Chapter 3 - Warm Welcomes and Fiery Tempers

Everything was quiet and calm. There were sounds, but they were soft and distant. It was not too cold, and not too hot. For the first time in quite a while, Roxy felt totally relaxed.

Slowly, her tired eyes fluttered open. She moaned quietly as she awoke from her sleep, squirming about slightly. Her mind was hazy. She didn't even remember having gone to sleep. Roxy yawned, stretched her forelegs out, and shook her head to clear away the drowsiness. "Mmmaster…?"

When she opened her eyes wider and got a good look at her surroundings, she let out a startled gasp. Her fatigue disappeared entirely as she stared at the unfamiliar location around her. It was a structure, certainly, but it wasn't a house. It was circular and very small, only about five times her body length in diameter. The walls looked like they were made out of dried grass, and there was a form of 'drapery' covering the doorway that was made out of leaves. Her eyes glanced down, seeing the naked ground of the Earth below her. When she sat up, she realized that she had been sleeping on a somewhat comfortable bed of leaves.

Her breath caught in her throat as she backed herself up against the wall, staring in fright at this unknown place. Where was she?! Fright and confusion consumed her for a moment, but then her eyes went wide as she remembered what had happened before. She remembered finding herself in the forest and running away from the predators. She remembered the two weird-looking Pikachu, and realized that she must've passed out.

Feeling only slightly less panicked, Roxy continued to look at the small room she was in. It sort of looked like a hut; the kind of dwelling that some ancient humans used to live in. The roof and walls were reinforced with sticks and branches, but everything had a very sturdy look to it. It appeared primitive, but not flimsy.

"Okay…" she whispered to herself, "You're in a…hut. The…the boomerang Pikachu took out the Zangoose…and then you passed out…and now you're here. That's good…right?"

Roxy whimpered and grabbed her tail so that she could hug it. The good news was that she didn't seem to be lost in the forest anymore, but now she was just somewhere else that she didn't know. It didn't feel like her ordeal was any closer to being over.

Something seemed off to the little Pikachu, and then it hit her while she was idly stroking her tail. She felt fine. More than that, Roxy felt perfectly well. She had exhausted herself, strained all of her muscles, and gotten her tail mauled by the Zangoose. Now she felt great and there were no injuries on her tail at all.

Roxy felt her heart thumping in her chest. This was so confusing. All she wanted to do was go home. The Pikachu brought a paw up to her chest, holding it there as she took deep breaths to try and calm herself down some more.

Instead, she gasped. Her paw grasped wildly at her neck, but all it found was fur. "My collar…!"

Her collar was gone. Her neck was bare, which felt rather unsettling to her. She had been wearing that collar since she had evolved into a Pikachu and her old one didn't fit anymore. Being without it made her feel strange and uncomfortable. It had been around her neck for so long that it had grown to become a part of her, and now it wasn't there.

However, this also made her feel upset. That collar was more than a piece of leather holding a tag with her name on it. It was something that her master had given to her. It was a symbol of who Roxy's master was, and it represented the unbreakable bond between them. Roxy felt a sadness welling within her. Now that her collar was gone, it felt like that unbreakable bond had been broken.

Roxy suspected something, and reached up with her paw to confirm it. She whined as she felt the fur around her ear. The flower was gone too. Like her collar, it had been a gift from her master and something that she felt was part of her identity. What had happened to the two items, Roxy didn't know. Now she was simply naked, a Pikachu like any other.

"Where am I?" she whimpered, once more feeling alone and scared, "What happened to me?"

Roxy was whining like a little Pichu cub, but she didn't care. She had never been so sad before in her whole life. With all of the life-threatening trauma she had been through, she had probably only been out of her Poké Ball for less than a day at this point. No matter how hard she tried to wake up, however, the nightmare refused to end.

"Masterrr…"

Roxy's ears perked. Something was outside of the hut. It sounded like pawsteps. It seemed like someone was approaching. Roxy barely had time to think about who it might be before the leaf drapes parted and a head poked in.

She yelped in surprise and shrunk back slightly. Leaning in through the doorway was another Pikachu. Much like the two she had seen before, he was decorated with green markings on his fur. This one also wore some sort of necklace. He simply glanced at her emotionlessly.

Roxy's heart thumped in her chest. She didn't know if he was friend or foe. However, only moments after he had poked his head in, the Pikachu left. He hadn't said or done anything. He had merely looked in on her and then left.

The young female shivered. She had caught a glimpse of it through the doorway. Held at the Pikachu's side was a spear, just like the one held by the Pikachu earlier. It looked just as sharp and just as dangerous. Although, even if the Pikachu hadn't been armed, she would have still feared it. It was of above average size and looked quite intimidating. Roxy could tell that he was a fighter.

A few tense moments passed, with Roxy's nerves preventing her from moving, until she began to hear voices. There were Pokémon talking outside a short distance away from the hut. She strained to listen, but they were too far away.

Pawsteps approached once again. Roxy tensed up.

"…No. Stay here." Roxy could just barely hear a voice.

"Do not take long," replied another.

A few more moments passed. Roxy felt like she was about to pass out again from the tension in her body. Her panicking mind was trying to tell her that death was just outside the door, and she was futilely attempting to quash those notions.

The leaves parted. Another head popped in, and Roxy shrank back in fear once more.

"Hello."

Roxy squeaked in fear as if she'd been struck.

The other Pikachu's eyes widened slightly as he saw her state of fear. "No, no…Calm down," he said, holding up his paws palms forward, "It is okay. You have nothing to worry about."

She sat there, backed up as far as she could against the wall, staring in mind-numbing fear at this new visitor. It took her a moment, but she eventually recognized him as the spear-wielding Pikachu from before.

The Pikachu frowned, seeing that her condition hadn't changed. "Look," he said, stepping through the leaves and bringing his whole body through the threshold.

Roxy tensed up against the wall even more.

"See?" he spoke, extending his forelimbs and revealing as much of his body as he could, "I am unarmed. I have no weapons. I am not here to harm you."

Roxy stared for a moment. Indeed, the Pikachu's spear was nowhere to be found. She couldn't see any other concealed weapons, like those boomerangs, and he didn't have anything on him except a small shoulder-strap carrying pouch that looked like it too was made from leaves. A part of her fear began to ebb away and she started to relax a little bit.

The other Pikachu smiled. "You see? I am not your enemy, young one. I am here to help you."

"Y…" Roxy murmured, "Y-you are…?"

"You are safe here. You have nothing to fear, especially not from me." After a moment, the Pikachu took another step forwards. Though Roxy had her eyes on him, she didn't tense up this time or try to back away. Instead, she just watched him.

"Who…are you?" she whispered.

The Pikachu got about two paces away from her and then sat down upon the ground. Now the two were sitting and facing one another. This was one of those moments that really displayed to Roxy how small she was.

"I am Makari," he said in a soft tone and extended one of his paws towards her.

She stared at his paw, as if the paw itself would hurt her. She briefly glanced back up to his face. There, she could see a distinct gentleness in his eyes. She knew it was the same Pokémon that had fought against the Zangoose earlier, but his eyes and the way he behaved were totally different. Roxy was truthfully scared out of her life, but there was something about Makari's gaze that made her feel at ease. Her fears and anxieties didn't seem as powerful.

Slowly but deliberately, she reached out one of her own paws. After a few seconds of hesitation, she placed it in Makari's upturned paw. She felt her body freeze, subconsciously expecting her entire limb to be ripped off. Instead, Makari simply held it there for a few moments, and then released it.

"That is better…" he said, "Believe me, young friend, you are away from danger here. You need not fear us."

Roxy gulped, but then slowly nodded. "Okay…" she mumbled quietly.

"Tell me, do you feel all right? When we found you, you were exhausted. We have treated you, but please tell me if there is anything wrong. Perhaps there is something we can bring you?"

"I…" Roxy was about to tell him 'no', but that was the moment her stomach decided to growl. She had been so focused on being scared that she hadn't noticed how hungry she was. She was famished, and she realized that she hadn't eaten since the airport.

Makari laughed. "I thought you might be hungry," he said as he reached into his pouch, "So I brought these." A moment later, he pulled out three round, blue fruits.

Oran berries. Roxy knew what they were, and had enjoyed them as a tasty snack many times before. They were a staple of domesticated Pokémon food. Just seeing the berries made her mouth water and her stomach growl as if it were pleading for her to tackle Makari and take the berries. They could have been rotten and she wouldn't have cared. That's how hungry she realized she was.

However, she didn't move. She remained completely still, like a Deerling caught in headlights, staring at both Makari and the berries.

Makari gave her a gentle, encouraging smile. He held his paws forward, bringing the berries a little closer to her. "It is okay. They are for you. You may take as many as you want."

Still, Roxy remained frozen. Anxiety was written across all of her features.

Makari at first tilted his head in confusion, but then the reason for her hesitation dawned on him. "You have nothing to worry about. They are perfectly safe to eat."

Roxy gulped, trying to decide if she could believe him. Unfortunately, the only word that her brain was understanding was 'poison'.

"Okay. Watch me, then," Makari said, and then brought one of the berries up to his mouth where he took a big bite. He chewed the juicy fruit for a moment before swallowing. "See? There is nothing wrong with them."

A few of Roxy's nerves calmed down. That was definitely a sign that the berries weren't poisoned. Probably. There was still the notion in her mind that Makari had deliberately eaten the only non-poisoned berry in the bunch, but the fear was ebbing away. She realized that if she continued to act like this, she would be too scared to eat anything out here, and then where would that leave her?

Slowly, like a tiny, frightened Rattata, she got up on all fours and took a few trembling steps towards the other Pikachu. She kept her eyes on him the whole time, watching him for any sudden moves. Once she was close enough, she got up on her hind legs so that the two were facing each other. After one more moment's hesitation, she reached out her paws towards the other two berries. Makari happily handed them over to her.

Roxy stared at the two fruits in her paws. They certainly looked okay, and Makari had eaten one of them. Her fears forced her to hesitate yet again, but she swallowed them and forced herself to take a chance.

One bite into the juicy, succulent Oran berry was all the persuasion she needed to chow down. Roxy immediately felt her stomach leaping for joy as it was filled with the sweet, slightly tangy treat. She had never had an Oran berry that tasted this good before, and she wondered if it was because she was so hungry or if it really was that delicious.

Roxy quickly devoured the two berries she had been given, eating quickly but still adhering to the table manners she had learned back home. She may have been starving, and she may have been in some grass hut in the middle of the unknown, but that was no reason to get her fur all messy.

Once she had swallowed the last bite, she let out a sigh of satisfaction. Already, she felt leagues better. She could feel her energy starting to return.

"Feel better?"

Roxy jumped slightly, having almost forgotten that Makari was even there. She glanced up at him, again seeing his warm and comforting smile.

"Um…Y-yes…" she murmured.

"I have more," he said, reaching for the pouch once again, "Would you like some?"

Her watering mouth answered for her. "Yes…"

Makari handed her two more berries, which she also downed rather quickly. Now, after eating four whole fruits, she felt somewhat full.

As she swallowed her last bite, she glanced up at Makari. He was still sitting there, waiting patiently for her to finish eating. There was still that warm, welcoming smile on his face. Somehow, Roxy felt a little more at ease when he was smiling at her like that. Given this, as well as his generous offer of fruit to her, she was beginning to believe that he was someone she could trust.

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"You are very welcome," he replied, "I am glad that you enjoyed them."

A demure smile appeared on her face as she nodded. She then glanced at her surroundings once more, her smile vanishing. "Um…" she murmured, "Makari? Right?"

He nodded and then said, "May I ask what your name is, young one?"

"I…I'm Roxy."

"Roxy…" he spoke the name slowly, his gaze drifting upwards for a moment as he considered it. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Roxy," he said at last. She noticed that he seemed to pronounce it strangely, as if he were saying 'Rakasi'.

She then continued speaking. "I…You were there. The…" She shivered. "The Zangoose was chasing me…"

He nodded again. "Yes. I was collecting food with Taka when we heard your cries. I am thankful that we were able to drive him away before he could hurt you."

Roxy's eyes widened slightly. "So…You saved my life?"

"Well, yes. Did we frighten you when we arrived? If so, I am sorry."

She gulped and smiled sheepishly. "Um…k-kinda… You had, um…weapons." She glanced away, rubbing the back of her neck with her paw. "But, uh…Thanks for saving me. I wouldn't be here right now if not for you."

"It is the least we could do. You are one of us, after all."

Roxy gave him a look. "What do you mean by that?" Her ears perked up as a burning question once more made itself heard in her mind. "Where am I?" she asked, leaning forward and looking Makari right in the eyes, "How did I get here? What happened?"

Makari was slightly taken aback by her sudden audacity, but he grinned and stood up. "If you are feeling okay, then perhaps you would like to see for yourself?" On his hind legs, he walked over to the hut's doorway and held the leaves open, gesturing for her to follow.

Roxy glanced around for a moment. Her anxious mind told her to stay put, but she decided that not much good was going to come of staying inside of an empty room. She too stood up, pausing for a moment as her muscles felt stiff, and then walked over towards Makari.

The other Pikachu looked back at her and held out one of his paws, palm up.

Roxy looked at it for a moment, then up at Makari. She hesitated for a brief moment, and then reached out with one of her own paws. Their two paws joined, and Roxy immediately felt a brief tingling sensation dancing across her skin. She knew what it was right away; it was Makari's Static ability.

Makari glanced at her paw with his brow furrowed for a moment, but then went back to smiling at her. "Follow me," was all he said. The next thing Roxy knew, she was being led through the leaves and out of the door.

Roxy had no idea what to expect outside of the primitive walls of the hut. Some rural human village perhaps? What she did see made her jaw slowly drop and her eyes grow as wide as milk saucers. For a few minutes she simply stared, walking automatically as Makari led her along.

She was in a village, this much was true. However, there wasn't a human in sight. Instead, Roxy soon found herself surrounded by Pikachu. There were tons of them and they were everywhere! Roxy was led into a fairly large clearing in the trees, where some simplistic huts had been constructed out of grass and wood. There were a few wooden platforms and ladders made of grass leading up into the trees, where there were one or two treehouses also constructed. It really was a village, and its inhabitants were Pikachu.

They all looked like Makari did. They all had some kind of green markings painted on their fur. To some, it gave them a warrior-like appearance, while on others it looked more artistic. Many were carrying the same pouch that Makari had, while others had shoulder-straps, headbands and headdresses, or other decorations like feathers or necklaces.

Many of them were also carrying sheathed weapons.

Makari continued to leisurely lead her through the place, and she couldn't help but stare. It looked like she was still in the same wild forest, especially because she couldn't imagine those two Pikachu carrying her terribly far, but this was unlike anything she had seen prior. No matter how simplistic or primitive it may have been, this was a civilization.

As she continued to look, she realized that not all of the population were Pikachu. Her kind simply made up the vast majority. There were also a number of young Pichu to be seen, but also a couple of different species altogether. She saw a few Plusle and Minun, some Dedenne, Emolga and Pachirisu. She spotted a single Jolteon, as well as a family of a Shinx, Luxio and Luxray.

It was not hard to see the common theme amongst the villagers. Everywhere she looked, Roxy saw only Electric types.

"Makari?" she whispered.

"Yes?"

Her question died on her tongue for a moment before she found her voice. "Wh…Where am I?"

The two came to a stop off to the side of the village centre, where Makari let go of her paw and turned around. He put on a big welcoming smile and said to her, "This is the village of the Thunder Tribe. We welcome you."

Roxy slowly turned around on the spot, taking in the sights of the little village that surrounded her. She was completely awestruck. She had never seen so many Electric-types, not to mention so many Pikachu, in one place before. Every one of them, even those who were not Pikachu, had green markings of some kind. Aside from the construction, there wasn't a single sign of humans anywhere to be found.

"Did…" she spoke, her disbelief making her mind feel heavy, "Did you…build all of this?"

"We did," Makari replied, "We of the Thunder Tribe are gifted with our strong minds and nimble forepaws. When we work together, it is but a simple feat to build something sturdy that will keep the rain off of one's head."

"Wow…" she whispered.

"Come with me, Roxy," he said, taking her paw once more, "There are those who wish to meet you."

Roxy allowed herself to be led along once again, but her eyes continued to roam around her fantastic surroundings. She began to notice that a lot of the Pokémon were staring at her as she passed. They were not hateful stares by any stretch of the imagination, but they were not as friendly and welcoming as Makari either.

"Um…Makari?" she spoke up, "Can you tell me…what happened?"

"What do you mean?"

"The last thing I remember was the…Zangoose, and I was panicking so hard that I wasn't even paying attention to where I was going. How did I get here? What…?" She trailed off.

"Ah," Makari replied, "Well, according to Kazaka you were on the land of the Braveheart Tribe. They lie to the west of us, across the creek."

Roxy remembered the creek she had crossed. "I think I was…and then I crossed over into…?"

"Yes, you crossed into our lands. Kazaka should not have followed you, but he has never been one to follow our laws. Taka and I heard your cry and came to your rescue. When I approached you, however, you passed out." He paused for a brief moment. "I brought you back to our village, where our healer tended to your wounds. We then left you to sleep until you woke up."

Roxy stopped walking, causing Makari to pause and look back at her. "Roxy?"

"Makari…" She was staring at the ground, her mind processing this information. A cloud of worry passed over her, and she then looked up at the other Pikachu with nervous eyes. "…Where am I?"

Makari seemed confused by the question. "Where? Erm…You are in our village, as I have told you."

She shook her head. "I know, but…Where is that? Where's this…forest? Except for the Zangoose's place and here, I have no idea where in the world I am. Am I still in Kanto?"

The larger Pikachu frowned and replied, "I have no answers for these questions, I am afraid. The forest extends far, spreading across the mountains and reaching for the horizons." When he saw her distraught face, he continued. "That being said, there are some in this village who may have a better answer."

Roxy's face immediately brightened. "Really?"

"Yes. You will meet them in due time. Let us not get ahead of ourselves, okay?" He held out his paw once more.

"Um…Okay…" Roxy said meekly as she took his paw. The pair continued through the village at a leisurely pace, and Roxy took another moment to gaze at her surroundings. While she did, her mind was struggling to come to grips with what was happening. She didn't seem to be in danger anymore, but that didn't make her situation any less stressful. Honestly, she was not any closer to figuring out where she was or how she had gotten there. At the very least, she had made a friendly acquaintance.

"Um, Makari?"

"Yes, young one?"

Roxy glanced around, feeling slightly uneasy. "Why are they all…looking at me?"

Makari chuckled. "You are a stranger to us. It is very rare that we encounter strangers, much less of our kind, so your arrival is somewhat unusual. Give them time and I am sure you will be welcomed."

Roxy's ears fell as she looked back towards the centre of the village, which they had passed. She counted the sets of eyes still resting on her. A multitude of Pikachu and Pichu, as well as some Emolga and Pachirisu, held their gazes upon her. She glanced back at Makari for a brief moment, then she awkwardly raised her free paw up and gave them a wave. No-one waved back.

The two continued forward in silence, with Roxy starting to feel more awkward than afraid. Makari quickly showed her the places where they stored their food, where their healer's hut was, and where to get fresh water. They then continued through the trees and away from the main area of the village. Soon, there were much fewer villagers around them.

The two of them approached a rather unique sight. In a small clearing between some trees, wood and leaves had been set up to make a sort of 'curtained wall' in a three-sided formation. It was like a fence with a leaf blanket draped over it. The two rounded the trees and approached the open side of the area, though Roxy was a little hesitant. She could hear distinctly loud noises coming from within.

It sounded like fighting. Roxy hesitated at first, but allowed herself to be led forward by Makari. There, in the confines of the three walls, was what looked like a training area. There were a couple of wooden logs stuck in the ground, as well as slices of wood with unusual symbols on them. They resembled dummies and targets, which was supported by the number of dents and holes in each of them.

Roxy's eyes, however, were drawn to the main attraction. In the middle of all of the targets, there was a Pikachu in the midst of some intense training. Roxy's eyes grew wide as she watched the Pikachu move with incredible speed and grace. He was deft on his feet, never stopping or staying in the same spot for long. As he used his weapon to strike the targets, he mixed in dodging techniques like twirls and midair flips. A number of times he jumped and rebounded off of the walls or the targets.

Roxy was astounded, and a little bit intimidated, by the display of skill she was watching. He was moving with such expert speed and precision that it was hard to even see what weapon he was using. Once she caught a glance of it, however, things became a little clearer to her. The Pikachu's wooden boomerang twirled through the air, bounced off the targets, and made a painful thunk every time it hit. He would catch it and throw it again without fail every time.

She and Makari stood and watched for a minute or two. After striking each target at least 20 times, the training match finally came to an end. He finished off the show by catching his boomerang, leaping and flipping through the air to land next to the largest target, and bringing down the blunt end of the boomerang hard on top of it. A crack formed in the wood and traveled right down to the centre of the slice.

Roxy felt a shiver go up her spine as silence suddenly filled the area. She glanced at Makari and whispered to him. "That's Taka, right?"

Makari nodded, a proud smile on his face. "Indeed that is Taka. One of our greatest warriors."

Taka had heard them talking, turning his head to glance back at them with one eye. Roxy shivered again as that one, single eye gazed right at her. It was not angry or vengeful, but it still sent a brief spike of fear right down her back. She could tell he was formidable from his glance alone.

"Fine work as always, Taka," Makari commented, "I do wish you would stop breaking our targets, however."

Taka ignored him and turned around, marching towards them and keeping his gaze on Roxy. His gaze slowly changed from intimidating to cool indifference. His lips formed an emotionless line, though his brows were slightly knitted. He stopped once he was in standing in front of them.

He looked the same as when he had fought the Zangoose. The sharp lines and triangles that the green paint formed had not changed. The two pairs of marks under his eyes were just as striking and iconic as before.

"I see she is awake," he spoke. His somewhat deep voice gave her an icy sensation.

"Um…Hello," Roxy said, trying meekly to smile and be friendly, "I-"

"Makari," Taka interrupted, glancing at his companion, "I trust you have not forgotten that the wise ones want to see her immediately."

The Pikachu in question narrowed his gaze. "Of course I have not forgotten. I am taking her there now, but there is no rush. She is not our enemy, Taka. I am showing her around."

"You should show her around after you have done what you have been told to do." Now Taka's gaze had shifted more towards anger. Though an inch shorter than Makari, Taka was glaring at him as if he were ten feet tall.

"Taka…" Makari said in a warning tone. He did not adopt an aggressive stance, but his body language made it clear that he wasn't going to be pushed around.

Roxy jumped slightly when Taka's gaze suddenly shifted back to her, and it still looked quite less than jovial. Though he had brown eyes like any other Pikachu, Roxy got the strange sensation that they should have been a striking icy blue.

An awkward silence passed between the three. Roxy shifted between staring bewildered at Taka, glancing to Makari for help, and eying Taka's weapon.

"Um…" Roxy murmured, trying to break the thick layer of ice, "Taka…I wanted to thank you for saving my life back there. If it hadn't been for you, heh…I would be Zangoose chow."

Taka somehow managed to look even less amused. He was pretty close to outright glaring at her by now. "I was not saving your life," he replied curtly, "I was defending our land from an intruder."

Roxy was a little taken aback. "Oh… Um, well… I guess, thanks anyway?" Another moment of uncomfortable silence passed. "Uh…You're really good with your b- that thing," she said, unsure if they called it a 'boomerang' or not, "Your battling is amazing."

The Pikachu glared at her for another moment, then sharply turned his head back to the left. "Makari!" he barked, "Take her to the wise ones."

"Taka," Makari replied in a tone that clearly voiced his lack of patience, "There is no need for behaviour like this. Where is your sense of hospitality?" He sighed, and then turned to face her and extended one paw towards her. "Taka, this is Roxy."

Roxy's cheeks flushed and she timidly held up a paw. "H-hi…"

Taka was back to glaring at her, though now his eyes were wide open. "'Roxy'?!" he exclaimed.

Frightened by his outburst, Roxy took a step back and lowered her ears. "Y-yes, my name is-"

"You see?!" Taka yelled, turning to face Makari, "I have told you, Makari! What did I say when we found her? Do you not recall my words?!"

"Taka…"

"'Roxy' is a pathetic name that was given by humans! I knew who she was! If the collar around her neck was not enough, see how she still unashamedly holds on to her human name!" Taka then pointed a paw accusingly at her. "She belongs to a trainer! She is not free like us!"

"Taka, stop this."

However, Taka wasn't listening. He was practically fuming at this point. "I told you we should have left her there! Better yet, we should have thrown her back over the creek along with Kazaka. You have a soft heart, Makari! You are a fool! I told you not to bring her back, but you did anyway. You brought a human's Pokémon to our village!"

"Taka!"

Makari's shout cut through the forest, causing the whole place to fall eerily silent. Roxy could have sworn that even the bug and bird Pokémon that could be heard in the distance had stopped making noise.

Roxy simply stood there, a worried look on her face, feeling completely uncomfortable. What had just happened? Taka had just said he had wanted to leave her out where the Zangoose attacked. He had wanted to cast her out. From what he had said, Roxy could picture Taka simply walking away and leaving her unconscious form and Makari behind.

But why? What had she done? She barely even knew these two Pokémon. The glare Taka was now giving her sent shivers down her spine. He almost looked like he outright hated her. He simply stood there, silently judging her. Roxy was afraid of saying anything else for fear of setting him off again. After all, she had seen how dangerous he could be.

After a few tense moments of silence had passed, Taka abruptly turned around and began walking away. "Bring her," he commanded, not even looking at Makari as he departed. Moments later, he had disappeared into the trees.

"M…Makari…?" Roxy whispered.

The other Pikachu sighed and gave her an apologetic look. "I am sorry about him, Roxy."

Roxy slowly walked over and stood next to him once more. "Why is he like that…?"

Makari glanced ahead at nothing while he spoke. "Taka does not trust outsiders. He is very protective of our village and our clan. The truth is that you are still a stranger to us, and Taka does not treat strangers kindly."

"Oh…"

"But…It is more than that I am afraid. Taka has a deep hatred and distrust for humans. We live far from humans and they seldom bother us, but Taka views them as dangerous enemies. He is dismissive of anything to do with humans. It seems that we were correct in assuming that you belong to a human, yes?"

Roxy blinked, sadness filling her heart. Her master had been on her mind the whole time she had been out here, but now that her life was no longer in danger her mind focused on how much she missed her. Roxy still didn't know where she was, but she didn't want to be there. She wanted to be in the arms of her master. "Yes," she replied with a nod.

Another moment of silence passed. Roxy was broken out of her reverie by Makari holding out his paw once more. "Come," he spoke in an inviting voice, "As I am sure you are aware now, the wise ones would like to meet you."

Roxy took his paw and looked up to him. "The wise ones?"

"Yes, they are the leaders of our village."

"Oh." Roxy gulped, feeling a strange sense of agitation. Going to see these 'wise ones' could lead to any number of outcomes. If they were the leaders of this village, then it stood to reason that her fate lay in their hands. They could welcome her much like Makari had, and perhaps even help her find her way home. Or, they could end up distrusting her like Taka and cast her out. Then, she would be right back where she started.

Maybe they would do something worse.

"Um…" she murmured as Makari started to lead her in the same direction that Taka had gone, "Are they…nice?"

Makari chuckled. "Calm yourself, Roxy. You have nothing to fear from the wise ones, nor anyone in this village. That includes Taka. As long as you do nothing to warrant it, no-one will harm you. If you do not attack us, then we will not attack you." He turned and gave her a sidelong glance. "I trust you will not attack us, will you?"

Roxy quickly shook her head. "N-no! I wouldn't dream of…"

"Wonderful," Makari spoke, "That is what I believed. Even when I first laid eyes on you, you did not strike me as someone malicious. It is comforting to hear the words from your mouth as well."

For a moment, Roxy simply glanced away deep in thought. "Um…Makari?" she spoke at last, "I'm really grateful for you and Taka rescuing me from the Zangoose…and to you for welcoming me to this place, but…" Roxy frowned. "I'm still so confused."

Makari gave her a sympathetic smile. "I am sure that you are. For that reason, I think it may be best that we see the wise ones now. Truthfully, I know not what lies in store, but they will certainly be able to answer most of your questions."

Roxy gave him an unsure look for a moment, but then steeled herself and nodded. "Okay," she spoke, trying to force herself not to assume that the 'wise ones' were going to kick her out.

"Very well, young one. Follow me."

Makari then led her through the trees once more, headed in the direction that Taka had gone. As she walked, Roxy kept glancing around at her surroundings as questions assaulted her mind. Who were these wise ones and what would they be like? They probably wouldn't be dangerous, but then again anything was possible. Would one of them know how she could get home?

As her mind continued to run like this, she became absentminded. She almost didn't notice when Makari stopped walking, which jolted her out of her stupor. She looked ahead to see where Makari had brought her, and her eyes widened at what she saw.

It was a fairly large clearing in the trees, with a natural mound of grassy soil in the centre. Taka was there, standing with his forelegs crossed and staring at her. The mound was covered in leaves and torn grass, forming a relatively comfortable looking place to sit, and there were a few small saplings growing from atop the mound. There on the grass and leaves, two sitting down and one leaning against one of the trees, were who Roxy could only assume were the wise ones.

They were Raichu. Big Raichu. Of course, Raichu were naturally bigger than their pre-evolved forms, but they looked noticeably bigger compared to Roxy's small stature. Just like everyone else in the village, they had green body paint and tribal-like adornments.

What struck Roxy, however, was how young the Raichu were. They were not as young as her or Makari, but they were still quite young and fit. Hearing the name 'wise ones' had made Roxy think of old grizzled Pokémon who had been around for years upon years. She had thought about 'elders' from stories or ancient human cultures. These Raichu were probably only a few years older than she was.

Beside her, Makari pulled his right foreleg against his chest and bowed his head forward a little. A frantic voice in the back of her mind told her that she should be doing the same thing, but she couldn't. Roxy was frozen on the spot with fear.

"Greetings, Makari."

A shiver ran up Roxy's spine. That Raichu had a commanding voice. Before she even knew what she was doing, she had moved herself behind Makari, gently clutching at his arm for support. She was trying to control herself and keep from trembling like a leaf, but she wasn't doing a very good job. The truth was that Roxy was afraid of Raichu. All of the Raichu she had met or seen on TV had been big, tough bullies. They towered over her and were always so much bigger. Just looking at one made her feel small and afraid.

Makari turned to look at Roxy, looking a little bemused. "Are you okay?" he asked, "These are the wise ones."

"I…" Roxy murmured, realizing that the eyes of all three Raichu were staring directly at her. She shivered a little, feeling intimidated beneath their gazes. These were apparently the leaders of this whole village of Electric-types, and they were all big, strong Raichu. None of them looked especially displeased, but Roxy believed that could change in an instant the moment she said the wrong thing.

"I thought…I didn't know they would be…" She paused and gulped. "I thought they would be older…"

Makari looked confused for a moment, but then he gave her his comforting smile. "Whatever do you mean? They are the leaders of our tribe. The strongest and smartest. Having demonstrated themselves as being the most intelligent and knowledgeable of our tribe, as well as their superb leadership skills, we have bestowed upon them the honoured title of 'wise one' and entrust the leadership of our tribe to them."

Roxy didn't even look at Makari as he talked, and continued to stare in fear at the three large Pokémon sitting atop the mound. Two of them were quietly conversing with one another. "Oh…" she whimpered.

Makari chuckled and then turned, extending his paw to indicate each one in turn, "This is Natoka, Karizu and Ozu." He gave her a pat on the back and then added, "Calm down. You have nothing to fear."

Roxy simply looked up at the three, sitting on the mound and looking down upon her.

Natoka was the one leaning against the tree. He didn't look like he was lazily lounging, but merely resting. He was the only one of the three with a frown on his face as he looked down at her. Compared to the others, Natoka was covered in scars and battle wounds. There was the sign of a large gash on his chest, and half of the thunder bolt shape on his tail had been bitten off. Roxy got the idea that he had been through a lot.

Karizu was the largest of the three. He wore an elaborate necklace with many differently coloured painted pebbles on it. The design of the green paint on his face was swirly and curving. It sort of resembled half of a heart, though it was a bit of a stretch to say so.

Finally there was Ozu. He seemed like the oldest of the three, though still not that much older than her. He also didn't seem quite as physically fit as his companions. There was a subtle frown on his face, though it didn't seem to be directed at her. His eyes seemed like they had been enduring sleepiness for weeks.

"Is this the young female, Makari?" Oku spoke. His voice wasn't as commanding as Natoka's, who had spoken earlier, but Roxy still shrunk back a little in fear.

"She is, Ozu," Makari responded.

"Step forward, young one," Karizu spoke, "We wish to speak with you." His voice was the least harsh-sounding of the group.

"Go ahead," Makari urged, but Roxy remained rooted to the spot.

"I-" she started to say, but was suddenly interrupted.

"Step. Forward." Taka's voice cut through the air like a knife, nearly making her leap out of her skin.

Roxy looked over at him, seeing that he was still giving her that untrusting glare. She glanced up at the three Raichu, seeing that two of them were looking at her expectantly. They didn't seem cross, though the third was cross at someone else. Karizu was giving Taka a dirty look, though the Pikachu hadn't noticed. With a tremble in her step, Roxy took a few tiny steps forward and gulped. "Um…H-hi…"

"Welcome, young one," Karizu said simply. Roxy shrunk under his gaze.

"Miri has treated her wounds," Makari spoke from behind her, "Kazaka did not cause her any serious damage. In the short time I have spent with her, she has not shown any signs of aggression so you have nothing to worry about, wise ones."

Roxy remembered, a long time ago, watching her master give a speech to a large crowd. She remembered how scared her master looked, and now could finally empathize with her. Taka was glaring daggers at her, Natoka was observing her with an unreadable expression, and Ozu looked like he was studying her.

Karizu stood out from the bunch. He was the only one of the four who was smiling. He sat himself up straighter and leaned forward, bringing his head just a little bit closer down towards her. "There is no need to worry, young one," he spoke in a calming voice, "You have done nothing wrong, so we have no reason for malice. Please tell us your name."

"Uh…" Roxy murmured, feeling a lump in her throat. "It's…um…" She glanced back at Makari for support, seeing him standing behind her with that same encouraging smile. "It's…

"Her name is Roxy," Taka suddenly interjected, and all eyes fell on him. Roxy could literally hear the venom dripping from his words, as if he had uttered something disgusting.

"'Roxy'?" Natoka spoke.

"That is correct," Taka replied, "She is…"

Roxy has been listening and watching them speak, fear still coursing through her veins, but then her roving eyes fell upon something that was lying on the ground nearby. Her ears perked up and she gasped.

"My collar!"

She didn't hesitate to quickly start running over to the opposite side of the glade, where her leather collar and the little red flower were. Elation flooded through her once she had seen the items. Her heart leapt for joy as she raced over to the items that she had thought were lost forever.

Roxy let out a startled gasp as she felt something hook onto her shoulder and pull back, quickly bringing her to a halt. She glanced back in confusion, and saw that Taka had grabbed onto her with one end of his boomerang. She saw that he was glaring at her, quickly bringing her current setting back into the forefront of her mind. For a moment, she had completely forgotten where she was.

"What do you think you are doing?!" Taka demanded.

"I…I…" Roxy murmured, overcome with fear.

"Sit! Down!"

Roxy was frozen, staring in horror at the very angry-looking Pikachu holding onto her with his weapon. Her eyes darted up to the three Raichu, seeing them all looking down at her with varying degrees of confusion and concern.

"You see?" Taka shouted, turning his head up to the wise ones, "You see how she immediately runs for the human's banding. That thing over there is a symbol of her human owner, and her first instinct is to get it back. She belongs to a human, wise ones! She does not belong here!"

"I…But, I…" Roxy sputtered.

"She holds on to the pathetic name that her human gave her, and she wants to make it known that she is not wild like us. She is an outsider and a danger to our tribe."

"Taka…" Karizu tried to interject.

"I have warned you about Pokémon like her. The humans train them to fight against each other, and to fight wild Pokémon, so that they may be caught and enslaved as well. Her human owner is probably not far off!"

"Wh- No!" Roxy exclaimed, starting to feel overwhelmed, "It's not- I- I just…!"

"Taka, we-" Karizu tried to speak once again.

Instead, Taka thrust an accusing paw towards Makari. "I told him to leave her, wise ones. He did not obey. This is not the first time his soft heart has gotten us into trouble. She cannot stay. She is not one of us. We should-"

"Taka!"

Natoka's shout finally managed to shut the agitated Pikachu up. He fell silent and glanced up at the Raichu, but his expression still remained indignant.

"Taka, be silent," Karizu said, "It is not your place to decide. Your concerns have been heard, now stand down."

A moment of uncomfortable silence passed, and then Taka lifted his boomerang off of her shoulder. "As you wish, wise ones," he said with a respectful bow.

The Raichu then turned to look at her, startling her. She was like a statue, frozen in place and afraid to make even the smallest movement.

"Roxy?" Karizu spoke. Just like Makari, he said her name in a strange way.

She gulped, but couldn't find her voice.

"Do those items belong to you?"

She nodded.

"Would you like to have them?"

She hesitated, but then nodded again.

Karizu extended a paw in the direction of the items. "Then you may retrieve them."

"But, Karizu-!" Taka interjected.

"The items belong to her," Karizu responded curtly, "She may do whatever she wishes with them." When he turned back to her and saw that she hadn't moved a muscle, he gave her a gentle smile. "It is okay, Roxy. You may have them back."

Still feeling afraid and unsure, Roxy glanced over to Makari. He too gave an encouraging smile and nodded. Roxy gulped, and then looked back up at the Raichu. "Are…are you sure?" she muttered, her voice quieter than a baby Rattata's.

"We are sure," Ozu replied.

"O…Okay…" Roxy willed herself to move and slowly walked over to where her stuff was lying. She glanced back at the other Pokémon a few times, just to make sure they hadn't suddenly changed their minds, but soon enough she had reached them.

Roxy's eyes danced as they fell upon her collar, safe and undamaged. The little nametag with her name engraved on it was still there. She reached down and picked it up, feeling the familiar texture of the leather on her paws. Roxy couldn't help herself, and hugged the collar like it was a teddy bear. It was an indescribable feeling that she felt. Even though it was just an inanimate piece of leather, Roxy felt like she had at last reconnected with her master, even if only in a very small way. Just holding the collar made her feel a little more at ease.

She heard a voice scoff from behind her, which brought her back to reality. She glanced over her shoulders, seeing Taka giving her a disgusted look. Her cheeks flushed and she looked away, quickly wrapping the collar around her neck. She fumbled with the buckle a little bit, since her master was usually the one to put it on, but she eventually got it. She then picked up the flower and carefully attached it behind her ear. Thankfully, it too was undamaged. Finally, Roxy sighed in contentment. Things felt just a little more right than before.

"Roxy!"

The Pikachu turned around upon hearing Makari's voice, and saw him indicating the Raichu with a nod of his head. She understood the message and turned to face them. She still felt small and vulnerable under their gazes, but she did feel better now that her accessories were back. "Th…Thank you…"

Karizu nodded. "You are quite welcome, young one. We may not know who you are or where you come from, but as long as you do not cause any trouble while you are here you will be treated well. I trust that you will not, right?"

Roxy jumped slightly. "N-no! I, um- No! I wouldn't…" She glanced down, fiddling with her paws. "I…I don't want to cause any trouble."

"Honestly, why do you insist on wearing those?" Taka spoke up. He had toned down the intensity in his voice, but Roxy could still hear the venom dripping from his words.

"Taka," Ozu said, adopting a rather philosophical tone of voice, "Many warriors of the Thunder Clan wear accessories on their body. Look at the feather Makari wears. Hers may look different, but are they not the same?"

Taka glanced at both of them, and decided to remain silent.

"My…" Roxy muttered quietly, "My master gave them to me…"

Immediately, a scowl returned to Taka's face. "Your human?"

"Taka, that is enough for now," Natoka interjected, giving the Pikachu a commanding stare.

"Indeed," Karizu concurred, and then turned to Roxy and continued. "Now then, young one…Roxy…Perhaps you could enlighten us. Strangers in the forest are exceedingly rare, after all. Please, tell us your story."

Subconsciously, Roxy found herself looking over at Makari again for support, as if he somehow knew all of the answers. It was a silly notion, after all, since only she knew her own backstory. Feeling a little nervous and put on the spot, she looked up at the three Raichu looking down at her. It was like a parody of the classic 'see, hear, speak no evil' Chimchar picture. Karizu was smiling, Ozu looked neutral, while Natoka still had a touch of judgement in his eyes.

"Well, um…Okay…" she started awkwardly, "My name is Roxy. Um…I guess you already knew that. And, I…Um…Well, the truth is that I'm lost." She paused. "Like, really lost."

"Is that so?" Karizu replied, "Where is your home?"

"Kanto."

The five others all exchanged confused glances.

"Umm…V-Vermillion City…?"

"It is obviously a human village," Taka replied in a droll tone.

"Do you know which direction it is?" Ozu asked, "East? West?"

Roxy frowned. "I have no idea…I don't even know where I am right now."

Karizu nodded his head. "I see. We will return to this subject later. Tell me, Roxy. How did you come by our forest? Makari and Taka tell me they found you near the border of the Braveheart Tribe."

Her expression became very distressed, ears lying flat against her head. "That's just it! I…I don't know! I was supposed to go on the airplane and wake up in Kalos, and instead I'm here!"

She was met with blank stares.

Roxy groaned. "I…" She realized that she had to choose her words more carefully. She had to remind herself that she was amongst Pokémon that were evidently very isolated from humans. "I was in my Poké Ball while at home in Kanto. I was supposed to come out of my Poké Ball in another, um…human village. In Kalos. But I didn't…"

An afterthought occurred to her. "Do you guys know what a Poké Ball is?"

They all shared a look, with expressions ranging from knowing to fear and even to disgust. "We do," Natoka answered.

"It is how the humans keep hold of you," Taka replied darkly.

"Um…" Roxy faltered. "So, yeah…Um…My master put me into my Poké Ball before she started to travel…but I came out of the Poké Ball in this forest…by a big river. A-and, the ball was broken…like somebody'd smashed it up!" She shivered and hugged her tail. "Something happened to me while I was in that ball…and I have no idea what it was…"

"You poor thing," Karizu said with a sympathetic frown, "That must have been very frightening, especially considering that you woke up on the far side of the Braveheart Tribe."

Roxy nodded. "There was an Aggron…a-and then the Zangoose…"

"Well, you need not worry about them any longer," Karizu said, "You are among your own kind now. You are much safer."

Taka scoffed, earning another glare from the three Raichu.

"So," Ozu spoke up, "just so that we are all clear…As far as you know, your trainer is not in our forest? They could be even a great distance away from this place?"

Roxy looked up at the Raichu as Ozu asked the question. Though she understood where he was coming from, every word out of his mouth was like a knife through her heart. The trying times she had been through lately had been a great distraction, but now things were starting to hit home again. She thought about how far away her master probably was, and how hard it would be for either of them to find one another.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she softly nodded her head.

"That is good," Natoka replied somewhat gruffly, "Humans have no place in this forest."

"Natoka is right," Ozu concurred, "Your trainer's presence would cause problems here, young one."

"If your trainer does set foot in our forest, or on our land," Taka cut in, "I promise you they will not be treated well."

Roxy looked around at the others, sweating and fidgeting nervously. "I…I don't think she- I don't know! I just want to find her and go home!"

"Do not listen to Taka," Makari spoke, "We sympathize with your plight, but there are more important things to consider right now."

Taka scoffed and glared at her once more. "The slave of a Pokémon Trainer," he spat, "Fighting others for sport, spending all of your time cooped up in a tiny cage…"

"Um…" Roxy murmured, glancing between the wise ones and Taka, "Y-you keep saying- She is not a Pokémon Trainer. She's my master."

Taka narrowed his gaze. "What…?"

"What do you mean by that, young one?" Ozu asked.

"Well, I just mean…I'm not part of a Pokémon Trainer's team. I have a Poké Ball, but that's just because of Kanto law. My master and I don't do the whole, y'know, battling thing. I live with her, in her house. She feeds me and takes care of me, and we enjoy each other's company." She sniffled. "And…I miss her so much."

She saw both Makari and Karizu give her sympathetic gazes, which did make her feel a little better. What she had not expected, however, was to see Taka getting even more incensed than before. He was looking at her in complete disbelief.

"Oh dear heavens, you cannot be serious!" he exclaimed, thrusting his paws into the air in exasperation, "This is worse than I had thought."

"Wh-wha…?" Roxy murmured.

"She is a pet!"

Roxy blinked, shrinking back against Taka's rage.

"She is no threat to us, but the reality is not much better!" Taka continued, pointing his paw at her, "She is a pathetic, worthless excuse for a Pokémon. A human's pet!"

"Taka, control yourself," Natoka interjected.

"What is a 'pet'?" Karizu asked.

"Pokémon that belong to trainers are slaves of the humans who fight for them, but pets like her are the very antithesis of who we are. Pets are lazy, they are gluttonous, and they are greedy. They live sordid, pathetic lives under the pampering of their humans, erasing everything about them that makes them a Pokémon!"

Roxy just hugged her tail, staring wide-eyed at the furious Pikachu.

"Look at her, wise ones! I had thought she seemed a little frail and jumpy, and now it makes sense! She cannot stay here. She is no fighter! She is barely a Pokémon! Let her find her own way back to her 'master'."

Roxy quickly felt all eyes fall upon her. She suddenly wished that she was a Squirtle so that she could hide in her shell. Hearing Taka's prejudice against humans had been bad enough, but his verbal onslaught had shaken her right to the core. She didn't even understand some of the things he had said. It was insulting and belittling, and it only served to magnify all of the worries and anxieties she had been feeling ever since she had arrived in this damned forest.

"Roxy…?" Makari spoke in a concerned voice, but the Pikachu didn't reply. Instead, she did the only thing that made sense to her any more.

Roxy started to cry.