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Old 09-09-2017, 04:58 PM   #286
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Originally Posted by morningstar View Post

As quietly as possible, you weighed your options. Startling this Bunnelby would only lead you on another tiresome chase, you knew you had to remain undetected. You relayed your plan to your partner. Staryu seemed to understand almost immediately. Its previous experience gave it confidence, and it nodded firmly to you with the upper half of its body. Staryu shrunk before your eyes as it compressed itself with Minimize. Soon it was the size of a Joltik, and you almost lost sight of it as it began to head toward Bunnelby. Staryu, careful not to fall, maneuvered around rocks that now seemed the size of boulders. It approached the towering form of Bunnelby, whose pink tongue was still lapping up water. It was so far so good, even the Bunnelby’s large ears did not catch sign of Staryu’s movement. The crackling of the torches and the dripping of water did well to cover up any small sound Staryu may have been making. It edged around the fluffy Pokemon, careful to not touch even a hair. Upon reaching the scroll of paper, Staryu walked across it to unroll it. You held your breath as the paper crinkled. In the next moment, thoughts came to your mind that were not your own. There was no voice attached to the thoughts, and it was if you were seeing a crystal-clear picture of what Staryu was sending to you through Psywave. The sensation was odd, but you had experienced it before. Before the image in your mind completely disappeared, you read:

I am the key to your next riddle, if you can first pass this test
Once you stand in my presence, you'll know you're either damned or you're blessed
Hurry, for soon, I will depart
Despite being alive without any heart.
I dance without legs, and I can cause you great pain
I'll dance day and night, but not in the rain
The more that I breathe, the larger I'll grow
Even without lungs, I breathe while I glow
While I live and I die, I can even baptize
But I've never had life like this riddle implies.

Staryu stepped off the piece of paper and it rolled back up with a snap. Bunnelby’s ears twitched and it was startled. It turned and looked right at you, but did not look as scared as you thought it might. Staryu resizes itself and prepares for the worst. Abandoning the paper and Staryu, it took off past you and down the path leading out of the cave. As it passed, you could have sworn you saw a smile on its face.

Staryu gains 2 levels!
Munchax gains 1 level!

(Riddle credit to Deo, because I suck at poetry and he doesn't <3)
For a brief moment, Rorik expected a fight. The way Bunnelby perked itself up startled not only the Professor but Staryu as well, who was quick to reverto to its usual size, ready for battle... but the herbivore instead dashed past them back the way it'd come.

Was it... smiling?

Rorik put nothing past him anymore. For all he knew, the rabbits could have been playing him like a fiddle all this time, or someone controlling them - whichever the case, what mattered was that they were finally by themselves, with no more running and chasing others around. They could finally take a moment to themselves, albeit a brief one - because even now, the next clue urged them to hurry.

Rorik approached the starfish and placed a hand on its "head" as he went over the riddle in his mind.

"Good job Staryu, you'd make quite the Heimlan spy," he said, before remembering that the Northern Army never employed stealth, but rather viking-like brute force. Still, the compliment stood.

He glanced around the eerie cave, so natural in its perfection and yet undeniably explored before, on account of the many torches that lined the walls. There was nothing around them but the four elements - the torches' flames, the rocky earth, the stagnant air and the pool of water. If only for that absence of anything else, the answer to the riddle had to be appropriately simple... and yet, he was struggling.

"Something that breathes and dances, but is not alive... It grows, and it glows, and it fades with time as it does with rain."

There was an elegance to the words that felt as sort of a reward - as if the previous riddles had been simpler to test his wit, and now that he'd proven himself, they turned to rhyme, much like a Pokémon's evolution. It was hard not to feel flattered, even if it was completely unintentional.

And although he'd never heard the verses per se before, the logic conveyed was not entirely foreign to him. He'd once met someone who said some very similar things.

Old Agnes...

Heiml was the coldest region of the Pokémon World, but even the northern land had its share of specialists on exotic Types. He fondly remembered the elder Agnes, once a revered Fire-Type expert and Gym Leader, now long-retired, who treasured the rare flames found in the ice-covered region. Even now, her legacy endured thanks to her two children - Helga, the youngest, was the current Fire-Type Leader and inherited the Edda City Gym, whereas Bernhardt, the eldest, served as Gottfried's Elite Four of Fire.
Agnes always spoke of her love for flames with a passion similar to the one patent in the rhyme, describing them as almost-living, almost-human. They would breathe, they would dance, they could bestow life or bring death; they could be a blessing from the heavens, the Baptismal fire of Asgard, or a curse from the depths of hell, the eternal inferno of Hel.

"Fire. It is the most ephemeral of the elements, but the most dynamic. Of everything that surrounds us, nothing else fits the rhyme's description, does it?"

Staryu seemed to agree, even if the answer was something it was not particularly fond of. The starfish preferred the lasting wonders of the world, as opposed to those who didn't linger - it felt no attraction towards the frail thing that was fire. But it, too, could thing of no other answer.

Rorik reached for his belt again and retrieved a PokéBall. If they were going to search, the more the merrier, now that actual running wasn't involved.
In a flash of light, Munchlax emerged once more, yawned and took a lazy glance around the cave.

"I'm sorry for bothering you again," Rorik said with surprising honesty. It was probably something he'd never have said back when they'd started this adventure, but Munchlax had already done so much for them, it was hard not to feel thankful.

He made an encompassing motion then relayed his instructions. The sooner they solved this new mystery, the sooner they'd get to the bottom of all this. It was about time they did.

"I need you to examine the cave's torches. Let's split up to cover more ground; the first to find anything of note will let the others know."

But if the correct answer turns out to be anything other than fire, I'll be at a complete loss. If I'm wrong here, the riddler will finally have outsmarted me... Could that be the case?
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