Rogue Mission 6 - part 2
"Breathe deeply, Piers," Master Foo said calmly, sitting cross-legged before the zubat. "Focus... Forget outside distractions." Piers pinned his ears to his head, trying to quell his nerves. The meinfoo made him anxious, even if he was a friendly man. Curt, but friendly. Then again, it may not have been Foo who set his blood stirring. It was more likely to be the reason he was here in the first place.
Evolution. Such a foreign, frightening thing to him, yet he desired it more than anything right now. If he could evolve, he could be stronger. He felt sure he had reached this body's limits, and it was not enough for him. He needed to be something more. He needed to be a golbat. And that was why he was back in the ruined Tao Village, outside Master Foo's dojo.
Piers trembled, trying to blank his mind once more. Rollie's words of encouragement echoed in his head. It did not hurt. It was overwhelming and took getting used to, certainly, but nothing to be feared. Perhaps for her, he could not help thinking bitterly. She herself had grown up around fellow sandslash. She knew what to expect. What she would become.
"Tell me why you wish to evolve," Master Foo said suddenly, voice distant. Piers started to perk his ears, before flattening them once more.
"To be stronger," he said, repeating his thoughts. "To protect my f-family."
"And you realise that evolution is no shortcut," Foo said to him. "Once you become a golbat, you will have to relearn your body. Learn new disciplines to keep your instincts in check."
"My... instincts?" Piers said nervously.
"Golbats drink the blood of others, young one," Master Foo answered. Piers trembled. "In colonies, they work together to ween this behaviour out of their clan mates. You will have to do so alone."
"W-Will I always w-want to?" he asked shakily.
"When you are tired, or weak, or injured, it will become far stronger." Piers swallowed hard. Considering the missions he had undertook thus far, it was not unlikely such a thing would come up. Another risk he would have to take.
Piers steeled his resolve. So be it. He would overcome his new blood lust if he had to. He clenched his thumbs together, quelling his nerves. He had come too far to fear evolution. His mother and father had both evolved, both become strong successful bats. If so many had managed it before him, so could he. He just had to believe in himself. For once, he had to have confidence.
A bright blazing light seared his mind. He clutched his head tightly, clamping his jaws shut as a pained groan escaped his gritted teeth. The sensation was not painful but... frightening. His heart was pounding harder than it ever had, and he was losing feeling in all his limbs. That light seemed to brighten even more, more illuminating than the sun itself. He wanted it to stop, but he clamped down on his fear once again.
"I don't think I'll ever evolve." The soft sad voice echoed in his sub-conscious. "I'm too small... I'm too weak."
"You may be small in body, but you're bigger than anyone in spirit," a familiar, soothing voice replied. "Believe in yourself, Leon... You can be stronger than anyone."
"Leon..." Piers whispered, eyes opening.
Vibrant colour poured in his lens, making him cry out in shock. He shut his eyes again, clutching his long, gnarled thumbs over his snout. He released a few cautious echoes, relieved to see the same silver images lock themselves in his vision. His throat felt so tight; it was hard to breathe. He ran a thumb over his neck, popping the string on his necklace off. Air rushed into his lungs again as he stared in shock at the images in his echo vision. He was shocked at how high he was standing above the ground. Above Master Foo. The meinfoo was smiling at him slightly.
"Great work, Piers," the fighting type said, clapping his paws together. "You are now a golbat!"
Piers shot echoes all over his new body in fascination, rustling his wide powerful wings. Taller. More muscular. He flexed his knees, testing his longer legs. Walking would be far easier now. Finally, he touched his snout again, running his thumbs over his long muzzle. He felt so different, and yet so much the same. A tremble in his gut arose. Would Rollie still like him, in this new shape? Would she still find him... attractive?
"Do you think you'll be all right on your own, Piers?" Foo asked. "There are others waiting for my aid."
"I-I'll be all right, yes," Piers said shakily, nodding. He opened his eyes a slit, wincing from the new vibrant colours. Eyesight would take much time to get used to. He rustled his wings, spreading them experimentally. So different.
"Good luck, young one," Master Foo said, straightening up. Piers nodded, beating his wings hard to get off the ground. He felt so powerful, so huge... He scooped his fallen necklace off the ground with his claws, taking off into the air. It was time to return to Merlot's castle, and Rollie.
"Samuel." Rollie nudged the sleeping crobat with the blunt of her claws. He grunted, opening his eyes blearily. She cocked her head so they were eye to eye. "It's well past time we had a talk."
He looked at her silently for a few moments before nodding sagely. "I suppose you are right, my dear," he said, voice still thick with sleep. He sat up carefully, Ingto shuffling in his dreams without waking. Those two slept together every night since the glaceon had arrived in Tao. Neither of them had said anything, but it was more than clear to Rollie what was going on, though she did not much care. That was their business. Samuel rustled his wings, looking to her. "What do you wish to know, miss?"
Rollie sat back on her haunches, taking a second to sort her thoughts. She felt so odd without Jacqueline in her arms, having left the baby koffing with Fancy's half asleep self while she spoke to Piers' uncle. "Do you know who Hector is?" she asked, looking up at the crobat. His breath caught in his throat, before he swallowed hard.
"H-Hector?" he repeated shakily. Rollie creased her brow, waiting. He rustled his wings again. "I... I knew a Hector, once, yes... Why do you ask?"
"Down in the tunnels," Rollie started, "Piers came across a... He called it a lampent. Some kind of ghost type. Its name was Hector." Rollie tapped her claws together. "Piers said that Hector knew him, but didn't seem to remember how."
"When we knew Hector, he was not a lampent." The deeper voice made her jump, looking quickly to Ingto. The glaceon was sitting up next to Samuel, paws neatly placed on the ground in front of him. Samuel looked to his companion quickly. "He was, however, an assassin of our order." His expression was calm as he spoke this. Rollie felt chills in her blood at the mention of more assassins. "Perhaps he was one of the fellows assigned to deal with Piers."
"But that can't be," Rollie said, shaking her head. "I mean, Hector, whoever he is, he saved Piers in those tunnels. Why would he do that if he was meant to kill him?"
"Some pokemon's motives change in their afterlives," Samuel said grimly. "Or, perhaps, he simply does not remember why he has this connection to my nephew."
Rollie rubbed her forehead, letting out a long slow breath. If that were the case, then she would have to deal with this lampent herself the next time he appeared. She refused to risk Piers' life for some troubled soul. An assassin. How chilling. It still astounded - and slightly disgusted - her to think that Samuel, Ingto, and even Piers' parents had once been counted amongst their ranks. How did they live with the blood on their hands?
"All right," Rollie said finally. She looked to Ingto scrutinizingly. "And what's your deal?"
Ingto fixed her with his cold blue eyes. "I had thought it obvious." He flicked an ear tip toward Samuel. "This one was meant to visit his young nephew and return before too long. Our lord is a rather impatient man, and I myself concerned for his health. I volunteered to come along and make sure he was not forgetting his duties." He turned to face the taller pokemon. "Terrence will be along as well, soon."
"Terrence?" Samuel spat with exasperation. "Why that rotten young child?"
"He insisted," Ingto said icily, smiling. "Perhaps to get away from his coddling father."
Rollie tapped her claws together once more. She eyed Ingto closely. "So, you're mated with him?" she asked, if only to confirm her thoughts. Samuel blushed, ducking his head, as Ingto gave a curt nod. Rollie thought on this further before offering another observation. "You don't seem like a very close couple."
"I apologise if we are not squirming all over each other like you do with little Piers," Ingto said, voice tinged with sarcasm. Rollie wrinkled her nostrils, both embarrassed and riled. "After many years together, you can be content with nothing more than the other's company."
"Ahh, I believe that will do for that discussion," Samuel cut in, rustling his wings. His face was tinged red under his fur, reminding the sandslash of Piers. She smiled. "Rollie, is there anything else you wish to ask?"
"I don't think so, no," she said softly, looking away. "Unless..."
"Unless?" Samuel prompted after a moment.
Rollie did not look at the crobat as she phrased her next question. "When you go, do you intend to take Piers with you?"
He shook his head, sending a feeling of relief flooding through her. "No... I do not, my dear. It was an idea I had originally, but he is happy here. I would not take him from his home, and his family."
"Thank you," she said quietly. She stood up, stretching her arms. "That's... I think that's all."
Samuel bowed his head slightly. "Of course, my dear."
Rollie turned, walking away from the two. It had done enough to sate her curiosity for the time being. Piers never spoke of Hector while he was awake, but in his sleep he often mumbled long, incomprehensible phrases. The only word that meant anything to her was 'Hector'. He simply shook his head and said he recalled nothing of such dreams when she asked. Rollie did not know if that was the truth or not. Piers had always been prone to nightmares after all.
Sirene was awake by the time she returned to her sleeping spot. Rollie smiled fondly, watching the eevee race across the grass, Jacqueline bouncing after her excitedly. She did not lead the baby far away, circling around in a tight perimeter. The koffing was never far behind her, giggling and chomping at Sirene's fluffy tail. Rollie sat down beside Lear, the nidoran still asleep. His ears twitched while he dreamed.
She watched Sirene and Jacqueline play a moment longer before she pulled out her letter from the guild leaders. As much as she wanted to watch two of her favourite kids play, she did still have missions to tend to if she wanted to make any money. Rollie squinted at the sentences, straining to read Gunpowder and Devonshire's writing.
Her brow creased as she looked over the first mission. To help a mandibuzz and cubone by the names of Ivory and Chex to carry several loads of trash to a place called the Boneyard. She made a face, certain she could discern the nature of the place by its name. She took another look at the mission. The trash was from the Trubbish dump of course, which had been smashed open during Sorbet's rampage. She grunted, thinking of it. Certainly not glorifying, but she doubted the rescuers or merchants would want to filthy their hands with garbage, and it had to be dealt with before Tao could be rebuilt. Carrying heavy loads was a simple task, so it was an easy paying mission, and a relaxing one after how taxing her work had been of late. It would smell, but that scarcely bothered her. She wondered how well Piers would be able to carry such loads. If he had succeeded in evolving...
She took a look at the other missions. The next detailed a list of food items someone called Soba needed in order to continue making meals for all their teams. Well, she could get behind such an idea. The chefs here certainly knew how to cook delicious food. Her brows creased in confusion at the list attached to her mission notice. Whoever had written it had worse pensmanship than even she did, but the crude pictures next to each would help, she hoped.
"Koffing!" a voice squeaked, just as a form barreled into her stomach. Her letter fell to the ground, her hands catching hold of Jacqueline. The poison type bounced in her lap, peeping happily. "K-Koff koff!!"
"Hello," Rollie said in amusement. Sirene trotted beside Lear, who had been startled awake by Jacqueline's sudden squealing. Rollie smirked at the rescuers, then nuzzled her daughter lovingly. "You are a bad troublemaker," she said fondly. Jacqueline peeped, sucking in air and inflating herself. Blowing a loud raspberry, she fired herself back out of Rollie's arms, bouncing along the ground. The sandslash stood up to take chase as wing beats from overhead drew her eyes skyward. A large golbat landed before Jacqueline, halting the koffing's bouncing gait.
"K-Koff!" she squeaked in surprise, looking up at the new visitor. Rollie bristled, jerking forward to drive the stranger off, before the baby peeped happily and bounced in place. "Koff koff koffing!"
"Hello, darling," the golbat said fondly, picking up the koffing in his thumbs. Rollie's eyes widened in shock as the realisation struck her. She froze in place, Sirene racing past her as she stared.
"Piers!!" she said in amazement. "You've evolved!!"
"Congratulations, Piers," Lear said thickly, trying to smile. Rollie flicked a concerned glance to the nidoran, but she could not yet keep her eyes off her boyfriend's new form. She stepped closer, head turning up so she could look into his face. He was... so much taller than her now. Never in her life had he ever been anything but small. But regardless of his new form, she recognised his face, even with that new snout of his.
"Look at how big you are!" Sirene exclaimed, putting her paws on his leg. She looked up at the towering golbat. "You might even be taller than Lear's dad!"
"Shit, you're taller than papa for sure!" Rollie finally said in shock. Piers looked at her nervously, eyes only opened halfway, Jacqueline cuddled to his chest. She stepped back slightly, looking him over. He was tall, but very lean, his wing fingers thin and wiry. She had no doubt he could wrap her entirely in his wings. His snout was very long, and when he opened his mouth to speak she could see his long hooked fangs.
"What... What do you think?" he asked finally. His voice was similar, but deeper... His ears were perked up, facing her. His new eyes were watering madly, still getting used to all the new sights. It was the first time she had ever looked into his eyes, coloured deep blue with a greyish blue cornea. She smiled at him happily.
"I think you're the handsomest man I've ever seen," she said teasingly. "Now who are you, and what have you done with my little Piers?"
He blushed fiercely, making Rollie cluck with impatience. She wrapped an arm around him, pulling him in for a hug. "Oh stop it, you silly fool!" she scolded as he grunted in surprise. "You know I'll always love you and find you gorgeous, now give me a hug with your new wings!"
Piers wrapped his wings around her tightly, pressing his chin over the top of her head. She could hear Jacqueline squealing happily somewhere above her as she smiled and closed her eyes. She could hear his heart pounding hard in his chest. Such a big change for them both, but she liked it, and she knew soon Piers would too.
"I guess you can't ride on my head anymore," she commented after several moments. Piers chuckled, shaking his head. She smirked wickedly. "Maybe now I can ride on yours."
"I-I don't know about that," Piers replied humourously. "But Jacqueline can, and I think she intends to."
"If you can stand the bouncing." Rollie pulled back, Piers unfurling his wings from around her. She glanced up at their koffing daughter, watching the poison type hop up and down on her boyfriend's head. She snickered, putting a paw over her mouth. "And I worried she wouldn't recognise you."
"Whoa!" the surprised exclamation came from behind them. Rollie turned her head, jerking back a step as a buneary, riolu and kirlia rushed past her. Piers squeaked as the bros surrounded him, examining his new form in excitement. Xay had managed to scale his way to the bat's shoulders in a matter of seconds, giggling with Jacqueline from their perch.
"Batty bro, you are huuuge!!" Junior said, clapping his hands to both sides of his face. "You're even taller than Fancy!"
"Not bigger though," Diego said, poking Piers' ribs with a snicker. "It's like they grabbed the old you and stretched you out twice as long!"
"B-Being thinner is m-more convenient as a bat," Piers said, looking up in amusement at the riolu and koffing riding atop him. "This n-new form is probably far more dextrous on flight."
"Oh oh, can you fly me around the castle??" Xay asked in excitement.
"Absolutely not," a stern but humoured voice said firmly. The group of pokemon looked to Fancy as the kanghaskhan stepped beside Rollie, paws on her hips. "Awesome stuff, Piers!" she congratulated after looking the golbat over. "You're lookin' great!"
"T-Thank you," he said modestly, skin turning a faint shade of pink. All this attention was certainly getting to him, but Rollie just smiled and crossed her arms. She felt he was also pleased by their comments, especially if he had been so self-conscious about the change. Sirene giggled, pressing a paw to Rollie's leg.
"The bros are silly," she said simply, laughing. Rollie shook her head slightly, listening to the young pokemon excitedly discuss Piers' new capabilities, only slightly exaggerated.
"Yes they are, Sirene." She turned away, looking over at other distant teams who were being awakened by the commotion. She could see Samuel and Ingto heading over now, expressions holding surprise. She chuckled inwardly. Only she had known where Piers intended to go that morning. He had not wanted to tell anyone else, in case he could not manage to evolve.
Rollie sat down, resting her elbows on her knees. She rubbed Sirene's ears fondly. "It's nice for him to have so much positive attention anyway," she said with a grin. The eevee leaned into her hand happily. A thought occurred to the sandslash as she glanced at her other hand. She looked around her quickly. Where had she put that letter? She must have dropped it when Piers showed up...
"Looking for this?" Lear asked blearily. She turned her head, seeing the sleepy nidoran holding the letter in his paws. She smiled in relief, leaning back to take it from him. She frowned slightly as she got a better look at his face.
"Are you feeling okay, Lear?" she asked. His skin looked a little flushed, and his eyes were out of focus. He looked ill, to say the least. He smiled at her reassuringly.
"Just a fever," he said, waving a paw at her nonchalantly. "Don't worry about me."
"That's asking a lot." Rollie took a hold of her letter, but tried to ease her mind of Lear. A fever was nothing to be worried about, especially after the excitement of the last few days. It was bound to make anyone sick. Sirene padded to her friend's side, lying down to press against the nidoran. She rubbed her cheek against his, making him grin sheepishly. "Well, just take it easy, kiddo," Rollie added finally. "You don't gotta work yourself to death or anything."
"I'll take care of him, Rollie!" Sirene said, perking her ears up. The sandslash smirked, but nodded.
"Then he's in good paws." She looked back to Piers, the golbat still flooded with attention from the bros. Ingto and Samuel were off to one side, both smiling slightly as they watched Piers get teased playfully by the other pokemon. She nodded once again, settling back to read over her letter again. The excitement of the morning had set her spirits going again, and she fully intended to set out on some missions today.
As soon as Piers was unoccupied, at least.