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Chronicles of a Furret

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by JFought, Feb 23, 2018.

  1. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    Summary: Liber is a big place, and Furik the Furret, adventurer extraordinaire, wants to explore all of it. But pointing to a location on a map turns out to be a lot different than actually going there.

    I’m going to put the author’s notes in a spoiler tag this time, because I tend to ramble.

    This is somewhat awkward. Let’s get the facts out of the way first. This is a side project, as in it’s being worked on alongside another, bigger project. Originally, this was meant to come out much later, but I realized that the focus of the two projects are pretty radically different, and that Chronicles of a Furret would be better suited as a spin-off rather than a bonus. I also decided it should come out first, since it actually works as a really good lead in to the world and a couple of the themes in the main project. Why is this awkward? Well again, this was supposed to be released a lot later. And it might change a few things in regards to the main project. That, and I'm kinda procrastinating on releasing the main project because my confidence on it is still shaky. Tbh, that's pretty much the entire reason this is coming first. The rest is just me trying to justify it to myself.

    Aaaaaaanyway, as I said, this is a spin-off. A spin-off that just so happens to have one-shots associated with it: A Game of War and The Evening Thief. You do not need to read either of those to get full enjoyment out of this. The most you’ll really get out of it is some extra context for the protag and world, and maybe a couple references. It'd help, but ultimately it shouldn't affect anything too much, so don't sweat it if you haven't. And obviously you don’t need to read the main project: it’d be very awkward if you did.

    Next is the obligatory part where I comment on how weird it is to be starting up a chapter fic after five years, with my last chapter fic being kinda bad. Okay, I commented on it, let's move on.

    Finally, with my rambling out of the way, this fic is rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and troubling themes. More on the latter later.

    Anyway, let's begin...

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    ----------


    -----------------------------------------------------------
    Chapter 1 - Go to as many places as possible
    -----------------------------------------------------------

    ~~~

    The furret looked off into the distance, at the vast plains, the rugged mountains, the clear rivers, and the town, sitting far on the horizon. A deep breath. “I… I can do this.”

    The furret smiled. “I can do this!”

    ~~~


    19th night, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    The leaves rattled and the trees stirred. Screams echoed in the night, cutting through the darkness like light, but not as welcoming. A brown blur streaked through the undergrowth, away from the noise but nowhere near fast enough to outrun the sounds. A bag dragged across the ground, the insides violently lurching as the satchel bumped on every tree root and caught on every snag. The furret who was carrying it just hoped that the damage wouldn’t be too bad.

    What did the guide in the last town say? Don’t get stuck in the forest at night? Well, so much for that.

    So the furret kept running, hoping that he could reach the next town before the ghosts caught him first. He was pretty fast, he thought, so as long as he didn’t trip-

    His bag caught on a particularly nasty snag, and he tripped. Well, so much for that.

    The furret lifted his face off the ground and ran back to his bag. A hook-shaped root had dug into it and tore a hole. He freed it, and was about to continue running, when he noticed that a hole had also been torn in his wallet. How long had it been like that? He unattached it from the side of his bag and placed it inside as quickly as he could. But right as he was about to continue, a blue flame flared to life in front of him. And to his left. And to his right. And behind him…

    “Crap…” The ghosts had caught up. A group of unidentifiable shapes, led by one trevenant. It’s six legs crawled creepily through the undergrowth as it slowly approached the furret, who tried to back away but was met with unnatural heat instead. He considered his options. Fight? With what? He had already tried earlier, but his moves didn’t affect them, and while maybe the knife he had could work, he didn’t know how to use it effectively enough to fight against a wood spirit. Run? Through the Will-O-Wisp? He knew there was a river somewhere up ahead, as well as a town, but he didn’t know how far they were from here. The furret doubted he could make it very far with a burn and no way to cure it.

    There wasn’t much time left to make that decision. The trevenant was within spitting distance now, and the ghosts were closing in.

    So the furret decided on option three. Do both.

    He put his paw on the knife strapped to his side and prepared himself. The other ghosts closed in behind, but if this plan worked then it wouldn’t matter. The furret just kept his focus on what was in front of him. Then he drew his knife and lunged.

    The knife lodged itself in below the trevenant’s eye. Before it could even screech in pain, the furret began to glow white. He catapulted off of the trevenant’s face using Quick Attack, and landed on all fours on the other side of the fire and ghosts. The ghosts began to shriek angrily; now was the time to run.

    And now they were doing this again. The wind, the screams, the running, and the bag. How big was this forest, anyway?

    A light began to come into view. Civilization? The furret didn’t stop. He broke through the tree line of a clearing and almost ran headfirst into a wooden wall covered in slips of paper. He placed a paw against it and looked around. To his right was an entrance! The chill running down his back told the furret that the ghosts were getting closer, and he responded by bolting towards the archway that marked the town entrance. Make the turn, and… safe!

    The furret stopped running to look behind him. The ghosts soon showed up, led by the trevenant he used as a springboard earlier. It glared angrily from the other side of the arch, but upon trying to continue its pursuit, it slammed right into an invisible force. It glared at the furret, let out a deep rumble, and spat a wisp before turning around and leaving, taking the rest of the ghosts with it.

    The panting furret felt a wave of relief, and let it linger for a few moments before looking around at the surrounding buildings. An inn was among them. “Good.” He tiredly walked over to it and entered.

    “Hello there,” greeted a noctowl as he entered. “Did you get stuck in the forest?” The furret slowly looked over and nodded.

    The furret, still breathing heavily, limped over to the reception desk where the noctowl sat. “I’d like a…”

    “A room?” Mr. Receptionist hopped onto the desk and used a talon to handle a feather pen. “I’m going to need a name?”

    “F-Furik… the furret…” Furik’s head dropped onto the desk. “Adventurer extraordinaire…”

    The noctowl pushed Furik’s head to the side with a claw. “Right...” He then dipped the end of the feather into an inkwell, and held out both wings as he began to write.

    Furik lifted his head up. “I’ve never seen a bird write before.”

    “It’s quite a common sight in this part of Liber. You’ll get used to it.” Mr. Receptionist finished scrawling Furik’s name and put the feather pen away. He then hopped off the desk and put his head into a box, pulling out a key. “Down the hall, second door to the right.”

    Furik stared at the key, then shook his head. “W-wait, don’t I have to pay?”

    The noctowl placed the key down on the desk. “Guests who get caught in the woods at night pay in the morning. So don’t worry about it.”

    Furik took the key and smiled. “Thanks, Mr. Receptionist.”

    “Please. It’s Kenshin.”

    “Oh. Thanks Kenshin.”

    Furik wandered down the hall and found his room. It was a small one, with just a cheap grass nest, but that was okay. As long as he could sleep in it.

    Well, he could sleep in it if the state of his bag wasn’t bothering him. Furik opened the satchel and dug out its contents. Wallet, berries (four oran, two pecha, one chesto), spare knife, and the list Furik’s mom gave him. So at least the contents inside the bag were okay. But the bag itself…

    A wave of sadness coursed through Furik as he found each rip and tear. That bag was his most prized possession. And it’s not like he could replace it: it was homemade. By his parents, no less. Things only got worse when Furik remembered that his bag wasn’t the only thing to get torn.

    “Oh no…” Furik opened his wallet to find that it seemed at least half as full as he last remembered it. The 1080 silver he carried over from the last town had shrunk down to… 740, Furik counted. He winced. “O-ow… That… is a lot….” But it could be worse, right? Furik could have lost everything instead, and while he did lose a little under half of his Poké, this was still more than enough to keep going on. “Still though, I should probably keep the wallet inside the bag from now on.”

    Furik curled up in the nest and thought about tomorrow. He could replace the lost cash through requests, and the bag… well, maybe there’s a tailor in town. That’d be nice. He let that thought drift him into sleep.

    ---

    20th day, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    Sunlight beamed into the room and onto Furik’s face from an open window. He twitched a little, opened his eyes, then regretted it as the sun shone directly on them. How late in the morning was it for that to be possible?

    Furik pushed himself up, performed his morning stretches, went to his bag, stared at it for a good minute, then slung it over his left arm so that it hid the knife on his belt. “Ready?” Ready. The road to get here was shaky, but it was going to be worth it. This wasn’t just another town: this town meant something, and what it meant was an exciting prospect. “It took ten days, but finally…”

    Tossing open the door, he wandered into the lobby and up to the desk, now occupied by a Floette. “Can I help you?” She twirled the yellow flower she was carrying impatiently, as if the moment Furik took to approach her was one moment too many.

    “I came in during the night..?” Furik couldn’t help but stare at the flower she was carrying. He’d only ever seen floette carry white ones, though it made sense that there’d be other kinds too.

    Ms. Receptionist stopped twirling and shifted the flower to the other side of her body. “Forty silver.”

    “Right.” Furik opened his bag, then his wallet, and pulled out two gold Poké. “Here.”

    The floette held up one of the coins to inspect it, found it to be real, then drifted over to the paper Kenshin used last night. “Furik?”

    “Yeah.”

    She dipped the stem of her flower into the inkwell, then crossed out his name. “You’re good.”

    “Thanks, Ms. Receptionist.” The floette just rolled her eyes.

    Leaving her bad attitude behind, Furik opened the door outside and let himself be taken away by the town he didn’t get to see last night. The design aesthetic was different from what Furik was used to: the buildings were primarily wood and the stone-tiled roofs pointed up, with contrasting reds and blacks that gave off a rustic elegance, or would have if the paint didn’t smell so fresh. Thin strips of paper were liberally attached to the white walls of every building. Furik inspected the one closest to him on the inn: whatever was written on it, it was all done in footprint runes. Weird.

    Going down the dirt path that went along the center, and ignoring the small deviations that led to smaller groups of buildings, Furik wandered into the open market area. The circular plaza was ringed with stalls, and featured a stone fountain centerpiece depicting Cresselia. Pokémon milled about, browsing wares and making conversation. Furik suddenly realized how big the town was. He could count… five… eight… fourteen pokémon, not including shopkeepers. The morning hours weren’t nearly as active back where he was from.

    According to the guide from the last town, this was Dakuro, the Dark River Town. Known for the forest and the atmosphere. And the river too. Though really just the forest; Furik wondered why it wasn’t called the Dark Forest Town instead. Then again, the guide did tell him to stick close to the river when navigating the woods...

    “Stop getting sidetracked.” “The first thing you do when you get to a new town is look for the Traveler’s Office,” Furik repeated to himself. He walked around the plaza, briefly glancing at the wares of the stalls and making a mental note of which ones to stop by. Kecleon, Grovyle, and Shiftry seemed to have the best stuff.

    On the opposite side where Furik had entered the plaza was an exit that led to a notably older part of town, with chipped wood and faded signs. A bridge crossing a wide river could be seen at the end of the path, but more important was the Traveler’s Office located right near the plaza. Furik couldn’t help but notice as he entered how similar it looked to an inn, with a reception desk located near a hallway filled with doors, and an all-around unconventional setup from what he was used to. But the essentials were all still there: a guide at the desk, a rack filled with maps for purchase, and one big map of the country on the wall.

    One big map of a country that Furik had never been to. He wandered over and took it in. This was not the map that Furik was used to seeing up on the wall: a map of a long country, bordered by land on three sides and halfway on the fourth, otherwise known as Hivech. This one was a map of a land with borders only on two sides, and the ocean on the other two. A map with no mountains but plenty of forest and plains, and a capital that floated in the sky.

    This was a map of Prestin. The country not only built on, but also above the civilization it replaced. And on this map was the first big stop on Furik’s adventure through Liber.

    Furik slammed on the reception desk. “What’s the best way to get to Soruku?”

    “Gah!” The golduck Furik just addressed nearly dropped the book she was reading, and fumbled with it until it closed. “Dangit, you surprised me!”

    “Oh, sorry.” Perhaps a sudden outburst wasn’t really necessary to ask that question.

    “Ugh, it’s okay,” Ms. Guide reassured as she adjusted her seat. “Anyway, where do you need to go again?”

    “Soruku Island!”

    “Soruku Island? As in,” -- the golduck pointed upward -- “flying city Soruku Island?”

    “Yes!” Furik beamed.

    “Uh, you sure about that? They aren’t very welcome to outsiders up there.”

    That was the second time Furik had heard that this month. “But I don’t care! Rule number four of the adventurer’s code!” He posed proudly with a paw to his chest. “Go to as many places as possible!”

    Ms. Guide sighed. “Right. Well, Murosei over to the east has a ferry, but it isn’t exactly cheap.”

    “How much?”

    “3000 silver per passenger.”

    “Thr-three thousand?!” It took nearly a year of saving up to scratch together the one thousand for Furik’s trip!

    The golduck leaned back in her chair. “Told you they didn’t like outsiders.”

    “H-h-how am I supposed to make that much..?” Furik started to feel woozy. Just getting to the first stop on this journey was starting to look impossible.

    “You don’t.” Ms. Guide sighed again. “If anything, they’re doing you a favor. Soruku is not a nice place, from what I’ve heard.”

    Furik wasn’t listening. “Maybe… Is there anything good on the request board?” he asked.

    “Well…” Ms Guide seemed hesitant, but spoke up anyway. “There is one request that will cover it, but… you’ll see.”

    Furik pushed outside and back into the street, turning around to face the two bulletin boards: one for news, one for requests. He glanced at every sheet of paper located on the request board. Lost item for 70, bounty for 300, domestic for 30, craftsman for 100, bounty for 10,000, escort for 90...

    Furik nearly glossed over it, before doubling back and gawking. It was a wanted poster, dead or alive, for 10,000 silver. Enough to cover the ferry and much more. These kinds of bounties were only ever issued by the government, which meant the Pokémon must be especially dangerous. And for ten thousand…

    Furik jumped up and tore off the paper, staring at the figure drawn on it. It was a black Pokémon, with white, billowing hair that covered one of its ghastly eyes. He hurried back inside to show the guide.

    “What’s this Pokémon?” he asked determinedly.

    Ms. Guide groaned and put her head into her arms. “Oh no…”

    “What is it?”

    She looked up. “Have you never heard stories about Darkrai?”

    “Uh,” Furik looked back at the picture for a quick moment. “I don’t think so.”

    “Geez.” She rubbed the base of her bill. “Darkrai is the Nightmare Pokémon. It causes those around it to experience terrible nightmares. And it’s a legendary.” Ms. Guide let that sink in. Furik seemed startled, but not startled enough. So she continued. “It first showed up in Yagora down south. It wasn’t too bad at first, just some complaints about nightmares. But then it started to attack travelers at night, and lurked closer and closer to the villages. And then, it decided to attack Ebeld. The town and everyone who lived there somehow managed to come out unscathed, but officials were spooked by how easily it caused chaos.” She paused to look at Furik, who looked down in turn. “You see why that bounty is so high, now? Trust me, you wouldn’t be the first to barge in here asking about it. And those guys come back as shivering wrecks, every single time.”

    Furik kept his head down. Don’t pick fights with legendaries. That was on the list of 100 Things to Never Ever Do While Out Adventuring. The one his mom gave him. He knew about some of them, the terrifying things they could do and have done in the past.

    “But I have to…”

    “What?”

    Furik looked back up. “I have to get to Soruku. Where can I find this Darkrai?”

    “Did you… not hear anything I just said?!”

    “I heard it, and I don’t care!” Furik leaned forward, paw on the desk. “Where is it?”

    The golduck sighed. “Look, I admire your courage, but it isn’t worth it. Soruku is a terrible place for someone like you. You should take the fact that a legendary is getting in the way of that as a warning.”

    A warning. A good one at that. Is it worth it? Is going to Soruku it worth it if a Darkrai counts as a warning against going there?

    Well, if his blunder in the forest was anything to go by, Furik didn’t care much for warnings.

    “You said that Darkrai has never killed anyone.”

    “What?”

    Furik stood straight. “Has that Darkrai ever killed anyone?”

    Ms. Guide put a hand on the crest of her head. “Well, not that I know of, but-”

    “So I can afford to fail. I’m going to try anyway, because I can afford to lose.” Furik knew that maybe the victims were lucky to survive, and Darkrai is fully capable of killing someone. But he was still willing to bet on that chance.

    The guide searched for something else to say, but couldn’t find anything. She just stared at Furik. And Furik stared back.

    “I can’t say anything to stop you, can I?”

    “No. I have to get to Soruku.”

    “But why?”

    “Because I want to see it. I want to go up there,” -- Furik pointed to the star on the big map of Prestin -- “And say that I went up there. I want to see the world, and I will not skip any of it.”

    “Word.”

    Apparently a granbull walked in at some point in their conversation. “Crap, how long have you been waiting there?” asked a sheepish Ms. Guide.

    “About when you two were having that staring contest.”

    “Oh. Well, just let me wrap things up with the Furret first, I’ll be with you in a bit.”

    “Sure thing.” And the granbull wandered off to browse the big map.

    The golduck watched them for a bit, then turned back to Furik and sighed. “If you want to know where Darkrai is, all of the sightings from the past two days have placed it near Murosei.”

    “Where the ferry is?” That was convenient.

    “Yep. So if you really are committed to this, you’re gonna have to travel a bit.”

    “Okay, that’s not a problem.” “Murosei is to the east, right?”

    “Yeah, there should be an escort request up for it, so I’d say take that. Also, I have something that should help.” Ms. Guide ducked behind the desk and surprised Furik when she pulled out a thin slip of paper with footprint runes on it.

    “I’ve seen those all over the place, what is it?” he asked.

    “It’s a Cleanse Tag. It’s said to keep evil spirits away. And, well,” Ms. Guide gestured around her, “Clearly they work. Take it for good luck.”

    Furik reached for the tag. “Thank-”

    “Hey.” She pulled it back and waved it in the air. “Twenty silver.”

    “Really?”

    Ms. Guide put a webbed hand to her side. “They aren’t that easy to make, you know.”

    “Fine.” Twenty Poké isn’t that much when you’re gunning for five-hundred times that amount. Furik opened his bag, reached into his wallet, remembered why he originally had the wallet on the outside of his bag, remembered he still needed to find a tailor, pulled out a gold piece, and exchanged it for the Cleanse Tag.

    “Thanks for the business. And remember: there is no shame in running away,” Ms. Guide reminded. Furik knew that. It was his mother’s motto. It made it very hard not to remember.

    So he just responded with a nod. “Thanks, Ms. Guide.”

    The golduck went wide-eyed. “Ms. Guide? Y-You don’t need to refer to me as that. Just call me... Youko.”

    “Oh. Well, thanks Youko.” Furik almost left, but remembered just in time. “Um, actually, I still have a question: is there a tailor in town? I kinda ripped my bag…” He patted the sorry thing to show it.

    “Sorry. There is a tailor, but he doesn't do repairs.”

    “Oh… That’s okay,” Furik replied in disappointment. “I’ll see about Murosei when I get there.”

    With a talisman and a ‘Good luck’ from Youko, Furik left the office. Chances were, he was going to need both of them.

    Furik stopped after he closed the door behind him. “This isn’t going to be easy…” But then he shook the doubt out of his head, and began walking back towards the shops. “Of course getting to Soruku isn’t going to be easy, I knew that going in. It’s just... going to be a little bit harder than I thought it’d be. Only a little bit. Yeah, I have to fight a legendary, but I can do it. I will do it. I have to do it.”

    Somewhere along the way, Furik stopped moving. “Wait, what was I doing...?”

    Right, shops. He needed to stock up. For tomorrow, he was going to take that escort request and head off to Murosei.

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    A/N:Kind of a short chapter. I'll probably do weekly updates from here on, so we'll see how that goes. Reviews and criticism are appreciated, and I hope this is something you can enjoy.

    ...

    ...Huh. For some reason, I feel like a hypocrite. I think I know why, but the problem is that I simultaneously don't feel like a hypocrite. It's a... weird feeling, that's for sure. Hmm... Well, for now, I'll just have to deal with it, I guess.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
    DreamSayer likes this.
  2. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    New chapter! This time, Furik meets up with an old friend, and gets a little bit of insight into Dakuro.

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    Chapter 2 - Always help those in need
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    ~~~

    14th day, Month of Prestin, 1837.


    A sentret looked up at a big map on the wall. According to what the guide told him, this was a map of his own country: Hivech. “Where am I on this map?” he asked.

    The guide, a ledian, kindly pointed it out to him. “See that lake in the middle? That’s us.”

    The sentret looked closer, and saw a dot just south from the lake. “I’m a dot?”

    The guide laughed. “No, Furik. That dot’s our town.” He flew up from his desk, and came up to the map to point to it. “This is Caifeng, where we are. And these other dots…” Mr. Guide traced along the map towards other dots, spread wide across the map, four others in all. “These are other towns. And that star over there is the capital.”

    Other towns? “What are the other towns like? Are they like here?”

    “Not really. They’re all very different. Like… this one.” He pointed to a dot in a forest to the west. “This is Ziranshu. It’s a city, which is like a really big town.”

    “Really big…” Furik thought about it for a bit. “So like… as big as the lake?”

    “Bigger,” replied the guide, grinning.

    “What?!” Furik almost fell back, but used his tail to correct himself. “There’s things that are bigger than the lake?!”

    “Yup. There’s a bunch of places.” Mr. Guide gestured with one of his four arms. “Here, let me show you something.”

    He brought Furik to the desk, and brought out a map. It showed a large landmass, with lines running through it. “This is the continent, Liber. And this...” The ledian pointed to the now much smaller looking lake. The guide had to be careful not to cover it up with his paw. “...Is us.”

    And Furik’s mind was blown.

    They spent the rest of the day going over the places in Liber. Every day from then on, Furik would come in to talk to the guide about another town. And by the end of the month, he had an entire list of places he decided he wanted to go to.

    “You want to be an adventurer?”

    “Yeah!” Furik was bouncing up and down on his tail, ignoring the loud complaining it sent back to him. “The adventurers in town are so cool! I want to be just like them, and go all over Liber!”

    Mr. Guide looked a little bashful. “Really? I don’t think your mother would be very thrilled to hear that.”

    The sentret completely ignored him, and started to talk about all the places he wanted to visit one day. The big ones were obvious. “Oasimil, because I want to see what a desert is like. And Grebay, because it sounds super clean! And Capital, because…” Furik put a paw to his mouth. “...because it sounds cool!”

    And at the top of his list: “Flying city Soruku Island!” The very idea that a city could fly like that was amazing to him. “I bet it’s the coolest place ever! You could probably see the whole world from up there!”

    “I’m sure it’s great, but won’t it be a little difficult to get up there? It’s really high up, and you can’t fly.”

    Furik put a tiny paw to his chest. “I’ll figure it out when I become an adventurer! I’ll be Furik the Furret, adventurer extraordinaire!”

    The ledian rubbed the back of his head. “Your mother is really not going to like this…”

    ~~~

    20th day, Month of Yagora, 1843.


    Furik found the escort request he was supposed to take gone when he came back from his shopping trip.

    “What happened to the request?” he had asked Youko.

    “Someone else took it. He was… uh, I forgot what they were called. Bulky? Green and white?” Youko waved it off. “Whatever. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t leave until tomorrow, so you still have time to find him.”

    So Furik went to look for the ‘mon who took the request. Looking up at the sky, it was heading towards noon. What would Furik normally be doing right about now if he wasn’t looking for someone? Probably getting something to eat. So he went to look for a restaurant first.

    Starting with the plaza, Furik thoroughly combed the street near the inn, glancing at the shop signs and trying to work out which ones serve food. Chances are, this guy was at one of them, it’s just a matter of which one. But Furik didn’t find any. Maybe in the older part of town, closer to the river? Furik rushed back, passing by the growing crowd as he retraced his steps back to the plaza and in front of the office. As he went down the road, the town of Dakuro grew more cracked and less organized. Roads snaked off the beaten path seemingly at random, leading to buildings that looked about to collapse. Furik just passed them all, crossed the bridge, and made it into downtown. There should be a restaurant here, right?

    Right. It was to Furik’s right when he found it. It looked like a pub, and an old one at that. The inside of the place definitely didn’t disagree, either. Cobble walls and dirt floors defined the interior, with wooden tables placed around the area. Furik scoured the room, and almost felt embarrassed with how many Pokémon species he didn’t recognize. He had thought his education was pretty good, but considering that he could only name two of the ‘mon in here, it was starting to look like the only ‘good’ it fit under was relative.

    He would have thought more about that, when he suddenly recognized someone. Someone sitting in front of an empty plate with a glass of water. Someone he had known for a long time.

    “Ray?” Furik raised his voice as he approached the chesnaught in the room. “Is that you?”

    The chesnaught turned his head around to look at Furik. “Huh? Do I know you?” His voice was gruff, and very much the same voice Furik had remembered from Ray.

    “It’s me, Furik. Remember? I’m from Caifeng,” Furik said to try and jog his memory. The last time they met, Furik was still a sentret.

    “Caifeng…” Ray stroked his beard with his long, brown fingers. “Wait, Furik?! I barely recognize you!” The chesnaught grew a big smile, and made a warm gesture with his imposing arm. “Come, sit down! I had heard you left sometime since we last met, but I didn’t expect to meet up with you so soon!”

    Furik took the seat opposite from him and looked up at Ray’s beaming face. This chesnaught was Ray, an adventurer who journeyed around Liber, completing a lap every seven months. Furik knew him from the many times he had visited Caifeng, Furik’s hometown. “No, I don’t just know him,” Furik thought to himself. This wasn’t an old friend, this was a hero. “Ray’s awesome! He’s big and strong, but super nice too, and he carries around a bunch of cool, giant weapons, like a big hammer! I can’t believe I met up with him so early!”

    But wait. Ray normally travels clockwise around Liber, the same direction Furik is traveling in. And since Furik left Caifeng before Ray could arrive there, it was surprising that the two would meet up. Which, as Furik realized with dejection, meant that he must be moving very slowly. Which is impressive, all things considered, but not in a good way.

    “So how are you doing?” Ray asked. “Last time I saw you, you were just a small little sentret!”

    “I’m doing okay, just taking things at my own pace,” Furik said to try and justify his slowness to himself. “What about you?”

    “Well, I was actually hoping to catch up to you! As soon as I heard you left, I booked it to see if we could maybe meet up, though I didn’t expect to catch up so quickly!” He gave an excited smile. “So when did you get here?”

    Furik scratched behind his ear. It was kinda embarrassing, to know his hero was excited to see him. “I got here just last night.”

    “Funny, I got here yesterday too! Plan on jumping straight to the next town. You heard about that bounty, right?” Ray’s smile grew wider.

    “Wait, the ten thousand one?” Furik asked meekly. “He couldn’t actually be…”

    “That one,” Ray confirmed. “An opportunity to face a legendary is a rare chance. No way I’m letting that slip by!”

    “But can you even beat him?” That question was incredibly hypocritical and Furik knew it. But he asked anyway because somehow the conversation didn’t seem real anymore.

    “Nah, I’m probably going to lose terribly.” Ray spun his arm nonchalantly. “But it’s still worth a shot. Can’t go wrong with ten thousand silver.”

    “Yeah, I guess not, ha ha...” Furik trailed off. But wait, if Ray is going after Darkrai... “Does that mean you’re going to Murosei, too?”

    “Yeah, I am. I’m guessing you’re heading in the same direction?” Ray asked, to which Furik nodded. This was his chance.

    “Can I come with you?”

    “Huh?”

    “Don’t blow this, Furik, this is your only shot! You can travel with your hero and you can work together with him to beat that Darkrai!”

    Furik looked directly into Ray’s eyes. “I was going to take an escort request to Murosei, but the guide said that someone took it. So I’d like to travel with you instead.”

    Ray blinked, then smiled. “Well you’re in luck! I was the one who took that request, so we can do it together!”

    “Wait, really?!”

    “Of course!” Ray took a big sip of water, then got up from his chair. “If you didn’t ask, I would’ve! Thought it’d be fun to see how you’ve grown! ”

    Furik noticed he seemed ready to leave, and asked: “Wait, are we going right now?”

    “Nah, I’m just done here. The merchants we’ll be escorting don’t leave until tomorrow.” The chesnaught offered his large hand. “We can meet up at the Traveler’s Office tomorrow morning, okay?”

    Furik grabbed onto one of Ray’s fingers with both paws. “Okay!”

    ---

    After his agreement to meet back up with Ray, Furik found himself skipping along towards the Traveler’s Office. “This is amazing! I can’t believe everything just worked out like that!” Traveling with his hero to fight a monster: it was like a childhood dream come to life!

    “But let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Furik thought as he neared the request board. The escort wasn’t until tomorrow, and Furik wasn’t too keen on just lounging around, even if Dakuro was a pretty nice place to lounge around in. So he took another look at the board for requests. What else could he spend the day doing?

    “Lost item for 70, bounty for 300, domestic for 30, and craftsman for 100. Let’s see… ‘My kid lost their favorite toy somewhere in southern Seishu Woods.’ No, that’d take too long. ‘Wanted: Crobat thief? Well… no, that might take too long. ‘My friend and I are-’ nope. Not getting into that. Lastly… ‘Need a second set of paws to help with…’ enchanting...?”

    Furik took the poster down to see if he read it right. Enchanting. It really did say enchanting. According to it, there was an enchanter in town, and they needed someone to help.

    “I didn’t even know that enchanters were a thing.” And now Furik was curious. “What do enchanters do..?”

    Furik took the craftsman request up to Youko. “Where can I find the enchanter?” he asked, flashing the poster.

    The golduck took a closer look. “You’re taking on a request for Hitomi? Her place isn’t far. Just head towards the river, pay attention to the left, and look for the path that goes up a hill. That’s the enchanter’s shop.”

    “Up the hill…” Furik visualized a hilltop store with a mystical design and a winding set of stairs leading up to it. He nodded. “Got it, thanks!”

    And so, Furik left the office and followed Youko’s instruction. The sun was almost at the top of the sky, and the town was now wide awake, a small, steady stream of Pokémon wandering up and down the streets. Furik wondered if the enchanter would be busy with customers. “What do they even do, though?” He had to admit it to himself: the only reason he took this job was because he was curious. The side path snaking up the designated hill was a little out of the way. No one was traveling down this path, and halfway through the hike up, he had to wonder how this shop got any business at all.

    The building at the top was as old and faded as the rest of this section of Dakuro. Before anything else, Furik double checked his still-ripped-up-and-depressing-to-look-at satchel to look at the request poster. “Wait… crap, I forgot the enchanter’s name. Well, it probably won’t matter that much, right?” A deep breath, then a knock at the door.

    It took awhile, but eventually someone nosed the door open: an arcanine. She was wearing a string necklace with a green feather attached. “Hello? Who are you?” she asked.

    “I’m here for…” Furik took out the poster and held it out.. “...This request here. This is the enchanter’s shop, right?”

    “Oh, yes. Come on in, please.” The arcanine backed away from the door and allowed Furik to come inside. And to his surprise, the place didn’t look like a shop at all. There were mats, windows, tables, toys… This was just a house!

    Furik turned around to ask: “Are you sure this is the shop?”

    “Shop? I wouldn’t describe it as a shop. But yes, this is the enchanter’s.” The arcanine bowed her head. “And I’m the enchanter.”

    “You are? Okay, well…” Furik puffed up his chest, and did a proud pose. “I’m Furik the Furret, adventurer extraordinaire, and I’m here to help you with whatever’s troubling you!”

    Ms. Enchanter smiled at Furik’s prideful display. “I’m glad to see you’re eager. Follow me: I’ll show you where I work, and we’ll go from there.”

    She led Furik to the back of the house, into a small hallway that was just wide enough to fit her imposing form. It only had two rooms, one of which was filled with bedding and toys. “I guess you have kids?” Furik asked.

    Mrs. Enchanter looked back at him and nodded. “Yes. Three. And as you can tell from their room, they are very… messy.” Furik looked into the room again. She wasn’t wrong: ‘filled with bedding’ was a very accurate way to describe it.

    The room where they were going to work was a small one, with boxes lining the walls. It was lit up by a window peeking to the east, and Mrs. Enchanter brightened it further by letting out a small burst of flame towards the old and rusty chandelier on the ceiling. Furik stiffened as it swayed from being lit like that, but it and the ceiling above seemed fine.

    The arcanine started by nosing at a stack of papers on the floor. “This is what I’m working with. I’m going to create Cleanse Tags for the upcoming Full Moon festival. While I work, I need you to organize the finished tags into one of those empty boxes.” She gestured towards the boxes along the wall.

    “Okay.” Furik wandered forward a bit and stared at the stack. “There’s a lot of these… How many are we making?”

    “Two hundred.” Furik almost did a double take. “That’s a lot!”

    But Mrs. Enchanter shook her head. “Normally we’d do more than this, but this is all the paper we have.”

    “You can’t restock?”

    “Not right now. Usually, we have much more, but due to recent events dealing with that Darkrai, the Queen of Prestin decided to block our southern border and close trade.” Mrs. Enchanter huffed her discontent. “Look what good that did. And now we can’t get our paper shipments from Caifeng.”

    Furik had a hard time taking that all in. “Darkrai is… really that much of a problem?” He looked down. “Well, yeah. It’s a legendary. They have to take it seriously. But…”

    “That’s why I called you in here. Normally my husband helps with this, but I had to send him off to get the paper himself.” Mrs. Enchanter sighed and shook her head. “But that’s enough of that. Are you ready to begin?”

    Furik nodded and set his bag down by the door. “Um, yeah.”

    “Okay, grab one of the empty boxes from the wall.”

    He did as told, and watched as the enchanter slid a paper off the top of the stack and onto the wooden floor. She placed her paw on the nearby inkpad, then pressed down hard on the paper. Furik watched as the paper, and the green feather on her necklace, began to glow softly. After they died down, Mrs. Enchanter then used her claw to write runes above the pawprint before expectantly passing it towards Furik.

    He picked it up and admired it. “Wow, it looks just like the ones outside. She’s good.” Though he had to wonder about how this even worked. Furik didn’t know a lot about magic: most of it was too confusing for younger-him to understand. All he really knew was that only some ‘mon could make full use of it like this.

    Suddenly, Furik had another tag in front of him. “Oh, right! I need to organize these!”

    The two went about like this for a while. Furik felt weirdly nostalgic about the whole thing. Was it the paper? He could’ve sworn he recognized the craft from someone he knew back in Caifeng, but that was kind of stretching it. It’s paper. Maybe it was just the fact that he’s working for someone? He had to do similar things for his mom, before. “This is kind of like that, just with paper and magic instead of cloth.” Furik wasn’t sure if he really wanted to be doing something like that again, but something about seeing the enchanter’s magic in action was mesmerizing. It definitely made it more interesting. “That, and I’m actually getting paid for this.”

    Eventually, after about thirty tags, Mrs. Enchanter stopped. “Furik, is it? Can you go into the kitchen and get a sitrus berry?” she asked. She looked and sounded worn out.

    Furik grew worried. “Sure, but… are you okay?”

    “Yes, I’m fine. Just a little tired, is all,” she reassured, keeping calm through her fatigue. “A sitrus berry should help with that.”

    “Okay…” Furik got up, left the room, and found the kitchen. He looked around for a cooler of some sort, and found one sitting near the counter. But when he opened it…

    “Woah! That’s… a lot of sitrus berries!” There looked to be about twenty of them, way more than anyone would need. “Why does she have so many of an expensive item?”

    Furik cautiously took one out. Something about this: the lack of a proper shop, the old, rundown nature of the house, all of those sitrus berries… Something about this felt off, like he was missing an important detail. But he couldn’t tell what that was.

    He returned with the berry and placed it besides her. “Here.”

    “Thank you.” Mrs. Enchanter gulped it down in one big bite, then resumed her work.

    Before long, the two lapsed back into their work. A tag is finished, and then put in the box. And then again... and then again. Furik very quickly ran out of things to think about and distract himself with.

    Time to make his own distraction. “So we’re making these for the Full Moon festival?”

    “Not all of them are going to be used for the festival.” The arcanine paused to put magical energy into another tag. “Only about three hundred are for the festival itself. The rest are to sell as souvenirs.”

    So that’s how she got her income. “And what’s the festival about?”

    She passed another tag. “The festival is tied to an old story about Dakuro and the legendary Pokémon Cresselia.” Another pause for yet another tag. “The Seishu woods weren’t always haunted. It only started being that way a few hundred years ago. Out of nowhere, a ghost infestation sprouted. Can you guess what happened to the town afterwards?”

    It was clear she was using that question to give her more time to make the next Cleanse Tag, but Furik went along with it. “Well, the town probably didn’t take it well?” He grabbed the newly created talisman and put it into the box.

    “Correct. The ghosts would invade at night, and a lot of Pokémon died in their sleep. That’s when Cresselia appeared, and taught us to do…” Mrs. Enchanter put energy into another tag, then wrote the runes. “...This. These tags are said to ward off evil and prevent nightmares, but they only last about a year. So on the second full moon of every summer, we replace all of the tags around town to continue protecting us from the ghosts.”

    Furik picked up the talisman and took another good look at it. He knew about festivals, but he didn’t know there were different types. “In Caifeng, we don’t really have celebrations like this. Just trade, harvest, and some seasonal things. But they celebrate something else. Something more important to them.” The ledian guide from Caifeng wasn’t lying: the towns really were different.

    “Could you get me another sitrus berry, Furik?” The enchanter was worn out again.

    After leaving and coming back to get a sitrus berry, the two continued work on the Cleanse Tags. Furik asked the arcanine questions to distract himself from the mundaneness of the job. They talked about her kids, who were currently out playing, and would someday inherit the family business due to one of them being lucky enough to be born with magic. They talked about other townsmon. “I don’t have many friends here,” she said. “But I do hear a lot of gossip, if you’re interested.” And so, Furik learned about Youko, who was hoping to move to Murosei and get a better job. He learned about the tailor, who was from Caifeng as well, and the Kecleon shopkeeper, who has brothers in Murosei and Soruku.

    Eventually, another fifty-nine slips of paper and one sitrus berry passed. After the sixtieth, Mrs. Enchanter asked for another sitrus berry. Furik was starting to grow worried. “Is this job really that exhausting?” he asked himself as he went to the cooler. But that’s not how sitrus berries work, he remembered. They help with stamina, but they don’t give it back.

    Furik continued thinking about this as he took the berry out. What was he missing? It must’ve been something about magic that was glossed over when he was taught. “What did we gloss over? I wasn’t really paying attention, but you’d think it’d be important enough to remember, at least.”

    And then on the way back, Furik remembered, everything clicked, and he froze.

    “Magic costs health to cast.”

    He looked down at the sitrus berry in his paws. “This job, it’s hurting her. That’s why she needs the berries, and has so many of them…”

    “...Should I be supporting this?”

    Furik hesitantly walked back into the room, an uncomfortable feeling rippling through his pelt. How could he have forgotten this? And why would someone make something so hurtful into a job? Arriving back into the room, he set the berry down, she thanked him again, and ate it in one bite. And then she went back to-

    “Are you sure this is okay?” he blurted out. The uncomfortable feeling spiked. It told him: “That wasn’t a good idea.”

    Mrs. Enchanter paused just before taking another slip of paper. “What do you mean?”

    “Using magic like that… It’s wearing you out.” Furik twirled his paws around, trying to pay more attention to them. “I’m just not sure if this is okay.”

    The arcanine looked back at him, understanding in her eyes. “Furik, I know it might seem a little disturbing, but I’m used to this.” She almost reached for a paper, but stopped herself and decided to continue talking. “My situation may not seem like a desirable one, but I’m okay with it. I… don’t have very many options, being an arcanine. And, out of the things I can do, I’m lucky enough to be able to do something important for our town. I’m glad I have the chance to take on such an important role.” Mrs. Enchanter took a paper from the stack and began to infuse it. “Besides, I know not to overexert myself. Have you noticed that I’ve been pacing myself with the berries? From what I know, there shouldn’t be any issues as long as I don’t go too far.”

    She passed the newly created tag to Furik. “...She’s thought about this a lot.” He put it in the box and replied: “Okay, I’m sorry. I was just worried.”

    “There’s nothing to be sorry for.” Another tag, another bit of her life-energy. “It shows me that you care. And honestly…” She paused for a while.

    “...It’s kind of flattering.”

    Furik didn’t understand what she meant by that. He blushed instead. “Uh… thanks?”

    They finished the rest of the tags in silence.

    ---

    Mrs. Enchanter triumphantly placed a paw on top of the closed box. “And we’re done.”

    “Phew…” Furik looked out the window. They must have been here making tags for maybe… almost two hours? “I thought it’d take longer.”

    He looked back to the box. All of these would be used for the festival, just one hundred short of what they need. “Anything else she makes are to sell.”

    “So do you only make tags?” Furik asked. Somehow he doubted that all of her income came from these.

    “Hmm? Well, no.” The arcanine removed her paw from the box. “We can also enchant weapons, if you’re interested.”

    “Really?” Furik scratched behind his ear. “Well, I have a knife, but all it’s good at is stabbing. I don’t think I need to change it, so no thanks.” He didn’t mention that he didn’t feel comfortable about making her do something like that.

    “I see.” She nodded. “Still, remember that the offer’s there. It’s the least I can do for you.” Mrs. Enchanter padded over to a corner of the room, where a small sack was sitting. She picked it up and went back to Furik. “But for now…” She dropped it in Furik’s paws: it was money. “This should be enough to express my gratitude. Thank you.”

    He put the small wallet in his bag. “No problem.” Furik felt his doubts ease a bit as he slipped into routine. “Rule number five of the adventurer’s code!” He put a paw to his chest. “Always help those in need!”

    Mrs. Enchanter smiled. “That’s a good motto to live by.”

    As she led Furik out of the building, he considered everything he learned. Despite the show of optimism he just put on, everything about this still bothered him. “This can’t be okay… but… Mrs. Enchanter thinks it is. I kinda get why she’s okay with it: she just wants to help others, but…” He shook his head. “But she is okay with it. So I should be okay with it too.”

    Outside, the sun was still high in the sky, almost ready to begin falling. Mrs. Enchanter asked: “Where do you plan on going?”

    Furik pushed his thoughts aside and smiled. “First, I’m going to Murosei, then I’ll be taking a ferry up to Soruku.”

    “Soruku?” The arcanine’s gaze darkened. “Are you sure about that? I’ve only ever heard bad things about that place.”

    “Third time.” “Well, it’s probably all just an exaggeration. How bad could it be?”

    “Hm…” She lowered her head in thought -- “That is a point… I’ve never been there, so I wouldn’t know, would I?” -- and then shook her head. “Just in case, I noticed you had a Cleanse Tag on you?”

    “Huh?” When did she notice that? “Yeah, but…”

    “I can sense its power,” she answered. “It’s faint, but it should last you for a while longer. Write what you wish for on the back of it.”

    Furik fished tag out of his bag and stared at it. Now that he was paying attention, he could feel… something. Something barely there. He looked up. “But why?”

    “During the festival, we all write what we wish for on the backs of the tags. It’s for good luck, and the hope that it will come true.”

    “A wish, huh? I think I have an idea…” Furik put the tag back into the bag. “Thanks, Mrs. Enchanter.”

    “Mrs. Enchanter?” She looked a little surprised, but quickly shook it off. “I suppose my name doesn’t matter. I wish you luck, Furik.”

    With everything said and done, Furik traveled back down the path into the town proper. He still felt a little uneasy about the consequences of magic as a job. “But, again, she’s okay with it.” Why was this so hard to understand?

    The town continued to bustle as Furik went back to the Traveler’s Office, and he couldn’t help but notice the tags that littered the walls around him. The town was decorated with the wishes of those who lived there. Each talisman looked slightly different, and some stood out more than others. A few spots were completely devoid of tags, while others had an excess. Some of the more recently painted buildings revealed an outline surrounding the tags on them: the painters must have painted around, too afraid to remove the talismans. They were all deliberate, placed with purpose. Furik was in awe: in just one hour, the entire town managed to gain a new meaning. “And all of it is thanks to her work…”

    “See? She’s making a difference. It sucks that magic has to work that way, but it’s for a good cause. So… I should be okay with it.” His remaining doubts were pushed to the back of his head, and he moved on.

    By the time he reported the finished request to Youko, Furik no longer minded the many hours still left in the day. It really was a nice place, especially now that he was paying attention. Furik walked up to the fountain and stared up at its centerpiece. The silver statue of Cresselia gracefully roosted on her podium, water pouring from the ground beneath her. Something about it seemed symbolic, but Furik wasn’t sure how to put it into words.

    What Furik did know was his newfound confidence. “This is a good omen. I know I’ll be able to beat Darkrai. There’s no way I won’t.” He began walking towards the inn. “And when I do, I’ll get the money I need to get to Soruku, and I’ll save Murosei from getting attacked. I’ll be a hero!” Wait, Ray. Furik almost forgot about him. “Right, me and Ray will both be heroes!”

    At the inn, Furik asked Ms. Receptionist for a pen. With an annoyed sigh, she let him use the feather pen, and Furik took out his Cleanse Tag to do as Mrs. Enchanter suggested.

    “I wish to get to Soruku!”

    ----------
    ----------


    A/N: So I was a little worried about one of the things revealed here, but I don't know. Ultimately, it's important to get out of the way, and this is probably the best way to do it. It's just that this kind of thing isn't usually accepted in Pokémon canon. This fic won't really be making a case for it's existence, since, for this fic at least, it's really just a background detail, and it'll only come up maybe one more time before the end. But I still had to mention it, as it's important from a world-building perspective. Anyway, that's it for this update. Next time, we go to Murosei.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  3. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    I don't know how this slipped under my radar, because it's delightful. I love the tone you've got going on here; it's bright, cheerful and fun, and it's just really pleasant and relaxing to read. Some of that's obviously from Furik, who is this wonderfully naïve kid stumbling around from one crisis to the next, but some is from the world you've made, a world where there are such publications as 100 Things to Never Ever Do While Out Adventuring and adventurous chesnaught who fight with hammers as part of an obscure wood hammer pun. It's fun, is what it is. You don't often find a story that's as purely fun as this is, and I really appreciate it now I have found one.

    Furik is a great perspective to follow, too. He clearly has a base level of competence, with the way he got out of that jam with the ghosts at the start – but he's also so young and so inexperienced, and that means that when we see the world through his eyes it seems even stranger and more wonderful than it already is. There are so many little character touches I like here, but my favourite has to be the way he calls people “Mr X” or “Ms Y”; it's one of those small things that speaks volumes about the kind of person he is.

    The world, too, is interesting; I like the clear linguistic distinction you've got going on between Furik's home region and the one he's ended up in, with the European and Japanese names, respectively. I guess I'm starting to repeat myself here, but it feels magical, even before the magic is introduced – speaking of which, if that's the thing you mentioned being worried about in your note to chapter two, you don't need to be; it fits your world fine – and as if there's a whole lot out there to be discovered: flying cities, rogue legendaries, haunted forests and kind strangers. It's excellent, and I'm definitely excited to see where Furik's journey will take him next.

    My biggest critique, such as it is, is that quite often you slip between past and present tenses, which gets confusing fast; I think you'd be better served by sticking to past tense. Other than that, I really don't think there's much I'd change. I don't have the measure of the plot yet, but I get the feeling it might be a picaresque sort of deal, which is a cool thing that you don't see enough of in modern literature, imo, but like whether it is or not I'm going to hold off on passing judgement on that till we get a little further along.

    A couple of little things:

    You don't need the '-ly' on the end of 'important' there.

    You don't need that 'in'.

    This is just one of those fun little touches – nice shout-out to furret's ability there.

    Nice work, honestly! I'm kicking myself for not taking a look at this earlier. I'll be awaiting your next chapter with interest.
     
  4. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    Wow, I didn't expect to come back to a review! Sorry it took a while to get to it!


    Woah, thank you! I’m glad you found it enjoyable so far! The overall tone is definitely very optimistic, and even if things get a little bit darker, I hope that this optimism can still keep things enjoyable!


    I’m glad you like him! He is a great POV. I mean, he’s probably the entire reason any of this even works in the first place! But seriously, I’m super glad you like him, as well as his quirks. The naming convention thing he has going on is probably one of my favorite things about writing him, and not just because it makes writing strangers more convenient ^.^’

    It’s actually supposed to be Chinese and Japanese, but I understand that there wasn’t really much to go on to make that distinction. Like, the only real clues towards that so far are Caifeng and Ziranshu, since the names Hivech and Furik come from a time before I committed each region to a language. Regardless, I’m both glad you noticed it and glad you liked it!


    Well, I’m glad the magic part went over well with at least one person! I’m actually pretty relieved that I’ve been doing a good job at presenting this world so far, as it’s in-general one of the things I feel the most worried about. There's still a couple of other things yet to be revealed that I'm anxious about, so I guess only time will tell if I’m worrying over nothing.

    Oh shoot, I never even thought about that! I’m guessing it’s the jumping between prose and Furik’s inner monologue? If so, dang, I’m gonna have to reassess some things, specifically what tense I want to do this in. If not, I’ll definitely be reading back over everything just to double check. Thanks for bringing it up!

    It has a few elements of that, but there is something kinda resembling an overarching plot, which we should see a little while from now. The story isn’t planned to be that long, so it definitely won’t be keeping you waiting.

    Thanks for the review! I totally sound like a broken record with all these “glads,” but I’m glad that you're enjoying this so far!

    And as a side note, I guess this is as good a time as any to address the random hiatus that came up out of nowhere. That should be ending next week, I hope? Chapter 3 has been a very difficult chapter to write, for multiple reasons, so I kinda needed to take a break from everything for a while. Hopefully we’ll be back on schedule before too long. In the meantime, thanks again Cutlerine for your review, and to everyone who noticed the hiatus, thanks for your patience!
     
  5. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    This is an interesting kind of story. Ultimately it seems like a PMD setting, albeit with adventurers rather than guilds, and it's unclear as to whether there are actually mystery dungeons around or not. I like the little worldbuilding details, like the "pieces of paper" mentioned being all over the wall of the town, which we can infer are cleanse tags from the way they block the ghosts, and which you then bring up later and go deeper with in the second chapter. It seems like a very logical use for a slightly-obscure item, and the expanded story you've given to the cleanse tags here makes the setting seem alive and also distinctly yours.

    I also like Furik. He's one of those loveable goofballs who's always getting into trouble, but always seems to slither out of it one way or another. And I'm guessing that in this particular story we're not going to see anything awful befall him that's going to force him to reconsider his behavior, so hopefully he'll remain entertaining all the way through! It's refreshing to see a lighthearted, slightly hammy adventure story now and again.

    At the end of the first chapter I was curious as to why Furik's so intent on getting to Soruku, despite multiple people telling him it's an awful place, the expense, etc. Based on the opening scene in Chapter 2, it's simply because... he thinks the idea of a flying city is pretty much the coolest thing ever, so of course he has to go there? I'm not sure whether there's more to it than that; given the semi-comedic tone of the story, it really might just be a whim. The real interesting question, of course, is what Furik will find if and when he does manage to reach Soruku...

    This is a pretty interesting concept! In most pokémon-centric fics I've read, the pokémon are invariably familiar with even the most exotic other species they come across, with the exception that they sometimes don't know about local legendaries. It makes much more sense, of course, that a pokémon wouldn't be familiar with every other kind of pokémon in the world, just like most humans probably couldn't name all the ethnic groups in the world, either. As of right now the various species are pretty comingled (i.e. we see all different pokémon species living together without much respect for geography), but I wonder as time goes on it'll be clear that distinct groups live in different places.

    I was a bit confused by this bit:

    I know that the escort mission to Murosei was filled (by Ray). I thought this was the first time the Mightyena bounty mission was mentioned. If so, how does Furik know it's been filled? If I'm getting things mixed up and that's actually the Darkrai bounty mission, then Youko knows that Furik knows that it's been filled, so the second bit seems unnecessary... and also she would have had to have gone and put the paper back up, rather than just forgetting it was there, because Furik tore it down earlier? I don't think the bounty was mentioned the first time he was looking at the board, either, so presumably she'd posted it very recently, one way or another? I'm just not sure what's up with this mission, or why you include this little mix-up anyway; ordinarily I'd think it was to indicate something suspicious about Youko or the mission itself, but I really don't know.

    Here I thought the enchanter was asking "can you guess what happened to cause the woods to become haunted", and then was really confused when the subsequent conversation didn't address that at all. What she was actually asking was what happened after the ghosts appeared; I think it would be less confusing to have her say something along those lines, rather than the current wording.

    From the way you described it, it definitely sounded more like it took a full afternoon... and if they made 200 cleanse tags she'd have to make each in under 20 seconds, not counting time off for sitrus berries and such. Given the laid-back feel of the scene, I think you might want to either increase the amount of time they supposedly spent making tags, or reduce the number of tags they supposedly made.

    The unease in this scene is interesting--Furik being uncomfortable about the enchanter literally injuring herself in order to create the cleanse tags. I wonder if that kind of tension between helping others and helping yourself is going to be a major theme in the story? What you've got here seems maybe a little dark compared to the general tone of the story, but there are ways you could explore that issue without making things terribly grim.

    Now and again you slip from past tense into present, sometimes even within one sentence. Here's some examples from the second chapter:

    "Lapsed" is correctly in past tense, but with "finishes and "puts," the second sentence is in present tense.

    This sentence starts in past tense ("wasn't" lying), but it ends in present (really are different).

    Same deal here, "talked" is past, but the kids are currently out playing, and will someday inherit.

    For the most part you keep things in the past, but tenses are probably something to watch out for while editing.

    In any case, it looks like we're on the Darkrai hunt! I look forward to seeing how Ray and Furik get along... and just how Ray handles their mission, if he's someone Furik considers a "real hero." Based on what happened in the first chapter, it seems like Furik could use the help. :p

    This is a cute story, and I'm curious to see where you're going with it. Especially since it's actually a spin-off! I hope you find success with it and feel confident enough to post your "main" story eventually, too. :)
     
  6. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Name's Adam.

    Chapter 1 Review

    Wow, this story does not feel like an isolated spin off at all tbh, though that could because we've yet to see what the main project is to draw any comparisons.

    The first chapter is short, but it had a fair good amount of nuances that tell us a great deal about what kind of character Furik is. We see that he's naive to an extent, adventurous and he's pretty dedicated to his goal. I can't wait to see hilarity ensue as he goes on his pursuit to turn in a legendary Pokémon over to the cops.



    Yeah, he's a dead furret alright.
     
  7. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    Awesome, two more reviews! Since I still can't quite gauge when Chapter 3 will be finished, I'll reply now rather than waiting until [insert date here].

    The kind of world this takes place in should become more apparent later on, but aside from that, I’m glad you liked the use of cleanse tags here! It was pretty much a case of “hey, this is a thing based on japanese culture, i could totally use it in my town influenced by japanese culture,” and then going from there. I like how it turned out, and it’s good to see it went over well!

    Hopefully is definitely the key word here on my end, heh. Still, it’s great to see that you like him! As I said earlier, even if things get a little darker (I’m just now realizing this is a pun what), I hope that Furik’s upbeat and optimistic personality can keep things together.

    His reason for going to Soruku is pretty much that, yeah. I won’t lie, there’s a little bit of personal inspiration at play there. Of course, what this will all mean will be discovered later. What is Soruku like..?

    I’m glad you liked this aspect! You pretty much outlined why it’s there: I thought it’d make sense. Especially since distinct groups do live in different places, which we’ll see more of next chapter, actually. In other news, local writer responds to list of true statements by saying that the list of true statements is true : P.

    Oops. This is actually just a really convoluted reference to The Evening Thief. Basically, the thief used to lurk around Dakuro before moving to where that one-shot takes place, and as a result there ended up being two separate requests calling for the same mon’s head. Furik ends up filling the request over there, and a messenger is sent in order to notify that the request had been filled. The mix-up comes from the fact that normally, when you take and finish a request, you bring the poster for it up to the guide to discard. Since Youko was notified by messenger (AKA not the person who took it), she had to do it herself, and was, well, kinda lazy about it.

    Of course, if you want to look at this from a Doylist perspective, the real reason it’s there is because I wrote the first chapter of Chronicles (where the request is first mentioned) before I wrote Evening Thief, and during the writing for that I realized that I set up the thief’s history for the request in Dakuro to make sense. So I pretty much went “you know what boom they’re connected” and decided to carry that over to create the mix-up scene. Seeing the confusion that happened as a result... I went back and replaced it with something else, hehe… (It’s probably for the best anyway, as I kinda realized there were a few points where the explanation didn’t make all that much sense.)

    Took note of both and applied changes, thanks! The second is a little weird though. Originally it was supposed to take the full afternoon, but I did the calculations (using 15 seconds per tag rather than 20) and found that it actually amounted to almost an hour. Of course, I do agree with your sentiment, so I decided to go back and change my calc to 25 seconds per tag, and state that it took “almost two hours” to account for both the time off for sitrus berries and the margin of error when using the sun to tell time.

    I actually didn’t think of it that way. Which is cool! I guess it’s because I’ve never had it happen to me before, but seeing someone interpret a scene I wrote in a way I never would have considered honestly feels kinda cool! You’re definitely right in that this scene ties into some of the major themes. I don’t think what I have in mind pushes the overall tone too considerably (or at least I hope not), but I guess we’ll see.

    Yuuuup I had a feeling this would come up. When I looked over everything after Cutlerine pointed it out, I discovered multiple places where there were sudden tense changes. Turns out, while I may have been writing in past tense, I was thinking in terms of present tense, and it shows. I went and fixed the instances you pointed out, but as for all the others, I might save that for later. I mean, I’m way overdue on Chapter 3, and I’d rather dedicate my energy to that than focus on editing previous chapters. Still though, I’m going to be looking out for this going forward, and thanks for pointing it out, it’s seriously appreciated!

    He definitely could, heh. I hope to show more of Ray off next chapter, so that’s something to look forward to!

    Thanks for both the review and the kind words, Negrek! I definitely don’t plan on dropping anything, so I hope to keep this going so that I can reach that goal!

    Thanks for the review, Dreamsayer! I don’t expect it to feel like a spin-off, pretty much because the thing it’s a spin-off of is yet to be released. I mean, to me it feels like a spin-off, but that’s only because of my familiarity with the main project. That does raise the question of how future people will look at this, though…

    Glad to see your lack faith in him! (Don’t worry: I don’t have that much faith in him either : P).

    But seriously though, thanks to both of you for the reviews! I can’t make any promises on Chapter 3’s release, but I have hit somewhat of a breakthrough recently, so it shouldn’t be too much longer..? Let's hope.
     
  8. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Finally got around to reading this!

    Like the one-shots before it, the best part about this is Furik himself. He's just got a lot of fun quirks that make him enjoyable to read, from his personal adventure code, to his habit of nicknaming everyone he meets, to his positive outlook and unconventional approach to things. I'm fascinated by the fact that he's willing to go so far out of his way and through so much trouble just to see Soruku. It's not a personal crusade, there's not anything he needs to do/find there--he just really really, wants to say that he's been there. (Of course, I'm sure once he does get up there, it'll turn out to be more complicated than that.)

    It's kind of funny to see his childhood hero equally excited about adventuring with him. It's also nice, because while Furik is interesting enough to carry a story, half the fun is seeing his interactions with others. For instance, I like how you took what was basically a mundane paper-sorting job and put in a lot of interesting details, from how cleanse tags are made to how magic costs life energy. And then of course we've got a huge subplot lurking in the form of Darkrai (and the question of how on earth a Furret is ever going to stand up to one!) But Furik isn't exactly the sort to take the usual approach to anything, and I'm sure it'll be the same with this particular job.

    ~Chibi~
     
  9. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    Well, it’s been a year. Exactly a year. I don’t really have an excuse (at least, not a good one), but I persevered and finished it. Hiatus is over, and Chapter 3 is here. But first, super late review reply.

    No matter how many times it’s mentioned, I still have a hard time believing Furik has been received so well! Maybe I should have more confidence in myself, but regardless of that, I’m glad you still enjoy him!

    Dreams are simple, but effective motivators. I mean, the series is pretty much founded on them! Though in a lot of Pokémon media the dream is more of a side plot rather than the actual plot, especially when it comes to PMD in a post-Explorer's world. Here, the dream is the plot, so we’ll see how that develops as we go on.

    Yesssssss this is the thing I want to nail! These interactions are pretty much what the fic runs on, so knowing that they’ve been entertaining as well is definitely encouraging. Hopefully I can keep that going! (Especially with this upcoming chapter oh god). And I’m glad the Cleanse Tag scene has gone over well too. The entire idea with that scene allowed me to power through some writer’s block I had with that chapter, so it’s nice to know it paid off.

    And I am very excited to get to that! It probably won’t be what you’re expecting, that much I can say.

    On a slightly unrelated note, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate you nominating this fic in the awards this year! I know it won’t get anywhere, in large part due to my own negligence, but I still really appreciate the gesture. Just knowing that someone liked this enough to remember it, even after it went into a long hiatus… that did more for my motivation than anything I could’ve said to myself, and really helped motivate me to make the final push for this chapter. It means a lot to me, so thank you. <3

    Uh, anyway, yeah, a year happened. Again, don’t really have an excuse. Maybe I’ll talk about it all once this is over, but after a year, that’s probably the last thing anyone wants to hear. To sum it all up, this chapter was a difficult one, and I don’t really know how it’ll all go over. We’ll see.

    In the meantime, you may have noticed that Chapters 1 and 2 got stealth-edits to fix up all the tense issues that I found, plus a couple of other touch ups to fix up some other issues I had with them (plus I gave Chapter 1 a chapter prologue, mostly because I thought it was weird for it not to have one, and I thought of something non-intrusive enough to work.). As for Chapter 3 itself, you may have noticed that it’s long. Really long. Luckily, it’s split into a bunch of chunks, so if you don’t feel like binging it all there are plenty of good stopping points to “bookmark” at.

    With all that said, let’s get on the road to Murosei.

    ----------
    ----------


    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Chapter 3 - Make as many friends as possible
    -------------------------------------------------------------


    ~~~

    9th day, Month of Hivech, 1837.


    “So how’s it been?”


    “Good. Nothing new, but still good.”

    A chesnaught was having a chat with the barkeep: a machamp. “You expecting something new?” asked Mr. Barkeep.

    “Not really. But y’know, I was kinda hoping for something different to happen on this loop.” Mr Adventurer took a large swig of the grepa juice in front of him.

    “Are you starting to grow tired of adventuring?”

    “Heck no.” Mr. Adventurer shook his head. “Just... longing for the good ol’ days when this was all still new.”

    “I see.” Mr. Barkeep paused, then noticed a small brown blob watching them from afar. The machamp smiled. “Looks like you got a shadow.”

    “Huh?” The chesnaught turned around and saw the sentret watching him. He turned back to Mr. Barkeep. “That’s, uh…”

    “Cheng’s son, yeah. An ambitious one, that’s for sure. He keeps coming around here to gawk at all the adventurers.”

    “Huh.” Mr. Adventurer took another look. The sentret seemed to shrink a bit, but he caught himself and stood straighter than he did before. The chesnaught chuckled at his display of confidence. “He’s pretty cute. What’s his name?”

    The machamp gave Mr. Adventurer a deadpan look. “You expect me to know everyone in this town? His parents never come here, y’know.”

    “Figured it was still worth a try.” Mr. Adventurer stared at his drink for a while, then took one last sip before getting up. “I think it’s about time I leave for Beimen.”

    Mr. Barkeep took a glance at the glass, still a quarter full. “You sure? You haven’t finished your drink yet.”

    “Yeah, but I don’t think I can stomach the rest.”

    Skepticism was written all over Mr. Barkeep’s face, but he let it slide. “See you later then, Ray.”

    “Yup, see you later.” Ray lifted his hand in a goodbye, then took off for the exit. But as he went, he glanced over at the sentret still watching him. Just before he reached the exit, he stopped, then made the decision to walk over and greet him. “Hey there.” Ray kneeled down. “What’s your name?

    The sentret didn’t waver. “My name is Furik the sentret, and I’m going to be an adventurer!”

    Ray smiled. “Well, you definitely have the guts to be one.” He pat Furik on the head. “Keep on at it, and I’m sure you’ll make a great adventurer some day.” And with that, he left.

    “So cool…” Furik could barely believe that just happened. And actual adventurer went up to him and encouraged him! This was just like in those books about adventures, where the hero was inspired by some experienced adventurer who visited their village! They would never be seen again, but were always remembered as a critical part of why the hero went on their journey. Furik had one of those guys now!

    Which is exactly why he was surprised when he saw Ray again seven months later.

    “You’re back?!”

    Furik had just entered the Traveler’s Office, where Ray was found talking to Mr. Guide. He looked towards the source of the yell. “Oh, it’s you.” The chesnaught waved. “Hey there!”

    The sentret just stood there. Why did he come back? Adventurers didn’t usually come back, and Furik had never seen Ray before that day in the café, so he couldn’t have been from around here. “You’re back?!” he asked again.

    “Well yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” Ray’s answer was nonchalant. Too nonchalant.

    “But you’re not supposed to come back!” Furik shouted. “You’re supposed to go away and stay a mystery forever and then I’d find out you died and live by your words because you’re cool!”

    The chesnaught’s expression turned completely blank. “Uh… I… didn’t know I was supposed to die.”

    “So, uh, that’s Furik,” said Mr. Guide. “Try not to take it personally, he’s just really energetic.”

    Ray smiled and gave a big, hearty laugh. “I can see that!”

    “Answer my question!” exclaimed an impatient Furik.

    The adventurer kneeled down to address the sentret’s question. “I’m back because I always come back. And I’m not that big a fan of dying.”

    Furik, now quiet(er), tilted his head. “But why do you always come back?”

    “Because that’s what an adventurer does!” Ray got back up and looked to Mr. Guide. “What’s his deal?” he asked.

    “He just really wants to be an adventurer when he grows up,” the guide explained. “He always comes by to check the maps and ask questions.”

    “Really?” He looked down at Furik. “Well, if you have questions, I’d be willing to answer ‘em.”

    Furik’s eyes started sparkling, and he got up on his tail. “You mean I can ask you anything?!”

    “Sure, knock yourself out.”

    He said that, but Ray was the one who left the office that day worn out. He staggered out of the Traveler’s Office, legs complaining from having kneeled so much, while Furik bounced around him. He muttered under his breath. “So much for taking a request today…” He started to leave for the inn.

    Furik stopped. “Wait, where are you going?”

    “I’m going back to the inn to rest.”

    “But I still have so many questions!”

    Ray smiled awkwardly. “Yeah, but I’m getting tired. I’ll rest for a bit, and maybe we can talk again tomorrow?”

    The sentret vigorously nodded. “Okay that sounds good!”

    And sure enough, the next day Furik was waiting for him outside the inn, counting the minutes until the door opened. When it did, Furik was already on top of him. “Good morning Mr. Adventurer!”

    Ray scratched behind his head. “I didn’t realize you were waiting for me…”

    “Who cares? Let’s go!”

    It became a ritual, of sorts. Every seven months, Ray would come back to Caifeng, and Furik would wait for him. And then Furik would follow him everywhere, watching him work and asking questions.

    On the Month of Clygem, about fourteen months since that day, Furik asked a particular question.

    “What does it mean to be an adventurer?”

    Ray was surprised by the thoughtful look on his face. That kind of seriousness was pretty unusual for him. “Well…” Ray started thinking. “That’s a tough one. But I’d say it’s about helping other pokémon and solving problems.”

    Furik looked disappointed. “That’s it? What about the adventure?”

    “That’s important too,” Ray clarified. “It’s just that, as adventurer, you’re gonna run into all kinds of problems. Part of our job is to be there and help whenever possible.”

    “You mean… like a hero?!”

    “Yeah, sure.”

    Furik lit up. “I wanna be a hero like you then!” Furik the Furret, adventurer extraordinaire, a hero known far and wide for his bravery and kindness. That’s who he decided he wanted to be.

    Ray, jolly as ever, encouraged him. “Well, you better get started early then! Being a hero ain’t easy!”

    The sun was setting above the two as they continued their chat. Meanwhile, however, in a house located not that far away, a furret was pacing by an entrance window.

    “He’s late, why’s he late?” she asked herself, looking out every once in a while to find nothing and feed her growing anxiety. “He’s not with Ray again, is he…?”

    “Freya?” A smeargle walked into the small foyer. “What’s worrying you?”

    “It’s Furik, he’s not back yet.” Freya looked out the window again. “I think he’s with Ray, but I told him…” She looked away and continued pacing.

    The smeargle, Cheng, walked up to her and held her paw to stop her. “It’s okay. If he’s with Ray, then he’s fine. There’s nothing to worry about.”

    The furret pulled her paw away. “I know that. But, are you sure it’s okay to be letting Furik spend so much time with Ray?” she asked. “He means well, but what if…?”

    “It’ll be fine.” Cheng walked up to stare out the window with her. “Ray’s hardly a bad influence, and there’s nothing wrong with having someone to look up to.”

    “Yeah, but… every day, he spends more and more time outside the house-”

    “And that’s normal for his age.” He reached out and gently grabbed the furret’s paw again. “It’ll be fine.”

    The furret looked away, her torn right ear twitching. “...You’re right.” She took her paw away and rubbed her face. “I’m just worrying over nothing.”


    ~~~

    21st day, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    Ray was waiting outside the inn when Furik woke up that morning. He was leaning against the wall, counting the minutes he might be able to stall for to give Furik the time to wake up. Once Furik opened the door, he greeted: “Good morning, Furik! Took you long enough!”

    Furik scratched behind his ear. “I didn’t know you were waiting for me...”

    “Well, it’s a nice change of pace from how this usually goes.” He smiled the same bright and excitable smile from yesterday. “Come on, the merchants should be waiting for us near the eastern exit.”

    Furik silently trailed behind Ray as they traveled from the newer part of town towards the older part. Ray moved quickly, his excitement very obvious in the way he hurried through town. “It feels a little embarrassing, for him to be excited about me. I mean, I’m the one who should be rushing ahead to meet the merchants first!” He smiled. “Of course, I’m still excited though. The two of us are partners now!”

    After passing over the bridge and through the cracked and worn downtown area, the two arrived at the eastern gate of Dakuro. Just outside the gate, Furik noticed two carriages, crowded together and ready to leave at any moment. Two Pokémon were getting ready to pull the carriage along: a tauros, and a black Pokémon Furik had never seen before, with white stripes and mane. “Sort of like a black and white rapidash, without the fire.”

    Ray walked up to the tauros. “Sorry we took so long. Had to wait for my partner here.” He gestured towards Furik.

    Mr. Merchant took a glance at Furik, then nodded in acknowledgement. “Nothing to worry about. We weren’t even ready to go when you came to us this morning.” He turned to Furik. “And what’s your name?”

    The furret smiled and put a paw to his chest. “My name is Furik the Furret, adventurer extraordinaire!”

    Mr. Merchant nodded back, and said to Ray: “He seems lively. You escorting him, too?”

    “Wha-?” Ray broke that thought off and clarified. “Don’t let his looks deceive you. He’s my new partner!” He gave Furik a good pat on the back, which caused him to stumble forward.

    “Oh?” The tauros regarded the disoriented furret, his skepticism written all over his face. “Well, I’m glad you managed to find someone.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” As Furik tried to get his bearings straight, Mr. Merchant turned to his partner fastened to the other wagon. “Is everyone ready now?”

    The head of a linoone poked out from inside. “I think we’re good.”

    An unfezant flew in and landed on top of Mr. Merchant’s carriage. “The road ahead looks clear. We should leave before that changes.”

    “Right then, we’re heading out.” Mr. Merchant turned his head towards Furik. “You can go inside one of the wagons, if you want.”

    “But what about..?” Furik looked up towards Ray. He caught on quickly: “Oh, don’t worry about me,” he said. “I just want to talk for a bit, you can go on ahead.”

    Furik hesitantly nodded and gave an “Okay,” not too sure if he felt comfortable with how this situation was unfolding. Nevertheless, he still wandered to the back of the black-and-white Pokémon’s wagon and hopped on. Just as he did, the wagon lurched and began to move. They were off.

    Furik’s attention shifted to the inside of the wagon. It was a little cramped, with a bunch of boxes blocking the view of the front, save an opening on the side to allow passage. Sitting against the boxes was a linoone, and held close to him was a meowth, her face beaming excitement. Just to the left, against one of the wagon’s walls, was another Pokémon Furik didn’t recognize: it looked like a smaller version of the black-and-white Pokémon pulling the wagon. He didn’t seem nearly as excited, but still gave a courteous smile.

    “Hey there,” the linoone called out. “No need to stand there. Find a place to sit.”

    “O-okay, sure…” Furik spotted the unoccupied wall opposite of the unknown Pokémon, and, still apprehensive, moved to lean against it. This feeling wasn’t lost on him. “Am I… nervous? When did that happen?”

    It wasn’t lost on the linoone, either. “No need to be shy. Why don’t you introduce yourself?

    Furik silently berated himself for his self-consciousness, then straightened up to let his pose take over. “I’m Furik the Furret, adventurer extraordinaire!”

    The sudden confidence seemed to catch the merchant off guard, but it was only for a moment, and quickly replaced by a warm smile. “Pleasure to meet you, Furik. My name is Ichirou.” He patted the meowth’s head, causing her to purr. “And this is my daughter, Sachiko.”

    Furik nodded. “It’s nice to meet you both!” “No reason to be nervous, we haven’t even started the-”

    Sachiko interrupted his train of thought. “Hello! Where are you from? Are you friends with Ray?”

    He choked on his own words. “Gwuh?! I...”

    “Sachiko,” Ichirou scolded. “Let’s not overwhelm him with questions, okay?”

    The meowth mumbled in reply, and Furik shook his head. “That… okay, so they do know Ray…” The way Ray and Mr. Merchant regarded each other earlier made him suspect that, but now it was confirmed to be true. He looked away, trying to ignore the unwelcome feeling that was creeping back in. “Th-thanks,” he made sure to say before he forgot. “I… think I’ll go up to the front of the wagon.”

    The linoone replied with “That’s fair,” and Furik quickly left them behind for the front. “Okay, something’s up. I need to clear my head before I make the wrong impression.”

    Sidling by the crates of berries and other wares, Furik passed through the small opening to the front of the wagon, where Mrs. Merchant marched onwards through the forest trail alone. Furik settled down beside the wall, and looked at the path ahead. It stretched on for a long while, and seemed to grow more unkempt as it went, grass invading the edges and dotting the road in patches. Shifting his attention away from the road, Furik tried to see past the trees blocking the sky, hoping that maybe he could get a glimpse at Soruku from here, but the branches and leaves were just dense enough to make it impossible. Giving up, Furik sighed and resigned himself to listening to the stamp of hooves against the dirt and the idle conversation happening in the carriage nearby. “Most likely Ray talking to Mr. Merchant…”

    Furik shook his head. “No, it makes sense. Ray’s been traveling the continent since before I was born. Of course he probably knows a lot of other ‘mon out there, and has other friends and…” A sigh. “Am I jealous? Maybe… but I don’t think that’s it. It’s more like… everyone’s expecting so little from me. Ray’s already made a name for himself, so I’m just some furret tagging along. I feel like a sidekick in my own journey. I’m not sure if...”

    “No. Don’t start getting all self-conscious.” He clenched his paw and brought it to his chest. “Rule number two of the adventurer’s code: make as many friends as possible. If I want to make a name for myself, I just need to keep doing what I’ve already been doing.” Furik shifted his gaze to Mrs. Merchant, whose attention was still on pulling the wagon. “So… I’ll start by talking to her.”

    Furik tried to think of an opener, but all that came out was this: “So, uh, I’ve never seen your kind before.”

    Mrs. Merchant’s ears swiveled around, and she glanced back at Furik before placing her focus back on the road. “That’s okay. There aren’t many zebstrika around here.”

    “Zebstrika, right…” That answered a question. “And what about-?”

    “My son?” she finished for him. “He’s a blitzle. And the bird accompanying us is an unfezant.”

    Furik flinched. “This isn’t going well at all!” He rubbed his eyes and got up. “I can’t talk to her. Maybe… I should try talking to the blitzle next. He seemed pretty hesitant earlier, so maybe it’ll actually be easier to talk to him.”

    He left Mrs. Merchant behind (she didn’t seem to care) and moved back into the back. Ichirou took note rather quickly. “You weren’t up there for long.”

    “I just needed some time to clear my head,” Furik replied. He looked over to where the blitzle was still sitting, then went over and sat down. “So… you didn’t tell me your name.”

    “Huh?” He seemed a little taken aback by Furik’s sudden attempt to start a conversation. Nervously, he looked down and replied: “My name’s Sota.”

    “Sota? That’s a nice name,” Furik replied.

    “Yeah, it is.”

    Silence.

    “...So, uh,” Furik looked back to Ichirou. “Sorry for acting so nervous earlier. I’m not normally like that.”

    Ichirou held up a paw. “No it’s fine, I understand. Are you new to adventuring?”

    Furik reached to scratch behind his ear. “A little. I began my journey a couple weeks ago.”

    “So…” He paused to think. “...You’re from Hivech?” Ichirou asked.

    “Y-yeah. So some of this is new to me. Like, I’ve never seen a zebstrika before.”

    Sota spoke up. “Well, we’re not very common around here…” he said, avoiding eye contact.

    Furik looked to him. “You’re not?”

    Sota glanced at Ichirou, who caught the glance and filled in for him. “His mother’s from Farbroad, to the far south. She traveled up here some time ago before he was born.”

    “With Nora…” Sota muttered.

    “Right, with Nora. She’s the unfezant.”

    Furik put a paw to his chin and pondered what he was told. “So his mother was a traveler…”

    “My mom was a traveler too, actually,” Furik mentioned. Sota’s ears perked up a bit, and his gaze leaned into Furik’s direction.

    “Really?” spoke Ichirou. “Where was she from?”

    Furik rubbed the back of his head. “I don’t know. She never talked about it that much, so…”

    The linoone nodded. “I see. So you’re following in her footsteps.”

    Now that was an idea. He couldn’t even imagine a world where he got his adventurousness from his mother. “Er, not really, no. It has nothing to do with her.”

    “Really? Then what motivates you?” asked Ichirou.

    “I just want to explore.” Furik brought a paw to his chest. “To see everything, and experience everything!”

    Sota muttered again: “So you got Ray to escort you-”

    “Ray is not escorting me.”

    Furik and Sota locked eyes, the young blitzle suddenly aware of what he just tripped on. He broke contact quickly and looked downwards, causing Furik to realize what he just tripped on. “I-I-I’m sorry, I just thought…” Sota stammered.

    “No, it’s fine! I see why you’d think that!” Furik put his paws up, silently worried that he might have just blown it. “But, we’re partners. That’s why I’m traveling with him.”

    “I see…”

    “Wait!” Sachiko’s eyes shone bright, and she jumped eagerly into the conversation. “Ray chose you to be his partner?!”

    “Well... yeah.” He wasn’t sure why, but saying that out loud gave him a sudden surge of confidence. “Right, Ray wanted to be my partner.” With a smile, he slipped back into his pose. “Yeah, he did!”

    The meowth looked Furik up and down, then tilted her head. “Really? I thought he’d choose someone bigger.”

    Furik deflated instantly. “Now now, Sachiko.” Ichirou patted her head. “We’re not here to question the decisions of other ‘mon.”

    Furik’s arm fell to his side. “Did you really have to word it like that?”

    “Don’t mind her,” reassured Ichirou. “It’s not you, we just didn’t expect Ray to find someone so soon.”

    “Find someone?” “Didn’t Mr. Merchant mention something like that too?”

    The linoone tilted his head. “Well, yes. Ray has been talking about finding a partner ever since we last met him.”

    “Wait.” Furik held his paw up. “Since you last met him? How long ago was that?”

    Ichirou closed his eyes in thought. “About… fourteen months? A while ago.”

    “Fourteen months?! But I… We would’ve met, like, twice, and he never…”

    “...I didn’t know that,” Furik admitted. What else didn’t he know?

    “No need to worry about it,” Ichirou reassured. “Ray doesn’t talk about himself much. The only reason we know is because we got him to talk about it.”

    “Really? I never noticed, but…” Now that he thought about it, Ray didn’t talk about himself. He only talked about whatever Furik asked him about, and younger Furik was only interested in stories about faraway places. Not the ‘mon who visited those places.

    Now that was bothering him. “I already didn’t know he had friends in other places, what else don’t I know?” But what to do about it? Furik was already trying to become friends with these three, but now the one friendship he felt confident in was being jeopardized.

    He got up. “I think I’m going to talk to him, then.”

    “Hmm?” Ichirou looked at Furik quizzically, but shook his head. “If you think you should, then maybe it’s for the best.”

    Furik left his bag behind and went over to the edge of the wagon. Before jumping off, he looked back. “I don’t know how Ichirou sees me, but Sota…” He looked away, down at the ground moving underneath. “There’s still time. Maybe I screwed up, but I can still make up for it later. Right now, I need to talk to Ray.”

    The furret glanced at the other wagon to check and see if Ray was still talking with Mr. Merchant. He wasn’t: he was sitting in the back of the wagon, looking at the sky. “But he must weigh a ton! Mr. Merchant must be really strong… Hope he can handle another.” Furik jumped off and ran quickly to the other wagon before it could get too far. He scrambled onto the edge, unable to get a footing, when Ray offered a hand and helped Furik up.

    “Hey Furik!” Ray greeted with enthusiasm. He patted on the wooden floorboard next to him, which Furik took to sitting on. “How’s it going?” asked Ray

    “It’s going okay,” Furik lied. He thought about how he was going to word this. “So I was talking with the other merchants, and they said you were looking for a partner?”

    Ray raised his brow. “Well, yeah, I was. Then you came along!” Ray winked and nudged Furik gently with his elbow, but the furret wasn’t amused. He frowned: “Something bothering you? You haven’t been yourself this morning.”

    Furik wrung his paws. “It’s just that, I realized that I don’t know anything about you.”

    “What do you mean?” Ray asked. “What don’t you know about me?”

    “Everything, really,” replied Furik, looking down. “I didn’t know you wanted a partner, didn’t know you had other friends.” He sighed. “Now that I think about it, I don’t really know you at all, we never talked about that kinda stuff. And if we’re going to be partners, then...”

    “Oh.” The chesnaught looked back up at the sky. “Never thought that would bother you that much.” He let that thought linger, looking up as the ground scrolled under him. Furik just looked down.

    “So what do you want to know?”

    “Huh?”

    “Well, you said I never talked about myself with you,” Ray explained. He shifted his sitting position to face Furik. “So, what do you want to talk about?”

    “You mean…” Furik stood up, his eyes glistening. “I can ask anything?!”

    “Sure, go ahead!”

    Furik leaned forward. “Well, I always wondered who your parents were!”

    And so, the two partners spent their time talking. Furik tried to be as thorough as he could, asking every question that came to mind: what do your parents do? What are your hobbies? What’s your favorite food? Did you ever date with anyone? What’s your favorite town? In the haste of his excitement, he didn’t even notice how vague Ray’s answers were. “My mom didn’t work, and my dad was a carpenter.” “Well, I’m pretty into weapons, know how to use a few besides the hammer.” “Hm, maybe Grepa? I like Wespear, too.” “Nah, not really. Adventuring isn’t very good for relationships like that.” “Probably Northwater, but I might be biased.” And yet, by the end Furik felt like he had learned everything there was to know.

    “Okay, I think that’s everything I have to ask right now,” said Furik, sitting back down to stare at the clouds.

    Ray smiled. “Welp, I’m glad you’re satisfied.” He followed Furik’s gaze, and the smile on his face gradually faded. He sighed. “Hey Furik?”

    “Yeah?”

    “You had a point back there. If we’re going to be partners, I think it’d be good for the both of us if we had more talks like this.”

    “Really?!” Furik exclaimed. He nodded with conviction. “I think so too, this was great!”

    A smile returned to Ray’s face, though a little sadder this time. “Good.”

    The two passed the time looking at the sky together.

    ---

    Off in the distance, the end of the forest could be seen. “Almost out, and then Soruku should be visible.” Furik shivered with excitement. “This will be my first chance to see it up close, I can’t wait!”

    Suddenly, Furik’s ears perked up at the sound of flapping wings. The unfezant (Nora, if he remembered correctly) was coming down to perch on top of the wagon, and reported to Mr. Merchant: “There’s a group of three wilds waiting up ahead to ambush us.”

    “Three? What species?”

    “One houndoom, two houndour. We should notify…”

    Furik stopped listening to look at Ray. “It looks like there’s trouble.”

    He raised his brow. “There is? What’re we dealing with?”

    “A houndoom and some houndour.” Nora was on top of the wagon looking down at them. “You should prepare yourselves.” She stretched out her wings and prepared to take flight. “I’ll be here to help out as well.”

    “Okay then.” The chesnaught pushed himself up and entered the wagon, coming back out with his warhammer gripped tightly. He winked to Furik. “Hope you’re ready, Furik. I’m itchin’ to see how you fight.”

    Furik stared in awe at Ray’s hammer. “Right…” “So cool… This is my chance to prove myself!” He went back to peeking over the corner at the road ahead. “To Ray, and to the caravan too! If I do well here, I can make a name for myself!”

    “... And it’ll be a good warmup for Darkrai,” Furik remembered. “Right… Darkrai is probably a dark type, just like houndour, I’m pretty sure. Though houndour is also fire type, and I haven’t fought a pokémon like that before…”

    The caravan continued onwards, with no sign of ambush. Furik’s grip on the corner of the wagon tightened, his free paw moving instinctively towards the knife on his belt. “But I’ll be fine. I have Ray with me, we can’t lose!” He forced a smile. “I can do this!”

    A howl. The wagons stopped abruptly, and the pack jumped out from the forest to show themselves: a houndoom, flanked on both sides by houndour.

    Furik didn’t waste any time. He jumped off the carriage and ran straight for the group. “The left one looks weak, I’ll go for them.” White began to trail behind him as he pressed forward into a Quick Attack, barreling straight for a surprised houndour. It jumped to the side just in time, Furik running past. He stopped in his tracks to turn, and found himself within sight of the houndoom, rearing back its head for an attack. Furik barely had enough time to lunge out of the way, the heat and roar of fire directly behind him as he lay on the ground. “Crap, I didn’t think about-!”

    The houndour he tried to attack wasn’t going to give him time to think, running forward fangs bared. Furik pushed himself up and ran out of the way of the Bite attack, giving himself distance from the battle. All three of the wilds were looking at him aggressively… “About the fact that they’re fire-types, and can attack at range!”

    “Hey!” Ray was barging in, hammer raised high, and almost caught the houndoom off guard with a downwards swing, but it noticed just in time. The ground shook from the hammer’s impact. Nora was in the sky, and began to deal with the other houndour with Air Cutter, leaving Furik with just the one.

    “Just one… I can deal with that.” A fireball came hurtling towards him, his opponent somewhat miffed at being ignored. Furik jumped out of the way. “Right, I can deal with that!” Upon landing, he ran towards houndour, letting the white glow overtake him and make him faster. Flames leaked from the houndour’s mouth as it began to charge up for an Ember counterattack, but Furik changed direction just as the attack was released, lining himself up to make a hard turn into his opponent’s flank. Houndour recoiled from the attack, and, not one to waste a moment, Furik pulled out his knife and threw it at his opponent, the blade lodging itself into his opponents skull.

    The houndour howled in pain and put its head on the ground as it scrambled to remove the knife. “I can’t let it off that easy!” Furik tried to use Quick Attack to stop it, but he was too late; the knife lay on the ground, and his attack whiffed past the angry wild. As Furik recovered from the attack, he saw Nora barreling into the other houndour with a Quick Attack of her own. It howled in pain as it was blown backwards, and didn’t get up afterwards.

    “That’s one down, then.” He could hear a growl behind him, and turned around just in time to see his own opponent rushing forward, its fangs coated in flame. Furik backpedaled out of the way, and scanned the ground for his knife. “It’s right behind Houndour…”

    Houndour noticed Furik’s gaze, then ran back to grab the knife for himself! “Wait! You can’t-!” He ran to try and stop him, but came to a stop as the houndour brandished the knife in its jaws. In an instant, its mouth and the knife with it were consumed in a Fire Fang, and Houndour moved in to attack with the flaming weapon. “You can do that?!” He backed out of the way of the first swing, then let his claws elongate for an upwards Slash, knocking the knife out of the jaws of his opponent. It landed on the ground a little ways away, and Furik made a beeline for it. Somewhere in the background, he could hear Ray yell, but it didn’t matter. “I just need to get to the knife.”

    He got there first, and went to grab it, but his paw was met with searing pain as he touched the handle. He yelped and drew his paw back. “Hot! Is that why it-?!”

    Furik should have been paying attention, because if he was, then he would have noticed the Ember attack coming from behind. It nailed him in the backside, and he let out a breathless scream. He didn’t know fire could hurt this much, the searing heat sinking into his pelt and singing his fur. He collapsed forward, his body smoking from the newly set burn. He tried to roll around to put it out, but it wouldn’t go away.

    As he lay there in agony, he saw his opponent turn towards the wagon. “No… I can’t…” Furik rolled onto his paws, mentally yelled at himself to get up, and when his body didn’t respond, he forced it to by charging up a Quick Attack and rocketing forwards from the move’s energy. He missed the houndour by a wide margin, but it was enough to get its attention. Furik faced it head on, still in pain but still not out.

    Then: “Furik, watch out!” He looked towards the source of the noise, and saw Ray raising his hammer high. “What is he…? Wait, oh no!”

    The hammer hit the ground hard, white shockwaves forming on impact and traveling in all directions. The two merchants set up Protect shields, but the houndoom had no time, the shockwave passing through it, followed by an uppercut of earth. “Earthquake!” Running purely on adrenaline, Furik ran towards the approaching wave and vaulted over it. Just as he hit the ground, he was forced to duck as the Houndoom went sailing over him, flying straight into a tree with a loud *THUD!* Ray drew his hammer back into a neutral position and admired his work.

    Furik looked around the battlefield. The houndour he was just fighting lay on the ground, knocked out by Ray’s Earthquake. “All that work I put in, and he beat it in one hit… And the houndoom…” He knew Ray’s power was awesome, but he didn’t realize how awesome it actually was.

    “Sorry about that Furik,” Ray apologized as he slung his hammer over his back. “Would’ve used that move sooner, but I needed someone to distract the houndoom. You okay?”

    Furik just kept staring at the slumped form of the houndoom. “I… could never pull off something like that.”

    “Furik?”

    He shook his head. “Uh, yeah, I’m fi- ow!” The burn. It flared up again, smoke rising up from Furik’s body.

    “Furik!” Ray rushed over, and kneeled down to inspect him, much to Furik’s embarrassment. “You got burned. Hey Tarou!”

    Mr. Merchant was the one who answered. “Do you need rawst berries?”

    “Oran, too.” Nora walked over, keeping her wings close to her body. “We could afford to use a couple.”

    Mr. Merchant nodded. “Then we’ll stop for second. Ichirou! Sota!” The linoone’s head peeked out from inside the wagon. “Go and move the houndour out of the way.”

    Furik stood watching everyone get to work, Nora walking towards the back of Mrs. Merchant’s wagon while Ichirou and Sota jumped out to drag the houndour onto the side of the road near the houndoom. “You need help getting to the wagon?” Ray asked. “I can pick you up.”

    “No, I can-” Furik winced, the burn acting up again. “...I can make it on my own.”

    Ray sized him up and nodded. “If you’re sure.”

    Furik left him behind and limped over to the back of the wagon, scrambling up into it to find the sight of Nora pecking away at a berry, Sachiko watching with mild interest. “I didn’t realize she got hurt.”

    Looking at the assortment of crates, Furik asked: “Where are the rawst berries?”

    “Here.” Nora used her feet to carefully pull out one of the bottom crates, just enough so that she could reach in with her beak and not disturb everything on top. She took one out and dropped it in Furik’s paws. “You did well in that battle,” she said, staring at him approvingly.

    “I did?” Furik looked down at the rawst berry in his paws. “But, I got burned…”

    “And if the battle had gone on any longer, you still would have won.”

    “What makes you think that?”

    Nora turned away so that only half of her face was visible to Furik. “I’m not Ray, but I have seen enough battle to tell when someone has the advantage.”

    He considered it for a moment, then shook his head. “Yeah, but Ray was the one who did everything.”

    “Are you sure?” Nora tilted her head upwards. “Ray needed help from me to defeat that houndoom, you know. That’s how I got hurt.”

    “Really?”

    “Really. He was at a type disadvantage and needed a distraction for that Earthquake to hit.” She walked out of the wagon -- “I just thought it was worth saying,” -- and flew off.

    Furik stared at where she took off, eventually being reminded of his status by a searing flash of pain. He settled against the wall and took to nibbling at the berry in his paws, feeling the burn slowly fade away. Sachiko spoke up: “I thought you were cool.”

    He looked over. “You think so?”

    “Well, Nora was cooler, but you were still pretty cool.”

    Furik wasn’t sure how to feel about that. “Th-thanks…” Admittedly, it did make him feel a bit better. “I guess I did okay…”

    By the time he finished the berry, Ichirou and Sota had come back into the wagon, having moved the wilds, and the wagon lurched as it began to move again. Ichirou greeted Furik as he came in, while Sota said nothing as he sat down. He wondered how much they must have seen. Sachiko was watching, so they must have seen some of it. What did they think? “Nora and Sachiko thought I did well, but do I really compare to Ray? If he can end a battle like that, then what am I here for?”

    “We should be leaving the forest soon!” Mrs. Merchant called out. Furik shook the thoughts out of his head. “There are more important things. I have to see Soruku once it comes into view.” He got up and rushed out to see outside, looking towards the horizon where the light of the plains ahead was visible. Patches of light from the forest ceiling betrayed glimpses of a large landmass, little bits of brown and black that faded in and out of view as the forest started to disappear. They crossed the threshold that marked the end of the forest.

    And he saw it.

    Off in the distance, large and imposing, was the floating island of Soruku. It was a lot bigger than he thought it’d be, dominating the horizon and making even the sun look unspectacular in comparison. Only the earthy bottom was visible, the view of whatever was on top blocked by perspective, but Furik didn’t even care. He could barely believe it to begin with. “Wow… ”

    “Hey Furik!” Ray waved from the other wagon. “You feeling better?”

    Furik glanced at him. “Y-yeah, I just…” He had to look back, afraid that it might not be there again, but it was still there. “I just never imagined…”

    “Your first time seeing Soruku, huh?” Ray looked around the wagon to see for himself. “It is pretty amazing.”

    “Yeah…” “And… and I’m going to go there.” Furik’s chest swelled, all of his doubts drowned out by the realization of just how close he was. “I am going to go there! It’s almost like a dream, but it’s right there!”

    He looked around a bit more at Prestin’s hilly grasslands, some buildings visible in the distance located just below the island. “Is that Murosei?” He then remembered for the second time today. “Oh. Right. If I want to get to Soruku, then I’ll have to beat Darkrai first. That’s the only way.”

    He knew that, and yet it felt possible. Perhaps it was just the amazement of seeing Soruku for the first time, but in that moment anything felt possible. He thought back to the cleanse tag in his bag. “My wish, it’ll come true. I’m sure of it now.”

    He sat down, and spent the rest of the day looking up at the sky.

    ---

    (continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  10. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    (continued from last post)

    ---

    21st night, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    The night was young, waning crescent yet to rise, allowing the full glory of the Milky Way to shine in the sky. Yet Soruku still dominated, silhouetted against space and impossible to miss even on this dark night. Furik sat in front of a fire, alone as he kept watch until the moon rose at midnight. The flame flickered and flared in front of him, and Furik couldn’t help but flinch. While the burn itself had healed, he could still feel the sting of the houndour’s Ember on his back. His mother once told him that the pain from a houndoom’s burn never goes away. “Will I feel this burn for the rest of my life?” Ray had assured him earlier that those were just tall tales. Myths to scare children away from the forest and potential death. He knew that: most of what his mother told him Furik didn’t believe, but in the aftermath of battle he for some reason felt that this specific tale was true.

    He looked up to black, hulking mass of Soruku. Did it even matter at the end of the day? He knew traveling was dangerous; burns like these are the norm. It’s just some small event on the road to his destination. And Ray was probably right, the pain will fade and he’ll have forgotten all about it by tomorrow. Like it never happened.

    From the direction of the wagon came Ray. He sat down next Furik by the fire. “Want to switch?”

    “Already? But it hasn’t been that long,” said Furik. “Don’t you need sleep?”

    Ray sighed. “Yeah, I am pretty tired, not gonna lie. But I figured you need the sleep more than I do.”

    “But-” Furik was interrupted by his own yawn. “...Okay, maybe I do need sleep. But I can stay up a little longer.”

    “Then why don’t we stay up together?” Ray offered.

    “Uh, sure, if you want to,” Furik responded. “I guess he was serious about talking more.”

    They sat in front of the fire for a while, admiring the stars, when Ray spoke up. “So, how’s your journey been so far? Is it harder than you thought it’d be?”

    Furik thought about his answer. “Well… it’s a little harder. But I’ve had fun so far! I already have a bunch of stories to tell!”

    “You do? Well I’m interested!” Ray got into a cross-legged position. “How about you tell me a story for once”

    “Really?” Furik’s eyes widened. “What do I even tell? How about…” “... I managed to get through Seishu Woods at night.”

    “You did? That’s pretty impressive,” Ray said. “Shouldn’t someone have told you to stick to the river, though?”

    “Yeah, I was told that.” Furik scratched behind his ear. “But I figured it’d be faster if I cut through the middle. Because on a map, there’s this large clearing in the middle of Seishu, so I tried to shave off a day by cutting through the woods and spending the night there. But the trip to Dakuro was a little longer than I thought it was, so…”

    “But you didn’t spend the entire night in there, did ya? I mean, when I was younger, I tried to stay a night there myself!” Ray laughed heartily at the memory. “Didn’t last very long!”

    “No, I ran away,” Furik said. It felt a little… disappointing, to know that Ray had already done it. And on his own terms, instead of by mistake. “But I did get trapped at one point, and escaped by jumping off a ghost’s face!”

    “You what?” Ray gave uneasy smile. “I have a hard time picturing that…”

    But Furik insisted. “It’s true!”

    “Well I guess if it was a trevenant, maybe…”

    “It sounds like you’ve had quite an adventure so far, Furik.”

    Ray and Furik both turned their heads. “Hey there, Ichirou!” called out Ray. The linoone was walking towards the campfire from the caravan, a meowth running ahead of him to take a seat on the ground. “And Sachiko!”

    Sachiko spoke up immediately. “You touched a ghost?! What do ghosts feel like?!”

    “Well, it was a trevenant, so it felt like wood?” Furik answered sheepishly.

    Ray chuckled, then turned to Ichirou, who had settled down next to Sachiko. “So, what are you two doing up at this time of night?”

    Ichirou pat his daughter’s head. “Sachiko couldn’t sleep. And when Sachiko can’t sleep…”

    The chesnaught nodded. “I can imagine!”

    “So Furik.” Ichirou turned his attention towards the furret. “You were talking about your journey so far?”

    Furik shyly scratched behind his ear. “Yeah, the part where I got through Seishu Woods at night.”

    “I hope you making it out is a sign that your journey has gone well,” the linoone remarked, giving a slight grin.

    “It’s gone great!” Furik assured. “And it’s only going to get better!”

    He nodded. “That’s good to hear.” He then turned his attention to Ray. “How about you, Ray? We haven’t had a chance to talk in depth yet.”

    “What Furik said, basically!” Ray replied with gusto. “I’m feeling pretty optimistic, now that I have a proper partner.”

    Ichirou tilted his head. “I was wondering about that. Have you known each other for long?”

    “I’ve known him since he was just a sentret!” Ray answered, moving his hand above the ground to illustrate just how small Furik used to be. “He’s come a long way since then.”

    “Really?” Furik sheepishly looked away and scratched behind his ear. “I-I haven’t gone that far yet.”

    “Don’t be humble now, Furik,” said Ray. “You show a lot of promise for someone so young!”

    Furik smiled, a small bubble of pride working its way through the embarrassment. “Well when you put it that way…”

    Ichirou chuckled at the display. “If you get along like that, then I guess I have nothing to worry about.”

    “So what about you guys?” Ray asked, changing the subject. “How has your journey been?”

    “It’s been fine,” Ichirou hastily replied.

    “Are you sure? Because I was talking to Tarou earlier, and he didn’t seem fine.”

    A sigh. “I can’t get anything past you, Ray.” The linoone’s normally laid-back and kind stare hardened into seriousness. “We’ve been a bit on edge lately, what with the whole Darkrai situation. Have you heard about it?”

    Furik stiffened. Ray met Ichirou’s gaze in kind. “Kind of hard not to.”

    “I figured. With it hanging around Murosei, we’re worried about a possible attack.” Sachiko shifted restlessly in his lap. He placed a paw on her head to calm her. “Though, that’s not the only problem…”

    “Not the only problem?” “What else could be a problem?” Furik asked.

    “It’s the trade embargo Queen Miku put up. We haven’t felt the effects of it yet, but pretty soon we’ll start running out of stock on lots of different berries.” Ichirou closed his eyes. “Prestin in general depends a lot on exports from Ebeld, so to lose access to that has us nervous.”

    Furik was taken aback. He remembered what Mrs. Enchanter had to say about it, as well as how it affected her. “All that decision is doing is hurting everyone. And it didn’t even work!” “Why would the Queen make a decision like that if it hurts the country?”

    Ichirou shook his head. “I’m sure she has some kind of reason. Hopefully it won’t last too long.”

    “All the more reason something has to be done about that Darkrai,” said Ray, determined.

    Furik looked to him and nodded. “Right!”

    Sachiko jumped up from Ichirou’s lap and looked to Ray expectantly. “I bet you could beat ‘em, Ray!”

    Flustered, Ray rubbed the back of his head. “I wouldn’t put money on it if I were you. Those legendaries are pretty terrifying.”

    “Well, yeah, but you’re Ray!” said Furik, joining in. “If anyone should be scared, it’s Darkrai!”

    “You too, Furik? I think you’re overestimating me.”

    “To be fair, if worst comes to worst, you’re the best we have,” Ichirou agreed.

    Ray shrugged. “Eh. You got a point there, I guess.” He put his hand down and changed the subject. “So how about you, Sachiko. How’ve you been?”

    The meowth’s eyes lit up. “I’ve been thinking, and I want a sister!”

    “A sister? Isn’t Sota like a brother already?” Ray asked.

    Ichirou shook his head, smiling weakly. “We’ve talked about this already, but no, she specifically wants a sister.”

    “Yeah, and Sota’s a wimp!” Sachiko declared matter-of-factly. “I want a sister, like those in the other caravan. They look like they have so much fun!”

    “Is Sachiko an only child?” asked Furik.

    “Yeah. I always thought Sota would be enough for her, but…”

    Ray leaned forward, a thoughtful look on his face. “You know, I’ve been noticing a lot of that recently. Single child families.”

    “You too? I thought I was the only one.”

    “It definitely ain’t just me. I can only think of about seven… ten couples off the top of my head when it comes to more than one kid. And more than three times that when it comes to only children.”

    “Yeah. The last time I remember hearing of having multiple children was in Dakuro. And that was three years ago, I think?”

    “I can think of a more recent example, but they’re definitely becoming rare. Times are changing, I guess.”

    And Furik was turned off from the conversation completely. “Wow. I didn’t realize Ray could be so… boring.” Admittedly, all the talk about something so far removed from him made him feel a bit envious. Seeing the two have a conversation that only they understood and were interested in reminded Furik that Ray had a life outside of Caifeng, complete with friends and experiences outside of his understanding. “I wonder if I’ll be like that too. So well traveled that I can talk to anyone about anything.” Furik noticed Sachiko getting impatient in Ichirou’s lap. “But if it comes at the price of being super boring, maybe I’m better off this way…”

    “I know Furik here has siblings too.”

    “Really? How many siblings do you have, Furik?”

    Furik didn’t expect the subject to change to him. He stumbled his way back into reality. “O-oh, uh, five? I’m the oldest.”

    Ichirou tilted his head. “Huh. Didn’t take you for an older sibling, but I can kind of see it.”

    “Yeah, his parent’s situation got me thinking it might be a work thing,” continued Ray. “Everyone’s a lot more busy nowadays, what with all the reform and expansion going on, and the war out west isn’t helping with that. It’s hard to maintain a family when there’s no time for it anymore.”

    “You sound pretty confident in that theory,” the linoone noted.

    “Well, I may have a little bit of experience to back it up.”

    “Was your family like that?”

    “Nah, I had two siblings. My family life was pretty slow paced.”

    Just like that, Furik’s interest skyrocketed. “Then what do you mean by that?” he chimed in, looking at Ray with intently. “Is there something else he hasn’t told me? I need to hear!”

    Ray suddenly grew awkward. “Well uh, y’know. When you get around a lot, you try some things out, and find out they don’t work,” he answered, looking away and rubbing the back of his head.

    Ichirou seemed to catch on, judging from his surprise. “Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”

    “I might be.”

    Furik looked at Ray, then at Ichirou, completely at a loss. “What? What is he suggesting?”

    “He used to be a philanderer, of all things.”

    “A what?!” Furik almost fell backwards. “Isn’t that what they call someone who flirts with everyone?!” “But I thought you said you never got together with anyone!”

    Ray answered, still not looking at Furik. “Well, that’s still technically true. As I said, adventuring isn’t very good for maintaining relationships, so they all sank as quickly as they set sail.”

    “I see.” Ichirou nodded, putting everything together. “If it’s hard enough to start a family, it’d also be difficult to make it grow. That’s what you’re saying?”

    “Kinda, yeah…” Ray trailed off. He glanced at Furik, who was making no effort to hide his disbelief. “I really don’t know anything about him…” All Ray did in reply was study his expression. Then, the chesnaught looked away and sighed. “But it’s a little bit more than that.”

    Furik’s disbelief turned into accusation. “What else have you not told me?”

    “Thing is, I kinda tried to make it work anyway.”

    “What do you mean?”

    Ray winced. Ichirou looked between the two, now the one at a loss for what was happening. Ray clearly didn’t want to talk about it, but after another glance at Furik, he sighed once again. “What I mean is that I have a daughter.”

    “You what?!” Furik’s head was swimming from all the sudden reveals. This was getting ridiculous! “Why… why haven’t you told me about this yet?!”

    “There was never any reason to bring it up,” said the chesnaught softly.

    “...I never thought this would be where the conversation would go,” said Ichirou, bringing himself back into the conversation. “But now that you brought it up…”

    Furik jumped onto his feet and began making demands. “I need to hear everything. Who’s your daughter? How did it happen? Why have I never met her?”

    Sitting up straight and composing himself, Ray let out a deep breath and began. “Well, truth is, it was kind of an accident. Walked into Clarío one day, got friendly with someone, and seven months later I come back to find out I have a kid.”

    Ichirou covered up his young daughter’s ears. “Maybe this isn’t completely appropriate for Sachiko…”

    Sachiko took his paws off and gave an overeager smile. “No. I wanna hear everything.”

    Ray laughed awkwardly, beginning to loosen up. “Sorry to say it doesn’t get more exciting than that. I got pretty lucky, all things considered. Could’ve went horribly wrong, but my partner was actually pretty responsible about the whole thing. She said it was water under the bridge as long as I was responsible too and helped raise our daughter.”

    “So you did?” Furik asked, sitting back down.

    “Yeah, and I lasted two months.” Ray seemed to realize what that suggested, and quickly followed it up. “I still visited, of course! Whenever I could! I just couldn’t stand being in the same place for that long. So I went about my circuit like usual and watched her grow from afar.”

    “So that’s the story, huh…?” Apparently, but it didn’t feel real at all. Like Ray just decided to make it all up on the spot for the sake of some bad joke. “I just… I just can’t believe you have a daughter.

    “Is she still in Clarío?” asked Ichirou.

    “Well, about that. When she got old enough, she decided she wanted to go adventuring with me.” Furik’s ears perked up at that. “So we did. It was probably the most fun I’ve had adventuring, to be honest.”

    “Wait, then why haven’t I met her?” Furik delivered another accusatory look. “And also…”

    Ray sighed, reluctant but still willing to go on. “I was getting to that. We were in Nahm at the time, strolling along, when I decided to let her handle a job solo.” Ichirou immediately tensed, sympathy pouring from his direction. But Ray lifted his hands. “Don’t give me that look, she’s not dead! It’s just... on the job she met some rich guy, and suddenly she didn’t want to travel anymore.”

    The linoone relaxed. “Ah, so she was a victim of love?”

    “Pretty much.” The entire conversation seemed to have taken away all of Ray’s energy. All talk came to an awkward pause.

    Furik started thinking. “Is that why he was looking for a partner? Am I just a replacement?” The thought felt… uncomfortable. “All this, and he never said a thing…”

    Ichirou, calm as ever, broke the silence. “What’s she doing now?”

    “Uh, well, I think she’s still with him.”

    “Wait, you don’t know?”

    Ray looked away again. “It’s been a while since we last talked, so…”

    Ichirou tilted his head. “It couldn’t have been that long, though?”

    “Last time we talked was when she told me she wanted to leave and that was…” Once again, Ray glanced at Furik. And once again, he sighed. “...Thirteen years ago.”

    That hit Furik harder than everything else. “Thirteen years?! Th-that’s older than I am! Why wouldn’t you…” He didn’t know why, but he couldn’t help but look down. “Why wouldn’t you at least see her?”

    “Furik, I’m sure he has his reasons.” The linoone nodded to the chesnaught. “I’m going to guess the news didn’t go down well.”

    “Yeah, we didn’t exactly leave on the best terms. But it’s fine.” Ray waved it off. “She probably doesn’t want to see me again anyway.”

    “They left on bad terms?” Furik screwed his eyes shut. “Then it makes sense why he wouldn’t talk about it. And… thirteen years…” His thoughts could only go towards one pokémon. “Mom…”

    How was she doing? Did she hate him for leaving? Would she want to see him again?

    Would they ever see each other again?

    “But… of course she’d want to see you!” Furik blurted out. “She’s your daughter, why wouldn’t she?!”

    A sad smile worked its way onto Ray’s face. “I appreciate the thought, but that was thirteen years ago. You don’t just leave someone’s life for that long and come back expecting a warm welcome.” He looked into the fire and let out a soft chuckle. “Hell, for all I know she has a kid of her own by now. Don’t think she’d want me to be a part of that.”

    Furik felt like he just got stabbed in the heart. “B-but still! You miss her, right?!”

    “Well, yeah, I do, but-”

    Ichirou interrupted. “I’m not going to pretend like I understand anything, but I think Furik has a point. If it’s eating you up so bad, then it’s probably better that you see her soon. Before you regret anything. Chances are she feels the same way about the whole thing.”

    Furik nodded. “What he said.” He looked straight at Ray, determination burning in his eyes. “And if you need any help, I’ll be there for you!”

    Ray returned it with exasperation. “Hey, you don’t have to get involved for me, Furik. It doesn’t have anything to do with you.”

    “But I’m your partner, and I’ll be there to support you no matter what!” Furik declared. “And I know you miss her, you have to miss her.”

    Ray paused, and sighed. “...Yeah, you’re right, I do miss her.” He sat back up. “I’ll think about it. Maybe it’s about time I paid a visit.”

    “Yes! I did it!”

    Ichirou nodded. “I’ll be rooting for you from the caravan.”

    “I only said I’ll think about it,” said Ray “No guarantees it’ll happen. I mean, she lives on the other side of the continent from here. But thanks, I appreciate it.”

    For Furik, that was good enough. “Maybe I’ll get to meet her someday.” He felt tired after all of that worrying; he let out a yawn. “I think all that talking wore me out.”

    Ichirou pat a woozy Sachiko on the head. “Sachiko seems about ready to fall asleep too.”

    “You two can head off to sleep then,” Ray offered. “I’ll keep watch.”

    “Okay.” Furik got up. “Goodnight, Ray.”

    “Goodnight.”

    As Furik left Ray behind and headed back towards the carriages, he thought about what he learned. “I never would’ve guessed he had a daughter. But he did have good reason not to talk about it.” He hopped onto one of the carriages, the one opposite of where the merchant family slept. “I need to remember that Ray has a life outside what I know. I’m gonna end up learning a bunch of new things about him just by traveling. So, it shouldn’t bother me that I don’t know everything about him.” Curling up into a ball, he let his drowsiness overtake him. “Because we’re still friends… that’s all that matters…”

    ---

    Sunrise on the 22nd day, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    Furik shifted around, a cold gust blowing into the carriage and disturbing his sleep. He turned around in his spot, which was softly illuminated by the early morning light. “Wait... morning…?”

    He slowly pushed himself onto all fours and stretched. “I didn’t think I’d wake up early.” After getting on to his hind paws and performing the rest of his stretches, he went to the exit and checked outside. Ray was still near the now dead campfire, sleeping soundly under the brightening sky. Furik jumped off the carriage and looked around. Snores could be heard from the carriage, and Nora was sleeping on top of the other carriage. “It looks like I’m the only one awake. I guess that means I could go back to sleep.” A slight tiredness crept up in agreement. But the sight of Soruku hanging low on the horizon gave Furik an idea. “Or I could see what Soruku looks like against the sunrise.”

    A small hill obscured the sun, leaving the caravan in it’s shadow. Furik began his hike up, and at the top found a certain blitzle. “Sota?”

    Sota turned his head. He looked flustered. “Oh, hey there… uh...”

    “Furik.”

    “Right.” He looked back towards the horizon. “I’m just watching the sunrise, don’t mind me.”

    “This is my chance to make a good impression!” Furik walked closer. “Is it okay if I watch it with you?” he asked.

    “Sure.”

    He sat down on the hill, keeping a little bit of distance between himself and Sota. Off in the distance, the sun rose, coloring the sky around it in warm tones that petered into cool blue sky by the time it reached Soruku. Seeing the floating island in this light, silhouetted against the sunrise, was something else. “It’s beautiful…”

    He took a peek at Sota beside him. The blitzle’s stare almost seemed longing. “Maybe I should open with something.”

    “I was wondering, what does it look like to be in Soruku’s shadow?” It was a real question: Furik was hoping to get a chance to see it from that perspective too.

    Sota considered his answer. “It’s really dark.”

    “So you’ve been under there?”

    He shifted in place. “A few times, yeah. Usually when coming back from Kaina.” He looked to Furik. “Y’know, the town in the-”

    “Northeast, I know,” Furik interrupted. “I studied maps back when I was a sentret, so I know where every town is.”

    Sota looked away. “Oh.” The way he fidgeted about suggested he wanted to say something.

    Furik decided to press. “What’s wrong?”

    The merchant kid thought over his words. “You said you wanted to travel everywhere?”

    “Yeah, I did.”

    “How come?”

    Furik smiled. “Because Liber’s a cool place, that’s why! Like Soruku!” He pointed towards the floating isle. “I want to go up there and see the view!”

    But Sota did not respond with enthusiasm. “You want to go to Soruku?” he asked with a worried tone. “But, Soruku is bad place for anyone who isn’t a bird.”

    Furik winced. “Fourth time.” He was starting to get a little peeved by all the naysaying about the city. But he didn’t want to get angry now. He took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’ve heard. But it can’t be that bad. It’s still a city, and I want to go there.”

    “Oh…”

    Sota looked back down. “This again.” “Is something else wrong?”

    “Well…” Sota tried to ignore Furik’s curious gaze. “I just thought, it must be nice, to follow your dreams.”

    “Huh?” “What do you mean?”

    Now Sota was looking away. “You probably don’t want to hear me talk about it.”

    Furik stood up eagerly. “I-I can listen! I’m a pretty good listener, so if you wanna get something off your mind, I’m willing to listen!”

    Sota muttered, so softly that Furik almost didn’t catch it. “...Maybe you do understand.”

    “What is it?”

    He looked Furik head on, a kind of hope Furik had never seen before glimmering in his eyes. “Have you ever felt… stuck?”

    “Stuck?”

    “Like, no matter what you did, or how hard you tried, you’d never amount to anything?”

    “Well…” Furik tried to think about the concept, but it was entirely foreign to him. “No, I haven’t.”

    The hope faded away entirely, leaving dull disappointment. Sota sighed. “Then you don’t understand. I thought you might, but...”

    “Wait, what are you talking about?!” Furik could tell he was losing him. Desperately, he tried to salvage the conversation. “How am I supposed to understand if I don’t even know where you’re coming from?”

    Sota turned back towards the sunrise. “I don’t want to be a traveling merchant.”

    “You don’t?”

    He shook his head. “No. It’s not that I don’t like traveling, I just can’t deal with the stress. I’d rather have a job that lets me take things at my own pace. Like a blacksmith, baker, adventurer. Maybe even farmer.”

    “That… sounds normal.” “I don’t get it. What’s wrong with that?”

    Sota gave Furik an incredulous look. “Look at me. Do I look like I can do any of that stuff? Be a blacksmith? Be a baker? An adventurer? And you need land to be a farmer, and that requires money.” His tone turned bitter. “I shouldn’t have expected you to get it. Pokémon like me and my parents, they can’t do the same things ‘mon like you can. We’re all stuck, with jobs like traveling merchant, or deliverymon, or coach, or construction, but only as a load-bearer because carrying things is all we’re good for.”

    The strength of the young blitzle’s pessimism came as a complete shock to Furik. He scrambled to say something to combat it. “But, what about adventurer?!” he tried to reason. “You can still be an adventurer!”

    “And what if I can’t? I’m not strong enough to be an adventurer. It’s either be a traveling merchant, or get stuck out there in the wild.”

    Furik froze. “The… wild?”

    “Yeah. That’s what happens when you can’t get a job. Didn’t you know that?”

    Furik’s heart started to race. “Wild pokémon are…?” Wild pokémon are pokémon. It was self-explanatory, but he never thought about it that way. He started to pull down on his ears. A sick feeling was growing in his stomach. “But... then who was I fighting earlier?!” Suddenly, the sight and sound of Ray punting that houndoom into a tree seemed a lot less awesome.

    “Wild pokémon.” Sota’s face darkened into a glare. “That’s what wild pokémon are. Pokémon who are stuck without jobs or homes. Now you know.” He got up. “I thought maybe you’d understand, since you’re a furret, but I should’ve known better. I’m going back to the caravan.”

    The blitzle left, leaving behind a furret trying to understand what was just said. “Those pokémon, they were just trying to survive, and… and I hurt them for it.” He looked back towards the horizon, hoping for some kind of comfort. But Soruku’s imposing shadow just made him feel more sick.

    “Wh-what’ve I been doing...?”

    This whole escort mission was a disaster. Every single time Furik felt like he had some kind of grasp on the situation, it just managed to find a whole new way to go horribly wrong. And now he felt lost on all accounts. “What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Does anyone even want me here?” He screwed his eyes shut. “I just want to be an adventurer. But everything is spiraling out of control, I can’t solve this problem, I…”

    Exhausted, Furik flopped onto his side and stared off into the distance. “I just wanted to go to Soruku…”

    ---

    Leaving the camping ground behind, the caravan moved onwards to Murosei. Soruku grew closer and larger with each passing moment. Or Furik imagined it was getting larger. He sat in the back of Mr. Merchant’s carriage, leaning against the wall and watching the grassy hills fade into the distance behind them as they went onwards.

    Ray had noticed how downtrodden Furik was quite a while back. “I just need some time to think,” Furik had told him. He felt bad to worry Ray like that. “But I just need time to think. I need to solve this… somehow.” He thought that, but he couldn’t take his focus off the scenery.

    The carriage hit a bump, snapping Furik out of his trance. “Right, uh…” He rubbed his face. “Being a hero… being a hero means that I have to hurt other pokémon. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but, I have to. But why do heroes have to do that?” Logically speaking, if no one had done anything about those wilds, and let them have their way, then the caravan would’ve lost everything. Maybe even their lives. But the wilds did what they did because they had to do it; because they also didn’t have a choice in the matter. “They were probably desperate for food, and of course we have a lot. But, maybe we coulda shared it... But then that’s less stuff to sell. And it doesn’t really matter anymore because it happened already, and they’re probably long gone now.”

    “Besides, dealing with them is my job here. That’s what I was hired to do. And I guess…” An idea clicked into Furik’s head. “I guess being a hero is about protecting. Because the caravan was defenseless to do much against the wilds, and they needed help to drive them off. So yeah, it would be heroic to help defend them like that. Maybe the wilds don’t see it that way, but that’s how it is.” Furik turned his thoughts to all he had experienced up to that point.

    “I wonder, is that why Darkrai is causing trouble? Maybe it isn’t really a bad ‘mon, just someone who is stuck, and doesn’t know what else to do. It, or he, or I don’t know, they’ve never killed anyone. Maybe I can reason with them… though I still need the money to get to Soruku. I’ll figure it out later, I guess.” With renewed determination, he pushed himself up and off the wall. “But I know what to do now. And right now, there’s someone else feeling stuck I need to talk to.”

    “But how do I get through to him?”

    Right about then, the sound of wingbeats and the *thunk!* of taloned feet landing on a wooden ceiling signaled Nora coming down to rest. She hopped off the roof onto the back of the carriage, where she spotted Furik. “You look like you’re feeling better,” she remarked.

    “Yeah, I am.”

    Nora nodded. “That’s good to hear.”

    She moved further back into the carriage and sat down. “Nora knows Sota better than I do. She probably knows something that could help.” Furik stood up straight. “Could I ask for some tips?” he asked.

    “About what?”

    “Well,” Furik began. “I talked to Sota this morning, and he seems really depressed. He said he feels like he can’t do anything. Like he’s stuck.”

    The unfezant straightened up. “I’m surprised he talked to you about that.” Her eyes turned serious. “Those kinds of feelings are generally complicated. There might not be anything you can do.”

    “But there has to be something. Can’t I talk to him about it?”

    “We already have,” she said. “But trying to come to terms with being less able than other pokémon isn’t an easy thing. Do you have any experience with those kinds of feelings?”

    “Do I? The closest thing I can think of is what my mom always told me. But maybe, that might just be close enough to work.” Furik nodded. “I think I have an idea.”

    “I’d hope so. If Sota talked to you about this, than that means he must see something in you that reminds him of what he’s going through,” said Nora. “Figure out what that is, and you may be able to get through to him.”

    “Do you know what it is?” Furik asked.

    “Well, you are a furret adventurer. I’ve never seen one of those before.” Nora paused for a moment, considering something. Then she continued, with a tone of resignation. “Admittedly, we may not have taken the right path towards trying to deal with this situation. But I’m not going to try and steal your thunder. Wait until he’s alone, then talk to him. That’s my advice.”

    Furik brightened up and nodded. “Thank you Nora!”

    Nora gave a slight smile. “No problem. Now would you mind keeping me company for a bit? I have a while before I should go back out, and it beats sitting here bored.”

    “Sure!”

    ---

    Furik got his chance when the caravan stopped for a short break in the evening. Everyone gathered around outside the carriages to talk and give Mr. and Mrs. Merchant time to rest. Everyone except for Sota. Upon noticing he wasn’t there, Furik started to back away from the group.

    Ray took notice immediately. “Going somewhere Furik?”

    “Yeah, I just wanted to go back to the carriage for something.” Ray had talked to Furik earlier that day, probably as a way to make up for what happened the night before. “But I’m fine now. Or mostly fine. I’m nervous about what I have to do now but, I’ll do it.”

    He climbed into the carriage where he figured Sota still was, and sure enough, he was there. Sitting down against the wall. “Sota?”

    The blitzle saw Furik and huffed. “What do you want?”

    “I just wanted to talk.” Furik moved further in and sat next to Sota, who was making a concentrated effort to ignore him. “I probably shouldn’t waste any time.” “I think I get what you’re talking about now,” he began. “Kinda.”

    Sota turned to look at him, annoyance written across his face. “You don’t need to lie just to make me feel better,” he bitterly replied.

    Furik shook his head. “No, I mean it! I mean, it’s not the same, but when I was growing up, I was told that I could never be an adventurer.”

    Sota immediately softened up, some of that odd hope returning to his eyes, though mixed with skepticism. “You were?”

    “Yeah.” It felt odd, to talk about this at all. It was something he’d rather leave behind and pretend never happened. “But if it helps Sota…” “I was always told I was too weak. That, the world is too dangerous for a furret, and that I’d never get anywhere.”

    The blitzle’s gaze darkened. “They were right though, weren’t they? If you needed Ray just to get this far.”

    Furik felt like he just got punched in the face. “But Ray’s not how I got this far! We only met up recently, I got this far on my own!” His thoughts started to race, his emotions running high. “And, even if I did lean on him, it wouldn’t matter because I’m here. I became an adventurer, and I’ve taken on requests, and I’m not dead!”

    Sota recoiled from the outburst, clearly confused, and suddenly Furik remembered who he was talking to. “Get ahold of yourself, Furik!” He rubbed his eyes and tried to get his bearings straight. “A-anyway, what I’m saying is that I’m here despite what anyone has ever said. That I’m an adventurer, despite being a furret.”

    He seemed to understand something, then relaxed. “But what does that have to do with me?” he asked. “It’s still not the same.”

    “But it is!” Furik insisted. “Maybe it’s a little bit harder for you to find something, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. You just have to look. You said you could be a farmer, right?”

    “Y-yeah…” he admitted with some discomfort. “But I told you, I need money for that.”

    “Then get the money so you can buy the land! You might have to do something else first, but you can take steps. I had to do a lot of training in order to get strong enough to evolve and get out there. And adventuring is all about taking steps.”

    Sota looked down at the floor. “I don’t think it’s that simple…”

    Furik stood up and put a paw to his chest. “It is that simple! You just have to go for it! It might not be easy, but it is possible!”

    “But…” Sota got up and moved away from where he was sitting, turned away from Furik. “I… I just don’t know.”

    “...Are you okay?” Furik felt a pit open up in his stomach. “Did I say the right thing?”

    “I’m fine, just…” His head turned upwards, eyes screwed shut. He was visibly struggling to get the words out. “I-I’ll think about it, okay?”

    Furik smiled, relieved. “That’s all I wanted to hear.”

    ---

    23rd day, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    “Welp, we’re here!”

    The caravan arrived on the outskirts of Murosei. Farther out from the town proper, vast berry fields scrolled by as they got closer and closer. Eventually, the caravan stopped, and Furik hopped out. His first instinct was to look up, where Soruku hung in the sky close by, flying above a water-filled crater where it must have once rested. Furik had to shield his eyes to get a proper look. “But it’s amazing…”

    “Hey Furik!” He looked towards the source of the sound, where Ray was waiting with Mr. and Mrs. Merchant, as well as Ichirou and Nora. “Come on over so we can get paid!”

    “Right!” Furik ran over to join the group, a wide grin plastered on his face. “We’re here!”

    Mr. Merchant nodded to Furik, then to Ray. “You both did good work, defending us from those wilds. Who knows what would have happened if we didn’t request your help?”

    Nora scoffed. “I probably could have thought something up.”

    Mrs. Merchant chuckled. “I don’t doubt it.”

    “Neither do I!” Ray added.

    Mr. Merchant tried to ignore those three, shaking his head, then looked to Ichirou. “You have the payment?”

    “Yes, I do.” Ichirou walked forward, clutching a small sack of coins. He handed it to Ray. “Thanks to both of you.”

    Furik felt a little left out, not getting the money, but he decided it didn’t matter. But then, Ray turned to him. “Here Furik.”

    “Huh?” Ray held out the coin sack, prompting a confused look from Furik. “You’re giving me the money? We’re not splitting it?”

    “Well, I figured you need it more than I do. Already have plenty of Poké on hand, so.” He shrugged.

    Furik took it off his hands and looked into the pouch. Four gold and ten silver, ninety Poké in all. “Th-thank you!”

    “Spend it wisely,” Ichirou said to him.

    Furik looked up and turned to him. “Wait, are Sota and Sachiko not gonna say goodbye?”

    Ichirou shook his head. “No, Sachiko’s asleep. And Sota said he’d rather wait in the carriage.”

    “Oh.” Furik was hoping to say a proper goodbye, and really end things on a good note with him. But there was an alternative. “When you get back, tell Sota I’ll be rooting for him.” He took a glance at Nora, who nodded her approval.

    Ichirou seemed surprised, unaware of any conversation the two may have had. But he still accepted. “Sure, I will.”

    Mr. Merchant seemed a bit perplexed too, but let it go, as it obviously wasn’t that important. “We’re going to do an inventory check before heading into the market, so you two can head on ahead without us.”

    “Right. Hope to see you again, then!” Ray waved.

    “Yeah, goodbye!” And Furik waved too.

    When all farewells were given, Furik and Ray headed off towards the town proper. “So how was it?” Ray asked.

    “The escort?”

    “Yeah.”

    Furik had to think about it. It wasn’t a smooth ride. But in the end…

    “It was great!” He looked up to Ray, who smiled.

    “Glad you got some enjoyment out of it. Sorry if the whole ‘I have a daughter’ thing shook you up,” he said, apologising.

    Furik wasn’t expecting an apology, of all things! “No, it’s fine! I shouldn’t expect to know everything about you. I’m just glad we’re traveling together.”

    It was a subtle change in his face, but Ray looked relieved. “I’m glad too.”

    And so, the two arrived in Murosei.

    ----------
    ----------


    Oh my god it’s done.

    Like, damn.

    Let’s start by being professional here. Now that Chapter 3 is posted, work begins on Chapter 4. I don’t expect Chapter 4 to take nearly as long as 3: a lot of the stuff in Chapter 4 is stuff I’ve been wanting to write for almost as long as this fic has been a thing. It’s also a monster in terms of length, so it probably won’t be ready within a week, but it’ll probably be done sometime in March. Chapter 5, on the other hand… We’ll get to that when we get to that. Point is, I don’t see another hiatus in the near future, and assuming that Chapter 5 doesn’t kill me, the fic will probably be done by May. Chapter 5 is not the last chapter, I’m just that confident everything afterwards will be a cinch to write. It may or may not help that I’ve basically already written the rest.

    Okay now to drop the professionalism ohmygoditsdoneicanfinallymoveonwithmylifeyouhavenoideahowmuchthishasbeenkillingmeforthepastyearlikeseriouslyholyshititwasroughandimcryingrightnowandineedtogotobedbuticantstopbecauseohmygoditsdone.

    So yeah that. Chapter 3 is one of the most important chapters in the fic, as far as set up goes. This had to be nailed, which is exactly why I’m almost certain I screwed up half of it. And it doesn’t help that I may have already screwed up in some areas not even related to this chapter. But that’s a conversation reserved for when I’m finally done with this spinoff. Anyway, this chapter was hard to write, I had to resort to some writing techniques that I’m pretty sure had a negative impact on the quality, which you may or may not have noticed. But it’s also done, and I can finally move onwards to Chapter 4. I’m incredibly excited for what’s coming up… and also incredibly nervous, because I don’t know how any of it will go down. But still excited.

    Like always, feedback is super appreciated, especially since it's been so long. Next time, we get to see Murosei proper, and learn more about Darkrai.

    Also dangit Game Freak, the title of the main project was Sword and then you had to go and do this to me. I mean, I have a subtitle, so I guess I’m using that now, but still.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  11. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    First of all, I wanna say that I'm thrilled you're still going with this fic, and glad I could play a role in motivating you to keep going!

    (Also I feel like this video is hilariously appropriate here.)

    It might just be me, but I feel like this chapter would have worked fine being split in two at the spot where you separated the posts. The first post actually had its own satisfying conclusion in a way that mid-chapter breaks don't always have (at least, most of my long chapters arise from simply having no satisfying spot to break it up.) They also have a nice thematic separation, what with the first half being mostly about Furik realizing he doesn't know as much about Ray as he thought, and the second half being about the realization that the world isn't as black and white as he thought, and also the theme of fighting to accomplish a goal you might not be 'naturally suited' to. Of course, nothing wrong with long chapters, and I can also see the merit of keeping the entire journey to Murosei in one package. Just something to think about for future chapter splits.

    It was a little amusing how shocked Furik was that he doesn't know everything about this guy he just started traveling with. xD Okay, okay, I know he'd been hearing Ray's stories ever since he was a kid (and the flashbacks to when he was a Sentret were adorable.) It was still a weeee bit cringey when he actually got upset that Ray hadn't told him everything. As if he was supposed to. But luckily he didn't dwell on those feelings too much, and already by the middle of the chapter, had started to realize that Ray had this whole host of life experiences he hadn't learned about yet, and that was okay (and that he himself might be the same someday.) Not only was it good to see him come to terms with that, but it also fits his character to never let himself dwell on the negatives for too long.

    I liked the battle with the Houndour pack. Got some nice action, and even though Furik didn't think he got to do much, you did a good job keeping him relevant in the fight regardless. And I know that you take the approach of Pokemon being pretty sturdy, but hot damn, a knife to the skull and that Houndour was still trucking! :O

    And we got into some heavy stuff with the second half. At first, I thought you were going for the hard separation a lot of PMD fics have between feral and civil Pokemon. But no, they're the same here. Wild Pokemon literally just have a different life experience, and that's it. Casting that doubt on Furik's goal of adventuring in the process (and I'm sure it will complicate things later.) But, I like his decision to frame it as less going around beating up wilds, and more protecting those who need it. And I really liked those moments we got with Furik and Sota, and the struggles of wanting to pursue a life that you might not be suited to, but being willing to work toward it anyway.

    Anyway, like I said, glad to have ya back and looking forward to more!

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
    JFought likes this.
  12. gwen-watson

    gwen-watson A Marvel Baby

    I've got to say, I always thought Furret was adorable. And this particular Furret has me grinning. He's so resourceful despite his naivete, and he's a likable character.

    I'm seriously getting Redwall vibes from this. Furik is so enjoyable to read.
     
    JFought likes this.
  13. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    It took a bit longer than I said it would, but I did say it wouldn’t take as long as Chapter 3, so I was still half right. But first, there are some reviews to reply to!

    Okay, so the link was broken and I went to inspect the element so that I could type it into my search bar and see what it was. But then it auto-filled and I got super confused because the chances of me having used a random video link before are super low. And then the video loaded and everything suddenly made sense. So that was the highlight of that day.

    Anyway,

    I kinda agree, but there’s a problem. The problem, and the reason why Chapter 3 is so long, is because I’m aiming for a very specific chapter count here, so if I were to split the chapter, I’d have to move around some of the other events too. I do have an idea for as to how I could do it, but it would involve some pretty heavy rewrites in some areas, since it involves combining Chapters 1 and 2, which causes conflicts with chapter prologues and a whole slew of other oddities. Considering that I’m kinda in “let’s just get this done” mode, I’m a little averse to doing something that would warrant starting up a whole new thread. Though I do plan on coming back to this someday, so maybe when that day comes around in the future I’ll see what I can do.

    Yeah, Furik has a little bit of an ego sometimes. He’s mature enough to recognize that things don’t revolve around him, but if he were a couple years younger then that’d be a different story. Part of it in this case stems from how much Furik values his relationship with Ray, and how much pride he puts into “knowing” him, which pretty much got shattered in this chapter. I’m a little relieved his acceptance of that was well received, as this whole debacle was something I struggled with back when I was writing.

    I’m glad you liked the battle! This fic doesn’t feature all that many battles, so I kinda needed this one to establish some things about Furik’s abilities and what battles look like in this setting. As for Pokémon durability, this setting’s approach is simultaneously the most and least durable interpretation you can come up with, I’m pretty sure. It’s also one of the quirks of the setting that I’m anxious about, it’s a little unconventional, though I hesitate to give it away right here. It won’t be spelled out explicitly in the coming chapters, but you can probably start to piece it together by paying attention to some of the details, both with what’s coming up and what has already been gone over.

    This is definitely something important. The main project (and Chronicles of a Furret by extension) takes a very anime-esque approach to Pokémon in most places, and the anime doesn’t feature that distinction either. It's definitely important to keep in mind, especially going into future chapters, as the idea behind it extends a bit farther than the problems wild Pokémon face.

    I wasn’t sure how the Furik/Sota conversations would be received. I guess how it goes down depends on the person, really, but I’m glad you liked it! There are some points where I feel I might have been a bit melodramatic, though I think that can be chalked up to me still learning how to adequately write dramatic conversations.

    And I’m glad you’re still reading, honestly! I hope you can enjoy what’s coming up, too!

    I’m happy to see you like him! I’ve never read any of the Redwall books, but judging from what I know about the series I get the feeling that I’d probably like them. Not to say I haven’t taken some inspiration from animal-focused books (I may have been completely obsessed with Warriors as a kid… and i still am please send help before the next arc kills me).

    And now, Chapter 4 is here! We have finally made it to Murosei, and with it…

    It isn’t really that bad, but from this point on it will become increasingly apparent exactly why I rated this fic PG-13. I say this because up to this point it has been PG at worst, and fairly lighthearted, so this might come as a shock to anyone who isn’t prepared. Again, for this chapter it’s not that bad, but this is the point where the rating starts to justify itself, so if this sounds worrying to you, then make sure you’re prepared before moving forward.

    With that out of the way, I’ve been looking forward to this chapter for a long while, so let’s go.

    ----------
    ----------


    -------------------------------------------
    Chapter 4 - Always be prepared
    -------------------------------------------


    ~~~

    11th day, Month of Kakura, 1839.

    The sentret poked his head out from behind the ledian guide’s desk. “When’s he coming?” he asked.

    “Can you stop asking that?” Mr. Guide gave an exasperated sigh. “He still needs to get out of bed, y’know.”

    “But he’s taking forever!” Furik slammed on the desk. “I wanna see Ray now!”

    Mr. Guide groaned and buried his head in his four arms. “Gods, please help me. I don’t care which one, I’m not picky. Just save me.”

    Thirty minutes passed, and no one came. Mr. Guide was about to blame Dialga for his misfortune, when finally the door opened. It was Ray. A sigh: “Thank you.”

    “Ray!” Furik vaulted over the desk and stood in front of Ray, scowling. “What took you so long? You were asleep forever!”

    “Come on, Furik, give me a break!” The chesnaught absentmindedly scratched the back of his head. “I got here in the middle of the night yesterday. Had to make up for it somehow!”

    Furik wrinkled his nose. “That’s a terrible excuse!”

    “Hey, rule number… four of the adventurer’s code!” Ray beat a hand against his chest. “Never forget your beauty sleep!”

    “That’s not even rule number four!”

    “It isn’t?”

    Furik shook his head. “No. Rule number four of the adventurer’s code!” He performed the same pose as Ray. “Always help those in need!”

    “Dang, an important one, too!” Ray kneeled down and gave the sentret an apologetic smile. “Sorry I forgot about that. You’ll forgive me, right?”

    Furik sized him up. Should he forgive him? “Mmm… Sure. But you need to look at something first!”

    “Oh?” Ray watched Furik run over to the desk, where Mr. Guide handed down a poster he had set off to the side.

    “My dad put up a request!” He flaunted it to Ray, eyes sparkling as the chesnaught took it in.

    But Ray didn’t share Furik’s enthusiasm. “Are you sure? This is a delivery request. I’ll have to leave early to get this one done.”

    Furik’s eyes stopped sparkling and started widening. “Wait what?!” Taking another look, he recognized one word. “Beimen… I don’t want you to leave for there already!”

    Ray got to thinking. “Well… How about I talk to your dad first? If it’s not too urgent, I might be able to put it off for a while.

    “Okay…”

    As he followed Ray out of the Traveler’s Office and to his own house, Furik couldn’t help but feel dejected at the fact that Ray might be leaving early this time. He didn’t mean to give him a request that forced him to. He just thought it’d be cool to see Ray help the family out.

    Around the time the house was in sight, Ray finally noticed. “Hey, I might not be leaving, you know. We can still spend time together.”

    “Yeah, but… you might be leaving.” Furik’s tail dragged across the ground, collecting dirt. “I wish I never showed that to you...”

    “Now hold on there, Furik.” Ray stopped and kneeled to face Furik on level. “I know it sucks that I might be leaving early, but you still did a good thing.”

    “Huh?”

    “By showing me that request, you’re helping your dad out. That’s pretty noble, to be looking out for your family like that.”

    “...But-”

    “Here, I’ll ask him if it’s urgent. If it isn’t, then I’ll stay here for another day, and we can spend the entire afternoon doing whatever you want.” Ray pat Furik’s head. “Sound good?”

    “Really?” Furik asked, to which Ray nodded his reply. He removed the chesnaught’s large paw and rushed ahead. “Then let’s hurry up!”

    Exasperated, Ray shook his head and followed. At Furik’s home, he talked to the smeargle living there about the request. “Urgent? Not really. I usually guarantee that works get there in about a week as long as it’s not a long distance, so there’s not much of a rush,” said Furik’s father.

    “Awesome!” exclaimed Furik. “Then we can spend time together!”

    “Hold on.”

    A voice, shaky yet determined, came from behind Cheng. It was Furik’s mother. She shot a dirty look at Ray and crossed her arms. “Furik, I’d like to talk to you before you leave.”

    Furik tilted his head. “Huh? What for?”

    “It’s private.” Again, she glared at Ray.

    The chesnaught shifted uncomfortably. “You should probably do as she says.”

    Cheng looked at his mate, trying to figure out how to deal with the situation. And he decided: “Do as your mother says, Furik.”

    Furik felt the fur along his back prickle. “O-Okay…” He had a bad feeling that he knew what she wanted to talk to him about, and it filled him with dread as he entered the house and followed her to her room.

    She let Furik in and closed the door behind her. “So earlier today the neighbors came up to me,” she started. Furik gulped: he was right. She caught his fear and glared in response. “They thanked me, you know. They said you were really brave to go out there and find their daughter’s toy.”

    The sentret looked down. “I just wanted to help…”

    She shook her head. “That’s not your job. That’s for adventurers to take care of.”

    Furik tried a change in tactics. “But it wasn’t dangerous! I just had to go out of town a little bit, it wasn’t bad!”

    “That’s because you got lucky! Imagine what would have happened if a wild pokémon found you!”

    “Then I would’ve fought it!”

    Freya’s eyes widened, her face changing to an expression of horror. “Furik…” She hugged herself. “I knew it, you’ve been spending too much time with Ray.”

    “What do you mean?” His heart froze. He didn’t like where this was going.

    She hesitated, but only for a moment. “Furik, I’m sorry, but you can’t be an adventurer.”

    “What?!” Can’t be an adventurer? The idea made no sense to Furik. “Why not?!”

    “Because the world is too dangerous for a sentret like you.”

    “But I plan on evolving! Then I’ll be strong enough!”

    “It’s too dangerous for a furret, too!” His mother was already exhausted. She didn’t want to have to break this to him, but if she didn’t then who knows what he’d try to do? He’d be lucky to last a month in that profession.

    She moved closer and pet Furik’s head. “You don’t have to be an adventurer. You can be a guide instead. They deal with maps and adventurer’s all the time, and you can be helpful to everyone in Caifeng.”

    Furik bat her paw away. “But I don’t want to be a guide! Guides don’t get to explore!”

    Freya felt a flash of anger at his behavior. She tried her best to stifle it. “But exploring isn’t what we’re meant to do. We’re not built for that.”

    “What do you mean not built for it?” The sentret’s mood started to fall. “I thought anyone could explore, pokémon travel all the time.”

    “They do, but traveling is dangerous, especially for us. There’s a lot of fighting involved, and furret aren’t meant for fighting. We’re too weak.”

    “Weak? But…” Furik started to shiver. “B-but I want to be an adventurer…”

    It broke her heart to see her son like this, to be the one to do this to him. She almost faltered, seeing him like that. But she touched her missing ear to remind herself, and ran her paw down the scar that was hidden by her fur. She embraced him in a hug. “I know. I understand how you feel. But it just can’t happen.”

    “But what if I train?” Furik tried to say.

    “No amount of training can make up for that. I’m sorry.”

    “But what if…” He choked up. “There has to be a way, though! There always is!”

    “Not always, my little Furik,” She rubbed his back in a circular pattern. “But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There’s plenty of things you can still do, you just have to try.”

    “You think so?”

    “I know so.” She ended the hug and rubbed Furik’s teared-up eyes for him.

    “Can I still spend time with Ray?” he asked.

    Freya shook her head. “I don’t know about that.”

    “But he doesn’t come by that often.” He pushed her paws away again and rubbed his eyes himself. “And I won’t do anything dangerous anymore, I promise.”

    She still felt wary about Ray’s influence on him. He could be filling his head with all kinds of stuff. But she thought that maybe she could counter that by keeping him reigned in. It couldn’t be that difficult. She nodded to him. “Okay, but you have to be back before sunset, or you can’t see him anymore.”

    “Okay!” He ran off, not even giving her another chance for a hug. Freya sighed. Why couldn’t he just be like the rest of his siblings? That would’ve made things so much easier. But still, it was done, and he seemed to take it pretty well.

    She left that conversation feeling good about the situation. But later on she would learn to regret those words, for she didn’t realize that Furik took their meaning differently from how she intended.

    “I’m weak, but that’s not a bad thing. Because I just have to find out how to get around it. Because anyone can do anything, there is always a way, every problem has a solution.”

    “I just have to try.”

    ~~~

    23rd day, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    Walking down the open road, past the fields and wooden houses, Furik looked onwards with excitement. Soruku soared in the sky overhead, birds of all shapes and sizes flying in the space between that city and this one. A staravia landed on the wooden roof a building nearby and greeted the vileplume in front of it. A couple of pink, wooly pokémon waved to Ray as he passed them by; Ray waved back and Furik couldn’t help but join him too, though the ‘mon looked confused. The buildings, sparse and separated on the outskirts, started to grow more crowded and numerous, joining together until they all hugged the main road going into the town proper.

    Murosei, the Town of Rebirth. From what Furik knew, it was once known as Murosai, the City of Freedom, and it had a pretty long history. One of Liber’s first towns, it used to be the capital of Prestin before an incident with a legendary pokémon burned it down to the ground. The aftermath led to the creation of Soruku, and Murosai was rebuilt as Murosei. Continuing onward, he couldn’t help but notice how some of the buildings were made of stone; clearly they learned a lesson.

    As him and Ray traveled deeper into the heart of the town, the stone buildings began to completely replace the wooden ones. While the road grew more crowded, the single-story buildings helped alleviate any sense of claustrophobia from the narrowing road. But that only made the occasional two-story building stand out even more. These looked almost out of place, made of sturdier bricks and with a different approach to design. They also looked quite old; maybe remnants of the old Murosai? It was also deeper into the town that Furik started to see signs of Darkrai’s influence. Many pokémon wandered the streets with tired looks and dark circles. “Probably from Darkrai’s nightmares.” It was a little disheartening to see; a reminder of what he came here to do.

    Furik shook his head and focused. The whole time so far, he was just following Ray and sightseeing. He didn’t really know where they were going. “Are we going to the Traveler’s Office?” he asked.

    “Kinda. We’re going to the Guild Center. We need to get you registered in Prestin, after all.”

    “Oh right, a Guild Center!” That was the other thing about Murosei. Instead of Traveler’s Offices, large towns like Murosei had Guild Centers. Usually they were only in country capitals, but Prestin was one of the few exceptions to that rule. The Guild Center was essentially the main hub for law enforcement. The governments of Liber took interest in the many nomadic pokémon who traveled around the continent, so they created the Adventurer system in order to incentivize them to act as Liber’s problem-solvers. Anyone could take on and complete a request, but if they were registered with the country’s Guild Center as a certified adventurer, then they got monetary bonuses, along with a shiny badge and other perks too. If Furik wanted to be a real adventurer, then his goal was to visit each Guild Center and become certified in every country. “And since Hivech’s Guild Center wasn’t on my route to Soruku, that means this one is my first chance to get a badge.”

    Eventually the road opened into a triangular plaza. With three sides and a crumbling-yet-functional fountain in the center, Murosei’s Guild Center was given away by the winged crest of Prestin featured prominently on its front. The large two-story building took up the entirety of one of the plaza’s sides, leaving the other two to various other facilities. Furik could spot the resident kecleon shop, what seemed to be a restaurant, the pecha symbol of an infirmary, an inn… Almost everything an adventurer would need seemed to be here. “That’s pretty convenient. It wasn’t like that in the other towns I visited.”

    “Furik?”

    Furik didn’t realize he stopped moving. Ray was waiting for him up ahead. “Oh, coming!”

    Together, the two entered the Guild Center building. Immediately, it opened up into a huge lobby. Pokémon of all kinds, both new and familiar, were wandering around, making conversation and performing duties. A primeape and a large brown pokémon were looking at the request board, a group of a pidgeot, noctowl, and fearow were talking around a table, and up at the desk was a purple pokémon with two tails ending in odd appendages. “He must be the guide.”

    Murosei’s Mr. Guide had dark circles under his eyes, yet despite that he seemed to be pretty energetic, his excitement showing when he spotted Ray. “Hey there Ray!” he greeted, waving both a paw and a tail. He paused when he saw the furret following behind him. “Who’s this?”

    “This is Furik, my new partner!” Ray pat him on the back, and this time Furik was ready for it. He only barely staggered. “We’re here to get him registered.”

    “A new partner?” Mr. Guide looked skeptically at the furret in front of him.

    “Yeah!” Furik exclaimed, ignoring the look. He slipped into routine. “I’m Furik the Furret, adventurer extraordinaire!”

    The guide’s expression didn’t change. “Well, he’s confident. Where’s he from?”

    “He’s from Caifeng.” Ray met Mr. Guide’s gaze just as confidently. “He might not seem like much, but I have high hopes for him!”

    Mr. Guide seemed a little surprised by the praise, but it wore off, and he replaced it with a smile. “When it comes from you, Ray, I’m willing to believe it. You said Furik here needs to register with us?”

    “Yeah, how does it work?” asked Furik.

    “You just need to fill out some paperwork. Hold on a minute.” Mr. Guide disappeared behind the desk as he used his tails to rifle through drawers.

    Ray took a quick glance behind him. “While you’re doing that, Furik, I think I’m going to talk to some old friends real quick. That okay?”

    Furik noticed where he was looking: the primeape and that large brown pokémon. “Yeah sure. I don’t know how long it’ll take, so…”

    “I’ll be back in a bit, then.” And Ray left to go talk to them. Furik watched as the two lit up, and they all started greeting each other. He felt that pain again, the pain of feeling left out. “Ugh, stop feeling that way. It’s fine. I’ll get used to it, especially when I get the chance to make a bunch of friends too…”

    “Here’s the form,” said Mr. Guide, snapping Furik out of his thoughts. He placed down a piece of paper with one tail and held a pen in the other. “And here’s a pen. Don’t worry about ink, it’s automatic. Just fill it out and sign at the bottom.”

    Furik nodded, not sure about what ‘automatic’ meant. “Okay.”

    “And if you have any questions about Murosei, feel free to ask!”

    “Got it.”

    So this was it: the form to get him certified as a real adventurer. Well, in Prestin, at least. He picked up the ‘automatic’ pen and started reading. It asked for name, species, town of birth, date of birth, and any additional notes. And after that, a contract, that as far as Furik could tell basically said ‘don’t be a criminal and we won’t revoke your badge.’ He went over to sign his name, curious as to what ‘automatic pen,’ was supposed to mean, and upon placing it to the paper found that ink came out of it! “Woah! That’s what he meant by automatic!” He held the pen up and marveled at it. “That’s so cool, why did no one ever think of this before?!”

    He suddenly noticed the confused expression on Mr. Guide’s face. Sheepishly, Furik gathered himself and got back to writing down his information, though he continued to be amazed in secret as he made each stroke.

    Furik eventually put the pen down. “Okay, finished!” he announced.

    “I’ll just take that then.” Mr. Guide grabbed the paper, once again using one of his tails. “Does he just not like using his arms?” After placing the paper on a stack behind him, he reached into a nearby box with the other tail and pulled out a metallic object. “And here’s your badge.”

    Furik stared at the badge held in front of him with bewilderment. “Wait, that quickly?!”

    “Normally the form has to get approved first, but we rarely ever reject anyone, and you seem to be old enough. So here you go.”

    Furik took the badge out of the grip of Mr. Guide’s tail. He immediately got to admiring the handiwork. A silver badge shaped in Prestin’s crest: a pair of outstretched wings coming from a small, unassuming circle. “Thank you Mr. Guide!”

    Mr. Guide didn’t seem to know how to respond to that. “U-uh, sure, no problem.”

    Furik wanted to show Ray right away. But as he saw when he turned around, Ray still hadn’t finished conversation with those adventurers. “Should I introduce myself? They look pretty into their conversation…” Furik sighed.

    “By the way,” Mr. Guide piped up. “If you have any questions, I’m here to answer them.”

    “Oh.” Furik almost forgot about that offer. He did have a few things he wanted to ask. “I have a few questions. Like, what kind of pokémon are you?”

    “I’m an ambipom.” The ambipom waved his tails around to showcase them. “And for the record, the smaller version with one tail is called an aipom.”

    “Ambipom and aipom, got it.” He stored that to memory and thought of his next question. Really, there was only one thing to ask. “I heard Darkrai is in this town?”

    “Oh, don’t worry about that!” Mr. Guide raised his arms and tails in defense. “It’s not actually in the town, it’s hiding out in the forest near the lake. We have everything under control right now, but it will still take a few days before we’ve dealt with the problem, so we’re terribly sorry if your stay in Murosei is sleepless!”

    “I-I’ll be fine,” Furik reassured, a little flustered by the reaction he got. “I think he misunderstood what I meant. But I know where Darkrai is now.” That was one question about Murosei answered, but there was still another bothering him. “I saw a bunch of buildings with two floors out there, and they looked really old. Were they from Murosai?”

    Mr. Guide raised his brow. “I’m surprised you know about Murosai, but no, Murosai was made entirely out of wood, so it’s all gone. And besides, they’re older than that. This place used to be a human city way back before we took it. You came here from Hivech, so you’ve been to Liubao, right?”

    Liubao, the town famous for being built out of a human fort. “Oh,” Furik said as he figured out what he was getting at. “I didn’t realize it was the same thing.”

    “I know there are a few places famous for it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find human ruins elsewhere in Liber. Not that I know much about it either.”

    That was yet another thing Furik had to think about on his journey. The ruins weren’t dangerous or anything, they weren’t even on his mother’s list of what not to do. But he didn’t think they’d be anywhere near common. “I didn’t think anything could last that long. Maybe I should start looking out for them.”

    “Any other questions?”

    “Um…” Furik tried thinking: there was something, but what was it? His paw absentmindedly settled on his bag, where it brushed against a tear. “Oh yeah, I do!” He held up his beat-up satchel to show it off. “On my journey, my bag got beat up real bad, and I heard there was a tailor in town who could fix it?”

    “There is! From here, if you take the north exit towards the lake, then it’ll take you to another plaza. The tailor’s shop is there; look for an ariados. Do you know what those look like?”

    Furik nodded. “Yes, I do. Thanks again!”

    “So!” Ray’s voice boomed behind Furik. “Did you get your badge?”

    Furik perked up and turned around. “Yup!” He held it up to show it off. “I’m a certified adventurer in Prestin now!”

    Ray grinned. “Great to see!”

    “Did you need something too, Ray?” asked Mr. Guide.

    “Nah, I’m just picking up Furik.” Ray finally seemed to take note of the ambipom’s good attitude. “Y’know, you seem pretty chipper today, considering what’s goin’ on right now. Something good happen?”

    Mr. Guide rubbed his head with a tail. “Oh, nothing much. The Guildmaster has some big plans in the works, and we’ve made great progress on them recently, so pardon me if I seem a little excited.”

    “Huh, hope it all goes well then!” Ray lifted a hand in farewell. “See you later!”

    Furik mimicked the action. “Yeah, see you later!”

    They left the guide and the Guild Center behind and walked out into the plaza. Furik started to feel a little sheepish. “I wonder…” “Did you talk about me?” he asked.

    Ray turned around, a grin on his face. “Yeah, why do you ask? Checking to make sure I bragged about ya?”

    Furik’s cheeks felt hot with embarrassment. He scratched an ear. “It doesn’t sound very nice when you put it like that…”

    The chesnaught let out a hearty laugh. “I’m just messin’ with you! I said nothing but good things, don’t worry about it. Once word gets around you might become famous!”

    “Famous?” “That’s nice and all, but I’m gonna get famous by showing everyone how capable I am,” Furik declared. “And the first step to that is helping you beat Darkrai!”

    Ray’s expression changed. “Darkrai… right...”

    Furik heard the hesitation in his voice. “What’s wrong?”

    “N-nothing!” He turned away. “I was just thinking, if we’re gonna fight against a legendary pokémon we should probably make sure we’re prepared, y’know.”

    “Right! Rule number three of the adventurer’s code!” Furik put a paw to his chest. “Always be prepared!”

    “Rule number three?” said Ray, a little confused. “I might be wrong, but wasn’t that rule number two?”

    “Oh yeah, he doesn’t know about that.” “It used to be,” he explained. “But I added a new rule for number one, and it moved all the other ones down.”

    “A new rule, huh? That makes what, seven now?”

    “Six.”

    “Right, six!”

    Furik deflated a little bit. “He was never good at remembering them.”

    “We should make sure we follow that rule and be prepared first,” Ray said as he started moving again. “Plus this will give you an opportunity to get acquainted with the city.”

    “And we can do that together!” Furik caught up and walked by his side. “Oh, but first I need to visit the tailor’s shop so I can get my bag repaired.”

    “That’s fine, I actually have a few things I’d like to do first too. How about we split for now and meet back up later?”

    “Sounds good! I’ll see you later then!”

    “Yup, see you later!”

    And so Furik ran off and left Ray behind, taking Mr. Guide’s directions north and following the road as it got closer to the crater lake. From here, there were no buildings to block the view. Furik walked into the plaza and moved up to a small partition blocking the lake off, where he could see the it’s full glory in the shadow of the land that once occupied that spot. Soruku was once part of Murosai, before the Queen at the time, beginning her reign in the aftermath of the city’s destruction, made the decision to raise part of the city into the sky using her own magic, where it would be safe from those who would bring harm to it. The artificial lake in its place gave an idea as to Soruku’s size. While it didn’t quite stretch off into the horizon, it was still massive. And looking directly upward, Furik could see Soruku floating above. “Wow,” Furik whispered to himself. “Is it really that big?” And to get up there, he’d need three-thousand in silver. He looked back down, spotting the forest that ringed around the lake. “That’s where Darkrai is…”

    Furik shook his head. “Focus. Tailor first, then we can do some sightseeing, then Darkrai.” Turning around from where he was standing, Furik could see all the shops in the semicircle plaza. Some were outdoors, but the tailor was more likely to be located in an indoor shop, so he toured around the perimeter, looking at building signs to find which one it was. He found it before long, located right next to the TM shop: “Webspinners Tailor Shop.”

    Furik pushed open the door and peeked inside. The entryway was small, with only a mat and a bit of room for doing business. No one was here. “Hello?” Furik called out. When no one answered immediately, he ventured a little bit farther in and closed the door behind him. “I’m here to see the tailor?”

    Answering the call, an ariados crawled through a doorway in the back… while on the ceiling. He blinked at Furik, his eyes glazed and tired. “Well? What do you want?” he snapped with a raspy voice.

    The sight of the large spider pokémon on the ceiling caused Furik to instinctively tense up. “U-uh, I’m here because I wanted to get something repaired?”

    Mr. Tailor’s eyes came into focus, his irritation fading away. “Don’t worry, I won’t eat you. I’m just a little tired.” He came down to the ground and gestured Furik towards the mat. “Let’s do business: what do you need fixed?”

    Furik internally berated himself for that reaction. “What kind of first impression is that?!” “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me,” he apologized.

    The ariados shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, no harm done. What do you need fixed?”

    “This.” Furik took off his satchel and placed it on the mat. “My bag got ripped up a while back, and I’d like to have it repaired.”

    “Hm.” Mr. Tailor took a look at each of the tears, poking and prodding at it as he did so. “It doesn’t look too bad. I’ll have it done in about an hour. It will cost you sixty silver.”

    “Okay.”

    “But first, you need to empty out the bag. You can leave the stuff here.”

    Furik got to doing so. He took out his remaining five oran berries, his spare knife, the list of What Not To Do, the cleanse tag, his ripped wallet and the other wallet he got from the escort request, and finally…

    “What’s that?” The ariados narrowed his eyes.

    “Huh?” Furik had taken out Darkrai’s bounty poster, the one he took from the last town. “Oh this? This is the request I plan on doing tonight.” He proudly put a paw to his chest, even though he knew it would look ridiculous with what he was about to say. “I’m going to take on Darkrai!”

    Mr. Tailor just stared at him. When he spoke, he did so with a fierceness that put Furik on edge again. “Don’t even try.”

    Furik’s paw fell to his side. “Wh-what?”

    “I don’t know if you’re an idiot or just naive, but you should know that if that bounty hasn’t already been claimed, then chances are you can’t handle it. Adventurers much stronger than you have tried, and none have succeeded. About half of them came back saying they didn’t even get a chance to battle. They saw it and lost instantly, waking up the next day with no idea of what happened. What makes you think you’ll be any different?”

    Furik stepped back. This spoke directly to one of the things on the list his mom gave him. Don’t take on requests that are too much for you. He clenched his paws. “But with that logic, no one will ever catch Darkrai. How are we supposed to get rid of them then?”

    “You should know that the adventurers in the Guild have a plan to deal with this situation. You can try if you want, but know that you don’t have to, and that it won’t get anywhere.”

    “But I have to try anyway. I have to get to Soruku.” He didn’t want to say that out loud. He didn’t want to be told again that Soruku wasn’t worth it. “I don’t care if it isn’t worth it, I’m going anyway.”

    A click of Mr. Tailor’s mandibles got Furik’s attention again. “Sixty for the bag repair.”

    He paid the ariados and left his bag there to be repaired. Standing outside the tailor’s shop, he found himself hung up on what the tailor said. “No, it’s how he said it.” Furik looked around him, trying to pay attention to the ‘mon milling about, and that’s when he noticed it. An oppressive tension that filled the air. Everyone moved quickly, citizens peeked out windows, outdoor shopkeepers kept stealing glances at Soruku above. No, not just shopkeepers: everyone was looking up, taking every chance they got to stare at the sky with a look that sent chills down Furik’s spine. “What’s going on here? Everyone’s on edge, and there’s this weird feeling in the air. Is it because of Darkrai?”

    He didn’t know what to call this feeling. The closest word he had was ‘apprehension,’ but that didn’t quite explain why it bothered him so much. Whatever it was, Darkrai was the only explanation that Furik could think of. He began to move back towards the Guild Center so he could meet up with Ray. “I’ve never seen something like this before. I don’t know what it is, but it has to be because of Darkrai. Everyone’s just tired and scared because they can’t get rid of them. That’s probably it.”

    Furik stared at his paw and clenched it. “So that’s why Darkrai needs to be taken down. Once it’s done, the town can finally go back to normal.”

    ---

    The sun passed through the sky, Furik picked up his bag, Ray met with him near a local café, they toured the city, and at the end of it all, with the sun hanging low, the two found themselves in front of the inn. While the tour was somewhat marred by that feeling the town seemed to exude, Ray somehow managed to help dispel that. His very presence lifted the spirits of all he passed by, as if by just being there he’s solved all of their issues. “Ray’s strong. Everyone knows him and depends on him. And he can defeat Darkrai, I know he can.”

    Furik sat against the inn wall as Ray got a room for them, and took the time to admire the work done on his bag again. He wasn’t sure about Mr. Tailor at first, since he seemed mean and exhausted, but the amount of respect he had for the love and care his parents originally put into the work showed. If Furik hadn’t witnessed the damage himself, he would never had known the bag got ripped up in the first place.

    “Come on, let’s go,” Ray called out. He followed him to their room, where the chesnaught unlocked the door and pushed it open, barely fitting his large frame into the doorway. The room he ordered was a large one, with two straw beds and enough space for the both of them.

    “Okay, this looks good. And pretty soon it’ll be time.” Furik looked to Ray, who set his hammer up against one of the walls. “Are we ready to go?” he asked with enthusiasm.

    But Ray did not reciprocate that enthusiasm. “Yeah. Sure.”

    Furik tilted his head in a question. “Is something wrong?”

    “Well…” Ray stared at his hammer for a while, then sighed. “You know, I was thinking. Maybe we shouldn’t.”

    Furik’s heart froze. He didn’t like where this was going. “Shouldn’t what?”

    “The whole Darkrai thing. It’s a bit much for a furret and a chesnaught, don’t you think?”

    He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “But you’re not just any chesnaught!” Furik retorted. “You’re Ray! You’re the strongest pokémon I know!”

    “I think you’re overestimating me.” Ray continued to avoid Furik’s gaze. “When you’ve traveled as long as I have, you find out that there’s some crazy stuff out there, stuff you could never hope to compare to.”

    Furik shook his head. Was this really Ray, saying all of this before him? “This isn’t like you. What happened to fighting Darkrai anyway? Because the chance to fight a legendary was rare and you wanted to take it?” He raised his voice. “And what about Murosei! Someone needs to solve this so that everyone here can get sleep!”

    “And the Murosei guild has a plan to solve it. We don’t need to risk our lives for this.”

    This wasn’t happening. His trump card, the entire reason why he stood a chance against Darkrai in the first place, had changed his mind. “But… but we have to do it anyway…”

    Ray, noticing how distraught his partner was, finally brought himself to look at him. It was a look of concern. “Furik? I didn’t think you’d care so much, what’s wrong?”

    “I…” Furik hesitated in saying it. He was afraid of hearing it again, but he didn’t want to keep this a secret. “I need the money to go to Soruku.”

    “Soruku?!” Ray’s face turned to a mixture of surprise and horror. “That’s what you came here for?!”

    Furik flinched. He didn’t take it well after all. “Y-yeah, I’ve always wanted to go there. But it’s too expensive, and this bounty is the only quick way to make that much.”

    Ray walked up to Furik and kneeled down in front of him. The look on the chesnaught’s face was deadly serious, and it scared him. “Furik, I’ve been all around Liber, and Soruku is the one place I’ve never been to. You know why?”

    “...Because you’re too big?”

    “Because I’ve never heard good things about it. Not once.”

    “Fifth time. And… from Ray.” Anger started to build deep inside him. “Of all pokémon, why Ray? How could he say that?”

    Ray continued, carefully now. “I changed my mind on the Darkrai thing because I realized that I still have something to live for. And you do too. Trying to go against a legendary pokémon is suicide for ‘mon like us.”

    “But if we work together, we can beat them!” Furik insisted. “It’s still possible!”

    Ray shook his head. “No, it isn’t. You don’t realize just how powerful legendaries are.”

    His anger rose higher. Furik’s voice grew dark. “But I want to go to Soruku. I don’t care if it’s a bad place, I made up my mind. And if that means fighting Darkrai, a legendary pokémon, then I’ll do it.”

    And Ray, sadness in his eyes from seeing his friend like this, pat him on the head and let his hand run down the side. “Don’t be stubborn, Furik. Your life’s not worth throwing away for this.”

    “Not worth it?” He sounded like mom. That was exactly the kind of thing she’d say to him. “So that’s what this is about, is it?” Furik’s anger rose to a fever pitch, and he let it out. “...You know what? You’re just a coward.”

    Ray brought his arm back, confused. “What? That’s not it at all, I’m trying to tell you that you’re worth more than this. It’s not an adventurer’s job to get themselves killed!”

    He said it. The rule at the top of his mom’s list of 100 Things to Never Ever Do While Out Adventuring. Don’t be a hero, it’ll only get you killed. He basically said it, Furik didn’t see any difference. “Yeah? And you’re just a coward, if you're not even gonna try. If you’re gonna just let them go and make someone else deal with it because you’re too scared you’ll die.”

    Ray recoiled from the outburst, hurt and confusion clouding his face. “Furik?! Where is this coming from, what’re you-?”

    “Shut up!” Furik turned around and stomped over to the door. “If you’re not gonna help me fight Darkrai, I’m gonna do it myself! I don’t need you!”

    He opened the door and ran. “Furik, wait!”

    But Furik ignored it. He ran out of the inn, past the bewildered receptionist, and into the plaza. “Darkrai is in the forest by the lake, right? I’m going there.” He set his course and turned his run into a Quick Attack to make himself go even faster, letting his newly repaired bag drag against the ground. He wanted to leave Ray far behind. He couldn’t believe any of what he just said. Ray was supposed to encourage him, and tell him to go for it like he always did. Why would he say something different this time? Why would he act like his mother?

    “I don’t care, I’m not going to let him say all of that to me.” Furik had enough of words like that. He didn’t leave home to be told he couldn’t do anything. He was done with being told what he could and couldn’t do. What right did anyone have to decide that for him?

    So he decided for himself, and ran to go fight Darkrai.

    ---

    23rd night, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    The moon hadn’t risen yet, but for the phase it was to be in a couple days, that was no surprise. The effect was that the forest was dark. In every direction, nothing was visible except darkness. Furik couldn’t count the amount of times he almost ran into a tree, and truthfully he wasn’t even sure where he was. He lost track a while ago after he entered. And with so little light, it was all too easy to imagine him walking right into the lake without realizing. He could only rely on the stars and Soruku’s silhouette to give him direction. “The less stars I see, the closer I am to the lake. So try not to go underneath Soruku.”

    The only sense that seemed to be worth anything here was smell, as the forest was deadly quiet too. Furik shivered involuntarily. What was this feeling coming over him? He was starting to wish he was in Seishu Woods again. Even if it was dangerous there, he could at least hear the danger. But in this empty wood home only to a malicious legendary pokémon, he couldn’t hear anything. There was no way to know if he was in danger or not.

    Furik tried to shake it off. “Darkrai is doing all of this for a reason, right? If I can negotiate, maybe I don’t have to battle them. This can all end peacefully, and...”

    “And I won’t be able to claim the bounty.”

    That was it then. He really did have to battle, there was no way around it.

    “Darkrai!” Furik called out. “I’m here to fight you!” He sounded stupid. He knew he sounded stupid. And insane. And he felt that way too. Who goes around proclaiming they want to battle a legendary nightmare Pokémon? But after so much wandering that was the only way he could figure to get Darkrai to appear. “It’s been so long, and I still haven’t seen them. Did I somehow miss them?” Furik continued moving on, when suddenly he noticed another tree in front of him. “Huh? Oh, oops. I almost ran into that… wait.”

    It wasn’t just that tree. He could see another tree past it, and another, and another. The whole forest was suddenly visible. “What? Where did all that light come from? Why can I-?”

    And then suddenly, a chill ran down Furik’s spine all the way through his tail, causing it and all of his fur to stand on end. He turned around.

    And there it was. Darkrai.

    The poster didn’t do the real thing justice. It’s pitch-black body almost blended into the surroundings, only betrayed by the odd, sourceless light. The red collar around its neck stood out by contrast, along with the white hair, billowing outwards like smoke. But none of it intimidated Furik more than the eye. Bright blue and glowing, with a white pupil. Cold and emotionless. He couldn’t tell anything from it.

    “You called for me?” Darkrai spoke with a voice so deep that Furik had to cover his ears. It was low enough that it hurt to listen to, and he found himself questioning if he was even hearing anything at all, or just imagining it.

    “Y...y-es. I did.” Every part of Furik was screaming at him to run away, but he got this far, he knew he couldn’t back down anymore.

    “Why?” he asked. With a voice like that, Furik could only guess they were a he.

    “B-because…” He was starting to falter. He wasn’t ready for this, not at all. Maybe he could still get out of it. “Because I need to talk to you.”

    “Talk?” Darkrai scoffed. “You just announced that you were here to fight me.”

    Furik gathered up all his courage. He wasn’t going to let himself be intimidated. “Yeah, I did, but I want to know why you’re doing all this. Why did you attack Ebeld, and why are you terrorizing Murosei?”

    The Darkrai paused. His eye still refused to tell anything. Then he gave his answer. “Because I can.”

    “What?!” That feeling in Murosei, the panic he’s caused both here and in Yagora, the many pokémon he’s fought and defeated, he did all of that for that kind of reason? “That’s not a reason! Tell me why you really-!”

    His voice cut off. Furik grabbed at his throat. Suddenly, he couldn’t speak anymore.

    Darkrai had his claw grasped in front of him as if he were holding Furik’s throat from all the way over there. “You’ve wasted enough of my time; I don’t need you to waste more of it with some lecture.”

    And then, excruciating pain.

    Furik recoiled in shock from the dark spike that suddenly erupted from his chest. The pain was piercing, coming out from the impact site in suffocating waves. In blind panic, he tried to grab the spike, but when he did his paws felt a shock and drew back. It was as if the spike itself was made of pain. He wanted to scream, or call for help, or something, but his voice refused to work. And then to emphasize that, his breathing cut off entirely.

    The last thing he remembered seeing was that glowing blue eye, unflinching as it watched Furik’s consciousness fade before it.

    ---

    24th day, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    Furik woke up with a start. He clutched his chest. Nothing was there.

    “What…? What happened?” He tried to remember. “I was looking through the forest, Darkrai appeared, and then he… he defeated me instantly. I didn’t even get a chance.”

    “But, how?! That wasn’t even an attack, what was that?!” A spire of darkness, a sourceless light, an unnatural voice. “Nothing about that encounter made sense, what happened?” He thought back to what he heard about Darkrai. “Darkrai is the nightmare pokémon, was all that just a dream? But it felt so real! How could someone make a dream that real? Except…”

    Except Darkrai is a legendary pokémon. Ray was right. Mr. Tailor was right. Youko, from all the way back in Dakuro, was right. “I never stood a chance. I never stood a chance because he can end the battle whenever he wants.” Furik clenched his paw. He tried to punch the ground, but he lost all energy and it landed gently. “Dammit…”

    Furik got up. His bag was on the ground beside him. He gathered his things and started the walk of shame back to Murosei. “What do I do now? How am I supposed to make the money to get to Soruku? Getting the money for that, it could take weeks, and I don’t want to delay my journey by that much.

    He made his way back through the forest. The sun was in just the right place to illuminate the path forward, not too high as to be covered up by Soruku, but still past sunrise. That meant plenty of day left. “And also, Ray.” He was scared of that. That argument last night didn’t exactly go well, and now here he was, crawling back after it all went wrong. How could he face him?

    Then, somewhere on the way, he spotted something. A spiked shell, with bulky green arms and a long tail… “Ray?!” He ran over to his friend’s unconscious form. Furik shook his head, trying to get him to wake up. “What happened?! Ray!”

    Ray groaned and steadily opened his eyes. “Furik…?” Slowly, he pushed himself off the ground, and rubbed his eyes. “What-? Wait, Furik!”

    Out of nowhere, he grabbed Furik in a one-armed embrace, squeezing the poor furret against his chest as he leaned on the other arm. “Thank the gods above, you’re alive!”

    Furik struggled, the wind knocked out of him by the hug. “Gah! You’re choking… me!”

    “Oh! Sorry!” He released Furik from his grip, a smile of relief on his face. “Are you okay?” he asked.

    “Yeah, I’m fine…” Furik panted.

    Ray’s expression changed to concern. “Yes, but are you okay? What happened with Darkrai, did it do anything to you?”

    He paused to collect himself. “I got put to sleep,” Furik answered, staring at the ground. “I lost. You were right.”

    “I’m sorry, Furik.”

    Furik shook his head. “Never mind that, what are you doing here?! Why were you unconscious?”

    A weak, sheepish smile. “I chased after you last night.”

    “You did?” Furik felt a twinge of guilt. “I dragged him out here?!”

    “Yeah. I wanted to get to you before Darkrai could, but then it found me. I lost too.”

    “You… did that?” Ray went against his own advice, risked his own life. “For me?” “But what if you died?”

    Ray pat Furik’s head. “I told you I still have something worth living for, right?”

    Furik’s eyes widened. “He did it to protect me. And I…” He covered his eyes with his paws, trying to hide his tears. “I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “I’m sorry I called you a coward!”

    Ray embraced Furik again, gentler this time. “It’s okay. I’ve heard worse.”

    The two stayed like that for a while, as Furik tried to process everything. “I can’t believe I said that to him. I thought I was over all that stuff.” He pushed himself deeper into Ray’s chest. “And he was right, I didn’t stand a chance. Why do I have to be so weak? I always thought I could make up for it, but I don’t know what to do.”

    Eventually, Ray let go, and they separated. “Ready to go back?” he asked.

    “Yeah.”

    And so they did, side by side. He knew he should’ve accepted this by now too, but Furik’s thoughts kept going back to Darkrai. “Because he can… what a horrible reason. He has to be stopped, but how? I guess the Murosei Guild Center has something planned, but how could they counter something like that?

    “So I was thinking,” said Ray, interrupting his thoughts. “About Soruku. We’ll be coming back here eventually, so maybe on the way we can save up the money for it. Sound good?”

    “Yeah, I guess.” Patience was said to be virtue after all. Furik just wished he could go there now. “But I don’t have the money, and beating Darkrai is impossible. I mean, Ray lost to him. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, Darkrai wins anyway because he can just put you to sleep. Unless…”

    Furik stopped in his tracks. “That’s it! I know how to beat Darkrai!”

    “Furik?” Ray stopped to look back at him. “Is something wrong?”

    “No, it’s nothing.” He caught back up and they continued walking. “I know how to beat Darkrai.” That thought kept bouncing around in his head. The idea that it was possible started to gnaw away at him, making a rematch look more and more enticing. “I just wish I could go to Soruku now.”

    Ray’s face turned sympathetic. “It’s okay to feel down, I understand. But sometimes you just need to take things one step at a time, y’know?”

    “Y-yeah, you’re right. I guess it can wait.” Furik nodded, hoping it’d look convincing. He just made up with Ray, he didn’t want to ruin that by telling him he planned on trying again tonight. He needed to prepare, but he couldn’t have Ray with him, or else he’d get suspicious.

    Ray continued to speak. “Kaina’s our next destination. Once we’re all ready we’ll be heading there tomorrow.”

    “There’s my chance.” “Is it okay if I get ready on my own? There’s a ton of things I have to do, so…”

    “Sure. We’ll meet back up at the inn, like last time.”

    “Right.”

    It was a lie, and Furik felt really guilty for telling it, but he had to try this. He was going to defeat Darkrai.

    ---

    (continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  14. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    (continued from last post)

    ---

    “So,” Furik began, looking at the basket of chesto berries in front of him. “How long do their effects last?”

    “They last somewhere between thirty seconds to a minute after eating,” the umbreon shopkeeper answered.

    “So thirty seconds, just to be safe. I don’t know how strong Darkrai is, but if everything goes well and all my hits land, it could take maybe two minutes.” Furik nodded. “Okay, I’ll take four.”

    Mr. Farmer nodded. “It’s ten silver each.”

    Furik gave him the forty Poké and moved onwards for the next step. “Again, I don’t know how strong Darkrai is. He probably can beat me in one attack, so I need to make sure I don’t get hit. And I think there’s a move for that.” So, he found himself in front of the TM shop.

    A typhlosion groggily greeted him from a counter at the entrance. “Huh? Oh, hey there. Is there something you need?” Like most of Murosei, she seemed tired.

    “I need a move that makes me harder to hit,” Furik replied. “Do you have one?”

    “Hold on a moment.” Ms. Shopkeep lumbered over to the back, where she scanned her stock of weird little discs. “Those are TMs? I’ve never seen them before… why are they shaped like that?”

    The shopkeeper found what she was looking for, and came back holding a gray disc with odd characters that Furik couldn’t read written onto it. “TM32, Double Team. It will cost you 340 Poké to learn it.”

    “Three-hundred forty?!” Furik exclaimed. “It costs that much?”

    “Well, think of it this way,” Ms. Shopkeep began. The way she said implied it wasn’t the first time she’s given this explanation. “TMs are incredibly hard to get, since they don’t make them in Liber; they’re pretty much all imports. On top of that, you need a special machine they also don’t make in Liber in order to use them. So you’re not just paying to use the TM, you’re also paying for maintenance on that machine. And on top of that,” -- Furik’s head started to spin, it just kept going -- “Queen Miku’s trade embargo means I can’t even get a hold of the batteries this thing runs on, since they only make those in Farbroad. Really, you should be glad I’m not charging you more.”

    “O-oh, I guess it’s fine then.” Anything to stop the rant. Furik only had six-hundred forty left at this moment, but he figured the bounty would more than make up for it. He gathered it all up and placed it on the counter.

    Ms. Shopkeep gathered it all up. “Okay, let me get set up first…” From the back, she pulled out a large, yellow cylinder with a slot in the top. She moved out from behind the counter. “See that target on the floor over there?” She gestured to a spot near the back of the shop. “Could you stand there for me?” Something sparked in her eyes, and she didn’t seem tired anymore.

    “S-sure.” Furik was a little weary of where this was going. But he did as he was told.

    Holding the cylinder by the handle, she placed the TM in the case and flipped a switch in the back, causing the machine to whir to life. She aimed it at Furik.

    “Wait, what are you-?”

    “Machine set!”

    The end of the machine glowed a brilliant light blue, and before Furik could react it fired off a ball of energy directly at him! Furik recoiled from the blast, as the energy entered him and spread throughout his entire body. “Woah, what the heck?! I can feel the energy, and I think I know how to use it too!”

    Furik tried to take a step, but he almost tripped over himself, completely disoriented from the feeling. “What was that?” he asked, his mind still swimming.

    “You know Double Team now, congrats!” The typhlosion was grinning wildly, all traces of her exhaustion completely gone.

    Furik held his head with a paw to try and deal with the headache. “Th-thanks…”

    “Come back any time!”

    Stumbling his way out of the shop, Furik put his mind to the next step. “Okay, now that that’s done, I should check out the new move, and-” His thoughts were interrupted by his stomach growling. “Oh, I haven’t eaten at all today, have I? It completely slipped my mind. I should probably eat first then, at the café.”

    Furik’s walking got steadier as he went, and about halfway there he was back to normal. “So I can counter his sleep and counter his ability to beat me in one-hit, but what if something goes wrong?” He thought the possibility over. “If anything goes wrong, then it’s over. If I’m lucky then maybe I could use Coil to increase my defense and make it harder to get knocked out, so there’s that. But if I mess up with the chesto berries, or it takes longer than two minutes to beat him, then how do I counter his nightmares?”

    He entered the café and ordered a grepa sandwich, like he usually did, then sat back and waited for his order. Furik decided it would be a good use of his time to find a place to sit, so he looked around.

    And then his eyes sat on something that made him freeze. “Is that… a zoroark?!”

    All the traits were there. The black fur, the long red mane, the blue orb that tied it neatly together, and the signature blood-red claws. Sitting at one of the tables in the café was a zoroark. It was just there, with a bored expression on its face and a glass of water in its claws. Furik took a step back. “I’ve heard all about these pokémon! This isn’t good!”

    Zoroark, a pokémon capable of creating powerful illusions. These pokémon were somewhat of a legend, and not of the good kind. Their powers were so strong, that apparently even a novice could steal all your belongings without you ever knowing. Generally speaking they weren’t seen at all, always either invisible or imitating some other pokémon. And of course, with a reputation like that, it was an item on his mother’s list. Don’t approach a zoroark if you see one. If one sees a zoroark, it’s because they want to be seen, and that’s a bad omen no matter what way it’s put. To many, it’s a sign that you’re as good as dead. And Furik was looking at one. He wasn’t even sure if they were real, but there it was, sitting at the table as if it were completely natural.

    “Wh-what do I do?! I might already be dead for all I know! How am I supposed to…?” He calmed down, a realization dawning on him. “I don’t know what to do, because a zoroark’s powers could be tricking me into thinking anything is real. Just like how Darkrai’s nightmares seemed so real that they tricked me into believing them.” Maybe this wasn’t a bad omen. Maybe this was a chance. The zoroark turned its gaze to Furik. “I-it sees me. Or, is it a he?” Zoroark were still pokémon, weren’t they? This could also be his chance to reason with him, and maybe figure out why he could see him as well. “Wilds aren’t inherently bad, so zoroark shouldn’t be either. Yes, I can use this! This isn’t a bad omen, this is exactly what I needed!”

    Furik straightened up, steeled his nerves, and walked with confidence over to where Mr. Zoroark was sitting. The ‘mon’s gaze followed him as he sat down in the seat just across. The two stared at each other.

    “What do you want?” asked Mr. Zoroark.

    Furik could feel his instincts battling against him, but he fought them off and answered. “I-I wanted to talk to you.”

    “Talk to me?” Mr. Zoroark’s eyes narrowed. “It’s not every day that a stranger walks up to someone like me for conversation.”

    “And it’s not every day that a zoroark decides to show themselves,” Furik answered.

    Mr. Zoroark smiled. “Smart. But you can only see me because I’m not ashamed of who I am. I don’t want anything from you.”

    “Is that true?” Furik looked around. The only other pokémon in the café was the slowking barkeep, who didn’t seem to mind at all. “Because he can’t seem him, or because he knows him?” Furik shook his head. That didn’t matter. “But I was hoping you’d be able to help me with something,” he said.

    The zoroark chuckled. “Now how could someone like me help someone like you?” He took a sip of water.

    “Well, I was hoping you could give me some tips on fighting Darkrai.”

    Mr. Zoroark choked. He slammed the glass down on the table, coughing and sputtering. Furik stood up. “A-are you okay?!”

    He lifted a claw and beat his chest a little to get the water out of his system. A couple more coughs and it was over. “Yeah, I’m fine, just…” Mr. Zoroark was panting from the ordeal. “Can you repeat that?”

    Furik figured he should have expected that reaction. Still, undaunted by what happened, he made his request again: “I need tips on how to beat Darkrai, and I was thinking you could give me them.”

    “But what the heck do I have to do with some legendary?” Mr. Zoroark asked, pointing to himself with a look of incredulity.

    “Well, Darkrai’s power is to cause nightmares that seem real. I was going to try and counter it with chesto berries, but if that doesn’t work I need some other way to deal with it. So I was thinking that, since your powers are kinda similar, you would know how to deal with it.”

    Mr. Zoroark considered it for a long moment. Furik silently hoped he was actually considering it, and not using this as an opportunity to run away or something else. Finally, he said something: a question. “What’s your name?”

    Relieved, Furik slipped into routine with a paw to his chest. “I’m Furik the Furret, adventurer extraordinaire!”

    “Uh, sure,” said Mr. Zoroark, brushing off his display. “My name’s Casimir. Do you have any idea what you’re getting into with this Darkrai business?”

    Furik nodded. “I fought him once before and lost, but this time I’m ready. I know I can beat him, I just need to know how to counter his nightmares if I get stuck in one.”

    “And you’re sure that’s all you’ll need?” Casimir tried to confirm. “This is a legendary we’re talking about.”

    “I have to try. I really need the money.”

    “Well, if you’re certain…” He closed his eyes in thought, once again considering the request. Furik figured it must be a big deal, giving away the secret to countering his illusions. Finally, Casimir opened his eyes. “Okay, so here’s the deal,” he began. “The trick to a good illusion is that it’s authentic. It feels so real that you convince yourself it is, and once the victim is trapped in that mindset, then it’s over. Darkrai’s nightmare works the same, I’m gonna guess, so the trick is to remind yourself that nothing happening is real.”

    “Nothing’s real?”

    Casimir nodded slowly. “Right. It’s just a nightmare, he’s not actually attacking you, you just think he is.” He tapped his head for emphasis. “So remind yourself it isn’t real and you should be able to push through it.”

    “None of it’s real… That’s weird to think about, but it makes sense.” “So if he uses that attack, then I just need to remember that. Got it.”

    “You say ‘just,’ but it’s not that easy,” the zoroark warned. “If it’s an attack he’s faking, then you’ll be in a lot of pain, even if it’s harmless.”

    “I know that.” Furik could still remember the feeling of that spike going through his heart. The way the pain spread throughout him, the way it locked up his breathing… Furik wasn’t sure how to be prepared for something like that. But he knew it was necessary. “Then… let’s practice! Could you stab me?!”

    “What?! Stab you?!” Casimir wore that look again, that look of utter disbelief. “You know that’ll hurt, right?”

    “You just have to fake it with an illusion.” Furik’s eyes were filled with determination and certainty. “I know it’ll hurt a lot, but I need to be prepared for this, so I’ll do it!”

    Casimir seemed to consider it. “And you’re sure you can deal with it?”

    “I’m sure, I’ll be fine!”

    He still hesitated. Furik tried to steel himself, convinced he was ready. Then, Casimir spoke. “Okay, then. I’ll just be borrowing that knife for a second.”

    Furik’s knife flew out of its scabbard and, before he could even say anything, it plunged itself directly into his chest. He jolted in his seat and let out a yelp of pain. He could feel the knife in his chest, and it felt unbearably hot. He scrambled for some kind of grip on the knife, but his paws just went through it.

    “Remember: it’s not real,” Casimir reminded him. “You’re not being stabbed right now.”

    “It’s not real,” Furik repeated. His breath started to come in short, and he started to sink in his chair. “It’s not real, it’s not real.” But the pain didn’t go away. It stayed there, unchanging and completely uncaring to his insistent denial. “It won’t stop. It hurts so much. I-I can’t…” His breathing got faster. He slid further into his chair, his eyes screwed shut. “It’s not… It’s not…”

    “Forget it.”

    The knife disappeared, and all the pain with it. Furik rolled out of his chair and found himself on the ground, a mixture of relief and disappointment flowing through him as he tried to steady his breathing. Casimir sighed, his claw placed on his snout as he shook his head. “You panicked. Heck, with a pain tolerance that low I don’t even know why you bother fighting.”

    “But, I have to.” Furik pushed himself up. “I’ll-”

    “Stop. You don’t have to do anything. Murosei already has a plan to get rid of Darkrai. If anything, your persistence in this is just getting in the way.”

    “What do you mean getting in the way?!” Furik asked, angry to be questioned like this again. “Murosei wants Darkrai gone, why does it matter who does it?”

    The zoroark seemed unamused, but then something seemed to register with him. He tilted his head. “Have you not heard the plan?”

    “No. I haven’t.”

    “The plan is to gather as many pokémon up as they can, use that chesto berry strategy you mentioned, and try to put Darkrai to sleep.” Casimir pointed up. “And after that, take him up and set him loose in Soruku.”

    “Wha… what?” All of the fight left in Furik disappeared, as the implications of what the final step of that plan meant started to sink in. “But, then he’ll attack Soruku! Why would they do that?!”

    Casimir simply shifted his head to the other side. “Are you new in Prestin?”

    “I got here a few days ago.”

    “Ah, that explains it. Have you heard of the civil war going on in Osoté out west right now?”

    That was a weird question to ask. “I’ve seen it a couple times in the news, but what does that have to do with anything?”

    “Do you know what it’s about?” Casimir asked.

    “N-no.” A bad feeling started to creep in from the sides. He knew it must’ve been serious, but was it really big enough to affect Prestin? He sat back down in his seat, curious. “What is it about?”

    The zoroark crossed his arms on the table and explained. “Osoté is ruled by some buffoon who likes to call himself King just because he’s powerful. And the pokémon there decided they had enough of it. As for what that has to do with anything…” He shrugged. “As it turns out, he’s not the only buffoon in power.”

    Furik started to put two and two together in his head. “You mean… Queen Miku of Prestin?”

    Casimir pointed to him in confirmation. “Right on the mark. For her reign so far, she’s widened the gap between Soruku and the rest of the country. ‘Queen Miku of Soruku’ is what they call her, because she couldn’t care less what happens down here. It’s all about her precious city in the sky.”

    He couldn’t believe it. “But what about the trade…” Furik trailed off. Suddenly, he could believe it.

    “The trade embargo?” The zoroark chuckled. “She did that because she knows everyone down here hates her, and thought that maybe a decree that pretends to address the problem will make it look like she cares.” Casimir grinned, and made a slow, exaggerated circling motion with his claws. “Aaaaand it didn’t.”

    Furik was speechless. “The Queen of Prestin is a bad pokémon? But, Kings aren’t supposed to be bad. They’re supposed to protect everyone.”

    Casimir’s grin faded when he saw how Furik’s mood fell. “Don’t get beat up about it, the pokémon of Prestin have been dealing with this for a long time now, before even Miku. But no ever questioned it because questioning someone as powerful as a King was seen as foolish at best. It used to be that whenever a bad one came around you just had to grin and bear it; not like you could do anything about it. But now someone decided to declare war on one. And if you’ve been paying attention to the news, then you know that they’re winning.”

    Furik finally found the words. “This… This is too horrible…”

    The zoroark picked up his glass and started waving it around. “It is, and now it’s Prestin’s turn to fight back. But the ‘mon here aren’t like Osoté, they prefer to be a bit more subtle in their disdain. Along comes Darkrai, and, well, the setup’s too perfect. Send him up there and send a message, it’s so perfect even the Guildmaster is in on it.” He brought the glass up to his muzzle and finished the rest of his water in a single gulp, then set it back on the table. “If anything, Darkrai is the hero Prestin needs right now.”

    “But, that’s not right!” Furik shouted. “They can’t use Darkrai to turn Soruku into an example! What’ll happen to everyone who lives there?!”

    Casimir shrugged. “I dunno. I heard Darkrai doesn’t like to kill his victims.”

    “That’s not the point!” Furik clenched a paw and brought it to his chest. “Even if the Queen is terrible,” “This can’t be allowed to happen!”

    “If you feel that way you better get to defeating Darkrai then, shouldn’t you?”

    “I will!” Furik leaned over the table, resolve rekindled. “Please, help me practice more! I need to be able to deal with the pain!”

    “No.”

    “Why not?!”

    “Because I’m a busy guy.” The zoroark smiled. “Besides, four chesto berries might be just enough to deal with him.”

    “Four?” Furik looked at his bag. “The four chesto berries.” “Wait, I never told you-”

    And Casimir was gone.

    Furik looked around desperately. “Y-you can’t just look inside my bag and leave!” He couldn’t believe he’d do something so rude while they were talking! “Did he do anything else? What if he stole something?”

    “What are you shouting at?” asked Mr. Bartender at the counter.

    Furik looked over. “Huh?” “Did he not see him leave?”

    The slowking’s confused expression faded. “It doesn’t matter, I suppose. Your order is done.” He gave a polite nod.

    “Oh.” He was a little confused himself. Still, he went to grab his sandwich, which was neatly wrapped up for him. “Sorry if we got a little loud over there,” Furik made sure to apologize as he picked it up.

    “Loud?” Mr. Bartender slowly lifted a claw up to his chin. “I don’t remember any shouting. You were sitting quite contently by yourself.”

    “By myself?” Furik looked back towards the table. The chair was tucked in, and the glass was the only remnant from their conversation. “I really was the only one who saw him.” His paw reflexively reached for his bag. “No, he wouldn’t steal something. He seemed nice… in his own way.”

    Furik’s scratched behind his ear. “I guess it was nothing then. Thank you!”

    He left both the café and his strange encounter with the zoroark behind him as he made his way back out into the plaza, and back out into the unnamable feeling. A couple steps in and he already found himself thinking about it. “The feeling has only gotten worse since yesterday.” And now that he had more context, he was starting to get an idea of what it was. He looked around at the citizens in the plaza, his eyes settling on a raticate taking a glance up at Soruku. That’s when he finally it figured it out.

    The raticate’s eyes revealed all. Anger. Frustration. Worry. Fear. Malice. That was the name of the feeling that took over Murosei. Malice, not towards Darkrai, but Soruku. “And it’s justified, right?”

    “No!” Furik stomped towards the Guild Center. “No, this isn’t like everything else, this is inexcusable! If they go through with this, then Soruku, and all the innocent pokémon who live there, will suffer for no good reason! I don’t care what the explanation is, you can’t justify that!”

    Furik entered the Guild Center and sat down at a table. He spotted Mr. Guide talking to some prestigious-looking braviary. “And that was what he was happy about? I can’t believe this, it’s too horrible to be true!” He unwrapped and took a bite out of his sandwich. “I bet that’s why everyone says Soruku sucks, too. It’s just caught up in all this. That is why I have to beat Darkrai. Both to get to Soruku, and to save it. And I’ll do it too.”

    “I have to!”

    ---

    24th night, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    The night was young, and Furik felt ready. He had eaten not too long ago, courtesy of Ray, and afterwards took the first chance he got to leave. “I forgot, there was a request I needed to turn in!” It wasn’t a lie, but he still needed to finish that request too.

    He made sure to check out how Double Team worked a couple minutes into his forest trek. He found that it split him into multiple copies, which all moved independently of each other in erratic fashion. “I counted six copies, and I guess if I use it more then the amount of copies will get higher.” In other words, it was great for hiding in case Furik needed to relieve pressure and set up for a surprise attack. With all that in mind, he already decided on the moves he was going to use. “Slash for damage, Quick Attack for utility, Coil to increase attack and defense, and Double Team for control. And the knife for pressure.” He wasn’t sure how useful the knife would be, since he had no idea of whether or not Darkrai was very mobile. But it had the potential to be useful. “Plus, what if Darkrai’s a Ghost-Type? I don’t know if he is, but he looked kind of ghostly. If he is, then the knife will be my only way of damaging him.”

    Then, the final step, using the chesto berries and calling out for Darkrai. “It got him to appear last time, so it should work this time too. And I’ll know if the chesto berries are working by the lighting.” Furik looked up at the night sky, still moonless. “Tomorrow is the New Moon… Hopefully his eye really does glow, or else I won’t be able to see him at all in this darkness. I’ll also have to make sure I keep track of time, so that I can eat another chesto berry when I need to. But now that I think about it, I’m not actually sure how long a second is...”

    “This battle really will be tough, won’t it? I haven’t gotten into that many battles on this journey so far, so maybe taking on a Darkrai this early really is rash. But I feel like I can win. I feel like I’ve figured it out, even Murosei knows the chesto berry strategy can work. I just have to do it first.”

    Furik found an area that seemed a little open at first glance. He felt around, trying to figure out where the trees were. After thoroughly checking it out, he decided it was good. He stuffed a chesto berry in his mouth, chewed through it as fast as he could, and…

    “Darkrai! I’m here to fight you!”

    “One second. Two. Three. Four. Five.”

    Darkrai appeared. The eye did glow, and it gave him away, as the lighting didn’t change. “You-”

    Furik burst into a Quick Attack, forcing Darkrai to quickly dodge to the side. “Six.”

    “Not wasting any time, now are w- ergh!” Furik moved to interrupt him with a Slash, which he sidestepped at the last second. “His voice doesn’t sound so deep anymore! Seven!”

    Furik tried to hit with Slash again, but Darkrai this time jumped away through the air, creating distance. Furik immediately moved to throw the knife. “Eight!”

    But then Darkrai disappeared completely, the knife sailing through where he used to be into a tree. “Is he a ghost type?! Uh, nine! Where did he go?!”

    Furik turned around, and caught the glowing blue eye hiding in the darkness at the edge of the clearing. And something else was glowing too, something purple. “I think that’s Dark Pulse! Ten!”

    The attack fired, a beam of dark, glowing rings aimed straight at him, and Furik jumped to the side just in time. Or so he thought. To his amazement, the Dark Pulse corrected itself, changing direction to hit Furik head on anyway, sending him flying backwards. “What?! Dark Pulse isn’t supposed to do that…” But as he pushed himself off the ground, something else registered with Furik too. “But I’m still conscious! If he can’t beat me in one hit, then I stand a chance! Er, wait… Thirteen?”

    Darkrai rushed forward. Furik could make out a weird, white outline of a claw in the darkness, signaling a Night Slash. Furik jumped to the side at the last moment with Quick Attack, letting the attack whiff. He ran towards his knife and picked it back up, and throughout it all he could feel his body protesting the action. “I can’t get hit again. Now’s the time to use it! Fourteen!”

    Sheathing the knife, Furik clasped his paws together, and let the Normal-Type energy of Double Team split him into copies, which ran towards and around Darkrai. “Fifteen.” He ran through the herd of copies, straight towards and past Darkrai, who was wasting time trying to assess the situation. Furik found a tree and quickly hid behind it. “Sixteen.”

    “Okay, breather, I need an oran berry.” Furik rushed into his bag, hoping the sound wouldn’t tip Darkrai off, and grabbed an oran berry, all the while thinking about what just happened. “Seventeen. Dark Pulse isn’t guaranteed to hit, so it shouldn’t be able to change direction like that. Eighteen. Unless Darkrai is using magic. Nineteen.” Furik stuffed the oran berry down his mouth. “That’s bad, because then he can do anything with a single Dark Pulse. Twenty.”

    Furik heard a rushing sound, and then suddenly Darkrai’s eye appeared again. “He found me!” Furik used Quick Attack to avoid another slash, running back into the clearing to find the clones all gone. “That didn’t last that long! Um, twenty-one, twenty-two! I still don’t think I can take another hit; I need room to use Coil!”

    As Darkrai floated towards him with another Night Slash prepared, Furik clasped his paws for another Double Team, and his opponents attack only managed to hit a dissipating furret clone. “Twenty-three...”

    Furik hugged a tree behind his opponent, an oran berry in his paw. “First another oran berry. Twenty-four?” Now that he was getting close to thirty seconds, he started to become fearful of mistakes. “How many seconds did I not count? I still haven’t landed a hit, but maybe I should eat another chesto berry right now anyway.” He opened his satchel, hoping Darkrai wouldn’t notice.

    And found his bag completely empty.

    The forest lit up. “What? But I thought-!”

    And a spire of darkness erupted out of his chest.

    The clones were gone, Darkrai floating in the middle of the now bright clearing instead. And the pain was there too. The heat and the paralysis, they were also there, threatening to suffocate Furik. He was in shock. He thought he might have miscounted, but by six whole seconds? And didn’t the shopkeep say thirty to a minute? “Unless I never ate the chesto berry,” Furik reasoned, his thoughts completely detached from what was going on. “He figured my plan out from the start, put me to sleep before I could eat it, and made me think I stood a chance. He’s toying with me.”

    Furik let out a gasp, the spike erupting further all the way through his chest and out his back now. The hot feeling got worse, and the stinging pain from the dark spike got worse, too. “B...b-ut!”

    Furik clenched his paws and took a heavy step forward. “It’s not real…” And another heavy step. “It’s not real…!” It didn’t dispel anything, but he had to believe it. “It’s not real…!”

    The emotionless eye of Darkrai showed no reaction. “Stop resisting. It’s over.”

    “No it’s not…” He tried to take another step. His adrenaline started to kick in with full force. “It’s not real, none of this is… it’s not over yet…”

    Darkrai put a claw to his head and shook it. “So you insist. And what would you need the bounty for to make you try this whole stunt twice?” His voice sounded mockingly disappointed.

    “Because…” Furik took another step forward. “Because I want to go to Soruku!”

    “Soruku? That’s a terrible place, why would you want to go there?”

    “Sixth time.” “...Shut… UP!”

    Furik grabbed the spike in him, ignoring the pain it caused his paws, pulled it out, and threw it straight at Darkrai. His opponent’s claw shot upwards, and the spike disintegrated before it could reach him.

    But the reaction, Furik could see it in those emotionless eyes, and a scent appeared for just a moment before ceasing suddenly, as if Darkrai was trying to hide it. “Fear!”

    Furik started to glow white, and he rushed his Quick Attack. But Darkrai quickly disappeared into smoke, appearing behind him. With a *snap!* of his finger-like claws, a new spike erupted out of Furik’s chest, causing him to shiver from the shock. “But it’s not real! And two can play at that game!”

    Completely ignoring the pain this time, Furik clasped his paws twice, creating an army of twelve clones with identical spikes. Furik ran in to the resulting chaos and tried to mimic their movements as best he could. Meanwhile, Darkrai seemed to be having trouble keeping track of it all. And the spike in Furik’s chest disappeared. “He can’t use that trick if he doesn’t know where I am!”

    That was his chance then. He ran around Darkrai and behind another tree, where he coiled himself up and let a purple glow overtake him. “One Coil…” He could hear attacks being launched, and missing. “Two Coils…” From his hiding place, he could see stray dark rings scatter into the trees. “Dark Pulse, he’s probably gotten rid of the clones!” He fit in one more Coil, then sprang up and out from his hiding place. “Now I just need to hit him!”

    Another Quick Attack, aimed at the searching Darkrai’s back. But instead of making contact, it went straight through his opponent. “Oh no, he really is part ghost, isn’t he?!”

    The unfazed Darkrai brought both claws together and concentrated dark energy in them. Thinking quickly, Furik ran away towards a tree, and ducked behind it as Darkrai launched the attack. It was a bet on whether the Dark Pulse would go around. And it didn’t; it hit the tree instead of going around it.

    “So I can dodge that, but I need a plan to hit him.” The knife could still hit him if he didn’t see it coming. And as for that, Double Team seemed to be doing wonders with throwing Darkrai off, so maybe it could be used as cover for an attack?

    Furik clasped his paws twice again and followed his clones out from cover. Once again, an emotion betrayed itself from the depths of Darkrai’s eye. “Frustration.” The clones swarmed around him as planned, and Furik moved into place behind him. “Make it count!” He drew his knife, started to glow white, and lunged.

    The attack landed. Darkrai recoiled, and everything went dark.

    Furik rolled onto the ground, disoriented and no longer able to see. “The light’s gone. And…”

    He spotted the outline of Darkrai. His figure flickered wildly, attempting to stabilize. And to Furik’s surprise, he found that within that glowing eye, Darkrai’s pupils were black. Not white. “Is this what he really looks like? Does that mean I hit him? That I’m awake?”

    With indignance, Darkrai reached behind him and pulled out the knife sticking in his back. He threw the knife into the ground with force.

    And, as if to crush all hope, Furik watched his knife disintegrate into nothingness. Darkrai’s pupils became white again. The light did not come back.

    “Wait, but if the knife is gone, then that means I’m still asleep! Which means I didn’t hit him, which means… but his eyes, and those emotions, and the light’s not back, so I did hit him! But have my moves even been working? Can I even wake up?!”

    “N-None of this makes sense! I don’t know what to do anymore!”

    Furik pushed himself up, but as he did Darkrai rushed forward in the darkness to hit him with Night Slash and send him recoiling backwards. The attack didn’t feel like anything, there was just some vague sense that he got damaged somehow. “I’m not out, I can’t give up!”

    Furik prepared another Double Team, but as the clones split from his body he saw Darkrai mimic the action, and then he started to split into clones too. “It keeps getting worse!”

    The clones started to run around, creating a chaotic mishmash of furret and Darkrai running aimlessly around the clearing. “I need to hide somewhere, um…” Furik decided to run forward blindly, charging through the mess. He spotted a tree in the darkness and scrambled up it’s trunk. He settled on a branch. “O-okay, what can I see?”

    He analyzed each Darkrai’s movements, trying to find out which one was real, and spotted one that wasn’t moving at all. And conveniently near the tree he was in. “That must be the real one! All I have is Slash, but I’ll try anyway. This will end the battle!”

    Claws elongated, Furik jumped out of the tree.

    And not wasting a beat, Darkrai turned around and met him with his own.

    Furik hung in the air, the stabbing sensation back as he found himself impaled on Darkrai’s Night Slash. “No… how…? I’m...”

    Darkrai snorted, then threw Furik to the side, sending him tumbling. “No… this isn’t happening…” His body stopped rolling, intensely weak and unable to move. “It’s not real…” He tried to reach for the glowing eye.

    “It’s… not… real…”

    ---

    25th day, Month of Yagora, 1843.

    Furik woke up with a gasp.

    It was a little ways into the morning. The sun was in the sky, but blocked from the clearing by Soruku above, leaving the area in shadow. There was still light, and Furik adjusted to it in time, but his efforts to reorient himself were interrupted by a pain in his chest. “Ow. It’s aching, what happened?”

    Then he remembered. “I fought Darkrai, and I… I didn’t just lose, he destroyed me.” His thoughts went back to all he remembered. “He got me early by putting me to sleep and making me think I ate a chesto berry when I didn’t. And I tried to recover, but I couldn’t.”

    He clutched a pawful of grass, frustration coursing through him. “So then it’s over. I can’t beat Darkrai, and now Murosei will get him and use him to attack Soruku. And I won’t even get a chance to see it before that happens. Why does it have to be this way?” Furik’s eyes started to water. He tried to cover them. “No, don’t cry. I need to get back to Ray, I don’t have time for this.”

    He pushed himself off the ground and rubbed his eyes. “Where’s my bag?” He spotted it right next to him. But there was something else there too. “Is that a sack?”

    Furik picked the sack up, and jolted when he heard something jingle. “Wait, what’s in this thing?!” He opened it up, and his eyes widened once he saw what was inside. “N-no way, that’s not possible!”

    It was filled with platinum coins. Each one was worth 500 Poké on its own. Furik started to count them. “One, two, three... four... f-five… six.” He felt faint. “That’s exactly enough. Who…? Why…?”

    Furik looked around the clearing, wondering if someone was there. But all he found was his knife, still sticking out of the ground from when Darkrai threw it. “But I thought that didn’t happen. Didn’t it only happen in a… in a dream.”

    A terrible feeling sank into Furik’s heart. He quickly looked into his bag, and found not four, but three chesto berries.

    “Is this real? Am I still dreaming?!”

    ----------
    ----------


    So a lot happened this chapter. It’s definitely a dense chapter, that much is for sure. There is a lot to parse through, and I don’t know if I have time to talk it about it all, but I can talk about the battle scene. To be honest, I thought I’d be dead before I actually got to writing it. Out of all the battle concepts I have up my sleeve for the main project, Furik v. Darkrai is one of my favorites. It’s chaotic, the kind of battle that makes less sense the more you think about it, and it’s made even better by the circumstances surrounding it. I’d go as far as to say that the concept is perfect… keyword concept because then you have to execute it. More than anything else that happens in this chapter, this is what I’d like feedback on, I need to know how I did. Part of me is worried it might have felt too repetitive, but that might just be me.

    Next, the tone shift. I might have undersold it a bit. The overall tone of the work is optimistic, but it's not necessarily lighthearted. I've been trying to keep it gradual: Chapter 1 is light, Chapter 2 introduces the darker themes that will be explored, Chapter 3 features some character conflict that expands them, and Chapter 4 increases the conflict for the proper "shift," where the themes come to the forefront and the fic starts working off the buildup from the first half. And yet, Chapter 4 probably pushes the tone the most, even though I'd say the darkest things in this work are yet to come. This is because of the dark ending. The other chapters downplay their dark elements by ending on good notes, something that both Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 did, and something later chapters will do as well. Chapter 4 is the exception, which arguably makes it the darkest chapter in the fic (we'll see how Chapter 5 goes). It makes me nervous, seeing how the first two chapters were praised for their levity, and I've been nervous the entire time because I knew we'd have to eventually reach this point. And here we are. The most I could do in writing this was to try and find ways to soften the blow. God I hope Chapter 5 doesn't take too long.

    As for other things, a character that a grand total of two of you probably recognize appears in this chapter. Yeah, he was always a part of the main project, before I ever thought to use him in an RP. I actually kinda regret that, but whatever, it’s in the past, and he’s basically a different character now anyway. This chapter also broadened the scope of the fic a bit, which feels a little “eh” to me because I’m trying my best to keep it self contained.
    the whole thing with Murosei and it’s actions towards Soruku really only make sense in the context of the Osoté civil war, otherwise it raises the question of why an uprising didn’t just happen sooner. And in a meta sense, if I introduced this conflict independently of the cause, then when it ultimately is established as the reason then it would be more difficult for the audience to associate it, since it’s all too easy to simply accept that the people of Prestin would act this way without the knowledge of its history and attitude towards authority figures, especially Kings. It’s hard to explain, but for the purposes of this fic you only need to know that the position of King is highly respected, and has only come into question recently as part of the war’s impact.
    There’s also the first and only mention of humans in this fic. That detail is only there to provide explanation for the buildings and the TMs, which is why I also feel unsure about it. Again, kinda broadens the scope, and this time in a way that I don’t feel strengthens the fic or any kind of understanding of it. Honestly, I have half a mind to cut it out, so if you feel that it isn’t necessary as well then by all means, tell me.

    And finally, Darkrai. Hoo boy. He's a character. That exists in this fanfic. As the main villain. I can hear younger me screaming in agony from the depths of hell. So I have history with Darkrai antagonists, in that I used to hate them. I thought they were overused and super cliche, and what do you know it, that was three years before I decided to go ahead and use one! Life is funny like that. Understandably, I have weird feelings towards this character, but he’s also really fun to write for, so it’s all good. I can talk more on why I like writing him, but it’s better to leave that for after the fic is over. I plan on doing a lot of talking when that time comes around, so if you like hearing me ramble, then… lucky you, I guess.

    As for the future, while Chapter 3 was long and 4 longer, the rest of the chapters will go back to being one post, at least from what I estimate. I said Chapter 5 would kill me, and it probably will, so I will see you all in two years. If it does go well, and it won't, then the fic really will be done by May. There is some precedent to believe Chapter 5 won't kill me: it's not as long as Chapter 3 was, and contains some things I'm looking forward to. But it also contains all of the things that made Chapter 3 a pain to write in the first place, not to mention a couple of new things that make writing it even more difficult. So don't hold your breath for that May finale.

    Also wow, at the rate these author's notes keep expanding, the last one will be a freaking book.

    This chapter ended on a dark note, but it’s not all bad. Because next time, we go to Soruku.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019

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