Black Albino

Seventeen
Zoo

Little miss nasty here is poison to the touch.
IGN

Aurinko awoke around the middle of the day, finding herself in broad sunlight, a position she was far from used to. Although she was now several months old, she had never seen real sunlight. Morning light, yes, but the heat of the midday sun was something her pale pink eyes had never seen. She stretched painfully and made her way into the shade among the other flaked out Nidos.

She found it vaguely odd that they didn’t sleep underground, but was too hot and tired to attempt at thinking for the time being. She was just contented with flopping down in the dust under the shade of a tree, feeling the hot north wind ruffling her fur up the wrong way.

Her broad ears pricked up at a strange sound. It was the voice of some Pokémon, but she couldn’t for the life of her pick which one. It was a high-pitched, wobbling squeal coming from the right side of the enclosure. Snorting into the dust, Aurinko picked herself and made her way over to the glass surrounding her and the other Nidos.

Over a path and behind a rather tall, strong looking wire fence was an enclosure at least the size of the warren. In it were six very large Pokémon. They walked on four very long, spindly looking legs and their coats were all creamy white. Their tail and necks, as well as their ankles, were alight with a flickering orange display. Aurinko couldn’t describe what it was, but it vaguely reminded her of the Vulpix, though their scent wasn’t predatory.

Five of the six Pokémon had the horn of a Nidorino protruding from their foreheads. The other one, who was rolling around in the dust for reasons Aurinko couldn’t guess, was smaller and had yet to develop its horn.

There were trainers standing around their enclosure, pointing at the younger one. Another trainer’s voice piped from behind her.

“Look Mummy! That one’s all white!”

“Yes dear, it’s an albino Nidoran,” explained a deeper voice.

Aurinko’s ears drooped and her eyes scowled at the ground. Even trainers cared about her colour. What did it matter? She was white, so what? That shouldn’t make any difference. She glared at the squeaky trainer – a young girl with pigtails – and flopped back down in the shade. She was doomed to spend the rest of her life as an outcast, and there was nothing she could do to change that.

She tried to think of the positives of her position. She wouldn’t get attacked here, that was already apparent. The ‘mob’ she now belonged to had no real leader, let alone the thoughtless rampaging Nidorino Aurinko had been forced to call her father her old mob had. The only Nido here that could classify as head male didn’t even have a horn.

She could see around the enclosure that there was a trough of water for them to drink from. Sticks of orange stuff, large leaves and other new and exciting plants scattered themselves around the enclosure. Each had bite marks in them, so Aurinko decided they must be food. She sniffed tentatively at a rod of green with a ridge down the middle of it, then took a nibble of it.

This was way better than the brown pellets from the Rehabilitation Centre, and it was incomparable to the limp, sagging grass her mother had reluctantly dragged down to the burrow for her in her earlier days. It was crisp and juicy, fresh and crunchy. Aurinko smiled and ate some more. She didn’t know such food existed. She continued to munch happily on it and watched as the elegant creamy creatures pranced around in their pen. Why they were Aurinko couldn’t understand. It was too hot for Aurinko to even move, let alone frolic around in broad sunlight. She came to the conclusion that these Pokémon were just weird.

“How’re you feeling?” The soft just-woken-up voice was Talvi’s, the icy blue Nidoran with no poison.

Aurinko shrugged, not turning her attention from the crunchy stick of green.

“What are those?” she asked, directing the Nidoran to the racing Pokémon.

“Most of them are Rapidash, but the little one’s a Ponyta. Haven’t you ever seen any?”

Aurinko shook her head. “Barely ever been outside in my life.”

“You poor thing! How come?” Talvi seemed genuinely concerned. She hopped over to Aurinko to share her green stick, but didn’t come too close because of the heat.

“Well look at me!” Aurinko scolded, “I’m the whitest creature you’ll ever come across! I wasn’t allowed to go out of the warren at all. When I tried, my pathetic excuse for a father attacked me and I ended up in a cage next to a Vulpix and a Cubone. And here I am. There you go, that’s my story. Happy to hear it?”

Talvi was silent for a moment, watching Aurinko glaring past her at the Rapidash. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to—“

“Well you did,” Aurinko interrupted. She took a bite of the green stick, making it clear she was not willing to dwell on her past.

A large splash of water from behind her made her turn around to see another enclosure, this one more than half made up of cool blue water with a sandy white beach scattered with several long blue serpentine creatures. Four shorter ones were happily splashing around in the water. Several trainers were crowded around them, pointing at the smallest of the four.

“They’re Dratini,” Talvi noted, “and the bigger ones on the beach are Dragonair. The smallest one, in the water, hatched a few days ago.”

Aurinko was silent.

“Look, I know we kinda got off on the wrong foot, but I just want to be friends. If there’s anything you want to ask me, go ahead. Sorry again.”

When Aurinko still wouldn’t reply, she sighed and left to talk to one of the Nidorina.

“Thanks,” Aurinko mumbled. Talvi smiled, but pretended not to hear. Aurinko sighed and returned to her green stick.

The last enclosure she could see was much different to the others around her. It was a massive cage. The floor area must have been almost as big as that of the Rapidash. Strong, black wire mesh soared at least ten meters into the sky and a spread of it covered the top, preventing any means of escape for whatever was in there.

All Aurinko could see was a craggy looking old tree in one corner and a bush in another. Aurinko stared at the cage for several minutes, but nothing made itself known to her, just the tree and the bush.

After searching the cage for any movement whatsoever, a small green blob with a red feather on its top walked out from behind the bush and stared straight at Aurinko, unblinking, as if it knew she was there all the time. The blob’s eyes started glowing red, making Aurinko grow edgy. What was this creature, and was there any particular reason why it was in such a massive cage?

Now feeling very much unnerved in its presence, she turned away from its eerily glowing eyes and unwavering stare. She didn’t even feel like her green stick. She wanted to be as far away from the creature as possible. She didn’t know what it could do to her, and she wasn’t in the mood to find out. She glanced back over her shoulder, but the two pricks of red light were still piercing into her, and she could have sworn its tiny yellow beak was smiling.

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much,” came the raspy voice of the hornless Nidorino, “Just a Natu. Don’t let it frighten you, just show it who’s boss and you’ll be fine.”

“I wasn’t scared,” Aurinko retorted, “Just… surprised.”

The Nidorino chuckled, “Sure you were, youngun, whatever you say.” He laughed quietly to himself and went to talk to the blind Nidorina.

“I wasn’t scared!” Aurinko yelled, stamping her foot down. She glared back at the Natu’s eyes and poked her tongue out at it. It blinked twice, but continued to stare. At least its eyes weren’t glowing anymore.

“Well if it’s so harmless,” she demanded, “then why is it in such a big cage by itself?”

The blind Nidorina turned to her, her sightless eyes almost as eerie as the Natu’s glowing ones. Aurinko couldn’t help taking a step back. “It’s not alone, there are three other Natu in there.”

“So?”

“And word is that a Xatu’s going to be put in with them.”

Eighteen