Chapter 31 - Fire

Guile hid behind a tree alongside Skell, while Chya disguised herself as grass. The plant on her head danced in the wind, its length was now as long Guile knew it to be from when they first met. They had been standing amongst the forest in silence for the past few hours, waiting for a rare Zinnal to show up. Stark assigned them with encumbering the target Zinnal and bringing them back to the humans for capture. Apparently, Stark felt it unnecessary to tag along for the task and had other more important measures to attend to. Guile felt some satisfaction in knowing that the human trusted him enough to not keep his eyes on him at all hours now.


“Is this how long most missions usually take?” Guile groaned, holding himself against a tree.


“This is nothing,” Skell said, peeking his skull-head through the branches. “Once I had to wait in the same place for eight hours, damn near fell asleep, but then the target came and I managed it all on my own.”


“Just what does a Krulon look like? And how am I supposed to know what an Abnormal one looks like?” Guile said, thinking back on the exact words Stark had issued.


“Me and Chya will tell you when we spot a Krulon, don’t worry. And there are two types of ‘Abnormals’ according to the humans. One that looks slightly different from the others when it comes to body parts, and one that is an extremely rare color.”


Ah, Cylor must be considered an Abnormal too, Guile thought. “And they didn’t specify which kind we are looking for?” He snickered. 


“Sometimes the rumors don’t specify. Either one is worth a fortune though.” Skell’s face contorted. “I hate saying things like that. Makes me feel like one of those damn demons, but I guess as they say, the more you’re around someone, the more you pick up on their words.”


“Quiet down over there! You want to give away our position?” Chya snarked from the grass.


Lowering his body, Guile stopped speaking and watched out at the motionless plains. The only movement being insects buzzing by. He wondered if the other humans’ Zinnals’ mission had concluded already, or if they were stuck in a similar predicament. He never had the opportunity to talk to the other groups much, but they all would recognize each other in passing and give slight head nods, or depressing smiles to one another.


Guile thought back again at the objective of this mission. He needed to fight another Zinnal, and not only that, he needed to be serious about it. Though if he slacked, Stark wouldn’t be here to use the agonizing power of the Parti Tab to ensure Guile went through with it. Regardless, if he contributed little, he wouldn’t grow in strength. And wasn’t that the whole point? Just how much could he help in the battle, anyway? He only had his first mock battle days prior, when Stark had set him up against Skell.




“You, Gurden, you’re going to fight that Skolorok.” Stark pointed his fingers and snapped. “Get going. I’ll be judging. You know the consequences if you don’t obey orders, I’ll make your body listen.”


“Don’t worry about a thing, Guile,” Skell said. “These kinds of things always happen here. Even when we aren’t testing for much. The humans just love to entertain themselves by betting with one another who will win between us.” Skell sharpened his skull against a nearby tree trunk. “And to be honest, we’ve all started to like doing them. Well, most of us. It’s a way to blow off steam, and we only feel the pain for a little while. After the battle they send us back Inside to heal us. Brings a friendly rivalry between us. Damn, I sound more and more like them every day, don’t I?” Skell aggressively tore his horn at the tree trunk, causing a deep incision.


Guile remembered the pain he felt from being tortured for days. Stark refused to send him Inside to alleviate his pain then. But he had no choice but to obey the human. Could he trust Skell at least? It was obvious that this Skolorok was going to have the upper hand, he’d been with the humans for months now.


“Don’t give me that look, Guile. You’re one of us now. Trust me. Even if we break some bones, we’ll be all good in a few hours. You should be used to the pain already anyway, right?”


These guys were insane. Guile looked down at his body and remembered the pain, and as he continued to ponder if he was willing to fight, his body tensed up.




“I said fight, damn it! You want to be caged again?!” Stark stomped on the ground and threw out a fist.


Guile felt himself wanting to vomit as Stark’s feelings bled into the Parti Tab, but shook it off and joined Skell at the center.


“Come on, I’ve heard everything from Chya. As someone who wanted to get caught up in all of this, you are very unwilling.” The glow in Skell’s eyes flashed.


“I—” Guile tried to speak, but Skell bashed into Guile’s chest, knocking him over.


“No hard feelings, yeah?” Skell said, brushing off his fur-covered stomach. “This is just what we do around here. You’ll get used to this part, it’s the missions that are the most grueling.”


Picking himself up off the ground, Guile glared at Skell.


“Come on, Zin. Take it easy.”


“Zin? What’s that supposed to mean?”


Skell shook his head. “So much to learn for country folk. Whatever.” He readied his body, lowering his skull so the horns pointed toward Guile, then looked up. “I take it you’re ready now?”


“I guess.” Guile tried his best at a battle stance, imitating Skell. “I’ve watched you all train. You all have these flashy abilities… I have nothing like that.”


“Lies. You just don’t know how they work. You may not have had them a few weeks ago, but you do now. I saw it when I observed your stats in the Parti Tab.”


“I don’t understand.”


“What are you two mumbling about!? Keep fighting!” Stark bellowed.


“Well, hopefully you can figure them out before I knock you out, or else this won’t be fun for either of us,” Skell said.


I have abilities? Guile thought. How is that even possible? I don’t feel any different, and I haven’t learned anything over these past weeks. What is he talking about? Regardless, Guile felt the pain of his owner’s impatience flowing through him and acted out, tackling Skell. Skell avoided the hit and Guile slid across the ground, almost tripping.


“That’s a start I suppose,” Skell said. “The Voice didn’t tell you anything about yourself? You didn’t even bother to check? Tsk. If you really can’t feel anything different, try closing your eyes and visualizing the energy around your arms and legs. That’s how most of us get the feel for what is going on with our bodies, or so I’m told… The damn Parti Tab won’t give me anything good yet.”


“The Voice?” Most days when he returned to the Parti Tab, he fell asleep immediately, letting The Voice drone on in the background. It spouted the same things every day. Did he miss something important? Guile’s eyes narrowed. Feel the energy around his limbs? What kind of absurd suggestion was that? He can always feel what is around him. Despite scoffing off the idea, Skell showed no restraint and continued to barrage him with blows. Over and over, Guile tumbled to the ground growing sore.


“You gotta try it, Zin.”


“Stop calling me that!” Guile clenched his fists.


Skell smirked. “Yes, now feel the energy around those clenched fists.”


Guile exhaled with a huff. He darted toward Skell, but this time his vision grew blurry and he focused only on the maximum damage he wanted to deal, but the energy he felt didn’t come from his fists. A blast from his mouth; Guile retched, unleashing a fireball.