CHAPTER 5 – HOT POCKETS
"Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife." – Kahlil Gibran
"Whirlpool!" Paul roared, incensed, as he pointed at Melody.
"Whirl—what?!" she shouted, her eyes widening in terror as his Swampert conjured a sphere of water between its hands. "Y-You're bluffing!" she growled, but Paul folded his arms and narrowed his eyes coldly, waiting as his Pokémon began to spin on the spot, the water flattening out into a large disc above its head. Taking a frightened step back, Melody looked left and right at the ground at her feet; the platform was more than wide enough, but if she was hit, she'd be sent over the edge for sure, and judging by the size of the last Whirlpool she'd seen, it was more than likely.
Frantically looking around, she saw a mass of sharp rocks scattered on the stones, glinting strangely in the light. Hang on, she thought, looking at them more closely, these are from that Rhydon's Stone Edge. Quickly, she crouched down and picked up the ones nearest to her, scooping up about a dozen of the rocks, and she looked back at Swampert to see that it was holding the fully-formed Whirlpool above its head, waiting for Paul to give the command.
Now or never, she told herself, clutching all the stones in one hand and lobbing them straight at Swampert. "Here's a taste of Melody's Stone Edge!" she cried, gritting her teeth as most of the missiles fell short of their mark, but one managed to fly further than the rest and hit the Pokémon square in the eye. "Super-effective once again!" she shouted, punching the air as Swampert groaned in pain and clutched at its injured eye, leaving the whirlpool above its head to give in to gravity and crash down, soaking both it and Paul.
"Not so tough now, are you?!" she taunted, wagging a finger at him condescendingly as he silently fumed. A tall shadow crept up her back, darkening the ground in front of her, and she slowly came to a stop as she saw the shimmering at the shadow's edge. Moltres! she thought, turning around inch by inch, and a single frightened squeak escaped her when she saw the Legendary Pokémon in all its glory, standing only feet in front of her.
"I—I—ah—uh…" she stammered; she'd never been this close to one of the Titans before, and she could see why people never tried to disturb them. It seemed enormous, towering above her like a dragon, its sharp eyes staring deep into her. "I—eep—"
"Koohhh!" screeched Moltres, a swirling red glow lighting up the inside of its beak. Melody threw herself onto the ground, not even caring as the harsh, grating stone grazed her knees and elbows, but the Legendary Pokémon had other plans. It blasted its Flamethrower across the platform, striking Swampert squarely in the chest, and the Water-type shrieked in pain as the attack set it alight. The Mud Fish Pokémon spewed a thick jet of water from its mouth to try and expel the fire, but the heat of the attack simply evaporated the water before it came close, and Swampert fell limply to the floor, writhing and twitching.
"Swampert?!" hissed Paul, his eyes wide and disbelieving, and he quickly returned his agonised Pokémon to its PokéBall. He spun around to face Moltres once more, but something clamped down on his wrist and yanked him away from the shrine and the Legendary Pokémon, leading him instead towards the stairs at the edge of the platform. "Will you just—let—me—go!" he roared indignantly, trying to break free as he glared at Melody, who kept her eyes straight and clamped down even tighter.
"We're getting off this island before you get us both killed!" she yelled back, running up the stairs to the volcano's rim, and Paul bit back a retort as his feet thudded into the stairs, the pair of them jumping up the staircase three steps at a time. "Now pick up the pace before I have to pick up your corpse!" she snapped, vaulting over the top step and sprinting towards the outer edge of the rim.
"I don't need your 'help'!" he snarled, wrenching his arm free, and he whirled around just in time to see Moltres throw its head upwards to the sky, its open mouth like a pit of flames that danced about in the air with an orange glow. "Whoa—!" he yelped, diving out of the way as the Flamethrower sizzled his way, singing the tips of his jacket's sleeves as he leapt over the edge of the mountain and down the other side.
"Paul!" Melody shrieked, searching for him as she reached the top of the long staircase leading back to shore, but all she could see was a large cloud of dust speeding over the rough terrain. Did he fall?! she thought, mortified, but a horrifying screech from Moltres behind her quickly shut all thoughts of his welfare out of her mind, and she ran down the stone steps as fast as her legs could keep up.
—! she willed herself, almost to the point of launching herself off the stairs with every pounding step of her sandals, feeling the iron-hard jolts that ran up her already sore legs.
Before she could even begin to comprehend her surroundings, she had already sprinted full-pace halfway down the mountain, and she allowed herself a split second to glance to the left, praying that her feet could find stone safely in the meantime.
In that split second, she suddenly knew two things; one, that Paul had definitely not fallen over, but was actually in a controlled slide down the slope, using his shoes like skates just a few feet in front of her; and two, that Moltres was right above her, as its imposing shadow seemed to track the pair of them as though it was their own.
"Paul!" Melody shouted, keeping pace with him as they raced towards the base of the mountain, which was quickly looming up on them. "Paul, stop running! I've got an idea!" she told him, motioning wildly with her arms as her eyes flickered between him and the blurred stone steps beneath her.
Her words were short-lived, however, as a white-hot sheath of flames bore down on the ground just wide of Paul, striking a tree and incinerating it in an instant. She screamed with fear as Moltres gave a screech of anger, and she, somehow, picked up her pace and bolted over the stairs, the adrenaline coursing through her like the same fire that had nearly reduced Paul to a crisp.
"I don't have an idea!" she wailed, ducking her head as she heard the Legendary Pokémon's wing-beats like thunderclaps. "It's not going to work!"
"Just try it!" Paul bellowed, and she almost tripped over in amazement as she heard the words; he actually seemed to be willing to follow her lead. "That or you get over here and take my place on this damn roller-toaster ride!" he snarled.
Melody rolled her eyes; rather, she would have rolled them if she wasn't trying to slow down without sending herself face-first into the stones below her. What a jerk… can't believe I'm actually about to try and save his life after that, she thought indignantly, lightly hopping off the stairs and onto the smooth, sandy ground next to her, and she dug the point of her sandals underneath the surface, steadily slowing her down.
Even before she slowed to walking speed, her hands were already in her shoulder-bag, pulling out her prized ocarina as gently as she could; given the way her hands were trembling, she was lucky to keep it in her grasp, and the spiny edges dug into her palms. Taking a deep, settling breath to steel herself, she took one quick glance at Paul, his head turned up at Moltres as the latter prepared to swoop down, and she raised the flute to her lips and began to play.
Come on, you want some?! Paul thought fiercely, his hips beginning to go numb as the rumbling of his feet against the ground started to take its toll on him. "You want a piece of me, you overgrown chicken?!" he roared defiantly, spinning his head around to stare at Moltres as the latter gave an offended squawk and stretched its talons wide, bobbing up slightly in the air as it readied itself to strike. "You don't scare me!" he thundered, his eyes wild.
A high, clear, haunting note pierced through the air, through the deafening flap of the Flame Pokémon's wings and the scraping growl of Paul's dangerous downwards slide, piercing into the minds of both Trainer and Legendary Pokémon. Moltres flapped its wings and came to a stop in the air, hovering as it slowly turned around to face the source of the sound, and Paul managed to brake and swing himself around to see Melody running her fingertips along her ocarina like raindrops falling into a river.
"What is she doing…?" he wondered aloud, spotting Moltres out of the corner of its eye, and his eyebrows flew up in surprise when he saw it fold its wings and land on the ground, bowing its head and swaying gently to the music. "It's not angry any more…!" he realised, his hand snapping towards an empty PokéBall on his belt, but his fatigued and aching body finally caught up with him at that moment, his legs buckling underneath him.
Paul screwed his eyes shut in pain as he felt all of the weariness in his bones hitting him at once, not noticing even as the glass sphere in his pocket lit up with ruby light, the glow pulsating to Melody's notes. Nor did he notice the Titan of Fire as it turned its head towards him, staring peacefully at its treasure, before giving a husky coo and returning to the air, slowly making its way back to the crater at the peak of the island.
It was only when the music stopped that he opened his eyes, unable to tilt his head sideways to try and see Melody, or to rub his face with his hand in relief, but only able to stare at the blue expanse of sky above his head as a great white cloud slowly drifted away. A few moments later, he heard the gentle crunch of shoes on gravel, and Melody's head came into the top of his vision, staring at him upside-down with a barely-concealed look of superiority plastered on every feature.
"I never knew you were the kind for daydreaming and staring at clouds," she smirked, hands on her hips. "Especially after Moltres came about a hair away from turning you into a shish-kebab about thirty-odd times," she added, and he groaned with frustration as his muscles refused to obey his will to stand up and throttle her.
"If I could move my body right now…" he hissed, and she replied by swiftly giving him a firm nudge in the shoulder with her sandal before rolling him over onto his stomach. "What the hell was that for?!" he yelled, his voice muffled by the ground.
"For nearly knocking me into the crater with that Whirlpool attack," she said snappily, kicking him in the ribs, and she sneered when she heard him howl in pain. "Maybe next time you'll think twice about teaching me a lesson, because I might not be able to save your butt with my flute!"
"I don't have time for this…" he muttered, taking a deep breath before tensing himself up, trying to return some movement to his limbs. Melody folded her arms and smacked her lips, holding back laughter as she watched him squirming about on the ground, his face steadily growing redder and redder as he tried again and again to stand up.
"You, uh, you need some help there, Paulie-boy?" she sniggered, crouching down and resting her hands over her thighs.
"I told you before, I don't need your help…!" he groaned, vainly moving left and right in an effort to roll onto his back again.
"Well, going on our track record, yeah, you do need my help," snorted Melody, shuffling around and grabbing him underneath the armpits. "Oh, quit being such a baby," she hissed, as he winced in pain and glared hatefully at her. "Like I was saying—" she looped his arm around her shoulders and held him by the mid-section, guiding him back towards the stairs, "I've saved your life twice now. And that's just since we landed on this island," she added, with a laugh that made Paul scowl.
"And you're helping me now, why?" he growled.
"Because this is gonna put me at three-and-zero," she answered with a wry grin. "And… as much as I hate to admit it, you're still needed for the ceremony, and it wouldn't look good for our festival if our Chosen One was found left for dead on the side of the footpath, now would it?" she explained, giving him a serious look. "So, y'know, don't go thinking I did it for you," she said in a honeysweet voice laced with danger.
This is so humiliating…! he thought, gritting his teeth and resisting the urge to spit on the ground as he looked the other way, allowing Melody to slowly walk him down the rest of the stairs between themselves and the shore.
He is so ungrateful…! Melody thought, biting her tongue and making a slicing gesture with her free hand at her side.
"And… we're back home!" chirped Melody brightly, smoothly bringing the boat in to dock at the harbour. "Shamouti Island, yay!" she cheered, turning off the ignition, securing the rope and hopping onto the wharf.
"You're… enjoying this… aren't you…?!" seethed Paul, crawling on his hands and knees to the edge of the boat, but his head flopped downwards and hid his green-tinged face. A moment later, Melody wrinkled her nose when she heard the loud retching noise, and shivered with disgust as it was followed by a sickly splash in the water below. Paul, on the other hand, gave a deep sigh and clutched the boat's railing with his hands, quickly pulling himself up and wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his jacket.
"Better…" he muttered, ignoring the imitation that Melody was, so to speak, chucking his way. "Where am I supposed to take this chunk—" his face twitched and his cheeks bulged for the tiniest of moments, "this piece of glass, anyways?" he asked gruffly, pulling the Fire treasure out of his jacket pocket and holding it out to Melody as he stepped onto the wooden planks.
"Well, thanks very much for adding your own personal spin of orange to the Orange Islands," she said sarcastically, shaking her head as she cast her gaze towards the bottom of her boat, checking for any 'ick' that hadn't been there beforehand. Paul's mouth twitched violently, this time out of anger and not nausea, and he snapped his fingers in front of her face, thrusting the treasure towards her again.
"Oh… how could I forget…?" she sighed in a dull voice, narrowing her eyes at him. "You've got to take it to the shrine on the other side of the island, talk to Slowking, and put the treasure on its pedestal," she explained simply, turning on her heel and striding down the pier.
"In that case—" smirked Paul, walking alongside her and getting a few feet in front, "I don't have any need for it, do I?" he asked sardonically, dropping the treasure onto the wood with a loud clunk.
Melody stopped in her tracks, a look of outrage etched onto her face as he dug his hands into his pockets and walked towards town. You bastard! she thought, her hands curling into fists, and she snatched up the treasure as she marched after him, and he turned around with a bored tilt of the head as he heard her footsteps. Before he could blink, she brought her foot swinging upwards, driving it into his groin with such force that he instantly crumpled backwards, clutching at himself and swearing profusely at her as he rolled onto his side.
"What the—hell is your—problem?!" he roared, his face red as he staggered shakily to his feet, the green tinge returning to his face as he collapsed sideways onto one knee.
"My problem?! MY PROBLEM?!" she screamed, pushing the treasure so closely to his face that it smacked him in the nose. "You could have broken this! The treasure of the Titan of Fire! Don't you realise how valuable this is?!" she howled, standing over him with a ferocity that made onlookers stare in shock, as though they had just witnessed a particularly violent crime being committed. "This is one-of-a-kind! Irreplaceable! Priceless! And some—some—moron—like you just tosses it onto the ground like an empty soda can?!" she raged, her empty hand twitching as it crept towards his throat.
"Take a good look at it, you stupid girl!" he snapped, regaining his feet, his composure, and his demeanour. "You said that these spheres were put on the islands centuries ago, and look! This one is flawless; not a single mark or scratch! Worse things are bound to have happened to it than being dropped onto some stinking wood!" he snarled viciously, ripping the treasure out of her grip with his head barely inches in front of hers.
The pair glared with a loathing that could have ignited the air, had they stared a moment longer before they abruptly turned their backs on each other. As Melody restrained herself from leaping on Paul and tearing him to shreds, a tick of helpless frustration ran through her as she thought about what he had said. It's true, she realised, mouthing a curse at his undeniable logic, the thing is perfect, and it's a relic…! Argh, damnit, I'm in the wrong here… this is so unfair…!
"Your verdict…?" he murmured smugly as if reading her mind, glancing over his shoulder at her, and she scrunched up her face in anger.
"I'm going home," she snapped, her hands again balling into fists as she marched towards solid land, arms floundering about at her sides. "Meet me in the town square at sunset, and I'll take you to the shrine."
"I already told you I'm not doing that…!" he said loudly, lips pursed stubbornly as he watched her stop and tense her shoulders, looking as though she'd seized up in the middle of her stride.
"You're doing it whether you like it or not!" she shrieked over her shoulder, her arms trembling with fury. "You don't do this, and you're not getting a ride to the next island, got it?!" she told him, stamping over the last few planks of wood and onto dry land, quickly disappearing amongst the lines of people that were strolling down the harbour-side road.
TO BE CONTINUED…