“Yeah, Hatch n’ Tohne are somewhere around here...” Charcoal looked around. “Hatch! Tohne! Get out here, boys!”
“You don’t have to shout,” said a quiet voice from behind Palette, “I’m right here, you know.”
The Zorua across her had the same round eyes as Charcoal, but with an extra maroon crescent around the outside of each one, as if his eyes were being forced constantly downwards and inwards by his markings. His fur swirled around like a stylized candle, but his face couldn’t be more put out.
Charcoal breathed out. “Oh... Tohne,” she said, explaining the panic out of her eyes, “I didn’t see you there.”
“That’s,” Tohne stated matter-of-factly, “because I wasn’t here. Who’s this?” he demanded, gesturing at the Zoroark between them.
“She’s our new target. Duh!”
“What’s her name?”
“You can’t properly antagonize someone if you know their name, idiot!” Charcoal jumped on Palette to emphasize her point, and looked the painter straight in the eye.
“You! What’s your name?”
But Palette was dumbfounded. She hadn’t worked with kids since fighting that Heatran when Sorbet attacked, but there was more than that. These children... were they familiar, somehow? She never knew many other Zorua, but those gold beads and yellow eyes...
Charcoal got bored of the older Pokémon’s unresponsiveness, and turned to Tohne.
“Where’d your brother run off to? I called both of you! He better not be jumpin’ off tall things again.”
Tohne sighed. “I don’t think he’s gone that far, this time. I think he’s tryin’ to see if he can ‘splode those kids outside with his mind.”
The female Zorua bristled noticeably.
“That little... Tohne, I’m gonna go deal with Hatch. Don’t let this,” she jerked her head at Palette, “get too comfortable.” Then she jumped off Palette and strutted toward the door.
“You can just leave whenever you want?” asked Palette.
“Yeah,” said Tohne, “I mean, it’s not like that Blissey’d stop us. She pretends to be all kind and understanding and everything, but she can’t wait for us to be gone. We cause way too much trouble.”
“So why don’t you leave?”
Tohne was indignant.
“Yeah, and where would we go? We ain’t got no home, nowhere! Not since Momma disappeared!”
“Oh, your mother was one of the Pokémon who disappeared? I didn’t hear about a Zoroar–”
Palette stopped. She knew why the kids seemed familiar.
Tohne laughed bitterly, and looked down at the floor.
“You mean you haven’t heard? Her name’s Shade, she’s the one who caused all this. Kidnapped some green fairy thing, and was gonna kill her, till the fairy screamed real loud and everything got all weird.” He paused to look back up at the Zoroark. “What’d you say your name was?”
“I’m Palette,” she said in a daze. “The painter...”
Tohne’s mother... she knew who that was, perhaps. Sometimes, when it was very dark, and she was very alone, she still thought about that dread ritual in the dead of night, when she’d almost died. When she’d met Pal.
If she was right, Tohne’s mother was an evil Pokémon; the sort that’d stoop to killing an innocent Zorua in a desolate patch of woods, or getting a poor painter violently exiled from her village, or making a talented artist break down in tears. But looking at this Zorua right then, and knowing why she felt so uncomfortable, she couldn’t be afraid of him anymore.
She just felt kind of sorry for him.
“You okay, lady?” Palette realized she was making faces, and got her snout under control.
“Yeah, sorry, I just... erm...” She groped and grappled for her next words. “I’m sorry, but... if you know that you need to stay here, why do you make it so hard for Mich– for Missy? She’s only trying to help, and it seems a bit...”
“Ungrateful?” Tohne offered. Palette nodded.
“Yeah,” he said. “It is a little, I guess. And everyone thinks we’re acting this way ‘cause Momma never taught us how to be nice, or something, but that’s not true at all! Momma taught us to be a lot better than this.”
“Then why are you–”
“Hatch n’ Charcoal think if we scare all the other Pokémon off, the nightmares’ll go away.”
Tohne studied the carpet again.
Part 3 of "Inspiration"