I reach into my smoldering backpack, groping around inside for the first aid kit. My hand shakes badly, and I start tossing things out desperately. I can barely see anything; blinded by blood, pain, and the brilliance of the fire. The heat makes me sweat heavily, and my wounds sting when they mingle with the salt. I sit back on my ankles, crying out as blood suddenly gushes forth from my face. The hot warmth drips down through my fingers, staining my backpack and the grass around it.
Hot hands grasp my shoulders, but I can't turn around to see who it is. Orange paws sift through my backpack, then toss it aside. Scout brings her own pack over to me, clumsily searching through it. She pulls out the first aid kit and opens it. I've never taught her anything beyond how to wrap a bandage, and she stares at me in horror and confusion.
Breathing in sharply and with one hand covering my face, I fumble around blindly for something, anything to help. I can barely think clearly, but I know I need to stop the bleeding. Scout helps guide my hand to a Ziploc full of cotton balls, and she opens the bag for me.
I move my hand from where my eye was and try not to pay attention to how pallid Scout suddenly looks. She flinches a bit, but stays by my side. The blood drips down my face, into a dark red pool in the grass. Hands shaking furiously, I press one of the cotton balls against the wound.
I drop it immediately, pain shooting through my skull. Suppressing the urge to scream, I bend over and press both hands against the wound. Scout kneels down, her gaze locked on me. The firelight illuminates her face, her wide, frightened eyes watching me anxiously. I reach for the cotton ball again, this time getting it against the wound. I grind my teeth, trying to keep my face from twisting in pain. The next few come more easily, the agony becoming more tolerable.
The blood still drips through the layers of cotton, but we're already running out so I don't try to use any more. Scout hands me one of our many rolls of gauze, and I fold a large strip of it into a triangle. Pressing it down over the bloodied cotton balls, I motion for Scout to give me the entire roll. I pull my hat off and toss it to her, bending backward to stare up at the sky. Holding the roll high above my head, I struggle to get it unwrapped. It takes several frustrated attempts, but eventually I manage to get it separated. With Scout's help, we begin to pull the bandage around my head. She walks around me, careful not to step in the pool of blood. We tie it so tight it squeezes my head, but at least it shouldn't fall off.
The effort of bandaging the wound makes me want to collapse, but I don't. I slowly take off Dawn's scarf, my thick jacket, and the sweatshirt on underneath. I'm so weak that the simple act of removing my clothes takes almost twenty minutes. Exhaustion claws at my mind, the desire to lie down and die right here incredibly powerful. I grasp another roll of bandages, this time letting Scout start unwrapping it. I point to where I'm fairly certain the wound on my back is, sitting up to give her more room. She wraps it around my torso, pressing it against old scars and jutting rib bones. She ties it tightly, then moves on to wrapping my arm. This one stings more than the one on my back, and I pray I haven't been bitten. The marks look more like claws than teeth, but I wouldn't be the first one to make such a mistake.
I order Scout to pack our things up, tell her with a terribly weak voice exactly how to strap my crowbar to the front of my bag. She's quick to follow the procedure I taught her, folding everything just the same as I would and carefully shoving it all into my backpack or hers. Before she packs the first aid kit, I tear the top off a bottle of pain killers and down more than I probably need to. She gently takes the bottle from me and places the whole kit in her bag. She helps me put my clothing back on with the same caution she used to secure my bandages.
The night crackles around us, the fire burning bright in the darkness. From where I'm sitting I can see a path through the flames, but I became so disoriented during the battle that I don't know where it leads. Smoke pours out of the forest, and I hope any and all undead hiding there are burning to death slowly and miserably. My entire body hurts, though the blood from my various wounds seems mostly contained.
I attempt to stand up, pressing one hand to my knee. I get one foot underneath me before my body refuses to do any more. I fall to the ground, hard. Scout reaches out a paw to help me, but I ignore it. If I can't get up, I might as well die. I swing my leg out, pulling it underneath me weakly. It gives painfully, and I lie on the ground in my own blood. Face covered in dark red warmth, I breathe heavily against the dead grass. I take in the pungent smells of fire, death, and burning flesh.
Once again I find myself facing the decisions that brought me here. I went against what my own conscience advised, what fate placed in front of me, and now I get to die for it. My entire body shakes, a dull ache coursing through me. This is entirely my own fault, entirely my own choice. There is no one else to blame for my current state, no one to curse or hate. I did all this accepting the possible consequences, knowing full well death was one of them.
A haze of darkness pushes through my brain, calling out to me. It's calm and comforting, but it reeks of failure. My journey ends here, before it ever truly begins. If only I hadn't been so stupid, so self-righteous. The only one to hate or blame is me.
I push my hands hard against the grass, bringing my knees up to put my weight on. Two days, that's all that I have in me? The pain killers are doing their job, but I still feel a deep sting beneath the wads of cotton. I chose to leave; now I choose to keep moving. Scout reaches out for me again, and this time I grab hard to her paw. She pulls, and I drag myself to my feet. My body sways, but I maintain balance. The consequences are my own, the faults are my own, and every pain or ache will be my own. I am invigorated by these facts, by the truth that I have no one to neither blame nor answer to but me.
Scout watches me warily, opting to carry both packs instead of hand mine to me. We stand among the flames, staring out into the pitch black of the night. With great care I begin to walk, managing little more than a pathetic shamble.
But it's enough. We cross through the only gap left in the flames, leaving the forest to burn behind us. For a while we wander aimlessly, hardly caring if we're going in the right direction or not. Smoke fills our lungs, consuming both sides of our path. I don't bother to watch for enemies, knowing that if we get attacked in this state it's all over anyway.
My body aches as the sun begins to climb over the trees. The indifferent stars go off to their heavenly resting place, the sky turning a beautiful lavender. I see less and less as the morning drags over us, my vision turning dark and blurry. Scout tries to get my attention, to point out the stream of blood we're leaving behind us, but I don't look at her. If something wants to follow us, it can. If we don't reach Jubilife soon I'll die out here anyway.
The path slowly grows cleaner, more worn in. The smell of smoke is still thick on the air, but it's distant and subtle. My legs shake furiously with every step, longing for rest. Scout stares at me, her eyes wet and full of worry. My body wants so badly to stop. I must keep walking, must keep fighting against the haze in my mind. Suddenly my foot meets something hard, and Scout rushes forward to stop me from falling. I look up into her face, wondering briefly how she managed to get so tall so fast.
I stand there for a long time, eventually realizing I'm dealing with stairs. Scout takes my hand, leading me up a concrete path. My vision is so blurred now that I can barely make out the shadows of skeletal buildings, smoke billowing into the sky. The city before me lies in ruin, what little of it that I can see crumbling to pieces. In the distance I just barely make out a tall, brown shape walking toward me.
Scout tenses at my side, and I instinctively reach back to grab my crowbar. My hand falls weakly when I remember she has my backpack, leaving me to wait for whatever this thing coming for us is without a weapon. The sunlight dyes the figure's long brown coat a deep orange color, half of his face steeped in shadow. He comes closer, speeding up a bit when he spots us. He starts waving, but neither of us responds.
Slowing down, he reaches into his coat and reveals a shining red Pokeball. A bright light bursts forth from it, and a frog-like Pokémon I barely recognize appears at his side. He approaches us now with more caution, and his face comes into focus. He's an older man, with deep lines of aging and dark grey eyes. Messy black hair juts out from his face, several pieces lying flat against his skin. He looks healthy, however, and he seems to be self-aware.
"Hello, over there!" He stops several meters away from us, waving his arm in the air. I smile darkly, thinking he must be afraid of us. "Uh, you are very hurt-looking. Have you arrived from the forest?" His voice is strange, stammering and choppy. I wonder if he's not entirely familiar with English before I realize I really don't care. "Uh…" He frowns, taking in my bloodied state and crooked smile. "Are you alright, boy?"
"Who are you?" I ask, my voice deep and hoarse. He stares back in shock, eyes widening a bit. He must not have thought me capable of speech. "Well?"
He stutters again, getting more and more on my nerves. The pain is returning to my wound, gnawing at my body. If I don't get past this idiot and find medical attention soon I'll pass out. "I am called Looker, an investigator from the international police."
He tries to continue, but I interrupt him, a sudden blaze of anger overtaking me. Rage flows through me, and I taste blood dripping down into my mouth. "What? You're from 'Interpol'? Are you kidding? Are you fucking kidding? It's been four years! We've been like this for four years! You idiots are only sending-" The pain becomes too much, and I bend over, panting. My legs finally give out, and I collapse on the stairs. Scout snarls at the man as he comes toward us, standing at the top so he doesn't have to be too close. My remaining eye starts to sting with tears, blood now flowing freely down my face. I try to speak, but I can barely think through the pain.
Looker speaks carefully, kneeling down so he can see straight into my eye. "It was impossible to send agents before recently. The league would not let us in. We tried to help before, but they refused to give us entrance." I stared at him in disbelief, struggling to choke out a response. "I am very sorry."
My eyesight worsens to the point that I can't see Looker in front of me. Scout wraps her arms around my shoulders suddenly, and black spots pull at the corners of my vision. Looker reaches out for me as I fall forward, finally giving in to the pain and darkness.