While it feels like you are going to die if you tell the truth, you decide to do it anyway. Lady seems like the type who can sniff out lies. But even if she isn’t, you’ll die with some self-respect. You tell her, “I-I left the tribe to find a Thunder Stone, Lady.” You can’t look directly at her so you lower your head and sob.
Roxy says, “see? No one will miss her. She’s already been assumed dead. Now let us confirm those assumptions.”
Lady says, in a kind motherly tone, “what is your name, pikachu?”
You sniffle, “Lulu.”
“Lulu, look at me.” As hard as it is, you bring your head back up to make eye contact with your judge. Lady looks down on you with a smile, “Lulu, I once, long ago, embarked on the same quest you have but for a Fire Stone. And I faced death more times than I can count along the way, so I feel sympathy for your predicament. And you told me the truth when doing so could cost you your life. For that, you have my greatest respect; we could use more of that in this forest,” a glimmer of hope pops into your heart, “but…” and is immediately plunged back into despair, “my respect does not fill my children’s stomachs. It appears the gods have not deemed you worthy of a Thunder Stone but of the honor of being prey. It may not seem like it, but the gods smile on those eaten and bless them with everlasting peace. So take your fate with the promise of that.”
You meekly peep, “n-no…p-please don’t. I-I don’t want to die.” you lower your head to sob once more. Your hunters, knowing they have won the appeal, all wag their tails and lick their chops.
Lady reassures you, “hush dear. It will be all over soon. I would feel remiss if I didn’t grant your honesty with some sort of reward. So I will kill you with my own maw, as quickly and painlessly as possible.”
Roxy protests, “but we were going to use her as live prey training on our pups! You can’t just take that away from us.”
“I am deeply sorry Roxy, but it is the least I can do for Lulu. I hope you understand.”
Roxy huffs but does not protest further. Lady continues, “let’s not waste time. I do not want Lulu’s heart to strain for a second longer than necessary. Grab her by the ears and tail.” Maz bites your left ear, Roxy your right, and Zoya your tail. They pull you taut facing the ground. In this position, the back of your neck is outstretched and exposed to Lady. Lady brings her snout down to your ears and whispers, “relax Lulu. It will be over in seconds. Thank you for feeding my children.” She says no more and opens her maw. She positions the sharp teeth around your neck. Her breath is unnaturally warm, like a sweltering day in late summer. Your heart beats incredibly fast, your eyes are clenched in anticipation, and tears pour from the corners of your eyes.
You brace yourself.
“Tavein! Lady! Wait!” Another unknown vulpix approaches out of breath.
Lady pulls her head back up and the group drops you to the ground. Lady says, “what is it? Can’t you see we’re busy?”
“My apologies Lady, but a group of vulpix came running back from a hunt saying over sixty male pikachu are coming, and they don’t look happy.” Male pikachu? This can’t be for you, can it? You highly doubt it but then why are they here? Whatever it is, it can’t be good. When the tribe sends out that many bucks, it was usually to kill a powerful predator.
By the time you get back up on your paws, Lady asks, “do you know what this is about, Lulu?” You shake your head no. “Hmmm… well, come with me anyway.” She reaches down a bites your tail and pulls you up, suspending you in the air. Lady quickly trots off with you to the clearing.
Upon reentering the clearing, you crane your neck to see sixty bucks emerge from the thick brush in a V formation, their battle formation. Lady takes you to the middle ground, sets you down, then quickly pins your tail with her front paw; you are going nowhere. Tavein stands by her side and your hunters stay way back.
The pikachu stop about twenty feet from you and Lady. They sent their best pikachu, this can't be good. At the front of the V is Dale and Boc, the two most powerful and respected pikachu in the tribe. One of them will certainly become the next elder after the current one passes, which will probably be this winter. To their left and right are all the older mated bucks of the tribe, ordered by their status, including your father who is in the center-right of the formation. He sees you and the devastated look in his eyes breaks your heart. The other males see you and look confused and start murmuring to each other. It was embarrassing enough to have to die but the whole tribe now knows exactly your fate.
On the hill with the borrows, all the vulpix adults sit outside looking down on the pikachu; their kits have been ushered inside the dens. They look down on the pikachu nervously. Even though the vulpix outnumber the pikachu three to one, pikachu only become more powerful in groups and they have coordination on their side. Vulpix tend to split at the first sign of danger. The only thing stopping the pikachu from routing the vulpix is Lady.
Lady shouts, "you can't just come here like this unannounced! Why are you here? For Lulu? I was told she is no longer a part of your tribe, and I planned on letting her hunters eat her, as is their right. But I will return her if you so wish."
"No," says Boc, "we are not here for her. We did not even know she was here. We expected this would be her fate, so do what you wish with her." A cold dread washes over you. Even though you expected such, to hear it from Boc's mouth really lets you know how little the tribe thinks of you; you were dead to them before you waved goodbye.
“Then why are you here?” Growls Lady.
Boc continues, “for years, our pichu have been disappearing near the watering hole. We’ve suspected vulpix. You, scoundrels, are the only things sneaky enough and the only predators we allow in our territory that could be blamed. But… we gave you the benefit of the doubt. Well no longer! Just this morning, we caught one of your kind with bloody maw after one of our pups went missing.” An audible gasp comes from the vulpix’s hillside. They all start whispering.
Lady relaxes her stance. “I am sorry that is the case, pikachu. I do not condone hunting at the watering hole and will personally execute the perpetrator if that is what you wish. But that is no reason to come here in threatening force.”
“Don’t worry, well execute the murder ourselves. And we’ll make it painful and slow. But we did not just come here for show. The vulpix in question calls himself Xander.”
An even louder gasp comes from the hillside and all the foxes start low talking. Under Lady’s breath, you hear her curse.
Boc continues, “Xander claims he did not kill the pichu but his bloody snout tells a different story. He claims it was pidgey blood, but there was no pidgey to be found. The body of the pichu is missing and Xander was found only seconds after the screams. So he did not act alone. We know one or more of you helped him and demand the others step forward to face justice.” The hillside has now erupted into full-blown talking. “And!” Boc shouts over the ever-growing sounds, “our mothers are furious and demand additional retribution is taken. We demand a pup for a pup! Give us one of your kits to kill as an example. Then maybe your kind will respect the treaty.”
The hillside breaks into a full-scale riot. The vulpix yip, snarl, growl, shout, and blow smoke. You can tell Lady is not happy either; her body begins to radiate heat like the sun during a hot drought. She screams “SILENCE!!!” with such force it would make a thunder crack sound like a caterpie chirp. Lady unleashes a Flamethrower into the air that burns with such intensity, you have to crouch low not to get burned. The heat makes you feel as though you will be cooked alive. The Flamethrower shoots fifty feet into the air over the group of pikachu. They all crouch in fear but stay in formation. Once the fire has ceased, the area goes dead silent and Lady yells, “this is an outrage! I understand your anger, but to kill an innocent kit just to satisfy your blood lust is something I will not stand for!”
Boc, not intimidated by Lady’s display, shouts back, “if our demands are not met, then the watering hole is no longer shared and we will kill any vulpix who enters our territory.”
“You do not know what you tamper with, pikachu,” Lady growls. “Twenty of your lifetimes ago, war between our two kinds brought the forest to its knees. Without access to the watering hole, vulpix’s numbers plummeted to one-eighth of its current population - which is already low. Without us to cull the prey, pidgey and rattata numbers exploded, and with that came disease, famine, and larger predators. Greater Pokemon came from the mountains and plains surrounding our forest to feast on the gluttony of weak Pokemon. Roving bands of persian prowled the forest, dragonite swept down from the hills, as did the charzard, to hunt. And while hunting our forest, they made sure to try the local delicacy… pikachu. Your numbers also dwindled as you had to revert back to smaller clans to hide from the monstrous Pokemon. And that was before the invaders. A war between our kinds now would end the Central Forest as we know it and turn it into something resembling the Southern, or worse.”
Boc says, “then comply with our demands and peace can be reached.”
Lady pleads, “surely there is another way to rectify this without sacrificing an innocent kit.”
Your father breaks formation, runs behind Boc, and tugs on his tail. Boc turns around and begins talking to your father in whispers. You assume your father is negotiating for your life. While your father discusses your fate, Lady and Tavein begin to talk.
Tavein whispers, “Xander? You think it is the prophecy?”
“I don’t want to think of that now,” whispers back lady. “You think Xander did it?”
“Unfortunately Lady, I believe so. Males that fail to land a mate tend to get… irrational, to say the least. I’ve seen one tod throw himself off the cliff after failing during the rut. A reynard's mind goes to dark places without a mate and young to keep him anchored.”
“Then it is probably so. But they said they think Xander had help, but he was a loner. What vulpix would have helped him?”
“None that I can think of. But if what the pikachu said is true, then it has to be.”
“Just something about this doesn’t feel right.” Lady trails off into thought.
Your father has finished talking to Boc and Boc turns around. “Lady, we have decided to drop the kit demand so long as you release Lulu...” It feels like a weight has been lifted off your back, “but…” and now it's back on, “she must agree to return to the tribe and be mated to Flik.”
FLIK?! Flik is an older male - two years your senior - and has never been mated. Most males will leave the tribe if they don’t secure a mate within their first two years as a pikachu. But Flik has stuck around. You're not even sure Flik likes females. He seems to only be interested in some bucks that he sneaks off with, and accusations of what he lets them do with him are unspeakable. Flik is Boc’s son and the Elder’s grandson and has been a blight on their family’s reputation - which is probably why they want you to be his mate. If Flik is mated with a pretty, young doe, and has pichu then those accusations turn into just rumors. Your life and womb will be a political pawn in the greater power struggles of the tribe.
“Then it is on Lulu what happens. What do you say?” Lady passes it to you.
Flik would be a horrible mate and your life would be a living hell back in the tribe. But if you don’t, then you will be vulpix chow tonight and possibly start a war between vulpix and pikachu. You could run off before making it back to the tribe. But the tribe will not take kindly to being snuffed like that and instead of being an estranged member, you’ll become an active enemy.
But there has to be another way… right? You quickly try to think of something. Xander killed a pichu? He may be a weirdo but he did save your life yesterday. If Xander denies it then maybe something else killed the pichu. But what? But what!
Maybe if you investigate the death of the pichu and find the true culprit if it is not Xander, then they might release you; both from your gruesome death and your forced mating. Or maybe you're just delaying the inevitable.
What do you tell them?