She let her mind wander to the previous week in the muggy silence above it all. Her father had taken another extended trip to that village he managed and had returned, angry and disgruntled. Again. This was not unusual, but it had caused tension in the household. Again.
Despite Alomomola being the bigger responsibility, their father was the head of everything in Tao. This was because of a pesky arrangement that had been set up by his great grandfather, Micle Nomel. Mr. Nomel had made some bad choices near the end of his life, and as a result, half of the village’s worth was owned by the family of some wealthy asshole cats out in Windswept Woods. They had a personal resort and villa, and came to own a large amount of both domestic and foreign land. Or, this is what Payapa often heard her father reiterate in anger. He was never really one to let it go. Apparently they just wouldn’t sell the other half of Tao to him for some cat-related reason (what did that even mean? She didn’t know), and something about their deed required their father to maintain the village perfectly without any help from them, or risk something-something, Payapa didn’t know. She stopped caring about the little details, only heard the bitter anger in his voice every time he’d returned from a trip and the topic was reignited.
“So why dontcha just not go there anymore?” she had asked one morning. She was getting uncomfortable with her dad’s grumblings. Continually her eyes darted toward the entryway door. Her honest intention was to spend the day building sand castles with her sister, away from the unease that threatened to crawl its way under everyone’s skin. She didn’t want any of that stuff. That was for adults.
Agave regarded her with harsh incredulity that the girl’s question hardly deserved. “What’re you, stupid? Ain’t givin’ that piece o’ land up. You know how nice it is? Central spot, easy to get to from just about everywhere on this miserable continent? Even if it don’t do much itself, it’s great for gettin stuff out here wit’ not much hassle. Learn you that now, girl. I ain’t repeatin it again.”
“Oh... well, can’t you get someone else to do it? Me ‘n Anana miss you somethin fierce when you’re all out all the time and stuff...” she said, telling a half truth. They mostly liked when he wasn’t being angry over things they didn’t understand, and that only really happened when he stayed at home without having to leave. Payapa was sure she missed her dad when he was gone, but often forgot that feeling after each of his returns. His good nature as a father seemed to have faded over the years as both children aged.
Agave opened his mouth after a little flaring of his tiny nostrils, and then
Rionna was staring Payapa in the face, peering from the side of the cabinet the Kecleon had erroneously chosen. She didn’t even know how to react. The whole thing didn’t make any sense, and it took several long moments before she realized she had been discovered. Namely, it was the moment where Rionna poked her with a single claw and spoke the dreaded words in a tiny whisper: “Found ya.”
This was impossible. Well, clearly not. This was just not right, regardless. How? It made no sense, it made absolutely none, and it was still not quite clicking in her head. Her mind flashed back to Chulo’s talk of Rionna and her cheating at hide-and-seek. Had she cheated? The lost pride of the Kecleon demanded that she find out how Rionna’s little feat had been accomplished. Settling for less was just not going to cut it.
Payapa’s blood started to boil, her head felt hot, and her words came out a little more like an angry bark. “How’d you know?”
Rionna looked startled. “Shush! We gotta get outta here. You picked a really bad spot. I didn’t even wanna get you...”
“Huh? I don’t wanna give you guys all that fruit anyway. You cheated, didn’t you? I don’t want to really play with you anymore, you guys are all cheaters. They told you where I went, didn’t they?”
Rionna’s expression darkened, became serious. “Come on. I don’t care about that. We can pretend I didn’t find you. Let’s get out of here before something bad goes on.” The Riolu didn’t wait for a response and simply dropped down out of Payapa’s sight. There was a tiny pitter-patter of feet as she distanced herself from the cabinet, but it was extremely quiet. Her paw pads must be soft
, Payapa thought distractedly. Good for sneaking up on others.
She didn’t quite understand what that girl was going on about, but didn’t really find much use for sitting around in a spot exhausted of its worth. She climbed down (with less noise than Rionna had, she noted to herself), and followed her playmate to the precipice. It looked like Rionna was going to simply jump from the second story. Before Payapa could even ask, that’s precisely what happened. A soft thump
was heard from below, and as she looked over the edge to see what had become of the victorious seeker, she simply saw Rionna silently motioning for Payapa to come down. She was still confusing the hell out of Payapa.
“Come on! What’s going on?” she shouted down below. Maybe she wasn’t ready to leave the building yet, after all. Maybe she wanted to know why Rionna was playing hush-hush, first.
Rionna’s hairs pricked up, and the funny little-big ear things on the side of her head quivered. “Stop!” she hoarsely whispered, “You’re gonna call them up! I’m not gonna be able to help you much if that happens!”
Indignant, Payapa continued to shout, though her sense of danger had slowly started to awaken itself. She wanted to defy Rionna, partly out of anger at having been found, and partly because she just wanted to do the opposite of what she’d been told. That latter bit had perhaps been partly inspired by her anger, and maybe partly by the little bit of ego that had been chipped off when she had lost her perfect record.
This frightened the Riolu girl off, leaving Payapa alone (save her big mouth; there was no ridding that). She stared down below and felt quite victorious. Well, she wanted to feel victorious, but there was a certain level of fear brewing beneath her little scales. Something that was working its way throughout her whole body. She wondered if a ghost was nearby, but then remembered that ghosts weren’t all that scary. This was a fear of something else. Something with a giant... presence. Something oppressive.
Payapa backed away from the drop and nearly stumbled backwards. Her tail uncurled and twitched erratically. Something was coming from below, she could hear each of the creaky steps reverberating throughout her tiny spine
and all she wanted to do was simply get out, go, leave, before this giant pressure consumed her. It was wrong, bad, like a thousand disasters about to hit, that feeling in the very back of your mind like the whole world will never be right and everything is forever hopeless. It was incredibly unbearable, and she had to resist the urge to cry out in both surprise and sadness. It only was with tremendous effort that she crawled back over to and up the cabinet, the top of which had failed to hide her minutes earlier.
A gruff, androgynous voice spoke up.
“All right, you’ve proven yourself enough for now, kid. Let’s find some real tasks for ya.”
Payapa shivered at this. The voice’s owner was without a doubt the cause of the dreadful feeling saturating the atmosphere in the seemingly-abandoned building.
A second voice spoke up, one that sounded vaguely familiar... was it a playmate? Young, feminine...
“Yeh, I’m ready. Which places we hittin first?”
And then they were gone, had exited the building as quickly as Rionna had. Payapa exhaled loudly, then covered her mouth, as if scared her breath would reach the ears of the departed pair.
Part 5 of "Complementaries"