Scyther's Story - Part III: First Prey

VIII

Yet another year passed.

After a Descith evolved, he had to spend until the spring after his evolution learning the Code by attending special lessons with the Leader and all the other newly-evolved Scyther who had never killed. Stormblade was no exception.

The Leader was all the more fond of this ritual – if one could call a series of lessons a ritual – than of the acceptance ritual. This time he was not accepting potential threats into the swarm. On the contrary, he was taking all the potential threats and reducing them to obedient non-threats with months of beating laws into their heads, and he enjoyed it immensely.

“The Code,” he had warned on the first lesson of that year, “is sacred. Nothing, nothing is more important than the Code. Choosing between anything and the Code, you should not hesitate before choosing the latter. Should you ever break it, you will be banished from Scyther society forever, your blood will be tainted and you will be forever worthless. If you break it, the only thing that will save your honor is immediate suicide - the ultimate realization of the wrong that you have done, and showing that you do not, after all, fear your own death. But if you fail to do that –” he had here glared over the group at this point to emphasize it, “you are disgusting failures, and your eventual death – because yes, you will all die at one point, whether you accept it or not and whether you face it fearless or not – will be forever the end of you. No one will speak of you or remember you again, except perhaps in a negative context. This life you have is your only chance to make a name for yourselves, and the only purpose in it is to be immortal in the memory of generations to come. This is something you do not want to fail at, but if you did want it – the quickest way would be breaking the Code.”

The young Scyther had watched him in stunned silence, and he had looked at them with satisfaction. The more silently scared they became, the better.

And thus the lessons had continued throughout the year, and it was made perfectly clear to every growing Scyther through rigorous repetition and conditioning that to disrespect the Code, the ancient rules of the Scyther, was a horrible, horrible thing.

So now, after learning of its significance, Stormblade was preparing for his First Prey. It was, the Leader had told them, an essential ritual that would prove their Scytherhood and their respect for the first rule of the Moral Code. It would be the young Scyther’s first ever hunt, to be performed entirely on their own with two witnesses to follow.

And it would be their first kill.

The young Scyther had no reason to be nervous about it. No one told them it was a nerve-wrecking experience, and they would not tell anyone either after discovering the reality of it, for fear of being considered cowards.

None of them were aware of the irony of it all.

IX

While Stormblade went out for his First Prey, Razor and Shadowdart had yet another one of their mock duels. Razor’s initial lack of respect for the younger Descith had slowly dissolved – for the most part, anyway – throughout the year, and now their focus was to work on evolution.

The bad part was that Descith evolved through battling experience, almost always in the spring or early summer for unknown reasons most likely having to do with hormones. And their battling skills were quite pathetic for a very long time after their birth, majorly hindering their ability to trigger their evolution and slowing them down.

The average age for evolution was around three years as Stormblade had been, so Razor was anticipating his own evolution any moment. Shadowdart, however, feeling dully impatient, was day by day growing less enthusiastic about the mock fights.

“Come on,” Razor egged him on. “You need to try hard for your own evolution to happen as well.”

“I won’t evolve until in a year,” Shadowdart said emptily.

“Maybe you will,” Razor replied eagerly. “I heard that our Leader evolved in the middle of the winter.”

Shadowdart’s interest seemed to be awakened. “He did?”

“That’s what I heard.”

The younger Descith leapt at Razor with an eager growl. Razor quickly jumped out of the way and brought his own scythes down towards Shadowdart’s back, but he also dodged it with a quick roll and slashed across Razor’s face.

The older Descith growled in pain and retaliated with another slash which managed to hit Shadowdart right in the rift between the left and right parts of his upper body.

Shadowdart did not scream in pain often, but this time he did.

“I… are you okay?” Razor asked carefully, his eyes wide.

“Yes,” Shadowdart growled and dealt Razor a slash to the middle cleft as well.

Caught by surprise, Razor fell back into the grass. He couldn’t breathe. This was the Descith’s weak spot where any nasty cut would deal horrible pain. Evolution would expand the upper body to the sides at this rift, simultaneously strengthening the armor in it. Before evolution, however, the Descith were very vulnerable at that particular spot.

But as Razor lay there, the hormones of fighting tension flowing through his body pushed him over the edge that they had been attempting to reach for so long.

Shadowdart watched with incredulity as a white glow enveloped Razor.

“No!” he exclaimed, realizing that what he had meant as revenge had actually turned into a great favor.

But Razor was indeed evolving, and he felt exhilarated as his vision faded into pure white. His brain pumped out endorphins while his exoskeleton bulged out like an inflating balloon, which Razor had admittedly never seen or heard of in his life.

Shadowdart punched his scythes into the ground as Razor’s growth came to a halt, the white light faded off his body and where a Descith had stood a moment before there was now a full-grown Scyther in his place.

“Wow!” Razor said in astonishment, slightly surprised by his deepened voice. “Thanks, Shadowdart.”

But Shadowdart turned his back to him and walked away.

Razor sighed and sat down in the grass, hanging his head.

But only for a few minutes – he had a swarm and a Leader to tell about his evolution.

X

Stormblade returned later in the afternoon with a dead Pidgey. He was quick to find Razor again, but Shadowdart was nowhere to be seen anymore.

They were not much bothered by it. It had happened before. Their general conclusion was that Shadowdart was just a bit of a sore loser, which was nothing to worry about – not while he was still a Descith having mock duels, anyway.

“It was harder than I thought,” Stormblade admitted quietly to his newly-evolved friend, sitting under the very same tree as two years before when they had first discussed whether the clouds were really bleeding, although that particular fact had not yet crossed their minds. “I… I felt… I caught this Pikachu but… oh, it doesn’t matter,” he finished hopelessly. It was difficult to get any words around it without explicitly showing fear of death, one of the most horrible sins that a Scyther could commit.

And even though Stormblade was the type who wondered unnecessarily about trivial things like whether the clouds were really bleeding or whether the Code really made sense, he had learned enough now from his four-year life in a Scyther swarm to know that generally it was not a good idea to voice such thoughts out loud.

Razor didn’t ask, or even particularly wonder what it was that Stormblade had been trying to say. He would find out what it was like on his own in a year, after all.

“So there’s going to be a ritual this evening,” Stormblade said.

“I know.” Razor had witnessed the First Prey rituals before; every year had them and they had lost their novelty already. They had been going on for a few days that year, too. It would nonetheless be more interesting now, since now it was someone he knew who would be recognized as an adult.

In the evening, the Scyther gathered by that familiar rock in front of the Leader. All except Stormblade, who stood behind him, and two other Scyther by the Leader’s sides, who Razor knew were the witnesses. Razor couldn’t make out Stormblade’s features in the dark, but he knew it was him, and with that confidence he felt proud of his friend.

“Tonight,” the Leader announced, “we witness this Scyther join the ranks of the adults of our swarm. He has shown his ability to hunt and kill his prey without fear of death! Let him join the swarm with full privileges, be eligible for true duels of life and death, and hunt on his own!”

The Leader took a deep breath and swallowed. “Let him be able to challenge my Leadership, should he be more fit for it than I. Let him now honor the Code, since he now understands it, and be a valuable member of the swarm. Step forward, Scyther.”

Stormblade stepped forth, carrying his Pidgey in his mouth. He placed it on the rock.

“I offer the meat of my First Prey to our Leader,” he said, bowing his head in the Leader’s direction. The older Scyther bowed back, stepped up to the rock and tore a bit of raw flesh off the little bird’s body, swallowing it.

“To… to my friend Razor,” he continued. Razor had been half-expecting it and was thus not surprised when he stepped up to the rock himself, bowed to the Leader and Stormblade, and tore another piece of flesh from the Pidgey. It would not satisfy anyone’s hunger; it was just a ritualistic meal.

“And… if he is here… to Shadowdart,” Stormblade said quietly. Razor looked at him. To offer the meat of a First Prey to an unevolved Descith was rather unconventional, although it was not expressly forbidden.

Stormblade looked around the group of Scyther. For a few moments there was no movement, but then a small Descith stirred near the back and walked slowly up to the rock. Razor saw the Leader glance darkly at Stormblade, but he didn’t care; he just looked relieved as Shadowdart came up, ate a bit of the Pidgey’s flesh and nodded ever so slightly in his direction.

“Then,” said the Leader after a short silence, “he is accepted.”

All three of them bowed to the Leader and then walked down from the rock to blend in with the rest of the swarm again.

XI

Razor’s first lesson in Scytherhood was at the beginning of summer, when the wave of Descith evolutions that year finally ground to a halt.

He left Shadowdart’s training to Stormblade and walked to the rock, where the Leader was already standing and watching the nervous young Scyther gather around. He waited patiently for all of them to arrive without saying a word. Razor sat down quietly, not sure what to expect from this.

“So,” the Leader finally said as the last of the Scyther seemed to have settled down, “you’re becoming adults. With your evolution, you entered your adolescence. Right now you are in a very difficult stage of your lives, because you are physically capable of so many things that you weren’t before. You can duel. You can fly. You can mate. I understand that all of these things sound very exciting to you – mating especially so…” He stopped, silencing the nervous giggling that had ensued with a sharp glare. “But, unfortunately for you, that won’t happen for another year or so.”

The Leader looked nastily over the group. “You may feel like adults, but you’re not. You still have very many things to learn, and those things are what you will be learning here. Do not miss these lessons, unless you plan to postpone all your ‘fun’ to two years from now.”

He paused for some dramatic effect and looked over the group again. “Now, I hope that you are not such pathetic little worms that you don’t know what the Code is. You’ve all heard of it, right? You know what it is. However, I will still clarify it, because if one of you has forgotten, I think it would be best for my sanity never to find out.”

The Scyther looked up at him, but none said anything.

“The Code,” the Leader began, “is an ancient set of morals and laws passed down from Scyther to Scyther for generations that regulates how we should act, think and feel. Sometime in the murky past, the Scyther accessed these laws. We do not know where they came from, but they are sacred and more important than anything else.”

“But,” muttered a nervous Scyther in the back, “if we don’t know where it came from, then how do we know it’s sacred?”

The Leader glared at him. “This group is already not leaving me the slightest bit impressed. What does it matter where the Code came from? We know it is sacred because that is what we have always found it to be. What purpose is there in questioning it? Would it help anyone? The Code is right and all adult Scyther will be in agreement that all it says is absolutely justified. The Code is not to be questioned. Is that clear?”

“Yes…” the questioner muttered, clearly not satisfied with the answer. Razor was distinctly reminded of Stormblade, but said nothing.

“Now,” the Leader went on. “To other things. Death. To cease to exist forever. Think about it. Is it a frightening thought?” He paused to look around. “Is it a frightening thought?” he asked louder. None of the Scyther answered.

“Judging from your silence, it is,” the Leader continued. “It shouldn’t be. We are predators. We kill. We tear families and friends apart – families and friends generally being a large part of our prey’s social structure. It is a nasty thing to do, but we have to do it anyway to survive. That’s life. We can’t treat death like the ultimate evil. We’ll die one way or another, and so will our prey. Death is not to be feared. And thus we come to the Moral Code, the most important section of the entire Code! There are five rules of the Moral Code, and you must know all of them. The first, do you know what the first is?”

There were some quiet mutterings in the back.

“Apparently not,” the Leader said with clear disdain. “Well, I told you only seconds ago! Death is not to be feared, for it is the only thing that we all have in common. That’s the rule. Death will come to us all one day. It is inevitable, and exactly for that reason, we should not fear it. Fear is a natural reaction to uncertain things that you wish will not happen; but death is not one of those uncertain things. It is the greatest certainty of all. You should find comfort in the thought, and until you do, you are failures as Scyther. This is why you need the First Prey: to kill, to inflict death, without a nagging conscience or uncomfortably drifting to the thought that at one time you, too, will cease to breathe: you must face death to understand it and at the same time become officially recognized as individuals who can survive on their own. Your First Prey is the most important event in your lives after your birth and your death. I hope I am making clear just how vital this particular ritual is.”

The young Scyther looked nervously around.

“No, don’t look nervous!” the Leader snapped. “You are fearing your First Prey! You are fearing death! Stop it or you will all be doomed to die in shame!”

The pupils stared at him. Many of their eyes showed unquestionable fear.

The Leader shook his head. “Is there no end to how pathetic you can be? Go. This lesson is discontinued. I shall continue tomorrow when you have hopefully overcome these unnatural feelings and are ready to learn.”

The Scyther would not overcome the feelings. They would, however, learn to hide them.

XII

The lessons continued.

Razor always felt a little uneasy at them, but wasn’t sure why. It was just a tradition, after all. It happened to everyone. There was nothing he should be uneasy about, should there?

He still was.

For obvious reasons, he did not speak of that.

“So,” said the Leader sometimes, “how do you feel about your upcoming First Prey?”

The Scyther would roar in unison, “We look forward to it!”

With more power each time it happened.

And sure, Razor believed it. All the others looked forward to it; it took just a little effort to convince himself that he did as well. Why would he be any different?

“You have improved quite a lot since the first lesson,” the Leader announced one day. “I am very satisfied about that, because at that time I was afraid the next generation of Scyther would be composed of wimps and cowards. Things are looking better now. Now let me see if you remember the Moral Code! What is the first rule?”

“Death is not to be feared, for it is the only thing that we all have in common,” the Scyther chanted in unison.

They knew the rest by heart as well. Do not disgrace the swarm with your life if you are not worth it. If a Scyther is in danger, it is your duty to assist. Every individual to his own: do not manipulate or be manipulated, control or be controlled. Sharpen your scythes, for while death is inevitable, pain is unnecessary.

Their conditioning had been successful thus far. They really did cringe at the thought of breaking the Code now. But there was much work to be done. They were, after all, not supposed to cringe. They were supposed to feel the urge to slit their own throats.

“Stormblade is getting boring,” Shadowdart confessed to Razor one autumn day after the lesson. “He’s spending less and less time training with me, and more and more time hunting, sitting around or looking at females.” He cringed in disgust. “Why would anyone want to look at females?”

Razor chuckled. “You’ll find out when you evolve.”

“I want to evolve now,” Shadowdart said stubbornly.

“Fine,” Razor said and rolled his eyes. “One nice training session now, okay?”

And he swung his scythe.

Shadowdart was always alert and immediately jumped out of the way, slashing back at Razor. The disadvantage of evolution was that being bigger meant being an easier target. On the other hand, a Scyther’s exoskeleton was quite a bit stronger than a Descith’s, so Razor hardly felt Shadowdart’s frail, not-so-sharp premature scythes scratch across his torso.

“That was pretty pathetic, old friend,” he taunted, raising his scythe and slashing it at Shadowdart’s back. The Descith was thrown down onto the ground with his back bleeding, but rose quickly up again and countered by dashing behind Razor and slashing into his wing.

“Ow!” Razor groaned, instinctively kicking into Shadowdart’s body with his foot before turning swiftly around to slash. He drove his scythe at the Descith lying on the ground in front of him, but instead chopped into the ground as Shadowdart darted out of the way.

“Damn, you’re too small for this,” Razor grumbled, looking around for the Descith in the tall yellowing grass. Caught unawares, he yelped in surprise as Shadowdart leapt onto his back and brought his blunt premature blade to his throat.

“Gotcha.”

Razor sighed. “Yeah, yeah, all right, all right. Get off me.”

Shadowdart didn’t get off him. Razor felt a strange exhilarating heat on his back and glanced at the scythe threatening to cut his neck, discovering it was being enveloped in a white glow.

“Whoa, you’re evolving already!” he said in astonishment before realizing that the scythe was slowly expanding and sharpening.

“Get off me! Get off me!” he screeched in panic before finally managing to push Shadowdart’s arm away from his neck with his own scythes and throwing his evolving friend off his back. He watched Shadowdart lie in the grass, his shape growing rapidly as he gained his adult form.

“Congrats, mate,” he said and grinned as the glow faded away and left Shadowdart in his new body. “Too bad you still look like a girl,” he commented snidely, noticing Shadowdart’s still darker-than-usual color.

The only reply was a nasty glare.

XIII

It was no surprise that the Leader would not have Shadowdart catching his First Prey that spring. While he would most likely have been able to learn all the same things as the other Scyther that year, it would be against tradition to give him special lessons. He would have to be an adolescent Scyther, evolved but without the rights of an adult, for a year and a half.

“Cheer up,” Razor told him one winter day. It was snowing and yet again they found themselves under that same tree for shelter against the falling frozen cloud-blood while the ground was slowly covered with a blanket of white. “For now you’re no worse off than I am.”

“For now,” Shadowdart replied dully. “But your First Prey is coming up in the spring, and then I’ll be the only one who can’t mate and hunt and do everything.”

Razor couldn’t deny it. And as much as he’d have liked to think otherwise, he knew that Stormblade at the very least found adult life so exciting that they hardly talked anymore at all. Razor had no reason to believe he wouldn’t be the same.

“Well,” he finally said, “it’s only a year from then before you get to do everything with us again.”

Shadowdart shook his head, stood up and walked off into the snow, leaving only depressing footprints behind.

Razor just sighed.

He thought back to that day in the spring when he woke up one beautiful morning and realized that this was the day of his coming of age.

He got up and looked around. He knew how this was supposed to happen; they had all been lectured on that. However, he was the first Scyther scheduled to have his First Prey this spring, and this made him a little more nervous than otherwise.

“Oh, so you are up?” the Leader asked as he reached the rock overlooking the plains.

“Yes,” Razor just said.

“Good,” the Leader replied shortly. “I despise Scyther who don’t take their First Prey seriously enough to wake up in time for it. Now, we should name witnesses, shouldn’t we? Better get this over with.”

The Leader may have noticed the hints of nervousness in Razor’s posture or voice. In any case, the older Scyther repeatedly glanced suspiciously over his shoulder at his pupil as he walked aimlessly through the swarm with the soon-to-be adult on his heels. Finally stopping near a random sleeping Scyther, the Leader turned to Razor.

“You don’t know him, do you?”

Razor shook his head. The Leader touched the stranger with his clawed foot.

“I name you witness to this Scyther’s journey to adulthood,” he said with his powerful voice as the Scyther sleepily opened an eye. “Come with us.”

The Scyther yawned, but did not object. He stood up, blinked and greeted Razor briefly. It did not take them long to find a female witness to join in as well. Together the group of four walked back to the Leader’s rock.

“All is ready,” the Leader declared, standing on top of the rock. “Scyther, you may proceed to find your First Prey. Do not pay attention to the witnesses, but do not shake them off. May you face death bravely and be ready to perform your first kill.”

Razor nodded, feeling numb. After glancing nervously at the two expressionless witnesses, he dashed off deep into the forest, knowing they would follow.

It was a fine morning, but perhaps a little early; the nocturnal Pokémon were already asleep, but the diurnal ones were not quite awake yet. For a nerve-wrecking while, he wandered around without finding anything at all to kill. Occasionally he thought he heard a twig break or the rustling of some leaves, but as soon as he glanced in that direction, whatever had been there was gone.

Finally he saw a black shape move under a bush.

His heart beating fast, he crouched down, watching the bush intensely. What would it be like to kill it? Was he afraid of death?

He saw the shape move again. Something seemed to gleam momentarily in the morning sun. Razor peered at the shape. Now it moved again, out from underneath the bush…!

But just as he prepared to jump out, he realized it was just a Sneasel that darted across the forest floor. He sighed. He should have figured that a Ruxido-Sneasel would be the only creature around at this time of day. Not good prey at all – too skinny to be worthwhile, too agile to chase, and fellow predators in any case.

That was when he heard voices.

He stood deathly still as only a Scyther could, his sharp eyes darting around to locate the source of the sound. There it was again. It was a language he had never heard spoken before and did not entirely recognize, but had heard about and understood.

Human language.

In perfect silence maintained by his hunter’s instinct, Razor crept in the direction of the voices. He could see where they came from – it was the Ruxido road, an area that the Scyther generally kept away from because of the danger of being captured by the many human trainers who passed by there.

Coming closer, he could now see the humans that he had been hearing. There was a young boy with two girls by his side, chatting and laughing, blissfully oblivious of the danger they were in.

Humans tended to be overconfident in the universality of Pokémon not attacking human trainers.

Razor was struck with some doubt. Humans? He had never heard of any Scyther killing a human as his First Prey. For one thing the largest Pokémon he had witnessed any Scyther bring as his First Prey was a Nidorino, much smaller than even a human child. And for another, all of them had been Pokémon.

But what was there to say he couldn’t kill a human? The thought excited him in a strange way. Large First Prey meant more hunting talent, didn’t it?

He crept closer to the road. The humans were still talking, unaware of the Scyther watching them. He quickly picked out the boy as the easiest to take down (not least because according to what he had heard of humans, the females were more likely than the males to be struck with panic at the sight of a Scyther, meaning they would be less likely to attack him) and positioned himself behind a bush, waiting for the target to approach.

The humans were just in front of it when Razor leapt out of the bush with a piercing hunter’s cry.

The kids screamed, frozen in their footsteps for a fraction of a second before sprinting off as fast as they could.

Which was not very fast on a Scyther’s scale.

Razor chuckled at their pathetic running and zoomed after them, using his wings for additional speed. It was only seconds before he managed to knock the boy down to the ground. The girls looked over their shoulders with wide, fearful eyes before running away even faster, perhaps in some naïve hopes of being able to find help.

The boy crawled desperately to his feet, never ceasing to scream for help at the top of his lungs. Razor quickly leapt on top of him to hold him down to the ground, knocking the wind out of him in the process. Now Razor was starting to feel slight panic; he was realizing just how many things could so easily go wrong.

“No…” the boy panted weakly. “Gr-Growlithe, I choose…”

And he reached for a Pokéball with his hand, but Razor noticed it in time. He had no time to do anything but the first thing he could think of – which was, predictably, to slash in the direction of the human’s arm. Razor closed his eyes as he did it.

The boy screamed again, louder than before if anything. Razor opened his eyes. He had slashed roughly across the boy’s forearm below his wrist. He had not quite chopped it off, but through the oozing blood he could see that it was close. Of course, it looked rather ordinary to him. It just made him feel hungry.

A just over fist-sized ball rolled out of the boy’s limp hand and stopped by the roadside before it popped open on its own accord, releasing an orange, furry puppy. He yelped at the sight of his trainer lying in a pool of blood, first backing away but then growling nervously at Razor, unsure if it would do any good to unleash a Fire attack when it would most likely hit his trainer as well.

Finally the puppy went with jumping onto his trainer’s chest to defend him, sinking his small fangs into Razor’s arm, but the Scyther simply flung the Growlithe to the ground where he, with another yelp, fell unconscious.

He turned back to his prey.

“No… please, n-no…” the boy’s broken voice sobbed between irregular breaths. Razor looked at his face. The strange human features, smudged with tears and blood, were distorted into an expression of pure terror.

“P-please let me go…”

The horrified human opened his wide, tearful eyes and looked into Razor’s cold, empty ones.

“Please…” he whispered.

Razor felt his stomach coiling into a knot. The boy’s terror almost made him feel bad about killing him.

Almost.

He raised his scythe as the boy closed his eyes again with uncontrollable sobs. Razor looked at the boy one more time with a twinge of guilt before making the final sharp cut across his quivering throat.


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