
Obeying immediately, Beryl leapt to her left side, a rush of air blowing her hair back as a massive hoof slammed down in the space she had been just a moment prior. The Ice Maiden released a breath, frosty vapor pouring from her lips, as she thrust her hand at the offending foot and shot of a lance of pure arctic cold, encasing it in a block of ice. It remained contained for all of three seconds before the flexing might of her foe broke free from it, showering shards of ice everywhere.
"Damn it, this thing is too durable!" Jaden yelled from the far side. He was kneeling beside Zyra, the Cardian whimpering in pain on the ground, one hand pressing firmly against the bloody mess that was her left side. A curse escaped his lips as he struggled to pull out the potions they had and apply it to his Pokegirl's wound.
It had been an easy job, or so it had been advertised. A pokegirl had been causing some destruction near the local farms, fully taking down an entire barn by herself, and the farmers in charge didn't have anything battle ready enough to be able to take it down. Considering they hadn't known the exact breed that had done the job, the Quest itself had required a Two Badge Tamer to be able to accept it.
"But I thought we couldn't take those kind of quests because of the whole badge system?" Austin had asked when Jaden brought it to his attention. "And I'm not exactly comfortable with going out and collecting badges to just get into this."
"Normally, yeah, we couldn't take this." Jaden agreed, nodding. "But that's the neat thing, the quest system does take into account that we're all in this line of work to help people out. And that a bunch of trainers can come together for a common goal. We just sign up together and we can take the job without any issue."
Austin had given his friend and training partner a bit of an odd look after that, one eyebrow raised in surprise. "Two tamers with no badges equal the ranking of a Two Badge Tamer? That doesn't exactly math out correctly to me."
The other tamer just laughed, waving his hand in the air. "Don't worry too much about it! The system is a bit more like a guideline then a hard rule. So long as we prove that we're not going to fight something insane with nothing but a Titmouse to our names, we should be just fine."
Yeah, just fine… Austin thought to himself as he stared down the Pokegirl that was now trying to make a pancake out of Beryl.
She was massive, up there with the Scorpiagirl that he had fought with Karrin, and alike that girl in so many different ways. Like the bug type from before, this girl was of two halves like a centaur, a womanly top half and a beastly bottom half. Unlike the unholy marriage of woman and scorpion, though, this new girl blended together woman with a rhinoceros. With powerful muscles that bulged with the most simple of movements, she came equipped not just with a leathery hide that had already proven effective at deterring attacks, but also had a cruel horn that sat atop her head. Zyra had already been introduced to that particular feature.
Even with that difference, the pokegirl known as a Rhynodame matched the Scorpiagirl in pure fury and wanton destruction. Brute strength along with a surprise attack had taken out Pira and Erin both, the Rhynodame using her sheer mass to take out both of their bruisers before they could even realize what had hit them. It hadn't helped matters that the damn thing could make it's own camouflage by literally moving the earth about like it was a stack of cards, turning what had been a hillside before into a bunker to strike from.
"We should fall back!" Austin said, watching as the massive girl took one of Sazuka's sword slices like it was nothing, blocking it with a raised arm and throwing the Ronin back like she was tissue paper.
"She'll just follow us… We've gotta take her down now before she gets into town." Jaden shouted back, helping prop up his Pokegirl. The Cardian still had blood running down her side, dyeing it a sickly red, but the wound wasn't flowing freely like it had before.
Gritting his teeth, the Jumper looked about for anything that could help them. Tossing a Pokeball might delay things, but the feral had only sustained superficial injuries. Lehn was out of the question in helping out in this fight thanks to the Rhynodame's typing flat out negating any attack the Maggieton would be able to throw at her. It was only when the feral Pokegirl had tried another stomping attack, Beryl once again jumping to the side to avoid being crushed by the foot, did the idea struck him. "Beryl! The floor! Ice it!"
The Ice Maiden pooled her energies, the world around her dropping a few degrees as she focused, before lashing out once more with her icy strength. Like with the Scorpiagirl before, the dirt and earth beneath them got transformed into an ice rink in moments. Austin couldn't help but grin, hoping that this is what would be needed to give them the advantage of the fight.
And that's when the unexpected happened. The Rhynodame stopped her movement and her attacks the moment the ground was flash frozen. She looked down at the icy surface, then back up at Austin.
Rearing up onto her hind legs, the Pokegirl slammed her two front hooves down with enough strength to shatter the ice without trouble, shards flying everywhere. The Rhynodame then stared right back to Austin and grinned. And perhaps the most terrifying things about it was that he recognized that grin, having stared it down just before his last brush with death from a completely different Pokegirl.
"Austin, move!" came Suzuka's voice, the Ronin grabbing at him and pulling him away from the ferals gaze. He let out a yelp, but wasn't seriously hurt as he watched his first pokegirl stand steadfast before to rhino girl, her blade held firm. It was with a roar of challenge that Suzuka charged at her foe, moving with a speed that made wind whip at her robes. That speed was the only thing keeping her from being squashed as the Rhynodame tried to trample over her, Suzuka's own attack leaving a thin line of blood across the ferals side.
"Just what is it going to take to bring this thing down?!" Jaden snarled, checking Austin for injuries.
"I'd say pull back again, but you already shot that down." Austin pointed out, biting the inside of his cheek as he thought. "We've gotta target some kind of weakness. But what?"
Jaden shook his head, eyes going over to his Cardian. "That potion I gave Zyra got her back up, but it ain't going to do squat in helping her fight off this thing. If we just had a few more ranged attacks, her grass powers would tear down this overgrown suitcase."
That got Austin's attention, memories flashing in his mind as he gave his sparing partner a look. "Wait, so you're saying this thing is weak to grass attacks?"
"And water, but I don't think Beryl can melt her stuff like that, and neither of our grass girls are in any state to really fight this thing." Jaden said with a frown.
"Tell me… that thorn that Zyra made back on my first day of the Seminars… can anyone use it, or just her?" Austin asked, his idea forming in his head.
That got Jaden to blink in surprise before frowning and looking at Zyra. "What say you, hun?"
Frowning for a moment, the Cardian looked down at the vines covering her arms and gave a small shrug. Grabbing at one of the thorns, she plucked it from the plant and grew it in her hands until it formed a slender sword, one that almost perfectly replicated the look of Suzuka's bokken. "Not sure how long it'll last…" Zyra said, handing the blade to Austin.
"Hopefully, long enough." Austin said, hefting the blade in his hands for a moment before turning back to face the fight of the Rhynodame against Beryl and Suzuka.
The Ice Maiden was once again keeping her distance, unwilling to get any closer than needed to the massive feral. Sweat was sliding down the Pokegirls face as heaving breaths escaped her and, for the first time since he had started training her, it didn't freeze upon her body. Beryl was simply exhausted and overheated from the battle and it only became more obvious as the next lance of ice she shot at the Rhynodame did little more than coat her hide with frost.
Suzuka was faring better, but even then, her attacks had only left little lines across the hide of the beast before her. Parts of her robes had been torn off from the heavy handed attacks of their foe, some of them sliced clean to keep the massive hands from securing a hard grip. Her breath was steadier, but still heavy enough for Austin to recognize the strain his Pokegirl was dealing with in the fight.
Knowing that getting any closer to the fight itself would likely cause him harm, if not by the Rhynodame then by Suzuka after the fact, Austin gripped the thorn sword in his hand. Pulling his arm back as far as he could, he chucked the thing with all his strength. "Suzu! Heads up!" he yelled.
Turning at her tamer's call, Suzuka saw the weapon flying towards her, the blade spinning edge over hilt in an arch. Dismissing her own weapon, the Ronin leaped backwards in a flip, using her now bare hands to shove off the ground to enhance her momentum. Circling about as she landed upon her feet again, Suzuka grabbed at the hilt with a practiced ease before brandishing it at the feral. "Come, beast…" she snarled.
Roaring out her own challenge, the Rhynodame trampled forward, shaking the earth itself with her bulk and fury.
Staring down the massive Pokegirl, Suzuka waited until she was upon her to make her move, dashing to the side of her enemy while the thorn sword in her hands lashed out at the left ankle. Unlike her own bokken, which had only done minimal damage in all of the previous attacks, the thorn blade sliced through skin and bone like butter. The Rhynodame screamed out her pain, the wounded leg buckling underneath her and sending all of her mass to the ground with thud.
"And this is why type advantages are a fucking bitch!" Jaden cheered out, pumping his fist into the air.
With blade in hand and the feral's movement limited, Suzuka danced in and out of the range of her foes, swiping with the thorn sword every chance she got. The difference in damage was immediate and extensive, sinking past stony flesh and cutting at the meat of the girl herself. Every blow stuck left it's mark and all too soon the Rhynodame was a mess of gaping wounds and freely running blood.
"Alright… time to catch this damn thing…" Jaden said, pulling out a pokeball and stepping forward, ready to end their mission.
The Pokegirl noticed the approaching tamer, roaring in rage and fury. Even as damaged as she was from the grass blade and Suzuka's skill, the lumbering girl pushed herself up onto her feet. Blood gushing from her injuries, The Rhynodame ignored the state of her body as she charged right at the green haired tamer, determined to take someone else with her, Suzuka unable to close the distance in time.
With a speed that looked little more than a green blur to him, Zyra was before her tamer, arms outstretched wide and glowing green with power. The very grass at her feet responded to her call, shooting up from the ground like spears, twisting into thick long poles to bar the way. With her momentum being too much to stop so suddenly, the Rhynodame skewered herself on plant made weaponry, each one sinking several inches into her chest.
Coughing up blood, the feral Pokegirl stepped back to pull the spiked plant matter out of her body, trying in vain to keep as much as she could within her. She never saw Suzuka descending from the air behind her, only feeling the thorn blade piercing through her back, half of it poking out between her breasts in front of her. The Rhynodame fell to the ground with a thud, remaining motionless on the ground, glassy eyes staring into nothing.
Austin let out a breath of relief once the feral Pokegirl was down, shaking his head. It was getting a little stressful for these constant life or death situations to come down on them like this. Turning to his sparing partner, he looked over to make sure that the man was alright, suppressing a grin at the sight of him caught in a bear hug with Zyra."You good, Jaden?"
"Might need a change of shorts, but other than that…" He said, gazing at the trembling Cardian in his arms. Letting out a small breath, Jaden rubbed his Pokegirl's back, whispering softly to her. Whatever he said didn't have that much of an effect on her as she just clung to him a bit tighter, head burying against his neck.
Leaving the pair to compose themselves, Austin checked up on his own girls. With their foe dead, Beryl had all but collapsed onto the ground, breasts heaving with her exhaustion. He gave her a small smile and promised her a nice long rest before returning her to her Pokeball, hoping that article he read about Pokeballs offering some form of comfort to tired and defeated Pokegirls would help.
Suzuka, being the least injured, simply stood before her tamer with a neutral look on her face. The fact that she also did that while being near drenched in the blood of the feral unnerved Austin just a bit, if only because she looked like it was little more than inconvenienced than anything else. Lifting the thorn blade, she let out a small sigh as it shriveled up in her grasp like it had touched fire, a frown crossing her lips. "That was a useful weapon." She commented.
"We'll see if we can find a way for you to get something that'll last more than a few minutes, Suzu." Austin told her, shaking his head. He turned to say something more to the rest of the group when the corpse of the Rhynodame glowed in a white light, blinding them all for a moment, before vanishing completely.
"What in the Thousand Faith's was that?" Jaden demanded, eyes going wide at the now empty battlefield before them, the only mark that the feral had ever existed in the first place was the ruined earth and the blood that had pooled around the body.
"That… is what I've been dealing with since I've came to this world. She's the third Pokegirl I've seen vanish like that." Austin told him, frowning. "And honestly? Now I know something is going on here."
"Eh? What makes you say that?" Jaden asked, his own frown now etched deep on his face. Zyra herself looked up, worry coloring her own features.
"I'll explain on the way back to the center. I think we've all had enough for the day and I'd rather not deal with anymore ferals with only one Pokegirl between us being battle ready." Austin said, before looking over to Zyra. "She going to be alright?"
Jaden nodded, giving Zyra a soft kiss and whispering something to her. She nodded, squeezing him tightly once more before being returned to her pokeball in a flash of red light. "She'll be fine. I don't think she even knew she could do the whole spear thing and she's just tapped now."
"Well… I'm not sure if it's still a saying here, but they say that people do crazy things when they're in love." Austin told him.
His training partner just flushed a little, grumbling as he started down the long path that would lead them back to the Pokecenter, Austin and Suzuka following him. "So you going to tell me what the hell is going on with the vanishing Rhynodame?"
"When I first got pulled to this world, I woke up over in the forest." Austin explained, frowning. "One of the first Pokegirls I ever ran into was a Sideviper that really seemed to have it out for me."
Jaden let out a low whistle, shaking his head. "Those snakegals are mean when feral, more so than most others."
"Tell me about it." Austin said, shuddering at the memories. "If it wasn't for Suzuka here, I would have died that day. Instead, it was the Sideviper who got killed. She vanished in the exact same way as the Rhynodame."
A frown of concern crossed Jaden's face. "That's weird… Sidevipers don't do that any more than the gal we just took down."
"There's more as well." Austin said, staring right at Jaden. "You remember the feral attack at the Second Chance? It was done by some kind of insane mutant Grizzlar girl… and she vanished in the exact same way."
Stopping in his tracks, Jaden gave the Jumper a critical look before growling. "Jusenkyo's Curse, you're serious aren't you? Something has to be going on for three completely different pokegirls to be vanishing like that. None of them have that kind of power, especially after death."
Nodding to his partner, Austin licked his lips for a moment before telling him the next part. "There's one other thing I've noticed. There's been a lot of Pokegirls in the are that aren't native here. The Sideviper, the Grizzlar, the Scorpiagirl I took down with Karrin, heck, even Beryl's kind are near impossible to find in this region of the world. And I think Rhynodame's the same way, isn't she?"
"Shit…" Jaden said before nodding. "They ain't the rarest kind of girl to find here, but they're much more common in the region north to Sunshine because they evolve into Ice types. And ya not wrong either. Taken by themselves? Those girls all being here ain't that unlikely if it was just one of them. All together? It's a little too much of a coincidence if you ask me."
"It's not even just that… there was something else with the Rhynodame that bugs me. I don't know how or why, but I think she knew me." Austin said, frowning.
"What do you mean?" Suzuka asked, a small frown twisting her lips.
The Jumper turned to his Pokegirl, mirroring her expression. "That smile she gave me before breaking the ice? I saw the same thing on the Grizzlar… like, it was the exact same sneer and everything… honestly creeped me out."
"That's… quite unusual…" Suzuka pointed out, even as her frown deepened.
"I'm still trying to get a good handle on what is or isn't normal, Suzu." Austin told her with a shrug, a slightly annoyed sigh escaping his lips. "I don't know if that's just the way ferals like to smile when they think they've got the upper hand or not. The fact that she did it in the exact same way put me on edge."
"Well, it ain't going to do us any good to worry about it now, considering she's dead." Jaden said with a grunt. "Either way, maybe we should get Ol' Battleaxe into the loop of what you've told me. It might be nothing, considering all the crazy shit that happens in this world, but I'd rather have someone whose been around the block a time or two know that's something stinks."
Austin nodded, agreeing to that at least. He'd also get Cole in on everything once it was all said and done, trusting the one who had set things straight for him once he first got dropped into the world. It actually surprised him just how much he had come to rely on the other man, having latched on to the one other human around in the sea of insanity that had been everything Pokegirls. But Cole clearly had experience in guiding Jumpers before, and it had helped Austin every step of the way to know that there was someone behind his back that wasn't also wanting to jump his bones.
A sharp cry broke the silence that had fallen over the three, Suzuka instantly gripping her weapon despite her exhaustion while Austin and Jaden both looked ready to dodge an incoming attack. It was only after nothing appeared and another cry, this one clearly sounding like someone in pain, did the three of them drop out of battle mode.
"It's coming from over there." Austin said, pointing down a nearby alley and leading the others down the path. He could hear the small sigh of annoyance that came from Suzuka, likely bothered by the fact that he was leading the charge instead of letting her take point, but he ignored it. Jaden just remained silent, though the Jumper saw his hand reach down for a Pokeball, just in case.
Pushing to the end of the surprisingly clean alley (who knew the Pokegirl world was so sanitized?), the trio found a young woman curled up at the end where the walls of the nearby buildings made a natural barrier, leaving the only path out to push past them. Already Austin could see something was wrong with the girl. While he was used to seeing Pokegirls that were some blend of inhuman parts, often animal, with seductive beauty, this was nothing like that.
The pokegirl in question before him looked almost undone, like someone had given up on making her halfway and left her a cluttered mess. An odd pattern had overtaken her entire body, pushing up and outwards from her skin in a way that looked like she was growing something, though what Austin couldn't tell. Her hands and feet both looked like they had scales about them, her fingers coming into sharp claw shapes that dug deep into the wet ground beneath her. There was a sharp snapping sound, almost like bone breaking, that brought another cry to the girls lips as her entire framed bowed upward, showing what looked like half formed wings pushing out of her back.
"What in the hell…" Austin said, overwhelmed by the sight before them.
"Huh… poor thing…" Jaden muttered, shaking his head. "She's going through threshold. That always sucks."
The Jumper turned over to his partner, raising an eyebrow. "Threshold? I thought that was the term for Pokegirls that didn't grow up in the wild."
There was a wince from Jaden, the man running his fingers through his green hair as he let out an annoyed sound. "You know how you're always complaining about about something new in our world getting dropped on ya? This is another one. Threshold doesn't mean that at all."
Letting a low growl rumble his throat, Austin just shook his head and knelt beside the whimpering girl, sliding his arms underneath her and picking her up bridal style. The fact that weighed so little in his arms worried him. "Well, we'll worry about that later. I'm not going to let her just suffer in a back alley."
Jaden let out a small huff of laughter before nodding at him, a grin crossing his face. "Why am I not surprised about that?"
Ignoring the comment from the peanut gallery, Austin just pushed past his training partner, carrying the suffering Pokegirl as he did. He couldn't help but flush just a little when he noticed the warm, approving smile of Suzuka as he lead the way back to the Pokecenter.
It had taken the trio a bit longer then they had wanted to, more than a few people had stopped the group as they noticed Austin carrying the shaking Pokegirl, but eventually they had gotten back to the Pokecenter without any particular problems. It was only after they had handed over the poor girl to Dalaa did Austin turn over to his training partner with a serious expression on his face. "Alright, now that she's being taken care of… mind explaining to me exactly what Threshold means?"
Jaden winced once more as he leaned against the wall of the center, glad for a moment that outside of himself and Austin, there was no one there. "Well, you know ferals enough. Wild Pokegirls who don't get the sex they need to stay sane. Then there's domesticated girls. Those are Pokegirls that were born and raised in society. More intelligent than the ferals, though usually aren't as in touch of their instincts. While it won't always be the case, you'll usually find Feral girls being a bit stronger in a fight while Domestics are usually a bit smarter."
"You're stalling on what Threshold actually means." Austin pointed out.
"Mostly because I know how you'll react when you find out what it actually means." Jaden told him. He let out an annoyed grunt as he ran his hand through his hair, avoiding looking at Austin before speaking again. "Threshold… is when a human girl turns into a Pokegirl."
Austin stared at his sparing partner for a moment, searching to see if he was joking at all. "So… you're telling me that there are Pokegirls that were once human?'
"Yeah. Not sure about the exact number, but there are some of them that just become Pokegirls once they hit a certain age. Some people says it's the amount of blood that's in them, others say it's certain interactions with the world or other Pokegirls." Jaden shrugged, shaking his head. "Point is, there are Pokegirls out there that knew what it was like to be human at first. And that girl we just brought in? She's in the middle of it."
"And I take it once it starts…" Austin trailed off.
"There ain't shit you can do." Jaden said. "Once you're done transforming, you're a Pokegirl."
Austin lay his head against the wall with a heavy sigh, rubbing at his face. It didn't need to be explained to him: Seeing as there was no special treatment for any Pokegirls he had seen at this point, he could only assume that they were all treated the same… even the ones that were humans to begin with. He turned his head to Suzuka, frowning. "And what about you? Were you human at one point?"
She shook her head, giving her tamer a look. "No, I wasn't. I did have parents, though, that put up with me until I became of taming age. Even if I was, I'd wouldn't want you to be treating me any different."
That surprised the AUJ, making him tilt his head in confusion. "Why's that?"
"I wouldn't want to be reminded of my lost humanity." Suzuka said, shrugging her shoulders. "And like Jaden said, there isn't anything you can do once you start to turn. Almost all women these days know that there's a chance that they might become Pokegirls at a certain age and are prepared for it. A vast majority of them tend to find childhood friends or people they know who'd take care of them. So long as someone was around to keep me tame, I'd be ok."
"Even so… I still don't like it…"
"Yeah, kinda figure you wouldn't." Jaden said, biting back a laugh. "Thresholds get a bad hand. There's no way around that. But unless you're in one of the really crappy leagues, they're generally treated better than a feral that was causing destruction a few minutes ago and, if they've got someone nearby, they almost never have to worry about going feral."
Sighing again, Austin shook his head. His eyes shifted over to the closed doors where the girl going through threshold had been taken. "So, what's going to happen in her case?"
Jaden shrugged, looking at the same doors. "Well, if I had to guess? She's a case where she wanted to run away. Even here in Sunshine, not all the families are the best kind of people. If I were to make a bet? Her family isn't going to look too kindly on her Thresholding. Probably rather just run and go feral then face her family just deciding to sell her off."
Like what happened to Dalaa… Austin thought. Running away did seem like it would be a better option, if your old life was as good as gone anyway. Still, the idea of just losing your family like that, through no choice of your own… it was something that he was only coming to terms with himself. If the girls family had any love for her, she shouldn't just leave.
"I've seen that look, Austin." Suzuka said, moving a bit closer to her tamer. "What exactly are you thinking about?"
"I'm wanting to talk to her." He said after a moment of silence. "Even if her family is as bad as Jaden said they can be, she can still talk to them. I don't want her to just cut off what ties she's got just because she's turning into a Pokegirl."
"It's possible that she just didn't get home before her Threshold kicked in, or she didn't want to bother them about the whole thing." Jaden pointed out. "Some just don't want their families to deal with them transforming, since some of them are more painful than others."
"And that's why I'm wanting to make sure. I'd rather not her lose out on never being able to be with her family again… not while she's still got the chance." Austin said.
Suzuka brushed her hand against her tamer's, squeezing it softly before pulling him into a soft kiss. She held it for a minute before pulling away and smiling. "Go to her, my tamer. Even if this is only for your own closure… you should talk to her."
A small flush crossed his face, gazing into the dark eyes of his Pokegirl… his first Pokegirl. He chuckled as he gave her a small squeeze around the middle. "When did you get to know me so well?"
The Ronin didn't answer at first, instead just giving him another quick kiss on the lips before pushing him away. "Go, Austin. We'll be waiting."
He nodded, a soft smile on his face. If nothing else, Austin knew that Suzuka and the rest of the girls would always have his back.
It had been a good hour later before Dalaa would let Austin see the thresholding girl. Apparently, the poor thing had been struggling against the change, which had just brought more pain as her very body contorted and twisted to fit it's new shape. Once the Nurse had gone through and giving the girl something to dull the pain and told her to stop fighting it, the transformation finished remarkably fast.
Now that she wasn't some half mutated mess from her threshold, the girl that lay in the bed before him was clearly avian in features. Fully formed red feathers now covered almost all of her visible body, leaving no skin at all to be seen. It made for an interesting combination considering the fact that she still had long blond hair that trailed down her to her shoulders and piercing blue eyes that stared up at him. From what Dalaa had told him, she had become a Phoenix, embodying the mythical bird of the same name by possessing both flight and fire capabilities.
"You're the one who brought me in." She said, giving him a look as she shifted up in her bed. It was only then that Austin noticed the wide wings that the girl had upon her back, each one of them big enough so that they hung off either side of the bed.
"I did." Austin told her with a shrug. "Couldn't just leave you there to suffer."
The girl tilted her head at him. It took all of Austin's willpower not to compare her mentally to a bird with that motion, despite what she had become. She remained silent, eyes searching before a frown crossed her lips. "You're different." she said after a moment.
"Yeah. I like to think I'm a half decent guy." He said, hoping the joke would offer some sort of comfort to her.
"Most would have Pokeballed me right there… so, yes… I'd agree…" She said before shifting once more, pulling the hospital bed's covers off her and standing. Another frown crossed her face as she tested her feet against the tiled floor, finding bird like talons instead of the flat foot of a human. She looked down at her hands, finding they had taken a similar talon like structure, and shook her head. "This is going to take some getting used to."
"Could have been worse." Austin said. "One of the first Pokegirls I ever saw was a snake girl. If having talons is weird, I could only imagine what it would be like to loose your legs in exchange for a tail."
"Small mercies then…" She said, hands dropping down to her sides before she turned her piercing blue eyes back to him again. "Any reason you're still here? I get it that you're the kind of guy who would want to make sure I'm all right, but it's not like I'm your friend or anything. You don't have to stick around."
Austin frowned, straightening up as he did. Already he started to see that this girl seemed to be more of a loner by nature, if she wasn't even willing to speak to the person who helped her out. "I was wanting to talk…" He said after a moment.
"Why?" She asked, turning to him completely now. "We don't even know each other's names."
Grinning, he winked at her. "I'm Austin, then. And you?"
That got him a raised eyebrow from the girl before she shook her head, a small sigh escaping her lips before answering. "I'm Kail. So what, are you wanting to be my tamer now or something?"
That wiped the grin off Austin's face. He shook his head. "Not at all. I wouldn't force that on you, not after what you've been through."
Kail's head gave a small jerk in surprise, eyes going wide. She took a step closer, her head tilting the other way now… "Ok, now I completely believe you're not like the others… so if you're not wanting me as one of your Pokegirls, and you can clearly see I'm alright… why are you here?"
"I was wanting to know why exactly we found you in the alleyway like we did." He said. "From what I was told, some Thresholds tend to run away when they start going through the process. I wanted to see if that's the case for you… and maybe convince you to go home."
A sharp hiss escaping the Pokegirl's mouth as her wings flung out behind her, stretching to their full span while her talon-like hands bared at him, sharp points ready to strike. A sudden wave of heat washed out from the enraged Phoenix, small embers flicking up from her feathers. "My mother set you up to this, didn't she?!"
"No no!" Austin said quickly, putting his hands up before him. "I don't know your family. Hell, I just found out your name, remember?"
It took almost a full minute after that for Kail to relax, her wings drifting back down and the girl straightening up. Distaste still covered her face even as she breathed out. "I… apologize… Family is a bit of a tough subject for me. But whoever told you about thresholds being runaways wasn't wrong… I did just that when my own started."
"Do you want to talk about it? I don't exactly want to pry into your private history or anything, but speaking from experience, it can help to get it off your chest."
A small grunt escaped the girl before she found his eyes again, flickers of distrust still coloring her gaze. "And why do you care?" She asked again.
Seeing that she wasn't going to listen to him otherwise, Austin sighed as he sat down on the nearby chair of the hospital room, leaning back against the wall. "As I said… I try to be a nice…" He paused, letting the lame excuse die on his lips before shaking his head. Better to get to the real reason he wanted to help her. "I'm a Jumper, Kail. Got yanked from my world and dropped down here."
He paused for a moment more, closing his eyes. Memories of his home, his life, his mom… they all swirled in his head before he looked up at her again, a sad smile crossing his face. "If there's anyone who knows what it's like to lose the life you had and be unable to get it back, it's me. Even if you're a Pokegirl, if there's even a small chance that I can get you back to your family? I'm wanting to take it."
Kail stared, her mouth open in surprise. A small sound, possibly laughter or possibly a scoff of annoyance, escaped her before she turned around, walking over to the small window that had let in the light of the afternoon sun. She trailed one finger against the glass, taking another look at her hand, before speaking again. "How familiar are you with Celestial type Pokegirls?"
"First time hearing about them." Austin admitted, moving to the bed and sitting on it. "I honestly only found out that Ghost type girls were a thing a few weeks ago."
The Pokegirl nodded for a moment. She tapped the window once more before drawing her hand away. "Celestial and Infernal Pokegirls are… unusual Pokegirls to say the least. They're not true types, not having elemental weaknesses and strengths like the others. If anything, the terms are more there for features than anything else."
"Origins, mostly," Kail explained. "Nearly every Celestial and Infernal Pokegirl known is based off some form of ancient being from various myths, with one side being from the heavens above and the other from the depths below. The two have always been rivals, opposite halves that never could see eye to eye."
Austin snorted slightly, shaking his head. "So basically, the very forces of good and evil embodied in Pokegirls then."
Kail shook her head, frowning. "Not quite. No one Pokegirl breed is truly evil. More chaotic leaning, sure, but never evil. What we are doesn't determine who we are. Just because Infernals are alike to the monsters, demons, and beasts of myth doesn't mean they are evil. Anymore than the angels, holy beings, and gods that the Celestials are akin to are good."
He nodded, understanding. It was just like with Lehn. Just because the Maggieton had her personalities, had the mental problems that were forced upon her mind and body thanks to simply what she was, that didn't take away from the kind caring girl that he had gotten to know… or the distinct aspects of her split personalities. "Alright then," he said. "So what does that have to do with you and your family?"
A small laugh escaped Kail, her head shaking before turning to look at him. "Everything… My mother… my entire family… they are Celestial Pokegirls. And they want it that way."
That got Austin's attention. He stood up, giving her a hard look. "Wait, are you saying that they can turn others into Celestials?"
Kail nodded. "It's a process, and it's something that isn't just done over night, but I've seen Mother go out of her way to turn another member of the family into an Angel Pokegirl. It wasn't even considered that they could stay what they were, it was expected that she would become what the family wanted."
At this point, Kail had bristled and was starting to pace back and forth before the window, her large wings twitching and arching with her movements. More than once, her talons clawed at the ground, leaving noticeable groves in the tile as she vented out her frustration. "They just don't care! Even before I started to go through threshold, they would say things like 'Oh, I'll need to get everything ready should you threshold, dear! It'll be perfect to add another Angel to the family!' Don't I get a choice in the matter?!"
It was only after Austin had reached out, placing his hand gently onto the Pokegirl's shoulder, did she stop her pacing. He could feel just how tense she was, like a spring wound too tight, and there was a flinch of her body that told him that she had only just barely restrained herself from striking out at him. He squeezed softly, looking at those sharp eyes. "Did you ever tell them?"
"No…" Kail admitted, shaking her head. "Not that I think it would have done any good. Mom's all into the whole 'We must guide and nurture' aspect of Celestials. She thinks that just by being one that we're doing the world a favor by 'making it a better place'." She snarled, shaking her head. "It's just a whole bunch of preachy bullshit."
"But you still don't know, do you?" Austin asked, his tone soft. "You don't know if your Mom would just force that on you, or what she thinks of you if you don't want to be a Celestial… right?"
That got him a stretch of silence from the Pokegirl before she shook her head. "No… I don't… Not really."
He gave her a soft smile. "Then it's worth it to at least talk to her, isn't it? It might sound a bit selfish coming from me, but I know I'd do anything to be able to talk to my Mom one more time. I don't want you to lose out on your family if it doesn't have to be that way."
Kail was silent a moment more, her eyes closing before she nodded. "A-alright… Alright. I'll talk to her."
"We'll talk to her." Austin said with a smile. "If she's as bad as you think, I'll be there to stop anything. Does that sound alright?"
The Pokegirl chuckled, shaking her head as the first smile since she had woke up crossed her face. "You really aren't like the rest. Together then."
As it turned out, Kail's home and family resided in the most crowded part of Rivers Pass, in particular having a rather large stretch of land entirely dedicated to their homes and anything that would help promote the Celestial pokegirls. This included a church that rested on the edges of the property, the only real part of the land that the general public had access too, called the 'Church of a Thousand Faiths'. Apparently an apocalypse had the power to create an amalgam of nearly every single religion that he was familiar with and several dozen he wasn't. It made the Jumper wonder idly if it was handled any better than the religions he had seen back home.
The actual land that lead up to the mansion that was the Goldenwing Compound was large enough that Austin was almost certain that an entire park could have been fit on it and still have room left over for more housing. A pair of Pokegirls stood at the ready when they approached the entrance to the Mansion proper, neither one being breeds that he could tell what they were off hand, other then being humanoid. "What business do you have with the Goldenwing?" one of them asked, defined by her muscles, sharp features, and aggressive stance.
"I'm here to speak with my mother, Madeline," Kail said, taking a step forward. "Please… if you would get her. Otherwise, I'll simply take my leave and you will never see me again."
"M-mistress Kail?" Madeline asked after a double take, eyes roaming up and down the Phoenix before nodding. "I'll retrieve Mistress Erela for you. Wait here."
Leaving them with the other guard, Austin couldn't help but look over at Kail, raising an eyebrow. "Mistress Kail?"
The Phoenix winced at the title, a small snarl crossing her lips. "My… father, if you could calm him that, is a retired Harem Master. My mother was among his main team of Pokegirls and the one that he relied on the most in battle. It's why the estate here is known as the Goldenwing, named after the very wings she flew upon."
"And I take it she took to most maters of life like she did her battles, huh?" Austin asked, frowning. It was something he'd seen before back in his own reality, where the dominating parent would run the child's life for them. While he hoped that Kail's mother wouldn't be anything like that, he wasn't confident between what he had learned from the Pokegirl so far.
It was after another few minutes that Madeline reappeared, another Pokegirl behind her. Amazonian in nature, the new woman stood a good head and shoulders above Austin, which surprised him as he wasn't exactly a short man. Long silver hair trialed down her figure to her waist, only cut short at the bangs and held in place by a small golden headband that circled her head. Her features were sharp, with everything from her eyebrows to her nose to her chin being edged, making the fact that her daughter became a Pheonix make a bit more sense. It was also impossible to miss the four, giant, golden wings that had become Erela's name sake, each one held perfectly firm, giving the woman the appearance of some grand angel.
Then his eyes came upon her weapon and he suddenly wondered if his offer to help Kail had been a good idea, as a massive double bladed axe rested on her shoulder, matching the outfit she wore of white and gold. Each step the Angelic woman took showed off not only her power, but how easily she moved with it at her command. It was made even more obvious as she swung her axe, single handed, and put the head of the weapon onto the ground, her hands resting on the hilt.
"There you are, Kailyn. I was beginning to worry." Erela said, the slightest of smiles crossing her face as she gazed at her daughter. "I had rushed home the moment I heard you were going through threshold. Some of the others were beside themselves when I arrived and you couldn't be found anywhere." She paused, a frown crossing her face. "I don't understand, though... why didn't you just stay here while we got the ritual ready?"
"And that's exactly what you'd want, isn't it, Erela?" Kail spat, feathers bristling in her fury and her talons digging into the ground. She closed her eyes after a moment, taking a deep breath, flames licking out of her mouth as she exhaled telling just how angry she was. "Are you just that eager to have another loyal Celestial Solider to push what ever motive you've got forward? Or do you really have to evolve me into something that messes with my head enough that you'd be happy with me 'following my instincts' and doing what you want?"
Erela let out a long sigh, her shoulders slumping a little as she did. "Kailyn… that's not it at all, I.."
"Ok, first off? It's KAIL. I've not gone by full name in years and you, more than anyone, should know that," Kail said, giving a glare at the taller woman. "And second off? Like hell that's 'not it'. Or have you not gone and turned every other member of our family into an Angel after they thresholded into something else? It's expected of us. We already don't have much of a choice in being Pokegirls, so why take that choice away from us too?"
There was a small wince from Erela at that, blue eyes closing. "If I had the choice, you would have never gone through threshold in the first place, Kail… I wouldn't ever wish that on you. The blessing we give? It's there to give a better option, a way to escape the shackles of the bodies you've been forced into… allow you some semblance of retaining your humanity."
A scoff escaped the Phoenix, shaking her head. "Oh yes, I'm so certain that's been your intention all along. The magnanimous Erela Goldwing, gifting the world a pair of wings to glide upon."
"Kail…" Austin said, his voice soft.
Growling in anger, Kail sent a sharp look Austin's way, her features twisted in an intense snarl. It was only after she saw his frown and remembered his situation that she let her wings drop, drawing them against her back. She shook her head for a moment before turning her gaze to her mother once more. "Erela…" she started before giving her head another shake and taking a small breath before beginning again. "Mother… have you ever cared… ever even thought about what I wanted?"
Erela's eyes widened at that, her mouth open in shock. She recovered after a moment, her voice shaking only lightly as she responded. "M-my dear Kailyn… why would you ever think otherwise?"
Laughter, short, bitter, and foul escaped Kail at that, face turned away from her mother. "How about the years at the Church, locked into a single faith I've never believed in or care for? Rules so restrictive that even a single one being broken felt it was treated with the severity of a broken arm? Being constantly reminded that one day I was to be an Archangel like you? It sure never felt like I ever had a choice in the matter."
A dull thud brought Kail's gaze up, and the Phoenix's jaw dropped in surprise. On the ground, laying forgotten, was her mothers golden axe. Instead, both of Erela's hands were brushing at her face to clean away the tears that now streaked down her cheeks. The majestic wings, the very symbol of her mother's power and status, drooped to the ground with none of the military rigidity that had been there before. "Kail… my daughter… Have I really been such a horrible mother to you?"
Closing her eyes, Kail took another breath before shaking her head. "Horrible? I wouldn't call you horrible, Mother. Controlling… suffocating… maybe even patronizing."
"Not exactly the most feel good of words to call your mother, Kail." Austin pointed out. He rose up his hands in defeat at the look the Pheonix gave him. Still, his point had been made as the Pokegirl before him sighed again.
"The point is, Mom… I know you meant well, cared about what happened to me." Kail said, shaking her head before looking at her mother with harsh eyes. "But for years now, it's never felt like I had a choice in anything, not allowed to make my own decisions. It was either to be your perfect little Angel in training or not at all. And now, I'm not an Angel… I'm not what you wanted me to be,"
There was a pause, Kail straightening her shoulders, her wings flaring out behind her. She looked at her mother, expression firm and resolve in her voice. "And I never will be."
Silence reigned after that, neither of the Pokegirls moving. Austin let his eyes shift over to Pokegirl guard from before, Madeline, to see if there was anything she'd be doing to help calm the situation only to find that she was looking just as worried as he was. This wasn't at all how Austin thought things were going to play out, underestimating the rift that had been between mother and daughter.
Eventually, Erela dipped her head into a nod, her wings still hung low. She no longer held herself with the same rigidity as she had before and her eyes had a sheen to them once she rose her head again. "If that's what you wish, Kail… I will not stop you."
A heartbeat of silence followed her words, followed by the unmasked shock of "What?" coming from Kail herself. Austin didn't even need to look at the Pokegirls face to know that her jaw had likely dropped down to the floor once more.
"I said I'll not stop you." Erela repeated once more, taking a step forward to close the distance between the two Pokegirls. She rose her hand, hesitating for a moment, before placing it on Kail's cheek. The Phoenix didn't react, keeping still her defiant pose from before, but not striking back at her mother.
"Know, my daughter… that all I have ever done, I did so with your safety and growth in mind. Never once has any action I've taken meant to stifle you…" She closed her eyes, a visible wince that coloring the older womans face. "Though it's clear how much I've failed in that regard."
"Mom…" Kail started, only to have Erela shake her head, holding up a hand to forestall any response.
"The fact that you stand before me like this only proves that point. Even if I've done a poor job of showing it, I want it clear that I do love you, Kail." Fresh tears made their way down, the older woman pulling away from her daughter, clutching her hand tight to her breast. "Even if the best way to prove that fact is to let you go."
Kail's wings arched back in her surprise, an audible gasp escaping her lips as Erela turned her back to her daughter, returning to her axe and grasping the weapon by it's hilt. The massive axe seemed to weigh so much heavier in the Archangel's hands as she turned back to her daughter, her face a mask of professionalism, steady and sure despite the tears. "Let it be known, by the witness of others, that my daughter has forgone the blessing. By her choice and hers alone, she'll walk her own path, and none of the Goldenwings, not even I, shall block her way."
A small, but sad, smile broke past Erela's mask as she gazed down at her daughter. "Though you will never be an Angel, know that the wishes of the Goldenwings and my own will always be with you. Fly well, Kailyn Scarletwing. And be safe."
It was with that the woman turned her back to them once more, her wings held back into their rigid posture, before leaving Austin and Kail alone in their silence.
"Dame Erela…" Madeline spoke, the muscular Pokegirl having waited until they were safely behind the threshold of the compound and out of sight of Kailyn to do so. "Do you think that was the right decision, to let her go like that?"
The Archangel hummed, letting a shuddering breath escape her. She wiped once more at her eyes, ensuring that every last remnant of her tears was gone before answering. "Tell me, Madeline… if I were to give you the blessing to become an Angel right now… would you take it?"
Madeline blinked, taken aback by the question. She stammered before finding her voice, clearing her throat. "I… would need to think about it, Dame. It is a great honor, but one that shouldn't be made lightly."
Erela nodded, feeling her lips spread into a smile one more. "And do you think my daughters and family shouldn't be allowed to also decide whether or not to take the blessing?"
"Yes, Dame… but they're also your blood… I also thought it expected upon them to become like yourself."
"And that's where I've gone wrong, Madeline." Erela said, placing her axe into it's proper spot on the wall, resting along side the weapons of her sisters. "Even in my desire to promote a better world, I've never willingly forced anyone into a position into the Goldenwings. For my actions to have convinced others, especially my own daughter, otherwise speaks poorly of me."
The muscular Pokegirl frowned, tilting her head at the Archangel, as if seeing her in a new light for the first time. "It can be hard to go against your own instincts…" Madeline started, only to stop as Erela turned to her, eyes stern as she looked down at the smaller girl.
"A Pokegirl is her own individual, Madeline. And unlike other kinds of Pokegirls, we Celestials aren't beholden to any quirks in our nature like others are." Erela stated, her tone firm. "To Guide and Nurture… that is the way I wish to act, wish for all those who take the name Goldenwing to act. But I will never force my ways… my views onto another. It goes against who I am and what I wish to stand for."
Madeline nodded, the muscular Pokegirl kneeling down to the ground, her head dipping down. "I apologize Dame. As a Pokegirl who deals with my own nature at times, I forget others aren't as restrained as much."
Erela chuckled, reaching down to touch Madeline's chin, bringing the girl back to her feet. "Never apologize, my dear. I couldn't have asked for a better Amachoke to help protect and guard this place. And your own strength of will, your individuality… that is what I prize… and it was my daughter has shown us all today."
The Archangel smiled as Madeline nodded in understanding, feeling a bit lighter now than she had through the entire event between herself and Kailyn. She turned once more before heading into the heart of the compound. "Come, we've got much to tell the others… and I'd like to have you by my side when I inform them of my daughter's decision."
"Well… that didn't go anything like how I thought it would go…" Austin said, breaking the silence that had stood between him and Kail since they had left the compound of the Goldenwings. While the AUJ held absolutely no illusions that he would be able to get Kail and her mother to magically be a family again, he certainly wasn't expecting Erala to completely back off the Pheonix.
"Maybe… but you were right about one thing…" Kail said, eyes drifting back over to the entrance to the compound. "It was right to talk to Mom again… at least to settle things between us."
Austin felt a smile tug at his lips, happy that had least gone well. "Think there's any chance of patching things up further?"
"I… don't know…" Kail told him, shrugging her shoulders as she did. "I don't know of any of the rest of the family whose turned down the blessing like I have. Nor has Mom ever dubbed another with their own name." She paused once more, looking at her wings and fluttering them softly, a smile crossing her face. "Scarletwing, huh? A little on the nose, but that's Mom for you."
"So, what are you plans now?"
Kail blinked, turning to him and raising an eyebrow. "Wait, you mean you're not going to offer me a position on your harem?"
Feeling a small flush covering his face, Austin quickly shook his head. "I told you before, I wasn't doing this for any reward or anything. I just didn't want you and your mother to cut each other out of your lives for no reason."
Laughter escaped the Pokegirl, stepping closer to him, while a small grin crossed her lips. "And if I asked to join?"
"Uhh…." Austin responded, unsure of how to answer.
"I'd hope you say yes." Kail said, stepping a little closer, her sharp eyes focusing directly onto his. Her large wings spread out to move behind his back, trapping him close. "You've gone out of your way not only to help me when my threshold became too painful to bare, encouraged me to talk to Mom about everything, and never ever once suggested that I'd become your Pokegirl, even when there was a clear opportunity to do so. It doesn't take a Celestial to see you're a good guy, Austin… and I would love to see just how good a guy you can be if you'll let me."
"Are you sure?" He asked. "There's a whole world out there and from what you said to your Mom, I can only guess you'd like to actually be out there exploring it. I've no plans on leaving Rivers Pass, not right now at least… I wouldn't want to stop you from going out and traveling if that's what you want to do."
"And that's all the more reason I'm wanting to join you…" Kail admitted as she brought him closer, pressing against his body as her wings encompassed him entirely. A smile crossed her face when Austin flushed even deeper and shifted at the feeling of her breasts against his chest. "Your first thought this entire time have been about me. Not yourself. To have someone like you like a tamer? I couldn't imagine a better choice."
Austin felt the blush cover his face even as he smiled. "Well… I'll definitely make a plan to have us travel in the future then… I'd want you to see the world… and I'm sure the rest of the girls would like to see beyond Rivers Pass anyway."
With a small chuckle escaping her, Kail gave him a small kiss on the lips. "Thinking about me before yourself again. I could definitely get used to this."
"Heh… alright. Let's get you back to the center. We can introduce you to the others." Austin said, smiling. His hand slid down, grasping onto Kail's with a smile before guiding her down the road, back to the rest of his own family.