Black Albino | Thirty


Black Albino


It constantly moves its large ears in many directions in order to detect danger right away.
Pokémon Crystal Pokédex entry

Kuu and Palliko set off the next morning, leaving the security of the mob behind. To Kuu it seemed like the fuss over their leaving was a bit much; when he had left his mob, he just did, though that time his intentions had been not to return for a substantial amount of time, whereas the expedition he and Palliko were engaging in wasn’t expected to last too much longer than ten days.

The journey on the way to the ocean took the two through the forest Palliko’s mob lived on the edge of before opening out into a cleared out area with long grass and very few trees. It had the same strange, unnatural smell the trainer had had on the mountainside, and it gave Kuu the shivers.

“This is what humans call a ‘National Park’,” Palliko explained, “Basically, everyone who comes here comes for the bugs, not interested in anything else, so we’re safe. Still worth being on the lookout though,” he added.

Kuu nodded and kept his ears pricked. He saw a few humans in the park, mostly just sitting on the benches talking, but a few were capturing Pokémon. As Palliko had said, none approached the two Nidos, but Kuu saw several unfortunate bugs succumb to the red and white balls. Kuu was the subject of some discussion among the trainers, but none were particularly interested in catching him.

“So how come you’ve never tried to get rain before?” Kuu asked as they moved through the long grass. “I mean, if the drought’s been going on for so long, how come you’re only now trying to find rain?”

Palliko didn’t answer. “Palliko?” Kuu asked again, turning his head to the older Nido. His face showed that he was trying to put into words the reasoning behind their late departure.

“To be honest,” he started finally, “None of us thought we were strong enough to go, not even me, and I’m the darkest in the mob. So when you said you’d volunteer to look for water for us, naturally we were all pretty excited.”

“But what’s so hard about getting a group of water Pokémon together and telling them to use rain dance?”

Palliko shrugged. “I think we were just all in denial, thinking that it would rain tomorrow, so setting out on expedition to actually find water again would make us face the facts that there wasn’t going to be any rain.”

It seemed plausible enough, but for some reason Kuu wasn’t convinced. It was something to do with Palliko’s tone, like there was still something he wasn’t willing to let the younger Nidoran.

Palliko cut him off before he could push any further with his questioning. “So what brings you here anyway? Not often a Nidoran leaves the mob, let alone a black one.”

“I’ve been trying to find my father.”

Palliko blinked and turned to Kuu. “Say that again?”

“He’s a shiny Umbreon, that’s why I’m black.” He paused, wondering if he should go any further, but decided against it.

“So your dad isn’t the head of your mob?”

Kuu shook his head. “Mum hadn’t told anyone he was actually an Umbreon, so rumours started spreading through the mob that Taishou, the head, was my dad. He didn’t like being associated with the palest Nidorina in the mob so he,” he gulped, “he killed her.”

Palliko was silent for a moment, not knowing what to think of this. “So that’s why you left?”

“Pretty much.” He did well to keep his composure, just staring straight ahead and keeping a steady pace, but inside he felt like crumbling again.

The pair walked through the Park in silence until they left it and entered again into forest. By this time the sun had begun to set and Kuu had calmed down.

“Do you know anything about Umbreon?” he asked carefully, “Like where they live?”

Palliko frowned. “Don’t know a lot about them really, only ever seen one myself.” He shuddered. “It was at dusk, near the warren. I saw it standing up on a rock, looking up at the moon; just a black shape against the stars. At first I didn’t even know if it was alive or just part of the rock, but then it turned to me, and its eyes started glowing bright red and bright yellow rings lit up all over its body.” He shivered again.

“What happened?” Kuu whispered.

“It leaped off the rock with its teeth barred, running straight at me. Naturally I bolted back to the warren, warning everyone as I ran, then dove down the first hole I came to. It kept sniffing around the holes, knowing there were Nidos there but not knowing where. Eventually it gave up and ran off.”

Kuu didn’t know what to make of it. They couldn’t all be like that. After all, his mother had remembered a certain shiny Umbreon with a wistful look in her eyes.

“I’ll never forget the look in its eyes though,” Palliko continued, “It was like there was nothing behind them, like all it wanted was to catch and kill me.” He let out a forced laugh, “Still, I guess that’s how all predators look, eh?”

Kuu nodded, giving an equally artificial smile. “Is that all you know about them?” he asked hopefully.

“That’s it,” he said, then his ears pricked up. “But Paiva might. She got captured a while ago and spent some time with a trainer, so she might know something about Umbreon.”

This time Kuu’s smile was genuine. Every tiny piece of information he could find brought him closer to finding his father. “Does she talk much about what it was like? Being with a trainer, I mean.”

“Not a lot. She says it was tough, but really good for her battling. She’s probably better at fighting than me!”

When the sun had set the light began to rapidly disintegrate, and the two Nidos were forced to bed down for the night in the forest. For Kuu this was nothing special, but it visibly disturbed Palliko. He kept looking over his shoulder and twitching his ears at the slightest rustle in the trees or undergrowth.

“You okay?” Kuu said, yawning.

Palliko jumped slightly at the sound of his voice. “I-I’m fine,” he answered, struggling to sound more confident than he felt. “Just not used to sleeping under the stars,” he explained quickly.

Kuu flicked an ear. Fair enough, he thought, if he’d been spending every night of his life safe underground while he slept, he probably wouldn’t feel all that comfortable sleeping, vulnerable, out in the open. He yawned again and snuggled up under some tree roots.

He’d been told that this was the middle of a season known as winter, a season that was supposed to be filled with cold, wet, miserable days where you couldn’t see the sky at all, for days, even moons on end. It was admittedly cooler than summer had been-he didn’t uncomfortable walking in the daylight-but it wasn’t exactly bone-chilling. Truthfully, Kuu couldn’t see the problem with the lack of water, but then, he hadn’t seen the land before the drought; it was older than he was.

Kuu was woken early the next morning by Palliko poking him with his horn, hard enough to wake him up but not so hard as to cause pain.

“Kuu!” he whispered fiercely, “There’s something in the trees!”

Kuu yawned, fanning his ears towards the sound Palliko was so terrified of that he had to wake Kuu up.

“Have you been up all night?” he asked, slightly annoyed.

“Shh! It’ll hear us!”

Reluctantly Kuu focused his hearing on the rustling. “It’s a Pidgey waking up, go back to sleep.”

“Are you sure that’s all it is?”

Kuu looked at Palliko. The sight was almost scary. A fully grown Nidorino, head of the mob, was frightened of a Pidgey. “Yes, Palliko,” he said flatly, “It’s a Pidgey.”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve been above ground for most of my life, I know what Pidgey sound like.” He sniffed. “Know what they smell like too.”

“All the same, don’t you think we should check, just to make sure?”

“Knock yourself out,” Kuu replied, trying to regain his comfortable sleeping position and ignoring the strangely distraught Nidorino.

He heard the Nidorino leave through the fallen leaf litter, then return a short time later.

“You’re right, it’s a Pidgey.” He sounded more confident now that his fears had been unfounded.

“What’d I tell you? Why were you so worried? You could hear it and smell it, couldn’t you?”

Palliko answered slowly, “Yes, but I just wanted to make sure.”

Kuu rolled his eyes, then stood to face the Nidorino. “Palliko, seriously, what’s wrong?”

“Unfamiliar territory, that’s all.”

“I don’t think it is,” Kuu said sternly. “There’s something you’re not telling me. Why has nobody ever gone in search of water before? Why are you so scared of something your senses told you was clearly a harmless Pidgey? What aren’t you telling me?” He let a slight hint of a leer enter his eyes, trying to force the Nidorino to talk.

Palliko didn’t say a word, he just avoided Kuu’s gaze.

“Palliko,” Kuu repeated sternly, turning up the intensity of his leer slightly.

“Okay, I’ll be honest with you,” Palliko said finally, “The old head of our mob set out two or three moons ago with the two darkest Nidorino in the mob aside from himself, but they didn’t come back. We’ve got no idea what happened to them, whether they got lost, or captured, or they’re still looking for the ocean. The general consensus is that they got attacked or eaten.” He met Kuu’s eyes. “Sorry I didn’t tell you before, it’s just, you know, the shock of seeing a black Nidoran-”

Kuu let out an exasperated breath, turning a full circle before looking back at Palliko.

“Don’t come back at me with the ‘black Nidoran’ thing!” he yelled, causing the Pidgey to flutter out of the tree in fright. “All my life I’ve been treated like a-a-I don’t know, like I’m the greatest creature to walk the earth, just because I’m black. I’m expected to be brilliant at everything I do, without any faults, just because I’m black.

“I’ve got news for you. Colour means bugger all! Dark Nidoran are no stronger than pale ones, it’s just that the dark ones are given a better chance, because they’re thought so highly of. If you think I’m going on this journey with you because I’m black and I think I’m pretty hot stuff, that I want to show it off, you’re wrong.” He paused a moment, lowering the volume of his voice, but not the intensity. “It’s because I want to help you.”

Palliko was speechless.

“Don’t ever say a word about colour to me ever again,” Kuu whispered fiercely, “Because I seriously don’t care.” Failing to get a response from the much larger Nidorino, Kuu turned in the direction they had been walking the previous day and didn’t look back.

In time Palliko caught up to him. “Sorry,” he said, “I didn’t know how you felt about things like that.”

“‘Sokay,” Kuu said softly, the edge off his voice, “I shouldn’t have exploded like that.”

“So we’re all good now?”

“Yeah.” Kuu turned to Palliko, and this time his smile was genuine.

Around midafternoon the two Nidos broke through the boundary of the forest, and Kuu had to catch his breath at the sight that his eyes were greeted with. The amazing expanse of water was endless, far bigger even than the Gyarados lake. Water lapped up the beach, making soft hushing sounds on the soft white sand. He noticed Palliko had a similar look on his face.

“Welcome to the sea,” Palliko said breathlessly.

Kuu didn’t say a word, he just stood and felt the tingling feeling of the fresh sea air as it rolled into his nostrils and through his fur and ears. Eventually though he brought himself out of his trance.

“Let’s get to it then!” he said cheerily.

Twenty-Nine | Thirty-One