The sun rose over a gleaming village. Water trickled from its fountains, the sounds of the forest floated over the peaceful community of pokemon. The smell of trees, fresh food and growing things wafted through the air of the town, adding to the cozy feeling of the undisturbed environment. And yet, as the sun warmed the grass and heated the air once damp with dew and moist with the night's pleasures, the sound of cheer was absent. It was merely a painting, drawn with perfect grace and colored to just the right tones, but dipped into a vat of water-thinned indigo. Twas too sad a feeling of this picturesque landscape to be anything merry. The pokemon, as they stirred from their slumber, performed their daily duties without joy.
The merchants set up their tables, ready to sell their goods. The rogues prowled about, observing the quiet, solemn village. The rescuers plodded to their board of objectives, planning out their long day of assistance.
It was at the board that Sol found himself, pulled there as if by invisible strings attached to his limbs. His once shining silver coat of fur was a disheveled and unkempt dirty gray color. His large, steely eyes were tired and drowsy, deprived of sleep and rest. Sol wanted to look beside him and see the lively, eager quilava that he had grown accustomed to. He wanted to see her smile. He wanted to hear her talk of all the things she wanted to do, the people she wanted to help and the places she wanted to go. He wanted to take her there because... hell, he had no idea why.
Sol noted the available missions on the board and began to trudge back to the apartment where Zayn, he, and Marcia had moved into recently. He wasn't quite sure how he had ended up there, but Marcia just seemed so friendly, how could he say no to her face? It was impossible. He'd never be worthy of her kindness and compassion. The girl barely knew anything about him.
Then there was Zayn. The silent warrior was formidable, of course, but around Marcia he was simply a simple guide or babysitter. Perhaps acting as an older brother who was taking his baby sister to the park and watched in silent joy as she frolicked in happy innocence. Yet, he was a warrior with honor, Sol could tell.
However, Sol literally feared for his life around the loyal protector of Marcia. Sol wasn't sure what kind of history the two had, but it was enough to put Zayn in a frenzy if he didn't know where Marcia was. Marcia was gone, now- plus half of the village- and Sol didn't know where she went. He hadn't faced the warrior yet, but it had been a day, now. Sol knew Zayn would come for answers. Why Sol was still in Tao and Marcia wasn't?
The shiny eevee stepped across the village center, crossing into the strange temple that PK allowed into their community. Sol had never been inside before, mostly because he usually avoided places of religious or sacred significance, nowadays. The walls were golden and stretched into a small dome. Rectangular windows let light peer through, illuminating the holy place with gold light that reflected off the gold walls and made the whole room feel like one had just walked into the center of the sun itself.
Solace the eevee found himself alone, standing in awkward silence. The sound of his steps echoed in the cramped dome as he approached the middle of the room.
"The priest must be out, but I thought Maple would be here. She left a notice on the board about a mission..." Sol trailed off, turning his body around, to gaze at the entire room.
Then, when Solace circled back to the entrance, he saw none other than Zayn standing in the doorway. Solace gulped, but made no noise. The zangoose warrior strode to him with large, purposeful steps. Solace stood his ground up until the terrifying zangoose came within a meter of him. The fearful eevee began backing away towards one of the windows, hoping to leap out and escape using his agility, but it was useless to even hope of escaping Zayn.
The one-eyed warrior cornered his frightened quarry against the golden-bricked wall, and shoved his powerful right forearm on the eevee's chest, his two, long, razor-sharp claws twitching with the anticipation of tearing flesh. His other clawed paw he planted firmly on the wall with a loud thud, keeping the eevee close in between him and the wall.
"I trusted you," he growled in a dangerously low tone, "more than that, Marcia trusted you. I placed her life in your paws, so tell me where she is!"
"I don't know," was the curt and truthful reply. Solace met Zayn's harsh gaze, despite quivering in fear. He could feel the wall behind him, warm with the heat of the rising sun. It was almost as hot as the breath issuing from Zayn's flared nostrils, fire dancing in his fierce eyes. Sol could tell Zayn hungered for action, to shred every last piece of the eevee's living body to avenge the wrongs committed to Marcia.
Zayn's claw moved closer to Sol's throat, lightly brushing the lush fur around Sol's neck. "You were responsible for her. You were supposed to protect her!" He cried in anguish. "I have kept her safe for more than a year, now. She and I watched our village burn because of treachery. I can't let anything else happen to her, don't you understand that?!" Zayn's claws began trembling. Was it in pain? Sol hadn't seen the zangoose so worked up. Zayn must have seen some terrible things and Sol could understand his fatherly protectiveness for Marcia. The zangoose had placed all that responsibility in Sol's hands, and now she was gone. All he had fought for had disappeared, vanished into thin air.
Sol searched for words. "Look, I know she means a lot to you, but she means a lot to me, too!"
Zayn gave Sol a disdainful glare.
"I... I haven't had anyone except myself for most of my life. I never needed anyone, but then I found Tao and met you two. You honestly think I stay in this village because I believe in it? This place was a wreck when I got here! I've stayed because of Marcia. You know what she's like. She just won't stop caring about you, no matter what you do to her."
Zayn's eyes shifted into inner reflection and his muscles began to relax. "I... know it well."
Solace took a breath and placed a gentle, comradely paw on the warrior's shoulder, shifting the locks of white fur that covered his arm. "I know that not only you or I need her, but Tao needs her. The world needs her. She's just..." Sol struggled to find words for a moment.
"A ray of sunshine..." Zayn finished.
"Well, it just sounds corny when you put it like that." Sol admitted.
"That it does." Zayn agreed, reluctantly releasing his grip on the eevee and giving his teammate some room. "Just so you know, this doesn't make you any less to blame."
"Of course it wouldn't." Solace said in a dry tone.
"But... we will find Marcia." Zayn concluded, and exited the golden-lit temple.
As Sol reflected on their conversation, he realized many of the things he said sounded quite affectionate towards Marcia. The truth was, however, that it was all mostly true. Sol never would have stopped in Tao if not for her. He never would have joined up with the guild, help the village rebuild, or meet all the pokemon in Tao. Marcia was the glue that held him a helpless prisoner to the little community, and now that she was gone he found himself searching for that comfortable niche again.
The two members of Team Shirona walked out into the sunlight just as Maple waddled up to the temple. "Oh, it's you two," she said, her voice melancholy and void of cheer, "did you guys see my message?"
"On the board, yeah," Zayn replied, to which Sol was mildly surprised. He had thought Zayn had been purely focused on Marcia and her safety. Maybe the innocent and dedicated youth had rubbed off on Zayn? Sol recalled how extremely loyal Marcia was to the Rescuers and their cause.
"Oh, good. Here, me and that priest guy gathered some stuff to give people... if you find some more stuff, feel free to pass it around. We need to get people feeling better, y'know?" The little girl sniffled as she spoke, wiping her teary eyes.
"Don't worry, we'll make sure to help." Sol reassured the young stunky, bending down to pick up some of the packages. They were arranged in a small pile, wrapped with leaves, brown paper and simple ribbons. Sol could imagine small trinkets inside: stationary, pretty stones, snacks, simple jewelry, etc. It would certainly be a welcome sight to those who had lost friends and family of their own.
Zayn carefully picked up half a dozen of the gifts and cradled them gently in his arm. Sol briefly wondered how a pokemon so strong and violent could be so delicate and tender with the packages. Sol realized that Zayn was a much deeper creature than he had suspected.
After gathering their first load of presents, Maple, Zayn, Sol and the priest- he called himself Archbishop Gabriel- all set off to distribute the items. Maple led the group to the apartments and began their long trek through the homes of the inhabitants of Tao. Sol was saddened to see so many of the teams weeping in solitude, without anyone to comfort them. He humbly offered the gifts he carried to many of the pokemon who were utterly alone, bereft of their companions.
One pokemon in particular, a young oshawott missing her elder sibling, Sol took pity upon. The pokemon's entire room was drenched and small rainclouds hovered around her. He crouched down to see the dejected pokemon.
"Hey," he patted the oshawott's head, then pulled out his own leaf umbrella. "Here, you should stay dry with this." Sol handed the oshawott his own leaf umbrella and she looked up at him with incredible admiration. The umbrella had served him well, but the oshawott drowning in her own rain was clearly in more need of it than Sol. It felt good to give it to her. He waved to her as the group of rescuers moved on.