“What happened here?” Sunset Shimmer said as she looked over the shocking scene before her. They stood atop a large hill within the boundaries of the forest, where they could see a road several hundred yards away. Dozens of trees were cut in half, blocking a dirt path that winded off into the distance in either direction. The ground was deeply gouged in multiple places. Clods of dirt had been thrown about from holes that looked to have been ripped open by terrible claws.
“The screams we heard as we approached have gone silent,” Charles said, as his eyes scanned the horizon. Sunset could see the cogs turning in his mind, and she knew that he was using his psychic power to explore their surroundings. A large group of Pokémon had followed them from the forest, chattering nervously as they went. Fluttershy looked to them now, seeking to calm them with kind words despite shaking from her own fear.
Suddenly the trees shook, and cries filled the air once more. There was a loud crash, a scream of pain, and multiple voices filled with cold cruelty. Two figures were thrown from the tree line and onto the dirt road. A stocky Empoleon bounced and rolled out of the forest, a small creature held tightly in its wings.
“It’s injured,” Fluttershy said, her voice filled with concern. “We need to help…”
The words caught in her throat when she saw the Empoleon’s pursuers. Twelve Pawniard waddled through the tree line with two large Bisharp behind them. The ground shook and a massive Onix burst from the forest, as well. Four Krokorok dug up through the ground, blocking the road to either side of the Empoleon. It was well and truly trapped now, but there was an angry defiance on its face that never faded, even as the other Pokémon began their assault.
“Stop!” Fluttershy yelled as she took to the sky. A small flock of Starly went after her, but Sunset Shimmer beat them all there.
With a thought, she teleported to the Empoleon’s side and began blasting apart the rocks that the Onix was throwing. A Krokorok used Dig to pull one of her feet into the ground. She teleported out of his grasp a moment later, only to be knocked down by a powerful wave of energy. She had accidentally teleported into the path of a Night Slash from one of the Bisharp, who had been aiming for the Empoleon. The air was knocked out of her, and for a moment she thought several of her ribs had been broken. She winced in pain, grateful for the reinforced cloth armor Rarity had given her. It had taken the brunt of the impact despite not being magically enchanted. The ponies hadn’t considered the Pokémon world to be such a threat that they needed magical armor to survive it.
Looks like we were wrong, Sunset Shimmer thought as she watched the layers of torn cloth wave in the breeze. Her coat was marred by the impact, but not cut. The pain subsided slightly as she moved, and she quickly charged her horn with magic in preparation for her counterattack.
“All those who protect humans shall perish!” yelled the Bisharp that had struck Sunset Shimmer. “Not even the legends are exempt from our vengeance!”
Sunset looked to her right. A young, human girl was held between the Empoleon’s steel wings. She was bleeding and bruised. One eye was swollen shut, though she still managed a smile as she looked at Sunset Shimmer and mouthed the word “Keldeo”. Then her eyes closed and her head dropped down to the collar of her jacket.
“Fluttershy, there’s a girl in danger here!” Sunset Shimmer yelled as her friend dived down to the ground.
“Give her to me,” the pegasus pony said as her flock of Starly began strafing the other Pokémon. Sunset Shimmer levitated the child onto her friend’s back and Fluttershy darted off as fast as she could.
“The human shall not escape!” yelled the heavier of the two Bisharp. He turned and aimed a Night Slash at the retreating pony, but several Starly intercepted the attack. They cried as they were struck, but they remained in the air. The flying-types glared down defiantly, blocking the wild Pokémon’s path as Fluttershy made her way back to the hillside.
“Thank you,” the Empoleon said, his angry voice like a knife being dragged across cold steel. Sunset Shimmer regained her feet, glad that the girl was out of the way. The Empoleon got to his feet as well, spread his wings wide, and fired a powerful Hydro Pump at his attackers.
The Onix was the first to fall. The attack struck it in its middle, launching it backwards with such force that its body destroyed several lines of trees before stopping. Yet, the Empoleon’s attack continued. The two quickest Krokorok saved themselves by leaping into the earth, but their friends weren’t so lucky. The Hydro Pump wiped the remaining Krokorok out before moving onto the Pawniard and Bisharp. Though they launched one last, brazen charge against the Empoleon while it was taking out the Krokorok, none of them could withstand the assault once it was directed at them.
Sunset watched as her opponents struggled and failed to rise. She nodded her thanks to the Empoleon, and then looked back in the direction Fluttershy had flown.
“It’s time I talked to Charles,” the Empoleon said as he puffed himself up angrily. Sunset Shimmer quickly fell into step with him as they ran back to the hillside.
Fluttershy flew as fast as she could, desperate to get the human out of danger. She felt awful that the Starly had been injured while protecting her, but there was nothing she could do at the moment. She looked down as she passed over the tree line, and saw the faces of dozens of Pokémon looking back. Some of the faces she saw were angry, some were confused, as if trying to make up their minds about whether or not they approved of her actions. It was clear to her that there was a terrible rift growing within the Pokémon world, and she had to fix it.
“Don’t bring her here,” Charles hissed as the pegasus pony approached. His voice was seething, and his eyes were narrowed in anger. The other Pokémon shied away from him nervously. Even the young Eevee, who had shown such bravery before, now shivered from his hiding spot behind his butler. Fluttershy hesitated for a moment as fear coursed through her veins. Then she closed her eyes tightly, tried to steel her resolve and landed next to Charles.
“She needs our help and we’re going to give it,” Fluttershy said, with far more confidence than she felt. She had to keep moving to hide the shaking in her knees, though she wasn’t sure how well this was working. The other Pokémon watched her with a mixture of pity and admiration.
“We are in my world, and I am the strongest here,” Charles said, his voice dripping with condescension and anger as Fluttershy began pulling medical supplies from her saddlebags. “If you want to treat her injuries, you will do it somewhere else.”
“I’m doing it right here, right now. There are bruises on her neck. I’ve moved her far more than I should, already. I’m not going to move her any further until I have an understanding of her injuries. That’s final!”
The sound of rushing water and trees breaking interrupted Charles’ angry retort. The group turned their attention back to the battle on the road, but it was already over. The attackers lay on the ground, barely conscious. Sunset Shimmer was running alongside the Empoleon they had helped. Fluttershy saw them through a passing glance, and she silently rejoiced as she continued her work. Stabilizing the girl was her top priority.
“Papa is coming,” Sachi said, softly. “And he’s mad.”