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In the beginning, there was nothing. Nothing but formless energy.
But nothing does not remain that way for long. The formless took shape, infinite spots of light coalescing from the void as all existence began. Light gave birth, and the universes took shape.
One, a universe full of life. Beings tread the countless worlds, formed from the power that hung heavy in the fabric of their reality. They were pure. As close to the godlike beings that had created their universe as they could be. And the one above all, in Her wisdom, knew what must be done. She rent her creation. Severed the link between the pure beings and their creators. For only through strife, through chaos, could her creation evolve, and to grow. But she was not cruel. Even as she marred the beings with one hand with the other she reached to one planet within the cosmos. Upon it she placed a true being. One that embodied both her own perfection, and the essence of her creation. From it came beings, those in the image of the first ones, broken but remembering some of what they had lost, and a new being, somewhat in the image of the first, but plain, without the mastery of creation the first enjoyed but also without the weakness their fall had created within them. Thus formed the first of the human species, those who would be Arceus’ hands within her creation, whose existence would call to the first ones, the broken, as a yearning for what they had once held within themselves. These were Arceus’ most favorite creation, for though they were weak, they had one thing she valued above all. They were unpredictable – which made them entertaining.
So was creation set for its first true age.
The Untamed Hisui
Rain fell on a battered land.
In the distance, high above jagged mountains an unnatural storm raged. Bolts of light speared from the slowly revolving center and raced through the thundering sky. Below, a savage world raged. It was hunt or be hunted. Kill or be killed. Creatures of all size and shape fought for their lives across every inch of this world, fought to survive. The strongest would carve territories for themselves, controlling packs of their kind in this never-ending battle where the only prize was to remain alive.
These creatures reveled in it. Defying death, bringing it upon others. But while they dominated this planet, there was another species that shadowed them. Not as strong, not as deadly, but they were sly. Cunning. What they lacked in strength they made up for in tactics and tools, and some of the creatures even banded together with them, those too weak to survive on their own. Though it seemed impossible, the two species existed in balance.
With the right push, that balance could easily be upset.
Lightning crackled, causing a few of the group to glance to the sky nervously, raindrops pattering as they ran down the leaves around them. The ever-raging storm was more active today. It was an ill omen.
All was going smoothly until the figure leading the group hissed and threw out an arm while simultaneously dropping to his knees. “Káto!” He glanced back, urgently motioning to those following. “<Down, I said!>” He peered ahead, fear in his eyes. “Pagída.”
Instantly the others followed. They crouched, hardly daring to breathe, as a creature broke from the trees up ahead. It was one only the leader had ever seen before. A seemingly dopey thing, with pale yellow skin covering its front and ashen gray across its back, walking in a hunched shuffle as it entered the open field. It resembled them, this creature, but it was no human.
The leader watched it. The unimposing appearance did not fool him. He had seen this breed of the creatures before, in the lands closer to the mountains, where only the strongest of them roamed. For it to be here in the fieldlands did not bode well.
He waited for the creature to have fully committed to crossing the field before straightening with an urgent command. “<Come!>”
The creature paid the fleeing humans no mind. Its eyes were fixed on a nearby patch of grass. It waited. Stared. With a blink, it began to turn towards the nearby river.
A screech rent the air as a smaller creature burst from the grassy patch. This one was sleek, wet from the rain with orange fur covering most of its body except for its chest and stomach, which was a light cream color instead. Twin tails spun behind it, almost seeming to propel the creature forwards.
It did not survive its ambush.
The dopey creature whirled, drawing itself up fully in the process and fixing the smaller creature in a suddenly pitiless stare. Purple flames erupted across its back, rain flashing to steam, dozens of orbs flaring to life around its neck as well as the creature opened its mouth and engulfed the unlucky ambusher in ethereal fire.
The smaller creature’s screech immediately turned to pain and fear and it swerved, desperately throwing itself into the river to extinguish itself. Its cries only grew more panicked when the purple flames refused to go out, slowly consuming the screaming figure until with a last keening wail it went limp, its charred and blackened body still smoldering as it began to drift downstream.
One of the humans who had been watching the exchange looked away when the gray and yellow creature shuffled to the water’s edge to drink. As she hurried to catch up to the rest of the hunting party her eyes were drawn upwards. To the sky, as a strange light flashed overhead, farther from the mountain’s storm than she had ever seen it lance before. The air itself seemed to crack apart along the path of the bolt, and then… she saw something falling.
“<In the sky! Above us!>” The others turned to look up at where the woman was pointing. “<Something is falling!>”
“Pagída thilykó!” The leader urgently motioned for the group to flee. “<Run, scatter!>”
“<No no!>” The woman was staring at the falling figure with wide eyes. “<A woman!>”
“Pagída!” The leader snarled when the woman bolted towards the falling figure and whirled to the others. “<Stay here. Hide!>” With another spitting hiss he followed the woman into the open.
As the figure fell it began to move. Twitching at first, but before it impacted its movements had grown violent. Swinging out wildly. Just as it hit the ground its eyes snapped open, jaw clenching as an enraged howl echoed through the air.
The figure’s scream added to the sound its body made when it impacted, rising well above the constant noise of the storm. At the riverside the creature’s head rose. As did many others nearby.
“<Be quiet!>” The human woman had almost reached the screaming figure by now but stumbled, finding some uneven ground and fouling her charge. As she recovered she felt hands grab her, pull her back, and she threw her arm out desperately towards this figure, this strangely radiant woman, as the man wrestled her away. “<No! Rei! Let go of me! Whoever you are- BE QUIET!>”
There was silence.
The man finally succeeded in pulling the woman behind him and leveled his spear. “<Look at her, Akari. Look at her and tell me she is one of us.>”
The strange figure’s eyes had snapped open, her mouth still mid-scream but no longer making a sound. At first Akari still wanted to protest. Nothing about this figure felt wrong to her – this was a human woman like herself. Yes, there was something strange to her, and Akari felt pangs of jealousy looking upon the unnaturally beautiful figure, but she was still human. Everything, from her proportions – hard to discern on the ground but perfectly normal, albeit quite a bit taller than she was, as well as a pair of perfectly firm, perky breasts that were large enough to be prominent on the figure’s chest, but small enough that her chest moved with her breath as if they were not there. There was nothing different about how her body moved as it flexed, though it glistened, every inch with a purpose, not a hint of excess fat or wasted space. Even the long blonde hair pooling around her head and sparkling in the few sunbeams making it through the storm was perfect, the few strands not resting on the ground sliding across the woman’s pale skin as easily as the water pushing it. But…
Akari found herself staring into the figure’s eyes, now open. And finally, she had a reason to doubt what she saw. Its eyes. Slit in two like only the rarest and most deadly creatures were, and Akari felt a numbness wash over her. She knew the creatures mimicked their form, all of them to some extent appearing like a human woman, like her, but always there was something wrong. Sometimes it was easy – a tail, or wings, or extra limbs. Sometimes it was more subtle, such as strange coloration like the one now by the river, or, like the creature it had burned, sometimes their skin was not skin, but was rather scales, or fur, or something else entirely. Never had she seen one like this. One that was human like her, save its eyes. She had been moments away from her death.
“<The one by the river is looking at us,>” Rei hissed urgently. “<Akari. Run. Now!>”
The creature, because surely she had to be one, abruptly rose to a seated position. As Akari broke, sprinting for the trees, it turned to fix Rei in its stare.
Rei firmed his stance, making sure his spear was ready for any attack this creature made. He would retreat slowly. Draw it away from the others if he had to. Someone had to make it back to the village. To warn them of what they had seen this day.
He blinked. The creature had looked away from him. Her eyes had drifted to the sky, lips moving without any sound as the light glow coming from its body faded away. It almost looked… confused.
He quickly chased those thoughts from his mind as the creature turned to look at the one by the river. It almost seemed to nod after a moment. He could not afford to let it lower his guard. If he so much as wavered an instant…
He had no instant to waver. In front of him, the creature’s head snapped back to him faster than he could see. It moved so swiftly he only saw it rising, not how it did so. Then it was in front of him. Inches from his spear, glittering hair streaming behind, eyes, the deadly eyes, staring straight through him.
With a roar Rei brought the weapon up. He’d been ready. Fast as this creature was, its speed was only going to push it further onto his spear.
In the next moment, the creature was gone. Rei heard a scream from behind him.
His thoughts took precious moments to understand. Akari. With a howl he whirled, pulling his arm back in a desperate attempt to throw his weapon, to slow the thing that he had failed to stop-
There it was, surging forwards. Akari, falling, fear in her eyes. But the radiant creature had not reached her. No… There was another shape. Another one! With limbs too long, a bulbous head, glittering fangs, and blades, claws, each at least a foot in length, that flashed as they came down on the screaming human.
Rei made his decision in a flash. Adjusted his aim, and threw.
The radiant figure barely noticed the spear that shot past her. Only enough to mark where it managed to connect with its target. The creature attacking Akari screamed in displeasure when the spear tore through its shoulder, the fur-covered arm that had been coming down to cut the human woman in half twisting away from its intended target. It did not get a second chance before the charging figure had arrived.
The figure did not hesitate, slamming into the creature and throwing it at least a dozen feet from its intended prey. The furry one spat fury, tearing the spear from its flesh and chucking it at her opponent, who merely batted it away before closing the distance once more. This time, it did not throw the ambusher. It had begun to shine with light once more, but it was not the gentle radiance it had held as it fell. It was cold. Hard. Tinged with blue.
Rei watched the furry creature’s uninjured arm slash out, the razor sharp claws whistling for the radiant figure’s stomach. It didn’t even flinch. The claws cut across the bare skin without resistance and the furry creature’s voice rose in triumph.
Which was cut off when the radiant figure responded. The base of its hand slammed into the furry one’s jaw, instantly silencing her, and sending a loud crack through the air as more than one tooth shattered from the impact. A second strike, a fully formed punch, sunk into the furry creature’s stomach and it crumpled, catching itself before it could hit the ground and surging back up with a strangled roar.
The figure dodged the strike and spun, twisting around as the creature fell off balance. Suddenly the light covering it erupted and tendrils snaked out, ensnaring the creature and binding it without hope of escape. Then the figure did something strange. It stepped closer. Brought its face right up against the creature’s, as it hissed and spat, and peered at it. A second passed, and the figure scowled.
The creature’s angry noises had stopped. The light was fading, releasing its hold on the now limp corpse it had been restraining. After a moment the figure looked back. To Rei, who stood dumbstruck, before its eyes darted to where Akari had fallen and now lay, unmoving.
Rei didn’t react when the figure dove for the human woman. He… Had he heard that correctly? Had he heard it speak? Not in any rasping, fake language as he had heard some of the creatures mimic when they tried to hunt humans, but in his own tongue? Not perfectly, but the words had been unmistakable.
The radiant figure was still glowing and he slowly approached to see what it was doing. It was hunched over Akari, its hands moving along the woman’s side. As he watched Akari’s eyes fluttered and he heard her gasp, her breath ragged.
The figure glanced up when he knelt beside her. After a moment it spoke again. “Good… throw.”
“Not good enough,” Rei responded quietly. He could see where the furry creature’s claws had still managed to find Akari’s skin. Her side was wide open, only the figure’s hands keeping Akari’s organs within her body. The amount of blood soaking the earth… “Not good enough to save her.”
The figure blinked at him. After a few seconds it responded. “She… not… dead.”
“She’s about to be.” Rei turned, unable to bear looking at Akari’s agonized face any longer. “We’re not like you. Or… maybe like them. I don’t know about you anymore.” He looked to the figure. Into her eyes, the only inhuman thing about her. Because he could no longer deny this was a her. Her expression, human. Her concern, human. She had acted to protect Akari, a human. She was more human than some of the ones in the village. He didn’t care what she really was. Not after what she had done. “We have to leave her. More pagída thilykó will come.”
The figure’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Rei was getting to his feet when he heard a soft exclamation.
“Ah!” The figure actually laughed to herself when Rei looked back to her. “Your… word. Words.” It paused. Collected its thoughts, and when it spoke again its speech was greatly improved. “Language, I mean. Your language. I was still trying to figure it out.” She bent lower over Akari. “I still do not know how I understood it so well, or how I have been able to speak it, but I believe I understand it now. I said the wrong thing.” The light from her body strengthened, beginning to pool around her and spreading down to cover the dying woman. “I did not mean she is not dead yet. I meant to say she will not die.”
Rei could only stare in awe as the light moved from the figure, to Akari, cloaking her in a blue that no longer seemed harsh to his eyes, but rather glowed much like the radiance he had first seen from this figure, this woman, as she fell from the sky. As he listened to Akari’s strangled breaths ease, her wound closing, he could only gaze at this woman, at her beauty, and wonder what she truly could be.
After a few minutes the woman sat back. Akari’s eyes had closed and her breathes came in an even pattern. “There.”
Rei swallowed his questions, stepping back when the woman lifted Akari into her arms as if she weighed nothing at all. “What… Who are you.” He shook his head. “Sorry. Do you have a name?”
The woman did not respond at first. In standing, facing Rei, her eyes had been drawn past him. To the mountains, and the great storm that raged above them. Her jaw tightened. Eyes flashed. But after a few moments she remembered the precious burden in her arms and dragged her gaze back down to earth, to Rei. “A name. I’m not sure. I think so. Ni… ko…”
Rei waited, but the woman had trailed off, her eyes unfocused. He cleared his throat. “The pagída don’t have names. They can’t even speak. Are you human?”
The woman brought her attention back to him. “As far as I can remember.”
Rei barely nodded. “Then, if you can’t really remember your name, would you like to be called Niki?”
The woman cocked her head. “Ni… ki. It is familiar. It feels… as if it is not whole, but it is correct.” A slow smile began to spread across her face. “Yes… In your language, it is correct. But I am not Niki. I am Niki… taka…?”
Rei shivered. He had said Niki instead of what the woman had said, Niko, because Niki, depending on how it was written, could translate directly to ‘human’. But she had added to it, and he could not deny she was correct. “Taka… is a name that would fit you well. But ‘Nikitaka’ doesn’t make sense. Nikita, however, does.”
“Nikita.” The woman’s smile stretched wide. “That will do nicely.”
“I am Rei, and the woman you have saved is Akari,” Rei said, bowing slightly. “It is an honor to meet you, Nikita.”
“Of course.” Nikita’s eyes moved past Rei again. “Pagída thilykó. Is that your name for them?”
Rei turned. The creature by the river had begun to move towards them. “Yes. Trap human. Because of how they resemble us.” He glanced at Nikita. “You resemble them.”
Nikita watched the creature shuffle closer. “Pagída… that is not what I know them as, but it is familiar, as well. Pagí… Pogí… ko… go… gi…”
“This is not the place to talk,” Rei hissed. “I- I will take you to our village. You saved Akari’s life.” He glanced away, conflicting emotions warring across his face. “If you are one of them, I should not do so, but if you are human, I cannot leave you, and-“
He felt a hand take his shoulder. Turning, he saw Nikita gazing at him, one arm still cradling Akari, the other moving back to her side. After a moment she glanced around and bent down, retrieving his spear from the grass and holding it out. “I understand your distrust,” she said quietly. “I will not die if you leave me here. This I know for sure.”
Rei gritted his teeth. He really should. This woman, Nikita, was not human like him. That did not mean she wasn’t human, but she was different.
In Nikita’s arms, Akari stirred.
Rei took another quick look at the approaching creature and hurried forwards. “Akari!” He cradled the drowsy woman’s head until her eyes flickered open. “Hang in there. I’m going to get you home.”
“She must come with us.”
Rei blinked. Akari’s voice had been nearly silent. “What?”
Akari’s eyelids flickered again, her lips moving as she drifted back to sleep. “Light… From the sky… Great Sinnoh… Formed us all…”
Nikita was gazing down at the slumbering woman. “What did she mean?”
Rei shifted his grip on his spear. “A fairytale. Akari loves listening to the elders.” He growled, clenching his fingers until they turned white. “AARGH! Fine! She’s right. You came from the sky radiating light. The stories say we all did, many generations ago. If I am human, so are you.” He swept past. “Come on! Before the pagída gets here. It looks slow and harmless but it’s not. It’s one of the ones that normally live near the mountain. Where the ones…” he hesitated but forged on. “The ones with eyes like yours rule.”
Nikita’s eyes slowly turned to the approaching creature. “It is strong, then.” She gazed out for a few long moments before turning away and following Rei. She would see these people safely to their village. Then… she would return.
The lookout banged on his drum, beats echoing through the village and causing people to look in the direction of the gates. “GALAXY SURVEY PARTY RETURNING! REI’S PARTY RETURNING!”
Nikita watched the solid wooden gates begin opening as they approached. Like Rei’s spear, and the other weapons these humans carried, the composition of the village’s defenses was primarily wood, trimmed in iron, or perhaps steel. The worked metal, along with the well-crafted leather and cloth garments they wore, suggested a well-established civilization. Some time must have passed since humanity’s creation.
How these thoughts, this knowledge, came to her she still did not know. She had no true memories of her self before opening her eyes under the pouring rain. But she still knew.
“I know it as a pokegirl.”
Rei glanced over. Nikita was staring through the opening gates, Akari still cradled in her arms. “What is?”
“What you call pagída thilykó. I call pokegirl.”
“Po… kee…” Rei made a face. “It’s shorter, but what does it mean?”
“Not much different from your words, I believe,” Nikita replied. “The one I killed, though, I did not recognize.” She paused. “It somewhat resembled a Sneasel.”
“You name them?”
“I do not know if I did, but each of the pokegirls have names in my mind. Yes.”
Rei snorted. “There’s someone here who would like to meet you, then. He has been working to create field guides detailing each of the… pokegirls… that we encounter.”
Nikita raised an eyebrow. “My word does not have to be yours.”
“It’s shorter. Sometimes people are confused when we have to shorten pagída thilykó to just pagída.” Rei shrugged. “Who knows. Maybe it’ll catch on.”
As the scouting party entered Nikita felt the eyes of the village turn to her. She was not surprised. She was someone new, someone strange. They moved deeper in, and it was not until most of the scouting party had separated from the group, leaving Nikita with only Rei, that she began wondering why the eyes did not seem to be turning away. Away from her naked body, glistening in the late sun.
Rei finally led her to a massive building near the center of the village and motioned her inside. “Come on. I need to report to the captain, but we should get Akari to the medical team first.” He glanced back. “And get you some clothes.”
“Clothes?” Nikita asked as they entered.
“Um… Yes. Clothes. To cover yourself?” Rei said. “Like the rest of us have…?”
“Clothing is used to provide protection from the weather,” Nikita responded. “I do not feel cold, and the rain has stopped. I feel fine.”
Rei spared another glance backwards. One of Nikita’s breasts was fully visible, the nipple standing up upon the perky mound, and her groin also sat exposed with the way she was carrying Akari. He could clearly see her slit hiding just below her thick bush. Not to mention the view of her he would get if he- He quickly turned back to the hallway. “Maybe, but you should still cover yourself so that you’re not walking around nude.”
Nikita frowned. “Why?”
“…Because humans don’t do that?” Rei said after a healthy pause.
Rei’s face was beginning to grow red. “Erm… Well…”
“Oh!” Nikita exclaimed. “It is to identify yourself, is that it? You have markings on your clothes, and no pokegirl would be wearing any. That must be why everyone was staring at me. Without clothes they thought I was a pokegirl!”
“…Yes. That’s why,” Rei breathed in relief. “So that’s why you need to get some clothes.”
“Just something to wear within your village,” Nikita replied.
Rei massaged his face. “Sure. Yes. Good enough. Miss Pesselle!” Rei pushed through some doors and into a sparsely decorated room. “Akari was attacked on our patrol.”
“Oh goodness! Attacked?” A woman in a white linen apron and hat popped into view and hurried towards them. “Put her down here, quickly, I-“ the woman paused. Took another look at Nikita. “-hello. I do not believe we have met?”
“This is Nikita,” Rei said as Nikita lay Akari on a bed. “We… Ran into her on our patrol.”
Pesselle’s eyes flicked up and down Nikita’s body before she nodded. “I see. You appear to be in fine shape. Now. What happened to Akari?”
“She was…” Rei trailed off. He wasn’t sure how exactly to describe what had happened. “Ah…”
“She was injured protecting me,” Nikita said. “There was a creature with long claws that destroyed my gear. Akari jumped in the way before I could be cut myself.”
Pesselle hissed as she inspected the bloody rips in Akari’s uniform. “I see. It nearly destroyed Akari’s as well, I see.” She straightened. “Well. I will make sure Akari recovers. As for you, young lady, we can’t have you running about like that. I have a spare gown you can wear.”
“That would be nice,” Nikita said as Pesselle searched through some storage bins. “I must have worried everyone, coming into the village without anything on.”
Pesselle popped her head back up with a confused look. “Worried…?”
“Yes. Why else would they all be staring at me?”
Rei was covering his face as Pesselle tittered. “Oh, I don’t think you worried anybody, young lady. Except maybe someone’s wife.” She pulled out a clean white gown and held it out. “Here you are. Rei, you’ll get your new friend something better, won’t you?”
“Yes. My FRIEND,” Rei retorted in a strangled whisper. “Please take care of Akari.”
Pesselle’s mischievous expression softened. “You know I will. Just leave her to me.”
“Come on, Nikita.” Rei waited for Nikita to finish donning the gown before leaving, leading the way back towards the entrance and coming to a halt in front of some imposing office doors in the building’s lobby. “I need to report to Captain Cyllene. Stay out here for a minute, would you?”
Nikita nodded and watched Rei knock sharply on the doors before entering at a voice from inside. She glanced around as she waited, nodding at a few others who were loitering about, receiving a nod back from one of the humans. She remembered seeing him outside the building as she had entered, one of the ones watching her. For some reason he looked disappointed.
It was some time before Rei returned and motioned her inside. Nikita dutifully followed, appraising the room she entered. A handful of desks were scattered around the space, large cabinets lining the walls, and there was paper everywhere. Stacks upon stacks on the desks, pages hanging in the air – the ink covering them still wet – and in the middle of it all was a larger desk than any of the others, piled the highest with paper reports. Behind it sat a woman in a subdued coat, colored the same deep greyish blue as the other uniforms she had seen on Rei, Akari, and the rest, though besides this woman’s more pronounced ranking insignia her coat also had some kind of silver fur lining the neck, not just silver cloth like Rei. The woman herself almost seemed to match her uniform – her hair was a quiet shade of blue as well, and her eyes a steely hue. Nikita almost smiled when she locked eyes with this woman. The other humans may need clothing, markings, to understand this woman’s place, but she did not. The stern, cool look she was receiving could only be held by a powerful creature. She could sense that the woman she was looking at recognized the same in her. It only furthered her opinion of this ‘captain’.
“Rei has told me you are known as Nikita,” the woman said, even her voice perfectly measured and composed. “I am Captain Cyllene. I lead the Galaxy Team’s Survey Corps. From what I understand, that means almost nothing to you.”
Nikita shrugged slightly. “I understand it well enough. Specific names and titles mean little to me, though.”
“But I am very interested in you, even if you aren’t in me,” Cyllene replied quietly. “Rei spoke at length of his encounter with you. I am forced to agree with his observations, and conclusions – you are not like us, Nikita, or whatever your true name is.”
“Nikita is the only name I know,” Nikita replied. “I have no memory from before I encountered your survey team.”
“I am aware that is what you say. You will forgive me if I do not accept it right away.” Cyllene’s eyes flicked to a spot beside her before returning to Nikita. “However, I will concede that you do not seem to be a… what did she call them, Rei?”
“Yes. Pagikul.” Cyllene made a face. “Close enough. If you were, this one would have come alert by now.”
Nikita shifted so she could peer over the desk. There, on a small pile of blankets, was a nude pokegirl curled up in a ball. The girl was petite, with only a small chest, her skin a vibrant yellow interspersed with deep black bands. A smooth tail curled up with her limbs, each tipped in a three-clawed appendage, and the girl’s inhuman aspects did not stop there, as her head was highly angular, her nose protruding out into a slight snout and a pair of subtly twitching furred ears extending above her head. Though, besides the fur spreading from her ears, across her scalp and lengthening as it reached her neck, this pokegirl was completely hairless.
As she watched she could see the pokegirl, an Abra, her mind told her, twitch again in her sleep. When she did Nikita realized she had been wrong about one thing. This Abra was not fully nude. A solid stone collar sat about her neck.
“My thoughts, intentions, and very being would have alerted her,” Nikita summarized.
Cyllene was gazing intently at her. “Precisely. How do you know that.”
Nikita could only shrug apologetically. “I just do. I don’t know where my knowledge comes from.”
“Wherever you learned what you know, it would be very useful to us,” Cyllene replied. “Rei has said you are more than capable in a fight. I would be a fool to lose an asset like you.” She rose. “Nikita. As a captain of Jubilife Village’s Galaxy Team, I would like to offer you a position within my corps. In return, our village’s resources will be yours – food, shelter, and much more.”
Nikita nodded. “I expected as much. However, I do not intend to remain here. Your offer is unnecessary.”
“You do not even know your own name. You expect me to believe you have some other base of operations?”
Nikia blinked. “I do not need one.”
“If you truly were birthed from the rift, I do not doubt that,” Cyllene replied. “However, whatever your goal, it will be made easier if you have a place to return to. I am offering you a place here. A place of safety where you can rest.”
Nikita started to open her mouth when she paused. There was a strange feeling in her gut. A light pang, that after a moment she realized was hunger. It confused her. Hunger… she had no memory of this feeling. She knew what it must be, but she had never experienced it before now. Why? How could that be possible?
“…Birthed. From the rift.” Nikita slowly returned her attention to Cyllene. “Akari spoke of that. I do not know who I am. What, I am. Will you tell me what you know?”
Cyllene simply raised an eyebrow.
Nikita grumbled to herself. But her curiosity, and now gurgling stomach, won out. “Very well. I accept your offer, as long as it benefits me.”
“Of course.” Cyllene turned to Rei. “Rei. Notify the quartermaster that we have a new member. I will send Nikita to him later tonight to be fitted for a uniform. Once you have, you are dismissed.” She turned back to Nikita as Rei gave a salute and left. “As for you, Nikita, you must be hungry. We can talk further over a meal.”
Nikita rubbed her stomach as it gurgled again. “Thank you.”
Nikita studied the odd brown morsel between her fingers. Cyllene had drawn her into conversation right from the start, but the arrival of their plates had slowed the conversation. “What did you say this was called, again?”
“Mochi.” Nikita moved her first tentative bite around her mouth. The texture was very chewy, once she had crunched past the firm exterior. Nothing extraordinary, but not unpleasant, either. The thick sauce Cyllene was dipping her mochi into probably added the missing flavor so Nikita made sure to coat her own well before finishing it off. Yes, that was it. This food was quieting her hunger quite nicely. “I like it. It satisfies.”
Cyllene finished off her bite and gave Nikita a sideways look. “That’s something about you, isn’t it, Nikita. You’re very… practical.”
“You like things that fulfill a purpose. In my office, you barely glanced at the art. Only the furniture. Rei told me you found clothing odd, and only agreed to wear any so it would differentiate you from the pokegirls.” She turned away, a thoughtful expression on her face. “You’re not the first, you know.”
Nikita blinked. “The first what?”
“The first to appear from the rift. There are others. Other humans.” She gazed off for a moment. “It is said our own ancestors came from it. The Celestica. But even today, those like you are not unheard of. Perhaps only a few in a lifetime, but they exist.”
“Rei seemed to believe it all a myth.” Nikita paused. “These others- Where are they now?”
Cyllene took a while to respond. “Dead,” she finally said bluntly. “Most are dead. You are the only one I’ve met. I’ve only heard stories of a few more. The rest are long dead.”
“Most are said to have left Hisui. Journeying to distant lands, claiming they came from places across the sea. Lost and confused. Not like you. You are… different. You do not know your own existence. Perhaps that means you will stay here, in Hisui?”
“My goal is the mountains,” Nikita replied with a growl. “Even if I do not know what awaits, whenever I think of them I know it is where I must go.”
“And how do you expect to get there?” Cyllene took a sip from her drink. “We barely survive here in the fieldlands. Pockets of other humans, tiny villages nowhere near the strength of ours manage to survive further inland, but they are too often found destroyed by the pagída. What makes you believe you alone can do what hundreds couldn’t?”
“Pokegirls do not scare me,” Nikita replied.
Cyllene slowly tapped her fingernails against their table. “If you can stand against them, any of them, you are a greater being than any of us. A being that is being drawn back to where it came…” She trailed off. After a minute she glanced back to Nikita. “Perhaps those eyes of yours are hinting at something. That only your form is human, Nikita. That it is not what you are.”
Nikita barely shrugged. “One thing I am sure of is that I am human. It is very clear in my thoughts. Many things about me are strange, even to me, but that I know.”
“Well then,” Cyllene murmured, “it will be an incredible day if you succeed. The first human to best a pagi- po-key-gur-el. At least, the first I know. There are stories that our ancestors were like you, but I have to agree with Rei on those. If our ancestors were so strong, how are we today so weak?”
Nikita turned fully to face Cyllene. “You are not weak. On the outside it may appear that way, but inside, I sense all of my strength within you, Captain Cyllene. You would not be leading your people otherwise.” She rose. “Thank you for the food. And the answers.”
Cyllene stared after her as Nikita vanished into the night.
Four days later.
“Nikita!” Rei rapped on the door again. “Are you in there? It’s time for our patrol!” He waited, but when there was no response from within the house, he pushed the door open. “Nikita-? GAH!” Rei swiftly pulled the door closed again, eyes wide and face burning red. “We- We’ll be waiting for you by the gate!”
Nikita grunted softly. She was sprawled across a chair, nude, staring at the uniform hanging by the door. It was similar to Akari’s, and just as restrictive as she had expected it to be. It annoyed her greatly that she was expected to wear it whenever she left the lodgings Cyllene had assigned to her.
It further annoyed her that she had been stuck in them for so long. The very next day after her arrival she had been found by an older man who had excitedly introduced himself as the village’s leading researcher on pokegirls. Or pagída thilykós, as he stubbornly refused to call them anything else. He had used the past three days questioning her for more knowledge. During that time she had been introduced to one other pokegirl that seemed to live within the human village, besides the Abra she had seen in Cyllene’s office. An overly friendly Pichu – a pokegirl covered in short yellow fur, with a pair of spiky ears and jagged flat tail. Just like the Abra, she also wore a stone collar, which she had asked the man, Laventon, about. He'd described to her deposits of the odd stone, which always were surrounded by weaker pokegirls, leading him to believe the stone weakened them. The few pokegirls that sought refuge in the village were fitted with collars of the stone as a safety precaution.
Well. Any excuse to not be here. Nikita rose and dressed herself in the Survey Corps uniform. Maybe if she went along with these patrols, curry favor with the village, they would be more likely to let her do what she wanted. As much as it annoyed her to be here, it provided an excellent way to satisfy the strange needs she had now. The fatigue, the hunger. Strange new needs this body of hers had.
Nikita continued musing to herself as she stepped outside and moved to join the waiting patrol. Could that be why? Did she not have a body before? But, she remembered the physicality of one. She remembered, faintly, many things. As her hand touched the open gate to the village she knew that even before opening her eyes in that field, her hands had touched things before. Yet, every foggy memory from before that point was more like a dream, an observation. She felt no agency from them, not like she held now, with every deliberate step, every turn of her head. Was maybe none of it real? Had she not actually existed until just a few days ago?
“Right. Our mission today is to return to the river island and see if the creature-“ Rei paused, glancing at Nikita. “Actually, I’d like to start now. Our newest member has another word for them. She calls them pokegirls, which is similar enough to Lavenston’s crude title to be memorable, but different enough to be a new word. I think it’s a good word to use. To avoid confusion.”
Nikita snorted. “So he came up with that, did he? No wonder he refused to use anything else.”
“Yeah.” Rei looked around at the rest of the patrol. “Let’s split into pairs. Scout the entire island for the mountain pokegirl, report back before the sun begins to set. Understood?”
Nikita watched Rei separate out the various scouts and raised an eyebrow when he and she were the only two left at the end.
“You’re the new girl,” Rei explained quietly as the others vanished into the trees. “As the patrol captain I’m supposed to keep an eye on you.”
“Even though it will be the other way around?”
Rei cracked a smile when Nikita strode past him and hefted his spear. “It’s also not the worst idea to keep your abilities quiet, at least for now. I know more about you than any of the others.” He paused for a few moments. “Including that I know you would rather not be wearing that uniform right now.”
Nikita glanced back at him. “It has been assigned to me, and my requests for something different were refused. Do you have the authority to counter Cyllene’s orders?”
Rei sighed and followed her. “No. I just wasn’t expecting you to follow them either.”
“I hope she will be more… open to listening to me if I am compliant,” Nikita replied. “If that means wearing this thing, so be it.”
It didn’t take long for them to reach the fields. Nikita stood at the tree line, gazing out across the slowly waving grass. Today was perfectly clear without even a single cloud in the sky, a stark contrast to the last time she had been here. Though the fields were just as empty as then. Not even a sign of the yellow and ash-colored pokegirl. It was so familiar, yet no name came to her. She had half hoped to see it again just to figure out what it was.
“Everything is avoiding the heat of the day,” she observed. “Quiet. That’s good.”
Rei nervously shifted beside her. “No… No, that’s not good. Not around here.” He sighed and motioned for Nikita to follow him a bit farther into the shade. “Has Lavenston told you about how the pokegirls are?”
Nikita blinked at him. “I have no idea what you may be referring to, so no.”
“The pokegirls… they are vicious creatures. They do nothing but eat, sleep, and fight.” He glanced out at the field. “Of course, creatures like that don’t just coexist peacefully. The only reason the two in the village aren’t violent is because we feed them and they’re barely as strong as a human. Essentially, the village is their Alpha.”
Nikita cocked her head. “Alpha?”
“Sounds like you know the term. Yeah, Alpha. The pokegirls coexist out here, just not peacefully. And as you’d imagine, it’s safer in numbers than alone. So they form packs. The leaders of those packs are known as Alphas. The strongest, usually strongest than the entire rest of the pokegirls in their pack combined. These packs are what we survey. Define the territory each of them claim, and keep track when the territories shift, so we know what to worry about attacking the village.” He gestured. “These fields between the forest and the river are claimed by a type of pokegirl that would not care about the heat, because they themselves are flame. They are like the deer in the woods, but larger, stronger, and their heads are instead the upper body of a human.”
Nikita raised her eyes to the empty fields. “So why are they not here?”
Rei winced. “That’s the question, isn’t it? I think it’s because of the one from the mountain. The flame-deer have been chased off.”
“Hm.” Nikita gazed out. To the massive river. “Before that one appeared, what would you say was the strongest in this area? The Alpha of all the pokegirls, you might say.”
“This area, right here and covering the north? The flame-deer,” Rei replied. “There are a few other packs but they all avoid the fiery ones. The island over there,” he gestured across the river, “is controlled entirely by a flying breed that lives up on the cliffs near the center. Too far to see, don’t worry.” He gestured the other direction. “We haven’t gone far to the south, only scouting far enough to find the weak pokegirl that now lives in the base. You saw her. In Cyllene’s office.”
“I see.” Rei watched Nikita step into the open. “Then it sounds like if we can find this flame-deer, we’ll find the one from the mountain.”
“Why do you want to find the ash colored one so badly?” Rei called. “Can you at least answer that for me?”
Nikita paused. “I… am not quite sure,” she replied. “If everything is as you say it is, then she should be strong. I think that is my reason.”
Rei edged out into the field behind her. “You said something like that when I first found you.”
Nikita glanced back. “Oh?”
“The one that ambushed Akari. When…” Rei shivered. “When you stopped it, but before you killed it, you looked at it. And I heard you whisper, ‘Weak’.”
Nikita’s eyes unfocused slightly. “That’s right. It was.” She stood there for a minute before drawing her gaze back to the present. “I have no use for the weak.”
“’You have no use’?” Rei asked. “What does that mean?”
“I… I’m not sure,” Nikita replied, her face twisted in confusion. “But some part of me yearns for the strong. I must find the strong. Why, what I will do when I find them, which pokegirls are truly strong, I… I do not know. But I want to find them.”
“I wonder…” Rei murmured to himself. He glanced up to see Nikita walking further into the open field. “Hey! Nikita, wait up!”
It did not take long for the two to stumble across a battlefield. Nikita crouched next to where purple flame still smoldered in the middle of large scorched sections of grass, and Rei used his spear to dig into the charred earth. “The flame-deer were here, I am sure of it. Look.” He flicked a matt of charcoal over and tapped the ash underneath. “This is a hoofprint.”
“These purple flames are the same as the ones the mountain pokegirl was covered in,” Nikita murmured. “But… There’s something else here.”
Rei looked over. “What?”
Nikita reached out, closing her hand around a burning object to extinguish the flame, before opening her hand again to inspect her prize. “It’s a feather.”
Rei walked over to take a look. “A bit blackened, but maybe that’s its normal color. The flying pokegirls from the island are black.”
Nikita gazed at the burnt feather. “No… No, that doesn’t make sense. You say the pokegirls keep to their territories. Why would the flying ones leave the island?” She looked up. The river was barely in sight. “This isn’t even some kind of border dispute. We’re well into the fields.”
“I don’t know, but the ones on the island are the only bird-like pokegirls around.”
Nikita rose. “And until a few days ago, the mountain pokegirl wasn’t around here either.”
Rei felt his stomach drop. “You don’t mean…”
“I’m just saying it’s possible that there’s another one.”
“If there is…” Rei whispered. “We have to find it.”
Nikita brushed hrself off and looked over to where Rei had been searching. “Lots of flame, so no blood. We can’t tell who won, unless we assume based on your flame-deer being nowhere to be found.”
“No corpses though,” Rei pointed out. “Maybe it was a draw and they retreated.”
“In that case where would they go?” Nikita kicked some dirt over the purple flames but they refused to extinguish. “I don’t see a trail of these anywhere to follow.”
Rei pointed further to the north. “The heart of their territory is that way, on a small plateau overlooking a few small lakes, and the mountains behind.” He watched Nikita immediately move in the direction he’d indicated. “You’re sure about this.”
“What if they lost, though?” Rei asked as he hurried to match Nikita’s pace. “What if the one from the mountain, or the new bird you think is here, what if they were stronger? Didn’t you say you wanted the strongest?”
“All I know is that I want the strong,” Nikita replied. “Yes, I am interested in the one from the mountain, considering it seems to be alone, and not in a pack like you say the others are, but I don’t know where to find it. Your flame-deer, on the other hand…”
Rei sighed but made sure his grip on his spear was proper before taking the lead. “Follow me, then. There’s only one real way onto the plateau.”
It was another hour before Rei began to slow. Off in the distance Nikita could see light glittering on a body of water and she pointed. “Are those the lakes?”
Rei barely nodded. “If we hug the cliffs to the left we’ll make our way up to the plateau.” He glanced around nervously. “I really hope you know what you’re doing.”
Nikita glanced at him. Then turned after a moment. “I don’t. You should return to the village. I’ll join you later.”
Rei chuckled. “If you do, right?”
Nikita barely shrugged. “Maybe I’m going to my death. I wouldn’t want to bring you there with me. You have people depending on you.”
“…For some reason, I don’t think I can do that,” Rei replied after a few seconds. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep, thinking about you, wondering if I could have helped.” He took a deep breath. “I… have to admit. I started listening to the elders’ stories. They tell them with such certainty, as if they’re truth, every word. And… Many of them, the oldest of them, talk about who we used to be. How humans and the creatures, the pokegirls, were once one being. Not just any pokegirls, but the most deadly, the ones… with eyes like yours.” He raised his face to look Nikita square in the eyes. “They are very clear on that. They describe your eyes, Nikita. They described them long before you appeared. Despite my best efforts, I’ve started to wonder.”
Nikita gazed back. “I have only heard bits and pieces of those tales. Will you take me to someone who can tell me more, when we return to the village?”
Rei smirked and nodded. “Sure. Because we will return.”
Nikita blinked. “…Yes. We will.”
“…Well,” Rei said after a few moments, “you know the way.”
It didn’t take long for them to encounter the first pokegirl.
Nikita heard something move in the grass and turned, Rei quickly whirling when she did. A second passed, then two, then a head rose above the grass and Rei growled. It was almost human – long blonde hair, a human face, but the ears were not. They rose tall above the pokegirl’s head, covered in almost white fur and they flicked as the girl watched them. After a few moments she grunted, a bare torso coming into view along with a pair of arms, but when the pokegirl’s waist appeared all semblance of a human vanished. The girl was coated in long white hair from the bottom of her stomach to where her legs would have started if they were not instead replaced by the body of an equine animal. The pokegirl’s lower body was covered in hair much closer to the blonde of its head but shorter, more wiry.
Nikita was preparing to fight when the pokegirl grunted in pain and its lower body dropped back out of sight. It glared at them, but Nikita understood now. It was injured. It had only come into view in an attempt to intimidate them.
“This is one of your fire-deer?” Nikita asked Rei. “I don’t see much fire.”
“No, this must be a weaker one,” Rei replied. “Still, it’s definitely one of them.”
Nikita gazed at the struggling pokegirl. “Ponyta. It’s called a Ponyta.” She turned away. “I want a Rapidash.”
Rei gave the staring Ponyta one last look before hurrying after Nikita. “A what? There’s only them, those… Ponyta here.”
Nikita shook her head. “There’s no way a weak Ponyta could be the Alpha here. It must be a Rapidash.”
“What’s a Rapidash!” Rei cried.
Nikita blinked. “It’s… Like a Ponyta, but… Stronger.”
“Like a…?” Rei frowned. “Wait. Is it different? There are weak flame- I mean, weak Ponyta, and strong Ponyta, but they’re definitely the same thing.”
“No… No, they’re different,” Nikita mused. “Similar but different, but also the same. That’s what I remember.”
“You know that doesn’t make sense, right?” Rei grumbled.
Nikita just shrugged.
They saw another two Ponyta poke their heads up to watch the intruders, but neither made a move to stop them as they crossed onto the grassy plateau.
Rei shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ve never actually been up here before.” He turned, looking out at the lakes far below. “If you weren’t here… Well, I wouldn’t be, but if I were, I’d have run the instant that first Ponyta poked her head up.”
Nikita nodded. “My turn then.” She looked around, taking in the area, and settled on a small copse of trees not far from them. “Those Ponyta were injured. I assume the Rapidash will be the same.”
“Whatever a Rapidash is,” Rei grumbled. As they got close to the trees Nikita could see many more Ponyta resting in the shade. Some even seemed mobile, getting to their feet, or hooves, and taking a few steps in her direction, and as she slowed she could see a few circling around to either side. Rei raised his spear. “Well. Here they come.”
Nikita appraised the approaching Ponyta. “They are weak.”
Rei chuckled nervously. “Yeah, well, there are a lot of them.”
“I don’t want the weak.” Rei felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up when Nikita brought both of her hands to her chest, inhaling a deep breath before planting both feet and bellowing directly into the trees. “I WANT YOUR ALPHA!”
The power that exploded from the challenge crashed over the approaching Ponyta, freezing each and every one of them in place. As Nikita snarled, blue energy beginning to flicker into view across her skin, she heard a response from deep within the trees. A weak response, but that there was one at all was enough for her. Without paying even Rei any more heed she shoved into the copse, fingers already loosening her uniform so it fell free from her upper body. And as she strode into the trees, naked skin shimmering with energy, it was hard for Rei to distinguish the topless human from the pokegirls all around her.