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Fledglings

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Spiteful Murkrow, Mar 2, 2015.

  1. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hello everyone,

    I am a bit of an infrequent poster here, though if you read through the first page at the time of my writing this, you might have seen my last fanfic listed among the topics. For those of you with particularly meticulous memories of forum activity, you might remember my fic before that one, too.

    Now, it might be partially delusion or conceit, but I fancy myself as a writer that tries to write things that are new for myself. And after the last two experiments I had with writing, I decided to take a shake at an experiment that would be a bit longer-burn.

    Namely, I decided to make a PMD fic. Or more accurately, a fic set within a PMD-like world. Now, the setting is not exactly one of the three canonical ones, and I will be making a few assumptions into how different facets of a PMD-like world works, injecting a few quirks that will be particular to the setting of this story, and playing a little fast-and-loose with some game rules... But as a whole, I intend to write something that wouldn't feel too out-of-place for the rough tone that the games take, if occasionally touching on some topics that don't pop up in them. As such, the tentative rating for this fic is PG, which I will revise as needed.

    I have not fully worked out a posting regime, I aim to have the prologue to this story, plus the first three chapters uploaded within a week of each other. As for things beyond that, I will worry about that when I get there.

    I also have to take a moment to extend my thanks to Solovino, Umbramatic, and Tangent128 from this site for help with this Prologue. All of whom provided invaluable feedback on my writing, and in Tangent128's case, the chapter header that this opening uses. There are some other people who helped with making these opening chapters a finished product, but in lieu of something that I can attribute to them short of giving out personal information, I will have to settle with my formal thanks.

    EDIT: Added some author's notes to explain a few terms, special thanks to Sugoitsu from ff.net for providing editorial help for the post-release revision.

    EDIT 2: While it should hopefully be apparent at the time that I wrote this, but there are a number of non-English terms bandied about this fic. A glossary has been added for indexing convenience.

    And, of course, some logistical stuff:

    Prologue: A Bedtime Story

    Episode 1

    Chapter 1: The Calm Before The Storm
    Chapter 2: Watch Your Step
    Chapter 3: A Bolt From the Blue

    Episode 2

    Chapter 4: It Takes Getting Used To
    Chapter 5: Sifting Wheat From Chaff
    Chapter 6: Out of the Comfort Zone
    Chapter 7: This Is Not a Drill!
    Chapter 8: In the Doghouse

    Episode 3

    Chapter 9: On the Same Wavelength
    Chapter 10: Pre-Flight Checklist
    Chapter 11: In a Fog
    Chapter 12: Loose Lips
    Chapter 13: Back to the Wall

    Episode 4

    Chapter 14: Sudden Turbulence
    Chapter 15: Under Wraps
    Chapter 16: Force Majeure
    Chapter 17: Hope Against Hope
    Chapter 18: Hide and Seek
    Chapter 19: Flight Risks

    Episode 5

    Chapter 20: Out of the Frying Pan
    Chapter 21: Unfamiliar Territory
    Chapter 22: Clouds on the Horizon
    Chapter 23: Bête Noire
    Chapter 24: Cri de Coeur
    Chapter 25: Moving Targets

    Episode 6

    Chapter 26: In the Dark
    Chapter 27: False Pretenses
    Chapter 28: Putting Two and Two Together
    Chapter 29: Press Gang
    Chapter 30: Culture Shock
    Chapter 31: Gate Crashers
    Chapter 32: Changing Course

    Episode 7

    Chapter 33: A Little Learning
    Chapter 34: Setting Up
    Chapter 35: Straw in the Wind
    Chapter 36: It's a Trap!
    Chapter 37: Helping Hand
    Chapter 38: Up in the Air

    Episode 8

    Chapter 39: Under the Sea
    Chapter 40: When it Rains
    Chapter 41: High and Low
    Chapter 42: On the Table
    Chapter 43: Uncharted Waters

    Episode 9

    Chapter 44: In Harm's Way
    Chapter 45: Do-Gooders
    Chapter 46: All Ears
    Chapter 47: A Pirate's Life for Me
    Chapter 48: Friend or Foe?
    Chapter 49: Side Effects

    Episode 10

    Chapter 50: Downward Spiral
    Chapter 51: Hope on the Horizon
    Chapter 52: Mending Fences
    Chapter 53: Working Together
    Chapter 54: Run to Ground

    Episode 11

    Chapter 55: Fish Out of Water
    Chapter 56: Signing Up
    Chapter 57: Catching Up
    Chapter 58: Breaking Ground
    Chapter 59: Reversal of Fortune
    Chapter 60: Jumping Through Hoops
    Chapter 61: Tooth and Claw

    Glossary

    Special Chapters:

    Special Chapter: Auld Lang Syne
    Special Chapter: Swinging the Lamp

    Bonus Chapters:

    Bonus Chapter: Turbulent Roadtrip

    Companion Works:

    Casting Off by Virgil134

    Chapter 1: Enlisted
    Chapter 2: Processing Days

    Trivia:

    3k Views Trivia
    5k Views Trivia
    8k Views Trivia
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    15k Views Trivia
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    Art:

    Pleo by Autobottesla, commissioned by Virgil134
    Nida by Iris-Sempai, commissioned by Virgil134
    Crom by Plumcea, commissioned by Virgil134
    Hess by Plumcea, commissioned by Virgil134 (Work in progress images)
    Pleo by Chibi-Pika
    Nagant by Chibi-Pika, commissioned by Virgil134

    Awards:

    2015

    - Best New Pokémon Chaptered Fic (Tie)
    - Best Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Fic
    - Best Non-Human Villain (Lyn, Tie)
    - Funniest Character (Elty, Tie)

    2016

    - Best Setting
    - Best Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Fic
    - Best Non-Human Supporting Character (Elty)

    2017

    - Best Plot (tie)
    - Best Setting
    - Best Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Fic (tie)
    - Best Non-Human Antagonist (Nagant)

    Now that you've made it through that rambling, long-winded introduction, I suppose that it's nigh time that we got into the actual story:



    Fledglings




    [​IMG]

    The sensation of footprints in the earth below... whiskers prodding into earthen walls... the scent of grass wafting in from the passage to the left. It was these things that guided the little blue lump of spikes attempting to press forward from the depths of the burrow.

    "Oof!"

    She stumbled and fell forward, stunned for a moment, but soon regained her bearings and got up. Flattening out her ears and shaking a few small spines loose, she continued on, grumbling softly about the dumb ledge that tripped her up.

    Her annoyance was quickly pushed out of her mind after catching a whiff of dew from the end of the tunnel, and more importantly, spotted a faint light marking the moon outside.

    The little creature crept up the claustrophobic tunnel little-by-little, with nary a peep, and reached a reed-woven mat just beyond its opening. There, she took a quick inventory.

    Four legs, two ears, two protruding teeth at the end of her muzzle. No scratches or loose barbs from her clumsy trek up the tunnel... well, none that would worry her more than her mother, anyhow. From the light of the heavens above, she could verify that her fur was still a light blue. Yep, she had all the markings of a healthy, if still rather young Nidoran.

    Around her... there was the mailbox on a wooden post next to the burrow. Throughout the sparsely wooded hillside were a few mats with accompanying posts spread before trees and other holes, or sometimes laid out as places of rest for the various Pokémon who currently slept on them. The distant crashing of waves could be heard, intertwined with faint sounds of forest nightlife. Down the hill, nearer to the coast, a small town of shacks, tents and the like had been erected.

    But the attention and senses of the little Nidoran were tuned elsewhere that night.

    She reared up on her hind legs and turned her gaze skyward. Somewhere in that beautiful, glittering mess- around the moon, between the stars, and the twists and bends of the Rainbow Road- were the drifting ones- little stars that moved slowly and without tails. Her mother told her that some of the Pokémon in town called them the "Travelers" and that, through some contrivance, you could tell what time of the night it was based off of where they were.

    But most importantly, she said, if you were up at just the right moment, you could see one, perhaps peeking out from behind the moon.

    "Come on, where is it?"

    She looked up at the moon... and then above it. Then below it. Then, to its left. To its right. Back at the Nidoran in the moon staring down at the world again. But still, she couldn’t find her star.

    "...Maybe I heard the story wrong?"

    The Nidoran pouted a bit and punted a pebble that had found its way onto the mat. She was about to return to the burrow when the thought crossed her to check the shape of the moon. Perhaps her "Traveler" was still peeking from behind it.

    She started from the top, and slowly followed its contour around from the left. It was the same old moon, giving off its same old white glow. The same old Nidoran on its face was still staring down quietly on the world below. Yep, it was the same moon she had seen many a night before.

    Except for the ever-so-small bump on the right of it.

    "Eh?"

    The Nidoran tilted her ears and focused on the bump. It seemed like a rather insignificant speck, except slightly growing, stretching a bit from the moon's face. And suddenly, the speck broke free from the moon, and it all became clear to the little creature.

    "Wow! They really do come-"

    "Going somewhere?!" a deeper voice barked.

    "Eeep-"

    Before the Nidoran could turn around, she found herself lifted from the ground by the scruff of her neck. As she flailed in protest, she was brought away from the night sky and back into the inky depths of the burrow. Her captor took her effortlessly back along the route she had so carefully traced out to the surface, and unceremoniously dumped her into a straw nest shared by a handful of her fellow blue and purple spike balls.

    After the Nidoran’s captor released their grip on the back of her neck, she shook off some saliva and finally whirled around to come face to face with a rather unimpressed-looking Nidorina staring down at her, wearing a white scarf with a blue whirlpool design.

    "Really, Nida, just how deaf do you think I am?" the Nidorina whispered sternly.

    "But, Mami-"

    "Shh!"

    The Nidorina gestured to the Nidoran's siblings, all of them in the embrace of sleep, if somewhat loosely. She flicked her ears, and narrowed her eyes to continue her quiet admonishment.

    "It's not healthy for a young kit like you to be up into the early morning! Rest will let you grow healthy and strong."

    "But I was just headed out to see the Travelers-!", Nida protested.

    "Is that why you forgot this on your way out?"

    Her mother held up a small scarf bearing the same design as her own. Nida shrank a bit in embarrassment. After all, the importance of wearing her scarf was constantly lectured about. It was the the thing that allowed any Pokémon to identify who you were and where you belonged… and she had forgotten it on her way out the burrow.

    "Er… oops?"

    Her mother sighed, and placed the scarf back at the base of the nest alongside a small number of others before turning back to her child.

    "Sleep is a blessing, mija. Having enough of it keeps you from making foolish missteps like that."

    "But how am I supposed to sleep if you don't tell me a story?" the Nidoran demanded.

    "Nida," said the Nidorina, her ears and countenance not-so-subtly hinting at a desire to return to her own nest.

    "Well?" Nida persisted.

    The Nidorina sized up her daughter, and the other siblings dozing around her, and after giving an irked sigh, decided that dealing with one small and rambunctious spike ball was enough at this hour.

    "Fine. Which one do you want this time? The Nidoran in the Moon? The time I fought and beat the cheating Dragonite? Another Warriors of Light tale?"

    Nida perked up, buoyed by her small victory in staving off bedtime, and thought about just what she wanted to hear.

    "I wanna hear the story about the humans, and why they don't live with Pokémon like us anymore," she replied.

    "Nida, haven't you heard that story from the Day Care enough times by now?" the Nidorina asked exasperatedly.

    "It's different when you tell it."

    "I suppose I'll need to start from the beginning, then," the Nidorina sighed, as she drew her daughter's attention to a patch of dirt that she began to move a foreclaw over.

    "A long, long time ago, longer than any Pokémon can remember, there lived a peculiar type of creature. One that had not been given strength in their bodies by the gods as we Pokémon have," the Nidorina said as she began to sketch some tall pylons in the dirt.

    "In its place, the gods gave them the power to see and understand mysteries, questions, and engimas... to think in ways completely different to the way you or I would. To bring dreams to life, and to work wonders and impossibilities from the world around them, including from its Pokémon."

    The pylons were then crossed, forming a scene of boxlike towers, each piling up against the other.

    "The gods saw it fit to make them mediators of Pokémon. Their lack of strength was filled by that of Pokémon that joined them. In return, they provided food, shelter, and companionship. As the gods tended to the world, this mediation was to provide bounty to the order they guarded."

    "And they built cities of glass and metal, and rolling boxes that could cross islands in minutes, and planted fields that stretched across the horizon, and-" Nida began to recount.

    "Hey now, who's telling the story here? You or me?" the Nidorina interjected while sketching a star in the corner of her picture.

    "It was an order that brought out the best of both Pokémon and humans," she continued, "But for some, it simply wasn't enough."

    The Nidorina moved on to crudely sketch some figures in the dirt. A few birds, others that looked vaguely like horses, and a few squiggly serpents.

    "In their arrogance, some of the Pokémon that dwelt among the humans decided that the gods were superfluous, that they would know better how to manage our world. Thus they declared war on the gods to take their place. It was a pitiful chapter that would have surely been thwarted and forgotten… But everything changed when the Star of Destruction shone from above."

    Nida watched as her mother raked her claws over the scene, their impressions coming from the star in the corner and piercing through the towers and crude figures.

    "The fiends had made a dark construct, which upon shining its light, pierced the gods and slew them. Thunder, wind, rain, land, sea, earth… all gone. So the slaughter went up to the three attendants of Arceus."

    "And then that's when everything went wrong?"

    It was then that Nidorina obliterated her painstakingly drawn scene with a barrage of poisonous spikes from her ruff, causing Nida to flinch for a moment.

    "Well, what do you know of what happened, mija?"

    "The seas rotted, destruction rained from the heavens, the land became dead and filled with ash and distortions hidden in fog... Like the Mystery Dungeon on the other side of the island. That's how the Wastes were formed," Nida dutifully recited.

    "Well, is that the end of it?"

    "It isn't?" Nida asked, as she gave a puzzled head tilt as to what her mother could be implying.

    "Silly kit, I would hope that our home isn't in such a sad state!"

    "Oh! Ahehe, right," Nida replied as she turned her attention to a new patch of dirt where her mother began to draw a triangle, and then a circumscribing circle.

    "From there, Arceus saw that there were still points of light in the darkness. Places where the blight the Star of Destruction had caused had not yet touched. But in order for life to remain at all in this world, these places would need to be kept separate and protected."

    "And that's how our island was made?" Nida asked, as the Nidorina began to draw three circles around the points of the triangle.

    "That's how all of the islands were made, mija. Bits and pieces of the old world that Arceus pried from its dying husk with his thousand arms and placed into this sea, the sea that we call the Cradle."

    Nida continued to watch her mother add more and more circles onto the design in the dirt. It was apparently some manner of important symbol, but that was surely a story for another time. Even so… There was something that the little Nidoran couldn't help but wonder after hearing her mother's words that she hadn't thought about the times when her ears heard this tale before.

    "But wait, if humans acted as mediators for Pokémon… Who mediates for the Pokémon that came here?"

    "At first, there was no one," the Nidorina replied, "And the Cradle was but a mass of feuding creatures of different kinds and different minds… Until our world's creator set down the Compact that governs our world to this day."

    "A… Compact?" Nida yawned.

    "The Pokémon that lived without humans, the 'ferals' as you've probably heard them called, were free to continue to live on as they did in the past. Growing, breeding, and dying with the course of nature. They were to be left to live without interference from outsiders, but at the expense of giving up the right to interfere in the lives of those outsiders. It is why the predators among the ferals do not dare to consider you or your brothers and sisters as meals…

    Or at least not ones that don't have a death wish."

    Nida yawned again more audibly, which caused the Nidorina to shift and lick a paw before continuing on, keenly noticing that her child was at last beginning to grow drowsy.

    "As for the humans that remained, the world that remained was too fragile for them, and their role as mediators was given to others to carry out until the world was restored to the way it once was," the Nidorina continued as she watched Nida begin to progressively fidget less and less as sleep neared the Nidoran.

    "Others? What are you talking about?"

    "Silly, it fell upon the Pokémon that lived among humans to take up their mantle. To become mediators among our different kinds. To aid them, they were given four gifts…

    "The gift of writing, to allow them to preserve what knowledge of the humans had not been lost.

    "The gift of gummis, to free them from the hunger forcing their ranks against each other.

    "The spirits of the departed gods, who remained in the night skies as the Travelers you and I can see today.

    "And lastly, the gift of pacting, in which a Pokémon could make cause with another and join their ranks. To bury past fears and resentments together and live the same life. Friend, foe, feral, it matters not. As long as there is one to ask and there is one to respond."

    The Nidorina couldn't help but sigh contently as she watched her daughter start to settle into the straw of the nest along with her siblings. It had been a long tale, but her goal of putting the little scamp to sleep was almost realized.

    "What about the Pokémon that went to war with the gods? What happened to them?" Nida asked, which elicited a pause from her mother before she responded to her daughter's question.

    "The ones that did not die in the chaos they caused were allowed to come in as a mercy. In return, they, and their children, would forever bear the mark of the star they created, so that no one would ever forget. They became the Pokémon that the others call the 'Marked'."

    "Eh?!"

    Almost immediately, the Nidorina regretted bringing the topic up as Nida immediately perked up at attention, on guard from her mother's words of these surely ill-meaning Pokémon still being around.

    "Shh… Shh... Don't dwell upon it too much, they're far from capable of mounting a war against much of anything these days. And even if they somehow did, they would be hard pressed against the last thing that Arceus left."

    "What's that?" the Nidoran asked, starting to settle down again.

    "A hope. When the Cradle was made, new gods were created and left to sleep until they were needed. Why, even here, on tiny little Tromba Island, we have a protector sleeping somewhere hidden away.

    And as they all wake up, the world we live in will start to be restored to the way it used to be. And eventually, the humans too will come back."

    "Is that why those Pokémon… the Rescue Teams. Is that why they work so hard in that Mystery Dungeon?" Nida yawned.

    "Well… It's a bit more mundane than that. Our island's protector is somewhere in there, but so are a lot of the things that our town uses to get by. And it's not a safe place, so there need to be Pokémon to help protect those that go in doing imprudent things… Like little kits going out without their scarves."

    "Mami, I get it," Nida groaned in annoyance, as her eyelids began to fall.

    "But all in all, they're there to give help to Pokémon when they need it most."

    "I wish that I could be a Pokémon like that…" said Nida, as her red eyes finally drooped shut and she drifted off to sleep.




    Author's Notes:

    - Mami - Spanish: "mother", "mommy"
    - mija - Spanish: "my daughter", used in a sense akin to "dearie" or "sweetie"
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
  2. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    As one of the guys who beta read this, very glad to see this up. Also means I just have a couple comments, buuuuuuuut:

    I know this is establishing your protag's species (which is good, we need more Nidos in Pokefic) and she's checking herself for injuries, but it reads a bit... Odd. Like, she wouldn't be checking all those things.

    I giggled at the two references here, especially since I'm one of the few people on here who gets the first one.

    There's... One other thing I wanted to ask about regarding a difference between this and the draft, but it involves spoilers, so message me privately about it?

    But looking forward to the rest of this. Loving your take on a PMDverse of your very own so far.
     
  3. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    This seems interesting. The description was pretty good and the world building of the original universe is intriguing. Also, Nidoran isn't a commonly used Pokémon species, so that's nice.

    Are those random paragraph breaks typos or are they there on purpose? If it's the latter, I think I'm missing the point of them. I thought they were scene changes at first, but they don't seem to be.

    I'm sure a lot of the things mentioned will become important eventually, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.
     
  4. TheCharredDragon

    TheCharredDragon Blue Frog Ninja Gal

    Huh, all right, I'll first start off by saying I really like this, and not just because it's pretty much a PMD. ... Okay, it's partly because of that, but it's not the only thing. First off, I really like how you describe things and told the story. It was really nice, felt like I was reading the thoughts of an actual storyteller, and I had to look up a couple of words which is always nice (learning new words). Just curious though, is the word mija Spanish?

    Anyways, moving on. I really liked the story Nida's mom told (that is the name of the Nidoran, right?). A different kind of lore this time for the world. Oh, I would like to mention, although you probably already realize this, that a world like this (as in, not referencing the three canon contnuities). But, again, I liked it, and agree with the others about using Nidoran. Nice.

    I'm curious on how's this going to go or head to. There's not much to hint on what's going to happen next but, like Griff4815 said, the information said here will most likely matter later. Again, no hints on what's gonna happen next, which makes me wonder stuff like: will the next chapter time skip to when she's older? Will there even be a human-turned-Pokémon involved? And will there be an antagonist? Who knows, but that just makes it fun.

    I can't do much on grammar or technicalities but I am wondering about this.

    Uh... Shouldn't there be a "to" before the "take"?

    Ahem. But seriously, I really want to see what'll happen next, and also wondering how long will this go. For some reason I feel like it'll at least be 40 chapters long, but that's just a guess! Can't wait to see the next chapter.

    And I finally reviewed one of your fics. Next, Contexr Switch! Hopefully...
     
  5. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Whelp, it's a week, so that means it's that time again. To start with, I'll first throw out a few responses:

    The portion in question has been reworked, thanks for calling that to my attention.

    Those were actually typos. The revision to the Prologue I uploaded just before this post actually now shows what I will be using as paragraph breaks for the rest of this story.

    It is indeed. Part of the background of this fic's setting is that there is a bit of a kernel of truth behind the notion of being cobbled from bits and pieces of an old world. As such, some characters will be drifting into occasional non-English terms depending on what I feel suits their background and the point of the story I'm in.

    From this point on, I will be including translations in post-chapter authorial notes so as to make things a bit less vague.

    Whelp, never say never. But we'll see how long this thing winds up being as it goes.

    As for this present chapter, as you might notice, it has a bit of a different header than the Prologue did. As a writer, I actually have written these chapters as parts of episodic blocks, as such, while you can expect the headers to change from time to time, the images they incorporate will most likely not change on a weekly basis beyond the text.

    I would like to take a moment to extend my thanks to the fellow writers who helped to nitpick and refine this chapter and help make the chapter banner, namely fellow forumites Tangent128, Umbramatic, Solovino, as well as Sugoitsu and rmctagg09 from ff.net.

    And of course, now it is time to tell the actual story:

    [​IMG]

    A few years later, Nida's dream of becoming a member of Rescue Team had begun to be realized… Sort of. She was still a Nidoran, still in training, but no longer quite as small or young.

    "Hey rookie, watch it!"

    While she had largely moved on from watching the stars by night, Nida had yet to move on from these hectic darts through crowds of Pokémon by day. Today was no exception, as she had just narrowly avoided being stepped on by the passing Rhyhorn that was shooting a frustrated glare at her.

    She darted off to the wall of a shack to rest a moment and catch her breath. With a navy blue scarf adorned with a solitary white star around her neck, a small glinting badge affixed to it along her throat, and a satchel on her back, the Nidoran was not quite the same kit she had been so many nights ago.

    "Alright! Alright! Sorry!"

    The square that Nida was making her way into was ringed with simple wooden huts and garish tents styled after Pokémon. There were item shops, eateries, raucous juice bars, even the odd tailor or two- the latter eagerly claiming that their wares would outlast the toughest rigors thrown at them thanks to silk they spun themselves.

    The sky turned a vibrant shade of orange under the setting sun, the air crisp from the sea. The mountain that anchored the island loomed in the background, its far face graced by the fog around its Mystery Dungeon.

    Along the sea, rickety wooden ships moored alongside similarly rickety wooden docks, with Pokémon clambering on and off helping to load and unload small parcels. Other Pokémon, bobbing in the waves, chattered with their land-bound counterparts, trading gossip that had surely travelled great distances with the waves.

    It was a scene that might have filled Nida with wonder… if she had not already lived through it hundreds of times before- though only rarely getting stepped on as she almost had tonight. Nida hopped up onto a crate and then, after a brief bit of scanning, bounded up to a small shack with a low counter. She rested a short moment and then called out into the shack's interior.

    "Calino? Are you still there?"

    Much to the Nidoran's relief, she was answered by a green and yellow lizard with a long tongue popping up from behind some crates, who gingerly sauntered over to the counter.

    "Speaking, missy. What can I do you for?"

    "...You still haven't replaced your old tent?" Nida said, sizing up the Kecleon's somewhat rough pavilion.

    "Ahehe… See, the thing about those custom buildings and all… They kinda are a little hard on the coin purse. Especially when you're looking to get them fireproofed so that the next one won't get burned down by a wet Combusken," the Kecleon chuckled awkwardly.

    Nida couldn't help but wonder how Calino managed to get himself into such situations. He was a Pokémon from outside Tromba who had a shrewd sense for business and seemed good-natured… mostly, somewhat, maybe. But he had a knack for having a bit of a grating sense of humor, one which maybe wasn't so unrelated to why Calino was here selling wares out of a wooden shack in tiny Bluewhorl Town and not on some other island.

    "Of course, you could help speed up ol' Calino's renovations if you did a little shopping, eh?"

    "I'd be able to buy more if you'd let me get some of the discounts you give to the other teams, you know," Nida said, flattening her ears while hopping up onto a stump serving as a stool.

    "Perhaps you should spend a little more, or else boost your Team ranking a bit then, eh? Why, I wouldn't give a discount to the Protector himself if he was still at your ranking!" Calino teased, flushing a burnt yellow.

    "Come on, Calino. My mami used to be una Cazadragones! Surely Dragon Busting's worth something, of all things?" the Nidoran protested, growing a bit huffy with the merchant's ribbing.

    "Well then, perhaps you just need to waken that familial blood of yours a bit, eh? That'd be quite a lark, doncha think? Hahaha!"

    The Kecleon watched as his customer's countenance twisted into more and more of a scowl, sensing that he had perhaps gone a bit too far in his attempts to provide some good-natured banter. Calino deemed it best to drop the attempt at humor and revert to a more business-like tone as his scales reverted back to their normal green.

    "Haha… more seriously Nida, as much as I'd like to cut you a discount, I can't. Or at least not outside of hatching days and other big events," Calino sighed, "Why, between the take that the Company sucks out of Bluewhorl Town here each year and all of the rookies that go off for more mundane work like berry picking after their mandatory stint servicing in the guild or with the town guards…"

    "Heh heh, I'd be left with nary a scale left over afterwards!" the Kecleon chortled.

    Seeing that his customer was looking away towards the pebbles on the ground and not visibly moved by his appeal, the Kecleon decided that it would perhaps be best to offer some reassurance.

    "Nida, look at it this way. It's just a matter of time before you wind up becoming one of my big buyers, right? Why, a Pokémon like you- always chomping at the bit for tougher missions even while in a trainee team- once you get into a real team it would only be a matter of time before you rose through the ranks!"

    "Or wind up dying in the dungeon," a passing Sentret volunteered.

    "Or wind up d-Oi!" Calino turned around visibly flustered. "Snark at your own customers, Scout!"

    "Just… Give me the usual, Calino," Nida grumbled, as the Sentret continued on his way.

    The Kecleon quietly gathered a couple berries and a few assorted seeds and deposited them into Nida's bag as she shuffled a few misshapen but glinting coins across the counter.

    "Say… Marley's had some more kids since you and your three brothers and sisters came along, right? Two… three…?" Calino asked apologetically, his scales starting to have turned a teal color.

    "Six," Nida corrected, scowling at the Kecleon.

    "Oh! Ah… That's a bit more than I- Ahem, anyways, maybe on their next hatching day, I could arrange for the mon that buys their gift to get a little something extra, huh?"

    "I'll keep it in mind after I tell Mami about my day, I guess. I'll be sure to include how my run here went," Nida said while turning off, finally giving a small smile.

    "Er… About the discount I offered?" Calino asked nervously as he knocked over a few seeds from a box behind him and flinched a moment. His scales began to flush a dingy brown.

    "Nah, about everything," the Nidoran smirked, before bounding off down a dirt road.

    "Erk! Gods help me…

    "Wait, Nida! Come on! Let's be reasonable here! That was just good-natured ribbing!" Calino called after the rapidly escaping Nidoran, flushing white in distress.

    "Aw, relax, ya old miser! I'll say enough to keep you alive so I can shop here next time!"

    Nida continued bounding up the road for a time, before arriving at a large round pavillion tent. Behind it, she could see a wooden structure fashioned in the shape of an Ampharos' head with a sheltered platform up top, seemingly for signaling. From her vantage point, she also saw some simple roofed huts where the guild members sometimes ate together and stayed overnight, and a large earthen clearing along a seaside ledge kept dutifully free of obstructions.

    Pokémon busied themselves milling in and out of the complex: a Rattata happily chattered with some other similarly experienced peers about having just graduated from the lowest rank. Meanwhile, a Natu and a Sealeo discussed the recent arrival of letters from off-island and who a 'Manternal' by the name of 'Maranda' was supposed to be. Nida's face lit up as at last she found what she'd been looking for: the guild's Mission Board, which was occupied by a Loudred, Shiftry, and a Croconaw who were sizing up the listings.

    "See anything yet?" the Croconaw asked.

    "It's all a bunch of fetch quests this time around. Unless you count a bunch of outdated bounties on pirates as jobs," the Shiftry scoffed.

    "Well, what's the one that makes most sense for us to do, then?" the Loudred demanded.

    "I'm working on it! Hrm… fetching some kid's 'lost treasure...' Pass. Hunting for rare gummis… eh, not feeling it. Oh, here we go, finding an 'ahp-gredh' for Melissa."

    "Melissa? The move tutor? What's an 'ahp-gredh' and why on earth would she want one of those?" the Croconaw asked.

    "Eh, beats me, but when a client's offering that much Poké, they're always right," the Shiftry mused, before taking the mission listing off the board and heading off chattering with her companions about just what exactly an "ahp-gredh" was anyways, leaving Nida behind to stare at the mission listing and sigh.

    "Oh, I see you brought supplies for our mission tomorrow. Are you staying overnight at the guild hall?"

    Nida turned around, and came face to face with a Swellow bearing a bandanna of the same design and color as her scarf.

    "Oh, hello, Kiran. I thought I told you that I couldn't stay over tonight."

    "Eh? But why in the world not? Why, you're still in training! Starting brisk from a relaxing night straight from the guild hall is proven, by my observations, to improve performance in Mystery Dungeons by 100% for rookies like you!" the Swellow said, craning his head down to the Nidoran.

    He was a creature with the best of intentions, and a heart after guiding young Pokémon into becoming full-fledged members of Rescue Teams. But every so often, the navy blue and white bird couldn't help but come off as ever so slightly… clueless.

    "Kiran, it's my turn to babysit my younger siblings. Besides, how much energy does collecting apples need anyways?" Nida muttered, starting to flatten out her ears.

    "Oh, but plenty of energy! Why, you need to be brimming and up and at them for any trip into a dungeon!"

    "Kiran… If the mission didn't ask for the apples to specifically be ones scattered in the dungeon as a training exercise, we could just complete it by stealing from Mildrew's orchard on the south side of town."

    "... The Tropius? I mean, well. Um... yes, I suppose that's not completely in-", Kiran stammered, ruffling some feathers to regain composure, before getting interrupted by his small charge.

    "Why on earth are we still doing missions like these? I thought that Rescue Teams were supposed to help Pokémon, not do idle busywork!"

    The Swellow paused, and extended a wing over the Nidoran, trying to offer her some reassurance.

    "Nida, I know that you want to move on already. But I swear, I'm not doing this just to annoy you. You've got much more drive than I've normally seen in rookies… especially with what happened last year and all…"

    "Let's… not talk about that, Kiran. It happened, and everything worked out without anyone getting really hurt in spite of it. Let's just leave it at that," Nida said, the topic eliciting an involuntary shudder.

    "But my point is, moments like those are real possibilities!" Kiran said, throwing his wings wide and flailing.

    "The entire point of training is so that you can be prepared for them if you stay on a Rescue Team past this first stage! And… well-"

    The Swellow lowered his head and found his voice dropping to a little above a murmur, uttering some uncomfortable confessions.

    "None of us want to see you get hurt from trying to push on ahead too fast. Not Crom. Not your mami. And especially not me... you understand, don't you?"

    "I guess," Nida said, looking down. She kicked at the dirt, not really sure what to say back to her team leader's concern, only to feel a feathery sensation moving up against her and seeing Kiran patting her head with his wing.

    "You're almost through, Nida, I promise. I just need to be able to see a little more from your teamwork with Crom that shows you're ready to be guided under less tutoring wings."

    "So… if I can definitively prove to you that I can take care of myself as a Rescuer, you'll upgrade my rank?" Nida asked, starting to smirk- much to the immediate concern of the Swellow.

    "Now hold on, that's not what I said at-!"

    "I think I can live with that, Kiran," Nida cheerfully replied.

    "Ah… Nida."

    "Whelp, I'm off," the Nidoran said, turning to leave.

    "Nida!" Kiran called after his teammate.

    "What? Oh… right."

    Nida then shook her satchel off her shoulders and passed her bag off to the Swellow

    "Almost left without leaving the supplies for your bag tomorrow, didn't I?"

    "Yes, let's… leave it at that," Kiran said, his voice betraying ever so slight hints of exasperation, but deciding for the moment to let the matter be.

    The Nidoran then turned and bounded off down another path, the guild hall quickly disappearing behind her as the shacks and tents she passed started to become less extravagant, and the paths less-travelled.

    "Don't forget to remind Crom to prepare on your way back home!" she heard Kiran calling after her.

    "Heh heh, silly Swellow, I don't need anyone to remind me to do anything with Crom," she called back, and away she went. Past wooden and canvas buildings, past the Day Care run by the Froslass (who stopped watching her siblings after dark after the incident with her Pomeg plants), past one of the little bridges over the creek that went through town, until she came to a small hut with the smell of toasted grain wafting in the air.

    "Crom? Are you in there?" Nida called towards the humble building, but to no apparent response. The Nidoran thought the whole matter was rather peculiar- usually Crom had no trouble coming to the front- and so with a bit of concern, she poked her head into the rude hut's doorway...

    "Crom-? Meep!"

    … Only to find herself scooped up by a set of blue claws and brought up a couple feet off the ground, where she came face to face with a jagged red maw and its piercing yellow eyes.

    "Hee hee, gotcha!"

    Nida untensed and breathed a sigh of relief as she recognized the welcomer. "Phew… Crom, don't do that. You know how Nidoran like me feel about suddenly getting snatched like that."

    "Aw, but then how am I supposed to ever get you more than a foot off the floor?" the young Druddigon piped back as he set Nida back on the ground.

    "Did you come to head off to dinner at the guild hall together?" the red-and-blue creature cheerily asked.

    Crom and his family were ever-so-slightly strange creatures. Usually when one thought of dragon Pokémon, one thought of fighters or warriors, or the heavens forbid, pirates. Crom and his relatives on the other hand…

    "Mom said that I could stay overnight at the guild hall once the evening loaves are done. A bakery's hard work, you know?"

    The Nidoran's ears drooped after hearing the young dragon's words.

    "You won't be able to come?" Crom asked, visibly disappointed.

    "Sorry… Mami and Papi have field work late tonight, and I got the short end of the stick for babysitting my younger brothers and sisters," Nida sighed.

    "Oh. Well, it's just four of you guys, ri-?"

    "My younger brothers and sisters, Crom," Nida said, bringing an awkward silence over the room.

    "Oh, right."

    "I take it that you already knew about Kiran wanting us to be prepared for tomorrow, right?"

    "Uh huh!" the young Druddigon beckoned Nida to clamber up his back and onto his crest, and brought her to see a table set with the first loaves of the evening.

    "I'm already planning on bringing along all of the ones that don't sell in the morning!" Crom beamed.

    Nida's ears flattened out at the mention of the idea of bringing day-old bread along.

    "Um, Crom… Wouldn't fresh bread make you grow even faster? And be less hard on your jaws?"

    "Well hey, beggars can't be choosers. And mom says that eating well will help me to grow big and strong just like her! I'm at her chest height now! It's not that different for Nidoran, right?"

    "... Whatever, I'm just saying, whenever I eventually have kits, that's not what I plan on feeding them. Ever," Nida said, furrowing her brow a bit.

    Crom couldn't help but giggle and tease a bit after hearing his passenger's comments.

    "Is that a hint that one day we're gonna have-?"

    It was then that the moment the two young Pokémon were enjoying was abruptly brought to an end by another Druddigon half a head shorter barging in.

    "Cro-om! Mom says to stop dawdling and help put the bread out onto the display tables!"

    "Alright, alright!" Crom replied, reluctantly bringing his snout to the ground to let his passenger off.

    "Sorry Nida, but I need to get back to helping. Good luck with babysitting?"

    "I'll try, I guess," Nida said.

    "See you in the morning," Crom said, waving a hasty farewell.

    "Yeah, you too," Nida sighed, before heading off towards the hills above the town.

    A short time later, Nida returned to the area around her burrow, a hillside with a distinctive lack of buildings and tents. Most Pokémon in the area lived in nests or burrows; the lack of undergrowth, the sparser trees, and the reed mat placemarkers were the only major difference from the forests deeper in the island.

    Eventually, Nida came back to her family's burrow. Absently, she noted how little had changed in the last couple of years, since the nights she would sneak out to stargaze.

    "I'm h-"

    Before Nida could finish her breath, six rowdy and visibly smaller Nidoran with matching white scarves with blue whirlpools on them bounded out of the burrow's entrance.

    "Whee!" a little blue ball cried out, hopping circles around Nida.

    "Sissy, play with us, play with us!" a purple ball demanded, tugging at Nida's leg.

    "Sissy, Dia stole my berry earlier!" another purple ball pouted.

    "Did not!" a blue ball responded.

    "Did so!"

    "They're both lying, I saw them!" another purple ball interjected.

    "When's Mami gonna be home? And are you going to be a boring babysitter like Dorin?" the last, blue ball asked skeptically.

    As the six little Nidoran continued jabbering, a larger male Nidoran slipped out from the burrow, mouthed something that seemed to be "They're your problem now," and quickly hopped away.

    "-ome..." Nida sighed, as she resigned herself to what was evidently going to be a very long and weary night.




    The final strains of day eventually gave way to night, and life in Bluewhorl Town began to largely wind down and come to a close. But further up the mountain, behind a shroud of fog, the ever-changing passages of Tromba Island's Mystery Dungeon were slightly more active.

    A couple floors beyond the entrance, in a chamber composed primarily of light stone intersected by small tidal pools, some Krabby scuttled to and fro across the cave floor between shallow pools of water, snapping at a few Finneon that happened to float by, while a Corsola pulled itself out of another pool to gather salts from a damp rock. An unremarkable night for Pokémon whose lives followed an alternative rhythm to those slumbering down the hill.

    The only sign of any disturbance to this rhythm came when a strong wind began to blow, causing the Pokémon in the chamber to hesitate and begin to mill about towards signs of shelter uneasily, in expectation of some disruptive force that would come by and quickly pass.

    Then the winds abruptly picked up, followed by thunder, and the walls began to shake. It was far more severe than the poor creatures expected, and they now madly and desperately scurried about the chamber for some respite. A few lighter creatures were swept up in the draft and blown elsewhere into the maze, giving panicked chitters, yelps, and cries.

    Those that could maintain their rooting to the chamber couldn't help but stare down at the end where the winds blew from, a single dreadful question lurking in their minds.

    What sort of beast, down deep in the dungeon, could cause a calamity like this?




    In a chamber fashioned further on in the Mystery Dungeon, its position ever in flux with the disturbances that constantly reshaped the floors of the maze, a solitary silvery-white egg with blue swirls waited on a raised patch of stone ringed by a shallow pool of water. The chamber, fashioned from darker stone, basked in the dim glow of the bioluminescent algae on the ceiling. The stone room was blissfully separated enough from the cacophony elsewhere in the dungeon to hear only the faint but sharp whistling of distant-sounding winds, the eye to the storm that had engulfed the rest of the maze.

    And then, the comparative stillness broke with a faint crack. And then a louder crack with the faint, wet sound of some viscous substance being pulled apart. The lights from the ceiling were just strong enough to produce a shadow of the rapidly hatching orb on the wall of the the chamber: a limb forcing its way out of one end, a snout and long neck from another. Soon, there was nothing left of the egg at all, but the form of a winged creature rearing up, spreading its wings.

    The chamber's separation from the storm was then broken by the creature's loud, feral screech.





    Back in the burrow, and many, many earshots away, Nida was fast asleep alone in a nest made for less frequent cohabitants, recovering from a long and exhausting night tending to six ever-moving lumps of fluff.

    "Eeek!"

    "The sky is breaking!"

    "Mami!"

    The sound began to rouse Nida awake, causing her to mutter under her breath about kits these days.

    "Not right now, plea-"

    Only for a deafening boom to cause her to bolt up from her matted straw.

    "Gack!"

    Now that she was awake, she began to understand why her younger siblings were crying out from the chamber next to hers. A wild wind whipped the air outside, and the smell of the rain wafted its way into the burrow. A flash of thunder down the entrance to the burrow caught Nida's eye briefly.

    All these sensations suddenly made Nida feel much smaller and more alone. She nestled into her bedding, bristling her fur and barbs on instinct.

    "Eh? Still shrinking away from thunder? I thought your guild friends helped fix that," a voice from out in the hall called.

    Nida sighed, and detensed her fur and spines a bit. "It's not the same when it wakes you up, papi!" she fumed defensively.

    The speaker came into the room and revealed himself to be a Nidorino, leaning into his daughter's nest and giving her snout a soft nuzzle. "Oh come now, it's nothing worse than what your mami throws around, don't you think?" he chuckled.

    Nida couldn't help but stifle a laugh at the question. He had a point, she guessed. No matter how loud and angry the storm, there would always be a moment where Mami could match it. Still, she couldn't help but be somewhat concerned about the abrupt gale outside.

    "Papi, what's going on? Isn't the wet season not supposed to come for another two moons?"

    The Nidorino shook his head, "I'm afraid I don't know myself, mija. The storm suddenly kicked up a little after the Sea Prince's Traveler went behind the moon and it's been like this ever since."

    "Then… someone did this? But… who? And why?" Nida asked, starting to grow a little concerned.

    "Let's hope for their sake that it was for a good reason. Your mami is going to be sour in the morning without her sleep," the Nidorino sighed.

    Just as suddenly as they'd started, the winds began to die down. The sound of the pouring rain gave way to the gentler pitter-patter of a drizzle, and then ultimately, silence came.

    "It just… stopped," Nida said, before quickly hopping out of bed and up the entrance of the burrow.

    The once-scenic view outside had been wrecked by the sudden storm.. The family's welcome mat oozed water when stepped on; some of the trees had had limbs blown down; cries of some neighbors' children rang out along the hillside, startled by the storm much as her siblings deeper in the burrow had been. Nida shuddered as she realized that some of those children were without an earthen ceiling to provide some measure of shelter.

    But up in the skies, the clouds began to break, rapidly giving way back to the view of the cosmos as if nothing had happened.

    The Nidorino followed Nida up to the entrance of the burrow, taking in the scene for himself. "Probably all just a dispute among some sea ferals," he snorted before turning back to his child.

    "Come on, you should head back to bed. You've got a big adventure tomorrow, right?"

    "Right."

    And the two went back into the little burrow on the hill as calm returned to the night.




    Author's Notes:

    - Cazadragones - Spanish: "dragon hunter", lit. "hunter of dragons"
    - Manternal - French: "Leavanny"
    - Papi - Spanish: "father", "daddy"
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
  6. Tangent128

    Tangent128 Member

    I suppose I should stop lurking and say hi.

    Hi! o/

    Can't really add additional feedback beyond the earlier beta-reading, but I am interested in seeing how this seed grows out in the long-term.
     
  7. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    I hope that it'll be a fun ride, and once again, thanks for all the help you've provided with these chapters.

    So, last week we left off with some general slice-of-life. Today's update will be a little more action-y and cut to the meat of what Rescue Teams actually do. Naturally, there will be some attempts at interpreting some game mechanics that I hope don't stretch the bounds of belief too much.

    Thanks for this chapter goes to the usual suspects, with particular emphasis on the help that forumites Tangent128 and solovino, and Sugoitsu from ff.net provided.

    Lastly, this time next week, I will be on a flight above the Pacific for travel. As such, I will be making an attempt to put something out this Friday. Ideally, it will be the next chapter, but if that turns out to be unfeasible, I will put up some manner of trivia/Q&A for anything that gets posed this week and upload the third chapter within a couple days after I get back from my travels.

    Well... Actually, I take that 'lastly' back. We should probably get moving onto the actual chapter, shouldn't we?

    [​IMG]

    The following morning, Nida found herself bounding down the now-muddy paths of Bluewhorl towards the Guild Hall.

    "I'm late, I'm late," she panted, dashing past the shops on the shoreline plaza, dodging between Pokémon and weaving around the occasional footstep of someone much larger than her.

    The storm had been about as kind to the town as it had been to Nida's home; that is to say, not at all. Nida passed a grumbling Azumarill along with her Chinchou partner, the two of them surveying a gaping hole in the stern of a boat that had been pushed into one of the piers. She passed Calino, who busied himself dumping out some ruined stock; all the while, he bewailed the damage it was going to do to his renovation fund. All of the tents and huts the Nidoran passed by the water had caved in on one side or another from the harsh winds and waves rolling over the docks.

    As Nida made her way up towards the guild hall, the storm's damage became less noticeable. A tear in some tent canvas here, a missing patch of roof there, some drenched papers on the mission board blotted to illegibility by the rain.

    "I didn't keep you... waiting too long... did I?" Nida struggled to relay her meaning to Kiran in between ragged breaths, settling to hope that he could piece together her fragmented thoughts. She waggled her leg, trying to free it of the flecks from mud puddles that she'd run straight through in her rush to get to the guild.

    "We haven't been waiting longer than anyone else, no. Guildmaster Hatteras has been busy all morning trying to get everything back in order around here," the Swellow said, pointing at an Ampharos surveying tears along the different pieces of canvas on the tent.

    "I see," Nida said, "So… that means we're ready to go, then?"

    Kiran visibly shifted his wings a bit, "Erm…"

    "Kiran, we are going, aren't we?" Nida demanded.

    "It's just that, perhaps we should let a few other teams go into the dungeon first today," the Swellow offered.

    "Kiran. It's apple-gathering," Nida mumbled, feeling cross at her team leader's sudden hesitance. "We've done missions to scatter them before, just how well-hidden do you think they'd be?"

    "Yeah! We could probably finish up halfway just in the first room!" Crom said, his beating wings displaying a hidden side of youthful eagerness much like his shorter partner's.

    "That sorta work sounds right up your alley, tykes," a familiar Sentret volunteered as he passed by.

    "Hey! I don't see you doing any work, Scout!" Crom growled after the squirrely windbag.

    "I know that," Kiran replied, "But… after storms like these, Mystery Dungeons usually shift around. A lot. We don't really know how the floors will be ordered, or what will be on them, or…"

    "If any outside Pokémon will have been blown in again," Nida finished.

    There was an uncomfortable silence among the three Pokémon, the Swellow and the short Druddigon trading looks with Nida.

    "You said after everything happened that that was all a freak incident, so did everyone else. So if it was such an accident, why are we just standing here? It's not like it would happen again, right?" Nida said, giving a firm and determined gaze at the Swellow.

    "Nida. I know that it doesn't always seem so, but things always happen for a reason," the Swellow began to reply, but his words soon trailed off after seeing his red-and-blue charge also looking at him.

    "It is just getting apples, Kiran. Maybe she has a point," Crom said, his eyes adopting a bit of a pleading expression.

    Kiran paused for what seemed an eternity before he responded, "Fine. We'll go, but on the first sign of something more dangerous than normal, we're calling for a lift out of there. Understood?"

    "Understood," the two agreed.

    From there, the three Pokémon headed off, up a winding trail that lead out of town up towards the fog shrouding the far side of the mountain.




    A ways up the path, the trio found themselves trudging their way past innumerable trees, bushes, assorted flowers, and little pebbles which marked the contours of the path, all drenched by the prior night's storm. The aroma of freshly-moistened earth wafted all around as it always did after heavy rain. Despite the pleasant atmosphere it created, the three found themselves shrouded in an uncomfortable silence. Nida took it upon herself to try and break it.

    "... So, Crom. Did you remember to bring that bread?"

    "Yep! It's right on top of Kiran's bag- Oof!"

    En route to the Swellow, Crom found himself knocking heads with an unfortunate dangling Spinarak with an unmarked body. The creature knocked the Druddigon backwards, hissing angrily.

    "Hey! Watch where you're going, you little village runt!"

    "A-aah!" Crom cried out. He backpedaled from the angry Pokémon as Kiran swooped in to intervene.

    "Eeek!"

    The Spinarak promptly flew into a state of panic at the sight of the swift-winged bird before him.

    "Monster! Monster!"

    The team breathed a collective sigh after the small creature skittered into the cleft of a nearby tree and began to cower in silence, waiting for the dangerous creatures below to pass.

    "Crom, you need to remember that there are ferals outside of Mystery Dungeons, too!" Kiran admonished, rubbing a wing against his forehead.

    "But they usually keep to themselves!" Crom protested, dusting himself off from his fall backwards.

    "That one did seem a bit meaner than normal, Kiran," Nida said while continuing on up the path, "I thought you said that the reason why ferals attacked more often in Mystery Dungeons was because they could get away with it easier."

    "Well, you have to understand it from the perspective of a feral, Nida," Kiran said as he took flight once more.

    "If they get hurt and no one helps them or lets them get away, well… That's sometimes it for them. So if someone seems scary, and you feel like you have a chance of scaring them off or defeating them, you have to try and do something about it."

    "Sounds like a really tough way to live," Crom remarked, following Kiran down the path.

    "Well now, I guess we'll just have to show them why being part of a Rescue Team is so much better, huh?"

    "Heh, I gue- Oh, look!"

    Crom pointed out a side path which wound around a couple bends to a simple wooden pavillion with a shingled roof that stood on a seaside ledge, stubbornly defying the elements and its unkempt surroundings.

    "Huh… That ánima held out better than I thought it would. Why, I'm not sure if I see any change from the storm beyond a few missing shingles," Kiran said.

    "Why don't we pay a visit, huh? It can't hurt for a little good luck before we head in, right?" Crom asked.

    "Well, I don't suppose it can," Nida responded as she led the way over to the simple shrine, her teammates close in tow.

    Nida hopped up a jutting stone at the shrine's base in order to peer in. There were some small pebbles laid out in front of it, and the shutters that normally protected its interior at night had been opened earlier that morning by its custodians. Now that the shutters were opened, one could see that inside the shrine was a simple iron bell; above it each panel of the roof was painted in a different scene.

    One panel depicted a white and blue bird rising from the sea, with red, yellow, and blue birds waiting for it. Another depicted those same birds being struck by arrows of light and falling to earth. Another depicted a strange egg with various nondescript Pokémon gathered around it. Finally, the last panel pictured the egg being carried into the fog further up the mountain.

    Crom took two loaves from his bag, setting one on the ledge of the shrine.

    "One for the Protector… And one for us!" he cheered, breaking up the remaining loaf and sharing it with his companions.

    "Don't the ferals just take the food that gets left here anyways?" Nida asked while biting into her chunk of the loaf. The bread was firm, but much to her pleasant surprise, less stale than she had expected from day-old leftovers.

    "It's the thought that counts!" Crom insisted as he greedily gulped down his piece.

    "Leth geth going, kidth," Kiran prodded the two in-between mouthfuls of bread. He then picked up the remainder with his beak and ushered his charges back to the winding path, finishing his portion alongside Nida as they walked.




    By the time everyone finished their bread, the team found themselves entering a foggy portion of the forest leading up to a cave entrance.

    "Do you remember the rules of going in?" Kiran asked his two charges at the mouth of the cave.

    "Stay together in the fog, don't wander off the path, and don't run into the dungeon," Nida and Crom recited, groaning at having to partake of this ritual reminder.

    "Good, then let's make our way in," the Swellow said, extending a wing for Crom to hold onto. As the two began to set off, Nida scurried up Crom's back and onto his crest, her preferred perch for ensuring she stuck with the group.

    "So, what do you think we should do with the apples that are left over after this mission, Nida?"

    "Eh? Wouldn't we just keep them for later?" Nida asked, tilting her ears.

    The fog had grown increasingly thick, and as the group made their way in, the less they were able to see of each other. Heads, limbs, tails disappeared into the haze.

    "You're thinking too simple! Why... think about the things you can do with those apples! You could bake them into bread... You could candy them… Kiran said they might be a decent Gravelerock substitute…"

    Nida couldn't help but giggle at the idea of trying to clock someone with an apple; it was one of those silly, nonsensical ideas that couldn't help but take the edge off someone. As the fog thickened enough that she lost sight of her own whiskers, she decided she quite appreciated that sentiment.

    The thickest portions of the fog were always unnerving, even after all these times passing through it. For what seemed an eternity, Nida couldn't see past her nose, sounds and smells became garbled and misleading, and even the very air seemed to grow thick and heavy. It was during this stretch that she was silently grateful that Crom had allowed her to hitchhike on his crest today.

    "Alright, we should be through the worst of it!" Kiran announced.

    True to his word, the fog around them slowly thinned, the air felt less weighty with each trudging step forward, and the smell of rushing salt water came on the breeze. After a few steps further, they found themselves able to see their paws, claws, and wings once again in the haze. Finally, the fog cleared entirely, leaving an unobstructed view dimly lit by scattered patches of glowing algae of the surrounding sea cave the group had wandered into.

    "How does this dungeon look like a sea cave when it's halfway up a mountain?" Nida asked before hopping off of Crom's head. "I mean, I know that the Distortion in here probably has something to do with it, but still..."

    "The lower levels apparently open out to deep in the seas off the shore," Kiran said while taking his wing back to his side. "Not that we will need to go anywhere that far today."

    The Swellow beat his wings a few times - "to get my blood flowing," he'd explained in the past- and turned back to his two teammates after taking flight.

    "Remember, if you get lost or in trouble, find a place apart from everything else and use your badges to call for help," the Swellow reminded.

    "We will," the two younger Pokémon responded in unison, before turning their attention to helping the Swellow scan the floor for apples.




    The first floor was rather quiet. Aside from the tidal pools and the various rocks, all the team encountered were items. True to Crom's predictions, they found half of the apples they had been tasked to deliver, which were stuffed into Kiran's bag. The time in between then and the search for the stairs had primarily been spent by Crom and Nida playing in the tide pools that just so happened to be along the way. They also, at Crom's request, tested Kiran's theory of apples as a substitute for Gravelerocks… on Kiran himself.

    Eventually, the three found themselves in front of the stairs to the second floor, peering down a pathway which separated their position from the next chamber.

    "Are we sure there's nothing else we want from the first level? Once we set down these stairs, the Distortion will seal the entrance by the time we reach the next floor," the Swellow asked cautiously.

    "We're sure, let's keep going!" Nida said.

    "Yeah, it's no fun to only go to the first floor of a dungeon anyways!" Crom added.

    The group descended the stairs, heard the normal scrapes and shudders as a wall of stone from the floor above closed over the way they came, and quickly took stock of their surroundings… finding their room to be barren with the sole exception of some further stairs heading down.

    "... That's it?" Nida asked, in a flat and unimpressed tone.

    "Erm… Not quite," Kiran said, pointing out where the ceiling for the chamber would normally be. In its stead was the incredibly distant-looking layout of the floor they had just came from. Upside down.

    "Shame we'd never be able to reach it thanks to the Distortion… I wonder what it feels like to be able to walk upside down without falling," Crom said as he stared up at the inverted floor.

    It was one of those unsubtle moments that helped to bring back into the minds of the three explorers that in spite of their previous times traversing this Mystery Dungeon, it was very much not home.

    After the group's attention turned back to the stairs to the next level, there was a bit of a collective shrug and the three continued down deeper into the maze.

    "Heh, I think the storm might have actually worked out quite well for us!" Crom said, pleased with their fortune on the last floor.

    As the trio headed down the stairs, they found that the third floor was a bit more mundane in appearance. The ceiling was seemingly all there, unlike the prior room. The floor was still mostly rocks and shallow water pools. All seemed to be normal.

    "See anything, you two?" Kiran asked while scanning the room.

    "There are definitely apples in here… I can smell them," Nida replied.

    "Oh! Oh! I smell them too! But… I don't see any apples," Crom added, drooping his wings a little.

    "Maybe it would be best for you two to lead the way on this floor, I'm afraid I can't smell much of anything."

    "Hmm… I think I'll take the higher stuff. You'll be able to handle the ground, Nida?"

    Nida flattened her ears a bit at the idea of having to deal with attempting to plant her nose on the waterlogged ground. It always was so much more comfortable when the apples were plainly visible and the damp ground could remain underneath her feet where it belonged. Unfortunately for her, it didn't seem like there was much of a choice on this floor.

    "I think I'll survive, Crom."

    The two then began to attempt to ferret out just where the scent of the apples might be coming from. Crom strayed a bit to the left of the room, while Nida went to the right. In spite of the strong odor of salt, she could tell that there definitely was an apple out there… somewhere. Little by little, she continued to follow the smell ever closer to-

    "Oop!"

    Tumbling headfirst into one of the shallow pools. The Nidoran hastily pulled herself out, and after coughing up a little water, shook herself dry.

    "Grr… I don't understand, I can smell the apple right here, but this is just a-!"

    She then looked up and saw that the apple was floating within the water itself, apparently having rolled off of a ledge overlooking the pool.

    "Found one!" Nida called out, which quickly drew her companions over to the pool. Kiran came first, followed quickly by Crom, who had apparently already found his apple on the left and deposited it into Kiran's bag.

    "... I'll need to find out what team was responsible for scattering these and tell them to be a bit more cuidadoso next time," Kiran sighed, watching the apple bob up and down lazily in the water.

    "Eh, it's just a little pool," Crom said before clambering into the water. The Druddigon waded along, the water coming up to his wings as he went out far enough to grasp the apple.

    "See? Piece of- YEOW!"

    Much to Nida's shock, Crom then pitched forward and into the water.

    "Crom!"

    He shortly resurfaced, thrashing and flailing as something had latched itself onto his wing.

    "Get it off! Get it off!"

    The most unwelcome assailant quickly revealed itself to be a Krabby, fastened tight to Crom's left wing.

    "Get out of our pool!" the Krabby chittered, trying to find something for his other pincer to latch onto. Kiran immediately tried to swoop in to intervene while Nida rushed over to the water's edge.

    "Hold on, Crom, we're comi- GACK!"

    Only for another Krabby to latch onto his foot as he passed over the water.

    "Go away and stay away!" it demanded, as Nida came to the side of the water. She tried to rear up the barbs in her pelt much as her parents and more experienced siblings would. While she managed to fire a singular barb, the little missile accomplished nothing but to sail through the air a couple feet and fall into the water with a weak splash.

    "Rats… How on earth do they make stinging seem so easy?"

    She decided to try a more proven tactic, and called out to the Swellow, "Kiran, quick! Give me your bag- Meep!"

    Only to be forced to abruptly sidestep a beam of bubbles that drenched the spot where she was standing with bubbles that burst with sticky glop that was scalding hot to the touch.

    "You'll not get away from me so easily, furball!" hissed a third Krabby, the apparent culprit of the bubbly attack, who made haste clambering out of the pool.

    "Kiran!" Nida shouted, fanning out the barbs under her fur, "The bag would be nice about now!"

    "Agarra!" the Swellow cried as he tried to fling the group's bag to Nida. The bag sailed through the air, its trajectory having been jerked off course by his ongoing struggle with the Krabby clamping down on his foot, and landed a good distance away from her, towards the middle of the room.

    "Oh yeah, great throw ther-" Nida grumbled, only to have her train of thought promptly interrupted by having to sidestep a snapping claw.

    "Stay still so that I can grab you!"

    "Get away from me!" Nida cried, giving two stiff, spinning kicks to the Krabby that was almost upon her. Her legs felt as if they were striking damp stone, but they were forceful enough to cause the crustacean to stumble a bit, which Nida took advantage of to sprint towards the bag as fast as her feet could carry her.

    She threw open the flap to the bag, stuck her head and forepaws in, and began to fling out its contents. "Gravelerock, Gravelerock," she muttered to herself while fumbling around inside. She knew that Kiran had one in there from an earlier mission when they went in… Apple, apple, another apple, why had the guild been so adamant that they had to gather these stupid training apples in the first place?!

    "Where is it?! I know we had a-!"

    Her search was interrupted by the sting of hot bursts and the sensation of something gummy and warm that stuck to the fur that sent her and the bag tumbling, coming to rest staring at a far wall in a daze.

    "Can the room stop spinning no-OW!"

    Her dizziness was suddenly joined by a sharp pain shooting through one of her hind legs.

    "I've got you now!" an irate voice chittered.

    "Let me go!"

    This was bad, Nida had not expected a Pokémon who could only move sideways on land to close the gap so quickly. Worse still, she couldn't kick her way out of this one with one leg caught and her underbelly half-open to further attacks from the Krabby.

    The Krabby then tugged on Nida's leg, and began to drag her. She began to flail and shouted out from pain as the creature's grip tightened. It was then, in the corner of her eye, that the relative movement of being dragged along a stone cave floor caused a slim object to come into view.

    She couldn't tell what the object was, but that was beside the point. She needed something to hurl at her sopping attacker, and this would have to do. She quickly latched onto the object with a forepaw.

    "I said, 'Let me go!'" Nida shouted, before blindly throwing the slim item at the Krabby. It was then that she heard a cracking noise and felt the crustacean's grip release and the sharp pain became dull.

    Nida whirled to her feet, and gave another two kicks at her attacker. The second one was with her injured leg, the immediate shot of pain causing Nida to yelp and hastily change tactics.

    "Go away!" she yelled, tackling the Krabby. The crustacean flopped backwards. As Nida stumbled backwards and uneasily tried to regain her footing, she noticed that the Krabby was weakly snoring with fragments of a seed's husk scattered about it. It was subdued enough for now, she supposed.

    "Kiran! Are you okay?!" she called out.

    Nida was answered by the sound of a wing striking chitin and the sight of a limp and groaning Krabby bouncing off some rocks into a pool of water.

    "I'm alright! I'm alright!" the Swellow cried back, "Where's Crom?"

    "H-Help!"

    Then, both sets of eyes turned to the young Druddigon, who was busy pressing a wing against a rock.

    "I defeated it, but it's not coming off!" Crom cried.

    "Crom... Move away from the rock and let it fall off," Nida said in between gasping breaths. Leaving the Druddigon to stare back with a sheepish expression.

    "Heh heh… right," Crom replied awkwardly, and moved away from the cave wall and through the pool, the dazed Krabby falling off his left wing and into the pool with a splash.

    Crom crossed the pool back over to Nida as Kiran sighed and began to regather the contents of his bag… minus one Sleep Seed. "Are you two alright?" he asked.

    "Erm… well..."

    "No," Nida interjected emphatically.

    "Stay still, lemme come over and take a look," Kiran started, only to be interrupted while passing the sleeping Krabby as it started to come to.

    "Rrgh… You! Bird! So you think that you can blow us around like the monster did last night? Well, you're sorely mis-!"

    Kiran quickly cut off the Krabby's rant with a stiff swat from his wing, which flung the crustacean unconscious into the pool with his dazed companions.

    The two were rather scuffed up, which made Kiran silently grateful that he merely had some scrapes on his foot and damaged plumage to tend to; Crom's left wing was turning red and had scales scraped off in the place where the Krabby that attacked him had latched on, with other scuffs from the creature's free appendages. Nida's right flank was covered in sudsy glop, showing red in between the strands of her pelt and the barbs underneath, with her hind right leg visibly limping from having been caught in her attacking Krabby's claws.

    "Well, I suppose it could be worse. Lie down on your left, Nida, I'll get the Oran Berries," Kiran said while rummaging through his bag.

    He drew out one of the blue berries, tore away the peels with his talons, and after scraping the gummy mass off of Nida's flank, pressed the naked fruit against it, letting the juice seep into her skin as she winced. Oran Berries always stung when their juice seeped into wounds, both in their natural state, and after the rare cases they had been changed and made more potent by prolonged exposure to the Distortion. And the little berry that Kiran was squeezing against Nida's body was no exception.

    "That… Didn't go as well as it could have," Crom sighed. Nida flared her ears as the the initial sting from her flank dulled, and began to talk back.

    "Understatement mu- Ow!" she winced, Kiran having moved on to applying the rest of the berry to her right leg.

    "Make sure to eat the pulp at the least, it's where most of the nutrients and healing properties are," said the Swellow as he left the remains of the berry to Nida and turned to tend to Crom's wing.

    "Kiran… How many more of these apples do we need to get?" Nida asked, while starting to bite into her Oran Berry's pulp.

    "The mission asked for at least six," Kiran responded.

    "Maybe we should just head back and get that last one la- ARGH!"

    Crom's flinching caught Kiran off guard, if partly because he was a full foot taller than the Swellow and not-so-slightly heavier. This made steadying him when treating wounds a bit trickier.

    "Easy there, and if you two aren't feeling up to going further, I suppose-"

    "No," Nida said, her stern tone softened by the mass of Oran pulp in her mouth. The effects of the berry's healing properties had already started to kick in as the sting from its juices faded, dulling the pain from her leg and flank.

    "E-Eh?" Crom stammered.

    "Nida, it really isn't that necessary to-"

    "Kiran, we need one more apple. We can get one apple. We haven't even gone half as deep as the furthest point in our last mission yet!" Nida protested.

    Kiran and Crom exchanged glances. The little Nidoran did have a point: an extra day in the dungeon would be an extra day that they wouldn't be able to do other jobs, or spend time with their families, or run errands in town.

    "I mean, if you're sure it's a good idea, Nida," Crom said hesitantly, "I mean, the Oran Berry is making me feel a lot better already."

    "I'm not sure if I like this… But I guess it would be pretty silly to just pack it in if the last apple was lying in a corner on this floor here," Kiran mulled as he looked about the room. "Did either of you smell any more apples around?"

    "No," Nida said.

    Crom took a minute to sniff the air, and after a pause, he gave his verdict. "I do smell one. But… it seems really faint."

    "Which way is it, Crom?" Kiran asked.

    "Past that wall over there," Crom replied, pointing out a slab of cave rock with a bend to the right that went around it.

    "Let's get going, then," Kiran said.

    "What about the Krabby?" Nida asked, only to have her question answered by the dazed voice of one of the earlier Krabby weakly skittering up some rocks.

    "Hey, where'd that furball go?"

    "Okay never mind, they seem well enough," Nida quickly decided, "Let's get going!"

    The three quickly put some distance in between themselves and the Krabby-infested pool, rounding the dungeon wall and finding a crossroads.

    "That way!" Crom said, gesturing to a passage on the right. The team went down the passage, and relaxed their pace after they could no longer hear or sense the Krabby further back. They then found themselves nearing a third flight of stairs.

    "Are we sure this is a good idea, Nida? I mean, the smell of the apple's fairly strong here, but…" Crom shifted uncomfortably, "That one last Krabby did mention a monster and all."

    The suggestion unnerved Nida; she knew full well that such talk wasn't always without reason. But then again, hadn't that Spinarak on the path called Kiran a monster?

    "I'm pretty sure that the 'monster' is just some Pokémon that's slightly bigger than them," she huffed.

    "Well, I guess that is the most likely thing it would be," Kiran said, his misgivings not fully dispelled.

    "Then let's get going!"

    "Fair enough," the Swellow sighed, as he began to lead Crom and Nida down the steps, a bit more wearily than their last one. Heading down, there was no obvious sign of anything amiss, not that a staircase could go awry too badly. The Distortion that shaped the other floors, for whatever reason, seemed to always make the "stairs" some manner of rough ramp consisting of low, staggered stone ledges.

    The fourth floor that day had its furthest wall composed of water which crashed against some unseen lip and cascaded down into some abyss far, far below. At least, it seemed that way. It was hard to truly know where one thing began and another ended in this tangled pit. The floor was a bit easier to make sense of, consisting of small outcroppings of rock that jutted out of a layer of water meandering forward from the cascade at the rear.

    "Oh great, just the sort of floor I was looking forward to," Nida groaned, lowering her ears as she hopped across a small stretch of water to another outcropping.

    "Well, at least the visibility's good," Crom offered as Kiran flapped up to get a better view.

    "And the main hazard in the room seems to be visible off the bat and not too hard to avoid-"

    "Look!" Nida interrupted, gesturing to a small, elevated alcove that was obscured by an overhanging ledge. There, next to a spiral-shaped shell embedded in the rock was the last of the small red fruits that her team needed.

    "Heh, heh, looks like it's mission accomplished!" she proclaimed as she drew near to the alcove, preparing to hop across another small waterlogged gap.

    "Good work! Hurry up and get it so we can bring these apples to mom's bakery!" Crom cheered.

    Nida dug her hindclaws into the dungeon floor beneath her and, after a short moment getting her footing against the slick stone, hopped forward to the crimson apple.

    She had no sooner just left the ground when she suddenly heard a surprised squawk from Kiran, "Nida, wait!"

    "Huh-?"

    She crested the lip of the ledge, and noticed a faint crosshatched pattern on the stone below.

    Her feet rested upon it.

    To her horror, there was a soft, but audible click.

    "Tra-!"

    Then the floor gave way beneath her, and the Nidoran found herself tumbling head over heels through thin air.




    Author's Notes:

    - ánima - Spanish (Southern Cone): "shrine", specifically of the small, roadside sort
    - cuidadoso - Spanish: "careful"
    - (¡)Agarra! - Spanish: "Take it!", specific verb carries more urgency than the otherwise identical ¡Toma!
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2018
  8. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Whelp, I had to crunch a bit, but in the end, I felt that tonight's chapter was strong enough to publish before I headed off for travels. As you probably might have guessed from the buildup over the last few weeks, this installment is the one where the premise takes a bit of a left turn.

    The next batch of chapters is currently a work in editorial progress. I don't have a hard release date for it yet, but I am presently aiming on releasing them in a fortnight, give or take 48 hours.

    My special thanks for this week's chapter goes to Tangent128, solovino, and CorvusAtrox for picking over some rough drafts and providing some much-appreciated critiques and the header, which will be the last broken eggshells you'll be seeing starting a chapter of this fic. Ever. Or at least for the foreseeable future.

    Also, although I neglected to mention it in some of the earlier installments, feedback, criticism, and commentary is welcome and would be greatly appreciated since it both makes storytelling a bit more fun and helps to highlight oversights and weaknesses.

    EDIT: Updated with a slight revision based off of some feedback from Sugoitsu of ff.net.

    Now... I think it's time to share tonight's chapter:

    [​IMG]

    Further and further Nida fell. From somewhere, Crom and Kiran called her name; but as she slipped deeper into the abyss, her teammates' voices quickly faded into muddled gibberish. Soon, the only sounds that remained were Nida's own screams piercing the silence.

    "Aaah!"

    The next thing she felt was the dull thud of her rump striking something hard and her body pitching forward. Her head and legs slammed into hard stone and she felt herself tumble a few times along a floor before coming to a rest on her back. As stars swirled around her eyes, she heard something bounce off the floor nearby with a clink, followed by the distinctive splash of a small object falling into water.

    As Nida regained her bearings little by little, she couldn't help but groan. As if the piercing headache that the fall had inflicted wasn't enough, realizing the sheer carelessness of what she had done added insult to injury- a blind leap in the wrong place and the wrong time, one that could have led to a long stint in the medics' tent... or the afterlife.

    Gingerly, she moved a paw up against her neck, to where she always pinned her badge on her scarf. Nida pressed where the badge normally was, dreading the chewing out she was sure to get from one of the Psychics back at the guild who would sense her presence. "I really screwed this one up, can I get a lift out?" she sighed.

    The only response that came was her own voice echoing back from deeper in the cave. After a few fumbling prods, Nida discovered that the cold, metal bauble she had expected to find on her scarf had vanished.

    "Oh no," she muttered. The Nidoran stumbled to her feet in a panic- so that was that clinking noise she had heard- her badge! The one thing that would have allowed her an easy escape back to the guild hall was gone! Mercifully, wherever she was seemed to be lit a dim blue- enough for her to see a rock-strewn passage that carried around a bend straddling a long, slow-flowing stream that her badge had surely fallen into.

    "Please still be here," she muttered, hopping into the channel and groping around its bottom for her badge. She splashed and flailed around in a frantic search in the water, but for all of her combing of the stream's bed, she found nothing but cold sand and pebbles.

    "Please still be here, please still be here," she muttered again and again.

    After what felt like an eternity, the unmistakable sound of a metallic clink echoed from around the bend, along with an occasional staccatoed tapping. It was her badge! As Nida pulled herself out of the channel and the sound of the flowing water grew fainter, she began to discern the sound of something shifting and moving about... in the direction of her ticket out of this pit.

    "Wh-who's there?! Give that badge back right now! It's important!" Nida cried as she bounded out of the channel, not bothering to shake off the water that had drenched her pelt. She rushed towards the tapping noises, but as she rounded the bend, she froze in her tracks.

    "That's-"

    There was a round stone dais in the middle of a pool of water that took up most of the room. It sat between corridors heading off in the three other cardinal directions, and on that landing, a white bird with blue accents along its head and spine, a long neck, and a tapering tail rested, facing away from her.

    From her position, Nida guessed that the creature was just a bit bigger than Kiran, if a few inches taller. Around the bird's feet were some fragments, like pieces of a large, freshly broken pot. The creature was craning its long neck down; enraptured from tapping at something by its feet that Nida couldn't make out, but assumed was her badge.

    It stopped to preen its shoulder before being distracted by a steady dribbling of water off of a stalactite in the passage to its right. The creature stopped preening itself, pulled its head up, and waddled towards the corridor. When it reached the lip of the water, it spread its wings and gave them a playful beat just as Nida began to realize...

    This was the very same white and blue Pokémon she'd seen depicted on the shrine bell!

    "It's you! The Prote-!"

    The creature gave a shrill cry as its blue markings and the contours of its wings began to glow, before beating them together. Nida flinched as a burst of wind from between the bird's wings sucked most of the water from the moat around its platform and tore into the right corridor. There was a brief shudder of stone and then a loud crash that shook the chamber as the passage's ceiling collapsed.

    "Ha-aah," Nida shuddered, mouth agape. This 'Protector,' it just- if that water had dripped down from her passage, that would be her buried under a wall of rubble. The bird then cocked its head, turned towards Nida, and began to draw towards her with a few flapping hops across the now depleted moat.

    Nida felt her legs go numb and her stomach begin to twist into knots, freezing in fear at the sight of this thing drawing near to her.

    "W-Wait! Stay there! I'm a Rescue Team member! I just need my badge and th-then I'll get out of here!" she stammered, backpedaling all the while away from the creature.

    But it was no use; the 'Protector' seemed to be set on catching this strange blue intruder. It quickened its pace, closing the gap faster and faster. Nida turned to run, but stumbled over an underfoot pebble and fell- just as the shadow of the bird's head fell over her.

    "I'm a- A-Aaah!"

    Nida screwed her eyes shut and fanned out her barbs, bracing herself for whatever this strange beast was about to do. She then felt a light peck at her head, and then heard a soft voice.

    "What are you?" it asked.

    "I-I'm a Nidoran! A-and I'm poisonous!" Nida squeaked as she kept her eyes firmly closed. "S-so don't get any ideas about trying to eat me!"

    "'Poisonous'?" the voice asked.

    "Y-yeah! I'll make you sick if you hurt me! Y-you'll regret it afterwards!" Nida said, trying to muster up what little bluster she could while curled up in a spiky ball.

    "'Sick...?' 'Hurt?'" the voice asked again.

    "E-eh?"

    Nida opened her eyes, and saw that the white creature had drawn its head back away from her and was holding it at a tilt, perplexed by the little blue Pokémon's words.

    "Can you play with a 'sick' or a 'hurt'? What are they?" it asked.

    "Uh… I mean, I guess you can kinda play with them- B-but that's not saying that you should! They're not good things to play with!" Nida answered back as she cautiously uncurled herself, still unsure what to make of the much larger bird before her.

    "Are Nidoran good things to play with?" the Pokémon asked, tilting its head the other way and inspecting Nida's blinking red eyes.

    "Uh… I mean, if you don't hurt the Nidoran, they're good, yes," Nida responded, still blinking.

    "Okay!" the creature responded, as it opened its jaws and began to clamp down on one of Nida's ears.

    "A-Aah! Biting hurts the Nidoran! Biting hurts the Nidoran! Lemme go!"

    The creature opened its mouth and retreated hastily, startled from the abrupt noise of the Nidoran's shrieks. After the two bounded back a small distance from each other, the white creature turned back.

    "Was that playing with a Nidoran?" it asked.

    "No!" Nida retorted as she nursed her nipped ear and finally shook her pelt dry from her earlier dunk into the channel.

    "But then how does playing with a Nidoran work?"

    Nida stopped and thought. There had to be a way to get this thing, Protector or not, to leave her in one piece long enough to get her badge. But… How?

    It was then that her hind leg chanced to brush up against a pebble. Immediately recognizing the opportunity, Nida declared, "Here, I'll show you how to play with a Nidoran."

    Nida circled around the pebble and picked it up with her forepaws. She then dropped it onto the ground and batted it forward with a swipe towards the white creature.

    "See? Now you try," Nida said.

    The bird eyed the pebble, and after puzzling on what to do with the rock, the Protector nosed it back to the Nidoran with its beak. "Like that?" it asked.

    "Yes! Exactly like that!"

    "Do Nidoran only play with this rock?"

    Nida couldn't help but slap a paw over her forehead at the question. What kind of Pokémon assumed that someone would only play with a single rock?

    "Uh… No- hey wait-! Where are you going?"

    As Nida spoke, the strange bird darted back to its platform, tromping through the remaining water in the moat. It stopped and grabbed some things off of the floor with its mouth and then returned back to the Nidoran.

    "I broth more rokths!" it declared, beaming. The Pokémon then promptly spat up some assorted objects from its mouth… Which were all coated in a film of saliva.

    "Ew..." Nida muttered, repulsed from the 'playthings' before her. She wasn't going to have to touch these grody things, was she?

    There were a few cave pebbles, some berries that had been pecked into pieces of skin and pulp, an elliptical-shaped thing half-caked in mud that glinted in the dim blue light- Wait a minute!

    "That's my badge!" Nida declared, snatching up the muddy and drool-slicked bauble at once. After a few moments to register her disgust from touching the sullied badge, Nida swallowed her reservations, pressed down upon it, and began to speak.

    "Hey, if any of you on the other side are listening, I kinda need to be rescued here!" Nida fumed. But there was still no response and no obvious sign of anything at all coming from the muddied badge.

    "Did- did the fall break it?" she fretted, beginning to panic. Her fears were then somewhat distracted by the strange white Pokémon beating its wings in eager expectation.

    "Aren't you going to play with it?"

    "What? No! This is important! I can't play around with this!" Nida shot back.

    "But... it's a rock."

    "No, it isn't. It's a badge! I need it to go home!"

    "Go... home…?" the creature asked as it tilted its head again at the Nidoran.

    It was then that Nida heard the voice of another, more familiar bird calling from the leftward corridor.

    "Nida!"

    Along with the voice of a young dragon joining shortly afterward.

    "Nida, where are you? Please, say something back!"

    "I'm here! I'm alright!" Nida cried back, dashing through the mostly-emptied moat around the platform and hopping around the bend.

    When she came out of the moat, she saw that the passage opposite the one the Protector had destroyed was filled with a thick fog like the one she passed through at the Mystery Dungeon's mouth. This place must have been a stable patch, one of a handful of points in the maze she heard about that, while still shifting, kept a floor pattern that wouldn't get warped and reformed with a strong wind like the rest of the dungeon… Or at least one that wasn't caused by a Pokémon, anyway.

    More importantly, she saw the forms of her Druddigon and Swellow teammates exiting that fog. Nida squeaked out of overjoyed surprise and bounded up to Crom, who drew her into a tight-yet-careful embrace.

    "You had us so worried!" Crom cried out, "The Pokémon from the retrieval pad said that a strong feral made off with your badge!"

    "Thank goodness we made it down here before the floors shifted!" Kiran said, rushing up to inspect the Nidoran, "We were afraid that you'd be a goner by the time someone found-"

    "Wait! You stopped playing!" the strange bird's voice cried out, as it hopped and flapped after the Nidoran, coming to a stop behind Nida, and before two very surprised teammates.

    "Wow! The Protector rescued you, Nida?" Crom asked, his eyes widening in awe of his partner's companion.

    "Er… kinda?" Nida said, flattening out her ears with a sheepish expression.

    "That's so cool!" Crom said, gushing at the luck and honor of coming face-to-face with the legendary Protector of Tromba Island.

    The eldest team member wasn't quite sure what to make of the specimen before him, "Er… I mean, the markings are definitely the Protector's, but- It seems like he's just a pollito- According to the legends..." Kiran trailed off, gesturing with his wings at the white creature before finishing his thought. "Shouldn't he be bigger than Crom at least?"

    "He's supposed to be bigger? But his pictures were so much smaller," Crom murmured before turning to his Nidoran teammate, "Does he have a name, Nida?"

    "What's a 'he'? And what's a 'name'? Are these also Nidoran?" the Protector asked, blinking at the two strange new faces in the chamber.

    "Uh…"

    "I don't think this Protector has been around very long, Crom," Nida sighed.

    "If those things on that little rock over there are what I think they are, he hasn't. Why, that looks like it used to be un huevo..." Kiran said, pointing out the shattered clay-like pieces in the center of the moat. All the while, the white creature continued to try and make sense of these two new Pokémon that now seemed as puzzled as it was.

    "Do they play with rocks, too?" the young stranger asked.

    "Er," Crom mumbled, wondering just why the Protector of all Pokémon would ask such a thing.

    "Uhm, I guess I can't say I haven't before-" Kiran added, to which the strange bird seemed to perk up.

    "Okay!" it beamed, as it waddled through the moat over to the middle of the central platform, and spread its wings upward, preparing to beat out a gust.

    "Ack! Wait! Don't do that in here-!" Nida cried as the creature sent a whirling gust towards the ceiling... that turned out to be a pitiful, feeble wind that was just strong enough to dislodge a few small pebbles that plunked into the moat's water for a blinking audience of three.

    "I'm pretty sure that the legends also stated that the Protector was supposed to be stronger, too," Kiran muttered, growing perplexed with this most strange 'Protector'.

    "But- that isn't normal!" Nida interjected. "He destroyed that entire passage over there!" she insisted, pointing at a passageway obstructed by boulders in the background.

    "That gust looked pretty normal for him though, Nida," Crom said, tilting his head out of skepticism.

    "Are you sure you're not suffering a concussion, Nida?" Kiran asked. After all, she had just fallen through a Pitfall Trap; a knock to her head could have made her see things earlier. "If you are, we should really get goi-" the Swellow volunteered as he happened to brush his badge while shifting a wing.

    "What are you guys doing with that feral down there? Are you trying to get yourselves rescued or wiped out-?" an unseen voice interrupted, its words filling the minds of the four Pokémon in the room before fading as quickly as they came.


    "Ah! The walls spoke!" the strange bird cried out, flinching out of surprise.

    Kiran jumped up with a start from the voice, before he realized that it was just one of the teleporters at the guild. He didn't know whether it was their fault for being over-sensitive or if his badge was just finicky, but Kiran always seemed to be in the habit of accidentally messaging the teleporters at the guild.

    The Swellow then gave the talisman a firm and more deliberate press. "It's not what it seems like, we're perfectly fine here! Come and get us out!" he replied back to the voice, before releasing the badge.

    "What's going on? The walls weren't talking before!" the Protector asked, starting to grow a bit worried from the sudden unseen speaker.

    "It's not the walls. It's the Pokémon that is going to get us out of here. She's a Psychic," Kiran corrected in a reassuring tone.

    "Sorry, Mister Protector, but I think we need to get going," Crom demurred in an apologetic tone as he went over to his team leader..

    "Thanks for helping me find my badge," Nida said, as she turned and drew near to Kiran.

    "But you can't leave!" the white bird protested, which caused the Pokémon of Team Traveler to trade flummoxed looks with each other.

    "But we live outside of here," the Druddigon tried to explain.

    "Outside? But I want to play! And I can't play if you leave!"

    "Eh?! What makes you think that you can only play here?" Nida said, this time tilting her head at the Protector.

    "I... can play in different places?" it asked while drawing a wing to its mouth, the question presenting a possibility it had never considered.

    "Yes! Of course you can!" Crom answered.

    "We'll explain later, but… We will play with you outside of here. We promise," Nida responded.

    "You 'promise'?" the strange bird asked. It seemed to garner that whatever this 'promise' was, it was something that was important to the Nidoran.

    "It means that we'll do it no matter how un-fun it is!" Nida said. The response seemed to reassure the white creature a bit, as it headed over to the other Pokémon.

    "I mean- If it's really possible to play outside," it said while sidling up with the Nidoran. Meanwhile, Kiran had become increasingly impatient with the teleporter that still had not arrived in the Mystery Dungeon and pressed down on his badge again.

    "Pataki, stop stalling and just come and get us!" Kiran barked at the shining orb under his wing.

    "But the feral is still right there!" the disembodied voice protested.

    "Look, you peabrain," Kiran squawked, "That's our-!"

    The Swellow stopped, as a brief flash of inspiration came over his eyes. He then proudly declared, "That's our newest recruit!"

    "Say... what?" the disembodied voice asked, taken aback by Kiran's words.

    "You heard me, Pataki! Now hurry up and get us out of here!" Kiran fumed as his patience wore thin.

    "You're gonna have a long story to explain once we get back," the voice snapped as Kiran let go of the badge.

    The owner of the disembodied voice became apparent as a Kirlia abruptly teleported beside the moat down the corridor, and came up fuming towards the waiting rescue team...

    "Alright, there you a-! Ah!"

    ...as well as the Protector that they had somehow inducted into their ranks. The shock and awe of the ordeal all but left the little Fairy dumbstruck.

    "Tha- that's-" the teleporter babbled.

    "Hey! Teleport now, story later!" Kiran demanded, irked with the Kirlia's continued hesitance when home was literally just a blip away.

    "O-of course! Hang on tight to each other!"

    The Kirlia grasped a handful of Kiran's flight feathers, as did Nida, as well as Crom, who used his other claw to latch onto some of the flight feathers of their newfound recruit. The white creature looked around for a moment, bewildered, before the five Pokémon vanished from the room with a blip of light.




    In the blink of an eye, Nida and her compatriots found themselves in a cleared and leveled dirt field in between the sea and the Guild Hall's structures. The blue sky was visible again, the air was crisp and fresh... The Kirlia was huffing and catching her breath… if only for a moment.

    "Omigosh! You guys found our island's protector? And recruited it?"

    Pataki quickly recovered from the exhaustion of teleporting the group and was soon busy babbling in a giddy tone and inspecting every feature of the young white bird's plumage.

    "You have no idea how exciting this moment is for me! Just being able to stand here face to face with a god!" the Kirlia beamed.

    "I think we have a good enough idea, Pataki," Nida replied under her breath as the Protector's gaze flicked to and fro, bedazzled by this strange new place this white and green stranger had brought the group to.

    "What room is this? What's 'recruiting'? And why is the wall-speaking thingy looking at me like-?"

    "Hey, Pataki! Get off the field with those rookies already!" a voice called out in a scolding tone from a shaded hut on the edge of the earthen space.

    Nida and the others saw the forms of a Natu and a Kadabra approaching them, their eyes betraying some aggravation at the party's dawdling on a space that needed to be keep free of obstacles for abruptly appearing Pokémon.

    The Kadabra began to chastise his counterpart on the earthen patch. "It's like you're trying to cause a teleportation acci- Eh?!" his voice giving way to stunned surprise upon catching sight of the stranger in the group's midst.

    "The white and blue feathers, the eyes, the wings shaped like the Great One's hands," the Kadabra recounted while piecing the bits and pieces of the white creature's appearance together "That's-"

    "Lugia, the Guardian of the Seas!" the Natu interjected. The two's faces were filled with awe, and they couldn't think of a better way to react to their visitor than to prostrate themselves before the Lugia, much to its puzzlement.

    "Um… Why are they scrunched up like that? Are they also 'poisonous'?"

    "Why, they're showing reverence to you!" Kiran chirped heartily, which was unfortunately not as complete of an explanation as the young 'Guardian of the Seas' needed.

    "'Reverence'? Is that a kind of playing?"

    "Uh… sorta?" Crom said with a sheepish look.

    "Oh! I wanna try-!" the Lugia said before beating his wings out for a bow.

    "Oi, you two! Enough pointing your bums in the air, we've got the rest of the guild to inform!" the Kirlia barked at her two compatriots, who began to trade flustered looks.

    "Oh! H-heh, of course!" the Natu agreed a bit over-quickly.

    "Sorry for the lack of propriety, Master Lugia," the Kadabra apologized, before the three darted off into the Guild Hall's complex, their fading cries about the awakening of 'the Protector' and 'Lugia's arrival' carrying with the winds.

    "Aw. They left before I could 'reverence' too," the young Legendary said halfway into a bow, its words betraying some disappointment, "Now what'll I play with?"

    "It's an entire island! Why there's the town, the fields, the beaches… Why there's one just down that path over there!" Crom said, gesturing to a worn, rocky path fenced in by some string and wooden posts.

    "Ooh," the Lugia said to itself, "I wanna see this 'bea-'" only for its progress to be interrupted by the sound of the the voice of a returning Kirlia.

    "You guys aren't going to believe it," Pataki declared, pride swelling in her voice, to a number of accompanying Pokémon coming into view through the brush on the other end of the teleport field.

    "Kiran and his little tykes found Lugia!"

    "What? Kiran?" a Hoothoot asked.

    "The captain who's always working with trainees on Team Traveler?" a Shiftry who had been interrupted from preparing to search for an 'ahp-gredh' questioned.

    "They can't even find orbs half the time in the dungeon," the Rhyhorn that had almost stepped on Nida just the day before huffed out of skepticism. "And you mean to tell us that they somehow stumbled across-?"

    The gray creature found himself coming face-to-face with the Protector, and verily enough, the members of one 'Team Traveler' standing alongside the creature.

    "I stand corrected," the Rhyhorn murmured, slack-jawed.

    At once, awed mumbles began to travel about the gathering. After the initial 'Wow's and 'Whoa's quieted and the novelty of the matter tapered off a little, a few Pokémon in the crowd began to get a little ahead of themselves. Voices here and there gleefully volunteered possible implications of their newest recruit's presence for Tromba and Bluewhorl Town.

    "Oh wow, I can't wait to see the looks on the faces of the next pirates to try and come around here!" a Persian smirked, taking a moment to entertain a few fantasies.

    "Pirates? You're thinking too small! Why, I'd like to see the Company try and push us around now that the Protector's awake!" declared an Azumarill from the docks in a triumphant tone.

    Others wished to know more about the newfound Protector.

    "What's being a sea god like anyways, your lordliness?" a bright-eyed and curious Shellos inquired.

    "Um… I'm me, I guess?" the Lugia replied, perplexed as to what the creature was asking about.

    An Ampharos who was advanced in years drew near to size up the white stranger. "Where on earth did you find him? Or is it a her, Kiran? I can't tell with you birds half the time," the electric sheep asked with a reverent, if strangely uncertain, tone.

    "Well, his plumage certainly looks colorful and masculine enough, Guildmaster Hatteras" Kiran answered the sheep in a cheery tone, "So I'd think 'him' is a safe enough bet. As for where we found him, er…"

    "We found him like this in a stable zone we found on the fifth floor!" Crom chimed in. His comment drew some confused murmurs from the watching Pokémon and some looks from Nida and Kiran.

    "Did… I speak too soon?" the Druddigon asked, taken aback at the direction of the conversation.

    "But Lugia's chamber is supposed to lurk somewhere way at the bottom of the dungeon," the Hoothoot piped up.

    "Well, the whole encounter was just a little unexpected," Kiran chirped.

    "What can I say? It was quite a trip," Nida added, pulling her ears a bit back sheepishly, "The storm must have shaken up the floors from the way they normally are."

    "Also, why is the Protector shorter than Guildmaster Hatteras?" the Shiftry piped up, "I mean, no offense to the sea god and all, but Lugia's supposed to be huge! This thing's- I mean I guess getting overshadowed by Crom isn't that uncommon for a Pokémon, but…"

    "Ah, who cares about looks?" the Persian interjected "Pint-sized or not, a god's still a god! Come on, give us a show of that power of yours."

    Some nervous laughter went around the group, prompting the Persian to hastily qualify her request.

    "Heh heh… Pointed safely out to la mar, of course," she said, flattening out her ears with an awkward chuckle.

    Once again, Kiran and Crom found themselves placed in the unenviable position of coming between a Pokémon and her expectations.

    "Er…"

    "Ah…"

    "Well, you see, about that 'power'-" Nida began to explain, only for the Lugia to inquire into the Persian's request.

    "Wait, what do you want me to do?" he tilted his head.

    "Just gust away those little sea rocks over there," the Persian explained. "Shouldn't be a biggie, right?"

    "Oh, okay!" the Lugia answered, before he turned to the rocks at sea, and spread his wings.

    The bird then sent out a weak, swirling gust. A small pebble by the edge of the bluff was knocked free and sailed a small distance before splashing into a tide pool on the ecru-colored beach below.

    "Like that?" the Lugia answered with a cheerful, absentminded tone while staring at the place where the pebble had fallen. Completely oblivious to the creeping shock and disbelief spreading over the faces in the audience.

    "He's kinda… inconsistent with it," Nida said to the gathering.

    "Well hey, it's stronger than what we've seen, Nida! I think he's catching on!" Crom offered. Crom's awkward smile quickly faded as he noticed that the entire gathering was staring stunned and dismayed by the Lugia's display... or more accurately, from his lack of one.

    Hatteras cleared his throat and began to try and dispel the worries of the gathered Pokémon, as their attention began to focus on the electric sheep.

    "Ahem… I guess it wouldn't be out of the question for even a god to need training," the creature offered, "As strange as it might sound at first. Perhaps all he needs is a bit of time-"

    It was then that Hatteras and the rest of the gathering noticed that the Lugia was absent.

    "Wait, where'd he go?" Kiran asked, startled at the abrupt disappearance of the sea god.

    Nida happened to catch the glance of a stray white feather caught on the string guarding the path. As Nida headed to inspect it, she caught sight of the Lugia hopping down the last few steps of the path to the beach.

    The Lugia waddled over to the darkened sand along the shoreline, and as everyone watched, he began to dig into the wet sand and move it a little further up the beach.

    "Hey guys! Where's the god that will deliver us from the pirate raids?!" a Chinchou called while flopping in with her fins. The little fish awkwardly continued up to the ledge expectantly, only to see the 'god' in question busy sculpting a sand mound.

    "... Why is the Sea Prince building a misshapen sand castle?"

    "Hey, the wet sand here feels different from the sand back in the cave! Come and try it!" the Lugia called up to the gathering.

    There was a sinking feeling in many a Pokémon's stomach at the gathering as Tromba's guardian cheerfully returned to focusing on his sand heap, which Scout the Sentret couldn't help but voice in his usual sardonic way.

    "We're doomed."




    Author's Notes:

    - pollito - Spanish: "chick"
    - huevo - Spanish: "egg"
    - la mar - Spanish: "the sea", identical to el mar if with more romantic/literary overtones.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2018
  9. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → soul sick.

    A strong beginning, though I wonder if it'd be even stronger if you used ellipses rather than semi-colons. Might be personal preference, though.

    I see the fic's in third person. I like when authors can manage a nice balance between character voice and formal narration when dealing with third person, and this quoted portion indicates that you'll be able to achieve that balance.

    Nidoran are so cute. ;_; So nice pokemon choice.

    I like the nidorina's voice already. This particular description of humans is nicely worded and vivid.

    I'm curious - how much of this story is inspired by real game mechanics and how much of it is your own creativity? I ask because I don't know much about PMD games. :p Whatever the case may be, you're telling it wonderfully.

    This seems to be a common thing for Nida. xD It's pretty amusng if you ask me.

    That sentret's great.

    I like how you show the townspeople being unable to help Nida. Sounds mean, but from when I'm played PMD, they all seem too nice and too helpful. Not enough conflict, if you ask me. This makes for a much more interesting story.

    No one seems normal in your fic. ;) I like all the characterizations you have so far, that is to say.

    I'll get to the other chapters relatively soon. It's hard reading on little sleep! Oh, and hope you're having fun on your trip.
     
  10. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    After playing around with it, I think I agree. Suggestion accepted.

    I'm glad that it read that way to you, I was initially worried about the narration seeming too dry or stilted.

    They really are, aren't they?

    Well, I figured that you have to be literary to some extent when telling a story, but glad to hear that you enjoyed it.

    The broad strokes owe a lot to the mechanics and premise of PMD games. Ergo the all-Pokémon world with absent humans, the presence of Pokémon that live in settlements, the existence of things called 'gummis', 'Rescue Teams', and 'Mystery Dungeons'...

    As much as I'd love to claim that I stole the particulars of the setting and the way things work in it from an internal document at Spike Chunsoft, I will have to chalk that one up to my attempts to explain the mechanics and the parts of the premise I chose to crib in a way that doesn't involve blatant game logic.

    One of the unfortunate disadvantages of being 1'4" tall including ears.

    Well, unfortunately for Nida, stories and their protagonists are a dime a dozen, so people can't really afford to give away all their time and money to them in the hopes that their story has them divert a meteor and save the world sometime down the road. But glad you liked that.

    'Normal' is both relative and overrated, so I'm glad to hear that. It is my humble opinion that entire reason why fanfiction exists is for fans to make stories about the things they like that aren't already explained or told by someone else.

    I hope that you enjoy them as much as you did this first chapter and the prologue. I'll be looking forward to your commentary.

    So, I'm about half a week late, but I'm back in my home country with a new chapter, some sundry sprucing up of the previous chapters to make them smoother reads, and a different set of headers for the next few installments. So last time, the story took a bit of a left turn premise-wise. This chapter will be a bit slower and more relaxed and primarily focus on the initial fallout from that left turn and how some of the happy residents of Tromba deal with it.

    Special thanks for this week's chapter goes to solovino, Umbramatic, and Tangent128, who all graciously provided feedback and support beta-reading. I am again indebted to Tangent128 in particular for making the chapter header for this week.

    EDIT: Added some additional tweaks on top of the revisions so far based off of some feedback from Sugoitsu at FF.net.

    Once again, no hard dates for next chapter, but am targeting a window of roughly 10 days. As always, thoughts, commentary, or just general questions are both appreciated and encouraged. And, without further ado, let's get this story rolling again...

    [​IMG]

    A short time after Tromba's Protector had thoroughly underwhelmed the proud teams of Bluewhorl Town's Rescue Team guild, Team Traveler found itself on the ground floor of a wooden hut shaped like an Ampharos' head.

    Inside, they sat on a mat along with a few carefully selected snacks in front of the hut's proprietor, who was calmly seated on an overlooking stump lit by sunlight coming in through open windows. As his audience waited expectantly, Hatteras passed the time adjusting a red scarf with white dots on it.

    "Is there something to play with here too?" the young Lugia asked, fidgeting a bit at how somber and quiet the room was compared to the beach the others lured him off of.

    "In a moment, Protector," the Ampharos answered. "Your arrival… Has some rather profound implications for our town, and this is a matter that must be presented to the mayor at once!" he proclaimed, waving about one of his arms in the air before his nonplussed audience.

    "The… Mayor?" Crom asked, shifting his young Druddigon eyes a little uneasily.

    "Guildmaster Hatteras," Kiran interjected "Is this really-?"

    "Now, now, Kiran. Ceremony is important!" the Ampharos insisted as he carefully undid the red scarf about his neck. The electric sheep set aside the scarf, and then traded it for a teal one hung on the wall behind with simple, thin, black runes in the local script.

    "And that will be 'Mayor Hatteras' for the time being," he corrected while loosely tying his new article around his throat, cheerily ignoring the blank, exasperated looks and sweat droplets forming on the Pokémon in his audience… With one standout exception.

    "What's a 'mayor'?" the young Lugia asked while tilting his head, still trying to piece together just what the importance of the scarf trade was.

    "A mayor is the leader of a town, much like an Ampharos like me might be the leader of a flock. It's a bit of a different role than a 'Guildmaster', and as such the trappings also change accordingly," Hatteras answered, giving his new scarf a firm tug at the front to tighten its knot.

    "Yeah, he does things like helping to plan out festivals," Crom added, "And negotiating with the Company over who gets to be a guard and how much they're allowed to take from us each-"

    "Anyhow," Hatteras interrupted, one nubby paw raised into the air, "Let us take a moment to recount the facts of the matter… starting from the beginning!"

    "Uhm… Well…" Nida began, flattening her ears as she found herself at a loss of just where to start summarizing this debacle. "There's a sea god in the same room as us right now?"

    "We found him in the dungeon!" Crom interrupted, "And Kiran, Nida, and I only had to go through 5 floors to find him!"

    "In a stable spot within it," Kiran corrected, "We passed through the fog on our way into the Protector's chamber. As for why it was so far up in the-"

    "Yes, yes, the Distortion shifting the chamber so close to the top is a surprise to all of us. But we should perhaps move on to the other facts about our Protector we know right now," Hatteras said.

    "Er… Well, he's still un pollito…" Kiran replied in between casual pecks at some seeds spread out before him.

    "And he comes up to my snout when he stands!" Crom dutifully added.

    "And he seems to be a little inexperienced," Nida added as she turned to see the Lugia staring down puzzledly at a pile of seeds, before looking up from it.

    "Do you play special games with these pebbles?" the Lugia asked.

    "Uh… That's food, pollito. You're supposed to eat it," Kiran explained before pecking at the pile before him again to demonstrate. Which prompted the Lugia to try to follow the Swellow's lead and mimic his actions.

    "Mmm! These pebbles taste much better than normal pebbles!" he declared.

    "Okay, he seems to be very inexperienced," the Nidoran sighed.

    "Then perhaps it is appropriate to consider what the best way to remedy that would be..." the Ampharos mulled while rubbing his chin deep in thought. "Maybe it would make most sense to have Hariti watch over him at the Day Care for a while? Watching over young Pokémon is her forte."

    "Eh?! But Kiran recruited him!" Crom objected.

    "Guildmaster-" the Swellow interrupted.

    "Mayor," the Ampharos quickly corrected.

    "Mayor Hatteras, I did indeed recruit the pollito in a proper manner and all," Kiran continued, his tone beginning to grow a little nervous at the thought of Team Traveler losing its newest recruit so swiftly.

    "Perhaps. But given the… Ahem, present condition of our Protector, it does not seem quite right to be throwing him into the thick of dungeon crawling right now.” At the Ampharos’ reply, the trio’s faces sank.

    The Ampharos did have a point. Just because the Lugia with them came from the Mystery Dungeon didn't mean that he was remotely prepared to go back into that maze. Perhaps Kiran had been a little too hasty in claiming the creature as his newest recruit after all.

    "What's a 'Hariti'?" the little Protector asked.

    "She's the Froslass who runs the Day Care, who unfortunately doesn't watch Nidoran in the evening anymore," Nida replied, muttering the second part of her statement under her breath.

    "'Froslass'? And will I still get to play with you?" the Lugia asked, starting to grow a little concerned about where the conversation was going.

    "Er… Well… We're all a little too old for Hariti… And we kinda have our work here at the guild," Kiran reluctantly answered.

    "And I have to help mom and Cenn at the bakery," Crom added uneasily.

    "And I have babysitting every fourth turn at home," Nida grumbled.

    "I mean, it's not that we wouldn't have time, but-" the Swellow tried to explain before the Lugia cut him off.

    "But the Nidoran said that you'd play with me!" he chirped, flailing his wings in protest. Team Traveler's members traded dismayed looks with each other as they attempted to puzzle out how they were going to untangle this situation... Then, Hatteras' voice cut in.

    "Well now, it seems that the Protector's taken a bit of a liking to your team, Kiran," he chuckled.

    "Ahehe, well… You know how pollitos work, it's in their nature to latch onto friends and family," Kiran replied, sheepishly batting out a wing as Hatteras tried to think of a solution to the present conundrum.

    "Hmm... Perhaps you all could lend Hariti some help for the time being? Your team is, after all, meant for teaching little lambs to stand on their own, isn't it Kiran?"

    The suggestion immediately drew some vexed groans from the less Legendary members of Hatteras' audience.

    "Babysitting during the day too?" Nida shuddered, not particularly looking forward to dealing with more rambunctious children along with her siblings.

    "Er… With all due respect, Guildmaster-"

    "Mayor," Hatteras once again admonished, pointing at the script on his scarf.

    "Mayor Hatteras," Kiran corrected, rolling his eyes a bit at the absurdity of the whole routine, "But my team's mission statement is to fledge new Rescue Team members, and not babysitters."

    "And he's our Protector!" Crom protested, "How's a Pokémon supposed to learn to protect anything if he's being babysat at Hariti's all day?"

    The Druddigon snorted a bit, "Why, what's a team if its members can't work together and get their names known helping other Pokémon?"

    "'Names'?" the young Protector asked, not fully sure what the ruddy lizard was saying.

    "A name is… well, it’s like a word that is attached to you," Nida explained. "Like I'm a Nidoran, but my name is 'Nida'. Crom is a Druddigon, but his name is- Oh, you get the idea," she said, flattening out her ears.

    "Do I have one?" the white creature asked after a pause, tilting his head quizzically.

    "Um… I mean, we call you 'Lugia'," Hatteras answered from his stump, "But... Well, you technically don't-"

    "I want a name!" the Lugia cheerfully exclaimed, beating his wings out excitedly at the prospect of getting one of these strange things called a 'name'. The entire display took the poor Ampharos aback a bit as he voiced his hesitations.

    "Is it really proper to give a common name to a god?"

    "But I want one!" the Lugia chirped insistently, not fully understanding why the yellow and black creature on the stump seemed so opposed to him having one of these 'names' that Nida and Crom had.

    "I don't think it could hurt, Guild- Er… Mayor Hatteras. And it might make him seem a little more approachable to the locals," Kiran replied.

    The Swellow seemed to have a point, but naming the white bird in the hut was a matter that the Ampharos couldn't help but find himself at a loss of how to even begin.

    "But what would we call him?"

    "Oh! Oh! Give him a name that means something!" Crom insisted "Like mine! Mom says that it's the name of a tough dragon from the old world!"

    "Uh... I'm pretty sure that Mami and Papi just rearranged sounds to make my name," Nida sighed, "But definitely something that isn't too much of a mouthful."

    "Hmm… Well, he is un pollito, maybe we could use use that for his name? It's certainly appropriate..." Kiran offered, beaming expectantly.

    "Puh- Puh-yee... Puh-leo…" the Lugia muttered to himself trying to mimic the Swellow, before asking in a satisfied tone, "Pleo?"

    "No, no. Pollito," Kiran corrected, "It means-"

    "Pleo! I like Pleo!" the Lugia said, growing delighted with his imperfect mimicry of Kiran's suggestion.

    "Heh, I'll admit, it seemed odd to me, but it looks like our Protector has made up his mind. And the name does have a bit of a ring to it, Kiran," Hatteras chuckled.

    "Yay! My name's Pleo! My name's Pleo!" the newly-christened Protector chirped in triumph, as he prattled on to himself with different inflections of his new name.

    "I suppose it could be worse," Kiran sighed as his younger charges couldn't help but giggle a bit at their teammate's fascination with his new moniker.

    "Also, on the topic of unconventional approaches… There might be another way we could train up our Pro- Er… 'Pleo' here that might be a bit more appropriate for your team," the Ampharos said to the audience as he visibly pondered some particulars as he spoke.

    "Oh?" Crom asked.

    "Think about it," the Ampharos mused, "You need a place for Pleo here to learn how to channel his power, but you need it to be done in a controlled manner..."

    "And what better place for that here in Bluewhorl Town than in Mosca's Dojo?" Kiran finished, as he began to piece together where Hatteras was going with his comment. "Now that you mention it, I'm sure the Hawlucha would be aflutter at the chance to train the fabled Protector of Tromba."

    "A 'Dojo'?" Pleo asked, unsure of just what this funny-sounding word was supposed to mean.

    "It's a place where you can train and get tougher without having to fight ferals," Nida answered.

    "Yeah, we go there all the time in between missions!" Crom added in a cheerful tone.

    "Great! You all will start reporting there first thing in the morning!" the mayor happily decreed.

    "T-Tomorrow?" Crom stammered, "B-But we were just one apple away from finishing up our current mission!"

    Nida began to feel a sinking sensation rise in her stomach. The Druddigon was right, they were indeed one apple shy of finishing their mission before she fell down the Pitfall Trap. Going to the Dojo first thing in the morning would mean pushing the mission off for later, potentially much later. Nida's mind then realized that this whole matter, as awful-feeling as it was, was unavoidable due to something that happened back in the dungeon...

    "Crom… We wouldn't be able to go back anyways. My badge's broken."

    "I appreciate you taking your training mission seriously, Crom. But… Seriously. Sea god among us. Priorities," the Ampharos replied while undoing his scarf. After he hung the teal scarf on the wall, Hatteras took back his earlier red scarf and dutifully donned it... Before nonchalantly pushing an apple by his feet forward.

    "Now that I'm 'Guildmaster Hatteras' again, I can safely say that I'll count this apple here as your team's sixth. And... might I see that badge for a moment?" he prodded Nida.

    The Nidoran undid her mud-encrusted badge with her forepaws and gave it over to Hatteras, who carefully took it up and began to inspect the sorry little brooch in the light filtering in from the windows.

    "Hm… Yes," the Ampharos mulled, while Nida uneasily watched his inspection.

    "Is it bad, Guildmaster?" she asked.

    "Hmm? Oh, hardly."

    The Ampharos dipped the badge into a small bowl of water and rubbed a coarse shred of cloth over it, slowly melting away the coated dirt and grime. After a short while, he then set it down on his stump and gave it a firm press with one of his not-terribly dextrous paws.

    "What now?" Pataki's voice filled the minds of the Pokémon in the room.

    "Why, it just needed a good cleaning. The Psychics can't sense you if there's a layer of gunk that thick covering your badge, after all," the Ampharos cheerily explained.

    "Guildmaster, if there's not a problem, could you not message us? I was in the middle of-!"

    Hatteras cut off the telepath's message by releasing his grip on the badge. "Good as new, just make sure to keep it cleaner," he declared as he handed the badge back to a most sheepish-looking Nidoran. As he watched, Crom couldn't help but realize...

    "Couldn't you have just washed that off back in the dungeon, Ni-?"

    "Crom, stop talking," Nida growled, flattening her ears.

    "But I was just-"

    "Stop. Talking," the Nidoran demanded in an adamant tone as she reaffixed the now-glinting badge to her navy blue scarf. The shine from the badge had caught Pleo's attention and he found himself drawing his head near to keenly eye a faint reflection of himself on one of the misshapen brooch's surfaces.

    "Do I get one, too?"

    "But of course, a badge is necessary for every member of the guild. I'll have Kiran pick up one along with some other things for you as a team member before your session at the Dojo tomorrow," Hatteras replied, "For now, just take the evening off and-"

    The Guildmaster's words were abruptly cut off by a harsh rapping against the door of the hut, and the sound of a frightened voice coming from the other side.

    "Hatteras!"

    The sound of a commotion and of markedly more hostile voices reverberated outside the door. "Oi! You! What do you think you're doing?!" a hostile voice demanded of the frightened-sounding one.

    The eyes of everyone in the room turned to the door, where a white and green, chitinous blade slipped through the crack opposite the door's hinge and forced it open. Its owner burst in, a Scyther- bearing a dark round blotch on his head, with five ends trailing upward not unlike the tails of a comet.

    "Hatteras, you must rid this island of that monster before we are all doomed!"

    "H-Huh?!" Pleo cried out, startled by the commotion and the sudden intruder.

    "What's the meaning of this?!" Hatteras demanded. As the intruder's eyes adjusted to the darkness, he noticed that much to his horror, one of the members of Hatteras' audience was the white and blue 'monster' he dreaded.

    "ACK! It's- It's here?!" the creature flinched, and turned to flee before he was grabbed by a leering Machoke and a Mightyena with some blackened spectacles from the ranks of the guild.

    "Apologies for the distraction, Ander here was just leaving," the silver and black-furred Pokémon huffed.

    "Yeah, not like you would care about gods anyways!" the muscled reptile growled at the Scyther.

    "Enough! Unhand him!" Hatteras bleated angrily and rose to his feet, sparks beginning to form along his hide. "This is my town, and everyone in it can speak!"

    The two Pokémon, surprised at their Guildmaster's (or was it Mayor's?) outburst, hastily complied and backed away a little from the Ampharos' direction. The Scyther, realizing that he blundered into an audience, inhaled deeply and, although visibly quailing, attempted to brave the presence of the sea god in the room.

    "Hatteras, you- You need to get rid of that thing!" he cried, gesturing at Pleo with a trembling scythe.

    "Get rid of him?!" Kiran exclaimed.

    "H-Huh?! But that's our Protector!" Crom protested.

    The outburst sent a shiver down Pleo's back, and led him to retreat behind his teammates to put some distance between himself and the large, loud, creature with blades affixed to its body who was clearly displeased with his presence.

    "Wh-what is-?"

    "That's Ander," Nida whispered to Pleo, "He's one of the Marked."

    "What are they?"

    "They're other Pokémon… They… Don't really like Pokémon like you, at all."

    "So what, you're gonna kill this god too?" the Machoke spat at the Scyther.

    "Yeah, a fine way to repay the town that lets you live here! With an apocalypse!" the Mightyena snarled.

    "Quiet!" the Ampharos demanded, stamping his foot against the ground irately. After the two quickly hushed up, the Scyther sensed that the floor was his again, and Ander continued with his entreaty.

    "Hatteras, please! Send that thing away from here!" the Scyther begged, his eyes widened with fear.

    "Just where am I supposed to send him to, Ander?"

    "It doesn't matter where it goes! Just get it out of here before it brings ruin on us all!"

    Pleo began to retreat into a corner behind his teammates, curling himself progressively into a ball as he grew more and more unnerved by the large bug flailing its scythes about and loudly shouting things the Lugia didn't really understand. Nida and her teammates found themselves stunned into silence as they watched the exchange between Hatteras and Ander unfold.

    "Ander... The Pokémon on this island have been waiting generations for this day," the Ampharos answered in a calm, but firm tone.

    "And Pokémon like me have been dreading this day for all those generations! You don't understand what you're doing! That thing- That demon is evil and it will destroy everything you know and love if you let it stay here!"

    "Hatteras, this is really getting out of hand," Kiran whispered, pointing at an increasingly bewildered and frightened Lugia balling up in his corner behind Crom and Nida. Hatteras, seeing that the meeting was now rather thoroughly derailed, turned back to Ander in a bid to try and get him out the door peacefully.

    "Ander, I'm not saying that I agree with you, but even if you're right… What good do you expect sending the Protector away will do?"

    "It will keep us alive!"

    "Ander, get a hold of yourself!" Hatteras snapped, stunning the bladed bug into silence.

    "Stop and think about it! 'Anywhere' isn't a serious option for places to put a sea god!"

    Indeed, it truly was not, given that the world that the two Pokémon was really effectively split in two. On the one hand, there was the Cradle, the inland sea and the skies above it that held Tromba and the other islands in the world that were habitable. On the other, there were the Wastes beyond, which... Well, they certainly weren't anything that the Cradle was.

    "You and I both know he can't be sent into the Wastes... Just think of what could happen if this Protector shuffled off the mortal coil out there!

    Can't you see that only leaves places in the Cradle?" the Ampharos asked in exasperation, "Don't you think he'd be able to come back from such a place later?"

    The Scyther stammered and tapped his blades together as he visibly fumbled in his mind for an answer. Was there really anywhere in the Cradle to put this 'demon' away? Maybe… Just maybe... There the solution wasn't 'anywhere', but 'anyone'.

    "L-let the Company take it away from here! Let them be the ones to bring doom upon themselves while penning the demon up!" Ander blurted out.

    Immediately, loud protests went about the room. It was a suggestion that was just too much for anyone else in the room to bear.

    Pleo? Off Tromba, the island he was supposed to protect? In the claws of Company lackeys without someone like Hatteras to keep them in check? At the mercy of the force that tried its hardest to suck the island dry after every harvest that would probably 'pen' Pleo up by leaving him to shiver cold and alone in the bowels of some dreary sea fort?

    "Wh-What?!" Crom exclaimed.

    "You can't let the Company take him away!" Nida cried.

    "Hatteras already has his hands full keeping them from sending their off-island creeps here! How can we just hand him over to them?!" Kiran squawked, surprised and frankly horrified that the Scyther could even contemplate such a thing.

    "That's enough, Ander!" Hatteras cried out, his body sparking and his patience having finally worn out. The Scyther flinched and braced himself as the Ampharos got up from his seat, which prompted the two Pokémon at the door to trade some snide comments about how Ander was surely in for it now.

    Their comments abruptly shut up after Hatteras gave a withering glare at the two spectators before he directed his attention back at the Scyther, taking a moment to breathe in and calm himself before he spoke with Ander again.

    "Look. This is a big change, Ander and you're obviously… apprehensive about it," the Ampharos sighed while maintaining a firm and hardened countenance. "But running your mouth off like that isn't going to make anything better. Please… for your sake and mine, just go home, spend a night with your family and calm down. I have other things to tend to, and I'm sure you do, too."

    "B-But-!" Ander weakly buzzed, before the Machoke grasped one of the bug's arms above his scythe.

    "Alright bub, let's go," the Pokémon demanded.

    "Huh-?!"

    "You heard the Pokémon, he's busy. If you're going to be like this, go back home and wait with your mate and that brat you allowed your curse to pass onto to die from this 'imminent doom'," the other added as the two lead the stammering Scyther out of hut and slammed the door behind them on a room that remained dead silent for what seemed an eternity.

    "Is… Is he gone?" a wavering voice asked from the corner of the room.

    "Yeah, he's gone," Nida replied, which prompted Pleo to uneasily poke his head up from the rough ball his body formed.

    "I understand that that could have gone… Significantly better than it did, but please don't let it get to you, Protector," Hatteras sighed while rubbing his forehead, wondering whether he perhaps could have handled the whole debacle more gracefully. "Pokémon like Ander mean well, it's just… They've become scared of things that normal Pokémon shouldn't be."

    "Yeah! We don't think you're gonna bring doom to us!" Crom piped up.

    "It truly is an honor just to be around you-" Kiran said, as the sound of the hut's door being thrown open could be heard.

    "Oh no," Nida groaned, facing away from the door. Much to her dismayed surprise, it was not Ander's voice that called out from the door, but that of a male Nidoran.

    "Oi! Nida!"

    "Oh no," Nida groaned louder, screwing her eyes shut in frustration before turning to see one of her older brothers standing in the doorway.

    "Mami needs you to watch over the little twerps tonight," the purple Nidoran barked.

    "What?! But it's Ani's turn tonight!" Nida objected in an exasperated tone.

    "Not anymore, it's not. She's sick in bed right now," her brother responded before hopping off, leaving Nida to flatten her ears and turn to headbutt a wall.

    "Ugh… en serio?" she groaned after her forehead came to a rest against the wall of Hatteras' abode.

    "Hey! Hey! Careful with the walls! It needs to serve as a guild and a mayoral office!" the Ampharos exclaimed.

    "What's wrong?" Pleo asked, his earlier apprehensions melting away as he waddled out from his corner and tried to puzzle together what the purple spike ball had done to deflate Nida's mood so much.

    "It's just… I'm going to have a long night tonight," Nida sighed while turning back to face her white-feathered teammate.

    "Can I come, too?" Pleo asked curiously, which immediately took the Nidoran aback.

    "E-Eh?"

    "I don't see any harm from it, Nida," Kiran offered.

    "Yeah! Maybe he'd be able to help out!" Crom chimed in.

    "It would solve the problem of where he'd stay for the night," Hatteras added.

    "I… I mean, I suppose it's at least worth a try."



    As the sun was beginning to dip towards the horizon, Nida arrived back at her family's burrow on the thinly-wooded hillside overlooking Bluewhorl Town.

    "Well, this is it," she said, coming to a rest on the reed mat in front of the burrow. Pleo gawked around, looking at the dark hole in the ground, at the mailbox on the wooden post, and then back at the hole in the ground.

    "Oh, so that's what a home is?" he asked.

    "Well, it's what mine is," Nida sighed. Between her siblings and this Protector who seemed to need everything explained to him, she could tell that this was going to be a most interesting night to say the least. Pleo looked around, expecting something, but not fully certain what, before he questioned Nida about why she came to this place anyways.

    "So what is 'babysitting'-?"

    "Sissy!"

    Almost immediately, Pleo's question was answered by six shouting little Nidoran who spilled out from the burrow and surrounded Nida.

    "Play with us, si-!" a blue spike lump demanded, before her and her siblings' eyes caught sight of the tall, white, stranger that Nida had brought home. "Huh?"

    The attention of the little Nidoran immediately shifted to the stranger, and they began to hop over and press up against Pleo.

    "Who's the big birdie?" a purple lump asked.

    "I wanna ride it!" another declared.

    "No, me first!" a blue Nidoran protested.

    "I'm the biggest, I should go first!" one of the purple balls huffed. All the while, Pleo began to grow increasingly bewildered and intimidated by these fast-moving- and rather pushy- little things that Nida called her 'siblings'.

    "Ah! Nida! They're-! OW!"

    Pleo recoiled, hopping back and wrenching his right wing away from a Nidoran that brushed up against him. He looked down, and saw a small spine stuck in between some feathers, still dripping purple fluid.

    "Oh nice going, Dino, you poisoned the birdie before any of us could ride!" a blue Nidoran huffed, hopping up and down

    "I poisoned the birdie? That's your spike!" a purple sibling retorted.

    "Is not!"

    "Is so!"

    As the two Nidoran bickered, Nida couldn't help but bury her face in her paws. Two minutes at home, and her siblings had already done their best to keep their home's latest guest from ever returning. Meanwhile, Pleo began to feel a chill course through his body. His limbs began to ache and feel stiff, and his stomach began to feel increasingly uncooperative.

    "Urgh… Nida, I don't feel so-"

    "Here," a voice interrupted, prompting all eyes to turn to see a Dustox clutching a pink, heart-shaped fruit.

    "It's a Pecha Berry, eat it," the Pokémon said while offering the fruit to Pleo, "It'll dispel the poison."

    As Pleo bit into the fruit, and took it for himself, Nida couldn't help but shake out her pelt, a bit flustered.

    "Um… Artemis? I mean- I'm thankful, but I already had a-"

    "Don't mind me!" another voice called out, revealing its owner to be a Pidove. "Lemme see what I can do about that barb stuck in you."

    The Pidove quickly began tending to Pleo's wing, which couldn't help but make Pleo shrink back uneasily from the stranger's abrupt examination.

    "Um… Nida? What are all of these?"

    "They're our neighbors!" one of the younger Nidoran replied.

    "They… Live next to us?" Nida sheepishly explained.

    "I heard that someone needed a Pecha Berry?" a Lombre asked, also bearing a pink fruit.

    "No, take mine," interjected a Goomy that abruptly came from the left. "It's fresher!"

    "Mine's from mom's own field!" a young Poochyena that came from the bushes behind the burrow insisted. One after the other, more and more Pokémon came to the scene, each offering some small service or another to the Protector in their midst.

    As Pleo put two and two together and began to realize that as pushy as the strangers were being, their pink fruits were surprisingly tasty, his initial misgivings about them began to melt away. Nida, on the other hand, couldn't help but grow increasingly flustered.

    "H-Hold on a minute here! I'm supposed to be babysitting my siblings, not half the neighborhood!"

    "We can help!" one of the neighbors offered.

    "I'm not watching all of you-! Wait… Help?"

    Nida paused for a moment, looked at her siblings, at Pleo, then at the crowd of her neighbors looking expectantly... and then back at her siblings, before she came to her own conclusion of what to do with the offer.

    "Uh… Hehe, I guess some help couldn't hurt."



    After the sun went down and the moon and the stars rose into the sky, life around Bluewhorl began to wind down. As the deep blues of late sunset transitioned into the black of night and the shops shut one-by-one, the guild's teams returned from their missions and traded their worries about their tasks for worries about dinner and preparing for their next outings. Further from town, the Pokémon that tended the fields along the fringes began to leave for their homes.

    Among the Pokémon that returned from the fields along the fringes of the settlement were a certain Nidorina and Nidorino that Nida called 'Mami' and 'Papi', who made small talk with each other as they worked their way down a path going through a thinly wooded hillside above the town.

    "The berries are coming along nicely this season, don't you think, Marley?" the Nidorino asked his mate.

    "They'd better with all the time we've been putting into them, Teja!" the Nidorina huffed in response, in a tone that evinced some degree of frustration with a fickle crop.

    "Cálmate, they'll be fine, they're being watched by keen eyes tonight. Just like our kits-" the Nidorino said before he was interrupted by the sounds of a raucous celebration… Coming from the direction of his burrow.

    As the two drew closer to the burrow, they found that their home was ringed by most of the neighbors, cheerfully talking with each other, trading food and drink. The kits were up and awake kicking a pebble around among themselves- Wait a minute, the kits were up and awake?

    "Did you send out an invitation to the neighbors for tonight that I didn't know about?" Teja asked.

    "No, I didn't," Marley answered, her expression hardening into a scowl as she tromped up to the middle of the assembly.

    "Okay, what is going on here?!" she demanded.

    "Uh oh," a neighbor Lombre mumbled. The other neighbors and some of Marley's children pieced together that they perhaps overstepped a bit from the tone the Nidorina was taking with them, and the festive atmosphere came to an abrupt halt.

    "Er… There's a perfectly logical expl-" Nida said from the welcome mat, before a young purple Nidoran excitedly cut her off.

    "Mami, Mami, Nida is the best babysitter ever!" he declared, bouncing up and down.

    "Nida, why are all of the neighbors in front of our burrow? And why are the kits still awake? The Mountain Roar's Traveler has already come out from behind the moon!" the Nidorina fumed, giving a withering glare to a larger blue Nidoran who was all but digging a fresh hole in the ground to hide from her mother's gaze.

    "Marley, your kid brought the Protector home with her today!" the Dustox that was apparently named 'Artemis' interjected, trying to get the Nidorina to cut poor Nida some slack.

    "Hrmph! A likely sto-!" Marley fumed, before an unfamiliar voice piped up.

    "Hi!"

    "-ry," she trailed off, before turning to find that, much to her astonishment, Nida truly had brought the Protector home with her.

    "My name is Pleo!" the Lugia cheerily replied.

    "Oh, so this is the invitation that you sent out," Teja chuckled to his now slack-jawed mate after taking a few moments to blink and prick himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming things.

    "We figured that given the occasion, Nida could use a little help," a Pidove offered, as Marley hastily recomposed herself to try and regain control of this unexpected situation.

    "That's- Aherm- That's fine and all, but my kits still need to be getting to bed! Right now," she said, shooting a stern glare towards six small spike balls that were quick to protest.

    "Aww."

    "But Mami-"

    "No buts, it's well past bedtime," Teja interrupted, before Marley chimed in with a much blunter tone of voice.

    "Bed. Now."

    The younger kits realized this was not a battle they were going to win, folded their ears back, and marched down the burrow's entrance, followed closely by their mother.

    "Whelp, party's over," a Pidove said.

    "Yeah, see you tomorrow," a Goomy added.

    "Let us know if 'Pleo' there needs anything," a Poochyena's voice called out in passing.

    One after the other, the neighbors left for their own homes on the hillside, bidding their farewells to Nida and Pleo as the young Lugia mimicked a few of the parting calls the neighbors made.

    Eventually, all that was left of the gathering was a young Lugia, a blue Nidoran with ears folded back, and a Nidorino staring down at his child.

    "Papi, this really wasn't what I meant to-!" Nida protested, only for her father to interrupt her words.

    "It's fine, mija. Given the circumstances, I think that we can overlook one night of shaky babysitting. Besides, you'll have someone of your own to put to bed tonight," the Nidorino responded.

    "I… Do?" Nida asked, before a Lugia's voice piped up.

    "Nida, what's a 'bed'?"

    "You weren't going to make him sleep outside on the mat, were you?" the Nidorino laughed, as he gestured at the white bird with his horn.

    "Uh, well, I guess not," Nida sheepishly responded, before she turned to her new companion.

    "Come on, Pleo, we should be going to bed too. Especially with training at the Dojo tomorrow."

    "But what's a 'bed'?"

    "It's a place to lie down and sleep. Come on, I'll show you," she replied, gesturing at the entrance to the burrow.

    "Uh… Nida? How do I get in?"

    "You might need to crouch a little, pollito," the Nidorino explained "Try to walk low to the ground like me."

    The Nidorino demonstrated by lowering his body, and folding his ears and spikes close to his body in order to make it through the tight contours of the burrow's entrance tunnels.

    "Oh, so that's a crouch," Pleo mused, one more mystery from this strange world having been explained to him.

    "Follow me," Nida said, as she began to make her way down the burrow. Pleo paused for a moment as he shifted his body low to the ground to get a hang of this 'crouching' thing. After a slight delay, he followed after the Nidoran, occasionally brushing the sides and the walls of the tunnel.

    The Nidoran lead the young Protector down the tunnel and around a bend, into a small chamber with a straw nest, a rude table, and a pair of stumps that served as stools that were shoved into a corner. The room was illuminated by a small, semi-opaque jar on the table that faintly glowed blue from some manner of bioluminescent material inside. A thick piece of cloth rested next to the jar, apparently meant to cover it as needed.

    "Whelp, this is it. Mi casa es tu casa. Or at least for tonight," Nida sighed as she hopped into the room, glad that her elder siblings now slept under other earthen roofs now… or at least when Mami didn't have one of them babysit in Nida's stead. Pleo followed the Nidoran into the room and entered the straw nest. After some circling and fidgeting, he eventually found that if he folded in his wings and curled in his tail, the nest was a surprising, if rather tight fit.

    "How come you use those weird words sometimes?" Pleo asked.

    "Weird words?" Nida tilted her head, raising an ear.

    "Like that 'casa' thingy that you were just mentioning," the white bird chirped.

    "Hmm? I was saying that 'my house is your house'."

    "But then why didn’t you just say that?"

    "That’s just the way that Pokémon on this island spoke back when it was part of the old world. Before they started meeting the Pokémon in the Cradle and began to form the way we're speaking now," Nida replied. "I learned it from Mami, Mami learned it from her Mami… and, well- You get the idea."

    Pleo tilted his head curiously at the Nidoran. He supposed that her explanation made sense, but...

    "Then why does it sound funny to me?"

    "Well, I heard that Pokémon are supposed to learn their first words based off of the voices they hear from inside their egg close to hatching," she murmured. "And you were in yours a long, long time. Why, if the voices you heard were speaking like we are now, and you heard enough of them..."

    Nida’s prattling stalled as she noticed that Pleo grew increasingly distracted with tucking his head behind his back to preen some of his feathers.

    "Eh, I guess explain more later. You seem to be getting a little bored," Nida sighed.

    "Hm? Okay,” the Lugia chirped as he turned his attention back to the Nidoran. "So… What do we do now?"

    "You just lie here, and fall asleep," Nida explained, as the sounds of her siblings protesting with their mother faintly wormed their way into the room.

    "Mami, Mami, don't forget to tell us a bedtime story!" one of them demanded, which caused Pleo to perk up at the noise.

    "'Bedtime story'?"

    "Uh, well… It's something that's normally told by parents as their kits go to sleep," Nida explained.

    "Can I have one?"

    "Pleo, I'm not exactly your-"

    "Bedtime story! Bedtime story!" Pleo insisted.

    "Alright! Alright! Keep it down, Mami's trying to put my siblings to sleep!" Nida whispered in an irked tone, not particularly caring to put up with an earful from her mother on this night. Pleo, happy with his victory, quietly sank down into the nest as he waited expectantly for whatever this nighttime ritual might entail.

    "So what is this 'bedtime story'?"

    "How about… The story of the 'Prince of a Thousand Enemies'?" Nida offered.

    "'Prince of a Thousand Enemies?'"

    "It's about a Pokémon with many, many other Pokémon that didn't like him."

    "But why wouldn't they like him?" Pleo asked, as he thought back to his earlier encounter with Ander that day. Did that mean that this 'Prince of a Thousand Enemies' also had a lot of Pokémon that yelled and made a lot of noise when they were around him?

    "Er… Well," Nida cleared her throat as she began her tale, "A long, long time ago. Back in the time of the old gods, before the first Nidoran went to live among the humans, there was a young Prince Nidorino who ruled over all the world's Nidoran."

    "So… Over all the Nidoran here?"

    "Our town didn't exist then, but that's missing the point," she explained, "Now this prince was strong in body and in will, and he had many children, so many that they were like the stars in the sky. And under his guidance, his children were bold, taking and eating as they pleased from the world's plants."

    "Plants?"

    "Like those berries and seeds you ate earlier. Anyhow, the children ate so much that they left other Pokémon without enough food for themselves, and after they complained to the old gods, they went to the Prince and sternly warned him to control his children."

    "'Control'?"

    "Like putting them to bed on time," Nida sighed, wondering just how long it would take before Pleo would be less clueless about facets of her world that seemed to just be.

    "Oh," Pleo responded, "So… Then why is he called 'Prince of a Thousand Enemies'?"

    "Well, in his arrogance, the Prince laughed the warning off. Saying to the old gods that his children were the strongest Pokémon in the world, and were simply doing what their numbers allowed them to.

    "And so it was that the old gods, exasperated, decided that if the Prince would not control his children, they would allow the other Pokémon to be able to do so in his stead. And so they gave them gifts to fight against the Prince and his children. Long claws, and sharp teeth, and eyes that could pierce through the dark, and-"

    "Oh, so like Crom?"

    "Yes- Wait- No!" Nida exclaimed, lowering her ears, "Crom isn't my enemy, he's my friend!"

    "So the old gods also gave the friends of Nidoran things to fight them with?"

    "Well, I don't think that would make- But-," Nida stammered. How on earth did Pleo even get on this track anyways?

    "I suppose it's possible they became friends later on?"

    "But didn't the old gods say they needed Pokémon to control the Nidoran?" Pleo yawned.

    "The Nidoran learned to behave? Anyways, let me finish the-"

    "This story is confusing," Pleo interrupted as he began to curl tighter in the nest and his eyes began to droop.

    "Can you tell me the rest later?" Pleo asked, his voice thick and drowsy. Nida paused for a moment, somewhat exasperated at how completely derailed her bedtime story turned out. As she heard the Lugia begin to doze off, her exasperation waned, and she contented herself with a job well done as a storyteller… Sorta.

    "Yeah... I think I can do that," she said as she covered the glowing jar. After the cloth did its work in blocking out the light, she took off her scarf and threw it on top of the jar's cover before hopping up onto the lip of the nest to settle down for a well-deserved rest.

    "Good night, Pleo."



    Author's Notes:

    - (¿)en serio? - Spanish: "seriously?"
    - Cálmate - Spanish: "Relax"
    - Mi casa es tu casa. - Spanish: "My house is your house."
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2016
  11. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → soul sick.

    Not sure if I could tell you why, but this paragraph made me love your writing style even more... though I'm not a fan of the punctuation choices, but that's a personal preference, I think.

    Does this sentret just like to randomly show up all the time or what?

    Spacing error.

    I"ll admit that while I skimmed this fic before reading, it seemed you had too much dialogue and not enough narration. During an actual readthrough I see that that's not true - there's a good balance. So good job there.

    Also, how do you do the divider line in between scenes? Must be some HTML formatting thing I don't know. :(

    Seems like Nida's trumping Kiran over and over, even though she's not the group leader. Not sure if that was intentional or not.

    Looks like the Swellow is just an annoying leader for them. XD

    I admit I lol'd

    Distortion does that, huh? Is there a concrete definition of distortion explored in the fic at any point? Sounds interesting.

    That's an odd feeling, isn't it - since they entered the cave near their home, but the cave itself is so foreign that it doesn't feel like home at all.

    Interesting take on oran berries.

    I just noticed how funny a small nidoran might look when partnered with a large, tough-looking druddigon and majestic-looking swellow.

    I'm wondering if these sound effects are really necessary. The over-abundance of these sound effects makes the fic seem more childish and silly. Unless that's what you're going for, then that's fine. To me the whole story has a fairytale-like feel to it, so it could work.

    Powerful paragraph, especially that last bit.

    IS NIDA PLAYING WITH A VERY CHILDISH, CUTE CREATURE CALLED 'THE PROTECTOR'

    YES SHE IS

    Nice little twist there. I wouldn't have expected that, but it makes sense in hindsight.

    Oh, the trouble this 'protector' is going to get them into...

    A+ dialogue

    DAMNIT SCOUT, WHERE DO YOU ALWAYS COME FROM

    Except I can't imagine a pokemon not getting dirty in a Mystery Dungeon, so...

    I wonder if a bit more explanation of the worldbuilding before this conversation would have helped my understanding of it.

    I expect chaos to ensue. ;)

    Chaos ensued. I never thought I'd smile at the prospect of poison, but there it is.

    A lugia trying to get into a bed... The struggle is real.
     
  12. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hrm, I'll see what I can do to get around semicolons, but I don't expect them to be terribly common.

    He's written as a bit of a running gag around wherever he happens to be, which for now is Bluewhorl Town, so you could say that.

    [ HR ][ /HR ] with the spaces removed.

    I hadn't noticed that, but it is consistent with how I intended to write her. Assuming that I'm doing my job as a writer okay-ish, Nida should come off as having a bit of an impatient and impetuous streak.

    Nida and Crom just at that point in life where getting lectured by adults comes off as ever-so-slightly annoying, even if it's for their own good.

    There's some further playing with what it does in this chapter. As for a formal explanation of why it behaves that way, I will have to look into an opportunity to formally spell it out, but until then, the opening narrative in the prologue ought to give a couple hints at what the Distortion might be with a little reading in between the lines.

    Sounds kinda like my experiences going to college a short train ride from home, minus the alien spatial geometries.

    I'll admit that I actually got a great deal of influence for how Oran Berries are used in this fic from the way that Knightfall chose to depict them in his stories. I figured that it seemed to make sense since healing items in the mainline series are topically applied and in modern medicine, many cures are simply refinements of earlier herbal remedies. So logically, it seemed to not be too much of a stretch to assume that the potions of "today" in the mainline would really be a bunch of processed extracts from the likes of Oran and Sitrus Berries.

    It is a bit of an odd grouping, isn't it?

    When I was drawing up this fic way back in the planning stages, I actually mentally benchmarked it against more chronology-heavy cartoon shows in terms of atmosphere, so I fully planned on it to be somewhat goofy and childish in tone. I will make it a point of keeping tabs on the sound effects, just in case if they turn out to be more distracting than they're worth.

    You have no idea. Or then again, perhaps you might depending on what your expectations for where this story might go are.

    I tweaked that line a bit, hopefully it reads a bit clearer and more reasonably now.

    Done. Along with a few small touch-ups and added details here and there in some of the earlier chapters.

    Amusingly enough, this chapter will also feature the struggle to get out.

    So, last week was a bit of a slow chapter. This one will be a tad shorter, have a little bit more action in it, and get into the task that everyone's favorite Guildmaster stuck Team Traveler with: Training.

    Special thanks for the beta reading and header work that went into making this week's chapter a thing goes to solovino, Tangent128, and ~thatguyplaton from ff.net.

    The next chapter is in the same boat as this one was back when I released the last chapter. Namely that it doesn't have a hard release date, but will probably be posted in about 10 days. Once again, feedback, criticism, and general chatter is both welcome and kindly requested.

    And now, onto what I've been making you all wait unduly long for:

    EDIT: Uploaded a revision based off of some feedback kindly provided by Sugoitsu from ff.net.

    [​IMG]

    Morning came... the sun was out, the sky was blue, and the grass and the mat outside were damp from the dew of the night. As the sun's rays poked through the treetops on the sparsely-wooded hillside where Marley and Teja's burrow was, Nida found herself emerging from her parents' burrow and stretching after a rather unrefreshing sleep.

 She saw the neighbor Pokémon doing similar stretches before they went off to their day's errands, following a raucous night that had seemed like it had come from some strange dream.

    Except that dream was grounded in a Legendary reality, which Nida's ears could hear stumbling its way up the burrow's passage.

    "Pleo… Are you making it out alright?" she yawned. Her question was quickly answered by a head popping out from the burrow, although the rest of the Lugia attached to it remained out of sight.

    
"I'm stuck!" Pleo cried, fidgeting and trying to find a way out the mouth of the burrow. The Nidoran gave a quick peek under the Lugia's neck and quickly delivered a prognosis.



    "Uh… Pleo."



    "Yeah?"

    

"Remember how you needed to crouch to get in last night?" Nida asked, flattening her ears.



    "Eh-? Oh! Right!"

    

The base of Pleo's neck dropped a little, as the rest of his body squeezed out of the burrow, crouched low to the ground. Once he had finally crested the entrance and made his way onto the mat, Pleo vigorously beat his wings to shake off some dirt and cramps from his rest overnight.



    "Your house is too small!" Pleo said, his voice coming out as somewhere in between a childish protest and a sleepy yawn.



    "I'll try and have you stay with Crom or at the Guild Hall from now on," Nida sighed. "But was the rest of your stay fun? Er… aside from the... poisoning, of course…?"

    

"Uh-huh!" Pleo nodded.



    Nida opened her mouth to press further, only to stop and realize… Pleo was a day old. If he hadn't enjoyed the night, would it even occur to him to try and fib to her? The Nidoran shook her pelt and then turned for the path, that Dojo wasn't going to come to them all the way up on that hillside.

    "Great, now let's get going."



    The two set out towards the creek that Nida normally crossed to reach the Guild Hall. They passed neighbors who offered up reverent greetings, as well as a few young Pokémon in a group who momentarily stopped a short game with a pebble they were kicking about to wave to the passing Lugia.

    Before long, the trees grew thinner and the clutter of Bluewhorl Town's huts and tents began to spring up, though the reactions by the varying locals had not changed much from the ones up on the hillside where the burrow was. The two eventually found themselves nearing a hut along a path that smelled strongly of baked flour.

"Ooh! Something smells good!" exclaimed Pleo.

    "That's the bakery that Crom's family runs. They're probably making bread inside," Nida answered.

    "But… Where's Cro-?"



    "Hey!" a voice interrupted.

    

Nida and Pleo turned to find themselves face-to-face with Crom, darting out from the entrance to his family's bakery. This time, two other Druddigon tailed him, sporting a pair of golden scarves with umber designs resembling sheafs of grain on them. One of the two Druddigon that followed was slightly smaller than Crom, and the other was much, much larger.



    "Mom made us fresh bread today!" Crom cheered, giving his wings a playful beat before the elder Druddigon began to speak.



    "Hmm hmm, I felt that it was the least I could do. After all, a Protector surely needs to eat well in order to defend other Pokémon!" the larger Druddigon answered with a proud smile.



    She passed over a small satchel that contained fresh and warm loaves that had been shaped to look roughly like Lugia- or more accurately, the rough paintings of Lugia that were up at the shrine.

"

    “Ooh… They look pretty," Pleo said as he gawked at the golden-brown loaves.

    

"And it smells great too, Gwenith," Nida chimed in as she snuck a whiff of little bird-shaped pieces of bread.


    
"All the better to help you today! I had heard from Mosca that she wants the Protector to try out scouting practice," Gwenith replied. "Why, with loaves like these to sniff out, you'll get through those mazes in no time!"

    

"That said, aren't you all running a little late right now?" she asked, drawing some awkward looks from Nida and Pleo.

    

"Uh…"

    

"Er…"

    

"Right," Crom said, shaking his head a bit. "See you later, mom!" he called off as the three Pokémon turned and briskly made their way along the path to the Dojo, Gwenith waving after them.

    

"Mooom, why does Crom get to hang around the sea god?" the smaller Druddigon protested as the three left.



    "Now, now, Cenn, he's not doing this for just fun and games. He's helping the Protector grow big and strong, just like you and Crom will be one day," Gwenith admonished, her voice fading into the din of life in town as the Nida, Crom, and Pleo went further down the path.

    As the three followed the path, they found themselves travelling alongside the creek that flowed through town. The buildings and tents grew more closely-spaced, the gawking and greetings from bystanders more common. All the while, Pleo struggled with a question incessantly gnawing at his mind..

    "Hey, Nida? What is 'training'?"



    "Training is when you practice fighting, to get tougher!" Crom responded, swiping his claws at the air playfully.

    

"... But Nida said that 'enemies' fight in her bedtime story last night. Will we be fighting with enemies there?" Pleo asked, tilting his head a bit.

    

"Uhm… No. They're just some other Pokémon from around town who want to get tough too," Crom answered.

    

"... So 'friends' also fight?"

    

"What? No!" Crom explained, concerned about what idea the young Lugia seemed to be putting into his head. "Training's fun!"



    "Maybe we should let Maestra Mosca explain the rest of this, Crom," Nida sighed. After all, if he could get such wild ideas from a simple bedtime story… Maybe it would be better to try and let some older Pokémon explain things to Pleo instead.

    

"Is 'training' also a story? It seems confusing like a story-"



    "Oi!" a Swellow's voice interrupted. The group of three turned to see their team's leader perching on a crude wooden fence in front of a hut with large side wings and a tiled roof. Thankfully Kiran had arrived bright and early, otherwise they would have walked right on past the Dojo!



    "Oh, good morning, Kiran!" Pleo chirped energetically.



    "Are you ready for your training today, Pleo? I've even got a scarf and a badge just for you!" Kiran said, gesturing with a wing to a navy blue scarf with a white star on it- and a glinting badge that he had taken the liberty of affixing for his newest recruit.



    "So we're going to be fighting for fun today?" Pleo cheerily asked.



    "Uh," Kiran groaned as he looked at his other teammates, getting just a little nervous about where Pleo might have gotten that idea.



    "Crom said that training is when 'friends' fight for fun, so…"



    "That wasn't what I said at all!" Crom interjected.



    "Why don't we go inside and put on your scarf first, Pleo," Kiran sighed, "We should probably take this one step at a time.

    

The young Lugia cocked his head, but not seeing the harm in the matter, decided to follow Kiran's heed and follow him and the other members of Team Traveler into the tiled hut.



    The interior of the Dojo was far more impressive than its shabby exterior let on. Inside there were simple, but neatly-laid, wooden floors. The roof and walls were composed of clean-cut wooden beams separated by partitions made mostly of brownish paper. It became apparent when walking in that the "hut" was merely the entrance to the dojo, and that the "wings" were really covered corridors that lead to other huts, and to encircled grounds with boundaries neatly demarcated by lines in sand.



    "So this is a 'Dojo?’" Pleo asked as Nida drew her paws back from affixing a navy blue scarf around Pleo's neck. The young Lugia looked around, mesmerized by this strange complex that seemed rather unlike anything else he had seen so far in Bluewhorl.

    

"Mmm hmm! This is where Maestra Mosca's gonna teach you how to get tough!" Crom cheerily answered.

    

"'Maestra Mosca'?" Pleo asked.

    

"That would be me," a voice answered from down the corridor.

    The speaker drew nearer and revealed itself to be a Hawlucha. The ground-bound bird walked towards the group with a sagely calm that seemed at odds with her garish green, magenta, and white plumage as she drew near to the waiting group and greeted them with a bow.



    "I must say, when Guildmaster Hatteras asked me to train the Protector, at first I had thought that he had accidentally ordered an overly stiff drink from one of the Juice Bars!" Mosca chuckled a bit.



    "But, now that I see the truth of the matter, I must say that I am deeply honored to be able to mentor you as our Protector, pollito."



    "But my name's Pleo," the young Lugia insisted after an awkward pause.



    "Of course it is. Anyhow, the training chamber Guildmaster Hatteras arranged for you is this way," the Hawlucha replied, before ushering Team Traveler down a corridor which passed some streamside huts on one side and a series of fields in between buildings and covered corridors on the other.



    "So… What is training?" Pleo asked the Hawlucha, "Crom tried to tell me on the way over, but I didn't really understand what he was saying."

    

"'Training' in the strictest sense is merely readying yourself for the challenges of life by making challenges of your own to conquer," Mosca answered as she lead the group into a turn around an intersecting corridor. "To make battles that you can safely retreat from in order to prepare for those that you can't run from."

    "What does that mea-?" Pleo blinked, before a shrill shout cut him off.



    "Kyaaah!"



    The group turned from the sound of the cry to see a Mawile and Luxio locked in combat in a rectangular courtyard. Along the courtyard's edges, various Pokémon worked in teams of two to maintain translucent barriers of what seemed to be light. On sidelines behind them, a much larger body of Pokémon cheered on the two opponents, most of them wearing lavender scarves that had been scrunched and folded up into headbands and made it impossible to tell whether or not the cloth had any designs on them. The Mawile too wore one of these headbands, and had just narrowly weaved around an arcing whitish-yellow bolt of electricity that the Luxio further behind shot out at him.



    "Haw, haw! Is that the best you've got, ya little guild runt?" the Mawile called over his shoulder. "I've fought off ferals that hit harder than-! Oof!"

    The Luxio cut off her opponent by lunging and pinning him down. She reared her head back before sinking her sharp teeth, cloaked in flame, into the maw-like horns on the Mawile's head.

    The creature was forced to let go almost quickly as she had clamped down, as the Mawile instinctively flung his head about to fling off his assailant. After tumbling a distance, the Luxio bounded away as her opponent was preoccupied with nursing the sting of the flaming bite, before taking a moment of its own to retort in kind from a good distance.

    "Maybe you should do something more with those jaws of yours than just talk! I thought you were supposed to be a guard!"



    "Wow!" Pleo exclaimed. "So that's what we're going to do today?"

    
The Mawile took a moment to brush himself off, shake some sensation back into his second maw on his head, and get back onto his feet, scowling determinedly back at the opponent Luxio.

    

"Hmm, not bad, but it'll take more than that to finish me- Eh?!"

    

And then, the Mawile's eyes caught sight of Pleo. As did those of the Luxio, followed one by one by the rest of the shielding and gawking Pokémon on the sidelines, the frenzy of battle broken by their awed stare at the white and blue guardian in the corridor.



    "Hi!" the little guardian waved. "So, I'm gonna get to fight one of y-?"



    "Ahehe… Not quite, Pleo," Kiran laughed nervously as he tucked Pleo's wing down. "Para ser fuerte, you can't go throwing yourself into the thick of things!"



    "Otro día, pollito. Please follow me this way," Mosca quickly replied, "As for the rest of you, don't you have a battle to be getting back to?"


    
"Oi! Less staring, more sparring!" a Girafarig from the sidelines, apparently the referee, cried out with both its mouths, as the Pokémon in the courtyard began to uneasily pull themselves away back to the Mawile and Luxio, who slowly eased themselves back into battle positions. 



    "Wait, everyone was looking at something? What was it?" a Zubat asked, before the noise of the returning din of battle drowned its voice out and grew indistinct as Team Traveler continued to move further away.



    "... But why can't I fight?" Pleo asked in a pouting tone.

    
"Most of those Pokémon are guards, Pleo," Nida explained, "Their training focuses on fighting because if anything bad in town happens, they'll need to help protect the town from it."

    

"But if they also protect things, and I'm a 'Protector'... Shouldn't I also be doing their training?" Pleo asked.



    "You will eventually. Why, who knows? Perhaps I'll wind up sparring with you myself to see how you fare against my world-famous Plancha Voladora!" Mosca proudly declared as she slid a partition open to peek into a wooden hut by the stream. "But before that, there are some fundamentals that you must learn. This way."

    
Inside the hut were a series of high partitions that, unlike the others seen in the complex, were fashioned from solid wood. The panels reached up to a net strung along some rafters, having the net effect of making a rough cube of netting and wooden partitions.



    Mosca shut the partition behind her, and led the group up to an entrance of the cube in the middle of the room. There, Crom handed off his bag of bread to her, which she set beside the cube's entrance.



    "For today's exercise, we will doing a mock-up of a dungeon crawling experience that you will all surely find familiar one day," Mosca lectured, pointing at the wood-and-net cube behind her.

"

    “Now, the dungeon is not too different from this maze behind me here. The layout's unpredictable, it's often hard to see things, and most importantly: there's treasure lying about," the Hawlucha continued, which immediately drew a curious inquiry from Pleo.



    "Wait, there is-?"

    

"However!", she interrupted, "Any dungeon, our own included, has its hazards. The ferals there will pick fights more often if they are threatened or moody, the Distortion creates traps, and most importantly, if you take too long, the Distortion will clear out the floor you are on."

    "What does this have to do with the wall maze, though?" Crom asked.



    "Everything! As a mock-up, you will need to put all of the skills and senses that you would need in the dungeon to use to find these loaves that your mother, Gwenith, so generously provided for us.



    "If you can clear this gauntlet in time and make it out the end still standing, then, and only then will you be able to-"



    It was then that Mosca found herself interrupted by the sound of munching, and of hard pecks against wood. The team's attention was then drawn to the bag by the entrance, where they noticed that it had already been half-emptied by Pleo, who was presently working on a half-devoured loaf on the floor.

    

"Wow… And I thought I was a fast eater," Crom murmured.

    "Psst! Pleo! You're supposed to eat those after you find them in the maze!" Nida hissed.

    

"Hmm? But they were right there! And the pink birdie said to find them!"

    "We… Have a lot of work ahead of us, don't we?" Mosca sighed, putting a balled-up claw up to her face.



    
During the first few days after Pleo began his training at the Dojo, his progress was marked by fits and starts, mostly false ones. Still, he improved little by little. The monotony of the routine was broken by a midday recess, during which Team Traveler showed its newest member around Bluewhorl.

    

As it so chanced this particular day, Nida and Crom agreed to bring Pleo along into the town's square by the docks.



    "Wow! I think these 'boat' thingies changed overnight, Nida!" Pleo exclaimed as he passed a wooden craft tied up along one of the docks, oblivious to the gapes that some of the nearby Pokémon interrupted their routines to give him.



    "Well, they kinda did. Two went out last night, and two came in this morning," Crom explained. He took a short moment to perch on a post on the dock to stretch his wings in the sun.

    

"Eh? Where did the others go?"



    "Probably to a nearby island to trade for some supplies," Nida answered, "There's some things that we wouldn't be able to normally get easily here on Tromba without them, and it helps some Pokémon like Crom's papi to support their families."

    

"'Trade'? What's that?" Pleo asked, tilting his head out of puzzlement.



    "Eh? Nida, did we not buy anything with Pleo before?" Crom asked, turning slightly from his sunning on the post.



    "Now that I think about it," Nida pondered, drawing a paw to her muzzle in thought, "I guess we haven't."

    

It was then that she happened to catch a glance of a certain rude wooden shack from the corner of her eye, and with a devious smirk, she turned back to Pleo.

    

"Actually, let's fix that right now. The team could use a few more supplies anyways," Nida said, as she hopped off towards the hut.



    Pleo gave a quizzical look to Crom, who shrugged his shoulders and dismounted his post. The two nimbly followed Nida to make up for her head start, and caught up with her just in time to see her hopping up a stump next to a wooden counter on the shack.



    "Hey! Calino! Are you back there?" the Nidoran called to the back of the shack.


    
"Speaking!" answered a Kecleon who popped up from behind some boxes. The creature made its way over, changing his scales to the customary viridian that he tried to greet all his customers with.

    

"What can I do you for to- Oh!"

    

And saw that the Protector he had heard so much about in recent days had graced his shop with a visit!

    

"Ahehe, it is truly an honor to have you here, Protector," Calino said, giving a small bow from behind the counter.



    "Oh really now?" Nida said in an accusing tone, lowering her ears to play up a sense of grievance, "I seem to remember that you said that you wouldn't give even the Protector a discount if he was a rookie!"



    "Oh! Er..." Calino stammered, his scales starting to flush an embarrassed burnt yellow, "Well, you know, Nida, that was all hypotheticals! I wasn't honestly expecting that the Protector would be awakened in my lifetime, so-"



    "So… You'll give that discount on whatever we buy today, then?" Nida asked in a saccharine tone, perking her ears up.

    

"Haha! You mean for yourself, yes?" Calino chortled. "When you sprout white feathers and wings like this Lugia here, we'll talk-"

    

"I want to get whatever Nida buys!" Pleo cheerily proclaimed to the Kecleon, waving his wings.

    

"E-Eh?!" the Kecleon cried out in surprise, his body rapidly turning white.

    

"So you'll give a discount now?" Nida insisted, giving a cheery head tilt.



    "Uhm… I mean-! Th-This isn't fair, Nida! Hiding behind the Pro-!"



    "You did just imply that you'd cut a deal for Pleo, Calino," Crom said, as a few Pokémon passing by began to stop to watch the exchange between Calino and his young, if surprisingly tough customers.



    "W-Would buy one get one half off-?"

    

"Seriously, Calino? Just how much Poké do you expect Pleo to have after a week around here?" Nida sighed, flicking her ears back as some of the nearby residents chimed in.

    

"Yeah, Calino, don't be such a tightwad!" Scout called from the water beside the dock.



    "Can't you even cut the Protector a break?" a Corsola from the harbor cried.

    

"B-Buy one get one free! That's my final offer!" Calino cried, his scales now tinged a desperate grayish-blue as he eagerly tried to save some face, "Why, my poor purse couldn't possibly take more than that!"

    

"'Free'?" Pleo asked.

    

"It means that he'll give us an extra thing for whatever we buy!"

    

"Oh! Okay!" the young Lugia chirped, happy that he had helped to get his friends some extra goodies.



    "Thanks for explaining, Crom," Nida replied before turning to Calino. "I'll take the usual again, this time with an extra Cross-Eye Seed!"



    Calino couldn't help but grumble, his extremities flushing red at the tips as he put together a double portion of Nida's mostly-customary selection of items

 as she slid some glinting baubles onto the counter.

    "What is it that you're giving him, Nida?" Pleo asked.



    "It's Poké, the money that's used in this town," she explained.

    

"'Money'?"

    

"It's kinda like trading food, except the food never goes bad… And you can't eat it... I guess it's not like food at all, now that I think about it," Crom mused with a claw up against his chin before a certain Swellow's voice abruptly cut short his train of thought.



    "Nida! Crom! What are you two doing? Pleo's training session was supposed to start again 10 minutes ago!" Kiran admonished mid-flight from above the shops behind the group.

    "Uh oh. Looks like we'll have to get going, Pleo," Crom said, before tromping off after his team's Swellow leader. After a moment's hesitation, Pleo waddled along, occasionally hopping from the ground with the beat of his wings.

    

"Thanks for the discount, Calino!" Nida called out to the Kecleon, bounding away after her teammates.

    

"Uh huh, sure," the merchant groaned, putting a claw to his face.



    "Gods these days."



    "Oh, so you do have things that you care about more than money, Calino," a certain Sentret piped up while passing by the counter. "That's honestly surprising."



    "Scout, could you not right now?" a now fully-red Calino fumed.



    Soon enough, Pleo found himself back within the wooden corridors of the Dojo's maze. Although he had been in there more times than he could count on one of his wings by then, the experience was still disorienting. Outside of intersections and rooms, the list of directions where one could see in any meaningful direction was short: Forward down the corridor, behind oneself, and, if it wasn't covered by a chunk of the next level of the maze like his present corridor, the netting that hung along the rafters.

    
"See anything, Pleo?" an unseen Nidoran called out.



    "Yeah, we should have three more loaves left!" the voice of an also-absent Druddigon added.

    Even though Nida and Crom had taught him some handy tips for training over the last few days, such as that the two didn't disappear when Pleo couldn't see them, or to always mark his place and pick the next closest direction if he got stuck at an intersection… The isolation of the maze always felt unnerving.

    

"I smell it, but nothing yet-" Pleo called, as he rounded a sharp turn in the maze. As his the corridor on his left progressively became less obscured by one of the maze's walls, Pleo noticed one of Gwenith's golden-brown loaves sitting at a dead end.



    "Oh! I found it! I found it!" Pleo cheered, as he veered to the left of the corridor to waddle towards his prize.

    
"I've got i-!"



    Click.

    
The faint sound of a trap triggering resounded, followed by a stiff smack from underneath by something cold, slimy, and smelling of earth, causing Pleo to pitch forward.



    "A-Ah!"

    

"Pleo! Are you alright?!" Nida cried out from deeper in the maze, "What happened?"


    
As Pleo picked himself up from the floor, he looked down and found that the entire lower half of his body had been covered in thick, damp mud. When he turned back to the place where he had stumbled, he found that the mud that struck him had been splattered radially all over the corridor. 

"Yes, but I just got a bunch of brown goop stuck on my legs and wings!"



    "Oh, you probably stepped on a mud trap!" Crom's voice called out over the walls.



    "Simulated mud trap!" Mosca's muffled voice from outside the maze's partitions corrected.

    

"Whatever!"

    

"Pleo, can you move alright?" Nida's voice asked.
    


    Pleo attempted to shake off some of the mud, finding that it weighed down his legs and wings. While he was able to get some of it off, the majority of it remained stuck in his feathers and continued to uncomfortably encumber his movements.

    
"Not really!" he answered back.



    "Just clean off what you can and play through it for now!" Nida's voice cried back. "Mud Traps affect your ability to fight depending on what part of your body they gum up. It'll go away eventually as you get the mud out!"

    

"Okay!"



    "And pay closer attention to the floor from now on!" Crom's voice added. "If you see one that has a pattern kinda like an arrow, step on that one! It'll pump you up and clear up that trap's effects right away!"

    Pleo snatched up the loaf by pressing it in between his wings and backtracked down the corridor. He made sure to keenly avoid the center of the mud splatter as he made his way back to an intersection with three other corridors stemming from it. There he attempted to scrape some of the mud off onto a corner before he paused for a moment.

    

"Let's see… The one that I didn't go down should be on the… Right!" he chirped, as he turned down his chosen direction. The young Lugia continued on under the shadow of the next floor, leaving a small trail of muddy footprints and splatters as he carried on down the corridor's bends and turns. As Pleo entered a small chamber with two narrow passages leading out, one forward and a smaller one to the left, he could overhear Nida's voice call out.

    "I found another one!"



    "Okay, so then there's just one left!" his other partner replied.

    Pleo paused for a moment. After realizing that he had already marked his position (in a manner of speaking) from the flecked mud trail still following him, he decided to follow the "next closest" direction rule and head to the left corridor. He carried on a ways, until he noticed a break in the pattern of the floorboards below his feet where some jagged rocks were poking out.

    "There's pointy rocks in the bottom of the floor like last time!"



    "It's probably another trap!" Nida called out "Can you get around it?"

    

Pleo went up to the trap, keen to keep his feet a healthy distance from where its edge might possibly be, and saw that the corridor was narrow enough for the patch of embedded stones to span its entire width.



    "I don't think so!" he called back.



    "Turn around and try another path, then!" Crom's voice piped up, which prompted the Lugia to sigh at just how hard this 'training' thing was as he retraced his muddy steps back to the chamber.



    He then noticed that as he got closer to the other corridor, the smell of toasted grain lingered in the air. Pleo made his way down the passage a bit more briskly, keenly watching the floor.



    "Oof!"

Perhaps a bit too keenly, as he bumped his head into a wall. After he drawing back and giving his head a good shake to regain his bearings, Pleo noticed the last loaf lying in the middle of the corridor.

    "I found the last loaf!" he cheered, seizing the piece of bread with his mouth.



    "Alright, great! Now we just need to find each other... Did any of you see the stairs by any chance?" Nida's voice echoed down the corridors.



    "Nop- Oh wait, I just found them, Nida!" Crom hastily announced.



    "Alright! We'll come to you, Crom! What should we be looking for?"



    "Claw marks!"


    
… Hopefully Mosca would be understanding about that. After all, there were already a bunch of nicks in the maze panels already, right? As Pleo backtracked his way towards where he and Nida had split up, he discovered that sure enough, Crom had scratched little reminders to himself into the panels.

    

A scratch on a corridor here, a gash on a corridor there, an occasional tracing of a dead end that Crom had gone down. So went the process of plodding along and trying to piece together these clues to follow the young Druddigon's steps.



    "Hey!"



    Pleo soon found himself looking up at Crom waving at him from beside some stairs.



    "Don't eat those until after we get out!"

    

"I wathnth!" Pleo protested through a beak filled with bread loaf. Crom quickly darted over and took the remaining pieces of bread, depositing them into the bag Kiran had let him borrow for training.

    

"Here, while we wait, lemme try and get that mud out of your feathers," Crom offered, as he prompted Pleo to raise his wings and began to carefully rake the mud out with his claws.

    

"Are the other floors of the cave also like this?" Pleo asked.



    "Kinda. They're not as boxy or wooden, and in the places where Kiran takes us, the Distortion usually makes them a lot more open," Crom replied, as he flicked off globs of mud before moving on to one of Pleo's legs.



    "The… Distortion?"



    "You know, rearranges the Mystery Dungeon... creates orbs and traps… changes plant seeds into the sort that Calino sells from his shop... occasionally makes a forgotten gummi or apple left in there into a super-special gummi or apple if the ferals don't eat it first," Crom explained.

    

"But then why aren't we training there?"



    "Eh?! The Mystery Dungeon is a lot more dangerous than here! That's why Maestra Mosca has this maze! So that way Pokémon can practice and go home easily if they mess something up!"

    

"Dangerous?" Pleo asked, cocking his head as Crom quickly wiped off Pleo's badge and then moved his attention to cleaning a few stray spots on the Lugia's plumage that he had not already gone over.



    "It's a place where you can get hurt a lot more easily," Crom responded.



    "But if it hurts you easier, why do you go there?"



    "Because it's training for us. A Pokémon on a Rescue Team needs to be able to not run away from danger or scary things all the time, because in the future, someone might be counting on you to help them," the Druddigon explained.



    "Someone… Might be counting on you," Pleo repeated, as Nida's voice interrupted from behind him.

    

"Oi!"



    And Pleo turned to see Nida setting some bread loaves that had visible bite and drag marks down on the ground.



    "Well, I suppose that that's one way to spend half a week," Nida sighed.



    "Well… Think of it this way, it's only been half a week, and we've managed to make it with Pleo to the sparring partner!" Crom cheerily replied as he stuffed Nida's loaves into his bag.



    "Uhm… Crom, you realize Pleo has to win against said sparring partner before he can move on, right?" Nida whispered, as she watched Pleo beat his wings, enjoying his regained mobility now that the mud caking his body was gone, minus a few stains on his feathers.

    "Ah, we're fighting as a team of three, I'm sure we'll do fine!" Crom replied back in a hushed tone.



    "Nida? Crom? What are you talking about? Aren't we going up the stairs?" Pleo interrupted.

    

"Heh. We were just talking about that, actually," Nida said as she began to make her way up the stairs, and lead her teammates on.



    "So, a 'sparring partner' is a Pokémon that you fight, right?" Pleo asked.



    "Sorta. They give you a battle in which they hold back a little so that you can use the chance to improve how you fight," the Nidoran explained as the group reached the top of the stairs and the last level of the maze.



    "Hmm? But who is Maestra Mosca going to have us spar with-?" Pleo asked as he gawked at the now unobstructed view of the netting above, before a low, familiar voice interrupted.



    "Hello, Crom. I was beginning to wonder when you were going to make it up here.

    "

The three Pokémon paused, blinked, and stopped a moment to make sure their eyes were not being deceived by the sight of the large ruddy-headed Pokémon waiting in the room, standing between wall partitions that went up to her chest.

    "Wait… Mom? You're our sparring partner?" Crom asked incredulously.



    Author's Notes:

    - Maestra - Spanish: "Teacher", "Master". Maestro for male counterparts.
    - Para ser fuerte - Spanish: "To be strong"
    - Otro día - Spanish: "Another day"
    - Plancha Voladora - Spanish: lit. "Iron Flying", referring to the move we would better know as "Flying Press"
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2016
  13. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → soul sick.

    I wonder if there could be some more description here. Also the ellipses at the beginning makes me think something ominous will follow, but nothing does.

    Seems like a cute druddigon family. :~) I wanna hug them.

    But Pleo could certainly be right! Also the name Pleo is really adorable, by the way.

    Good description of training. Of course Pleo doesn't get it, though. xD

    CUTEST, BEST UNDERSTATEMENT EVER.

    This whole bit of dialogue between Kecleon and Nida is really cute. In hindsight that previous scene was a nice bit of foreshadowing and it set this up nicely.

    Pleo didn't ask a question for once, and he seems to be remembering something, or deeply thinking at the very least. I wonder if this part was important?

    Overall it was a short chapter but the childish, fairytale tone is still as prominent as ever. I'd only suggest going through the chapter for typos. There's lots of misplaced quotation marks and dialogue that made it difficult to read at times.
     
  14. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Went back and smoothed a few things out based on these suggestions, thanks for bringing them up.

    Well, I'm glad that you find them cute, but be careful what you wish for. :^)

    I actually am indebted to an off-site friend of mine for coming up with Pleo's name and the core of his character premise, so I'll be sure to relay that to him. I played around with some other names a bit back when this fic was still in gestation, but nothing seemed to quite catch that childish playfulness and naiveté quite like 'Pleo' did.

    To be fair on Pleo, he is just a couple of days old at that point. He'd have had a lot of new information to digest as is.

    Glad to see that you liked it.

    I honestly couldn't pass up the opportunity after that initial interaction, and the timing seemed appropriate enough.

    I might need to go back and add a little to make it clearer, but he's thinking deeply. And that part will get important rather quickly.

    So I wound up falling back on the 'around' part of my forecasted window a bit from last time, but I finally have that next chapter ready for primetime. This chapter will be just a little shorter than Chapter 4, though will have a few more things flying around in it.

    Special thanks for helping to beta read and prepare this chapter for publishing goes to Tangent128, solovino, and a few folks that I unfortunately can't properly attribute at this point in time due to not knowing any stable internet presences that they have.

    Per usual, the next chapter has no hard publishing date, but I will be aiming to get it out by next (the one that's 9 days away and not 2) weekend. Reviews, criticism, questions, and commentary are all highly encouraged, and thank you to everyone who's taken the time leave some in this thread already.

    And with that out of the way, let's continue where we left off with that imminently impending fight from last time:

    [​IMG]

    Crom, Nida, and Pleo found themselves trading awkward stares with each other. Yes, there was supposed to be a sparring partner after their crawl through Mosca's maze, but… this older Druddigon waiting in the center of the last wood-paneled chamber...

    "Of course, sweetie!" Gwenith chuckled. "You didn't think that I just came and went during the session to restock your bread loaves did you?"

    "Um… Nida? I thought friends didn't fight with each other," Pleo said, somewhat unnerved by the idea of fighting the Pokémon that gave them bread in the morning. Crom also felt that the battle arrangements seemed rather unsettling. After all, it was one thing for the young Druddigon to fight with his brother Cenn, but...

    "Mom, are you sure that-?"

    "I'm pretty confident that I can stomach a couple nicks here and there to help you younguns grow a little," Gwenith responded as she adopted a tensed pose.

    "Try and hit me with your best shot!" she roared.

    "Uhmm… rawr, look at how totally fearsomely cute I am?" Nida growled endearingly back at the Druddigon.

    "Yeah! Yeah! We're tough! And scary!" Pleo chimed in as he attempted to mimic Nida's growl, but wound up producing something that came out as more of an awkward squeak.

    "Well, if you won't land the first hit, then I will!" Gwenith huffed before she lunged for the group with an open claw.

    "Whoa! Mom?!" Crom exclaimed as he narrowly rolled out of the way of a weak, but still stiff claw swipe. Gwenith's swipe carried on past Pleo, who had narrowly ducked the attack, and into Nida, sending her tumbling back a bit towards a wall.

    "Ga-aah! That was an attack!" Nida shouted as she bounced up back to her feet and braced herself against her foe. "Growling disarmingly is listed in the Dojo annals as a perfectly legitimate technique!"

    "You won't put a feral down for the count that way!"

    "Okay! Okay! We'll fight!" Crom cried, before he attempted to rush back, and latched onto his mother's arm with his maw. The younger Druddigon quickly came to regret doing so, abruptly spitting out her arm.

    "Owowow!" he groaned, it seemed biting down softer on his mother's jagged hide didn't make it hurt any less.

    "Oh come now, Crom. I'm not letting you take off from the bakery to pull your punches! Put some thought behind them!" the older Druddigon admonished, before she slugged Crom with a forceful, if not squarely aimed, punch to the chest that sent him reeling.

    "Argh! Moooom! Couldn't you have made that point with something less painful?" Crom grunted as he got back up to his feet, now keenly maintaining his battle posture.

    "Hey, if you're gonna fight, then we can hit back too!" Pleo cried from behind the older Druddigon. The young bird stiffened his neck, and felt a hot sensation forming at the back of his throat before he opened his beak and disgorged a glowing white sphere at Gwenith's direction…

    Only to watch, to his astonishment, as the Druddigon backflipped over his ball of light, used her wings to reorient her body so her claws were again facing the ground, and entered a momentary, stalling glide in mid-air…

    "A-Aaaaaaaah!"

    And bore down and pounced upon Pleo claws-first, pinning him to the arena's floorboards.

    "You have to think fast in battle, Protecto- Oof!"

    The Druddigon found herself thrown forward from her trapped opponent, who had, while still sprawled-out, wide-eyed and panting on the floor, disgorged another glowing ball on his foe in panic.

    "D-Don't scare me like that!" Pleo fumed as he righted himself and got back up to his feet.

    "Hah, that's more like it! You're learning already!" the Druddigon complimented as she threw herself back up to her feet. Gwenith then heard a weak plink and a faint drop of liquid fall on her hindquarters, followed by a second pink of something falling onto the arena floor. When she looked at the source of the faint noises, the Druddigon saw that it was a Nidoran's barb...

    That had failed to lodge itself in her hide, glancing off and spilling its poison harmlessly outside the Druddigon's body.

    "Um… At least it went further that time?" Nida said sheepishly from behind a corner panel. Crom interrupted her awkward moment with a roar as he attempted to lunge into the fray.

    "Got you now, Mom!" he cried as he slashed at the other Druddigon, only to wind up slicing at air and charging headlong into a low wall. After crumpling up stunned against the wall, Crom found himself nursing his head as he pulled it back from a visible dent in the panel.
    As for the where the elder Druddigon went, the matter was quickly answered by the sound of Gwenith tromping just beyond the wall.

    "Aaaack!"

    "Come on, Crom! Before she gets away!" Nida cried, hopping up onto the wall's ledge and vaulting over the other end. Crom got up, shook some stars from orbit around his head, and ran around the wall to rejoin the fray, leaving behind a solitary young Lugia.

    "Enh! Enh!" Pleo cried as he tried again and again to bound over the wooden partition as Nida had.

    Pleo found that although he was able to make flapping hops up to see Gwenith locked in combat with his partners over the ledge, he couldn't quite make it over.

    "Why are these walls so high?!" he fumed before he gave up and ran around in the direction Crom had gone, just in time to see Nida being swatted away after a failed attempt to poison her sparring opponent with a running tackle.

    "Oof!"

    "A bit smarter, but you'll need to do better than that!" Gwenith called to the sprawled-out Nidoran.

    "Nida, just keep her busy a little longer! I'm almost done honing my claws!" Crom shouted out while poking his head from behind a partition.

    "Aha! That's where you are!" the elder Druddigon exclaimed as her son sank in the realization that he had just betrayed his position. "Uh-oh," he quietly uttered, as his mother came charging towards him.

    At this point, Pleo had become a bit overwhelmed by the entire experience, and tried to think of something, anything to put this ordeal to a close.

    "Stop it!" the young Lugia shouted, then beat together his wings to whip up a churning, whirling wind that cut across the floor of the arena. It struck Gwenith and sent her tumbling past her child into a wall.

    "Good thinking, Pleo!" Crom called from his position, before starting to run as his mother regained her bearings while slumped against her wooden partition, "Nida, I think we've got an opening!"

    "Right behind you!" Nida shouted, as she got to her feet and bounded after her partner.

    Crom gave the hardest slash he could muster at his mother's belly scales, and quickly ducked out of the way before Nida came sprinting up to deliver a passing tackle to the Druddigon. Gwenith's jagged hide stung back, but the two were keen to swallow their urge to stop and cry out in pain. Luxuries such as staying still would have to wait for the two rookies until after they had some healthy distance between themselves and Gwenith, who would surely be hot on their heels…

    Only… She never came.

    "Oof! I- I am slain!" the older Druddigon cried, before she staggered and overdramatically toppled forward onto the floor, closing her eyes. The scene made Crom pause for a moment, and after he saw that she was not getting up, he rushed over out of concern.

    "M-Mom?! Are you-?! I d-didn't mean to-!"

    Only to find himself cut off by his mother jumping up and latching onto her son, lifting him off the ground in an embrace.

    "See? I told you your old mother could take a nick or two!" she said, while nuzzling her child's crest.

    "Moooom! You're embarrassing me!" Crom protested as he flailed to try and break free.

    "Oh, so that's where he gets it from," Nida groaned. As Gwenith finally let her child go, the Nidoran turned and noticed that Pleo was still maintaining a healthy berth from the group of three.

    "You did great too, Protector!" the Druddigon cheered towards the white bird, but her words didn't seem to have any effect on the Lugia, who was visibly shaking and wide-eyed.

    "Pleo?" Crom asked.

    "Pleo, it's over. We won. She won't attack if you get near right now," Nida called out.

    "No! She hurt me! And she's scary!" Pleo chirped back, his voice still tense and anxious. It made Gwenith's expression sink a bit.

    "I- I suppose that I might have overdone it a little," she murmured to herself as she set Crom back down on the floor, which prompted Nida to go up to try and console her teammate.

    "Pleo, it was just a sparring match," Nida explained, nuzzling the young Lugia. "She's still the same Gwenith that works at the town bakery."

    "But it hurt!" Pleo protested.

    "Er… Well, that's what happens in battles, yes," Nida sighed, flattening her ears. "But if you don't practice, you could wind up really getting hurt by a Pokémon that won't be friendly after fighting."

    "Yeah, like pirates!" Crom exclaimed.

    "'Pirates'?" Pleo asked.

    "Mean Pokémon that gang up to bully and take stuff from Pokémon that can't fight back against them," Crom growled from beside his mother. "And to top it all off, they even wear scarves like we do but don't follow the pact that goes along with wearing them at all!"

    Pleo didn't like the sound of these "pirates," but… but something seemed to be missing from what Crom was saying. How exactly would putting oneself in danger of getting hurt help avoid getting hurt later?

    "Besides, if you never practice, you won't ever get any stronger," Nida added.

    "Uh-huh! Uh-huh! A Protector's gotta be strong in order to be able to do any protecting!" Crom chimed in with a sawtoothed smile.

    "I realize that it's probably different than blowing over sea rocks... Or entire tunnels," she said, uttering the last part under her breath, "But Gwenith really isn't scary."

    "Y-You promise?" the young Protector stammered.

    "I promise. Now come on, let's go shake Gwenith's claw," Nida said as she guided Pleo over to the Druddigon. The two stood there, staring at each other, waiting expectantly for… something.

    "Psst! Pleo! Stick one of your wings out! Like Guildmaster Hatteras showed you!" Nida whispered.

    "Like thi-? Oh!"

    As Pleo followed the Nidoran's instructions, he was surprised to see that the elder Druddigon had grasped his extended wing firmly, but gently. She gave it a firm shake before letting go and drawing her claw back to her side.

    "You're improving a lot, Protector!" Gwenith said, before giving a soft pat to Pleo's head.

    "See? Would a scary Pokémon do that, Pleo?" Crom asked.

    "Heh heh, I guess not," Pleo giggled, having finally been convinced that Gwenith bade him no ill will. He would have to think twice before asking to train with her in this "sparring" thing, though.

    "Um… How do we get out of here anyways?" Crom asked.



    Mosca took off a couple panels from the upper walls of the maze and unspooled some netting for Team Traveler and their partner to clamber down. After exiting the wooden training course, Pleo drank some crisp, cold water from a bowl while Kiran inspected his body, Oran Berry in beak.

    "So it seems like Gwenith was quite the competition, huh?" the Swellow asked as he inspected the young Lugia's body.

    "Yeah, that battle was really tough- Ow!"

    Pleo recoiled as Kiran squeezed the berry along a cross-cut he made into the fruit's flesh, causing some juice from the berry to dribble onto a wing scrape.

    "It's alright, Pleo! The sting from the Oran juice means that it's healing you!" Crom explained.

    "Crom… I thought the idea was to reassure him," Nida sighed as Pleo returned to his resting position being attended by Kiran as the Swellow continued.

    "Why didn't you just fly, pollito? You would have been able to outmaneuver your opponent much earlier on if you had," Kiran asked as he daubed some Oran juice onto Pleo's other wing.

    "Ungh! 'Fly' over them?" Pleo asked after wincing a bit due to the juice stinging.

    "E-Eh?! But you're una ave!" Kiran interjected while giving the berry's pulp over to his comparatively large charge. "I mean, your wings look a little scrawny and all, but surely you can fly a little?"

    "Well, he doesn't know how," Crom said, scratching the back of his crest sheepishly. "And Druddigon can't exactly fly with these wings. We glide, and we're not that great at it."

    "Yeah, and I sure can't teach him," Nida piped up, hopping a bit off the floor. As he looked over the young Protector nibbling through his Oran pulp, the Swellow realized to his dismay that Nida and Crom raised a good point.

    "That's… something I shouldn't have taken for granted," he groaned, burying his face into a wing.

    "One step at a time, Kiran," Mosca said as she walked up from behind. "Though given the Protector's progress today, I think that we can put him through some flight-focused training for the next few sessions."

    "It'll have to do," the Swellow sighed as he wondered whether conceding to Hatteras' suggestion to babysit Pleo in the Day Care might have been the more prudent option after all.

    "Hrm… Have you all recovered a bit from your training?" the Hawlucha asked the three younger members of Kiran's team.

    "Uh huh! Uh huh!" Pleo cheerily responded as his teammates echoed, the sting of the Oran juice and the aches from their scrapes having already faded.

    "Now then," the Hawlucha continued. "I think that it's perfectly reasonable to now call it a-"

    "Woo hoo! Training's over! Come on Pleo, let's go!" Crom cheered, throwing his arms back into the air before he made a beeline for the chamber door, flung it open, and ran out into the corridor outside, with Nida and Pleo closely following behind him.

    "See you at the front, Kiran!" Nida called back as she darted through the now-opened sliding partition.

    "Day- Hey! No se corre en mis pasillos!" Mosca huffed after the three Pokémon.

    "Heh. Well, I guess at least one thing is predictable with that pollito," Kiran said as he too turned, took wing, and made his leave after the rest of his team.



    By the time Team Traveler departed the Dojo, the sun had just begun to touch the horizon and begin its process of slipping over for the night. The group decided to make their way back to the guild hall by walking in the gully of the town's stream, which had enough dry ground exposed to be walkable. The team made their way along, passing under the frail bridges that stitched the two sides of Bluewhorl together over it. The water was clean, flowing at a pleasingly meandering pace, and briskly cool to wade in...

    "It tastes like the water at the Dojo!"

    Most importantly, it did a remarkably good job at cleaning out the leftover dirt from the mud trap in the maze out of Pleo's feathers. After the first few chilly dips and a few subsequent moments to stop and preen his feathers, his stints in the water grew increasingly long and enjoyable as the white feathers began to better shield his skin underneath from the creek's water.

    "Where are we going now?" the young Protector asked, as he came up onto the shore from his latest journey into the creek.

    "Well," Nida said, "I think the next step is heading to the Guild Hall and-"

    She opened her mouth to continue, but found the words in her mouth abruptly dying as she had a sudden realization.

    "Oh… I just remembered something. I still need to drop off that watering can I packed in your bag that I promised I'd bring to Mami and Papi while they were in the field today," she sighed.

    "Eh, we can all afford to take a little diversion, Nida," Kiran chirped. "We got out a little earlier than I expected"

    "Erm… I mean, I guess it couldn't hurt to see your dad again," Crom added in a cheery tone.

    "Mami will also be there too, Crom," Nida emphasized, which caused the young Druddigon to briefly blanch a pale shade and give his wings a nervous beat.

    "Uhm… Maybe you could ask her to be a little less scary?"

    "Crom, she's perfectly fi-" Nida admonished, before she turned to notice that her team's newest member suddenly wasn't there. "Wait… Where's Pleo?"

    Crom and Kiran looked around their surroundings, and after a brief moment of panic, they caught the sight of his tail disappearing around the corner of a hut up the hill of the gulley the creek laid in.

    "Pleo! Wait!" Kiran squawked, as he flew after his young white charge, Nida and Crom following the Swellow gingerly up the stream, where they ran into their teammate dawdling in the middle of a path.

    "What are you doing?" Nida scolded, "Just because this is a small town doesn't mean that you should go wandering off like-!"

    It was then that Nida noticed that Pleo had a number of young Pokémon gawking back at him from the path, a motionless ball lying beside their feet.

    "Nida! Nida! These Pokémon have a 'ball'!" Pleo chirped eagerly. As Nida and her companions drew nearer, they saw the Pokémon were coming from a tent that was shaped much like a Froslass' head. One of the edges of the white and violet tent straddled a shallow pool, which a small Finneon was flopping out of on its fins. The pool extended to the ledge of the gully, ending in a sluice that was apparently meant to drain it out into the stream.

    One after another, more and more young Pokémon darted, flew, or awkwardly flopped out onto the path to the best of their abilities. The young creatures soon enough wound up crowding around Pleo, and jabbered among themselves excitedly.

    "Wow! You're so pretty," a Poliwag gushed.

    "How do you become a Protector? I wanna become one, too!" the Finneon Nida saw earlier cheered.

    "Auntie Hariti! That 'Lugia' thingy is in the yard!" a marginally older Meowth called, turning its head back towards the tent's entrance. Almost immediately, the Meowth's voice summoned a wispy white and blue wraith, with a purple face and yellow and red eyes, that floated effortlessly above the ground.

    Perhaps it was the pleasant chilling effect the creature had on the air around her in Tromba's tropical and muggy weather, but being in this "Hariti's" presence felt strangely disarming, as she seemed to exude a certain eerie motherliness to her demeanor.

    "Oh my. I must say, I wasn't expecting you to need my services, Kiran," she smiled, replying in an gentle, airy tone. "Not that I would pass up the chance to care for this most… Unusual trainee of yours."

    "Ahehe, well… That's not quite why we're here," Kiran chirped, giving an awkward ruffle to his feathers.

    "I found a ball!" Pleo exclaimed cheerily, waving and gesturing at the ball still lying in the path.

    "Ah, well a little curiosity never hurt a Pokémon around here either!" Hariti giggled a bit at the young Lugia's enthusiasm towards such simple things. "Hang on, I think there are some snacks left over from mealtime for you and your teammates."

    The ice wraith briefly ducked back into her tent, phasing through one of its walls. Pleo squawked out of startled surprise, "Sh-She disappeared!"

    "Eh? She always does that though," a young Bidoof nonchalantly responded.

    "It's something that Pokémon like her can do with practice. They often get disoriented when they go back to normal for some reason, though," Crom explained as Hariti returned to the group through another wall, this time clutching some small, frosted, thick-skinned, red fruits in between her digits.

    "Here you go, frozen Pomeg berries straight from my prize bushes!" she said, offering the fruits to Pleo and his companions. Pleo paused a moment as he watched his partners claim berries for themselves and split some cuts along the rind to expose what looked like red seeds inside.

    "What's 'frozen'?" Pleo asked, tilting his head at the fruit.

    "It means that I made them very, very cold, sweetie. Things sometimes change when that happens to them," the Froslass explained. "Go on, take it!"

    Pleo hesitated a moment, and then grasped the fruit in between his wings. The red berry felt cold to the touch, and after hesitating a moment, Pleo managed to force part of the rind off along a cut Hariti had made into it, exposing some red seeds inside.

    The young Protector paused a moment, and then pecked at the seeds. Much to his pleasant surprise, the seeds were firm like the blander seeds that Pleo had eaten earlier, but tasted spicy-sweet and had a peculiar aftertaste.

    "I think I like it!" Pleo chirped, as he dutifully returned to pecking out the seeds in the fruit. Little by little, the white bird and his companions had whittled their frozen fruit down to little more than rinds when a timorous voice called from the tent.

    "Au-Auntie Hariti? I-Is it gone yet?"

    "Huh? Who's that?" Pleo asked, turning from his snack.

    "It's those blotched Pokémon!" an Oddish huffed.

    "Yeah, you don't want to talk with them, my dad said all they're good for is eating!" a Spearow declared.

    "Yeah, they're bad Pok-! Yip!" a Snubbull cried out as the Froslass flicked a small ice shard at its rump. The Oddish and the Spearow also found themselves stumbling forward and nursing their rears, whining quietly after they too were struck by small pieces of ice.

    "Thank goodness she shut up those críos," Nida mumbled under her breath, lowering her ears.

    "That's quite enough out of you three," Hariti admonished sternly before turning to Pleo. "Protector, er... I realize that it might seem a bit strange to you, but some of the younglings here are extremely shy towards-"

    Much to her dismay, the young bird had already made his way to the tent's entrance, prompting her to call after him frantically.

    "Protector, wait!"

    By the time she reached the tent, Pleo had made his way in, and was passing a group of young Pokémon with blotches on their heads- much like Ander the other day- that were cowering in a corner.

    "Auntie H-Hariti!" a Chatot who was still covered in soft, downy feathers squawked in panic.

    "H-Help!" a Bulbasaur stammered, as the toad tried to hide in vain to hide behind the Chatot that was far too small a shield.

    "Pl-Please make it go away!" a trembling Mudkip cried while curled up in a ball at the foot of one of his larger compatriots. The compatriot was a small Scyther about as tall as Pleo, wide-eyed, and frozen in place in a corner.

    The young Lugia, after pausing a moment to give a quizzical look, proceeded towards some sundry painted doodles he had noticed on rough paper on the floor of the tent as Hariti and his teammates rushed in.

    "Pleo, you should really-" Kiran began, only for Pleo to cut off his words.

    "Wow! You make paintings here?" Pleo asked as he examined the doodles. There were pictures of the harbor (if with buildings that didn't look quite as sturdy as their actual counterparts), of the mountain and its shroud of fog, of the different townsfolk…

    Of the multitude of pictures, one stood out to Pleo in particular. It was a picture that was a little less crude than the others that depicted a funny little blue blob with purple antennae on the sides of its head that was balancing a blue circle on its nose.

    "Who made this one?" Pleo asked, as he pointed out the picture that caught his attention.

    "I did," a voice called from the corner, and when Pleo turned back towards it, he saw that the speaker was the young Marked Scyther, uneasily tapping her scythes together.

    "It looks really pretty!" Pleo chirped.

    "Uhm… Thank you, I guess," the bladed bug buzzed, clearly at a loss as to why this Pokémon would choose to praise her handiwork. Her companions in the corner similarly found themselves at a loss for the behavior of the dread beast in front of them.

    "H-Huh?!" the Bulbasaur exclaimed, poking his head out from behind the Chatot.

    "I-It's- It's being nice?" the Mudkip asked, as he began to ease of the ball he had curled his body into.

    "Uh huh! Uh huh! He's not mean at all!" Crom tried to reassure the young Marked. There was an awkward pause as he and the other Pokémon realized that, beyond some perplexed stares and some faltering half-steps that were quickly taken back, the Pokémon huddled in the corner just couldn't work up the courage to walk up to the young Protector.

    "Why are they just sitting there?" Pleo asked, tilting his head up to the Froslass.

    "I… Think that maybe it would be best for Kiran to explain this to you once you're gone," Hariti sighed. "It's not nice to try and force Pokémon to do things they're not ready to do."

    "Yeah! Come play with us instead!" the Bidoof from earlier called, poking her head into the Day Care's entrance.

    "Uhm, as tempting as that offer is, we have to get going," Nida replied, folding her ears back in obvious displeasure. "We're busy Pokémon."

    "We should get going, Pleo. Come along," Kiran instructed, much to the audible displeasure of the young Pokémon in the yard of the Day Care.

    "Aww..."

    "But I wanted to play with the birdie..."

    Kiran led the team back out to the path, after they traded farewells with Hariti and her charges, the four continued on past the bridge. As the team made its way out back to the fringes, the town's structures once again began thinning out. As Pleo once again found himself under the shade of the hillside trees that began to line the path, he couldn't help but ask...

    "Who were those Pokémon?"

    "Some young ones that Hariti watches for Pokémon around the area," Kiran explained as he landed on a branch to briefly rest his wings.

    "She helps to raise a few who don't have parents that watch over them," Nida added as she made her way over a root that intruded into the path.

    "Huh?"

    "Well, you see Pleo, sometimes young Pokémon, for one reason or another, don't have anyone around to look after them. Sometimes they're all busy with work around town, sometimes no one can find any of them, and sometimes they just aren't there for them," Kiran explained from his perch as his teammates continued on the path a small ways. "When that happens, Hariti takes care of them either until the Pokémon that take care of them come back, or until they grow old enough to take care of themselves."

    "How come Nida looks after her brothers and sisters instead of Hariti, though?" Pleo persisted, turning back to look at the Swellow.

    "Sometimes… Hariti gets very upset when young Pokémon have others to take care of them and don't behave themselves… Repeatedly," Nida grumbled as Kiran left his perch to catch up with the group.

    "How come those Pokémon in the corner were scared of me?"

    "It's because they were Marked, just like that Scyther that startled you a few days ago," Crom said, as he stopped to claw at some visibly loose bark on a tree that had caught his eye.

    "So they didn't like me either?" Pleo murmured. "But why?"

    "They were probably expecting you to be mean to them," the Druddigon explained as he left his tree, flicking aside a few scraps of bark that had clung to his claws.

    "But… How come?"

    "Well, a very, very long time ago, those Pokémon's ancestors did some very bad things to the old gods…" Kiran explained as he took a moment to circle the group in a small clearing they were passing through. "And they've somehow since got it in their heads that when Protectors like you came along again, that you'd be mean to them."

    "But I'm not mean, am I?" Pleo asked in an apprehensive, squawking tone.

    "Of course you aren't, pollito!"

    Pleo breathed a sigh of relief. If he wasn't mean, then that would mean that sooner or later, those Pokémon with the blotches would realize that… Right? But, there was one other matter from the Day Care that Pleo couldn't help but wonder about.

    "What does it mean to eat a Pokémon? The brown and red birdie said something about it."

    The question instantly brought the entire group to a stop, and caused Crom and Kiran to look flustered while they thought about how they should answer.

    "Er…"

    "Uh… Well…"

    "Hrmph, don't think about it too much. If that kid wasn't talking about the food that Ander sells for a living, he's probably some mouthy feral runt that got dumped there by his parents," Nida grumbled as she continued on the path.

    "Now Nida, that's hardly fair! Most of the town is related to or descended from ferals if you go far back enough!" Kiran admonished as he followed along with Crom.

    "So… Ferals are Pokémon that eat other Pokémon?" Pleo asked as he too began to follow his group.

    "That's kinda oversimplifying," Kiran protested as the group rounded a bend, "But-"

    "Doesn't that hurt the Pokémon that get eaten, though?" Pleo interrupted, as he thought about how he had pecked and chewed and generally torn apart the various berries, seeds, and those colorful things called 'gummis' he had eaten over the past few days. If it hurt to get nicked by Gwenith, this being "eaten" sounded absolutely dreadful!

    "It's... Complicated, but yes, it does. And it hurts them in a way that healers can't make better," Nida explained, which caused Pleo to stop and think a moment.

    "So ferals are mean Pokémon, then?"

    "It's hard to explain… In the way that ferals live on their own, they need to be able to eat, and sometimes the only way for them to do that is by hurting another Pokémon," Kiran answered.

    "But I don't hear anyone talking about eating Pokémon in town…"

    "That's because Pokémon that live in town eat Gummis like the ones you've been eating for the past few days and aren't allowed to eat other Pokémon. Other Pokémon aren't allowed to eat them in return," Nida said as she hopped up a ledge, prompting Crom to mull a moment and interrupt.

    "Doesn't the guild allow that 'scavenging' thing that Ander's involved with, thou-"

    "Crom. Stop. Talking," Nida hissed, "This is already a confusing enough thing to explain!"

    Oh, so that's why those brightly-colored things seemed to show up so often at meals. Something about Nida's explanation still didn't add up for Pleo, though. If Pokémon didn't eat other Pokémon...

    "Why doesn't someone just make the feral Pokémon live in towns, then?" Pleo demanded, which caused Kiran to stop and come to a rest on the ground, before he turned back to Pleo and began to speak with a gentle, if firm tone.

    "Pleo… Do you remember what Hariti said back at the Day Care?"

    "'It's not nice to try and force Pokémon to do things they're not ready to do'?"

    "One of the rules for Pokémon that wear scarves like us is that no matter how much they might gain from it, other Pokémon aren't supposed to try to eat us or take advantage of us or force us to do things we don't want to… but that in return, we're not allowed do anything of the like to another Pokémon," the Swellow explained. "And you have to live like that even when there's other Pokémon counting on you, which some ferals find to be asking for too much. It wouldn't be terribly fair to expect ferals to leave us alone if we went around trying to force them to live in a way they weren't ready to, don't you think?"

    That all seemed fine to Pleo… with one caveat that he couldn't seem to wrap his head around.

    "Huh? But what about Pokémon that don't follow those rules? Didn't Crom say that pirates also wore scarves, but they took things from Pokémon anyways?" Pleo asked, thinking about those creatures that Crom spoke of in the training maze. "Aren't they also Pokémon that aren't ready to live like you do?"

    "Uh…" Kiran muttered, beak agape.

    "Eh?! Of course not!" Crom cried.

    "Yeah, if you let them have their way, they'll just go on stealing from Pokémon like us!" Nida protested.

    "Let me clarify that statement a bit," Kiran sighed, putting a wing over his face. "'It's not okay to try and force Pokémon to do things they're not ready to do when they're not trying to hurt you or your friends.' When they do, you're perfectly in the right to try and make them knock it off!"

    "That's also why you're allowed to hit back at attacking ferals," Nida whispered.

    "Oh, I… I guess that makes sense," Pleo said, before Crom interrupted his train of thought as he gestured off towards some bushes in a clearing.

    "Hey, I see your family's field, Nida!"

    As Nida and her companions drew nearer to the clearing, the neat rows that the bushes were planted in became apparent, as did the little Leppa fruits that could be seen in between clumps of leaves here and there.

    "Mami! Papi! I'm here!" Nida called out, her voice soon being answered as a few bushes began to rustle before Nida's parents emerged before the group.

    "Hola, mija," Teja said before the Nidorino drew forward and gave the Nidoran a small nuzzle with his snout.

    "Hola a todos, and pleased to see that you've been growing, Crom," Marley said in a congenial, if guarded, tone.

    "H-Hello, Marley," Crom stammered, as he found himself folding his wings back and subconsciously backpedaling from the Nidorina.

    "You don't have to be so shy, Crom," Marley tut-tutted. "I've never taken any trophies from nice dragons before."

    Crom suddenly decided that he needed to be anywhere not directly in front of Marley, and hastily retreated behind Kiran with a shudder.

    "Nida! Sh-She's doing it again!" he whined.

    "Mami, couldn't you have said that differently?" the blue Nidoran groaned.

    "What? That was supposed to be reassuring!"

    "I think that not bringing up your past exploits would probably work better, dear," Teja sighed as he flicked away a loose spike under a bush.

    "Well, what's the point of that if everyone on this island already knows about them?" Marley huffed in protest as her daughter couldn't help but roll her eyes a little.

    "Anyhow, I brought the pail," the Nidoran said as she fetched a small, rudimentary clay pot with a handle and long neck from Kiran's bag and brought it over, which prompted the Nidorina to stop a moment to give them an inspecting sniff.

    "Hmm… Very good," Marley said. As Nida's parents sized up the watering pail, the group was interrupted by the sound of rustling from the undergrowth around the clearing, and a voice calling out.

    "Aha, I found you!" it called out, as a four-legged creature covered in jagged, striped fur with a long tail popped out of the undergrowth, carrying an stony ring in its maw.

    "Eh?! Who are you?" Pleo asked as he stumbled back from the Zigzagoon.

    "Pleo, that's a feral," Nida whispered as she and the other Pokémon present quickly adopted cautious postures, just in case the creature had come with belligerent intentions.

    "Grr," Marley growled at the Zigzagoon, "If you think that you're going to walk off with my berries, you've got another thing comi-!"

    "Whoa! Whoa! I'm not here for that… I'm just a humble Pokémon that's come to pay respects with the gift from the land," the feral Zigzagoon explained before he dropped the ring in its mouth and nudged it forward.

    "Huh?"

    "I'm presenting you a gift, great one," the creature bowed.

    "Oh! Er… Thank you?" Pleo responded as he went forward to curiously examine the item. It was a most peculiar ring… or was it a rock? Whatever it was, it was a yellowish band with crags that jutted out laterally, as if it were meant to be worn somehow.

    "Why, it looks like a crown!" Crom murmured to himself.

    "A… 'Crown'?" Pleo asked, but before anyone could explain what the little Druddigon meant, the Zigzagoon abruptly spoke up and bowed again.

    "It is truly an honor, please enjoy the offering. But now I must go," the creature replied before darting off back into the undergrowth. Pleo deposited this rock- ring- crown- thing into Kiran's bag as Team Traveler was left to wonder why the Pokémon was so quick to leave. As if in answer, the quiet was broken by the much deeper sound of brush being trampled as a Tropius tromped into the clearing, slowing to a stop to catch its breath.

    "Mildrew?" Teja asked, flicking his ears out of surprise. "Is something the matter? Shouldn't you be at your orchard?"

    "That's why I'm here!" the Tropius panted. "A feral just barged through my field with some rock or whatever and knocked over a bunch of apples my daughter was in the middle of setting aside to eat at her job at Melissa's!"

    The comment caused the rest of the Pokémon in the clearing to pause and trade looks with each other.

    "Well, that would explain why the Zigzagoon was in such a rush," Crom groaned, putting a claw over his eyes.

    "Uhm… Pleo, I think that we might need to take a moment to help the nice Tropius," Nida sighed.

    "Huh," Pleo chirped. "But-?"

    As Pleo trailed off, he noticed something strange from the corner of his eye. Even though the sun had not set yet, there was something sparkling like stars in the sky above the town.

    "Kiran! Kiran! Look, the stars are out!"

    "Eh, I'm pretty sure that's just some dust kicked up by some bug. Maybe a Volbeat," Mildrew answered nonchalantly. Pleo, on the other hand, was made only more curious by the Tropius's comment, and waddled over to a ledge that provided a view above the treetops of Bluewhorl Town's harbor.

    As Pleo looked over the ledge, he saw that the "stars" were being scattered by a flying red and yellow six-limbed bug of some sort. The creature flew briskly along, quickly finishing up a long, trailing arc of glowing powder which slowly fell from the sky. Down in the water, a large, strange ship with a slim and tapered hull entered the harbor at a brisk clip, carried along by the wind and the trails of sea Pokémon flanking its hull closely. The ship had two masts with large, golden sails sporting a central design of what seemed to be a gray teardrop with two spikes jutting out along its sides. Indistinct figures followed it in the air, with other figures visible moving on its deck. Occasionally, there would be a stiff wave or column of water coming from the flanking sea Pokémon directed at other points in the water, surely some sort of sport or game.

    "There's a ship! The stars brought a ship to town!" Pleo insisted in his cheery demeanor. The others were not so quick to brush that statement off. One by one, the Pokémon in the field came up to the ledge, and as they saw the strange vessel Pleo couldn't help but notice something very wrong with what he had expected would be a fun sight for everybody…

    Everyone else watching at the ledge had turned pale.

    "Oh no, first ferals disturbing my orchard, and now this?" Mildrew muttered to himself.

    "We need to head back to town to make sure the kits are safe, now," Teja barked to his mate.

    "You take the burrow, I'll check on the older kits in town," Marley tensely replied as they rushed off down the path from their field, their preoccupation with their crops having been completely erased by the sight of the strange ship.

    "Wait! Marley! Teja!" Pleo cried, turning after the Nidorino and Nidorina who were disappearing down the path. "Where are you going?! What's going o-?"

    Before Pleo could finish, he heard a deep boom and the faint sound of shouting, followed by another boom, and then another.

    When Pleo looked back down, he saw that the ship had rammed a smaller craft and forced it up onto the docks in order to make a space for itself. A few of the figures who arrived with the ship stayed nearby, casting barriers of light similar to those Pleo saw at some sparring matches at the Dojo.

    The rest of them were making their way into the town from the ship. Every now and then, a bright flash or a torrent of water could be seen ripping through the paths and structures along Bluewhorl's seaside, sometimes from the direction of the boat, sometimes from the opposing direction. Each one made a faint sound that carried above the din of shouts coming from the town; a crack, a pop, a boom, a churning noise much like angry waves from the sea.

    After so many cycles of the cacophony, one of Bluewhorl Town's structures would crumble, or catch fire and trail smoke into the air, or simply cease to exist.

    "Huh?! What's-?! What's going on?! What is that ship?! And why are the Pokémon from it wrecking the town?!" Pleo squawked, bewildered and concerned about why this ship had all of a sudden started ruining the home he had lived most of his life in.

    "Pleo," Nida answered seriously. "Those are pirates."


    Author's Notes:

    - (¡)No se corre en mis pasillos! - Spanish: "Don't run in my hallways!"
    - críos - Spanish: lit. "babies", used in this sense to tersely refer to someone who is acting infantile or immature.
    - Hola a todos - Spanish: "Hello, everyone"
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  15. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → soul sick.

    It's nice to see Pleo actually sound semi-confident in what he's saying. I mean, he's confused, but it looks like he's really taking Nida and everyone else's words to heart. Very trusting, and eager to learn.

    Also I've never seen parents for pokemon explored in a fic ever.

    *enter cliche, depressing comment about how I wish I had parents like that here*

    Uh huh, Nida... I'm sure it is...

    Sounds awkward. Maybe just "We'll fight!"?

    Fast learner, I see. But there's a lot to learn.

    I suppose it's realistic that he'd be scared about the pain if he's never experienced it before. I don't think Gwenith overdid it, though, or even hurt him that bad.

    For whatever reason I just got the image of Pleo learning to fly and then flying off, never coming back. Wonder why.

    You did a good job in general of exploring Pleo's character further in this chapter. He's starting to really realize the harsh nature of things, but he seems determined so that's good to see.

    I was going to say that a feral showing up not too long after the conversation about ferals was a bit odd, but... I think it worked out well, the way you handled it by having zigzagoon be in a rush.

    And, ah, a cliffhanger. Somehow I was not expecting pirates to show up, but in hindsight I should have due to the conversation earlier in the chapter and other chapters. There's not a single filler conversation or bit of narration in this fic, is there? I can appreciate that.
     
  16. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    This. So much this.

    Also I like how Pleo is already starting to develop as a character and be insightful as opposed to just being adorable. Not that he's bad at being adorable, quite the opposite. :3


    Looking forward to the next chapter!

    (Also, Druddigon can glide? ._.)
     
  17. Tangent128

    Tangent128 Member

    Well, those wings have to be useful for something.

    As cute as the image of Druddigon swimming through the Dragonspiral moat like penguins is, I am a fan of Gargoyles, and hence gliding, too. :p
     
  18. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Part of the reason why Pleo's intended to be like that is that while he has enough cognitive ability to talk and think through concepts, he is in many ways still an infant, and pirate raid aside, still relatively unexposed to some of the stickier problems that plague the world he was born into.

    I've seen a few cases where they've at least had a presence. I know DarkerShining has dealt with the parents of some of her Pokemon characters in the well-written (and much further established) Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Reflecting Balance at a few points in her story. As for why I decided to have visible parent figures for Nida and Crom, it was primarily because Bluewhorl Town is intended to be parsed as a small and (mostly) tight-knit community, and I felt that having kin and family to fall back on was an integral part of that sort of community.

    Hopefully that wish doesn't extend to actual fight practice. I'm all for parents that want to build you up, but still, that hurts. :p

    Hey now, it lowers your opponent's Attack by one stage!

    Done.

    It's quite a lot of iceberg that needs to be exposed still, yes.

    By the standards of an super-strong creature that could probably destroy the car I use to get to work without thinking too hard about it and have a leg up on recovering from wounds, that's certainly true. That said, a bigger creature with lots of rough and pointy bits getting the drop on you like that is probably intimidating the first time no matter what Pokemon you are.

    Not saying that your mental image is a plot-accurate one, but perhaps it's due to the repeated minor mentions of an entire (small) world beyond Tromba?

    Well, 'not a single filler conversation' is probably not wholly accurate, but I try to make everything that gets brought up in the story add something, yes.

    That's heartening to hear, since a good chunk of where I intend to take this fic is contingent on Pleo developing at least somewhat as a character.

    If Dragonite can fly with their gimpy little wings, I'd wager that Druddigon can at least do short glides even if they canonically cannot fly.

    Well hey now, Druddigon can learn Surf, so why not both?

    So obviously publishing last week kinda did not pan out, and work this week had an annoying tendency to get in the way of most of my weeknight windows for working on writing and publishing, but I finally have the next chapter ready.

    So a little over two weeks ago, I was kinda a jerk and left off with a cliffhanger where Bluewhorl Town was getting a minor case of massive property damage. Originally, this chapter was part of one that was significantly longer than what you'll be reading today. After getting some feedback and spending some time thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that instead of a single long and rambling chapter it was better to actually publish the two parts as separate chapters with a shorter-than-normal publishing gap. The second chapter is more or less done barring some detailing, and I expect to have it published in the course of 4-5 days.

    Special thanks for the customary beta-reading and image help for this chapter goes to Tangent128, Solovino, and you, the reviewers for picking out my clumsy mistakes. And to the readers for giving me and the helpful folks who've helped to make this yarn a reality over a thousand views so far.

    And now let's resolve that cliffhanger I left you guys on last time:

    [​IMG]

    As the faint din of the pirate raid continued to reverberate up the hills of Tromba Island while smoke billowed up from Bluewhorl, the members of Team Traveller struggled to come to terms with the calamity unfolding before their eyes. After a shocked pause, Kiran shook his head and broke the silence.

    "Come on, we need to get going," the Swellow said to his teammates with an anxious chirp as he flapped up and took wing. "The Guild and the guards are going to need all the help they can get down there."

    The Swellow flew for the path that returned from the fields to the town, his teammates darting off after the team leader…

    Save one.

    "Wh-Where are you going?!" Pleo cried from the ledge, his words stopping the rest of Team Traveler in their tracks at the other end of the Leppa field that Nida's family tended to.

    "Where do you think they'd be going?" Mildrew's voice answered from the side, his head trained towards his field. "They've got things to defend, just like I've got a field, a mate, and a sapling that need protecting!"

    While they didn't exactly have children or fields of their own, the other Pokémon on Team Traveler also looked similarly torn about staying any longer at the little Leppa field on the hill. Family, friends, neighbors, their teammates at the guild, little places which brought moments of joy to their lives, all of those were threatened by the chaos in the town below.

    "We need to get down there right now to help fight them off!" Nida exclaimed, hopping up and down, her barbs fanned out from tense anxiety.

    "F-Fight them off?" Pleo stammered, his feet still firmly glued in place by the bluff.

    "Yes! We have to!" Crom cried, the young Druddigon flailing his arms to try and beckon the young Lugia forward.

    "B-But won't that hurt?!" Pleo squawked. After all, if Gwenith was already intimidating to fight against when she was all smiles and cheers afterwards… why, these pirates must surely be in a class of their own.

    "It doesn't matter! The town's in danger!" Nida shouted back, her tone betraying annoyance with the hesitation of the white bird that was supposed to be Tromba's Protector. At the other end of the Leppa field, Kiran circled in the air a moment and turned his head back to Pleo.

    "Pleo, do you remember how we said that Pokémon on Rescue Teams need to be able to not run away from scary things all the time?" the Swellow called out.

    "Because- Because someone might be counting on you to help them?" Pleo asked back falteringly.

    "Yeah, well right now, the entire town's counting on us to help," Kiran explained, his words causing Pleo to cast a troubled glance at the ground in front of him. Yes, these pirates seemed frightening and all, but... The entire town? All of those Pokémon in their scarves, the ones that had given him so much attention since he came down from that cave…

    All of them were counting on Pokémon like this little group to help them?

    As the little Lugia remained frozen in place with indecision, he was interrupted by a chirp from Kiran, who was now facing down the path.

    "Pleo, we can't wait any longer! If you're not ready, just stay here with Mildrew, okay? We'll be back when it's over," he tried to reassure his newest recruit before he, Nida, and Crom turned and took off down the path for the town.

    "Kiran! Not that this isn't a big honor and all, but shouldn't you not be volunteering other Pokémon for babysitting?!" the apple-grower called after the Swellow as he quickly trotted over to Pleo.

    "Bring it up when there isn't a town being destroyed!" Kiran's rapidly fading voice called back. Mildrew glanced out at Bluewhorl, the bedlam engulfing it visible from the bluff.

    "Fair enough," the Tropius sighed. "Come on, Protector. There'll at least be things up here you can defend, too."

    The more Pleo looked at the destruction unfolding below as Mildrew led him off, the more he thought of the townsfolk in Bluewhorl. About the Pokémon that lived there... About how aside from the Marked, they all were so happy just to be around their 'Protector'… And about how many of them might be just as scared as he was of getting hurt and counting on that 'Protector' to help them...

    It was then that Pleo decided that, as intimidating as this whole matter with these pirates was, he needed to be somewhere other than this patch of Leppa berries high up on the hill.

    "W-Wait for me!" the Lugia cried out. Much to Mildrew's surprise, almost as soon as the words had left Pleo's mouth, the young Guardian had darted onto the path and after his teammates.

    "Eh?! Wait-! Where are you going?!"

    As the tree trunks and shrubs lining the path flew past Pleo, and Mildrew's voice grew further and further away, the young bird called out again, hoping that his choice had not come too late.

    "Kiran! Kiran! I'm coming too! I wanna help!"

    "Come quickly, then!" a Nidoran's voice called from further ahead.

    Pleo darted down the wooded path, and before long he could see his teammates again. When he rejoined their rush along the path towards Bluewhorl, he found his worries about the bedlam below crowded out by thoughts about the Pokémon that were counting on this blue-scarved Rescue Team to help them. After what seemed like an eternity running past an unending mass of trees and undergrowth, the forest along the path melted into the abodes and structures on Bluewhorl Town's outskirts.

    The attack on the town still raged in the distance with deep booms and thuds which were punctuated by the occasional sounds of struggles. Shouts, roars, screeches, yowls… All of them accentuated the already sobering sight of plumes of smoke coming up from the direction of the town's harbor. The paths were devoid of the normal bustle of Bluewhorl's daily life; the team's arrival into town was greeted by a lone young Meowth that had not found shelter yet and was bolting up the path with wide-eyed fear.

    "Are you okay?!" Nida cried out, causing the cream and brown kitten to come to a panting stop.

    "Th-There's pirates wrecking the town, o-of course I'm not okay!" the still-hyperventilating Pokémon blurted out.

    "Calm down, calm down… You're fine, just find a place in the fringes to lay low for now-" Kiran attempted to reassure the creature, when a bug-like voice from further down the path hissed:

    "Oh nice going, veikka, you brought us even deeper into the island."

    "Aah! They're here, too!" the Meowth panicked, as it fled as fast as its legs could carry it up the path and into the fringes around the town. Pleo's throat tensed as he saw his teammates brace themselves. The Pokemon that the jittery creature had heard was just around a blind corner, and worse still, it sounded as if the creature was not alone.

    "Oi! You try maintaining a sense of direction with an old maid clawing and trying to take a bite out of you!" a gruff voice growled.

    "Look you morons, there's a path right here that heads to the sea," a comparatively yippy voice admonished. "Let's just take it before we get surrounded!"

    And the voices were… Leaving? Pleo could hear fading footfalls from around the blind corner, which indeed were heading towards the sea. But… Was that really such a good thing?

    "Kiran, they're getting away!" Nida cried.

    "Oh no they aren't!" Kiran squawked. He lead the group around the corner, bringing into view the forms of a Gabite, a Trapinch, and a Growlithe who were quietly retreating for the sea.

    "Stop right there, criminal scum!" the Swellow barked to the three, which caused the Pokemon to stop dead in their tracks and whirl around, revealing gold scarves with some grey spiked pattern tied around their necks. The Growlithe was lugging a satchel, the Gabite had a claw occupied with a half-eaten piece of bread, and all three seemed to all have a few scrapes from a scuffle with what was probably the 'old maid' that they were talking about.

    "Aw crud," the Trapinch groaned.

    "Relax, veikka. They're obviously still a rookie team," the Gabite scoffed in between mouthfuls of bird-shaped bread loaf. "What are they gonna do? Cry on us?"

    "Wait a minute- That's one of mom's loaves!" Crom growled once he recognized the shape of the bread the Gabite was polishing off. "That's from her bakery!"

    "Yeah, and so what?" the Gabite spat out, devouring the rest of the loaf. "What are you going to do about it, brat?"

    "We'll sic our island's Protector on you!" Crom roared. "Lugia! Guardian of the Seas-!"

    Before Crom could point out the Protector of Bluewhorl Town, he was interrupted by an indignant chirp.

    "I'm Pleo!" the white bird in the group interrupted as he beat his wings to try and look more forceful. "A-And you can't just barge in here and wreck the town! That's mean!"

    Although Pleo tried his hardest to mimic Crom's roar, his words came out closer to the shrill cry of a disturbed Wingull- and failed completely to impart a 'divine' impression on the three ruffians that were currently trading unimpressed looks with each other.

    "That mewa is supposed to be a Protector?" the Growlithe asked dismissively.

    "Ha! Sure you are," the Trapinch chittered mockingly. "And I'm the King of Conntow!"

    "Nice try birdie, but I'm pretty sure that 'Protectors' aren't little mutant feather dusters that are shorter than me," the Gabite growled.

    "Let's see if you rookies can fight better than you fib!" the Trapinch huffed, snapping his jaws aggressively as he hopped up and down.

    "Come on, give us a claw, mutt!" the Gabite snarled, before he drew one of his claws into a tensed stance. "Let's wipe the floor with them!"

    "Coming right up!" the Growlithe cried, before he hopped back, tensed himself, and emanated a blue, seemingly electric aura his body before giving a running tag to the Gabite and Trapinch. The Gabite flinched a moment from the tag, and then lunged for the group slashing wildly.

    The team quickly scattered out of the way of the land shark, Pleo making a tumbling dodge to the ground. As he hopped up back to his feet, he became acutely aware of a pain shooting from his tail as something heavy latched on to it and attempted to drag the Lugia back.

    "Ow! Let go! Let go!"

    "Not happening!" a muffled voice hissed. When Pleo looked behind himself, he saw the culprit to the sudden pain: the orange bug among the pirates had taken a bite into the end of his tail!

    Pleo squawked out of surprise and swung the Trapinch around, attempting to shake the antlion loose. A bit further on, Kiran narrowly dodged being swatted out of the sky by the Gabite, thanks to Crom intercepting the Gabite's arm fins with a timely bite.

    "Grr, please. Who do you think I am? Some dainty little Deerling?" the Gabite growled at Crom, before he used his free claw to deliver an upwards slash at Crom's underbelly. The poor Druddigon let go of his grip, crying out in pain, and was knocked away to a tumbling stop against a wooden message board.

    "O-OW!"

    As Crom staggered to his feet and nursed the raw, reddish scrape along his belly scales, the Gabite took a moment to wince a bit from the ruddy lizard's bite and some fresh scrapes the land shark had picked up while clawing him away.

    The Gabite whined a little under his breath about how this accursed hamlet just had to have Pokemon that it hurt to strike, steeled himself again, and then after perceiving an opening, swooped down at the Druddigon to best him.

    "Here, have another-!" he cried, before he was cut off by Nida's voice.

    "Get away from him!"

    Nida plowed into the Gabite's stomach with a tackle, throwing him off course and off-balance with a yelp. The Gabite got up uneasily and stiffly and, much to Nida's pleasant discovery, with a pawful of her barbs stuck in his stomach.

    "Urgh… You little runt, what did you do to me?!" the Gabite demanded in a groaning snarl as he eased himself to his feet and tried to pick out some of the barbs. In the background, Nida could hear Pleo crying out, as well as the voices of the other two pirates harrying him.

    "Stop moving around so I can deep fry the bird, you dumb bug!" the Growlithe's voice barked.

    "I'm trying! He keeps jerking me around!"

    "So let go of him!"

    Crom had gotten back up on his feet just in time to turn with Nida to see the Trapinch release his grip on Pleo's tail, apparently attempting to nip at him again on something less peripheral than a tail.

    "Grr!" the Gabite growled as he approached Nida and Crom with bared claws. "Don't think that you're just gonna be able to- Gah!"

    The Gabite quickly fell back, narrowly dodging a directed burst of air from Kiran's wings strong enough to cut a groove into the dirt of the path as the Swellow swooped in between his teammates and the attacking dragon.

    "Nida! Crom! I'll take the Gabite!" the Swellow directed as he tensed himself for an exchange of blows with the land shark. "If you and Pleo keep the other two busy so they can't heal the poison, we've got this battle sealed!"

    Nida and Crom didn't question Kiran's words. As soon as they felt the breeze from his taking flight after the Gabite, they rushed forward to Pleo. Said Lugia was running further down the path, having just barely dodged a gout of fire from the Growlithe and an open-mawed tackle from the Trapinch by a stroke of luck.

    "H-Help! Two against one isn't fair at all!"

    "You're right! It isn't!" the Trapinch chittered as he reared up to lunge at the Lugia with another bite from his jaws. "But that's life, hu- Ow!"

    But the lunge was not to be, as the Trapinch quickly found himself getting pounced on by a larger and heavier spiked dragon that slashed at his back, which sent the Trapinch tumbling forward.

    "Oh, you'll pay for that, runt!" the orange bug hissed as he righted himself, and then lunged forward and clamped his maw onto the Druddigon's arm.

    "Argh!"

    The Trapinch came to regret latching onto Crom's arm almost as soon as he bit down, as he spat the blue arm out and dropped to the ground whining with his maw agape and its innards scraped by the Druddigon's rough hide.

    "Owowow… My poor mowth-"

    Before the Trapinch could overcome the pain in his maw, he was kicked up into the air by an unseen assailant. As he fell back to earth, he saw a Nidoran entering a second spinning kick, with her foot racing toward his head.

    The sound of a loud thud from Nida's kick reverberated along the path, along with a second, duller thud of something striking a wall with the accompanying sight of a small cloud of dust. When it cleared, the form of a weakly groaning Trapinch embedded in a damaged wall became plainly visible.

    "V-Veikka!" the antlion groaned before he lapsed out of consciousness, which prompted Nida, panting and wide-eyed with surprise that her second kick came out so strong, to take a moment to grumble and glower at the creature.

    "'That's life,' hu-?"

    Nida was cut off by a burning sensation on her flank that made her yelp and jump back. When she looked at her side, she noticed a blackened patch of fur and barbs that had been where a small but potent gout of flame struck her. She then looked up and locked eyes with the pirate Growlithe who had snuck past Nida, Pleo, and Crom and now stood in between them and Kiran.

    "I'm still here, you know! And I heard your bigmouth captain blab all about your strategy!" the orange and cream dog growled, before he dug out a Pecha Berry from his bag with his muzzle and bolted on up the path towards Kiran, who was busy evading the Gabite and trading occasional potshots.

    "Hey! Fatty! Heal up! These bachory are trying to wear you-!"

    No, the team was not going to have their hard work undone by some tubby thug playing medic, Nida thought to herself. She sprung forward, and swiped at one of the Growlithe's hind legs with a claw, causing him to stumble in pain and whirl around.

    "Ow! Oh, it's-!"

    As the Growlithe prepared to retaliate, he noticed that Pleo had disgorged a glowing ball that was coming straight at him- a realization that came a few moments too late as the ball struck the Growlithe and sent him tumbling across the path into a post supporting someone's mailbox. As he tried to get back up to his feet, he felt a stiff smack to his underbelly by something that felt like it was covered in sandpaper, and another from a thing that prickled to the touch.

    "Gaaack," the pirate groaned, before he too fell unconscious. Nida gave the dog another stiff kick for good measure before she and her teammates discovered the final pirate's fortunes with the sound of a loud thwack.

    "O-Ow!"

    When she and the others directed their attention towards the Gabite, they saw that he was stumbling, stunned after being struck in the nose with the team Gravelerock.

    "You didn't think I was keeping my distance from you just because you were ugly, did you?" Kiran taunted from the air.

    At this point, the Gabite was near the end of his rope from the poison and this rookie team that was surely cheating in its battle somehow. The dragon growled, and decided that things would be better off were he to call a retreat.

    "Nrghh... Ugh, aika häipyä. Take your own path to the sea, you useless mutt! I'm out of here!"

    As the Gabite ran off and hopped off the ground in a running glide, he suddenly found a white, frigid beam striking one of his wings and crusting it over with ice. The Gabite lost his balance, pinwheeled, and tumbled along the ground before crashing into the wall of a hut.

    The Gabite then weakly attempted to rise to his feet, only for a Nidorina to ram his belly and drive the hapless dragon into the wall of the hut.

    "Ar-Argh," the Gabite groaned, before the Nidorina released the Gabite to flop forward from the wall with a thud. Much to Nida's surprise, the Nidorina was none other than...

    "Mom?!"

    "You're the last kit unaccounted for, and so help me, no one harms my kits like that!" Marley growled with a freshly-plucked scale in her mouth, looking back at the motionless Gabite sprawled out on the ground. The whole incident couldn't help but massively unnerve an already weakened Crom, who shivered a bit at the sight of Marley's thoroughly effective defeat of the last pirate of the group.

    "D-Did she just-?!" he squeaked.

    "Mrph, the Gabite will at least live to get what's coming to him," Marley harumphed as she scratched at an ear and took a moment to pocket her most recent trophy.

    Kiran flew down and hopped along the ground towards his teammates. The pirates they had encountered were a bit easy to defeat, but they had exacted their toll on Team Traveler. There were bites to treat, scrapes and cuts to clean, and burns to soothe.

    But before Kiran could fish out so much as a berry from his bag, the team recoiled as they felt the ground beneath their feet tremble a little and heard the sound of loud, thudding footsteps belonging to a heavy and powerful creature.

    "Gaah. Where is that shrine bell?" a deep voice grumbled. "Snacks aren't supposed to be this hard to fi-!"

    The thumping noise rounded the blind corner, and revealed himself to be a hulking black beast with gray metal rings about his limbs, an armored head with long horns that looked just like the spiky design on the pirates' scarves, and a strong, cruel-looking maw. He was exactly the sort of Pokemon that Team Traveler didn't need to run into right now. Nida and Crom froze in their tracks, Pleo squawked out in startled shock, and even Marley seemed to be caught off-guard for a moment.

    "Oh, you're kidding me!" Nida squeaked, instinctively raising the barbs in her fur while her knees went wobbly. Steel types were always a pain to deal with since they never seemed to be affected by her barbs, and this pirate was the biggest Steel type she had ever seen.

    The Aggron, detecting the apprehension of the Pokemon gathered before him, gave a self-assured grunt, before shooting a piercing glare at the much smaller and unthreatening-looking annoyances before him.

    "Step aside, runts!" the creature bellowed, "Unless you dare to challenge Hess, the mighty captain of the Iron Fleet!"

    "Grr, it is you that should be stepping aside, Captain of the One Ship 'Fleet'!" Marley growled as she bared the barbs under her blue fur. "You barge into our town, talk about eating the bell from our ánima!"

    "Um, Mami," Nida whispered wide-eyed, the big brute staring dismissively down the group seeming just ever-so-slightly improbable for even Mami to challenge. "You might not want to-"

    "Well I, Marley, La Cazadragones de Tromba won't let you!" the Nidorina spat defiantly at the Aggron.

    "Y-Yeah!" Crom cried, trying to swallow his fear of the pirate leader and put on a brave face. The Druddigon spread his wings to try and make himself seem larger and gestured at Pleo. "And we've got our Protector here too!"

    The young dragon's words made the Aggron flinch for a moment, before he blinked and realized that the 'Protector' that the Druddigon was pointing at barely came up to his stomach and looked about as self-collected as a Deerling about to be hit by a Flash Cannon.

    "Pffhahaha! That thing is your 'Protector'?" the Aggron laughed. "I've sparred with the likes of Trizano the Immortal before! Do you think I'm going to let a bunch of midgets and an overgrown Wingull push me around?!"

    The creature gave a low growl and lowered his head at the group, adopting a pose that was clearly tensed for battle.

    "It looks like I'm gonna have to run you all over to get it into your heads!" he cried, before the towering brigand charged at the five Pokémon on the path.

    "Take cover!" Kiran squawked, as the five scattered out of the way of the oncoming Aggron. The bulky Pokemon was easy enough for them to weave and fly around, but much to their horror, the creature, rather than stopping and attempting to charge again, leapt up into the air and slammed his legs into the earth as he came back down.

    Pleo quickly leapt off churning and tossing earth and clung onto an overhead tree branch for dear life, as the Aggron's impact cracked the ground, kicked up a plume of dirt, and caused some of the nearby tents and huts to shudder and partly collapse from the violent tremor.

    As the dust settled and Pleo let go of the tree branch to drop back down to earth, he became aware that Nida and Crom had been thrown across the path, and weren't moving beyond an occasional weak twitch.

    "A-Aaah! Nida! Crom!" the Protector cried out in panic.

    Marley, who had ridden out the pirate's tremor, was livid at the sight of her daughter sprawled out on the ground.

    "Grr! You! It's time to end you, pirate!" she snarled back at the Aggron. The Nidorina threw herself at the creature, delivering a powerful kick along the creases of his belly armor that caused the creature to stumble backwards and yelp out of pain. As Marley kept the Aggron occupied with another kick, Kiran dug out a round seed from his bag and lobbed at the Aggron, which exploded with a fiery, searing blast after it struck Hess' back. As the creature stumbled about to regain his footing, Kiran, seeing a momentary opening, flitted down to Pleo to try and direct the increasingly battle-paralyzed Lugia.

    "Pleo! Get Nida and Crom out of here and somewhere sa-! Look out!"

    Just then, the Swellow attempted to push Pleo out of the way of something from the corner of his eye. It was only after feeling a heavy blunt slam, being knocked back tumbling across the path, and starting to hear a shrill repeating noise in his head that Pleo discovered that he was surrounded by rocks and compacted dirt that the Aggron had thrown up the path.

    "Ugh… Why- Why do I hear beeping?" Pleo groaned as he uneasily rose to his feet. Kiran was splayed out along the ground, groaning weakly. In coming to Pleo's aid, Kiran had taken the full brunt of the earth and rocks the pirate captain had thrown up the path. Just up ahead, Marley was pulling herself out of a ditch weakly, panting from having been thrown up the path by the torrent of earth and stone.

    "Grr," the Nidorina panted, still defiant, but her strength having been badly dented from this ordeal. Hess, gasping from having had the wind taken out of him from Marley's surprisingly painful kicks, was still energetic enough to taunt her in an ugly tone.

    "Ha… Ha… Is that the best that the little bunny that was gonna 'end' me can do?!" the armored lizard bellowed as he advanced on the Nidorina.

    At this point, Pleo simply couldn't help but be overwhelmed.

    This stranger had come into town and made everyone miserable, had made his body ache and feel like it was going to fall apart at any moment, had just hurt his teammates in front of him... and here he was about to hurt another Pokemon that Pleo knew.

    And Pleo just couldn't accept that.

    "St-Stop it! Just stop it!" the young Lugia cried, his voice growing shriller and increasingly feral in tone. As the Aggron and Nidorina turned towards Pleo, they saw that the blue markings that adorned his body were now glowing bright.

    "H-Huh?! What is-?!" Hess stammered, beginning to grow increasingly pallid before Pleo cut him off with a screech.

    "Just leave us alone!"

    And then the Lugia brought his wings together, with the winds whirling in between them.



    Near the harbor, the pirates' incursion had dealt quite a toll to the town. Most of the shops and structures were badly damaged, if not outright destroyed from the flying beam attacks and projectiles that filled the air. Some sea Pokémon in the pirate ranks defended a beachhead with a constant torrent of water attacks, allowing their more terrestrial numbers to probe deeper into the town.

    A Skiploom with a lavender headband tottering and falling out of the air after being hit by a gout of fire here, a Rhyhorn from the guild crumpling up against a wall from a jet of water there, a Cherrim among the pirates getting thrown into the water after being hit by a roundhouse kick from a Mienfoo... So the chaos went on, until a loud thump came from the southern direction of Bluewhorl.

    For a fleeting moment, all eyes trained themselves on the sight of a massive column of air abruptly blowing out from the direction of the noise, and then a stiff gale-like gust that swept over the battlefield, blowing pirate and defender alike off their feet. As the different Pokémon picked themselves up from the sudden gust, they heard the sound of… Screaming?

    "A-Aaaaaaah!"

    The screaming figure was revealed to be an Aggron that was hurtling through the air… Directly towards one of the masts of the pirate ship in the harbor. The tumbling Pokemon struck the mast, which, after bending back a bit, snapped like a tree limb in a storm and fell into the water, sending the Aggron falling the other direction to the ship's deck with an audible crash.

    "F-Fall back! F-Fall back!" Hess' voice rang out across the harbor filled with the unmistakable sound of panic. "We're g-getting out of here!"

    It took only a moment's hesitation from the various pirates to realize that whatever creature had done that to their captain, and their poor ship, was still out there. And that if they didn't get a move on, it might come for them next.

    "Retreat! Retreat!" a Floatzel with an Iron Fleet scarf cried out. The fierce fight quickly became a hasty and disorderly rush by the pirates back to the ship as the defenders renewed their assault, exhaling whispered gratitude at whatever had so clearly turned the tide of battle in their favor.



    Back on the path on the southern side of Bluewhorl Town, Pleo was panting, exhausted and drained, his plumage having reverted back to their normal colors.

    "Haaah… Haaaah…"

    All that was left on the battered and torn-up path lined by now battered and torn-up buildings was simply him, the unconscious forms of his teammates, the three less-threatening pirates they had defeated earlier, and, of course, Marley.

    "Protector?" the Nidorina panted, as she stumbled onto her feet from a wall she had been blown up against.

    "H-Huh? Wh-What happened?" Pleo woozily asked as he groped around for something to steady himself.

    "That was incredible!" Marley cried out in reverential awe. "You-!"

    Before Marley could get particularly far with her praise, Pleo tripped over one of the rocks that Hess had thrown about in battle, which sent the young Lugia stumbling headlong into an askew mailbox.

    "Ow..." Pleo groaned, before he toppled over and the color and sounds of the world around him faded, leaving Marley to poke uneasily at his prone body.

    "Um… Protector?"



    Author's Notes:

    - veikka - Finnish (colloquial, disused): "brother"
    - mewa - Polish: "gull"
    - bachory - Polish: "brats"
    - aika häipyä - Finnish: "time to buzz off", lit. "time to disappear"
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2016
  19. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    I must say, that Gabite and Trapinch seem familiar. I do dearly wonder where you got the idea for them from? ;)

    But good to see Pleo finally getting to kick some butt.
     
  20. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → soul sick.

    With the stuttering, I assume Pleo knows something's wrong, but he doesn't know what. It's a good bit of characterizaton there. Whatever happens, it's going to be more than a shock for Pleo, I think.

    Might've benefitted from another sentence saying what they did have to lose.

    Ah, finally. Someone's patience runs thin. I wonder how this will play out in the long-run, if at all.

    Hooray! Pleo character development! He does know a bit of what's going on, and his important role in everything.

    I might have made a comment about how there's too much dialogue and not enough action/description going on given the situation, but I think the chapter moves pretty fast and once you do get past Pleo's rough decision, your grasp on language is pretty evident. Nicely written.

    That piece of dialogue made me lol.

    Looks like Crom got a bit carried away there, huh. ;P

    Really liking the balance between dialogue and description in this battle. It's certainly no easy feat, balancing all these characters at once. Particularly like this quoted bit. :p

    Nida's certainly determined and adept to fighting under pressure.

    The whole chapter was obviously leading up to something like this, and you didn't disappoint. I'm really rooting for Pleo, you know. :p
     

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