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

  1. Venia Silente

    Venia Silente [](int x){return x;}

    It's been a... long time since I last showed up around here for commentary- what, you don't remember me? I'm that guy, you know, *that* guy!

    Decided to take a look as part of some other things though because I haven't seen precious
    birb Pleo in a while, and was told it'd be a good idea to take a look at him during Ch. 55. So fair notice, this is a running commentary for past content. Not that it was a content any less enjoyable, though begin that chapter with a chained and wingclipped Pleo! SpitefulMurkrow y u do this

    Well, last episode Team Traveller got hit hard and they got captured. It happens every once in a while - every 14 chapters or so? :p This time at least he has company, he's not alone unlike that time where Nida and Elty had to go Solid Snake into a ship to get him back.

    And speaking of Elty it's good to see him and Berecien sharing a scene! About time I got to read more of them, certainly. I've been in about the same position regarding the outside world as Guardia for the last several months so.... I welcome a very official briefing if it is delivered by the best Ponyta I swear.

    Yup, this is how these relationships begin. Best friends 4ever.

    Anyway, Nagant does the smart thing as usual and makes sure Pleo and the others don't remain together for long but at the same time not leaving them out in the cold, nothing to lose, which is when opponents become the most dangerous. It's interesting to see their workings and priorities here.

    Hey when you are nice secondary characters in a world as big as this you have to fight for every inch of screentime.

    One thing that called my attention during Lyn's arrival scene is, well...

    >Lyn assigns Ellsberg for infiltration

    I see this going to places. I mean, it is the right tactical move but out-of-universe we all know what kind of luck Elmer has so... this can only end one way:

    "Hopefully well"

    >""And you [Ketu] are accompanying him," the Samurott added.

    I retract my last statement. The two of them get a long so well that I'm actually impressed they got far enough to move from one district to another. These places tend to have... higher security, in a world where it's normal for creatures to just fly, hop or dig past walls.

    > 1 President of the United States disliked this section

    So almost everyone is here! Pladur's team will hopefully get on in the action. One complaint that I had had during some of the previous episodes was that their team was always lagging an exact number of steps behind, never making any plot-related progress that was not born out of them merely being dragged along with the plot, but I see they have gotten better at it to the point that they have managed to trail Lyn. Let's see if their good luck doesn't run out here.

    And now, I'm ATM only mostly missing joyful, soft Daraen.

    I mean, the answer is basically obvious, didn't I just say they had gotten better at this? Sometimes I have to wonder if the adventure has built them enough self-confidence. Now, Kiran does fail his first bluff check spectacularly, so certainly we'll have to see the team using a different skillset here.

    (I do have an obvious solution but given that we're already at like Ch. 60, I guess it's a moot point)

    Will this become Super Smash Bros: Fledglings Meelee? :p

    >Hess' crew infighting on who's a better suited "volunteer" to go scout

    As expected, truly. I did have the expectation that Valatos would be picked (nice ruining the day by him, by the way) because he's a flier and also a kind of bug that can handle well remaining near water and not needing much refreshment while just hanging out there waiting for information (something that a Ledian woud be far too visible for). Did I also mention Valatos ruining the day for his teammate? Thanks, Valatos.

    Hess is a character to feel sorry for, sometimes. If only he had some sort of trinket or divine assistance to try and correct his bad luck...

    My "more characters, more problems" senses are tingling.

    Kecleon's is a franchise! I hope they are not very tight on their "you have to be a Kecleon to participate" policy.

    That does bring me an idea for the team to try and get deeper into the city... but no. Traveling by Kecleon can get complicated and I'm not sure the critters would like to shuffle breathing live cargo from store to store, no matter how good they pay. (As if they could even pay, but hey)

    OH NOOOO!!! It's the dreaded bunch of random 'rescue a Caterpie' missions in between plots!

    You sir are truly evil in your way of nudging and winking at the actual PMD games. What else could happen to our bunch of protagonists, I wonder.

    Good thing there was a timeskip here.

    >Detective Cardino

    >Detective Cardino the Pikachu


    It's nice to see a reference to Detective Pikachu and stuff! Even more if it can be built into some sort of homage and a small plot. We do have one very good sniffer who is also very good at finding trouble, one Pokémon with good size for getting into and out of places, and one Pokémon who could be good at clubbing and interrogating people.

    Perfect for a detective job!

    And meanwhile, Valatos and team barely miss an encounter with Crom and team. Probably for the better because we can see the town is quite well equipped to curb urban scuffles before they grown into something larger. With the way both Nida's team and Valatos' team will want to go about things, this is a hook for a more focused and progressive approach towards their goals, going step by step and letting chance provide the opportunity where they can. As for Lyn's crew, let's see, I don't think the duo of Elmer and Ketu will be any subtle in their findings, and Lyn's response might also be not too subtle either with the overgrown Wingull at a very critical position outside his grasp.
    Virgil134 likes this.
  2. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    D'aww, what a sweet little father-son moment. I can relate to Pladur, being all cooped up in bed too weak to move is the most awful thing in the world. I'm amazed he's not getting terribly sea sick from being cramped in the cabin. Especially since his stomach's all banged up. The magic of berries, I guess? Speaking of magic... let's talk the magic of blackmail! Because Team Sentinel was great at getting to the point, there. A nice combination of smarminess (because they know they've got these goons right where they want them), humor (mostly Zelle's overly-dramatic "acting"), and genuinely threatening behavior. Even if their plan is a bit of an impromptu one, it's fundamentally better than some of the stuff we've seen in the fic to date. The one head-scratching part is leaving Ketu and Ellsberg to deal with Pleo, namely because the latter is weak to him. But clearly they know something I don't, so I'm-a shut up with this part.

    I do wish there had been a little bit of pusbhack on the part of Team Traveller, given they've had some really lousy mystery dungeon experiences to date. Pleo has a brief moment of indecision, but that's after he's in the dungeon and he never vocalizes it. C'mon, Pleo, take some initiative! Like, I feel like if I was living there, I'd have red flags going off if someone wanted to meet me in the middle of a mystery dungeon. It's like those "Let's go to my secret base!" missions in Super that always led to Monster House ambushes. Wait... is this supposed to be referencing that? Oh, well played, I suppose. Volcano dungeons are always fun, at least! (Read: they're never fun. Damn lava tiles...) Also, an honest-to-goodness Heatmor shows up for all of a tiny fight sequence! I say that because Heatmor is, like, one of those stupidly irrelevant 'mons I always forget about it until I see it somehwere... like here, apparently. XP

    Oh, hey, Inler's got grandkids. That's... unexpected, actually. I assumed he was the type who was married to his job, so to speak and the Director title wouldn't go to a blood-relative, but to an Administrator he had groomed for the role. Though, maybe his falling out with his kids (which is what the grandkids seemed to allude to) has something to do with that? In any case, it's surprising to get this softer side of Inler while Queen Alecia is going in much the other direction at the moment. no, i will not stop comparing the two main villainous factions... look what you've done.

    One last thing before the quotes. So, with this chapter, I noticed that your formatting when it comes to dialogue is very reptitive. Pretty much every paragraph that contains dialogue follows the exact same pattern:
    "I'm talking to you," X said. "And now I'm saying something else."
    Like, I had noticed it during the first scene... but this continued through the rest of the chapter. It prompted me to glance back at a couple of other chapters and I realized they're following the exact same pattern, too. Now, I fully concede part of the reason this caught my eye is because I noticed it in my own writing and have been making a conscience effort to vary the sentence structure a bit. Given you've also got yourself a very long fic with a ways to go, I think it would be to the story's benefit if you tried to vary things up a bit, too. It's not that the dialogue itself is bad or anything, just that I think it might read better if the pattern you use to present dialogue gets switched up every so often. Does that make sense? I hope so...

    Might be a personal preference thing, but I find the idea of stuttering within narration to not make a lot of sense. Same goes for the "?!". They're best used sparingly and in dialogue to convey frantic urgency. But that's just my take.

    Whoa, hey, let's not reinforce harmful dragon stereotypes, here! Especially when this is really just one step shy of Scrooge McDuck territory. :V

    I feel attacked. D:

    There's always a Russian judge in these things... [shakes head]

    If ever you needed a hint that this is totally, obviously a trap for an ambush, then this would be it. Like, I can't imagine people regularly meet inside mystery dungeons in Anyilla, right?

    Do I detect a hint of jealousy?

    Now the birb protests. Good grief. XD
  3. Venia Silente

    Venia Silente [](int x){return x;}

    So, I was told I should comment more so I will. Who can pass up the opportunity, right?

    This is from reading Ch. 56 and 57. Which are both of them about a VERY UNHAPPY BIRB. Why are you doing this? Pleo doesn't deserve it. He has friends and a good life back home and while it's admittedly nice to see that the populace here a the capital, not knowing better, seem to have a sincere degree of surprise admiration for him, it comes at the cost of clipping his wings COME ON!

    Now, the adventures start with everyone trying to get into the main part of the city via various midadventures which include trying to land a job. Or, rather, almost everyone, because certain characters are better than others.

    Because, really, this is how it feels. Nagant in particular is a treat for this part of the adventure, allowing us a very first-person view of the inner city culture that, barring events at the Arena, we don't really have access to a wider portrayal of. Speaking of Nagant, the Captain's observations and musings about the family line's fate and fall from prestige and the thought that even in this place, everyone has gone through really bad times since That Event in the Backstory... all this paints a rather melancholic view of the Empire.

    ...I see both Nagant and Anyilla have their good share of times of hardship. I see mention that the Royal Family escaped the Calamity by luck - I wonder how much public knowledge that stroke of luck is, I could see Aleria being seen at least in some circles as someone "born lucky". And it can be seen that recollection of these kinds of things does seem to be the kind of stuff that can get through Nagant's shell and leave a visible change in the character's mood and posture.

    It really makes me hope the next gaiden story in the Fledglignsverse is about Nagant (hint hint oh and for @Virgil134 too :p )

    For the record my totally unbiased opinion as an author of a Starly character and a co-writer of another one is that Staraptor are truly the best birds ever. Then again bird generals in Fledglings are made of awesome starting with our Legendary protag and all the way down, but Starly specimens deserve the extra attention.

    That said, I have nothing against seeing that Aleria, the current ruler being a pretty cloudbirb! Altaria are fluffy things and I find it fitting that the ruler of an Empire is a Pokémon who, kind of, rests in the clouds! She's really cloud-niney °3°
    (Also should I make a mention that the choice of Altaria as the representative of the Empire draws a nice parallel to Lugia being a god of storms)

    Have I mentioned that Aleria is quite cloud-niney? Because she is, in an enjoyable way because it reflects some of the tropes about how royalty are portrayed to be in fiction to be either disinterested, lacking in understanding, overly idealistic, or very person-focused, or any combination of the above, and how other characters in their immediate circle - councillors, guards, etc- have to deal with them, but then changes the foundation of the trope's application by hinting a number of these things to rely on her personality and her Calamity background as a cloud-birb and how something happened to her egg that, in a way, makes us lucky that she survived until now.

    For a simple example, much of her participation in the conversation regarding what to do to introduce Pleo to the Empire as a Protector can be summarized as such:

    Really, how does she even manage to rule. How does even Osborn deal after hours. Also DO DE DOOO~ You've gotten a Lugia! :p

    Cabot interfering (totally in-character btw) is a good touch to remind us that Pleo is still not alone in this. Of the various characters in the various faction chasing after the birb, Cabot's team is most likely the one that has the least ill intent, if any, towards him.

    Of course, Aleria seems to get this sensation too and totally adds her Seal of Approval™ to the various silliness that Cabot suggests. I could see Berecien and a number of nobles rolling their eyes but at least Cabot got things to work, it seems. Hopefully, the bad news from Polderfield don't do much to diminish Cabot's moods. He should write home more often! And hopefully he has some sort of friends on the transit routes who can bring fresh, trustable news from back home.

    Also nice touch from that Kecleon who obviously works in retail so they know they have to make their client feel *~important~*. This might come back to save the Empire from an excessive bite in the ass later I hope, because there's some characters who totally deserve to live despite the Empire and the Company being a Bad Thing (hints, again, at Aleria).

    Now, how do you get the birb to trust you enough to not kill you? Well you provide EDUTAINMENT!

    Iiiiiiiiiii should have expected this, pretty much.

    The idea of having some sort of introduction so that we can achieve a dual objective - to get the birb to know the Empire and to get the Empire to trust him, these are two important factors to take into consideration when designing this kind of event. So we need activities that can provide Pleo with enrichment and can get him up to speed with the nation's culture.

    Because he can't even read how cute~ So surely we need to start with that, how can we indoctrinate the birb in our Nationalism if he can't even get the basic glyphs. So, let's see how does the Queen and her council approach this matter:

    Aleria will solve all our problems in the plot from here on I am sure!

    After all these matters during the meeting, one thing that called my attention was to see Nagant reaching for their fair reward:
    (I'm not sorry)​

    That part there and Aleria's explanation and sudden un-cloudiness were one of the best parts of the episode, and brought a nice reminder of the way her coming bak to the Empire is not all the oomph and hurras that we would have probs expected to be. Hey, at least Lyn and Hess are having worse days!

    I think Nagant is not into high-class stuff that much, alas :p

    Speaking of the rest of the people, we already know that Nagant can make into town without issues and that at least Nida's group can make it to the inside with some difficulty if they go into an entire sideplot. Let's see how everyone else is doing!

    Yup, it looks like Super Smash Brothers: the Fledglings Edition will end up being a thing. Also, Empire Sec really needs to really up their game, just saying. Even if their attempts at getting in suck well at least they get the work done... somewhat. Kiran's "terribly sick crewmember" ploy starring Crom anyone?

    Her Cloudy Highness Queen Aleria, here to save us all! :p Pleo and Team Traveller will owe her one I bet.

    The various teams getting into the tournament for the chance to NAB PLEO is a nice touch to the storyline in that it both sets everyone with suddenly the same goal, but also because it flattens somewhat the levels of competence the various factions have - I'm sure the tournament is for fun and things like killing or maiming your opponent are disqualification. Because otherwise boy I don't want to imagine how that Rotom is going to decorate that for the audience. And we totally can not have our new Protector envisioning the Empire as a bunch of bullies who go around attacking people and lording over others and using foreigners for fun and oh wait-

    Well, at the moment I am going to close here with two comments.

    First, I'm kinda sad that Lyn and Hess are sending out a couple of minions for the tournament rather than going themselves. It obviously makes sense since they are renowned characters and having them make a public appearence in the deep of Empire territory is just inviting trouble...

    But I really wanted to see such characters as Lyn and Hess duking it out for an entire audience to see. Oh well! Maybe next time, when the holy birb is within reach...

    Second, I have to say I liked the progression Nida'a storyline with Cardino is taking once they find out who their clients are. Being Marked in the Fledglingsverse is Suffering™ already, and here we have Sela and her team threatened with a one-way ticket to the Wastes, and Nida and her team are the ones charged with proving their innocence, all while on a deadline go get their birb friend back! Which means getting into the Arena -same Arena their birb friend is held hostage VIP guest, doing some ISO Standard fortress exploring with a nod to the TR Casino in Celadon, getting into a complicated situation with both Valatos' team *and* the Empire guards and, once again, having to do all this on a deadline.

    But despite the somewhat tightly compressed exploration and action while leaving the various other protags by the side, what I liked most is how the encounter between Team Traveller and Sela's group unfolds.

    Truly, any exchange where Guardia brings out her lore, her culture and her status in this adventure is comedy gold, not to mention it also brings up a closer parallel with the roles and toolset of both Sokka and friggin' Toph in Avatar: The Last Airbender. I only hope Guardia doesn't run out of PP during the tournament, because having her remote-whack anyone who disagrees with her would surely put her right into a Toph-tier level of awesomeness that right now her team desperately needs if they want to recover their birb friend.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  4. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Well here we are! Fledglings. I’ve had this on my radar for a while, but as my life goes, I have a long queue to get through before I can actually do my reading. You can thank Virgil for reminding me to get to this after I caught up a decent amount on the other stuff I’ve been reading.

    Anyway, seeing as this fic is also divided up into episodes, I guess it’s only appropriate I review them as such, at least until I’m caught up (after a year…) But regardless! It’s time to review the prologue and episode 1. As is tradition, let’s look at the first sentence:

    I mean, it’s technically not a sentence and more a stylized fragment, but it gets the point across. This is a calmer opening, focused more on establishing the setting, and I think that it works well. However, it has one issue that I noticed in the following chapters as well—a bit of unnecessary word repetition. In this case, “earth.” Footprints in the earth below, and earthen walls right after. Here are a few other examples where that happens:

    In this case, it’s the word “Pool” that gets used a lot. This is a little awkward for me to criticize on because, as of this posting, you made this two years ago, so who knows if you’ve fixed this word repetition issue since then, but I’m just working with what I’m reading so far! I don’t plan on looking ahead. This will be a blind read.

    Okay, onto the actual content of the prologue. The first part was good for a calm opener. Nighttime, I sorta felt a cool breeze from the words, and it fit the tone of the title, a bedtime story. Opening with lore is an interesting choice. Not an uncommon one, but interesting, especially considering the subject matter. Pretty heavy to be telling a kid! Considering the implications, at least. Apocalypse and stuff. You’re setting the pieces for future plot points, I’m sure.

    The second half of the prologue was a bit weaker. The dialogue, at points, felt a bit on-the-nose, or perhaps “as you know”-style exposition—which is what most of this prologue is, exposition and world building info dumps—that seemed odd to talk about. The future chapters suffer from a similar problem at points, particularly during the dungeon exploration, where Nida’s team, who had apparently gone through this dungeon a number of times before, have to remind each other about certain mechanics for the reader.

    Oh, speaking of dungeons! Looks like you’re following a lot of the game mechanics here, even referring to them as “floors,” having outright stairways, and so on. I’m of the philosophy that it’s better to work with the canon than against it, even if sometimes you’d omit or modify certain things to make it feel less like a game, but to be honest, I don’t mind this approach at all! So I’ve got no complaints here. I’m not sure if it was intended or not, but I also have the feeling that the egg hatching was a reference to the dungeon winds? Maybe? No? Well, it reminded me of it.

    That brings me to the transition into chapter 1. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, since it’s just your typical exploration through town. I don’t have a clear picture of what the town looks like, but thanks to the lore, I do at least have an idea that it’s an island. How big the island is I’m not totally sure about yet, but the feeling I get based on the creation story is it’s teeny.

    Druddigon is probably my second least favorite Dragon Type Pokémon (behind Dragalage) but this work might bump him up on the tier list. Crom is adorable! I kinda expect him to be the strongest of the bunch, even if he’s not much of a fighter, just because of his sheer size and species advantage, but I can easily be proven wrong here. I’m a sucker for “fierce Pokémon, kind heart” types, though, so that might also contribute to my opinion on him.

    The main highlight for chapter 1, for me, is the cutaway to the egg hatching. That was a good move, even if it breaks from what felt like third-person-limited up until now. It’s showing me that something’s gonna happen soon. Not sure what hatched, but if I had to make a guess… it’s an avian of some kind, and probably a Legend of a sort. Given the location of the egg… mm… Lugia? Guess I’ll see. As of this writing, I’ve only read up to chapter 2.

    Speaking of chapter 2, let’s talk about that! The bulk of it is dungeon exploration. It’s obviously an expository dungeon, meant to explain more of the world while they do a mission. I’m very familiar with that approach, and the scene that stands out the most to me is when the group looks up and sees the floor they had just been on, upside-down. It was a nice touch. I didn’t really have a real sense of danger while they went through it—I mean, it was just a bunch of Krabby—but I don’t mind that at all. I was entertained by the fight, and that’s all that really mattered. My gripes about “as you know” speeches aside, I liked the exploration, and it was a fun little cliffhanger at the end. I think that’s a pitfall trap. And it also looks like the final chapter of the episode is here, so I’m curious what that’ll amount to. Finding the egg? Babu Lugia?

    Oh, that reminds me, as an aside—it’s an interesting flavor to add foreign words sprinkled throughout the dialogue. Gives it a unique touch. But I’m a bit uncertain about the design choice on a practical level: beyond some context clues, if I’m stumped on a word, that sentence’s meaning will be lost to me, and there will always be a bit of doubt on a new word if that’s what it truly meant. And because these are long chapters, and the translations for these words are at the bottom of them… by the time I get there, I’m probably going to forget a good bit of context. I’m not sure if that works. Thankfully, it’s not all that frequent, so I wouldn’t call it entirely disruptive.

    Chapter 3 is when things get really interesting for me. Very good! It only took you a prologue and two chapters for me to think, “Okay, there’s something a bit unique going on here, and it’s not just the lore.” So we run into a Lugia—a baby one at that! It was a little strange to see one that just hatched and is capable of speech, but I’m just going to chalk that up to Pokémon magic since, well, even the ferals are capable of talking at some level.

    I thought Lugia as a whole was very entertaining. It earned a few amused smirks out of me seeing the little hatchling be so ignorant of his own power, his own status, and, well, everything that wasn’t within its own little cave. One thing that struck me as odd, though, was the strange diversity of reactions that he got from the others once they left. Considering a name like The Protector, I was surprised to see a somewhat dulled reaction from Team Traveler. That becomes doubly strange in hindsight when everyone else reacted more to how I had expected—reverence, more or less. I also thought it was a touch silly that it took them this long to realize he was a hatchling. Maybe a bit of deniability because the sheer thought of a baby god didn’t register in their minds? I can buy that.

    So, according to the table of contents you have on serebii, that’s the end of episode 1. Very strong first episode! You’ve got some lore here, some intrigue there, and to top it all off, some good characters and a kindhearted Dragon-Type, which always gets bonus points from me. I’m eager to see what’s in store next with these set pieces you have going down.
    Virgil134 likes this.
  5. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Onto episode 2, starting with chapter 4. More Lugia—Pleo is a lovely name! I’m starting to kinda catch on to the context clues of foreign words a bit more (I appreciated the nod to why they use the terms in the first place in this chapter) but it’s still hard to follow.

    One thing that I found was odd about this chapter, similar to the previous one and the reactions to Pleo, was the odd reaction of the Marked. There’s something about them that doesn’t sit right with me, and I’m not sure if that’s intentional of you or not, at least not yet. The Marked seems to be too “obviously not meant to be the true antagonist” species to me. It’s too straightforward. They have the brand of some old sin, but they also seem to think that The Protector is going to be the harbinger of doom. But them being totally right also seems too simple. But with no indication beyond my basic intuition, I’m left wondering if it actually is too simple. Still, it’s too early for me to tell one way or the other—I’m just jotting my notes down here for why the Marked’s otherwise unexplained fear sits oddly with me.

    Also, odd thing: In this chapter in particular, I’m noticing that your third-person-omniscient style of writing might be getting the better of you in this chapter. Things are a bit overexplained when you could have left them to implication on how the characters are feeling. Off the top of my head, here’s an example:

    Here, you could have completely omitted “a bit at the absurdity of the whole routine,” and no information would have been lost. I already saw the scene in my head, and I already knew that the whole song and dance of titles was absurd, and Kiran thought so, too. Adding these extra words only slowed down the pace of the conversation, and this happens a few other times throughout the chapter, often alongside dialogue tags. I guess this is just one of those “less is more” moments. And just like last time I said this—just assume this every time I point out an issue with mechanics—maybe this was fixed after the future 700k words I’ve yet to read.

    Now then, back to something I really liked about this chapter that I finally realized is something really glowing with this work: the sense of community is very strong here. The neighborhood party, the gathering around Pleo, the Goomy and Poochyena and Dustox… just having these random Pokémon show up, and Nida’s family, and all of that—I dunno. It’s a very warm feeling to have, and I like it. You did well to demonstrate this aspect of the setting.

    The next two chapters somewhat blended into one another for me, though I did enjoy what was going on. The pace is a bit slow (up until the end) but I understand why it was necessary—mostly because, well, we’re having what’s basically a “slice of life” subplot of Pleo learning how the world works. And as cliché as it feels, I liked the scenes of everyone reacting in reverence to kid god. And I really liked the scene of Pleo trying to be nice to the Marked. That’s basically how I feel. They had nothing to do with it! They’re just descendants. Frankly, it seems pretty cruel to brand an entire lineage for something just the ancestry did, even though that’s sort of a common theme for creation stories… except this one happens to have actually happened (maybe, we can’t be sure, since there’s no telling what had been warped by the imperfections of oral tradition.)

    Anyway! I was a little worried that this story was going to be dillydallying on too long with this slice of life bit. Maybe it could have been a bit shorter? But my complaints on this are somewhat assuaged by the fact that right at the end, we finally have a look at the pirates. And genuine conflict, not just some random sparring match! I’m wondering if these first few chapters were a tonal bait and switch. There’s no telling with these long stories and the early chapters.

    Anddd it looks like it’s keeping things at least a bit lighthearted, but you know what, that’s great! I kinda like what this is doing. I definitely agree with what someone in nominations said—this work reads like a story book. I forgot to mention it when I was reviewing the first episode, but when I was going through the prologue, the intro theme to Thousand Year Door spontaneously started playing in my head. Had a really good atmosphere.

    Okay, enough rambling. This was our first “Boss fight” of the series, and overall, it was solid! Showed a good struggle, some rescuing helpers for our outclassed team, and Pleo taps into the power as a Protector! The only thing that puzzled me, just a little bit, is how the captain was able to get so overwhelmed by a Nidoran. I mean, okay, Double Kick, x4 and all that, but he’s a captain, right? And then that Earthquake attack (at least, I think it was one) didn’t do as much damage as I would’ve expected to the team, all things considered. Buuut technicalities aside, it was still fairly believable, and I liked a bit of the choreography. Not much else to comment on for the chapter itself. It was a fight.

    Oh, wait! Actually. There was one thing, now that I’m thinking back. In the intro of the fight, I think there was another bit of “less is more” that you fell into with your third-person omniscient style.

    This was a passage that was certainly longer than it needed to be. I understand what you’re going for in terms of a sort of “culmination that leads to a decision” trope, but it drew on for a bit too long. The second, smaller paragraph in particular feels completely unnecessary. You could’ve just implied it, cut it out, and left Pleo’s cry to follow after them be enough of an indicator. Show don’t tell and all that.

    The final chapter was a bit on the predictable side. Pretty much once I found out that they were going to be sending the pirates that didn’t escape to sentencing, I figured they were either going to put them to death (grizzly) or some other, similar-in-magnitude punishment, only for Pleo or the others to ward them off of such a vengeful path and do something like have them rebuild the town. I was pretty much approximately correct on all accounts, except I was a little surprised that Pleo didn’t speak up sooner with a naïve comment to help snap the others of the island out of it.

    Overall, this was a logical step from episode 1. A bit on the slower side, all things considered, mostly just getting Pleo oriented with the town and his own power. I’m curious to see what will come about from the pirates that had showed up, though. Oh, and that tooootally unimportant mention of Apricorns at the end there.
  6. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hello everyone,

    As you might have gathered, this chapter took quite a bit longer than expected to get together, due in no small part to meta going on related to an ongoing move. That said, I’m here now, and ready to get started by replying to the review queue that’s built up over the last month and a half.

    @Venia Silente:
    Because adversity builds character, and the cast needs a good dose of character building in order to get them to where they need to be for the curtain call.

    Well, it may be only the second such scene between the two, but it certainly won’t be the last. That said, I think it’s going to be a while before the two go running through any fields without being at each others’ throats.

    “Something something, I’m a soldier, not a monster” . While Nagant may be a bitter and crabby old shrimp who’s willing to do some shady things for the sake of her title and her kingdom, she’s not the type to go out of her way to punt puppies…

    Unless if they’re being lippy and aggravating brats who spit on her attempts to do something nice, in that case she’d be first in to give said uppity mutts a summary Water Pulse to their bums.

    To be fair, walls in any society draw 90% of their efficacy from deterrence. Any sufficiently motivated actor will find a way to roll the dice to try and get across, and with a little luck or skill, be rewarded for their gamble.

    That said, guards in Fledglings’ setting are very much of the mainline’s school of thought, so I would imagine that timing your wall hop with tea-time or the guards badgering passerbys for soft drinks would increase your odds of success quite a bit.

    Alas, Daraen probably wouldn’t have a good reason to run off and join a tournament in a major city given his mother’s concerns about being tracked. That said, you most likely haven’t seen the last of him, even if it’ll be a while before he potentially enters the stage again.

    Well, Hess’ hijinks are part of what keeps him entertaining to read, even if he’s understandably less than thrilled about being a cosmic plaything sometimes.

    In-setting, the average Kecleon shop is structured as a partnership between one of the lizards and an “other”, since local contacts matter for getting leads on the best supply as a merchant. As for the idea of hiring the Merchantry to ship them around, I’m sure that they’d be willing to do it for the right price given their lovable but unscrupulous philosophy of “Commerce Sans Frontieres”. That said, that price would more than likely be well beyond Nida and her pals’ asking price.

    I can think of a few windows of opportunity in the future where such a gambit might come in handy, though for now I’ll leave that plot Nido on the shelf.

    Yeah, as I’m sure you’ve gathered in reading by now, I’m a huge sucker for making series mythology gags in Fledglings. The launch of the Detective Pikachu subseries shortly before that chapter went live is probably the main reason why I didn’t go for depicting Cardino as a Gumshoos.

    Yeah, I may not parade it on the screen constantly, but there’s certainly a good deal of not particularly bright-and-cheery undertones and backstory to Fledglings. In another life Nagant probably would be a bit less of a sourpuss if it weren’t for the whole “family and world as she knew it suddenly dying on her” happening.

    The parallel was actually a bit of a happy coincidence, though yes, Aleria’s species was informed by her being a bit of an airhead in personality.

    Having an entire bureaucracy and military to provide support and cover tends to help with that, as does Osborn not taking the opportunity to usurp her power as most Vizier-esque figures tend to in stories.

    As of this point in time, Aleria should be in the clear. Or at least for the whole “dying off” thing. No guarantees that nothing else will happen to her, though.

    To be fair, did you expect them to assume that they could just bully a god into submission forever? Even the Company wouldn’t assume that to be a working long-term strategy.

    By the way, I’m loving these paraphrases that you’re whipping up. They’ve got me laughing a bit louder than I’d normally care to admit.

    Hey now, skilled showboaters in the arena are hard to replace when they’re horrifically killed and maimed, so they’ll be fine… ish.

    Well, I hope that you enjoy where that wound up going, though if nothing else it was heartening to hear you enjoyed how it started off.

    I think she has some room to grow before she can properly match Toph, but the attitude is certainly there.

    Part of that is the whole ‘arrogance of strength’ speaking. After all, if Ketu already handled three of their adults mostly on his own in the ring, they’re not going to assume much from the kids.

    The nod was actually incidental, though in their defense, how many of those “obvious setups for robbery” have an apparent Legendary thrown into the mix? Not too hard to let your guard down if you let the details fuzz up the fundamental facts on the ground.

    It’s still an uninherited position, and when Inler talks about them “taking over” the Company, he means it in the sense that they get around to working in it as a new generation. As for why he spends his time with his grandkids, Inler has spent a long life having put his work ahead of his family, much like real-life executives in many an era. His grandchildren represent one of his few avenues to try and work around some unpleasant facts on the ground that he’s left behind.

    That’s not to say you won’t be seeing them again later on in the story. I did go through all the trouble of writing them into existence for a reason.

    I think that I’m gonna play the ‘creative differences’ card here. While it admittedly wasn’t the case in some of the earlier chapters, the narration is from time to time written from the specific perspective of different characters, and as such will carry quirks of their thought processes.

    I’ll be sure to tell Crom to tuck his collection of light-reflective dungeon baubles a bit deeper under his bed back home.

    To be fair, if you do stuff related to collecting items from exposure chests, it’s not that unheard of. Unfortunately for Team Traveller, “meeting a living god in a Mystery Dungeon” currently has a sample size of 1.

    Just a little.

    Hey man, nobody likes a party pooper, otherwise he’d have brought it up at the dungeon entrance. And if/when Pleo gets through things, he’ll have learned a valuable life lesson from everything.

    Thank you for pointing those issues out. It’s admittedly been a while since I worked on the chapters from the first arc, but I’ll make a point of going back and giving it a good touch-up, so please do identify more hiccups like this one as you read along.

    Children’s tales in history can get surprisingly heavy, especially prior to the modern era. You certainly couldn’t screen a faithful adaptation of many of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales with a child-oriented rating in modern cinema or television.

    Marley’s storytelling obviously pulls from this particular philosophical school of telling stories for children.

    Hrm, it’s unfortunate to hear. I may revisit some of those parts to see if I can finesse them a bit, though admittedly, sometimes all that information just needs to come out one way or another.

    The egg hatching was actually unrelated, but I’m glad to hear you enjoyed how that depiction was handled.

    It’s an island that you could walk around within the course of about a full day, so it’s not winning too many awards for its size.

    I’m glad that you’re a fan of Crom, since that was very much what I was going for for his personality.

    It’s always a bit of a balancing act, though I hope that the later chapters you get to feel like they handle those loan phrases a bit smoother.

    That’s actually addressed in passing in the next arc, though a few different Pokémon canons seem to be open to the idea of Pokémon being fully communicative after hatching.

    I’m going to chalk that up to the whole “excitement of meeting a god in the flesh”, not that they didn’t put two and two together relatively quickly after they left the dungeon.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I’ll be looking forward to your impressions as you get through the other episodes.

    It’s admittedly a trap that I fall into occasionally, but I’ll keep it in mind for when I go back and polish up some of the earlier chapters. There definitely were a bit more stumbles earlier on than in my later writing.

    I figured that Bluewhorl wouldn’t sell the feeling of a “small and rustic town” without that sort of atmosphere, so I am glad to hear you enjoyed it. ^^

    I mean, Tromba’s residents did get the whole “what our god is like” wrong, so it should be expected that the truth behind the Marked isn’t a 1:1 with their prevailing oral tradition. That’s still in the process of being revealed in the upcoming arcs.

    Sounds like I’m doing my job then, since TTYD’s blend of lightheartedness with occasional dollops of darker themes and oppressiveness was roughly what I was targeting for the overall “feel” of the story.

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed the fight. As for why Team Traveller didn’t get summarily crushed like a bug, the damage scaling in Fledglings has been nerfed relative to the games for rule of drama. It’d be pretty boring if 80% of hostile encounters boiled down to “so-and-so gets curbstomped off the bat due to typing/leveling”.

    Hrm, I’ll have to revisit this sometime in the future.

    To be fair, the islanders mostly were talked down from dishing out some more mortal consequences since the pirates are in the grand scheme of things just a bunch of bumbling amateurs. They certainly wouldn’t have been anywhere as forgiving had the consequences of the raid been a bit more dire, and it isn’t Hatteras’ first rodeo for handing down capital punishment.

    Well, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying how things are shaping up. And yes, those nuts will become a bit more important later on.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2019
  7. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Special thanks for this chapter goes to Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net, both of whom provided invaluable input during the process of development and editing. Thanks again to all you readers and reviewers for staying tuned in to this story, even with development going a bit slower lately. Due to ongoing meta regarding moving, there will only be one update slated for March, which will be the final chapter and denouement of this arc.

    And with that, let’s pick up from where we left off last time...


    Mornings in Magmapool's harbor were always busy and raucous endeavors, as Pokémon on the lanes shuffled between shops and eateries on their way to their labor at the docks, and sailors from off-island unloaded their cargo before drifting off to intermingle with the locals over glasses of stiff rice wine. Further inland from the din and buzz of the docks, Team Sentinel kept watch over the gate between the harbor and the town from a built-up bluff just beyond the walls overlooking the surrounding streets, watching the entrance and its skies overhead keenly as Zelle impatiently stamped her foot.

    "For such an urgent message, that messenger sure is taking his time," she scoffed.

    "It's the same Empire that takes three days to send a letter across its own waters," Aldrich remarked. "Would you really expect their message to not get bogged down for some asinine reason?"

    "Hmph, it doesn't matter," Sorge insisted. "Regardless of how long it takes, our best hope of buying time for this mission depends on intercepting that message before anyone sees it."

    "Right," the Noivern began. "You two remember what to do after I fly into him?"

    "We'll come over and you and Sorge pretend to help him," Zelle answered. "While he's distracted, I'll take the letter from his bag."

    "Good, sounds like we're all on the same page," the Kommo-o said. "But first let's make sure everything goes as expected and then act accordingly."

    Sorge's gaze drifted back to the crowds at the gate, watching different shapes and colors of Pokémon pass by when he noticed an orange, feathery Pokémon among their number. He squinted his eyes and took a closer look, revealing a Talonflame's head crest bobbing along the street, with the forms of a Sneasel and a Gliscor hurrying along. The Dragon-Type paused and raised a brow skeptically. If he hadn't known any better, he'd have said that those three were… No that was impossible, they'd lost their trail years ago!

    The Kommo-o shook his head, about to brush the matter off when the Gliscor faltered a moment and the bag on his shoulder suddenly slipped and shook, with a brief glimpse of a rounded green head passing through the opening of a frontal pouch that made the dragon's eyes shoot wide open.

    "Th-That's Subject Red!" Sorge exclaimed.

    Zelle and Aldrich turned over in stunned surprise and peered down at the street. The pair followed Sorge's claw up to the departing entourage, prompting the two to turn to each other with disbelieving stares. Aldrich swiftly flew up to the rooftops, slipping along the opposite side of the eaves as he caught up with the passing party where he turned his ears and heard a familiar, squeaky voice.

    "Just hurry up!" Kline piped. "Once we're outside of town I can change Forme without attracting too much attention!"

    "You're sure the delay for that Tamato Berry was needed, though?" Calidus asked. "It didn't sound like we had much time to work with."

    "Yes," the Zygarde replied "We're better safe than sorry."

    Aldrich slackened his jaw in astonishment, waiting for the sound of Kline and his companions to fade away before he flew back for Sorge and Zelle.

    "I don't know how, but that's definitely him!"

    "I assume we're going after him then?" Zelle asked. "I don't know how many more times he will just cross courses with us like this."

    "What about that messenger?" Aldrich insisted. "If we don't intercept him, there's nothing stopping those guards from being tipped off about Lyn's ship."

    Sorge paused and brought a claw to his chin in thought. On the one claw, not intercepting the messenger would likely mean that Ketu would have to fight his way back to Lyn's ship after capturing that Lugia. But on the other claw… they had managed dicier escapes before by working together, and if it would mean being able to finally bring Kline to Administrator Elilan on top of Pleo…

    "Leave him. Capturing Subject Red is more important than stalling those guards, and this is the best opportunity we've had in ages," the Kommo-o said. "If Ketu was here, I'm sure he would agree that the benefits of chasing after him outweigh the risks."

    Aldrich looked off at the gate to the harbor for a moment, pausing uneasily before looking back in the direction Kline and his companions had gone off to.

    "… Alright, but let's be careful," the Noivern murmured. "That flight out of port is going to be bumpy after this all sorts itself out."

    The three quietly left the bluff, following Percy's team into the street. There, they paced along after the Gliscor and his companions through the town's winding alleys, off in a path that curled ever-closer to the dungeon's fog in the distance.

    "Oh! I think I see it!"

    Pleo's voice carried on as he and his teammates emerged from the fog into a broad chamber made of red-lit stone. Crom looked around the room as he passed, noticing that the chamber was a flat space ringed with cliffs, and a steep trench that bubbled with ruddy magma at the bottom. Why, aside from the rock carved into a stone statue of a plump-faced Meowth standing over a slotted box and a path leading up to a fog-shrouded passage up ahead, nothing about the place felt hospitable enough to indicate that…

    "This is the midpoint?" Crom asked. "But it doesn't look like a safe resting place at all!"

    "Speak for yourself," Elty piped. "There's a big open area, a Storage Rock, some lava surrounding us to help keep things toasty… what more could you want?"

    Nida furrowed her brow at the Growlithe's comment, casting a dubious glance off at the lava surrounding them. She watched as the magma bubbled and sulfurous mist came off its surface, prompting her to fold her ears back with an uncomfortable wince.

    "A place where you can't accidentally burn yourself, that's what!" the Nidoran snapped.

    "… You'll have to bring it up with Xerneas," Kiran sighed. "Though I don't see any sign of him here right now."

    The group looked around their surroundings and noticed that other than the Storage Rock, there was nothing to obscure Xerneas from view. Even the aforementioned rock would at least leave his antlers visible… so then where was he?

    "Maybe he hasn't come yet?" Dimitri mused. "It couldn't hurt to sit and wait a little here."

    "Oh, there's no need for that."

    Team Traveller tensed up as their blood ran cold at the ominously familiar voice of a Weavile coming from the Storage Rock. The group turned their attention back, just in time for Ketu and Ellsberg to pop out from behind the rock, leaving Crom recoiling and stumbling back with a stunned stammer.


    "That's right!" the Weavile sneered. "Aren't you happy to see me again?"

    "Really, I would've expected a rescue team to have a better sense of their surroundings," Ellsberg huffed. "Here I was worried that such a feeble attempt at hiding would give us away too quickly!"

    "B-But we were supposed to meet Xerneas!" Pleo squawked.

    "Mengir's Protector? Can't say I've seen him around these parts," Ketu retorted with a disinterested shrug. "I mean there's that Ditto going around town pretending to be him, but with those gray Deerling eyes there's no way anyone would be dumb enough to fall for that, am I right?"

    Nida's pupils dialated at the Weavile's reply. Was he saying that the blue deer they'd met wasn't Xerneas?!


    "Are you really that dense? There is no Xerneas!" the Dark-Type snapped. "Just a bunch of con artists we used to lure you here!"

    A stupefied shock settled over Team Traveller's members as they realized that Pleo's admonitions had been right all along. All this time, everything that Albert had told them had all been a lie to bring them to this trap! Their attention was drawn back by a loud buzz, as Ellsberg flitted forward with a sharp scoff.

    "Since we're in the middle of a Mystery Dungeon and there's no easy way for you to escape, I would suggest you hand over the Protector to us peacefully," the moth snapped. "If not, we'll just have to step in and take him ourselves."

    Team Traveller's members grimaced and backpedaled uneasily for the entrance. With how strong Ketu had been at the tournament, they were ill-equipped to handle him with an ally. But they couldn't just surrender and give up Pleo! The lot stammered, trying to dig their feet in as the Mothim and Weavile encroached, only for Kiran to suddenly pause, and glumly shake his head.

    "I… suppose we need to know when we're beat," the Swellow sighed, prompting Pleo to turn to him wild-eyed with a frightened stammer.

    "H-Huh?!" Pleo squawked. "Kiran?!"

    "Just… please… give us a moment to say our goodbyes to each other," Kiran pleaded. Ketu quietly raised a brow in reply, as Ellsberg beat his wings impatiently with an irritated buzz.

    "Are you daft? We don't have time for this nonsense!" the Mothim spat. "Hurry up and turn over the Protector now-!"

    "Nah, let them have their moment, Ellsberg," Ketu interrupted, before his voice took on a mocking sneer. "After all, it would be awfully rude to take away their precious friend without even letting them say goodbye."

    Ellsberg trailed off, blinking incredulously at his Weavile partner. The Bug-Type began to protest, only to quiet down upon remembering Ketu's lecture back on the ship about their needed roles for the mission, deciding to trust him for now and go along. Back on Team Traveller's end, the group gathered around Kiran, the lot shooting piercing stares at the Swellow.

    "Kiran, have you gone mad?" Dimitri hissed.

    "We can't just let them walk away with Pleo!" Ander buzzed.

    "I'm aware of that," Kiran replied. "But I'm not sure what we can do other than to hug Pleo, bid him farewell, and hope for the best…"

    The Swellow extended his wings over Pleo, pulling him in as the young Lugia's eyes began to water. Pleo screwed his eyes shut as Kiran lowered his head, only for the seabird to feel something cold brush against his wings, prompting him to look down and widen his eyes out of surprise after seeing that Kiran had pushed the glowing form of an Escape Orb into his wings.

    "Give him a nice and tight one," the Swellow instructed, turning back to the others. "It'll be the last chance any of us get for this."

    Kiran carefully backed away, leaving his fellows to spot the Escape Orb in Pleo's wings and stare at it wordlessly trying to suppress their surprise. After a moment's pause, Nida stepped up, nearing and rubbing her muzzle against the orb and Pleo's plumage. As the two continued embracing each other, Ketu raised a brow and peered over skeptically at the pair.

    "You know, I was actually kinda impressed by how you managed to get out of Tidemill earlier," Ketu mused. "Breaking your Lugia friend out of that stadium and getting him back to your ship while fending off those Imps and Lyn certainly ain't easy."

    Nida paused, bristling at the Dark-Type's remark only to opt to ignore it and let Pleo trade places with Crom. The Druddigon made his way over, spreading his arms in an embrace around Pleo as Ketu gave a casual shrug in the background.

    "But when you think about it, you kids only did all of that because you were afraid to fight me in that arena," the Weavile said. "Makes that whole escape from Tidemill seem kinda pathetic, huh?"

    Crom lingered a moment as an indignant glare settled over his face, before letting Pleo go and backing away. As soon as the Druddigon stepped back, Ketu suddenly paced forward, fanning his claws out with a malevolent smirk.

    "Why it's almost as pathetic as pretending to say goodbye to your teammate in order to rub up an Escape Orb."

    The members of Team Traveller went into a wide-eyed panic, prompting the others to hastily dash for Pleo as he ran for them to hastily rub the orb against their appendages. In his haste, Pleo stretched his wings out to hold out the orb, only for an icy shard to zip in and wrench it out of his grasp, sending it spinning along the ground.

    "Gwark! The orb!"

    Kiran took wing and flew after the Escape Orb, only for it to suddenly take on a purplish glow and be flung off towards the lava, a quick glance back revealing that Ellsberg had cast it aside with Psychic. The orb struck the surface of the lava, failing to shatter as it deformed and the light within abruptly dissipated, the sphere melting into a lump of glassy slag much to Team Traveller's horror. The sound of a sharp buzz pricked their ears, leading them to turn back to see Ellsberg glaring daggers at them as Ketu clapped slowly.

    "Did you really think you could trick us that easily?!" Ellberg snapped.

    "I know you hicks have dealt with some incompetent opponents in the past, but you're really gonna have to try harder than that to get the better of us," Ketu scoffed.

    "Grr! There's eight of us and only two of you!" Guardia growled. "Do you really think you can beat us all, Manyula?!"

    The Weavile paused for a short moment at the Cubone's shout, his expression remaining firmly unmoved before a cruel smirk spread over his mouth.

    "No, I know I can," Ketu sneered. "Ready, Ellsberg?"

    Ketu inhaled deeply as purple dust began to dance on Ellsberg's wingtips, the Mothim shaking forth a toxic cloud of powder that the Weavile spewed a heavy torrent of wind and snow into, forming a purplish, poisonous Blizzard that barreled for a wide-eyed Team Traveller. Nida cringed beside Pleo as Crom dove in front of them and arched protectively, the rabbit screwing her eyes shut and holding her breath as the attack bore down on them with an overpowering woosh.

    The frigid wind gave way to the room's familiar heat, mixed with pained cries and deep coughs from her teammates, with Crom's curiously absent. Slowly, the Nidoran cracked her eyes open, where much to her horror, she saw her Druddigon protector still guarding her and a now hollow-faced Pleo, the Dragon-Type's body caked head-to-toe in a layer of ice.

    "A-Aah! Crom!"

    Nida looked around and saw a little ways off to her left that Guardia was similarly crusted over with ice, while to her right she saw Kiran and Ander staggering and shivering, the sight of Elty gagging nearby indicating that the lot must've fallen to the effects of Ellsberg's poison. Dimitri alone showed no signs of being frozen or poisoned, but even he was panting and visibly winded from his blow as he tried to brush away some poisoned snow, Nida folding her ears back with sinking spirits as a mocking sneer cut through the air.

    "Not a bad opening if I say so myself," Ketu said. "But I think it's time we actually got this fight started!"

    Nida braced herself, watching as the Weavile sprang for Kiran. The Swellow went wide-eyed out of alarm, hastily taking wing and trying to weave out of the way, only for Ketu to shift his balance in midair and catch him in his back with an icy punch, sending him plummeting to earth with a pained squawked before sprawling out limply. Nida stood fixed in dumb terror, only for the sound of footsteps and a coughing gag to prick her ears.

    "Spike ball! Give a 'mon some help here!" Elty wheezed.

    The Nidoran looked over as the Growlithe gagged and wobbled his way over to her with patches of fur that had been stained purple from the poisonous onslaught. Nida dug her paws into her bag, bringing out a Pecha berry in a panicked hurry. The rabbit hastily peeled the Pecha Berry and squeezed its juice onto Elty's fur to try and neutralize the poison, all but stuffing the leftover pulp in his mouth when she noticed Ander in the background attempting to sluggishly fly at Ellsberg with a heavy swing, only for the Mothim to dodge it with a sharp buzz.

    "Back off, you lousy blotch-head!"

    Ellsberg flitted back and cast a cutting gust of wind at Ander, the attack finding its mark on the mantis' thorax followed by the sound of the crack of damaged chitin and a shrieking hiss of pain. Nida, Elty, and Pleo looked on, watching stunned as Ander staggered limply and toppled to the ground, the Mothim carrying on from his foe as if he'd just brushed aside a stray leaf.

    "Here! Have a little extra!" Ketu's voice jeered.

    The trio turned their heads and saw Ketu lob a hail of icy flechettes at them, only for Dimitri to shove them aside and shepherd them away closer to the edge of the platform and the midpoint's entrance. The four looked around, realizing that they were the sole members of their team in any condition to continue fighting, with Ketu and Ellsberg quickly closing in on their positions.

    "Gah! We need to bog those two down fast! We won't stand a chance if they have free reign to throw us around as they please!" Dimitri yelped. "Nida! Pleo! You take the Mothim, Elty and I will hold off that Weavile!"

    "Got it!" Nida shouted. The Nidoran took off running with Pleo following behind, beelining for Ellsberg when the moth agitatedly beat his wings.

    "Take this, you brats!"

    Ellsberg sent forth a slicing gust of wind that Nida and Pleo hastily dove away from. The Air Slash threw up pebbles and dust, making Pleo cringe, only to crack his eyes open and jolt upright with a panicked squawk at the sight of Ellsberg lunging for the two of them.

    "N-Nida! What do we do?!" Pleo cried.

    "Let's take a page from that fight with the Heatmor!" the Nidoran shouted. "Blow him back!"

    Pleo darted ahead, beating his wings out and bringing them together to shoot forth a whirling wind that swept up the Mothim with a startled buzz.


    Nida watched as Ellsberg got blown back and struggled to stay airborne. Sensing an open opportunity to attack, the Nidoran dashed forward as poison began to dribble along her forearms. She leapt up at Ellsberg as he finally stopped himself, throwing her right arm back for a Poison Jab to the Mothim's head, only to feel her body abruptly jolt and stop in midair, and see Ellsberg looking at her with an outstretched arm and his eyes lit up in a violet sheen.

    "Hmph, that's quite enough. Away you go!"

    Nida's body lurched sideways, the little spike ball going wide-eyed as she was tossed through the air by Ellsberg's Psychic. The rabbit tumbled head over heels with a panicked scream as she felt the heat of the lava at the edge rapidly approaching under her, leaving her to curl up and screw her eyes shut.


    The Nidoran felt her body strike something feathery, prompting her to throw her paws out and cling on for dear life. The Poison-Type cracked her eyes open to see Pleo's back below her, as the young Protector banked hard from the chamber wall back for the center of the platform. Elty caught their attention with a pained yelp, the two looking down to see him being launched back by Ketu from a rake of his claws. The Weavile began to give chase after the Growlithe, his pursuit stopped only by a timely swing of Dimitri's left scythe. Reflexively, Pleo swooped down, coming to a stop by the fallen Growlithe as he and his teammate helped the dazed Puppy Pokémon to his feet.

    "Wh-What do we do?!" Pleo cried. "We can barely land an attack on those two!"

    "Agh… let's do what we should've done from the start!" Elty yipped. "If we can't get an attack in, let's use some items to soften them up first!"

    The sound of a startled hiss cut the air as Nida looked over to see Dimitri swinging wildly at Ketu, only for the Dark-Type to bob and weave, and force his attacker back after giving a slash at his arm. Nida watched as Dimitri retreated in a panic, realizing that Ketu was preoccupied with little beyond the foe immediately before him. At once the Nidoran's mind turned to the Confuse Wand from a few floors back, prompting her reflexively put a paw in her bag and feel it safely at the bottom of the satchel when her eyes lit up.

    "Way ahead of you!" Nida piped. "Keep that Mothim distracted and cover me!"

    The Poison-Type fished the wand out and took off running, bounding for Ketu and Dimitri. As she closed the gap from Ketu's flank, Nida readied the wand for a swing. The Weavile's ears suddenly flicked up from the sound of pattering footsteps, prompting him to jump back and turn to the Nidoran with a sneer.

    "You'll have to try harder than that, runt!"

    Nida reflexively brought her Confuse Wand up into the air, only for a shard of ice to zip in and strike her paw. Elty looked on stunned, watching as the Nidoran yelped and lost her grasp on the wand, the stick flying back and landing on the ground some distance behind her with an inert thump, leaving him to splutter in incredulous exasperation.

    "Chyba żartujesz?!" Elty cried. "Would it have killed you to swing a bit faster?!"

    The Growlithe bolted for the dropped wand, diving for it with his mouth, only to see the wand jerk away and feel his jaws clamp down on empty air. The Fire-Type's eyes widened as he followed the wand sailing through the air, zipping up to Ellsberg who took it into his tarsi with a sneer.

    "I'll be taking that, mutt."

    The Mothim swung the wand, aiming its tip at Dimitri's position. The crack of shattering glass rang out as a hail of yellowish spheres enveloped the crab with a startled cry. The Water-Type staggered back and Ketu gave a Brick Break square at his abdomen, sending him toppling over flat onto his belly with a feeble groan.


    "Dimitri!" Pleo cried.

    Pleo, Nida, and Elty hastily ran over to their stricken friend as he laid in a stunned daze. One after the other, the three desperately struggled against the Kabutops' weight, fighting against gravity to try and drag their bulky teammate back onto his feet to keep fighting.

    "C-Come on! Get up!" the Lugia pleaded. "We need you- Agh!"

    Pleo squawked and was knocked to the ground by a sharp pain as Dimitri reflexively cut the young Protector with a slash of his scythes. The seabird panted, looking up with wide eyes as Dimitri staggered in confusion, before shaking his head out of an alarmed realization that he'd mixed up his targets, only for a derisive laughter to ring out.

    "Hahahaha! I knew Lyn was easy to trick, but this is what he's been having trouble with?" Ketu sneered. "What a joke!"

    "Hrmph. Enough games, Ketu," Ellsberg grumbled. "Let's wrap this up and get going!"

    "Eh, fine," the Weavile replied. "Wouldn't want this to get stale anyway."

    The Dark-Type breathed in deeply as frigid air began to swirl around his mouth, prompting Team Traveller to stare horrified before they turned and started bolting in a panic, bracing themselves for Ketu's Blizzard when a loud howl pierced the air.

    "That's enough!"

    The Weavile's budding attack was cut off by a green, dog-like Pokémon suddenly lunging in and tackling him to the ground. The strange dog cracked open a maw lined with sharp fangs, throwing it at Ketu's neck as the Weavile hastily threw his claws up to try and fight the strange creature's jaws. Up in the air, Ellsberg stared stunned as his teammate thrashed about on the ground below, recoiling in shock at the strange intruder.

    "W-What on earth-?!"

    "Here, try this for an ambush!" a piercing voice cried.

    The Mothim looked right as a fiery missile plowed into him and knocked him out of the sky with a yelp. As the flames died back, Team Traveller looked up to see the form of a familiar Talonflame. Further back at the chamber's entrance, a Gliscor and a Sneasel hurried in, Nida's jaw dropping as she remembered them to be none other than…

    "P-Percy?! Alice?!"

    "What are they doing here, spike ball?!" Elty yipped. "You said they wrote us off!"

    "Kline changed his mind after he saw you guys walking straight towards trouble," Percy answered. "Alice, help them go and heal their teammates! I'll help Calidus with the Mothim!"

    "Got it!" the Sneasel piped.

    Alice pulled Team Traveller's members aside, dropping a small pile of Sitrus and Lum Berries at their feet. As the lot stared flummoxed, the Sneasel bounded off for Kiran's sprawled-out body, fishing out a Reviver Seed and slipping it into the bird's mouth as she turned back and called out to them.

    "Don't worry about perfection and just focus on hurrying it up!" Alice exclaimed. "We need all the help we can get with those two!"

    The others hastily fanned out for their fallen comrades, Nida beelining for Crom where she quickly peeled away the rind of the Lum Berry and pressed it against the dragon's joints. The juices bubbled against the ice, melting it away until Crom could move his body little by little, brushing off large chunks of ice off his scales with a spluttering cough and sharp sneeze.

    "Achoo! Nida?" he groaned. "What's going on?"

    "We got a second wind," she explained. "Come on, we need your help!"

    The rabbit quickly divided a Sitrus Berry between the two, each snatching their halves up and scarfing them down as they ran ahead. The two darted along the stone ground, passing Dimitri and Pleo healing themselves as Alice finished defrosting Guardia while Elty hurried himself rousing Ander. Crom and Nida noticed a fiery trail overhead, looking up to see Calidus arcing towards Ellsberg who flung a cutting gust at the Talonflame that missed its mark.

    "It'll take more than that for you to put out this fire, bug!"

    The falcon dove at Ellsberg at rapid speed as the Mothim squealed in a panic, wildly swinging his Confuse Wand while the bird bore down on him. The crack of the wand's next layer sounded as a hail of yellowish orbs overtook Calidus, leaving him to lose his balance and crash to earth with a daze. After cringing a moment, Ellsberg cracked his eyes open to see his foe staggering down on the ground below, regaining enough confidence to flit up with a haughty taunt.

    "Hah! Your fighting's as bad as your wordplay!" Ellsberg jeered.

    "You should worry more about your attention span!"

    Ellsberg buzzed with a start and hastily flew back as a heavy tackle sent him pinwheeling in the air, making him lose his grip on his Confuse Wand as it sailed into the lava and caught fire. The moth steadied himself, turning and seeing the Gliscor culprit bearing down on him with his claws spread wide for another tackle.

    "Get away from me!"

    The Mothim beat his wings, sending out a slashing wind that sailed into Percy and forced him back with a pained cry. The Gliscor stalled, just barely pulling himself upright to swoop up from the ground where he wobbily returned to the air and looked back to see a cut at one of his wing membranes dribbling yellowish liquid, grimacing in pain as a mocking buzz filled the air.

    "Really now, that's all it takes to impair your gliding?" Ellsberg sneered. "My first mate's a mere Gligar and even he wouldn't let himself get shut down so easily!"

    Percy grit his teeth, diving forward as icy residue began to cake his fangs. The Gliscor swooped and lunged for the Mothim, only to be left snapping at air as Ellsberg fluttered overhead and had his eyes turn aglow with purple light.

    "Glion! Wait for me!"

    Ellsberg's antennae jolted upright as he turned around, just in time for Guardia to lunge up and headbutt him in the chin. The Bug-Type yelped and plummeted to the ground, picking himself up with an angry seethe, only for Percy to pounce on him with a diving tackle from above, knocking Ellsberg's head against the ground with a loud smack and leaving his wings to droop limply, their owner fainted against the ground. Percy pulled his body back up, returning to the air as Guardia slung her bone over her shoulder.

    "Not bad," the Cubone said. "You took the wind right out of him with that Acrobat!"

    "The same to you," the Gliscor replied. "If it wasn't for your save there, I'd probably be in dire straits right now."

    After tottering about, Calidus gave a beat of his wings to steady himself and looked around to see Ellsberg sprawled out unconscious. Satisfied with the outcome, the Talonflame ruffled his feathers and turned to face Percy and Guardia.

    "Well that's one down," Calidus remarked. "But what's going on with Ketu?"


    The three looked over just in time to see Kline getting thrown back and tumbling to a stop along the ground near them. The Zygarde laid on the stone and tried to get up dazedly, as Ketu shook feeling back into a bitten right arm while snarling back at his attacker.

    "Well now, I see you're as much of a pain in the ass as ever, Kline," the Weavile spat. "And here I thought you wouldn't dare to show your face to a 'mon you couldn't handle on your own."

    Kline got to his feet and shook himself, before lowering his body into a crouch and letting out low growl from the back of his throat.

    "I can handle you fine," the dog-like Pokémon snapped. "And I'm not the one who's alone right now."

    Ketu looked around, realizing that Ellsberg was sprawled out on the ground between the groups Team Traveller and their new allies had divided into, with the lot of them shooting harsh, newly invigorated glares at him. The Weavile set his teeth on edge and scowled back as his freshly disadvantaged circumstances settled in on him. Sensing that their foe had met his match, a smug smirk settled over Guardia's face, as she gave a rap of her club against an open palm.

    "You should know when you're beat, Manyula," she jeered. "Or do you still 'know' that you can beat us all right now?"

    Ketu flashed his teeth and brushed his claw up against his bag. The Dark-Type's gave a brief glance at it before he looked back up to Team Traveller and their allies with a low growl.

    "Alright, this nonsense has gone on for long enough," he hissed. "Time to end this!"

    The Weavile dug into his bag and brought out a cream-colored orb in a flash. Alice reflexively formed a blackish aura on her body that she pooled into a ball in her left claw. The Sneasel hurled the sphere at Ketu's arm as he hoisted the Slumber Orb to dash against the ground, where it burst and spread shadowy, chain-like tendrils onto the Weavile. Ketu's eyes widened as he tried to tighten his claws around the Slumber Orb, only for the aura to push it away from his palm and let it drop to the ground, where a sudden gust of wind from Calidus blew it into the lava. The Weavile stared a moment at the burning orb and down at the lingering haze on his claws from the Embargo, before baring his teeth and locking eyes with Alice in a fierce glare.

    "Grr, of course you of all Pokémon would resort to a trick like that," Ketu snarled.

    "Well you should've known it would take more than an orb to best us!" Alice scoffed. "Are you really so short on ideas that you'd reuse tactics you know we stopped falling for?"

    The Weavile growled and ignored the Sneasel's comment, before blowing out an Icy Wind at the gathered Pokémon that made them recoil and struggle to keep their footing. Team Traveller and their newfound allies fought with stiff, frigid joints against the wind, uneasily staggering forward as it let up when Percy noticed Ketu was bolting towards him. The Gliscor braced himself, only to realize from a few furtive glances from the Weavile that he was attempting to glimpse behind him. Why he must be trying to come to the aid of his downed teammate!

    "Calidus!" Percy cried. "Don't let him get to that moth!"

    "On it!"

    The Talonflame dove at Ketu with a swift, burning tackle, only for the Dark-Type to slip past him by jumping to the left much to the falcon's dismay. Kline growled and hastily sprang forward, spitting up a column of fiery, bluish light at Ketu that prompted him to somersault backwards into a crouching stop right as the Dragon Pulse slammed into the ground and threw up a large cloud of dust. The Weavile scanned his surroundings intently, when the Zygarde burst through the cloud with a paw raised for a forceful swing. Ketu jumped forward, knocking the dog aside with an ice-slicked punch, before carrying on for Percy's position. Ketu made his way forward a few paces when a sharp, hissing cry from his side rang out, turning to see Ander closing the gap with a low flight along the ground.

    "Here!" the Scyther shouted. "Let me cut you down to size!"

    Ander swung a scythe at him, forcing Ketu to leap to the side and blow an Icy Wind at the Bug-Type's eyes. As Ander screeched and recoiled from his impaired vision, a woosh from behind prompted Ketu to brace his legs and spring up just as Percy sailed below him. The Weavile balled his right claw into a fist and threw it back as it slicked over with ice, before bringing it down with the momentum of his body against Percy's back. The Gliscor tumbled to a crashing stop against the ground, Ketu resuming his course for Ellsberg when a Bonemerang swooped in. He summarily leaned back along his heels, sliding under the errant missile before lobbing a timely Ice Shard up to knock it off-course, leaving Guardia to give chase to her errant club. The Dark-Type finally came upon Ellsberg, bending down when a sharp pain suddenly shot across his back.


    Ketu stumbled, pitching forward towards the ground in front of Ellsberg's body. The Weavile caught himself on the ground with his claws and threw himself back up with a glare at his attacker, where he saw a young, livid Druddigon growling at him. Ketu frowned a moment, only for his expression to ease and a taunting smirk to settle over his face.

    "Crom, right? I see you've learned well from your, dad," he sneered. "Figure that if he can't take a little scratch, you'd better play it safe and not fight me head on, huh?"

    Crom set his teeth on edge at the Weavile's taunt, his yellow eyes burning with hate as he flashed his claws with a fierce roar from his young throat.


    The Druddigon lunged forward with a swipe of his claws, only for Ketu to spring away and hurl back a large shard of ice that found its mark square on the Dragon-Type's throat.


    Crom toppled forward, gagging and gasping for air on the ground much to Nida's horror as she watched her friend writhe in pain.


    Nida dashed up, pawing frantically at Crom as the Druddigon woozily staggered back to his feet. Ahead of them, Ketu hastily scooped up Ellsberg and slung him across his back, before dashing side to side quickly enough for his form to blur and then tear off with newfound speed for the midpoint's exit. Percy cried out in alarm and dug through his bag for a Slow Orb that he threw at the ground after the fleeing Weavile, showering him with a spray of whitish silk that clung to his body and slowed his gait back to its normal pace. With the Dark-Type's speed slowed enough to track him, Team Traveller and their allies quickly ran up to try and stop his progress. Elty snarled and spat up an Ember at Ketu, only for him to dash and jump out of the way, followed by an Ice Shard from Alice and an Air Slash from Kiran that zipped by and similarly missed. The Weavile gave a laughing sneer and looked back to call out a taunt mid-run, his jeer summarily cut off by a glowing ball sailing up and striking the back of his left heel.


    Ketu tripped, falling face first onto the ground as Ellsberg's prone body tumbled off the Weavile. Pleo's eyes lit up in excitement, as he watched Ketu slowly rise back to his knees, showing what at long last seemed to be a sign their attacks were having an effect on him.

    "I got him! I got him!" the Lugia cried.

    "Good work, Pleo!" Kiran chirped. "If we all attack him before he starts running again, we'll be able to finish this!"

    "I don't think so, Kiran!"

    Team Traveller and their allies recoiled and looked back towards the entrance of the midpoint, where they saw much to their surprise Aldrich flying in. The air around the Noivern's ears churned, before a shockwave shot out from them towards the group. The sound of a deafening burst came over the team, forcing them to flinch and shield their ears. Kiran looked around in a daze as his ears rang, when he watched Sorge and Zelle run in, beelining for Ketu and Ellsberg. Much to everyone's stunned shock, the two stooped down, Sorge passing a Sitrus Berry on to Ketu while Zelle pressed a Reviver Seed up against the end of Ellsberg's tube-like mouth, as Kiran stammered trying to make sense of the scene.

    "T-Team Sentinel?!" the Swellow squawked. "W-What are you doing?!"

    "Hrmph. Even for a Silver Rank, I wouldn't have expected you to be this slow to piece things together," Sorge scoffed.

    At once, Pleo stammered and shrank back frightenedly. These were Rescue Team members, so why were they helping Pokémon from the Company?!

    "E-Eh?! But aren't you good guys?!"

    Kline shook his head, motioning with a foreleg at Ketu and the members of Team Sentinel with him. The Zygarde kept his pupil-less eyes trained on the four, his body arced to spring forward at a moment's notice.

    "I told you there were Pokémon on this island more dangerous than that Samurott," Kline growled. "They're the ones I warned you about!"

    Team Traveller's eyes widened and their jaws slackened, as a hacking cough revealed that Ellsberg had taken back to the air thanks to Zelle's efforts. Her work done, the Sylveon paced up beside Sorge, shooting a taunting smirk over at the Zygarde ahead of her.

    "Really Kline, I didn't expect you would drop by on our little base of operations after all these years," she sneered. "Is it because you're jealous we're giving attention to another Protector now? Don't worry, you'll always be our favorite little tool."

    "Shut up!" Kline roared.

    The Zygarde charged forward, before forcefully slamming his paws down onto the ground. The earth underfoot rended following a string of green lights that snaked for Team Sentinel, prompting Ellsberg and Aldrich to hastily fly up as Ketu jumped onto the Noivern's back. The ground under Sorge and Zelle suddenly erupted with pillars of greenish light that shattered the earth, knocking Sorge off his feet and sending Zelle flying backwards with a yelp as rubble flew wildly around a fresh cloud of dust. Sensing an opportunity to press their advantage, Team Traveller and their allies hastily darted ahead readying attacks of their own, only for Aldrich to suddenly emerge with Ketu out from the dust cloud, prompting Percy to call out in alarm.

    "Snel! Get behind us!" the Gliscor cried.

    The Noivern and Weavile threw forth and intermingled Boomburst and Blizzard, while Percy, Calidus, and Alice hastily formed a wall of Protects that stopped the snowy shockwave in its place. Further ahead, Zelle picked herself up, growling angrily back at the offending Zygarde.

    "You stupid little tool!" she seethed. "Here! Lemme show you what happens to worms who drag me down in the dirt!"

    The Sylveon batted her feelers around, throwing a Moonblast at Kline's dog-like form that passed by as he weaved around the glowing orb. The Zygarde jumped up and spewed a torrent of violet sludge back at his attacker, forcing her back with a pained yelp. The Legendary lunged forward to press his advantage, only for Ellsberg to fly up and use Bug Buzz to shove Kline to the ground.


    Kline hastily righted himself, bracing his body as he called up a hail of rocks from the surrounding ground to throw at his attackers, when a loud roar suddenly cut through the air.

    "Enough!" Sorge exclaimed.

    The Kommo-o charged towards Kline with surprising speed while his claws trailed flecks of dragonfire. The Dragon-Type closed the distance and swiped right claw across Kline with a lateral slash, knocking the Zygarde back with a yelp. Kline's body hit the ground limply, green light enveloping him as little orbs of light shot away from his body through the fog, shrinking his body down into an amorphous mass until all that remained was the now-unconscious form of the tiny serpent that Team Traveller had encountered the day before.

    "A-Aah! Kline!" Nida yelled.

    "Gih! Percy!" Alice cried. "This isn't looking good!"

    Pleo cringed, diving for cover behind the Storage Rock as more attacks from Team Sentinel flew by, his friends' cries piercing the air as the world seemed to pass by slowly. The seabird lay there panting when above the din of battle, he could swear he heard Nida wish they were back on the ship away from their fiendish attackers. Pleo peered over, only to see her shouting at Guardia to dodge an incoming Air Slash, leaving him staring off puzzledly. He then heard Percy long for a time when Kline could live comfortably with him back home when at the same time he saw the Gliscor overhead locked in combat with Sorge. Pleo rose his head, as he then noticed the voices of the sailors wondering how they could hold their own after the Company would inevitably follow them home, realizing that all the voices he was hearing were from Pokémon counting on and wishing for his safe return.

    The Lugia got up, beating his wings together determinedly as he felt newfound vigor from the wishing voices as light suddenly erupted along his plates, bathing the chamber in a silvery glow that caught everyone's attention. Team Traveller's members stood stunned as they watched Pleo's powers gather to him, Ketu's eyes hardening as he grit his teeth and called out to the Noivern carrying him.

    "Aldrich!" he shouted. "Get a bead on that bird and light him up!"

    "On it!"

    Aldrich quickly spewed forth a Dragon Pulse, striking Pleo and making him stagger back. The Lugia lurched, stepping forward panting as the light on his body flickered, only for Ketu to throw in a spray of black orbs that struck him in his breast and knocked him off his feet. At once, the light on his body vanished and Pleo flopped onto the ground, sprawling out limply in front of his horrified teammates.


    "Th-They can just stop him from using his powers like that?!" Guardia yelped.

    "What? Did you really think we would just stand here and take it?" Ketu sneered. "We're not gonna let ourselves get blown away like Lyn did!"

    "Wh-What do we do now?!" Crom stammered.

    Percy grimaced, backpedaling nervously when he noticed from the corner of his eye that their battle with Team Sentinel had left the path Ketu attempted to flee along completely unguarded. At once, the Gliscor spat a violet glob back at their attackers as a distraction, before calling off to the others behind him.

    "This way! We'll retreat to the next floor!" he exclaimed. "We'll have a better chance at shaking them off if we have more space to work with!"

    "But if we just run through the fog, we'll end up on different places when we come out the other side!" Nida cried.

    "We don't have another choice right now, Nida!" Kiran squawked. "Just tail it!"

    The group ran in a mad dash towards the exit as Calidus whipped up a stiff Tailwind with his wings behind the group that pushed them along. Team Sentinel readied a hail of attacks after their foes, only for Alice to dig into her bag and throw a blue orb with sparks flickering under its surface back at them, which made Aldrich's eyes widen with a start.

    "Gah!" the Noivern hissed. "Annoying little pests!"

    The bat hastily beat his wings and whipped up a gust of wind, knocking the Petrify Orb aside into the lava-filled trench. Team Traveller and Kline's party reached the fog, darting in haphazardly with Crom and Percy at the end carrying Pleo. The two hurried along, Crom crying out at the sight of Sorge charging after them into the fog, his yellow claws swiping only to barely miss and the mist to thicken around them as they ran ahead.

    "Keep running!" Percy cried.

    (Continued in next post)
  8. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    The lot continued running ahead, frantically throwing out wings and paws to hold onto who they could as they jerked to and fro to stay on the path underfoot. As the fog thickened and Nida's whiskers began to fade from view, the rabbit felt her paw slip off of Kiran's tail, leaving her to stop and grope ahead out of the fog and into a chamber lined with ruddy walls of stone, where she noticed that only Crom, Percy, Elty, and the twin Protectors remained with her.

    "A-Aah!" Nida yelped. "The path shifted before we got out!"

    "Let's- Let's just calm down a moment and get patched up," Crom stammered. "Team Sentinel hasn't made their way through yet!"

    Nida and Percy rooted through their bags in a hurry, producing a pair of Reviver Seeds that the two each administered to their respective Legendaries. As Nida placed her seed in Pleo's mouth, she moved his beak up and down, making the Lugia stir and spit out a Plain Seed as he struggled to his feet.

    "Ngh… Nida?" he groaned. "Did… we make it?"

    "Al-Almost," the Nidoran answered. "Just hang in there a little longer."

    Behind her, Nida heard Kline being roused, watching as the serpent eased himself up onto the end of his tail, only to suddenly go wide-eyed and look around in alarm.

    "Huh?! Pierce?!" Kline asked. "Where are the others?!"

    "We lost them in the fog when we moved out of the midpoint," the Gliscor answered. "Team Sentinel followed us through, so we need to get going before they find us."

    "But my plan to shake off Team Sentinel can't work if we have to leave anyone behind!" he exclaimed.

    "Well, you're the only one of us who can sense them," Percy insisted. "Are you able to find any of them on this floor?"

    Kline paused before hopping ahead and seemingly entering a trance for a moment. Pleo and Nida traded looks with each other, the Lugia pacing up to give a tug at the motionless serpent, only for Percy to stop him as Kline pivoted on his tail to turn back and face the team.

    "They're all gathered near a patch of lava," the Zygarde replied. "I wish that I had more to work with, but I barely had time to scout out this area at all."

    "Then let's start by looking for those!" Pleo cried. "If we keep track of which ones we visited already, we'd find them quickly, right?"

    The team nodded, hastily treating their wounds with a pawful of Oran Berries as Kline hopped into the front pouch of Percy's bag, before the group darted along the dungeon floor, running from passageway to passageway, not even bothering to pick up any items along the way. The group's flight led them to a room with a lava patch at its far edge, where a quick scan revealed their teammates to be neither there nor on the other side of the lava. The six looked to their left, quickly finding and beelining for another passageway to continue their search, only to come to a skidding stop at the sight of a scarfless Salazzle walking out of it. The Poison-Type recoiled with a start, dropping to all fours and hissing threateningly at the unwelcome intruders…

    "You hut-dwellers have got some nerve to just barge in here like-!"

    … only for the group to just push the feral aside and keep running, prompting the lizard to get up in spluttering surprise before snarling and giving chase.

    "Hey! Get back here and fi-!"

    Team Traveller looked back just as the Salazzle was abruptly cut off by a beam of dragonfire, flinging her aside into the wall where she toppled and slumped to the floor. The three caught a fleeting glimpse of Ketu and Aldrich hurrying in, when a turn of the corridor cut all but the sound of the pair's voices from their senses.

    "Gah! Some feral got in the way!" the Noivern fumed.

    "Never mind that! They went down that way!" Ketu exclaimed.

    The six tore along the pathway as landing wingbeats rang out behind them, the group ducking down one blind corner after another while they heard the sound of rushing footsteps pursuing them. Every so often, a bluish flash or freezing wind would appear behind them, followed by the hiss and crash of dragonfire and ice sailing off into a stony wall, the last proving to be close enough to send a hail of pebbles forward that struck Elty's rump and prompted him to shoot a panicked glance over to Percy.

    "Gah! You'd better have a plan for if we get on a long straightaway!" the Growlithe yipped. "There's nowhere to hide here!"

    "Focus on one thing at a time!" Percy cried. "Just stay ahead of them for now!"

    The Gliscor turned his attention back forward and came to an abrupt stop in front of a stony wall, where the path forked to the left and the right. The lot quickly looked down both pathways, noting that each curved around a bend and seemed to be lit up by reddish light in the distance, with no indication as to which of the two was the surer route of escape.

    "Wh-Which way do we go?" Pleo stammered.

    "I can see light at either end, so both lead to a patch of lava," Elty panted. "But what's it matter if those two know exactly where to turn?!"

    Nida's ears flared at the sound of approaching footsteps, realizing that their time was short. She turned, looking frantically to her left and right, only for her gaze to settle on Pleo and Percy, and for a faint spark to flicker over her mind.

    "Percy, can you still glide?" the Nidoran asked.

    "I… think that the Oran Berry helped enough for me to," he answered. "Why?"

    "Follow my lead, then! This way, Pleo!"

    Nida darted along, hurrying him down the left corridor as the others quickly followed suit. The Nidoran carried on until the sight of the sharp turn in the stony path, wheeling around and crying out to the Lugia following her.

    "Pleo! Jump!"

    Pleo leapt into the air, his eyes widening as Nida jumped up at him. The Nidoran landed on his back, tugging at his feathers for dear life which made Pleo jerk back and fly backwards befuddledly as Nida called down to him

    "Keep going, Pleo!"

    Elty stopped and looked up, staring confusedly only to feel a sharp yank at the back of his neck. The Puppy Pokémon yelped with a start, as he felt his body get lifted off the ground, looking up to see Percy latched onto him and gliding in the air, following after Pleo and Nida for the rightward path as Crom vaulted into the air and joined them with an open-winged glide. The lot settled at the other end, hurrying around a bend when Ketu and Aldrich's footsteps sounded out behind them.

    "I see footsteps!" Ketu cried. "This way!"

    The lot heard held their breaths, listening tensely as Ketu and Aldrich's movements grew louder, only to fade along with their voices. Realizing that their feint had worked, Nida, Pleo, Crom, and Elty exhaled in relief, grateful that they'd bought a moment's respite from their pursuers.

    "That was close," Pleo sighed.

    "Yeah, quick thinking there, Nida," Percy added.

    "Was the lift by my scruff really needed, though?" Elty grumbled. The Fire-Type gave an uncomfortable shake of his pelt, when the front of Percy's bag shifted as Kline jolted upright and poked his head out.

    "The others are just up ahead!" he exclaimed.

    The Puppy Pokémon and his companions dashed ahead into a chamber with a pair of entrances from their left and right, with a pool of magma at the other end. There at the center were the missing members of their teams, getting up from a hurried healing as Dimitri noticed Pleo's group run in, raising a scythe up to point at them.

    "Ah! There they are!" Dimitri cried.

    "Took ya long enough!" Alice added. "We were getting worried about you!"

    "Ketu and Aldrich found us and were chasing us around!" Pleo squawked. "We need to hurry up and get out of here!"

    "How?" Guardia asked. "Those yajū broke our Escape Orb earlier!"

    "We've got one of our own, but we can't get going just yet," Percy answered. "We'll need to stay in the dungeon for a little longer in order to cover our tracks."

    "Huh? How are we supposed to do that?" Ander demanded.

    The Gliscor opened his mouth to answer, only for a sharp buzz to ring out and a slashing gust of wind to send him pitching forward with a cry.

    "Over there!" Ellsberg's voice shouted. "They've gathered by that pool of lava!"

    The group cringed and whirled their heads to the left, where the forms of Sorge, Zelle, and Ellsberg hurried into the chamber. Zelle and Ellsberg fanned out to the sides of the Kommo-o in the center, who called out to his Sylveon teammate.

    "Zelle!" Sorge bellowed "Take out their forward guard!"

    On cue, the Fairy-Type cupped her feelers, forming a orb of pinkish-white light that she threw at Team Traveller and their allies, forcing them to dive for cover. Dimitri hastily tried to scuttle away from the front, only for the Moonblast to strike him with a yelp, leaving Zelle to smile cruelly as the Kabutops staggered and struggled to regain his footing.

    "Hah! This is all too easy!"

    Guardia growled and pulled her arm back and lobbed her bone in a twirling arc at Zelle, prompting the Fairy-Type to side-step the incoming missile. The Sylveon smirked and flared her feelers out as she readied a blast of pinkish light, when the Bonemerang abruptly returned and clipped her in the back of her head on the way back to its thrower. The budding Moonblast disappeared as Zelle winced and rubbed at her head, leaving Guardia to jeer triumphantly at the Sylveon.

    "You should pay more attention to your surroundings!" the Cubone taunted.

    "I could say the same to you!"

    Guardia's blood ran cold at the sound of Sorge roaring from further ahead, prompting her to look slightly to her left and see him charging with a fist slicked over in ice. The Cubone flinched, throwing her club and free claw in front of her face to shield herself, when the sound of a deep buzz followed by a pained screech rang out. Guardia cracked her eyes open, watching as Sorge pulled his fist back to strike at a Scyther slumped over at his feet, only for Percy to swoop in with a flying tackle, and Calidus with a Brave Bird that drew the Kommo-o away from Ander's groaning form on the ground. Realizing that Ander had taken the Dragon-Type's wrath in her stead, the bone lizard darted up worried about the mantis' condition, tugging frantically at his shoulders.

    "C-Come on, Strike!" she insisted. "Get up!"

    Ander woozily struggled to raise his body back up, only for the sound of running footfalls from the left to announce Aldrich and Ketu's presence, making Elty jump back with a yelping start.

    "Gah!" Elty cried. "Now would be a good time for that plan of yours!"

    "Get into that corridor behind us!" Percy shouted. "Just run and don't look back!"

    Team Traveller's members hurried along as Percy and Alice darted into the corridor with Kline, Dimitri grabbing Ander with the flats of his scythes and throwing the mantis onto his feet, hurrying the stricken Scyther along slumped on his shoulder for support. Calidus threw up a Protect from behind the group as Team Sentinel sent a barrage of attacks at them, the others falling back one after the other down the narrow corridor. The barrier faded, prompting the Talonflame to spit a fiery spray back for cover, before forming another Protect, the incoming attacks from Tean Sentinel coming thicker and quicker between each subsequent alternation. Team Sentinel continued pushing further and further into the corridor, before Percy suddenly turned from the head of the line back towards Team Traveller.

    "Alright! This is it!" the Gliscor exclaimed. "We need you to slow them down a bit!"

    "Let's hit 'em with everything we've got!" Calidus cried. The Talonflame swooped down, blue streaks trailing after his body as he dove for Zelle, only for the Sylveon to form a shadowy orb between her feelers as he closed in. Calidus steepened his dive and pulled up low against the ground in an attempt to dodge, only to be knocked onto the ground by the orb finding its mark on his back from above.

    "Hrmph! Do you honestly think I'm that predictable?" she scoffed.

    Zelle readied another Shadow Ball to lob at the stricken falcon, turning her eyes away from the rest of the fleeing party. Sensing an opportunity at paw, Nida dashed up, driving her paw hard into the Sylveon's chest with a Poison Jab.


    The Nidoran hastily retreated to her teammates as Zelle stumbled back, hugging the ground in tense anticipation of a parting shot from the Sylveon… only for it to never come. Nida noticed her friends staring off at Zelle as Calidus hurried away to regroup further back, prompting her to look over her shoulder and see Zelle easing herself back up with purple fluid staining a spot on her pelt. The Nidoran blinked for a moment as Sorge came rushing in, stooping down beside his teammate with the green form of a Lum Berry, when the Nidoran's eyes lit up in realization…

    "Wait, that's it!" the Poison-Type exclaimed. "Whenever they're healing themselves, they're not able to focus on chasing us!"

    Elty looked ahead, noticing that Sorge had left his left flank unguarded. The Puppy Pokémon let out a low growl and dashed along for the preoccupied dragon, as flecks of bluish fire began to dance at the back of his throat.

    "Try this on for size!"

    Elty spat up a Will-O-Wisp at the Kommo-o as he turned and looked up, the filaments of fire settling on his flank and leaving behind ruddy burns that made the Dragon-Type wince and clutch at his burnt side. As expected, Sorge reflexively dug through his bag for a fresh Lum Berry instead of giving chase, allowing Team Traveller to continue their retreat unimpeded. From behind Sorge and Zelle, Ketu looked past their shoulders, scowling irritatedly as he realized that their foes were inflicting one ailment after another to buy time and slip further and further out of their grasp.

    "Enough with your cheap tricks, brats!" he snarled. "Let's see how you deal with being iced!"

    The Weavile leapfrogged his teammates, readying a Blizzard that he sent careening down the corridor. Elty and his teammate flinched, screwing their eyes shut as the icy torrent of snow bore down on them, only to feel little beyond a deep chill. Warily, Nida cracked her eyes open, where she saw Calidus holding up a flickering barrier of light with his wings, with a layer of ice caking up at the other end.


    "We've finished what we needed to!" the Talonflame cried. "Just hurry up and get to Percy!"

    Nida and her friends turned and ran into a dead-end chamber hemmed by rocky walls on every end as Calidus' barrier faded and the layer of ice fell to the ground with a crunch. From behind, they saw Calidus and Alice hurry them along as Sorge let out a bellowing roar, charging after them down the corridor. Up ahead, Percy gathered a few of Team Traveller's members around them, passing a black orb with a light emanating from it around which caught Aldrich's attention.

    "They're trying to teleport out!" the Noivern exclaimed. "Pick off who you can!"

    Ketu threw a shard of ice after Kiran, nicking his tail feathers as he hastily rolled out of the way. After seeing that the group clustered together ahead, Sorge dug his claws through his bag, fishing out a Petrify Orb, when a black sphere struck him and enveloped his limbs with the telltale slick, inky aura of an Embargo. The sound of a jeering cry revealed the culprit to be Alice, who pulled an eyelid down at the group and stuck her tongue out, only to hastily turn as Team Sentinel and their Mothim ally's tempers flared and their attention settled on the impudent Dark-Type.

    Zelle opened the salvo by lobbing a Moonblast after Alice, missing her arm by mere hairs as she jerked it away, the Sneasel quickly entering a roll to dodge an incoming Bug Buzz flying overhead. Alice hastily threw her body back up onto her feet, resuming her sprint only for a Flamethrower from Aldrich to sail in and strike her in the back.


    The Sneasel pitched forward and tumbled along the ground as items spilled from her bag. Sorge growled and raised his claws to pounce on the fallen Sneasel, only for Calidus to swoop in and spit a spray of fire at his face, grabbing Alice's arms with his talons and flying for Percy just in time for the Gliscor to hand his Escape Orb to the Talonflame for a hasty rub before taking it back into his claws. Pleo breathed in, watching as Team Sentinel stomped along for them, only to notice that among the items Alice had dropped was the form of a small green serpent with a red spot on its back and belly lying facedown and wriggling weakly.

    "W-Wait!" Pleo squawked. "We dropped Kline!"

    Team Traveller's members whirled around looking back in horror to see the serpent's form on the ground jerking up and slowly trying to squirm over. In the midst of their gazing, Pleo chanced to see Percy had already lifted the orb into the air, readying it for a throw to the ground.

    "No! Don't-!"

    The Gliscor threw the orb down, enveloping the group in a large flash of light as Team Sentinel threw a hail of attacks at them, kicking up a spray of stone fragments. Sorge and his teammates paced forward as the rubble settled, only for the Kommo-o's eyes to come across the form of the green serpent on the ground ahead.

    "Subject Red's right there!" he cried.

    The serpent turned back in a jerky, erratic motion, before starting to slither away in a hurry as Ketu snarled and readied an Ice Shard in his claws.

    "Oh no you don't!"

    Ketu flicked the shard forward, striking the back of the snake's head which sent him pinwheeling to a stop on the ground, lying motionless as the Weavile gave a satisfied smirk.

    "Hah! Not so tough when you can't just run away from your problems, now are you, Kline?" he sneered. "Ellsberg, you've still got that Apricorn with you?"

    "Ah! Right!" the Mothim answered.

    Ellsberg fluttered over to the fallen serpent and fished through a satchel, pulling out a thick bundle of cloth. The moth carefully peeled the layers back with his tarsi, revealing a smooth, white surface. The Bug-Type slammed the Apricorn down on the green creature's body as a brilliant flash of light shined and engulfed the serpent's form. The light abruptly shrank into an arcing ray that was pulled into the Apricorn's surface as quickly as it came, leaving nothing behind but the Apricorn in Ellsberg's tarsi, which he dutifully returned to the bag as Team Sentinel traded approving nods.

    "Hrmph, looks like our mission is finally over," Aldrich said.

    "About time," Zelle remarked. "This chase has been such a drag."

    "Huh?" Ellsberg asked. "But the Guardian of the Seas still escaped!"

    "It doesn't matter," Ketu rebutted. "We've gotten something much more important out of it, and we even have what we need to get Lyn out of our fur after this."

    Ellsberg flitted back with a confused buzz, giving a puzzled tilt of his head back at the Weavile.

    "I don't follow," the moth said. "How on earth is the Protector the Board's searching for not the most important thing here?"

    "Because, you don't work for the entire Board right now," Ketu explained. "Administrator Elilan specifically told us to keep an eye out for other Legendaries while we were out, and Subject Red is the main one he's looking for. With him finally at his disposal, the Administrator will be in a position to go back for that Lugia whenever he pleases."

    Ellberg remained in the air, staring at the Weavile with a flabbergasted silence when Sorge broke the quiet with a grunting shake of his head.

    "You can bring your friend up to speed later, Ketu," the Kommo-o insisted. "We had to cut short that interception of Tidemill's messenger after spotting Subject Red, so you'll need to get out of port in a hurry.

    Ketu blinked at the news, before giving a sighing shake of his head.

    "Right," the Weavile piped. "Then let's hurry up and get out of this dump."

    Ketu and his allies quickly gathered around, the Weavile fetching a black orb much like the one Percy had used to escape from his bag. The lot passed the Escape Orb around, before it returned back to Ketu, who dashed it against the ground with a crash. A brilliant flash of light erupted, and in the twinkling of an eye, the five vanished from the dungeon, leaving behind only silent volcanic stone around them.

    Outside of Buyeom's Mystery Dungeon, a matching flash of light appeared at the mouth of the dungeon's entrance, where Team Sentinel and Ellsberg materialized amidst the glow. Sorge quickly scanned his surroundings, before motioning to the others, prompting the five to quickly hurry along the path back for Magmapool. Unbeknownst to the group, from a set of bushes overlooking the path, a faint rustling rang out as Pleo timidly poked his head out and watched Ketu and his allies slip off, before pulling it back in and waddling over to his friends in a shaded clearing, where his companions all stood dead-eyed and at a loss of what to do next.

    "Th-This is awful!" Crom cried. "They caught Kline!"

    "The Company with Zygarde?" Ander shuddered. "How could this have become any more of a disaster?"

    "I wouldn't be too worried about it," Alice insisted. "Things aren't as bad as they look."

    "H-Huh?! How can you say that?!" Pleo squawked. "The Company stole your friend! And now they're gonna try to keep him away from everyone!"

    "For crying out loud, I'm right here!"

    Team Traveller's members jumped back at the sound of a sharp voice in front of them, looking down in time to see a translucent, serpentine shape appear, before filling in with color to reveal none other than Kline. Pleo beat his wings with a start, stammering blankly as he turned back and forth from the Zygarde in front of him and the direction of the path Team Sentinel took.

    "A-Ah!" Pleo cried. "But you were- and we just saw-"

    "A little bait and switch," Percy explained. "Like we said, we had a plan to outsmart them."

    "You mean I had a plan," Kline huffed. "I'm the one who came up with it."

    Percy hemmed and hawed awkwardly, before giving a sheepish scratch at the back of his head at his squishy companion's protests. All the while, Team Traveller's members stared confusedly at the Zygarde, before trading uneasy glances.

    "But… how?" Dimitri demanded. "And who did they just capture?"

    "Hmph, we can worry about details like that when we get to your ship," the Zygarde scoffed back. "Time is of the essence, after all."

    Team Traveller's members nodded back in affirmation to the serpent, only to pause and suddenly blink, with Crom warily speaking up to ensure his ears hadn't deceived him.

    "Wait, you want to come with us to the Siglo Swellow?" the Druddigon asked.

    "Well you wanted to team up, didn't you?" Kline piped. "Besides, that Samurott is not gonna wait in port once Ketu returns to him, and after what just happened I suppose you could use some answers."

    A small, tired smile spread over Crom's face, along with his teammates. After how much of an ordeal the ambush had been, it was heartening to hear that something good had come out of it…

    "Thank you, Protector… we appreciate that," Kiran said. "In that case, let's head back to the ship."

    "Don't let your guard down so quickly. You're not in the clear just yet," Kline warned, drawing puzzled stares back from the Swellow and his companions.

    "Eh? Why not?" Guardia demanded. "We just saw those yajū leave and you said Lyn would leave town as well!"

    "Because a messenger was en route to inform the local guards about what happened in Tidemill," the serpent answered. "If they haven't already started looking for you, it would be a matter of hours at the most before they did."

    The lot blanched at Kline's reply. They didn't know how the Zygarde would be privy to such a thing, but with his track record of seeming to know things inexplicably… discounting his warning surely wasn't a good idea.

    "What are we supposed to do then?" Crom asked.

    "We'll make our way towards your ship," Kline offered. "We'll try to avoid drawing attention as long as we can, and if the guards notice us, you'll fight our way to the ship."

    "Wait, you're not helping us fight any guards?!" Elty yipped. "Why would you do that when you just helped us fight off Team Sentinel back in the Dungeon?!"

    "Because if I change my Forme, Team Sentinel and that Mothim will know I tricked them if they're still in Magmapool," the Zygarde harrumphed. "Besides, I've seen enough to know that you're talented at picking your fights and running from stronger foes, Eltenios."

    Elty flattened his ears and frowned back sourly at the serpent For a 'mon that could get his name right without an introduction and keep Team Sentinel on their toes, it sure felt like he was quick to come up with excuses for not doing anything…

    "Yeah, because trying to outwit a bunch of Imps on their own turf after what we just went through is really such a good idea…" the Growlithe grumbled.

    "… Actually," Nida began. "I think Kline might be onto something, Elty."

    Quiet fell over the group, as the gathered Pokémon stared at Nida. The Nidoran looked around uneasily, before shaking her head and stamping her feet adamantly.

    "We made it out of Tidemill by sticking together, didn't we? And we just did it again with that fight with the Company," she offered. "If we all just work as a team, who's to say we can't get through a town back to the ship?"

    The Nidoran's teammates traded glances with each other, before their eyes began to firm in determination. Crom murmured back in agreement, then Kiran and Guardia, the process continuing until even Ander seemed to be confident enough about the idea to want to try it. From the side, Percy stepped forward and cleared his throat to speak.

    "I think that settles it, then. And Kline aside, the rest of us will be helping you," he replied. "That said, we should probably start moving fast. The longer we wait, the greater the odds the guards will try to board your ship before we get there."

    The Gliscor set off, carefully exiting out onto the path and looking both ways before the others followed along one by one. Once everyone had made their way back onto the path, the group carried on, trekking off down the volcano's slope towards Magmapool's black walls off in the distance.

    Back at Magmapool's harbor, the hubbub of dock workers shuffling cargo up and down the wharves filtered up to a low hill wedged between the water and the walls overlooking the harbor. There, Albert, David, Charlie, and Marilyn looked around agitatedly at the mouth of a shaded alley, the four turning to leave when the Riolu suddenly closed his eyes and flared out his feelers. The others looked at their teammate and then up as a woosh rang out, revealing the form of a Noivern circling before coming to a stop in the lane outside. The bat pulled his wings in towards his body and turned his head behind him where the rest of Team Sentinel and Ellsberg caught up with him and made their way together for the alleyway at a casual gait that struck Albert as wholly unbecoming of how late they were.

    "Where have you been?" the Nuzleaf demanded. "We were supposed to begin your stupid operation half an hour ago!"

    The Grass-Type's outburst was answered by a low growl from Sorge and his teammates, along with a flash of his claws. At once, the Nuzleaf and his companions quieted, backpedaling and shrinking away while Ellsberg flitted forward with an unimpressed scoff.

    "Hrmph. We were held up a bit in the Mystery Dungeon," the Mothim shot back. "But we're here now, and you still have your other half of the bargain to fulfill."

    "It's showtime. And do try to get the eyes right this time, David," Ketu sneered. "I can't really help you if you fail your mission here."

    The Ditto mumbled under his breath, before his body began to warp and expand with a whitish glow, stretching out into a long-necked figure with wings and a tail. His body's surface began to turn white under the light as feathers sprouted and blue plates spread along his back. The changeling closed his eyes as the last patches of pink faded away in favor of white plumes, before opening his eyes and revealing red pupils and white sclera that blinked uneasily before hardening into an impatient scowl.

    "Is that good enough for you?" David demanded.

    "That's not for me to decide, but for Lyn," Ketu chided. "Do remember that."

    David beat his newly formed wings, and after a few awkward moments to find his footing, took to the air with Ellsberg following suit. Sorge watched as the pair slipped off for the harbor and shrank into hazy dots, prompting him to turn to his Noivern teammate.

    "Aldrich. Listen in on them and keep us updated," Sorge ordered.

    "Got it."

    The bat took wing, flying up onto the slate roof of the warehouse beside the alley and trained his ears, dutifully moving them after the newly formed 'Lugia' and his escort. Back on the ground, Sorge raised a scope and peered off at the Nektar Weide's sails just in time to see David pass overhead, along with a sudden icy ray that shot up and narrowly missed his wings. The transformed Ditto recoiled, as Sorge followed the ray down to the form of a Samurott hastily barking out orders to Pokémon on deck, with shapes taking to the air as Aldrich peered over to pass on his findings.

    "Sounds like Lyn's fallen for it," the Noivern remarked. "Let's hope Ellsberg pulls this through."

    Sorge trained his attention back on David, where every now and then the form of a flying Pokémon would cut in between as the Ditto wheeled wildly across the sky in between incoming attacks. After seeing the numbers of the escorts grow, Ellsberg abruptly shot ahead, cutting David off and forcing him to change course and turn sharply for the ship, where a jet of water struck him from below and sent him pinwheeling to the deck.

    The Kommo-o lost sight of David as Lyn pounced on the spot where he fell and sailors crowded around. Amidst the confusion a Toxicroak ran up with a thick cloth bag, while Lyn carefully wrapped a cloth around one of his paws before reaching into the satchel. Sorge watched as Lyn's paw came back out with a red object that slipped from view as he brought it against David's unseen body and spawned a whitish flash of light. There was a moment's pause, before Lyn's face turned up in a victorious sneer, as he held the form of a Red Apricorn aloft, his mouth running off with what looked to be triumphant movements, ones which Sorge puzzled to match words to before Aldrich dropped down with an unimpressed harrumph.

    "Hrmph, someone's taking his time to gloat," the bat scoffed. "But I don't think you needed me to say anything about that."

    "Good," Ketu said. "It means our job here is done then."

    Charlie and Marilyn traded looks with each other, pawing uneasily at Albert for attention. The Nuzleaf hemmed and hawed a moment, before warily stepping forward towards Team Sentinel's members.

    "So… I assume this is where you'll be giving us our stuff back and we both pretend we never ran into each other?" Albert began. The Nuzleaf waited for a response, only to be met with wordless stares, as Zelle's mouth quietly curled up with a cruel smirk.

    "Now why would we do anything crazy like that?" the Sylveon sneered.

    "H-Huh?! Hey what the-?! We had a deal!" Albert cried. "We carried out our end of the bargain, so it's time for you- AAGH!"

    The Grass-Type's protests were cut off by a gust of sparkling, pinkish wind from Zelle, knocking Albert flat on his back against the ground. Marilyn and Charlie cringed, before scurrying over and hastily trying to tug at their fallen companion as he woozily righted himself, freezing as Ketu stepped forward and flashed one of his claws.

    "You should save your strength while you can," the Weavile jeered. "Sorge already handed over your stuff to the guards and tipped them off about you, so you'll probably need it if you don't want a one-way trip to the Wastes."

    The three's hearts sank as horrified expressions sprouted over their faces. One after the other, the fraudsters cried out in spluttering protest, only for Team Sentinel to begin filing off, with Ketu lingering at the mouth of the alleyway.

    "Anyway, we've got places to be," the Dark-Type said. "Send us a letter sometime if you manage to give those Imps the slip!"

    The four hurried along, the sound of the con artists yelling after them fading away as the group ducked down one winding alley after the next. The tang of salt air and noise of bobbing waves grew more noticeable amidst the sound of work on the docks as Team Sentinel darted out onto the main lane that connected the wharves. The surrounding chatter abruptly died down as shouts and tromping footsteps rang out, the wharves' liveliness coming to a halt as Pokémon turned and watched a large group of guards beelining for a white-sailed brigantine at the other end much to Ketu's irritation.

    "Great," he grumbled. "Looks like the guards are onto Lyn."

    "Hmph, no matter," Sorge replied. "We'll just get you back and-"


    The Kommo-o and his companions turned around at sound of a sharp bark from behind, coming face to face with a Torkoal and Smeargle in indigo scarves. The two guards paused a moment, their gruff scowls melting away for more cheerful expressions as the Smeargle gave a friendly wave at the familiar faces from the rescue guild.

    "Oh, Team Sentinel!" the Painter Pokémon cried. "Your timing couldn't be better! That Weavile with you-"

    Before he could finish, the Smeargle was cut off by a rake from Sorge's claws, flinging him into the hull of a ship before dropping into the water with a splash. The Torkoal stammered out of shock, hastily readying a gout of fire, only Ketu to interrupt him with a Night Slash that sent him reeling back, followed by a Dragon Pulse from Aldrich that launched the turtle up into the air before striking the ground on his shell where his limbs splayed out limply. Zelle looked over the fainted turtle as the din of battle roared in the background, leaving her to shake her head with a sigh.

    "So much for our cover…" Zelle murmured. "I'll miss those hot springs."

    A series of deafening blasts rang out, prompting the four to turn and see attacks flying to and from the docks near the Nektar Weide as sailors and workers on the docks quickly dove for cover in nearby buildings and aboard moored ships. Ketu quickly scanned his surroundings, training his attention to the nearby ships where he saw that the one berthed next to the Nektar Weide had its sailors watching warily from the deck, with their gangplank lowered and unguarded.

    "Come on, I think we've got a way in."

    Ketu motioned to his fellows and dashed along, running down the wharves for the pier just before the Nektar Weide as attacks flew in a thick hail around the brigantine, punctuated by shouts and pained screams. The Dark-Type made a hard right and turned to run down the pier, getting about halfway to the gangplank when a stream of fire suddenly zipped overhead and forced him to duck.

    "Jeogi!" a yipping voice cried. "Don't let them get away!"

    The lot looked back along the pier where they saw a Ninetales leading the charge at the head of a mob of indigo-scarved Pokémon. Sorge and Aldrich hastily threw up Protects as an increasingly fierce rain of attacks dashed against them, prompting Ketu to breathe out an icy huff of breath and shoot an annoyed glare at the approaching guards.

    "Ugh, seriously?"

    The Weavile inhaled deeply and breathed out a Blizzard along the dock, slicking it with snow and ice just as the Ninetales and his fellows set foot onto it. The fox struggled with his footing and pratfell, which tripped up a Gothorita, and then a Torracat, leading to a cacophony of guards slipping off their feet while others tumbled clear off into the water. Ketu watched as the mob's determined assault dissolved into a dazed mess of guards tripping over each other and shouting in confusion, while others groaned of heavier counterparts that had fallen on them, leaving the Weavile to roll his eyes and turn back to his peers.

    "Come on, this way!"

    Ketu ran up the gangplank, leading the rest of his teammates up onto the ship's deck. At the top, a Machamp from the merchant crew noticed their approach and turned to intercept the lot with a harsh growl.

    "Hey! What do you think you're doing on our-?!"

    The Fighting-Type was swiftly answered by a Moonblast from Zelle that knocked him across the deck, prompting the other sailors on the ship to recoil in shock. Ketu ran ahead and sliced a length of rigging with his claws and let a rope swing down, which he held out to his teammates.


    The Kommo-o grabbed onto the rope as Zelle hastily latched onto Sorge's arm with her feelers, the Kommo-o scooping her up as Ketu clung onto his other shoulder. Sorge leapt off the deck with his teammates, swinging across the gap to the Nektar Weide while Aldrich followed from the air. The four landed on the deck just behind Lyn, prompting him to look back and at once notice his previously-absent first mate.

    "Where have you been?!" Lyn demanded. "We just caught the Guardian of the Seas here-"

    The lot ducked as a fiery plume zipped past them, the ship rocking as blows landed against the hull with newfound ferocity. A loud crack rang out, prompting Lyn to peer over and see that a Stone Edge had punched a hole into the hull just above the waterline of the Nektar Weide, with the streets and lanes around the dock growing thick with newly arriving guards. Sorge forcefully jostled his scales against each other with a loud clang, sending a violet-tinged shockwave over the railing at the guards, before bellowing over his shoulder to the Samurott captain.

    "We'll explain later!" Sorge replied. "Just get us out of here before we get sunk!"

    Lyn shook his head, and tightened his paws around his seamitars. While being chased out of port yet again by the Empire was hardly something his pride as a captain needed, it was hard to see what else would be needed for completing the mission. Satisfied, the otter turned towards his embattled underlings, shouting out fiercely above the roar of battle

    "You heard him!" Lyn yelled. "Get this ship moving and take us back for Vollezee! Our mission in Imperial waters is done!"

    At once, the crew raised the sails, sliced the moorings, and dragged the anchor up while the escorts dashed ahead of the stern and towed the ship away from the pier. Once the craft reached the middle of the harbor, the escorts swung around and whipped up waves and gales in the air and water behind them, pushing the brigantine out for the open sea as Team Sentinel led the charge throwing attacks from the railing to cover their retreat. The ship slipped further and further from view, the confusion around the docks ebbing just as the forms of a Nuzleaf, a Riolu, and an Eevee darted out from a nearby alleyway, staring blankly at the departing ship.

    "Th-They used us!" Marilyn cried.

    "I knew this was a bad idea… I just knew it…" Charlie murmured.

    "Hey! It's those three! They're also on the list!"

    The trio turned and saw a sopping Ninetales motioning towards them, as a Clefable and a Weezing headed over. Albert stood dumb with fright for a moment, before hastily shaking his head and turning to his companions.

    "Gih! Worry about that later!" the Nuzleaf yelped. "We need to shake these guys!"

    The Grass-Type sprang back just as a Flamethrower flew in, before tearing off in the opposite direction, Marilyn and Charlie following on his heels with startled yelps. The three made a desperate dash into the winding alleys of the port as the guards chased after them, shouting and attacking all the while.

    Further up the hill, Team Traveller and their new companions carried along down Magmapool's hilltops, making their way back through the settlement past Pokémon and carts in the tight and winding lanes for the black stone gate. All the while, the lot kept a keen eye on their surroundings, drifting down back alleys at the sight of guards until eventually the gate to the harbor came into view ahead of them.

    "That's it over there," Nida said. "Just a little more and we'll be able to make it to the harbor."

    "Hrmph, just stay on your guard and don't get presumptuous," Kline piped from inside Percy's bag. "We're not at your ship yet, Nida."

    The Nidoran quieted and continued on pensively with her companions, casting an occasional glance at the surrounding streets for any sign of trouble. The gate at the bottom of the hill began to come into view, where the rabbit noticed that there seemed to be more guards than usual passing through it for the docks. The Poison-Type faltered a moment, wondering what could've drawn the guards together when a gruff growl pricked her ears from behind.

    "Hey you!"

    The group froze and uneasily turned around to see a Magcargo and Escavalier in indigo scarves hurrying up behind them with harsh scowls. Team Traveller backed away uneasily, as the Magcargo came up and leveled a piercing glare over at Pleo.

    "We noticed you going through town with that bird earlier," he barked. "We've got some questions for you about him, and you're going to answer them."

    The gathered Pokémon tensed up, as a sinking suspicion of what the questions would be about came upon them. Even so, for now, it was perhaps for the best to just play along…

    "Er… sure? What is it?" Elty asked.

    "Well first off, your buddy there looks just like a wanted 'mon from the capital," the Escavalier said. "And you're sharing his colors."

    "So, why don't you come along peacefully," the Magcargo added. "And we'll get an explanation over what's going on, hm?"

    The lot grimaced and traded nervous glances with each other, pausing tensely before Kiran warily paced forward, clearing his throat to speak.

    "Er… well, we would like to tell you, but it's a busy day and we've got a lot going on and-"

    Kiran abruptly cut his words short and brought his wings together with a slicing wind that swept the Magcargo off his underside and sent him tumbling into a nearby market stall with a crash. The Escavalier stared stunned at the sight of her companion being thrown aside as yelps and faint trails of smoke from cloth and wood the snail had managed to set alight drifted up, before turning back to Team Traveller and their allies with readied lances and a hissing glare.

    "Hey! Why you-!"

    Before the Bug-Type could finish, Percy abruptly rammed into the Escavalier with an Acrobatics, launching the guard into a storefront with a loud crash. Team Traveller and their companions turned to run, only to spot the Magcargo inching up with an audible seethe and readying a gout of fire. With a swift motion, Elty darted up and kicked up dirt from the lane into the snail's face, prompting the Magcargo to snort up a hacking puff of smoke and cringe with tightly-shut eyes.

    "Ack! Nae nun! I can't see!"

    "Time to go, everyone!" Kiran cried.

    The group fled, rushing past the blinded Magcargo and stunned onlookers as he blinked away the dirt and the Escavalier got up, flicking away some broken glass stuck to her lances with an angry hiss as she gave chase.

    "Hey! Get back here!"

    The Bug-Type's words carried down the lane as Pleo and his companions kept running ahead, ducking down alleys and intersections. All the while, the sound of pursuing footsteps and shouting voices rang out and grew ever louder and more numerous as more and more guards gave chase to them, reducing the town's peaceful day into a fleeting memory.

    Author's Notes:

    - Manyula (マニューラ) - Japanese: "Weavile" (Official Romanization)
    - Glion (グライオン) - Japanese: "Gliscor" (Official Romanization)
    - Acrobat (アクロバット) - Japanese: "Acrobatics" (Official Romanization)
    - Snel! - Dutch: "Quick!"
    - Strike (ストライク) - Japanese: "Scyther" (Official Romanization)
    - Jeogi! (저기!) - Korean: "Over there!" (South Korean Revised Romanization)
    - Nae nun! (내눈!) - Korean: "My eyes!" (South Korean Revised Romanization)
  9. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Hoo-whee! Look at this here big ol' ball of violence. Them kids got themselves in a mighty fine mess, I tell ya what. Lots of lovely attack combinations here to nicely gauge the difference in experience. Team Traveller's take is to mostly try using their own moves in succession, while Team Sentinel (I'm including Ketu and Ellsberg with 'em for simplicity) actually combine their attacks to make them far more aggravating than they'd be alone. I also like how the lava created an additional hazard of sorts, even if it does make me scratch my head as to how Ketu's ice-based attacks didn't immediately evaporate from the supposed heat. Video game logic, I know. but i wrote a volcano battle and made my ice type useless :pGuess Ketu should've been a different species if this was going to be his big moment. I do like the use of more niche moves like Embargo and Tailwind that are, like, pretty useless in PMD games and, in general, never used in fics. XP

    Naturally, the chapter's opening made it pretty clear Kline would crash the scene TO TIP THE SCALES. [clears throat] And, of course, Team Sentinel would then show up to swing the pendulum the other way. I do think the prose got a bit purple in places when it came to describing these attacks (e.g. "lob a hail of icy flechettes"), so I'm not sure if there were typos or what. <.<;

    I was surprised the second part seemed to go a lot better for the heroes, since they're all tired out from battling, but they seem to do better against Team Sentinel when moving through the dungeon. Guess Team Sentinel's not a very mobile unit or something? I honestly suspected Team Sentinel might manage to make off with Kline then and there, but apparently they got outfoxed. A cell, I guess? A very different resolution to the giant explosions of previous battles, I suppose. Elilan's likely gonna be pissed when he finds out.

    Don't have much to say about the little escape sequences for both the heroes and villains other than they were considerably more light-hearted since there was some slapstick involved. XD

    "In my day, we had to walk fifteen miles to get the mystery dungeon... uphill both ways!"

    Appropriate amount of burn for a lava dungeon. Checks out to me. Carry on. p_o

    Ya dun goof'd, Kiran.

    something something "Always wondered why folks never lead with their strongest attacks." something something

    It took me 66 chapters to realize that "blotch-head" and "block-head" sound very similar... and now I'm imagining Ellsberg sounding like Lucy from Peanuts. I think he needs to take insulting lessons from Ketu. XD

    Damn it, Elty. First rule of battle school is no shouting your plans for the enemy to hear. Unless you're a shonen protagonist, then it's mandatory.

    35% better burn. Also, RIP Ellsberg's first mate. If Ellsberg can't get any respect, this guy's really got it rough.

    Language, Ketu. This is a children's fic! Err, well, it's K10+ at the very least. I'm-a have to give you a Yellow Card, there.

    Word choice, Zelle! Sheesh. Oh, wait... Sylveon. Should've seen this coming, tbh.


    [squints] That makes two.
  10. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    And now onto episode 3! I honestly don’t have a whole lot to say about the first chapter. It was a long one—I think perhaps this is the point where your chapters become longer? But anyway, despite that, it doesn’t really feel like a whole lot actually happened. It’s mostly just TMs and discussing what to do about Lugia, and I personally felt it might’ve lasted a while longer. There was an odd, drawn out focus on how Porygon and TMs operate, and I would’ve been interested a little… if it wasn’t for the fact that the prologue already implied a lot of this. The lore is lost because I already knew it. It was more or less just a long buildup just for them to decide to take Pleo’s training to the next level. I did appreciate the introduction to our Growlithe’s character, though. That’s another cast member taken care of for the banner art…

    Chapter 10 is similar to 9 in that not a whole lot seems to go on. I was sort of anticipating the Dungeon by now, but instead we get some slice of life (albeit with the flair of community service) and a bit of world building. The highlight of the chapter for me—well, two of them—was the brief scene of Pleo and the Marked child. I half-expected Pleo to go chasing after the Scyther (…how do they hold things, anyway?) but deciding to see the little artist later worked just as well.

    Most interesting was the bit of world building about the diets of the island., and also tying that to Nida’s prey instincts briefly kicking in. I thought that was an interesting theme for the middle-end of the chapter, especially since they had been leaned against before. It was a bit wordy at times, but the underlying content was what had me interested. Considering the fact that ferals in this world are smart enough to follow some sort of universal rule, and are indeed capable of speech, I can certainly understand why they’d devise a system of effective veganism. It actually calls into question how the pirates rationalize eating meat, if that’s the case. Curious to see how this is delved upon later. But other than those brief bits of world building, I’m really just waiting for the Dungeon.

    The next two chapters are when things finally get to the Dungeon exploration! …Though it was a bit underwhelming, all things considered. Their biggest threat is a floating blob of ghostly jelly for a while, and they’re sorta floundering around themselves. I suppose part of it has to do with the fact that Pleo has zero experience in Dungeons at this point (aside from being born in one, but that hardly counts) but I guess I was a bit disappointed at how much they fumbled, considering they should be at least mildly seasoned. This is almost lampshaded at the reaction to Elty’s inability to be an effective ship burner, though that doesn’t mitigate the fact that it’s odd. I guess it never really dawned on my their first time through struggling with Krabby—I guess I was expecting the competence to go up a bit after dealing with Hass’ gang.

    What was interesting, however, was everything that took place outside of the Dungeon, ironically. We see the Company! Or at least, a representative of one. Mysterious entry speaking with some nouns that I’m not familiar with, even capitalized ones like Immortals and so on… that doesn’t really interest me too much. It’s basically the author giving me a nod, “Eh, eh? Yeah, this’ll be interesting later.” But without anything to attach it to, it’s just a check that can’t be cashed yet.

    That being said, I’m definitely interested in the tangible and demonstrated dynamic between the island and the Company. A bit of a malignant symbiotic relationship of some kind, teetering on collapse should either side get in a particularly bad mood… Could the Company be the true bad guys of this story? No, that’s too simple. There’s still more to it.

    Do the Marked and the Company have any hidden ties, perhaps? That’s my leading question so far as I read further. Right now I have the Marked (that we have met) as a sort of true neutral, perhaps even chaotic good. They’re somewhat outcasts, but I haven’t really seen them as doing anything particularly malevolent. The fact that Pleo is allowed around them, despite being so vulnerable, only enforces that they don’t really see them as a threat to him. The Company, meanwhile, I’m getting shades of lawful evil, or perhaps lawful neutral? With scarce resources, they’re only trying to be utilitarian to keep the cradle balanced, presumably, or under some sort of order.

    I hope more information is provided toward this line of questioning in the near future. The Company can only stay so nebulous for so long, after all.

    The final chapter of episode 3 wraps up the training arc nicely. The group made it to Normal Rank—well, some of the group—and Pleo is getting a tiny bit of a hang of his powers, at least the flying part. We still haven’t quite gotten to another instance where he gets pushed to his limit to unleash another blast like with Hess, which is almost ironic considering the statement about not wanting to push him.

    Like before, the most interesting part of the chapter was the final portion that depicted more of the Mothim, and then a Samurott with aspirations of promotion and a little infant god to get him there. Again, even though he’s being depicted as perhaps the first main antagonist of the series, I don’t know for sure one way or the other if he’s going to be a big player or not down the line. He feels more like the first admin of the Pokémon games—a boss, sure… but small potatoes to the grand scheme. A super-pawn. This is all speculation.

    Anyway, overall, episode 3 was a little on the slower side, saved only because of the cutaways to the Company-affiliated side of things. Without that, I think it dragged on a bit too long with random mook battles, though I did appreciate the scene at the shrine with Pleo and the feral. Even though it wasn’t particularly exciting, I can see what you’re doing with planting a few seeds in Pleo’s development as he learns more about the world. I definitely like scenes like those, at least while Pleo is still young and learning.

    I’m actually not sure where episode 4 will take me. I haven’t even looked at what the episode title is. But if I had to take a guess… I’m not sure. Unless there’s a substantial time skip, I expect one or two chapters of filler-ish content until we have to deal with the Company again, or some other, new threat. Guess I’ll just have to continue~
  11. Venia Silente

    Venia Silente [](int x){return x;}

    It's been a while since last reviews thanks to work but I think I have enough to say about Chapter 58 of Aleria's Tourna- I mean, Fledglings...

    (IMO, The Silly Adventures of Aleria would make a nice gaiden story)

    May I mention that one of the first things I noticed about the mafia meeting these last few days... is that we basically have this scenario:
    Soooo basically we have

    1.- a rabbit going on in a mission
    2.- accompanied by a somewhat reticent other-side-of-the-law canine/vulpine who is also orange...
    3.- and they have to go meet a mafia lord
    4.- while trying to figure out information about a smuggling / contraband case?

    I smell Zootopia o3o In general it is nice to have a scene with some mafia participation that goes for the classing "we're the guys doing something, you just don't see us doing something" feeling that book stories dealing with stuff like mafias and cartels used to have. Nice trick with the Zoroark illusions btw, though I am figuring out there are some kinds of Pokémon species that could reasonably be able to make out true perception, so I presume besides the hard knockers Zoroark also counts with some other kind of support.

    I mean, this is like how most mafias operate - it's better to be evil but not Too Evil because you count with some degree of protection from the populace, too. And while they are not the "proper" wolf Pokémon that we don't have until Lycanroc, Manectric gets close enough to the whole protect the pack idea that it works.

    These mafia idioms are quite transvesal and never get old.

    Cardino gets no respect :c I even had a reaction image for that, let's see...

    All in all it's good to see that at least Cardino is able to route through the meeting and able to ask some questions, let's see if it leads to somewhere useful:


    I did get the impression during the meeting, and I talked it with Virgil, that either Cardino was quite out of his fish bowl in this case or that he was kind of new to the city and the way it conducts its affairs. He seemd to waste time asking nonimportant questions, allowed his newbie investigators to waste time too (Guardia ate enough of the 'trics' patience I feel) and basically got out of the meeting with nothing that an investigator in his position, relevant enough to have been "invited" to a meeting with a mafia boss, shouldn't have already known. Virgil makes a point that being able to strike the meeting is not really an indicator of Cardino's relevance compared to other investigators, but I still get the impression it overall felt an odd way to close the meeting, and the scene in general.

    A good thing to go with in the part that followed was, well, the punishments we see being dealt.

    Hey, to be fair, no one really like having to waddle through other people's trash (or worse). Though it's maybe a fair point considering it is not sewage work (or worse). Virgil does point out that the alternative is... well, lifetime or a death sentence; besides, someone has to do the non-mafia, literally dirty work in the city.

    I would have liked to see that, truly. I wonder when is the next Guardia boping people's head scene scheduled to be!

    I stand by my statement that being Marked in the Fledglingsverse is Suffering™.

    Hmmmm interesting take, that one. Very literal "bells on the cat" prisoner management, and I see how it would make some functional sense in a setting like the Fledglingsverse. Even if say Sibich could phase through walls, he likely can't phase the bells with him, so at least they'd alert that something is going on I guess? That or it's all a psychological ruse to goad him into literally trying to escape out the door.

    I also like how Cardino has to deal with his newbie recruits being... apparently more well known than he is.
    Finally a nice touch in the scene was to see Eltenios of all people hinting at some modicum of respect towards Hess, his old crew captain.

    Speaking more of this detective plotline though, I am worrying that this entire investment is going to come out to a great cost to Team Traveller - having to deviate from a tournament arc with a very strict deadline and use their rest time - or worse, potentially missing matches - in order to chase leads around town, it's not something they are qualified to maintain. The tiredness or the wounds from a mafia meeting gone wrong are going to eventually catch up to them, or worse they will be disqualified due to missing a match, and that'll be the end of Team Traveller's effort to like r e s c u e P l e o. So we'll have to see if Kiran's team can take up that mission, honestly.

    In the meantime tho, we switch to the next scene with the combo of some of the best characters I swear~ Berecien, Cabot and Pleo and who can forget "I'm this close to evolving guys" Niilo. Truly an awesome combination that should be able to work around any problems on their way....

    ...except math. Poor Pleo. I think it is understandable in his case. Though I'm now hoping for the fast forward to the sequel you have planned where Pleo makes use of
    advanced aerodynamics knowledgeto land Weather Balls on his enemies~

    I do find it smart that since both Literature and Math are failing to... drill in into the birb's head, why not try some History! And to their credit they do approach it with some common pedagogical sense. By telling a story about, let's see...

    *heavy breath* yes why GLORIOUS STARAPTOR SCREENTIME TALES would also make for a good Fledglings gaiden story! Please! are you reading this Virgil
    Anyway, it seems the GLORIOUS FOUNDER fell from the sky in a... metal cocoon? I'm calling in a Pokéball, probably, if there are pre-blight civ facilities still going around that would transport a Pokéball across air routes or something. Or... could this be a nod to Thundercats 2011 and its birb-based Sky Civ and a pointer to the future? Dun dun duuuuuun.

    I'm wondering, is this a reference to you having played PSMD that I have not heard of? Would be interesting. Also I wonder if the Chespin is the ancestor of a certain character you and I know that we had in the plans~

    I do like to see how Berecien and Niilo's interactions run in this scene, in particular once Admiral Coil shows up, speaking of it is also nice to see Cabot being able to.... in trope terms, return a bone thrown and thank Coil for helping his old settlement there and then. Admittedly I was expecting Cabot to fangirl of sorts and ask for Coil's autograph, but still giving proper thanks is important!

    Really, it's the kind of thing I would totally sign in for.

    s u f f e r i n g . At least they saw some sort of good times for a while it seems but.... well, this world sucks for them.

    All in all, a good effort by Cabot's team to get Pleo in a better mood and to have him be better prepared to be a hero of his own, I think. Though I don't think it's... even starting to sink in yet. They'd have to find something more interesting for him...

    Ladies and gentlemen: children alright.

    After all that (and Pleo scoring what might become an important hit later for his rescue) it is time to go nap~

    Granted, now I want artwork of Pleo napping in a bed.

    It is nice to see Cabot trying to connect more, but besides their opposite roles and factions in the story I feel like this is about to bite him back another way, because Pleo is, well, still a child:

    He knows your name now, Cabot. There is no escape to nursery work now, Cabot. I mean, honestly, we all knew this was going to happen, for good or bad Cabot is the emotional weak link of his team, curiously enough. But hey if this gets you spared from a violent Lugia's rampage later...

    And now that Cabot has earned a noticeable amount of trust from Pleo, the birb, not really knowing how the world even works, was expected to make a bold move one or two scenes too early. Let's see how it plays out:

    Yeah, you now get yourself out of that one Cabot (I was laughing out hard at his mental prospect that Pleo would produce another letter to send. You should totally have gone with that one)

    Fellow FFX player spotted!

    It was nice to end a scene there and well writing this review is taking longer than I expected, so I'm gonna post this half first before I continue with the other one. Like you know, the latter. Of the two. Because they're halves. Anyway. Besides Virgil tells me that reviewing 59 will be even longer so I really need to measure my times now that I am juggling a bit more on my plate. But so far, it's always nice to see Pleo trying to do stuff.

    Fare well in the meantime and seriously consider gaiden stories~
    Virgil134 likes this.
  12. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    (Episode 4)

    And now we have Sudden Turbulence, the first chapter of episode 4. Overall, I think this chapter started off simply enough in introducing what I think is going to be the looking conflicts of this segment—that is, the introduction of Apricorns proper, more of the Marked, and Pleo. The first one was interesting—I did have some burning questions about how they worked, since pretty much every canon and every fic interprets them differently. It seems that this time around, it stores Pokémon who, upon sealing, cannot escape from the inside, and still can starve from within regardless. A bit divergent from a number of different canons, but hey, at least it’s established. I don’t really mind as long as it’s consistent~

    One thing that was a bit odd about this chapter in particular was the confrontation between the Marked. It seemed like a bit of a Conflict Ball again, but this time for reasons that I’m struggling to justify in my head. So, yes. The Marked are terrified of Pleo, who is a baby, and also they know they can probably defend themselves against since he has been demonstrably next-to-useless in battle. The most they have to fear is his clout, which I can understand.

    Buuuut… with that in mind, Nida and the gang kinda know this. And they knew, going in, how dangerous it was going to be. So why exactly did they not open with “Hey, here’s the picture!” or started shouting it or something along those lines to diffuse the confrontation, rather than let Pleo go on for as long as he did? My annoyance redoubled when that actually did happen and it almost instantly diffused the conversation. I basically thought to myself, “Well, why didn’t you just do that in the first place, if you were being so cautious!?”

    But eh, it was a small thing. Despite that issue, I did like the interaction. Pleo’s getting some doubts about himself, and more importantly, it seems like the Marked might have a grain of truth. I knew there would be something in there about the old Legends being a problem, and not just some destructive star in the sky alone. Perhaps they interacted in some way, perhaps the star corrupted the Legends? That’s just a wild guess and theory on my part.

    The next chapter, Under Wraps, was a little less notable in terms of how much I have to say, except the confrontation between Lyn and the folks by the harbor. We have a good semi-chase scene where Pleo is abducted, and in general I found that whole exchange to make sense and be realistic with the liberty of how they were able to get to the dojo in the first place without being spotted. They could have easily just acted natural. I didn’t have much more to say other than how well they were able to execute their plan despite the nerves and novelty of the situation.

    I was actually slightly disappointed that Lyn was showing some kind of fear toward Hatteras when he was sparking. He had been depicted as perhaps the first real antagonist—that wasn’t just a joke like Hess was—and he’s already showing his limits, at least somewhat. He seems surprisingly less intimidating now compared to his first impression where he was slashing through the dolls just because of how he had hesitated. Wondering if that was to hint at him just being another pawn at play, no matter how big he talks.

    Force Majeure was an interesting clash of reversals, and overall I thought that it was a well-done sequence of mass combat, though there were a few times—particularly near the beginning and the end—where I wasn’t completely sure how far everybody was in terms of choreography. The extent of Nida’s spikes as projectiles and how far they could go is one thing that threw me off specifically. I think overall, though, the foreshadowing of Lyn being at a disadvantage against Hatteras paid off here when he was overwhelmed by him and our skilled Sceptile…

    …Until the diablos ex machina happened, Blast Seed cannons used to rapidly and decisively put an end to the strikes—so rapidly, in fact, that even the narration commented on it. I feel like the suddenness came off as a bit clumsy and frustrating, especially after the narrative had foreshadowed otherwise. Reversals like these are hard to justify, especially after they were so battered and disorganized, and especially because, prior, Lyn had aimed to do this covertly, implying that it wasn’t going to be a very easy thing to play off otherwise. Shouldn’t he have had those Blast cannons at the ready from the get-go rather than this whole song and dance?

    But I think the biggest disappointment of the reversal was the missed potential that was even alluded to in the very next chapter. So, Hatteras was planning on finding ways to burn the sails, or other ways to make it difficult for the ship to get away with Pleo. Whyyyy didn’t they do that during the middle of the fray? The fliers could have cut the sails, for example, or pretty much any of the water pokemon could have messed with the hulls. I imagine it’s not all that hard to fiddle with something like that. But the one that really hits it home for me is what I thought would have been very clever foreshadowing if it had been executed, or at least attempted—Elty was literally a fire starter. Sure, a bad one, but I don’t think there was a single mention of Elty even thinking to try to take down the ship’s sails or put the crew in chaos the way he used to.

    The battle was on the ship and it somehow came out intact, despite that being their clear and only way off the island. It just seemed… odd, and the lack of acknowledging these things in-universe is probably what bothered me the most.

    Thankfully, I have less bad to say about Hope against Hope. Using the Duran Berries as a disguise to go through the cargo, followed by sneaking aboard and getting ‘stranded’ with Crom getting caught, but not the smaller pair of Team Traveler, was a very clever way to get things rolling while splitting the party. Their excessive cruelty against Crom also solidified The Company as, at least for now, the primary antagonists of the story, with Lyn being the first major player, despite his earlier depiction of being weaker than implied. And despite my misgivings about how it went about and the head scratching why-didn’ts I have, this episode is the biggest page-turner I’ve read of the work so far. And for that, I’ll say good job.

    Also, as an aside, you might be laying on the ironic narrative a bit too thick.

    I mean, come on. I know it, you know it, we all know that this isn’t really going to be so easy. This isn’t the only instance where it happens, but it’s definitely the most egregious. Just a sentence would’ve been fine, and even then, it’s so on-the-nose!

    Hide and Seek, followed by Flight Risks, was a nice stealth mission! I thought that the way it went was pretty well, starting off with stealth for a surprising amount of the sequence. I was a little surprised at how effective they were at being, well, stealthy. It seems that in general a bit of stealth from the kids and some general incompetence and boredom of the night shift, followed by drunk scuffles and a bit of luck, let them rescue Pleo nice and easy! …Until they got spotted and Pleo messed things up with getting his lucky charm back. But hey, they would have just run into trouble at the top of the deck anyway.

    One quick thing, though, is a bit of an issue that I had which I know I may have brought up before, but I need to bring it up again. Two things, actually. And then I’ll try to stop bringing it up for the rest of this work—for all I know, you don’t even do this anymore, or you’re at least taking more care of how you use it. The first thing is the epithets. They’re getting very distracting. “The blue and brown dog” made me think for a little while about what you were referring to before I realized it was the Herdier, and I don’t think I should be stumbling over descriptions like that when it was meant to just be a substitute for what they looked like, especially when they’re mouthfuls compared to just saying “the Herdier.”

    Second one is the dialogue tags. Now, I’ve already had a talk with Virgil about this, and I understand that to an extent this is a stylistic choice, but this time I come armed with a concrete example of why it isn’t always a good idea to “spice up” your tags with words that aren’t “said” just to avoid using something considered to be ‘bland’ verbage. So, I’m just doing a quick control-find. Across Flight Risks and Hide and Seek, you used “said” 11 times… and “cried” 29 times. More than twice the amount of ‘said,’ which is supposed to be the neutral tag meant for the reader to subconsciously fill in the tone of the words from what was said and the context of the scene alone. Don’t you suppose that dilutes the actual power behind the term “cried” when it’s actually used?

    Here’s a specific example where “cried” was used inappropriately, and then another example where, due to its overuse, its meaning became lost because of how often it had been used.

    So, this was a big issue during this supposed “stealth mission in the dead of night,” where they kept “crying” out and “barking” and “squawking” at each other. All three of those verbs are not what I would attribute to the quiet hiss, whimper, whisper, or murmur that would be expected when trying to be stealthy and soundless—something that the characters themselves comment on constantly.

    And here’s where cried was used appropriately, and yet when I first got to this part, “cried” had been so overused by now, along with all of the many other synonyms for “said” or some other dialogue attribution like an interrupting action, etc., that it actually was filtered out. Ironically, by using so many spicy words, they became your “said,” and the numbers in terms of usage back it up. The power is gone.

    And that is what I mean when I talk about overusing “said” synonyms just for the sake of cycling through the thesaurus.

    Alright, alright, final rant of the review over. I want to end on a high note, and let me first reiterate that, overall, this was not only your strongest episode so far, but also one of the biggest page-turners I’ve read in general in a long while. Pleo’s kidnapping, the fight to recover him, the failure to do so, and then the battle to rescue him in stealth while right at the heart of the enemy’s ship? Overall a thrilling and tense sequence of events. But what I actually loved the most about this—and perhaps only because I’m a sucker for this trope—is Crom’s “power of prayer.”

    Now, it could have been foreshadowing for later, suggesting that Pleo’s power comes in part from the hopes and dreams of those he’s meant to protect. But that doesn’t really matter here. Within the context of a blind reader such as myself, the cutaway to Crom back on the island was slightly unnecessary at first. It felt like I was taken away from the action when it mattered most, but then once the shrine and the prayers were mentioned, a little light went off in my head.

    I literally mumbled to myself, “No way…!” while the chapter continued. Everyone’s hopes and dreams and prayers and faith channeling into the shrine, and then finally Crom’s hopes into Pleo’s feather, resulting in a vaguely-possible sensation over to Pleo that he was being reminded of everyone at home, and all of those who are counting on his return? Resulting in an outburst that not only cripples the Company’s ship, but also allows them to just barely escape?

    The highlight of the entire work (up to this point) was that moment when Pleo actually stood up to Lyn, denied his “new life” speech, and then lashed out against the entirety of the crew. Yes, there were a few clumsy parts that I had pointed out above, and yeah, the synonyms were a bit distracting—but ultimately, what I’m here for is a story, and I can overlook a few stumbling blocks if the rest of it is getting me to continue forward. And this episode delivered.
  13. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    (Episode 5)

    Out of the Frying Pan is a pretty interesting chapter, though I will at least say the title is half-appropriate. Looking ahead at the next chapter title, though, I don’t really know if I can consider them “into the fire” compared to what they were in before. The interlude with Lyn was interesting, and you were quick to quash any thoughts that Lyn and the crew had become stranded at sea with their missing sails and crippled boat.

    But the main attraction for this chapter—ignoring the new wave of expositional language—is the moment where Nida, Pleo, and Elty were in the Dungeon pocket. That is, the whole “danger” bit that took place during this part of the chapter, especially after the madness that happened at the end of the last episode. The whole deal about hurrying for the Dungeon Winds catching up to them fell a bit flat for me, especially since the mechanics behind those were more or less already established, so the need for exposition wasn’t there, either. I would have liked more focus on their quiet time in the stable zone, for sure, but that might just be my bias toward those quiet moments where they could have had a chat more or some character development.

    Getting rescued was nice, and they seem friendly enough (at least relative to the Company) so now I’m curious how their repayment will go. If I had to take a random guess, I’d say they’d have to do what Elty had to do, and do a bit of community service.

    Next we’ve got Unfamiliar Territory and Clouds on the Horizon, both of which pretty much disprove my immediate speculation about community service, mostly. Instead they just take up some Guild work! More or less the same thing since temp work sucks. Overall, this was a much more benign set of circumstances to start off than I had anticipated. The breather was certainly nice (despite the foreboding air of the final bit of the latter chapter) but taking its place was a bit of world building! I think the highlight of these two chapters is the formal introduction of the Imperials, an opposing force to the Company given a name. And they landed right in neutral territory, which makes things a bit chaotic under the hood for Team Traveler.

    I did find the two Company folks a bit of an odd coincidence, though. Not a day has passed and by sheer slacking off, they happened upon Pleo in the middle of town? It also struck me as surprising that this all took place over the course of essentially a day—torn sails, an incoming storm, and they still arrived at their destination so soon! I think I overestimated just how large this Cradle really is, because between the quick sea travel, the random run-in with Company ilk, and so on, I’m starting to wonder if the entirety of the Cradle even has different time zones. Sorta feels like Wind Waker in that sense, with tiny islands spanned by a big ocean, though not too big, when you think about it.

    Anyway, looks like that last part of the chapter suggests that their breather won’t be lasting very long. Oh, and I found it a bit funny that the idea of colorblindness was brought up again. It was a clever take on things, and I’m wondering if that’s going to have some plot relevance later given how much time was dedicated to… well, that whole exchange. Gotta be. My guess is it’ll have to do with similarly patterned but differently colored scarves or something.

    I do find it a little odd that purplish is foreign to them, though, at least from a narrative standpoint. Not really a real gripe, just that the scarves of the Company involve purple, so it was a bit jarring to realize that the characters I’d been following don’t… see purple? Or, well—bah, I’m not sure what specific colorblind they are, but you’re suggesting red-green blind based on “leaves” and “apples,” at least in this case. It’s whatever, I’m just trying to get straight in my head what’s what for color perception.

    More relative cooldowns in the next two chapters, and even a bit of perking up by the folks back home! Still, we have more of Lyn in the background, but in general things are going at what I’d consider to be a very leisurely pace. Not that I dislike it, though. You linger and dabble at describing the settings of rooms that are largely only used for a little while, though, and a lot of those details aren’t really going to be retained for long before I find everyone heading to the next scene.

    Anyway, for these two chapters, most of it I liked and generally followed along fine. One thing that got a genuine smile out of me was the folks back home getting that letter, though I was a bit surprised at how quickly it got there—but, again, up above I just talked about how surprisingly small the Cradle felt despite the wide ocean.

    Another moment that got a smile out of me was when Pleo and Daraen would wind up being teamed together for their little game. Yeah, I knew how it was going to end (saw it a mile away) but it was still a nice set of circumstances for the moment. I was a little apprehensive about the setup, though. I was worried that this was going to be a repeat of Ander’s scene… and, er, it kinda was, almost the same tropes and exchanges, in fact. All the way down to Pleo crying out, suddenly silencing the group of Marked, and then diffusing the confrontation. I will give you credit in one spot, though—this time, the transition to Pleo actually bleating out his innermost desire was well-timed and made more sense! So that’s good.

    Now, one thing I liked, yet am still uncertain of in terms of what it actually means, is the additional lore provided by these Marked. For one, I’m wondering if Ander knew this—and, more importantly, why even if it’s not taken seriously, why nobody seemed to be aware of it, even in passing. It seemed like a pretty huge teaching to have not known at all, you know? Or if Ander doesn’t know, it makes me wonder just how isolated these islands really are from one another, despite the letter system and ships and so on.

    The other thing that makes me uncertain is what the actual lore entails. Arceus is the archdemon from some realm of reality-in-between, who created the myths in order to indoctrinate the world to worship him. All of the many crises that had happened with the Legends of old—which I’m almost positive is a reference to the mainline games—were past attempts at destroying humanity, rather than the actual truth that the games suggested, where it was some folly of mankind doing that to themselves.

    The reason I’m uncertain about what this lore means is, well… simply whether any of that is true or not, from a meta standpoint! I’ve been around the fanfiction block long enough to see that literally all the options—that the Marked are wrong and the games were canon, or that the Marked were right and this is alternative canon, and everything in between—are on the table still. So that has my eyes peeled for more info, because right now, nobody is reliable.

    Unfortunately, I think one of the weakest part of the narrative in this episode is what follows, and what I had been expecting. The whole Pleo versus Marked situation so far has been ham-fisted conflict balls between the two parties. And I really hope you build upon a very, very clear fault in both sides’ treatment of one another—the hypocrisy that could very well be plaguing both sides, though the Marked particularly.

    So, the Marked are outcast because of some old perceived sins that had—

    Wait hang on. I just realized something. Why would a presumably benevolent god like Arceus do something like mark those who had wronged him, and their descendants? Either he’s very traditional, or perhaps he’s not so benevolent after all… or, alternatively, the star of destruction is actually what had caused the Marks to happen. But anyway, crapshoot tangent theory aside, back to my point.

    So, the Marked have to bear the sins of their ancestors, at least from the perspective of those who are not Marked. Yet, they themselves didn’t really do anything wrong. And yet, despite the fact that they clearly don’t like being so mistreated, they’re doing the exact same thing to Pleo! He has shown zero signs of becoming something evil, and at first I thought it was because they expected him to be latently evil… but no! Pleo announcing that he wants to be a good guy was enough to sway their opinions! So basically, the Marked are showing the same discriminatory treatment that the others have shown toward them—sins of the ancestors weighing upon the child, when perhaps he is trying to divorce himself of those old ties!

    Yeah, I definitely hope you capitalize on this later, for both sides. Because it’s so glaringly obvious right now.

    And then, the final chapter! And it… huh. I didn’t expect the Marked to warm up to Pleo so quickly, actually. His words and genuine aura must have been a lot more convincing than I anticipated! Uh—okay, well, regardless of that, Maranda is probably my personal favorite new character of this arc, if only because she was able to keep a cool head against Lyn and (once again) make him hesitate. You know, I know that his original moment of seeming out of character against the others and hesitating was odd, but here it is again! Sure, there is a lot of politics involved in the reason, but for some reason it all tied together here. So I’m not really sure what to make of that old scene all over again!

    But off they go, before we even had the chance to get to know most of them. Ah, well. Now they’re heading straight into enemy territory, quite literally hiding right under their noses. Hopefully their sense of smell isn’t the best. The choreography of the escape flight was quite good and easy to follow despite the fast-paced nature of it, and I’m starting to get a better grasp of the bias toward defense than offense in terms of power mechanics, too.

    In terms of what I’m looking forward to—or at least, what I’m hoping to see more of—is Ander. He has a unique perspective in all this, and I’m wondering if he has more pieces to the legends about Pleo’s presumed ancestors. More important, I’m wondering if what Margi said holds some extra weight. I hadn’t quite considered it before, but what if other Protectors aren’t like Pleo? Older and taken by the Company, perhaps, corrupted as the Marked had feared. Or the Imperials; let’s not forget them. Do I smell a bit of nature-nurture, ancestor-descendant duality going on as an intentional theme here? Boy, I hope so. Here’s hoping you tackle it thoroughly.

    Oh, and as an aside—that special episode was cute! I even got a bit of bonus world building out of it, though obviously I don’t have very much to note about it beyond that. A low-stakes story that was a bit on the fun side. That being said, I do have a few minor remarks that I might have missed in the main narrative…

    Is this… what I think it is?

    Either he’s made of very light steel or Surf gives natural buoyancy. I know it’s technically canon but man this is hilarious to think about.

    Anyway, overall not bad of an episode! There weren’t any particularly high or low points overall (aside from the highlights I mentioned above) but I like the balance going on. Maybe the breather was warranted. Time to see what awaits them right at the heart of enemy territory.
  14. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter


    For the ice attacks, I’m gonna call a mix of there being enough ice being formed to outpace how quickly it’d melt plus the ambient temperature still being relatively cool enough to not burn up everybody within a couple minutes, much like using an Ice-Type attack in a desert.

    As for the niche moves, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed them, since it’s fun to take a stab at subtleties and intricacies of moves that are very ‘gamey’ and try to make them fit into a world that feels like it’s living and breathing.

    Hrm, that’s unfortunate to hear that the prose got a bit purple. I hope that in spite of that everything was still a fun ride.

    Their issue isn’t so much that they’re not mobile (they’re actually very much so as spies) as that they’re playing on inherently unpredictable grounds. When you know the lay of the land, you can know every nook and cranny that you can turn to your advantage. In the context of a Mystery Dungeon, that advantage goes to whoever can get there first and has a good deal of luck, which isn’t always the strongest or most experienced team.

    Would you believe that it was completely unplanned and I didn’t notice until after the fact? o3o;;

    @Venia Silente:
    I'll admit that I did watch Zootopia at around the time I was laying out that episode, though the similarities were more a happy coincidence than by design. As for the Zoroark illusions, I would suspect that making out the true perception varies on a case by case basis. An illusionist who makes an oversight such as getting their UV or infrared lighting wrong will obviously fail to deceive a Pokémon that can see their mistakes, which I imagine wouldn’t be that uncommon a mistake among a species of overgrown foxes. Beyond that, someone who knows what’s really supposed to be around them will know enough to bypass the con no matter how convincing the rusefox’s efforts were.

    Hrm, it’s a little unfortunate that things fell flat there, though Cardino was intended to be a little out of his depth for the encounter. I don’t think that he was assigned to his current case with the expectation that he’d actually get to the bottom of it.

    Well, on most islands at least. But that’ll be something to be delved into later in the story.

    All shall be revealed in due time. And while the idea of the gaiden story sounds neat, I think for the sake of curbing schedule bloat, it’ll have to be one of those things to be visited well down the road if it happens.

    Thanks for the review! And I always find your Abridged scene recaps to be hilarious reads.

    All things considered, the chapters in Episode 3 are fairly short. You’re about 3 episodes out from when they really start to get long.

    I’m a little dissapointed to hear that things fell flat there, though I did think that it was fitting as a PMD-esque story that the titular gang ought to go through one relatively normal cycle. That would be the one that you were reading through.

    As for Elty’s ineffectiveness, the average ‘mon in his line of work isn’t actually all that competent, which is why there’s usually high turnover and the ones that stick around sometimes have some degree of luck helping them. In Elty’s case, he was long on luck and short on actual Exp gain, or at least up until now.

    Hrm, well it’s unfortunate to hear that the episode was a bit of a slog, though hopefully you won’t find too many more moments in the story like that. Most episodes after that one are decidedly not breathers and usually have some manner of crucial undergirding conflict.

    Well, it wouldn’t be the first thing that I’d diverged from the norm in this fic, though glad to hear it made a nice first impression.

    All in due time, though I will say that while the Marked aren’t fully right, there’s a good deal that they’re closer to the mark on than their more normal counterparts.

    I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like how that scene went down. Unfortunately this is one of those parts of the story that is probably best left alone with warts and all to learn from since re-engineering the scene without causing a ton of continuity errors is a daunting task to say the least. I did go back and adjust Lyn’s reaction to Hatteras slightly, since you raised a decent point about him coming off too much as being intimidated.

    Your reading is very much on the right track, and it’s an animating force for Legendaries in general in Fledglings, even if it doesn’t manifest in the same way as it does for Pleo from Protector to Protector. There will come a point where things will be revealed as to why that is, though I’m still trying to figure out how to stick the landing on that one.

    I mean, it would be pretty boring if Lyn’s role in the story just ended right then and there. Though it’s unfortunate to hear that the Dungeon moment didn’t play out as intended, since it was intended to be more dumping the team haggard and without much in the way of resources into a bad situation with things getting worse in short order.

    The incidents the Marked refer to are indeed nods to the mainline games, as for the teachings, Ander’s more aware of it than he initially came off to you, but that won’t be relevant for quite a while.

    Things aren’t quite as simple as it being an “inherited sin”, though admittedly I’ve only gotten in faint rumblings so far of the true nature of the Marks into the narrative so far. As for their less-than-friendly treatment, that’s the result of the Marked having to process the idea that these new Pokémon that are smaller versions of the ones they see as the cause of their predicament are not the same and don’t deserve guilt by association. Even in more mundane circumstances, it’d be a tall ask, as most people simply aren’t big enough to forgive being severely wronged, or at least not in every circumstance.

    I think it’s probably differences in circumstances. Even the most hardened and unflappable operative will think twice for a moment when mission failure is on the line. For all the catharsis that smashing up Boisocéan would’ve brought Lyn, it really was a do or die moment for keeping pace with Pleo.

    Yes, yes it is.

    I think I’m going to plant myself on the side of #TeamBouyancy for this one.

    Well, I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed things, and will be looking forward to what you have to say as you get further along through the story.

    As you’ve all probably gathered from the long wait for this chapter, writing in the middle of a move is one of those exercises that’s best left as a hypothetical if at all possible. Nevertheless, I’ve gotten things together enough for me to be satisfied with the end product for this chapter and am ready to round out the current arc. The next arc will be slated to kick off towards the end of May, since my move is still not completed, and I generally need a little extra time when transitioning between episodes in Fledglings. Special thanks for this chapter goes to Virgil134, CorvusAtrox, and sugoitsu from ff.net, along with a special thanks to the readers and reviewers who have stuck with this fic through its ups and downs all these years and the folks who helped give Fledglings another good year at the Fanfiction Awards.

    And with that, let’s close out Team Traveller’s time in Buyeom with...
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
  15. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter


    Team Traveller and their companions dashed amid Magmapool's narrow streets, winding around one corner after the other. In their haste, they brushed past bystanders with yelps and shouts as sharp cries rang out from behind. A quick look over Pleo's shoulder revealed their source to be none other than the guards who had given them chase earlier, except there were now many more than the Escavalier that had started everything. The Lugia turned to his Swellow mentor, giving a panicked squawk as a gout of fire zipped overhead.

    "H-How much further is it?!" he cried.

    "The gate's just up ahead!" Kiran insisted. "If we can get in before the other guards catch up then-!"

    Kiran looked down the hill towards the gate in the stone walls, where much to his horror the clear path to it vanished before his eyes as Pokémon in indigo scarves suddenly swarmed it and took defensive positions.

    "Agh! New plan!" Nida yelped. "We find some other way over those walls!"

    "With what?!" Elty demanded. "If we can't shake these guys off, how are we supposed to have any hope of making it back to the docks?!"

    The Growlithe's question was cut off by a Flamethrower suddenly flying by, prompting the lot to dive out of the way as it carried on and set a nearby shopfront alight. Percy looked around hastily, where he chanced to notice an alleyway partially blocked by a tall stack of crates.

    "I have an idea!" Percy cried. "Come on, this way!"

    The Gliscor hastily led the group down the alley, where they found the stack of battered and disused crates to be covered with a cloth tarp and slightly ajar from the wall. Team Traveller and their allies hastily ducked into the corner one by one, while Kiran pulled the end of the cloth over to provide cover. The lot quickly hunkered to the ground as the patter of footsteps ran past, holding their breaths as they saw the Escavalier from earlier rush in and look at her surroundings in confusion.

    "Search the buildings around here!" the Bug-Type barked. "They couldn't have gotten far!"

    The guards began to fan out one by one along the alleyway, their voices growing more distant when the loud crack of a wooden door being kicked in suddenly split the air. The cloth shifted as more guards entered the alley to join the search and the sound of another door further down being forced open rang out, along with shouts to check the rooms inside. Team Traveller and their companions lay there panting, trading anxious looks with one another as they realized that their refuge was on borrowed time.

    "Please tell me there's more to your idea than just sitting here and waiting to get caught," Elty whispered to Percy.

    "Of course there is."

    The Gliscor pointed up at a gap between the crates where the sky and nearby rooflines were visible. Further down the hill's slope, Team Traveller could see a larger than normal shop with a black-slated rooftop, with its edge noticeably closer to the wall than the other buildings in the distance.

    "There's enough of us that can fly and carry you for a short distance," the scorpion explained. "If we can just get to that roof without getting spotted, we'll be able to get into the air and over the wall just fine."

    Percy's words were quickly joined by the sound of another door splintering, making the lot flinch and hold their breaths as the din of the searching guards faded away. Calidus ruffled his feathers, giving an uneasy peek off at the alleyway through the gaps in the crates.

    "I'm not liking our odds hanging around this alley..." the Talonflame murmured. "Is there any other way we can get up there without being spotted, Kline?"

    The Zygarde paused, before closing his eye in focus and slipping into a trance-like state. After a moment of unmoving silence, the serpent snapped back to attention, before turning to the gathered Pokémon

    "There's a stairwell to the side of this building we can use to get onto the roof here," Kline piped. "Once we get up there, we just need to make our way over carefully, and we should be in the clear.

    Guardia blanched at the thought of being high up and off the ground again, leaving her to squirm uncomfortably. The lizard raised her head in protest, only to hear guards' voices nearby, leaving her to gulp and shake her head reluctantly.

    "A-Alright…" the Cubone stammered. "Just be careful, okay?"

    The lot pulled the cloth back and quickly darted around the corner, where they came upon a rickety stairwell thrown together with stray timbers. One by one, the lot hurried up it until they reached a third floor, where they inched along an awning and onto a roof that had a clear, bobbing path down the hill to the shop near the wall. Guardia and the others watched as the guards passed below none the wiser and breathed a sigh of relief, stepping forward when a sharp squawk cut through the air.

    "Oi! They're up here!"

    Team Traveller froze and felt their blood chill, looking up to see a Honchkrow followed by a Braviary and Minior approaching from the left. At once, the Escavalier and the guards below looked up, and threw a hail of attacks that forced the group to dash ahead madly for the shop near the wall as one tiled roof after another was torn asunder behind them.

    "Gah! Looks like we should've hurried it up a bit!" Dimitri cried.

    "Forget about that!" Alice shouted. "Everyone just hold on tight to someone who can get off the ground! There's no going back once we leave that rooftop!"

    The gathered Pokémon hastily began latching onto their fliers, Calidus taking up Alice on his back as he grabbed Dimitri's shoulders while Percy did the same with Crom. In their wake, Ander took flight while Nida and Elty jumped onto Pleo's back, Kiran taking the opportunity to throw Guardia onto his, leaving the bone lizard to screw her eyes shut and cling tightly as the edge approached.

    Nida held her breath as Pleo barrelled over the wall amidst barking shouts. The Lugia hastily dove, pulling up in a street where he came to a tumbling stop and his teammates made similarly tumultuous landings, the lot getting back onto their feet with haggard pants as they looked about their surroundings.

    "Stop it right there!"

    A sharp caw pierced the air as the lot looked up to see the Honchkrow, Braviary, and Minior from earlier swooping down at them. The Honchkrow ringleader and Minior rushed in, separating Team Traveller from their accompanying allies as the Braviary tore for Percy. The Gliscor lunged to the side as the Braviary barrelled past, latching onto his right wing with icy fangs. The eagle cried out in pain and gave a forceful jab with his beak back at the scorpion's face, only for Calidus to cut his retaliation short with a burning tackle that struck and sprawled out the Braviary with a feeble groan. The Minior turned away from Team Traveller at the sound of his ally being overpowered, just in time for an Icy Wind from Alice to slick him over with ice and leave him to drop to the ground frozen.

    The Sneasel's moment of satisfaction was abruptly cut short by a piercing shriek ringing out, as a quick glance over revealed that the Honchkrow had pinned Nida to the ground. The Nidoran desperately thrashed and flicked her spikes out, frantically trying to force the bird off of her when Elty somersaulted into the Honchkrow with a Flame Wheel to drive him off. The Dark-Type forced the Puppy Pokémon back with a jabbing thrust of his beak when a cutting gust suddenly swept up the Honchkrow and sent him flying headfirst into an awning. A loud thud rang out as the Honchkrow cawed dazedly, followed by a sharp creaking noise before the awning abruptly collapsed, taking the wall of the wooden shack behind it along to the ground with a loud crash. Elty stood stunned for a moment, looking back to see Kiran drawing his wings back, as an impressed smirk spread over his muzzle.

    "You know, for someone who complains about pirates so much, you're not half bad at raising hell yourself, Kiran!" Elty piped.

    "That's not a compliment!" the Swellow snapped back.

    "I dunno," Alice chuckled. "I personally thought it wasn't half bad-"

    "Down there! That's where they landed!"

    The group looked up to see a Plusle and Minun in indigo at the top of the wall and others like them quickly gathering. A bolt of electricity struck the ground nearby, followed by a rock, and a jet of water, prompting Ander to buzz in alarm and flit back.
    "Argue it out later before they catch up with us!" the Scyther cried.

    Team Traveller and their allies tore along the lane, popping out into a street where they slipped past crowds of passerbys going down one turn after the other. The party continued ahead until they chanced to spot the waterfront and a mob of guards in the distance, prompting them to hastily change course down a side street, Pleo looking back and noticing that much to his surprise the guards were running and shouting… towards a commotion away from them.

    "H-Huh?!" Pleo squawked. "What are those guards-"

    Pleo's train of thought was interrupted by a cry from ahead and him running into Crom's shoulder. There in front of him, his friends tumbled to a stop and backed away from a group knocked groaning onto the ground. As the lot nursed parts of their bodies, they noticed that ahead of them was a startled party consisting of Albert with the Riolu and Eevee from the day before. At once, Crom flashed his claws, shooting a livid glare back at the three ruffians with a fierce roar.


    "Wh-What's going on now-?" Albert stammered, only for the Druddigon to cut him off with an indignant snarl.

    "You set us up to be ambushed by that awful Weavile!"

    "I-It's not what you think, we swear!" Charlie yelped.

    "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't turn you canallas into pincushions for my barbs right now!" Nida seethed.

    Before Albert could answer, a stream of fire summarily flew in and struck the ground in front of them. The gathered Pokémon dove away, watching as a Ninetales followed by a Clefable, a Weezing, and a Torracat in indigo scarves dashed in, beelining for the Nuzleaf and his companions only to look up in confusion at Team Traveller and the others.

    "Dodaeche?!" the Torracat cried. "Those 'mons weren't with you earlier-!"

    Dimitri zipped ahead with a watery tackle, cutting the Fire-Type off with a sharp yelp. At once, the other guards promptly flung forward attacks as the side street dissolved into chaos. Nida bounded ahead, only to stop after hearing Crom yelp and get flung through the air as the Clefable of the lot dashed for him. The Nidoran quickly shot a poisonous needle out of her pelt at the Fairy-Type's heel, prompting the Clefable to stumble and give enough time for Guardia to run into the guard with a swat of her club. The bone lizard watched the Fairy-Type recoil and sprang back with a taunting jeer, only to get seized by her tail as the Clefable yanked her into the air. Seeing a nearby crate, Nida bounded up and leapt at the guard's head, throwing an arm back as she forced poison through its pores and brought it down with a sharp jab against the back of the guard's head. The Clefable cried out while Nida dropped back to her feet, panting as the Fairy-Type staggered and flopped over face-first onto the ground.

    The Nidoran watched as the surroundings turned a hazy white and she felt a strange warmness envelop her body, the shouts and cries around her fading into an indistinct murmur. The Poison-Type stumbled forward in a daze, wondering if the Clefable had done something to her, when she suddenly felt her body get yanked off the ground and the warmth inside her fade as she found herself staring face-to-face with Crom.

    "Nida! Nida!" the Druddigon cried. "Snap out of it, we've won!"

    Nida blinked, looking around to see the other three guards sprawled out on the street as her teammates looked around tensely. At the mouth of a nearby intersection, Ander gave a sharp buzz and motioned impatiently with a scythe.

    "Hurry it up!" the mantis shouted. "The ship's this way!"

    Team Traveller and their allies ran, following Ander's lead with Albert's group quickly joining them, the lot popping out of the side street and onto the main strip beside the harbor. After seeing a large group of guards off to the left distracted with something at sea, the party looked to their right where they spotted the Siglo Swellow's sails poking above the surrounding ships. With their refuge in sight, the lot bolted down the street and past the harbor's lighthouse until they reached the ship's pier. Instinctively, they bounded down the wharf, where at the end Beatrix and Vicente stared down a skeptical party of guards consisting of a female Pyroar, a Medicham, and a Komala.

    "And we're supposed to believe that your ship isn't the one we're looking for why?" the Medicham demanded.

    "Er… because there was more than one crew flying these colors in Tidemill?" Beatrix answered. "I seem to remember there was some confusion regarding a few of our crewmembers and another team that entered into a local tournament."

    The Medicham narrowed his eyes with a sharp frown and folded his arms together, letting out an unimpressed harrumph at the Illumise's answer.

    "Sure there was."

    "Now hold on a minute, Gildong," the Pyroar insisted. "The report did mention about something about different groups having similar colors-"

    "Shut your yap and move it!" a Cubone's voice piped.

    The lioness turned just in time for a whirling bone to strike her in the face, sending her reeling back with a yowl before tripping and pitching off the pier with a splash. The Medicham turned to engage his attackers, only to be struck by Calidus using Brave Bird, sending him stumbling back and tripping over the Komala into the water. Beatrix and Vicente stared stunned, before looking over to see the Talonflame flying in place in front of them, with Ander and Kiran at the head of Team Traveller running along from behind with a small mob of strangers.

    "Beatrix, get us out of here!" the Swellow cried.

    "Now hold on a minute!" Vicente protested. "You can't just drag total strangers on board and expect us to push off without an explan-!"

    The Hitmontop was interrupted mid-sentence by the sound of splashing water along with gagging coughs, prompting him to look down and see that the guards had surfaced above the water, freshly soaked and upset by their sudden trip into the sea.

    "Agh! I got seawater in my eyes!" the Komala yelped.

    "Okay, never mind that," the Pyroar hacked. "This ship's definitely the one!"

    A shout further down the docks prompted Vicente to look off past Team Traveller and their new acquaintances, where he saw the forms of a growing number of guards running towards their pier, leaving him to flush pale and bolt for the gangplank.

    "An explanation that can be given later!" the Hitmontop hastily added. "Captain!"

    "Raise the anchor and lower the sails!" Beatrix buzzed.

    The deckhands wasted no time in lowering the sails and dragging the anchor aboard as Team Traveller and the others ran up the gangplank. A few slicing winds from the air escorts cut the moorings as their counterparts in the water churned up a current drawing the schooner into the middle of the harbor. Team Traveller took their place among the crew, when a hail of beams and projectiles flew from the docks, prompting them to drop against the deck as they sailed overhead.

    "Would it kill anyone for us to leave peacefully for once?!" Guardia cried.

    "Meh, I've seen worse," Elty scoffed. "And besides, it's not like they're going to be able to keep us in range from all the way back there-"

    "A-Aah! They're launching ships after us!" a Dwebble exclaimed.

    The lot looked up in horror to see indigo-sailed ships giving chase from a naval yard at the far end of the harbor. A loud blast rang out as colored blurs zipped through the air, a Bayleef, a Golduck, and a few other unfortunates suddenly being swallowed up in flashes of light that made the crew scatter in a panic. The ship quickly devolved into pandemonium as Beatrix flitted to and fro trying to salvage her subordinates' morale while Team Traveller ducked behind crates and stairwells, peeking over wide-eyed as cold shivers went down their backs.

    "A-Aah! H-How are we supposed to get out of this?!" Nida cried.

    Pleo curled behind a barrel and cringed as shouts and cannonfire rang out around him. Through the din he heard a Qwilfish's voice wonder if this would be their last voyage, then a Sliggoo's despair that his mate and children would be all alone after this, and Natrix and Philips long to go back to peaceful days with normal merchant cargoes. It was the same sorts of voices he'd heard back in the dungeon... the ones he could've helped if only his powers had been there for him...

    No! Even if he could still be defeated when trying to use his powers, they'd never be able to escape if he just cowered here! The Lugia raised his head up and darted over to the railing, summoning every bit of his strength and will to hop onto it amidst the booming of distant cannonfire and hiss of incoming attacks to look out at the chasing ships with newfound determination.

    "Stop firing at us!" he yelled.

    "Pl-Pleo! What are you doing?!" Crom shouted. "Get down from there!"

    Pleo spread his wings out as light sprouted along his wings, the Pokémon on the ship turning and staring awed as the Protector's body glowed and washed the deck in silvery light. Kline poked his head out of Percy's bag, staring quietly as Ander backpedaled with a frightened squeak. The mantis looked out over the deck where he noticed in horror that there in the path of Pleo's wings was Magmapool's harbor, and all the buildings behind it.

    "Wait! Pleo!" the Scyther screamed. "You mustn't-!"

    "Let us go!"

    The Lugia brought his wings together as an overpowering gale shot forward, prompting Ander to flinch and screw his eyes shut. The wind howled and the ship violently lurched forward until all that Ander could sense was the gentle bobbing of the waves and the sound of surprised chatter. The Scyther warily cracked his eyes open, seeing much to his surprise that the harbor was unscathed, with the damage from Pleo's gale clustered around where the Empire's ships had been chasing after them. The proud vessels were now stranded like upended toys among the piers of the naval yard he'd seen earlier, their sails torn to ribbons as a few of their masts visibly listed. The mantis stared at the sight, before approaching Pleo with stammering incredulity.

    "H-Huh?" Ander stammered. "But you- You were-"

    "… I aimed up a bit. I was worried that my power would hurt the Pokémon in the harbor," Pleo murmured. "Did… Did I make a mistake?"

    Kline hopped forward, sizing up the young Lugia with a stern gaze. After a noticeable pause, he shifted his attention off at the damaged ships in the distance, letting his vision linger before turning back to Pleo and closing his eye.

    "… No. You did good."

    Kline hopped off as the rest of the crew helped keep the ship on its course away from Buyeom, while Philips and Natrix hastily went around collecting and splitting the Apricorns on deck to free the trapped Pokémon within. A sense of calm returned over the Pokémon aboard the schooner, as sighs and cheers of relief rose up from around the deck, the white-scarved deckhands gathering around in awe of their silver-feathered deliverer. Off on the side, Albert, Charlie, and Marilyn huddled to themselves, the festive atmosphere passing them over entirely as Marilyn turned her eyes out to sea sadly.

    "David …"

    Charlie quietly stared down at the deck as he folded back his ears. He turned to his Nuzleaf companion, looking up as droplets started welling up at the corners of his eyes

    "Wh-What do we do now, Albert?" he asked. "We can't just leave David behind like that, can we?"

    The Nuzleaf grimaced before hanging his head wordlessly. The Grass-Type stayed there a moment as he saw the young Lugia from before pointing him out to an Illumise before slipping away, leaving him to trudge off to the railing and look down at the water. No matter how he tried, he couldn't find the heart to tell his younger peers that David had most likely met his end all thanks to that double-crossing Weavile and his horrid friends. Albert felt his emotions well up in his throat, when the sound of footsteps and low growling pricked his ears from behind.

    "Hola," a buzzing voice called out. "It's Albert, isn't it?"

    The Nuzleaf turned back just in time to see Charlie and Marilyn bolt beside him wide-eyed, hiding behind his body to the best of their ability. Directly ahead of them was the ship's Illumise captain with none other than Team Traveller and their new companions glaring at them, along with irritated-looking sailors as far as the eye could see.

    "We need to have a talk…" Beatrix hissed.

    At the same time in Tidemill City, the docks in the naval yard hummed with activity as cargo was hoisted aboard a large four-masted ship lined with metal plates and Pokémon in freshly-creased indigo scarves clambered up gangplanks along the side. The deck quickly filled with a motley mix of Pokémon of different shapes and sizes, the bulk appearing confused and unfamiliar with their surroundings as a few more seasoned faces watched from the side, including the forms of a Cranidos, a Ponyta, and a Sandslash looking on and eyeing the crowd of newcomers.

    "Heh, this sure brings back memories," Niilo said. "Makes you think back to when we first joined Captain Nugget's crew, huh?"

    "We sure have come a long way in two years…" Berecien murmured. "If only things weren't as dire as they are right now."

    "Well hey, at least we got a fancy new ship now!" the Sandslash insisted. "I'd like to see the face of any pirate or square-neck who comes across us now!"

    "What do you think of the new recruits though?" Cabot asked. "I didn't think there'd be this many."

    "Well, this ship is a lot bigger than the Vasilek," Berecien replied. "So obviously we need a lot more Pokémon to crew it properly."

    Cabot raised a claw to his mouth, realizing that an ironclad would be a bit of a tall order to keep sailing with just a few extra deckclaws. How Nagant managed to find so many recruits on short notice, he'd never know, let alone ones all so different from each other. There was a purple Oricorio fanning out her feathers near the mast, a Gigalith grumbling about the assignment having too much water, a Scorbunny thumping his feet impatiently against the ground… Why it was like seeing an entire city block here on deck! The Cranidos' attention drifted over to an uneasy-looking Pikachu in a brown hat, along with a Jangmo-o and Sneasel pointing and snickering from behind. The Rock-Type raised a brow curiously, wondering if perhaps the Pikachu was some manner of court attendant, only for a dismissive snort to cut through the air.

    "Not that I'd expect a whole lot from our current crop of press-ganged dranie," Berecien scoffed. "I'm not putting money on them giving up their criminal habits."

    "But not all former criminals are bad, right?" Cabot said. "Just look at Tegu and Melli."

    "They also chose to join the navy and went through Basic Training like the rest of us," the Ponyta retorted. "Why, most of the Pokémon down there look as if they were plucked straight from a jail cell!"

    Cabot tilted his head and mulled quietly how surely Berecien couldn't be right about most of the new recruits being former criminals... only to see the Jangmo-o and the Sneasel pulling their eyelids down behind the Pikachu's back. He noticed on closer examination that the two did seem rather unkept, and that a good number of the other Pokémon in the gathering seemed to carry a vaguely thuggish air about them. The Cranidos fell silent, wondering to himself if perhaps Berecien's comments weren't as far from the mark as he thought, when he chanced to notice a Scraggy, Grotle, and Combusken shifting uncomfortably in a far corner, his jaw dropping as he noticed familiar comet-like blotches on their heads.

    "Wha-?! We fought that Scraggy and his buddies before!"

    Berecien and Niilo gave Cabot confused looks, before turning their gaze over to the three Pokémon. They noticed the Marked trio seemed to be busy talking among themselves and noticeably high strung, casting furtive, anxious glances at their surroundings all the while.

    "Eh? Those three blotch-heads?" Niilo asked.

    "Yeah!" Cabot insisted. "During our first mission! You even evolved while fighting them!"

    "... I did?" the Sandslash murmured, before giving a dismissive swipe of his claws.

    "Meh. They must have been pretty terrible if I can't even remember 'em."

    "But they were the first pirates we fought together as a team!" Cabot cried. "From that awful Shadow Brigade! The crew that attacked my hometown a few days ago!"

    "Hrmph, so you still think that padding the crew with more thieves and scoundrels was a good idea, Cabot?" Berecien snorted.

    The Cranidos caught himself, looking back out at the gathered group of recruits as he hemmed and hawed uneasily.

    "Well… I…"

    "Eh, don't worry about those stupid blotch-heads, Cabot," Niilo piped, as he slung an arm around the Cranidos' shoulder. "They'll probably run off scared once they see the Protector anyway."

    Cabot uneasily looked down at the deck, dragging his left foot back and forth across the timbers. While Niilo had a point that the three couldn't be that threatening... something just didn't sit right with him knowing he'd be working with 'mons that were probably smashing up shops in his hometown just a few days ago.

    "I mean, I guess…" the Cranidos murmured. "But-"

    "Let's just focus on doing our job and getting the Protector back!" the Sandslash insisted. "Why, with the new moves we learned, that Team Traveller won't stand a chance!"

    Cabot shifted his glance over at sea as his mind drifted off to how his next encounter with Team Traveller would be like. He had tried his best to make Pleo feel comfortable around them and felt like he befriended him... so how could he just attack him like none of it ever happened? Was it really okay to force him to go back to Giotto like that?


    Niilo and Cabot looked up in time to see Nagant at the bridge of the ship shooting up a watery pulse that burst in midair. The two hastily shuffled away as Berecien looked up curiously, only to summarily be drenched by falling torrents of water along with much of the gathered recruits.

    "Alright you salty wags, shut your yaps and listen up!" Nagant barked. A chorus of stifled groans and complaints rumbled around the gathering, including from Berecien as he shook off some water with a disgusted stomp of his hooves

    "Blegh," he groaned. "I certainly didn't miss this..."

    "This is your captain speaking, Captain Nagant of the Uragan," the shrimp said.

    "Eh?" a Jangmo-o protested. "But the name on the side says 'Lichtkanone'-"

    "It's the Uragan now!" she hissed.

    The Clawitzer leveled her large claw out and trained it over the gathered Pokémon, the lot falling silent with widened eyes as the shrimp continued on with a sharp hiss.

    "And like with my own name, do be sure to get it right."

    "Tch, with a welcome like that, I'm thinking she doesn't even want us here," a Oricorio harrumphed. "So what's the point of us even being here on this blasted- AAH!"

    The bird summarily dove and hit the deck as a jet of water zipped past her head, leaving the hapless creature to cower against the timbers as Nagant trained a harsh glare at the rest of the group.

    "As I'm sure you're all aware, most of you weren't picked because you were the best, the brightest, or even had a lick of training to work with," the Clawitzer barked. "I needed Pokémon who could shut up and help crew this ship on short notice, and you all fit the bill."

    All through the gathering, none dared challenge the shrimp's unflattering assessment. Further off at the fringes, a few braver voices murmured to themselves in hushed tones, including Niilo who couldn't help but wince at Nagant's brutal honesty.

    "Yeesh, harsh there," he whispered.

    "Two days ago, the newfound Protector of the realm was abducted by a pirate crew from Tromba Island," Nagant continued. "Her Majesty has appointed me and Commodore Valan to take point in searching for potential hideaways they could have taken back to Tromba. We will start by searching near Buyeom Island, while Commodore Valan's fleet will search near Gestirn."

    All around the gathering of recruits, Pokémon whispered uneasily and traded nervous looks at the idea of taking the same mission as a Commodore. If the crown thought things were serious enough to send such a high-ranked 'mon out, just what were they getting into? Before the crew's misgivings could fully flower, the deck thumped with the sound of Nagant batting her firing claw against the railing.

    "The Company and even other pirates are also pursuing after the same Protector," the Water-Type continued. "It should go without saying that if they manage to recover him before us, it will in all likelihood prove to be the end of the Empire and the peace it is able to give to your home islands."

    Cabot gulped at Nagant's words. He had been so sure when they'd pulled into Tidemill that things were finally looking up for the Empire, but now things had managed to get even worse after Pleo left and it came out that Admiral Coil of all 'mons had been undermining them all along. After all their efforts to find Pleo for the Empire, they had ended with the stakes higher and in a poorer position than when they first heard of him! The gravity of the situation seemed to filter down on the rest of the crew as well, as all throughout the ship, there was a deathly silence, broken only by the chittering of its new captain.

    "These are turbulent times, and the sooner we put an end to them, the sooner I can discharge you louts so you can go back to your own sorry lives," she snapped. "Until then, you'll follow my orders, and not impede this mission in any way. If you do..."

    Nagant leveled her claw at a barrel near the railing and fired a watery pulse that knocked it clear into the air with a loud crack. The gathered Pokémon watched wide-eyed as the barrel came apart in mid-air, showering a rain of wooden chunks into the water with a splash, when the sound of irritated mandibles clicking drew their attention back to the ship's captain.

    "I'll throw you overboard myself and let you swim your way back to shore," Nagant hissed. "Are we clear?"

    A chorus of overhasty 'ayes' and nods came up from the gathering, prompting the shrimp to harrumph in satisfaction, and turn back to a waiting Beedrill.

    "Wonderful. Jun, give these greenhorns their assignments," Nagant ordered. "As for the rest of you, get us moving! I wanted this ship out of port five minutes ago!"

    At once, the deck burst into activity, the new recruits hastily darting up to Jun for assignments as the more veteran members of the crew tended to the rigging. From their place on the railing, Cabot and his friends looked at each other, before the Cranidos lowered his head with a sigh..

    "I guess that's our cue..."

    The three shuffled away from the railing and made their way for a rope to tug at it with their fellow sailors, unfurling a great, indigo sail on one of the masts that billowed in the wind and pushed the ship forward along with the help of the Uragan's escorts. All the while, Cabot labored among his fellows, his mind drifting off with the waves as a nagging doubt lingered in his mind…

    Was… he really doing the right thing here?

    Back on the Siglo Swellow, roughly half an hour had passed since Beatrix and her subordinates'... most forceful persuasion convinced Albert, Marilyn, and Charlie to recount their experiences. Much as everyone had suspected, they were con artists, constantly on the move from one island to the next after bilking a pawful of coins from hapless marks.

    During a recent trip to Haipheh Island, they had heard rumors of a Protector stirring somewhere in Anyilla, which after chancing to stumble on an old tome of folklore of the Old Gods in a junk shop and recalling those tales from the street, had planted the seed in David's mind to impersonate a Protector with the rest as his companions. After playing around with a few possibilities, the Ditto settled on impersonating Xerneas, and had apparently played his role convincingly enough for the lot to amass a small fortune. As for why they didn't have a single coin to their name, it had predictably been whiled away in gambling and high living, much to the palpable disgust of the gathered sailors.

    After the locals of Haipheh Island began to ask more questions than they were ready to answer, they set off for less unsettled shores in Buyeom to work their con again. Once they arrived, things had gone well enough for them to take in even the Duke to the point where he granted them a king's lodging… only for Team Sentinel to ambush them as they enjoyed the fruits of their scheme. The spies twisted their arms into aiding them under pain of exposure, forcing Albert to lure Team Traveller to the Mystery Dungeon while David was was tasked to deceive Lyn by impersonating Pleo. The four did their part, when Team Sentinel summarily betrayed them and left them to the guards, which in turn lead to the mad dash out of town that everyone present was all too familiar with.

    "And that about sums it up…" Albert finished.

    "Th-That's awful!" Crom cried. "How could you just go around pretending to be a Protector to trick Pokémon into giving you money?!"

    "Yeah, and the whole 'throw us under the ship to save your hides' moment was a nice touch," Elty growled. "Real classy there."

    "I-It's not like we had any better options there!" Charlie protested. "There's only so many ways 'mons like us can get by!"

    "A-And that Weavile was going to expose us!" Marilyn added. "We wouldn't be here talking with you if we didn't go along!"

    "Hrmph, I'm not exactly moved right now," Guardia spat. "If we were back in my colony, I'd be dragging you off to be judged by the dead myself!"

    The bone lizard's retort drew growls and similarly-unfriendly mutters from the gathered sailors, prompting Albert and his companions to blanch. The Nuzleaf shook his head, before piping back adamantly at the detractors all around them.

    "Look, at least our racket made Pokémon happy," he insisted. "We went in, put on a good show, and then moved along after giving them a pick-me-up! What's wrong with that?"

    "Because all that did was set them up for greater disappointment!" Kline huffed. "After everything that's happened between you and David, are you seriously going to argue that your trickery was worth it?"

    The three con artists cringed and cast heavy glances towards the deck of the wood. Evidently, even with the unpredictability of a life of crime, the loss of David had cut deeply for the trio. From the side, Dimitri shook his head, passing his gaze over to Kline when his mind suddenly turned back to his earlier escape from the Mystery Dungeon.

    "Speaking of tricks…" Dimitri murmured. "Kline, how exactly did you manage to outsmart Team Sentinel?"

    "... I suppose I did promise an explanation," the Zygarde said.

    Kline turned his head towards the main-mast, where a translucent figure against the beam materialized and suddenly filled in with color, revealing the form of a green serpent clinging fast to it. The Pokémon on deck jumped back with a start, Pleo looking wildly at the two serpents before squawking in astonishment.

    "H-Huh?! You just copied yourself!" the Lugia cried.

    "Not quite. What you're seeing at that mast is one of my Cells, which I sent onboard after we met yesterday," Kline explained. "They're extensions of my body, just like how your wing is of yours. I can see and hear through them, but I can also turn them invisible at will."

    "… Is that how you knew so much about us?" Nida asked.

    "That's right. My Cells are scattered across many islands," Kline answered. "Since I can move them around even when I'm not nearby, I use them to gather information about what's happening in the Cradle."

    "And… they also allow you to shapeshift?" Kiran wondered. "When I first saw you in the dungeon, you looked like a dog."

    "When enough of them gather to me, yes. In my current Forme I only have the power to turn invisible, but I can call my Cells to me to assume more powerful Formes in which I can fight," the serpent replied. "The Forme you saw me in earlier was made up of about a tenth of my Cells, while the one that other Pokémon typically expect me to look like is composed of around half of them. It's… not exactly an easy process to disguise, which is why I didn't change Forme on our way back to the ship."

    "Eh? But how was that enough to trick Team Sentinel?" Nida insisted. "Even if it looks a little similar, that Cell still looks clearly different from you!"

    "Even after adding a little splotch of red dye to it?" Kline pressed. "It sure seemed to work well on you and your friends."

    Nida blinked and squinted at the hollow-eyed Cell. It did look flatter than Kline, but the skin and general shape still looked very similar to him… with the right lighting, it really would be easy to mistake the Cell for him if it had the same red markings!

    "So that's how you did it…" the Nidoran murmured. "But… there's still something I don't get about this whole battle…"

    "Huh?" Pleo said. "What is that?"

    "That Weavile... Ketu I think his name was. The way he was talking about Lyn doesn't seem right," the Poison-Type mused. "Isn't he Lyn's First Mate? Why would he want a Ditto to trick him in the first place? I'd figured something was strange about the way he was badmouthing him, but it just doesn't add up for me..."

    "Well, Ketu used to be part of Team Sentinel, but they all still work for Administrator Elilan," Percy replied. "I'm guessing that Lyn and his crew aren't on the same page as him, so Ketu was probably letting his true feelings come through a bit."

    Uneasy murmurs floated among the gathered sailors at the mention of 'Elilan' as the lot wondered aloud what he would have to do with Lyn's pursuit, while Elty visibly tensed up and folded his ears back as if a threatening presence had just approached him. His teammates traded confused stares, with a quick glance at Kiran revealing he was just as out of the loop as they were. The name seemed to mean something to everyone else, so who was...

    "Administrator... Elilan?" Pleo asked.

    "He's a member of the Board, which is a group of five Pokémon that rule the Company," Beatrix chimed in. "Their leader is called the Director and stationed in the Company's capital, while the others are Administrators and rule over the Company's different islands. Darzin for example used to be the Administrator for our island."

    "That's right, Elilan is similarly responsible for running an island called Nagrobek," Kline explained. "I admittedly haven't seen much of that island lately, but I'm sure Eltenios could fill in the blanks. Given his speech, I'd assume he was born there."

    The Zygarde turned on his tail and stared expectantly at Elty, waiting on him to continue. Much to his surprise, the Growlithe flinched, backpedaling with a low whine much as if he'd been confronted by bared fangs from an angry Tyranitar.

    "I… I... don't want to talk about this."

    Kline tilted his head and narrowed his eye at Elty's surprising reluctance to speak up. Surely he of all Pokémon would have an opinion of how his home island was being run. The Dragon-Type shook his head, opting not to press the matter as he turned away with a huff.

    "Hmph, suit yourself. I suppose I'll just go with what I do know then," the Zygarde said. "It's the site of a large prison complex Elilan runs for the Company where half of me is being held captive, the 'friend' I had been telling you about earlier. As Pierce explained, Team Sentinel are his agents and they have been hunting me for years to try and finish things off."

    Elty blanched at the Zygarde's words as Kiran recoiled with a startled squawk, staring wide-eyed down at the petite Legendary before beating his wings and frantically pressing for more information.

    "So this Administrator has some room or something that's filled with your Cells?!" Kiran exclaimed. "If so, why did you just give him yet another one?"

    "It's not like that. My other half, Micky, looks like me but has a set of blue markings," Kline replied. "We both share the same abilities, call on the same Cells, assume the same Formes… Everything that I am able to do, he can as well."

    The crew broke out in horrified gasps at Kline's answer. All this time, the Company already had a Protector they were bossing around?!

    "H-He has control over a second Zygarde?!" Ander stammered, beating his wings out of alarm from the rear of Team Traveller.

    "No, not a second Zygarde. We're both Zygarde," Kline corrected sternly. "Two complementing halves of the same being."

    "... But if each of you can assume tough forms on your own, why does Elilan need both of you, then?" Dimitri asked warily.

    "Because it's possible for me and Micky to fuse alongside all my Cells into a Forme powerful enough to overwhelm most other Protectors," Kline answered, giving a shake of his head. "Elilan knows that and wants to use that power to become Director and finish off the Empire. Considering how he's still keeping Team Sentinel searching for me after all this time, I can't imagine he'd just accept coming up short again after things got so close for the first time in years."

    Ander buzzed with a frightened start, as a stunned silence fell over the crew. Crom fumbled with his words, before spluttering out a nervous reply to the serpent.

    "But- But then why haven't we heard anything of it?" Crom asked. "You said that you've been chased around for years, but we're only finding out about this now!"

    "Because, the Company won't do anything as long as they don't also capture me."

    "That's nonsense! The Company has a Pokémon that can tear the earth to shreds!" Ander yelled. "Why wouldn't they try to force him to go along with their war with the Empire?"

    "For one, Elilan and his underlings haven't figured out a way to do that… or at least I hope that's still the case," Kline said. "But even if they had, aside from them, there's only one other Pokémon in the Company aware of me: Director Inler."

    Pleo blinked and tilted his head puzzledly. Wasn't it mentioned earlier that the Director was the leader of the Company? If Inler was the Director and he knew they had Micky all along, why wasn't he making a big deal out of it?

    "I… don't understand. Why would he and Elilan not want to share that with their friends?" the Lugia asked. "After Nagant brought me to Tidemill, they threw a big party and everything!"

    "Because the Company doesn't want to risk their enemies discovering that they can get a Protector of their own that's just as powerful as the one they have," the Zygarde answered. "The moment Micky is discovered for whatever reason, the Empire, if not all the Cradle will also be looking for me."

    "Then why did Team Sentinel work against Lyn as well?" Guardia protested. "Percy said he wasn't on the same page as Elilan, but Lyn's just as much a part of the Company as he is, so why wouldn't they be working together?"

    "I would imagine good old-fashioned internal politics would help explain things there," Calidus mused. "Elilan is looking for any advantage he can get before attempting his takeover, and whoever brings in Pleo would be on the shortlist to become a new Administrator."

    "… Is that why Ketu is Lyn's first mate? To sabotage him?" Nida asked. "But if Inler is calling the shots and wanted Lyn to search for him, why wouldn't he also choose his first mate?"

    "Well, last I was aware, Company 'mons high enough to boss others around picked their own second-in-commands," the Talonflame replied. "Knowing Elilan, he probably pulled some strings to get Ketu to butter Lyn up with a first impression so he could get close and steal away anything that Lyn tried to bring before the Board. From there, it'd just be a matter of Elilan having Pleo be given over to a loyal 'mon to present to the Board so he can get promoted into their ranks. "

    "Which would be his own right-hand 'mon, something Elilan's pushed the rest of the Board for for some time now," Kline added. "If that happened, he would have decent odds of succeeding with his plot even if he never captured me."

    Kiran frowned and furrowed his brow a briefly. He had heard that Darzin had fallen afoul of the Director after Tromba's revolt, so why was he so much more tolerating of one of his subordinates actively scheming against him?

    "But if this Inler knows about Kline and Elilan trying to stack the Board in his favor, he has to know that Elilan's planning an overthrow," Kiran murmured. "Why wouldn't he be stepping in to stop Elilan openly and just take Micky for himself? Could having others find out really be that dangerous compared to being overthrown?"

    "It makes a bit more sense when you try and see things from his perspective," Calidus began. "After all, Inler wants to keep things under wraps to reduce the odds of anything coming out about the Company's greatest strength, especially when he knows he can't fully trust all of the members of his Board."

    "That's why he also sent Lyn after Pleo," Alice added. "Remember how Kline was saying that the Company didn't want the Empire to know that they had Micky until they also had Kline? If they caught Pleo, they could say they have him right away without having to worry about the Empire finding another Lugia."

    "Essentially, short of announcing to the world that he's looking for either of you two, Inler has two options," Percy said. "He can either stay the course with Lyn and have him search for Pleo again once his 'Lugia' is discovered to be a fake, or he can try and get another 'mon to fill his position to lead the search for you without drawing too much outside attention."

    Elty blinked and lifted a ear puzzledly at the Gliscor's reply. Everything seemed to make some sense from Inler's perspective, but….

    "What about Elilan?" he pressed. "If he's picking a fight with Inler's own chosen lackies, where is he supposed to go from here?"

    "Once he discovers Kline tricked Team Sentinel with one of his Cells, he'll probably just send Ketu or the rest of them back again," Alice answered. "Either after us, or you all depending on what he feels he has the best odds with."

    The Pokémon on the deck once again fell silent at the Sneasel's words. They knew their odds confronting the Company were long, but they never realized things were this precarious. If Elilan managed to take hold of Kline and discovered some way of bending the Zygarde to his will, would it even be possible to beat him? And what would become of their island... let alone the rest of Anyilla...?

    "What are we supposed to do then?" Pleo murmured.

    "Well, Nerea told you to head to Pioppo for a volume of the Knights' Ledger, did she not?" Kline asked. "I'd suggest continuing on with that and preparing to confront the Empire and the Company. From there, it would be a matter of drawing the two together and then forcing them to choose between our freedom or their destruction."

    "Eh? How do you know about that?" Guardia pressed. "Did the others tell you about that yesterday?"

    "I saw you while you were with Nerea," the serpent responded. "And besides, I should hope I'd know about that plan since I was the one who suggested it to her in the first place!"

    Team Traveller blinked in surprise at the Zygarde's reply. Nerea's suggestion back at Braveshoal… was his idea?

    "You… did?" Pleo asked.

    "I mean I remember Nerea mentioning she heard about the Knights' Ledger from another Protector…" Nida said. "But that was you, Kline?"

    "Yes, it was," he answered. "After I was forced to run from Team Sentinel, I used my Cells in the hopes of finding information I could use to take down Elilan and free Micky."

    "When that got us to Pioppo, we found out about the Ledger and tried partnering up with other Protectors," Alice chimed in.

    "Nerea was one of them, but things obviously fell through, as did every other partnership I'd attempted to make," Kline muttered. "The entire reason why I returned to Anyilla was that at first I'd thought that Cernun had finally grown a spine and come out of hiding to help me fight the Company."

    The Zygarde's expression took on a sour tone, as he pivoted on his tail towards Albert and his companions and he narrowed his eye into a harsh glare.

    "Not that those hopes went anywhere, mind you," he growled.

    "Hey! What's that supposed to mean?!" Albert protested. "We've never seen you before-!"

    "Hold on- 'Cernun'?" Ander asked.

    "The real Xerneas," Kline explained. "He's the Protector who has been hiding on Pioppo with a fragment of the Knights' Ledger."


    The deck at once broke into an uproar of competing questions from the gathered Pokémon. Xerneas truly was awakened after all? But then why had they never heard of his presence before? Was he in danger too? Kline hastily piped up, simmering the shouts and chatter down to a low burble as he continued on.

    "Cernun is another Protector I tried to team up with. Since he and the Pokémon with him preferred to stay hidden with their part of the Knights' Ledger, that obviously didn't happen," the Zygarde replied. "It was the first partnership that fell through, and it's something that still bothers me to this day. There were some philosophical differences between us and after they insisted I had to hide with them as well, things… didn't end on the best of terms, to say the least."

    "But things don't have to be that way if we just work together!" Pleo exclaimed. The gathered Pokémon stared surprisedly at the young Lugia as he paced forth, beating his wings for emphasis in front of the green serpent.

    "I get that you had some bad experiences with other Protectors... but I'm not them. I know you were upset I accidently made things harder for you, but I do want to help you," he said. "We already told Nerea we would fight the Company, so of course I'd help you free Micky and take down Elilan!"

    Nida and Crom chimed in with affirming cheers as Elty shrank away quietly. The other members of Team Traveller watched as Kline stood silent and unmoving for a moment, the whole of the Siglo Swellow waiting for his eventual response. After what seemed like an eternity, the serpent looked away, and gave a small shake of his head.

    "Perhaps I'll come to regret this with what happened on Giotto and having to rescue you from Team Sentinel..." Kline murmured. "But at the same time, you have come along further with your powers than I initially thought. You used them quite well when we escaped Magmapool's harbor…"

    The Zygarde let out a small chuckle, looking up at the Lugia with a small smile.

    "With how eager you've been this whole time, I suppose that's my cue to take the help that I can get," he said. "Count me in."

    Team Traveller's faces lit up at once at Kline's reply, prompting Pleo to beat his wings excitedly. After everything that had happened, they'd finally managed to find a helping Protector after all!

    "That's wonderful!" he chirped. "I know that you won't to regret this!"

    "So what do we do now?" Nida asked. "Even with your help, I don't think we're ready to get into another big fight so soon."

    "Well, the Ledger Nerea told you of is still out there, so getting that would be your first step," the serpent said. "On our end, we'll be lying low for a while, and rejoin you after you've found that volume."

    "Huh?! But why aren't you coming with us?" Pleo asked. "We just teamed up and everything!"

    "I can't imagine Cernun or his friends would be happy to see me again after the way we parted last time," the Zygarde replied. "Considering their tendencies, there isn't any possible way that I'd be a benefit to you going there."

    "But if we work together, we'd be more likely to get the Ledger!" Pleo insisted. "And we can clear up whatever it is that you've got going on between you and Cernun, and-"

    "I… don't think that we should push our luck, Pleo," Calidus interrupted. "After what happened last time, if we show up there, you'd be lucky if you just had to leave empty-handed."

    "But isn't Pioppo infested with ghosts that drag away Pokémon?" Nida asked. "Can't you tell us a little more?"

    "... All I can say is, be careful," Kline remarked. "And be aware that not everything is as it seems there."

    "Hrmph, I don't understand why you can't just give a straight answer," Elty grumbled.

    "Because it wouldn't make a difference," the Zygarde answered. "When I went to Pioppo, I spent weeks having my Cells comb the island to try and find out everything I could, and all it did was get me into awkward situations that made things worse."

    "So you might as well try a different tack from us this time around," Percy said. "Besides, it might not make sense to stick too close until we've gotten a bit more prep work done."

    "What… do you mean?" Crom asked.

    "Well, think of it this way," the Gliscor began. "Even if it wasn't for Kline's history on Pioppo, if anyone's been following us from Buyeom, there's no telling what sort of strength they'd throw at us. If we split up, at least they wouldn't be able to get all of us in one fell swoop."

    Team Traveller's members caught themselves at the Gliscor's reply. With three separate crews that they knew of just pursuing them, it was hard to admit that Kline didn't have a point about either of them not needing more things to worry about in their journeys than they already had.

    "I'm sorry if that wasn't what you'd hoped to hear," Kline sighed. "But for now it really is the best way. After you retrieve the Ledger, we can meet in the waters near Tromba and plan out our next move around friendlier territory."

    "… Me parece justo, though what will you do?" Kiran asked. "Haven't you drawn too much attention to yourself back at Buyeom?"

    "Hardly, or at least not anything that a suitable cover can't fix," Alice replied. "And I see three Pokémon who can help us with that right here."

    The Sneasel lifted up her claw and pointed off at Albert and his companions. After a moment looking around, the three noticed that everyone else was staring at them and abruptly went wide-eyed, realizing that the Sneasel was saying her helpers were none other than...

    "Wait, you mean us?!" Charlie yelped.

    "Alice!" Kline snapped. "What is the meaning of this?!"

    "Well, we do need a way to avoid drawing suspicion if you get spotted by accident," the Sneasel said. "And what better way than if we're seen hanging around a bunch of scammers known for faking Legendaries?"

    "… I really don't like where this is going," Marilyn muttered.

    "And why should we play along with this idea?" Albert demanded. "We've got our own problems to sort out here, and having to work for you pro bono doesn't need to be one of them!"

    "Because if we're going off to Pioppo of all places, everyone on this ship is going to need to pitch in. If you're going to insist on staying aboard here, I'll find a use for you on my ship instead of letting you loaf around and eat from my ship's provisions," Beatrix harrumphed. "Last I checked the heads needed a good cleaning this morning and we weren't able to take care of it thanks to fleeing port in a hurry."

    The three con artists blanched, scooting up against the railing. Albert was the first to regain his composure, his startled response quickly giving way to a fiery indignation as he fumed back at the firefly.

    "You're going to press-gang us?! What sort of underhanded pirate crap is that?!" the Nuzleaf protested. "You're supposed to be a merchant crew!"

    "Yes, and you're a bunch of criminals that according to the law, we ought to tie up below deck and hand off to the guards at the next port," Vicente retorted. "So unless you really want to press the point of everyone getting what they deserve, I suggest that you consider your options carefully."

    The trio traded glances between an unimpressed Kline and the Siglo Swellow's glaring crew members. After a moment's hesitation, their glances grudgingly turned back to the Zygarde and his companions as Albert rubbed up uncomfortably against his left shoulder.

    "I… guess we can pitch in with the snake for a while," the Nuzleaf murmured.

    "Blugh, I still don't think this is necessary," Kline insisted. "But I suppose with that out of the way, we should focus on our mission and get-"


    The Zygarde paused at the sound of a squawking cry, prompting him to look over and see Pleo beating his wings. The Lugia fumbled with his words a moment, newly flustered from the sudden attention before he began pawing at the deck with his feet shyly.

    "It's almost time for dinner and we didn't really have proper lunch…" Pleo murmured. "So maybe you guys wanna stay to eat?"

    "That won't be necessary, I've already eaten," Kline answered, only for loud groans from his teammates to swiftly follow.

    "Kline, not all of us eat sunlight, you know!" Alice grumbled.

    "We'd be honored to stay, really," Percy answered. Kline rolled his eye and looked away, begrudgingly speaking up in reply.

    "… If we must..."

    Pleo's demeanor brightened at the Zygarde's reply as sailors began to drift off under the deck eagerly speculating about their coming dinner. After a rumble of their stomachs, his teammates followed suit, with Pleo trailing happily chirping to himself. After a moment's pause, Percy set off, giving a shrugging smile back to Kline as he grudgingly followed along, reasoning that after all they'd been through today surely a little time to rest couldn't hurt...

    (Continued in next post)
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  16. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter


    Out at sea, the Mistral Marauder bobbed wildly amid churning waves and black skies torn by gale winds and peals of thunder. At the bridge, Rodion held onto the railing and trained his eyes off into the distance through a crude scope as Hess wrestled with the tiller, desperately trying to steady the ship in the choppy waters. Rodion looked far and wide, only for the sight of land to prove ever elusive, when a sharp buzz prompted him to look away and over at a soaked and fuming Ledian behind him on the deck.

    "Do you see anything yet?!" Kichiro cried.

    "Nyet!" Rodion shouted. "But we should be getting close!"

    The Sea Weasel Pokémon's answer drew a chorus of dismayed cries in the background, revealing the ragged band that was the ship's crew amidst the Mistral Marauder's ordeal. Their ranks had clearly seen their better days, with the lot sopping and visibly anxious, their time divided equally between fighting to keep the ship afloat and staying upright on their feet. A few of their number had been struggling with the latter half, including Wilhelm who squealed frightenedly as a thunderclap broke from his place firmly tied to the foremast and a sickly-looking Sandile who groaned of a stomachache.

    The only members of the crew who seemed to be in high spirits were the sea escorts, who in the words of a nearby Seadra seemed to find the storm "a whole lot of nothing". The sentiment failed to find traction on the deck as one after the other, the gathered Pokémon spoke up in protest, with a Yanmega cutting above the crowd with a sharp buzz.

    "Hey! Where's that island already?!" Valatos snapped. "We'll get broken apart if we keep this up!"

    "We're working on it!" Hess yelled. "Just do your job and stay out of my scales, alright-?!"

    The ship abruptly lurched and jolted as a loud thump rang out. Kichiro hastily latched onto the railing beside Rodion as the ship's movement sent much of the gathered brigands tumbling to the deck with a yelp and Hess away from the tiller. The Ledian lowered his antennae and frowned a moment, only to notice that the ship was no longer moving. The Bug-Type stared out at the churning sea apprehensively as a flash of lightning lit up the water, revealing that the waves below were moving past the ship in spite of not pushing it forward, prompting him to turn back and pipe up with a buzz.

    "I think we hit something!"

    Rodion hastily leaned over, looking down at the waters where Kichiro pointed. The Floatzel climbed down a line of rope ladder dangling over the edge, where he noticed the hull was still intact, but the waves that broke against its bottom churned up flecks of sand. He hastily clambered back up, proclaiming his diagnosis to the gathered Pokémon.

    "Looks like a sandbar!" Rodion announced. "We'll have to push her free!"

    Hess set his teeth on edge at his first mate's announcement, as he buried his face in a dripping claw with a frustrated groan.

    "Oh drown me… Why does this have to happen now?"

    The escorts began making their way for the starboard side of the ship where it had run aground, as Hess clambered up to the stern and jumped off. The Aggron hit the sea head-first, coming up snorting water out his nostrils as he swam against the waves until he felt his feet brush against the sandbar. Hess staggered, uneasily trudging forward amidst knee-deep water around the rear of the ship for other side of the stern, where he looked up at Rodion who threw down a wooden bucket on a rope that was used to scoop away sand for moments such as these.

    Hess dug a pair of footholds into the sand and pushed against the hull, the air thickening with cries from ahead as the sea escorts tried to wash away enough of the sand to free the ship and tug it free with tow cables. The Aggron paced ahead step by step, digging his feet in periodically to clear away some more sand and make sure he didn't slip amidst the waves battering his armored body. A deafening crack sounded overhead with a flash of light, leaving the Steel-Type to stand stunned a moment. Hess wavered, fishing up his bucket to toss away another clod of sand, when he chanced to look off and see a vaguely bump-like shape lit up in the distance. He paused, watching as another flash of lighting rang out, revealing the contours of rolling hills in the distance, making his eyes light up in realization.

    "Huh? Hold on a minute, that's land!"

    The Aggron suddenly felt the stern slip from his claws, prompting him to pratfall as a wave struck him in the face. Hess got up spluttering and hacking in disgust, rubbing away seawater from his eyes when he noticed his beloved ship had drifted free from the sandbar… and out to sea without him.

    "Hey! Wait for me!"

    The Steel-Type hastily dove into the water, churning up the water around him into a wave that he rode back for his ship's stern. The Surf broke, depositing him a short ways behind as its remains pushed the Mistral Marauder ahead, leaving him to fight with the churning seawater to catch up. The Aggron plowed ahead, occasionally taking a faceful of water from an errant wave before finally reaching a spread of netting lowered over the side where he clambered aboard and shook some water off his body with a grumble as Kichiro neared with an annoyed buzz.

    "Captain, why were you just standing there?!" the Ledian hissed. "We were about to sail off without you!"

    "Because I spotted land!" Hess cried. "Past that sandbar to the south!"

    Hess pointed off the port side of the ship, leaving Rodion to raise a brow skeptically. The Floatzel raised his scope and peered off in his superior's indicated direction, where a peal of thunder broke out, revealing the darkened form of rolling hills and high treetops in the distance that made the crew's members gasp and murmur. Rodion lowered his spyglass stunned, staring off in disbelief before turning back to the rest of the crew.

    "I see it too," the Water-Type said. "From the lack of lights, it must be one of those unsettled islands we were looking for."

    "Uh… isn't that island a little big?" Alvise murmured. "I mean, I saw it all the way from here without a scope, so are we sure that's the right one?"

    "Pah! Of course it is!" Hess insisted. "There's no lights coming from it, so there's no settlement, what else could it be?"

    The crew murmured uneasily at the Aggron's insistence. This patch of sea didn't look all too familiar right now, but there was no way to be certain in this storm. Who was to say that the island wasn't home to one of the settlements they had raided in the past? Or that the Pokémon there had heard about what happened in Tidemill? Why, their choice to sail into this apparent safe harbor could prove to be walking straight into a Pyroar's den!

    "… I'm not buying it," Kichiro grumbled. "Something feels wrong about it. Do we really know what we're sailing into?"

    "Who cares if we don't know what's on it?!" Nori fumed back. "I'd like to not get sunk here!"

    Rodion paused uneasily, before looking up at Hess with a sigh.

    "It's your call, Captain," the Floatzel said. "I'm fairly sure that we should be fine sailing in, but admittedly there's not a lot I can work with in these conditions."

    Hess looked back out at the island, studying it carefully amidst the intermittent light. Now that he saw it more, it did look larger than he'd remembered. The Aggron gulped, as even in the best of times, attempting to occupy a town with a single crew was a recipe for disaster. And even if there wasn't a town, who was to say there wouldn't be some other hazard? Perhaps some manner of dangerous ferals lived there such as another colony of those drowned bone lizards, or they really had sailed the Dead Zone, where Pokémon who visited it were never heard from again, or-


    "Hey, watch where you do that!!" a Seadra's voice cried. "You almost hit me!"

    Hess' train of thought was interrupted by the sickly sounds of wet retching, prompting him to look over and see the Sandile raising her head up from vomiting over the side of the railing. The Aggron grimaced in disgust, before shaking his head with a frown and turning back to the gathered Pokémon with newfound insistence.

    "We don't have many other alternatives right now," the pirate captain grunted. "Let's just hurry up and get out of here!"

    The crew uneasily answered in affirmation, before returning to their posts as Hess made his way back to the tiller, turning the ship through the churning waves for the darkened island off in the distance.

    As the sun slipped further and further over the horizon and the blue skies began to flush a burnt orange, the Siglo Swellow's mess hall burbled with activity as its occupants began to finish up their meals. All around the room, sailors had gathered about crates repurposed as tables, sharing food and drink as their chatter periodically drifted towards a central table. There, Pleo and Kline sat together as surrounding sailors plied them with questions, with Kiran and Dimitri keeping watch. Albert and his companions sat quietly looking on from one corner, with the younger members Team Traveller occupying the other, chattering with Percy and his companions at their shared table.

    "So wait, you guys are a Rescue Team as well then?" Nida asked.

    "That's right. We had to change our official name several times to avoid drawing attention, but I still think of us as Team Zephyr, the name I came up with for our team before all of this," Percy answered. "Originally I started working at a Rescue Guild in Canalhouse City because of my dad. His team used to be kind of a big deal around there."

    "Do you miss your family back home?" Crom added. "I mean... it sounds like you haven't seen them in while."

    Percy fell silent and cast his gaze towards the table for a moment as a pall seemed to settle over his mood. After a moment of unease, he gave a sad sigh, before looking back at the Druddigon with a small smile.

    "Well... yes. It's been one of the hardest parts of staying undetected," the Gliscor said. "But I personally think it's been worth it. It's helped keep Kline out of the Company's claws, and once this is all over, I'm sure I'll be able to see them again and things will go back to normal."

    "If you say so," Crom murmured. "That sounds... rough."

    The Druddigon shifted uncomfortably, as thoughts of his mother and brother at the bakery back home filtered back into his mind. It had only been a little over two weeks, and yet he'd already begun to miss them with everything that had happened. To be separated from them for years like Percy…?

    "It certainly isn't an adventure I ever expected to be part of when Percy first recruited me from that dungeon in Vollezee," Calidus mused. "But, we've grown real close as a team and looking back, I don't have any regrets about joining him."

    Nida blinked and gave a puzzled tilt of her head. Calidus was from a dungeon? But then, did that mean…?

    "Huh? You used to be a feral, Calidus?" Nida asked.

    "Hrmph, that's such a demeaning term. But for lack of a better word, yes," the Talonflame answered. "I was part of a flock that ran its course from the center of Linglan all the way to Orleigh and we were in the middle of our winter migration. Percy impressed me a bit with his fighting skills back in the day and I wanted to learn more about them, it was a bit disorienting at first… but I can't say that I haven't seen new things because of it."

    Guardia gave a pair of light taps with her club against the crate-table, letting out a small chuckle and smile in reply.

    "You and me both... But what is it like constantly moving around like that without hut-dwellers?" the Cubone pressed. "Would you mind sharing a bit of your lore with me?"

    Calidus tilted his head curiously before deciding to humor the bone lizard, beginning to retell his days as a wee Fletchling moving north and south with the seasons as part of a feral flock. As the falcon continued his tale and told about how the flock defended each other and searched for food, Nida moved a paw and poked at her cup of berry juice, turning curiously towards Percy as she wondered to herself how a 'mon from the Company's capital would turn out to be Kline's closest friend.

    "So how was life in Vollezee like anyway, Percy?" Nida said. "I can't think of a single good experience we've had with the Company before, so I can only imagine what it'd be like in their capital city…"

    "It was actually pretty nice. My dad told me that Canalhouse changed quite a bit after the Great Calamity because of all the expansions, but nobody I knew seemed to complain about it," the scorpion answered. "I had heard a lot of the ferals had it rough after the Company emptied out the island's main Mystery Dungeon and turned it into a training facility, but the island still had several smaller Mystery Dungeons, so guild members like me still had plenty of business to go around."

    "Eh? You were never bullied by the guards?" Crom asked. "Or had to give your stuff to them as 'tribute payments'?"

    "I mean, there were taxes, of course…" Percy mulled. "But it never struck me as anything strange, and we always seemed to handle it fine."

    Nida blinked surprisedly at the Gliscor's reply. In all of Tromba, one would be hard-pressed to hear anyone say anything nice about the Company's dealings, and here Percy was making life in the Company's heart sound halfway normal! Could things really be that much better than she expected? Or did Percy just have the fortune to not see the Company's more negative side until fate turned against him?

    "All in all, things were pretty good," Percy continued. "But of course everything changed when Team Sentinel attacked and sent us on the run with Kline..."

    The Gliscor trailed off and looked back towards Kline's table, where he saw the gathered sailors chuckling bemusedly. There in the middle was Kline turning away huffily from Pleo as the Lugia stared at him with with wide, pleading eyes, bobbing and craning his head to match the serpent's annoyed attempts to turn away.

    "Please?" Pleo insisted.

    "No!" Kline snapped back.

    "Can't you at least try it though?" Natrix insisted.

    "Yeah, don't be such a buzzkill!" Philips piped.

    "But it's not even possible!" the Zygarde cried.

    "But you won't know for sure until you try!" Pleo protested.

    "For the last time, no!"

    The Pokémon at Percy's table looked blinked out of confusion as Pleo waddled past the gathered sailors at the central table towards their direction. All the while, the seabird held his head low drooping with visible disappointment, which made Crom blink and give a raise of his brow.

    "Huh? What's wrong, Pleo?" the Druddigon asked.

    "Kline won't show me how to become invisible!" Pleo pouted. "I asked really nicely over and over, but every time he just cuts me off!"

    Alice looked off at Kline at his table, before turning back towards Pleo with a mischievous smirk. Pleo tilted his head puzzledly, before the Dark-Type gave a wave of her claw and spoke up.

    "Oh, that's what you're after?" the Sneasel asked. "That's easy! You just gotta ask him in the right way."

    "Huh? What do I need to do differently?" Pleo said.


    The Sneasel stood up and leaned in, whispering into Pleo's earholes. The young Protector listened intently, nodding along before his eyes lit up and he turned back with a smiling chirp.

    "Oh! Thanks! I'll try that!" he cheered.

    Pleo hurried off, returning back for his table in the center in heightened spirits. All the while, Nida and her peers around the table shot puzzled glances at Alice as all of them wondered...

    "… What exactly did you tell him?" the Nidoran asked.

    "Trade secret," Alice grinned. "I've gotta keep some of the things I picked up as a 'mon of fortune to myself."

    Elty's ears perked up at Alice's reply, prompting him give a cheery wag of his tail and curiously press the Sneasel's comment further.

    "''Mon of fortune'? You mean, you used to work on a crew?" the Growlithe asked.

    "That's right!" Alice beamed. "The fastest and slickest claws from the Boltstrike Bandits you'd ever meet!"

    "Boltstrike Bandits, huh? I... think I heard of them before. They ply the waters out around Garanza and Linglan, don't they? Though how did you end up here?" Elty wondered. "I never heard of that crew getting broken up, so does that mean that you got captured? Or did you have a falling out with your crew?"

    "Tch, who do you take me for? I left on good terms with Captain Dart since somebody's gotta make sure those shore dweebs don't misuse Kline!" Alice piped. "Really, with how uptight the team was before I joined, it's a miracle Percy and Calidus didn't die of boredom before I came along!"

    Percy and Calidus rolled their eyes at their teammate's description, as she cracked a beaming smile and proudly crossed her arms.

    "I'm the one who gives it all the color!"

    The Sneasel's boast drew groans from the Pokémon gathered around the table, with the very visible exception of Elty playfully wagging his tail. So she'd managed to leave her crew and stay on good terms? He hadn't really thought about it before, but if she got along well enough with her captain, there wasn't really any reason why things couldn't be the same for him and Hess… or for that matter...

    "Heh, not bad!" the Growlithe chuckled. "Maybe I should ask you for a few tips to do the same with my team."

    Nida folded her ears back and narrowed her eyes into a sour scowl. Of all the inane things to grab Elty's fancy, why'd it have to be this?

    "No. Just… No."

    The lot's attention abruptly turned to the center as the sound of high giggles and protests rang out. There, the gathered sailors stood staring befuddled at Pleo as he used his wingtips to tickle the red spot on Kline's belly.

    "Hahaha! Wh-What are you doing?!" Kline yelped.

    "Trying to get you to teach me how to become invisible!" Pleo cried.

    "But I- Pfff! Told you already- Hee hee!"

    The serpent squirmed on his back and giggled from Pleo's tickling, before slumping over limply. The Lugia blinked and craned his head down worriedly when Kline suddenly jumped back up onto his tail, giving a sharp scold back at Pleo that made him jump back in surprise.

    "What was that for?! I can't teach you how to become invisible because it's physically impossible!" the Zygarde snapped. "Why would you tickle me like that anyways?!"

    "H-Huh?! But Alice said that if I did that, you'd tell me!" Pleo protested. "And you sounded like you were having fun!"

    Kline blinked, before looking up at Alice with a sharp glare. The Sneasel answered with a smirk and a shrug, prompting the Zygarde to hiss and hop up and down huffily… only to slow and fall silent. The Dragon-Type closed his eye shut as he zoned out from his surroundings, hopping off for the hallway as the gathered Pokémon stared puzzledly at him and Percy shifted off his seat with a worried tilt of his head.

    "… Kline? Is alles goed?"

    The Gliscor and the others followed Kline out of the mess hall and through the ship's corridors up to an entrance above deck. There, the rest caught up as Kline paused and stared off at the sky in the distance, prompting them to look up and see tall, dark clouds billowing off in the horizon.

    "… I think that that's our cue to get moving," Kline said. "We won't be going anywhere fast on our own if we get caught up in that storm."

    "Aw, can't we at least stay for dessert?" Alice asked.

    "Only if you feel like drowning at sea," the Zygarde retorted, prompting Alice to roll her eyes.

    "Bah, first I miss out on Buyeom's hot springs and now this," she pouted. Crom tilted his head a moment at the Sneasel's mention of the hot springs, as Percy gave a scratch at his cheek.

    "I swear you're the only Ice-Type out there who likes hot springs, Alice..." the Gliscor sighed.

    "Hey, it's not my fault they're all so unadventurous!" she huffed. "Hot springs are nice and comfortable once you get used to the water!"

    The gathered Pokémon raised their brows at Alice's protest, as Calidus ruffled his feathers and looked off towards the entrance below deck.

    "I suppose we should get Albert and his buddies together," the Talonflame said. "We wouldn't want them to be left behind."

    "Oh thank the gods," a squeaking voice grumbled. "Those lousy wastes of flesh you drug aboard are finally going-"

    Team Traveller turned to see none other than Scout overseeing them from the rigging just as Albert, Charlie, and Marilyn came above deck. The Nuzleaf and his companions stared up unamusedly at the Sentret, who bit his tongue before clearing his throat to reply.

    "Er… going off on a grand adventure," the Sentret hastily finished. "Carry on!"

    "Huh? How'd you all get up here so quickly?" Nida asked.

    "Did you really think we were just going to sit around after seeing you all head up?" Marilyn harrumphed.

    "Yeah, and I felt something was off about you," Charlie added. "I wasn't just going to sit and wait to find out why!"

    "Ugh, whatever," Kline groaned. "Just hurry up and gather together."

    The Zygarde hopped into Percy's bag, letting a fleeting glimpse of a red cushion inside pass as the Gliscor lowered himself for Albert and Charlie to clamber onto his back. Further away, Calidus did the same for Alice and Marilyn, as the pair made their way to the edge of the deck and looked out to sea. Pleo waddled up to Team Zephyr and their fellow-travellers as the sailors gathered on the deck behind them to say goodbye. The Lugia slowed as he neared, craning his head down to Kline at the mouth of Percy's bag with a curious tilt.

    "Where are you all going to go?" Pleo asked.

    "The Subway," the Zygarde answered. "We'll spend some time there to shake the attention we drew to ourselves back on Buyeom, and cross paths again when you've gotten the Ledger."

    "Well okay... but is there really nothing I can do to convince you to stay and come with us to Pioppo?" Pleo murmured.

    "Unfortunately not. Though there was one last thing that I wanted to say…" Kline began, prompting Pleo to raise his head puzzledly.


    "Good luck, Pleo," the serpent said. "We'll all be rooting for you."

    The Lugia paused a moment, staring at Kline with surprised blinks before a small smile crept over the ends of his beak.

    "… Thank you," Pleo replied. "And we'll be doing the same for you too!"

    Calidus beat his wings and whipped up a Tailwind as Kline hunkered deeper into Percy's bag and the Gliscor hopped up to ride the current off into the air. Marilyn and Alice hastily clambered aboard Calidus' back as he leapt up and took wing, taking flight before Team Zephyr called out farewells and the sailors on deck waved after them. Pleo looked on, watching the lot fade off into the distance as the sun set over the horizon. All the while, the Siglo Swellow carried on for the west, towards what he and his friends hoped would be the beginnings of an end to their ordeal.

    Sunsets in Tromba were generally sleepy affairs, consisting of townsfolk tired from a long day's work drifting out to shop on their way back to their abodes as the sky flushed orange with the waning hours of daylight. This time, there seemed to be an unusual spark of good cheer in the air with the word of Captain Beatrix recovering the Protector and the rest of Team Traveller, some of the townsfolk waving off the departing form of an Unfezant messenger flying out to sea above.

    Over at Gwenith's bakery, the rays of hope that had spread over the rest of the town were noticeably absent, as Gwenith exited the front of her shop visibly exhausted and with a palpable sense of dread. The Druddigon busied herself half-heartedly brushing some dust away from the entrance when she felt a tug at her tail, and looked back to see Cenn looking up anxiously at her.

    "Mom? Is… Is dad gonna be alright?"

    Gwenith grimaced and shifted her gaze off to her shop's entrance, before giving a shake of her head and looking back down at her child with a tired smile.

    "… He's a strong Pokémon, dear," the older Druddigon reassured. "I'm sure that he'll recover by the time he comes back to see you again."

    "But… you sounded really worried about him when the letter came. And you spent all morning writing that one back instead of tending the shop…" Cenn murmured. "Are you sure there's nothing wrong?"

    The mother Druddigon paused wordlessly, before craning a claw down and patting the top of her son's crest.

    "… You shouldn't worry too much about that right now," Gwenith said. "Go on and check up on Mildrew's batch of apples for tomorrow, I'll need it for the pies I'm setting out."

    Cenn shuffled uneasily, before heading off down the path in the direction of Mildrew's orchard in the hills. Gwenith watched her child leave, before sighing and shaking her head as she shuffled back through the bakery's entrance. The Dragon-Type drifted in, when her ears picked up the sound of someone loudly eating, prompting her to look over at the counter and catch Pyry's jaws tearing a chunk out of a half-eaten loaf. The land shark looked over and went wide-eyed, the Gabite hastily throwing the loaf behind him on the floor as he raised his voice in squeaking protest.

    "Th-They were stale and weren't going to sell anyways!" Pyry yelped "I swear-!"

    "Blugh… I don't want to hear it," Gwenith grumbled. "Just get back to kneading dough!"

    The Gabite flinched in anticipation of a summary smack, only to crack his eyes open and blink warily. He paused for a moment, unsure what to make of his supervisor's lack of physical aggression before opting not to test his luck and hastily scoop up his loaf and slink off for the back. With the main room freshly emptied, Gwenith shuffled behind the counter and slumped over it, holding her face in a claw when the sound of footsteps entering rang out.

    "Have you been holding up alright?" a bleating voice asked. "You look more worn out than usual after you start your evening shift."

    The Druddigon looked up and saw Hatteras approaching, prompting her to stand back up and shoot back an unamused glare.

    "How do you expect me to be holding up?" Gwenith demanded. "I find out that Pladur's in bedrest after getting his stomach cut open and he and Crom are on the other side of the Cradle being chased around by Company goons! And now there's pirates and the Empire on top of it all!"

    The baker's indignation lingered a moment, before she hung her head glumly and began to look away from the wizened sheep across the counter.

    "It… just makes me feel so helpless…"

    Hatteras folded his ears back, giving a pat on her shoulder with his paw as he spoke in a soft, reassuring tone.

    "Gwenith... We all knew there were risks like this to be had," the sheep said. "And it sounds like Pladur and Crom are holding up fine-"

    The Electric-Type was at once answered with a sharp snarl, prompting him to jerk his arm back as Gwenith growled and bared her fangs across the counter. The Ampharos hemmed and hawed a bit, attempting to walk back his word choice in favor of something that would brush fewer of the fraught Druddigon's nerves.

    "Er… as fine as the circumstances would allow," the elderly sheep corrected. "Crom did tell you of how he helped Pleo to escape the Imperial capital, didn't he? Even if they sometimes get overwhelmed, that doesn't make Pladur or Crom sound very 'helpless' to me."

    Gwenith paused, before warily easing her body. She knew her son and mate weren't helpless, but given everything that had already happened and how far they still had to travel to get back home, why was that supposed to be comforting?

    "But how can you be so sure? They're all the way in Imperial waters and here we are alone back on Tromba!" the Dragon-Type cried. "How can you be so sure that something else won't go wrong?"

    "I just trust them," he answered. "And whoever's been watching over them all this time."

    "… I suppose there's not much else we can do," Gwenith murmured.

    "Well, to be fair on them, the worst of their journey is surely over," Hatteras reassured. "Why, all that's left is to simply sail back to Bluewhorl with the Protector, and-"


    A deafening blast rang out as both the baker and her elderly patron jumped up. Hatteras looking around wildly in confusion, as Gwenith rushed out from behind her counter for the storefront.

    "Huh?! Qué fue eso?!"

    The pair hastily exited the bakery, scanning their surroundings when they caught a wisp of smoke from offshore, looking off to see the forms of three ships in lavender sails entering the harbor. Hatteras stared with a startled grimace as the color began to flush from Gwenith's face.

    "Hatteras, what's going on?" she asked. "Do you think they've found out about the Protector coming home?"

    "I'm… not sure," the Ampharos said to himself. "Just stay behind and batten down the hatches. I don't have a good feeling about this."

    Hatteras ran off, carrying down the lanes for the harbor. As he neared, he began to see Pokémon hastily shuttering their shops and huts, as others ran up the lane the opposite direction with yelps and cries. Eventually, he made it to the edge of the town's seaside square, where he found himself walking on a few pallid guards hastily ducking behind crates and market stalls as the Company ships slowed beside the docks.

    "What's the meaning of-?"

    The Ampharos flinched as a hot woosh of air buzzed by his face and an orange blur hit the ground before him. The sheep blanched as a low growl cut through the air, looking ahead to see the form was of a teal-winged drake rising to his feet with bared fangs, adorned with the scarf of a Company Commissioner about his long neck and the tell-tale blotch of a Marked on his head.

    "Where is the 'Hatteras' in charge of this dump?" the Charizard demanded.

    The Ampharos mayor gulped and braced himself, steadying his gait with a sway of his tail as he looked back at the fuming drake.

    "That… would be me," he answered. "What's is the meaning of this?"

    Hatteras looked off in the distance, where he noticed the forms of lavender-clad Pokémon hastily disembarking. A low growl and a puff of hot, fiery breath drew his attention back to the Charizard before him, who leaned in with bared teeth and a harsh glare.

    "I'm Commissioner Bunsen," the Fire-Type snarled. "The Board's been getting word of all your little games and I'm here to put an end to them."

    Author's Notes:

    - Dodaeche?! (도대체-?!) - Korean: Intensifier analogous to "the hell" or "on earth". Vulgar. (South Korean Revised Romanization)
    - dranie - Polish: "scoundrels", lit. "villains"
    - Me parece justo - Spanish: "Fair enough", lit. "Seems fair to me"
    - Nyet! (Нет!) - Russian: "No!" (BGN/PCGN Romanization.)
    - Is alles goed? - Dutch: "Is everything alright?"
    - Qué fue eso?! - Spanish: "What was that?!"
  17. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    I think it's nifty that we're capping off an episode of the gang finally getting stronger (both with greater numbers and greater moves) with Pleo having the best control of his God-Birb Powers(TM) of the entire fic. Though don't think I didn't catch that little one-liner about Cabot, Niilo, and Berecien also learning new tricks. Seems there might be something to look forward to when they (inevitably) cross paths with Team Traveller again.

    And, thanks to Kline, a lot is finally confirmed! First off, I admit I got a chuckle that Z2 is named Micky. With all the fantastical names, something so, uh, stereotypically Irish now has me imagining Z2 speaking with an Irish brogue. Anyway, on a more serious note, Elilan is, of course, scheming against the Company (and, indirectly, the Empire). Since this fic currently operates with an "Arc Villain" mentality as opposed to a proper Big Bad, it just confirms the fourth villainous faction may have a bigger role to play going forward.

    What was more interesting was that, it seems, Kline explicitly mentions leaving Anyilla. I can't remember if any other characters have openly stated that, so this would make him the first major one to bring up the other areas of this world. He also confirmed that there seem to be other Protectors in these other, uh, continents? Yeah, I'll go with that. And, on top of that, it's interesting to hear how he tried to get help from other Protectors but ran into issues. I wonder if, maybe, he was once a bit spirited (like Pleo), but the issues with the other Protectors gradually turned him jaded. Would make for an interesting contrast to Pleo, who's also been through a fair amount, but hasn't turned cynical... yet. Though, with the mess hall scene, it looks as though Team Zephyr really are experienced foils to Team Traveller. Besides Pleo/Kline, there's Guardia/Calidus, Elty/Alice, and both Nida and Crom have a counterpart in Percy. It's a shame they're going to be separating.

    And, wow, it's a been a while since we went back to Tromb— oh, wait, it's a cliffhanger. Sneaky, sneaky.

    [blinks] Guess Elty doesn't have Flash Fire, then. [beat] Actually, wait, now that I'm thinking about it, have that many abilities even come into play with the fic?

    Now, I'm no physics major, but shouldn't that fall have broken the ice? :V

    Beautiful! He's nearly ready for Tokyo! :D

    You're going to have to take that one up with your author, Guardia.

    3000 IQ strats confirmed!

    Oof. Nugget must be really desperate if she's taking hires from IGN. :V

    And thus, with a tap of its mighty hooves did Arceus summon the Pokémon of Galar to the Cradle.

    *squints* waaaaaaait a second

    Well, at least if her career in the Royal Navy goes belly-up, Nugget could take a cushy job as a motivational speaker. :p

    Kline is the closest thing I'm going to get to Metal Gear Solid in this fic, so I must cherish it. XD

    Oof. I hear red dye can be harmful to some cells. Pour one out for Unnamed Cell #37. ;~;

    "Oh? Do go on. You've got my attention, Squishy."

    real sparkle deer appearance confirmed! yay!What a tweeeeest!

    Aww, bless Pleo. His li'l heart is still chock of full of PMD protag belief in the power of friendship. So wholesome. X3

    [squints] Hmm. My temptation is to say there might be some sort of illusionary trickery at work, there, but we already have Elilan, so, uh... maybe the ghosts in this fic have some intriguing powers? Or there are other protectors lying low with Cernun with reality-bending powers? Like, I dunno, Hoopa or something?

    Pleo trying to raise that stealth stat, I see. Maybe he oughta ask Kline for a cardboard box. :V

    oh my god you actually had him do the thing. This really is Squishy! :V

    Somewhere, an ice ninetales sneezes.
    Virgil134 likes this.
  18. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    [The following is for Episode 6]

    Next episode, here we go! The first chapter is another bit of setup, really. I think the main highlight of the first chapter is just them managing to somehow sneak into the place, and then Elty, well, looking for an out. I’m kinda getting the vibe that one way or the other, there will be setbacks to preventing him from doing this, culminating in some kind of realization that he cares about them in some way? I’m not really sure how long he’s going to be keeping up his reluctant Traveler schtick.

    The second chapter gives us a first real look at the administrators, and it was basically dripping with “the bigger boss” vibes regarding the interactions between Lyn and Farn. I’m not really sure how strong she is, particularly because Lyn holds a natural disadvantage against her, but I think she’s more powerful in the political sense, even if she’s still formidable otherwise.

    As an aside, is Scout randomly appearing going to become a running gag? He’s everywhere. Surprised at the number of coincidences happening in this seemingly dense town, or at least, that’s the impression I get based on how it’s basically Company HQ with two “guilds” hustling and bustling with folks doing their own thing, seedy or otherwise. But that’s about it for now.

    Third chapter, same as the second. I thought that the exposition dump that happened here was a little heavy. Definitely put the pacing to a grinding halt again, and I was almost as impatient as Elty was for an entirely different reason. (Also, I’m pretty sure without even looking at the dates that Super must have been released some time ago at this point, with the inclusion of Wands in the story~) Looks like we have a lot of things going on at the same time now, though I found the most entertaining segment to be our brief visit with Crom and the others trying to retrace Pleo and company’s steps. Curious if this is going to be a trend or not of constantly missing each other.

    As an aside, though, I think your integration of Super mechanics, while obvious, was actually done pretty well, especially since it happened on a new island, so maybe such Dungeon phenomena is more prominent here, or something along those lines. So, good job on adapting to the canon while still staying course.

    Next chapter is interesting in that we have some interlude stuff going on in the background with folks trying to track down Team Traveler, but the bulk of the chapter, at least from how it felt, was focused on the Cubone tribe and their interaction with Pleo and company. And I’m not… really sure what you’re trying to go for here, actually. I think part of it has to do with the fact that you topped so high with Lyn’s encounters that this whole arc so far as rung… hollow. There isn’t nearly as much tension as I felt there could have been for literally being in enemy territory, yet the most that they’ve been dealing with were pirates and thugs rather than Company. I’m hoping that changes for the last few chapters of this episode, but it has been underwhelmingly slow when following Pleo himself.

    The fight against the Cubone was done well, though again, there was a lack of tension when the fight was over. They actually could talk to each other, and they let them get away. It was perfectly in character for Team Traveler, but I was sort of surprised that the Cubone sorta… didn’t think anything of that. Then they return with backup, and they’re ambushed and outnumbered after a bit more clever tactics from the Marowak elder. Buuut again, the tension just doesn’t feel present. The Company is looming in the background but they’ve yet to actually do anything, and I’ve kinda been waiting for that for four chapters now. Instead, we have… this Cubone filler. I’m sure there’s significance to this, and as a reader I’m putting faith in you as a writer, but the way it’s presented right now, it’s an in-between that’s just delaying the conflict I actually care about.

    Ahh, here we go! The next chapter, and we have some small payoff! Kinda. So that whole Cubone arc was all for the purpose of getting a new addition to the team, huh? And it seems that with that, we have an eclectic set of four as part of the (main) Team Traveler. We have a Tromban / civilized Pokémon, a Protector, a pirate, and a feral. All that’s left is a Company member. Lyn, anyone? It’s a crapshoot, but hey. Maybe in several dozen chapters. Ooh, and a Marked! Can’t go without one of those on the main squad. But I guess Ander kinda counts for that already, even if it’s not with Pleo.

    Speaking of Marked, despite the payoff of Guardia on the team, the most interesting part of the chapter is still what Crom and company are doing trying to trace the steps of Pleo’s side. Everything having to do with the Cubone, I feel, went… a lot longer than it should have. Right now, Nida’s just sort of wandering in an arc that I was honestly expecting to be a bit more on the perilous, stealth side, but I don’t really get a feel for that at all.

    So… the next chapter, Gate Crashers, I… didn’t actually have a whole lot to comment on. The plot is moving along, folks are getting ready to go from one spot to the next, the interrogation happened, but… I don’t know. I just didn’t have a whole lot to say. Actually, aside from a few key moments, I’m sort of surprised at the fact that despite being the longest episode so far, I also have the least to say. Same for Changing Course. The brief bit about the map and planning was incredibly heavy on information, and I doubt I’m going to remember all of it, so hopefully there will be cues or reminders about it in the future. I’m interested in the mention of that “dead zone,” however. Bit of an inconspicuous little mention, that. Random guess: That location is going to be where the middle of the story takes place, or endgame/close to it.

    Anyway, back on the subject of information dumping: going so in-depth about how they’re going to find their way across the ocean felt a bit unnecessary, especially on top of the long time they spent looking at the map, and how long the narration depicted every detail of it. I think there’s a bit of a problem when the main group is the least interesting part of the story, since the highlight of this chapter was the Imperial bit near the very end (Also, hi, Cabot!) I feel like without Casting Off, I would have been less interested, but that was actually a nice little treat.

    Overall, I think this unfortunately might be the weakest episode, at least from my experience, due in part to its length versus how little actually happened. It had a lot of buildup without any real payoff, and I feel like you put off a lot more than you should have. There was no confrontation with Lyn, but instead with more Company grunts. It was just setup between him and his superior, and then we pretty much don’t see him much else except for brief appearances. Elty trying to get away from the group to return with Hess, washed up quietly with how long it took for them to get back, before ultimately never returning at all.

    No confrontation with Hess, or with Elty himself, or any sort of turnabout in attitude, or… anything. He just continues along by default, as he always had been. No slippage about it to the others, no real evolution except for really brief allusions to lingering guilt… yeah, sure, all these things you’re setting up will probably happen in the future. But this episode was set up as being right in hostile territory, yet the biggest threat they encountered wasn’t from Company or pirate ilk, but… a bunch of ferals.

    Anyway, I’m still optimistic for what’s coming. You’ve at least laid the groundwork for future conflict, and I’m hoping we get some payoff for at least some of that before more threads are introduced. For the next episode, I’m not really sure what to expect. I doubt Pleo will be able to train as much as the Travelers would hope, but what they’ll actually encounter there is a total wildcard. Based on what the narrative is implying… It’ll be Imperials of some kind. But beyond that? Completely unsure. Here goes!
    Virgil134 likes this.
  19. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Well hey, this is a fairly "Aerith and Bob" setting when it comes to names, so it'd be expected that even Legendaries would be affected a bit. His name actually owes its origins to the corruption of a Polish word for "soft", which happened to sound relatively close to "Micky".

    It's been mentioned in passing, though Team Zephyr is by far the most narrative-important group to brush up with the great offscreen yonder. As for the foil dynamic, I admittedly hadn't seen it at first, but given how they were consciously paired with the members of Team Traveller they'd get along with the most, I can see how you'd get that impression..

    They've popped up a decent number of times, though in Elty's case he's an Intimidate Growlithe, even if his attempts to project his ability onto tougher Pokémon usually fall flat. Pokémon have individual abilities in this setting as opposed to the TDS route of having all abilities at once. It's the reason why Nori doesn't magically no-sell Electric-Type attacks for his buddies in the same way our favorite travelling lore-gatherer can when fighting against Alvise.

    I have no idea what you're talking about. :3

    Not saying anything other than I'm thoroughly abusing cross-canon cherry-picking to make things work there.

    He was just a bit of an influence, yes. Though I think Kline would a bit more judgemental and have some higher arrogance stats than the Squishy we all know and love, but he's still bound to carry a few quirks over, including going limp when tickled in the right place.

    She would be strong enough to push Lyn around if things came to that even without the type advantage. There's numerous Third-Ranks floating around the Company's ranks, but only four Administrators. As such, there are few Pokémon within all Anyilla that could directly challenge them in a straight battle.

    It's a bit of a joke, yeah. You'll see him pop up every now and then throughout the story. :p

    Yeah, in retrospect, EP6 is one of those portions of the story that I really would do differently if I had to start Fledglings from scratch again since the whole "spend an entire arc subtly adding to the team and building tension" doesn't translate as well to a written medium as I initially thought it would.

    Let's just say that for the team, things get worse before they get better.

    And it was admittedly a bit of a crunch at the end, but I'm back with that new arc. As you can surmise from the header, the topic of the arc is a bit more on-the-nose and deals with something that was directly built up during the past one. I will be aiming to try and finally get my update schedule bumped back up to something closer to what I'd intended a few months back, and am tentatively aiming to push another installment out the door in three weeks.

    I would like to take a moment to extend my gratitude to Virgil134, Tangent128, along with the readers and reviewers who have stuck with this story through its ups and downs. And with that, let's start off that voyage to Pioppo by...
  20. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter


    An oppressive aura lingered around Bluewhorl Town's harbor as the shadow of tall, lavender-sailed masts loomed over the seafront from three ships anchored in port. All along the ships, growling and glaring Pokémon in Company scarves disembarked and shuffled off as islanders warily poked their heads out from behind corners and windows, the sides between the two parties occupied by a growling Charizard and a wizened Ampharos staring each other down as the air crackled with unseen tension. Hatteras inhaled deeply, before hardening his eyes in determination and speaking up towards the scowling Commissioner in front of him.

    "… I'm not sure what you're talking about," the sheep insisted. "We haven't been playing any games, so I don't really know why you're here right now."

    "Hrmph, take your complaints up with the Board!" Bunsen scoffed. "They already knew that you've been giving safe harbor to smuggling crews, but to go and do the same for one that's turned to piracy? There's just some lines that can't be crossed and left unanswered!"

    The Charizard batted his tail against the ground, spreading his wings as he craned his head forward with a low, guttural growl.

    "To fix that, me and my subordinates will be staying here to capture those pirates in case Commissioner Lyn fails to do so and they return here," the Fire-Type snarled. "During our stay, we'll be taking over the day-to-day affairs of this hamlet and make some changes to ensure the Board that moments like these don't happen again."


    Bunsen and Hatteras looked up to see the form of a Sceptile running in with panting breaths.

    "What's going on?" Osmund asked. "Lyn's back here already?!"

    Osmund caught the sight of fire from the corner of his eyes and hastily entered a skidding stop, looking up to see a Marked Charizard staring back at him. The Grass-Type blinked confusedly for a moment, only for the drake to shoot back a harsh glare and snort up a small spray of embers.

    "And one of the first orders of business for me and my subordinates will be to hand down consequences for the Pokémon who have been abetting that criminality," Bunsen said. "Effective immediately, you will be under house arrest in your domicile, and the Sceptile here will be detained in your local jail."

    The Fire-Type's order at once drew scattered gasps as onlooking Pokémon cringed away from their windows and corners. Back in the front and center of things Hatteras' jaw dropped for a moment, before the sheep stomped a foot with a sharp bleat as sparks crackled along his hide.

    "Look, 'Bunsen', was it? I don't know what sort of lies the Board has been feeding you, but our island hasn't been abiding any pirates," the Ampharos snapped. "The Siglo Swellow is a legitimate merchant ship, and the only reason Lyn is even chasing after it is because our Protector is aboard it!"

    At once, Bunsen visibly blanched and uneasily shrank back. Their 'Protector'? As in whatever demon they worshipped on this rock?! The Charizard tried to stammer out a response but kept tripping over his own words, which failed to go unnoticed by the nearby townsfolk.

    "Hah, not so tough now, are ya, blotch-head?!" a Mightyena sneered.

    "Yeah, as if a Marked like you would really dare to show your ugly mug in front of a Protector!" a Machoke spat.

    Bunsen flinched as one Pokémon after the other joined in with jeers and taunts, advancing with newfound courage, the Charizard turning pallid at the thought of having to face one of the mythical demons in the flesh. Did Darzin know about this when he sent him out here?! The Fire-Type noticed his subordinates growing uneasy from the encroaching mob, when a snide voice resounded in his head…

    "Try and pretend to be imposing when you're on Tromba. Knowing the islanders, you'll need it."

    The Commissioner stopped, digging his claws into the wood of the pier as hot, frustrated breaths left his snout. These- These lousy hicks were playing games with him like Darzin had warned! Trying to make him slink off with his tail between his legs over a bunch of empty words! He was supposed to believe that one of the demons woke up on this lousy rock just a month ago?! It would have been more likely that a snowstorm blew into Sormus since then! With renewed fire in his belly, Bunsen hardened his eyes as a sneering yip from the Mightyena reached his earholes.

    "If our Protector was here, he'd blow- AAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

    The hyena was swallowed up by a sudden Flamethrower, wheeling and thrashing about screaming much to the villagers' shock. The Dark-Type staggered as the flames subsided, before flopping over with a coat full of burnt-smelling fur and little sign of life beyond a weak twitch of his legs. The Machoke next to him paled and backpedaled into a wall as the townsfolk's defiance rapidly bled away and shouts went up from the ships. Hatteras and Osmund went wide-eyed as they saw cannons being wheeled up to the front and startled cries broke out among the gathered villagers, when a fierce roar cut through the air.

    "Do you really think that you're going to scare me off with a bunch of dirty tricks just because I'm a Marked?!" Bunsen bellowed. "Who do you take me for?!"

    The flame on the Charizard's tail turned a whitish blue as he wheeled with bared fangs at Hatteras, all but forcing the sheep back with a withering glare and livid breaths that blew out singing embers.

    "I'm not giving another warning," the Commissioner snarled. "Do as you're ordered now or else things are going to get uncomfortably hot and charred around here!"

    Hatteras grit his teeth as the townsfolk in the background split into a mix of 'mons hastily retreating and others who stammeringly assumed combative stances to defend their town. The Company underlings further up the docks began to approach massed and ready for battle when the air was pierced by a sharp cry.


    For a fleeting moment, the Pokémon near the ships and from the town paused and looked over at Osmund as he motioned for a stop. The remaining villagers eased themselves, trading uneasy murmurs as the Sceptile approached Bunsen with a deflated shake of his head.

    "… I know when it's time to fold 'em," he muttered. "You say that it's the Board's orders that this needs to happen. Then fine."

    At once, multiple voices in the crowd broke out in protest, pleading with Osmund not to yield and turn himself over. The Sceptile grit his teeth and turned around, shouting back over the villagers' cries.

    "Listen!" the Forest Pokémon cried. "If we couldn't handle Lyn getting the drop on us with his galleon, what hope do we have against three ships?!"

    An uncomfortable silence fell over the townsfolk, as one after the other, the gathered Pokémon looked away grudgingly as Osmund hung his head glumly.

    "… This is the best that can be done for now," he muttered. "So let's just do what we can with it."

    "Save your breath," Bunsen snapped. "Sicula, get this gecko in a cell! And march that Mightyena and Machoke from earlier with him!"

    The Machoke at the wall yelped and turned to flee, only for an Energy Ball to zip in and strike the back of his head. The Fighting-Type pitched forward and collapsed face-first onto the ground as a Roserade pointed at the fallen Pokémon, prompting a band of underlings to pounce, swiftly binding him and the Mightyena up before unceremoniously dragging them off. A Scrafty and Bronzong turned to Osmund and wrenched the Sceptile's arms behind his back, binding them before the Roserade joined them and shoved him off in the same path for the jail. All around the square, the villagers stood in stunned silence, shrinking away quailing as Bunsen turned to Hatteras with a sharp huff.

    "It's your turn, Hatteras," the Charizard snarled. "Just follow your orders and return to whatever hovel you pretend to run this place from. Perhaps the Company will still have a use for your present role once this is all over."

    The Ampharos said nothing for a moment, before grudgingly shuffling off as a Dugtrio and a Lickilicky flanked him, leaving the sheep to turn back with a harsh glare.

    "Don't think that this is just going to smooth over just by throwing a few 'mons in a cell," Hatteras said.

    "I'll be the judge of that, sheep," Bunsen growled back. "Now off to your shack!"

    The Dugtrio and Lickilicky carried on, brusquely pushing the Ampharos along up the path for the Guild Hall as Bunsen turned out to the lingering crowd with a stomp and bellowing roar.

    "And the rest of you! I'll be serving resettlement notices during my stay on your miserable rock!" Bunsen snapped. "If you don't want to find you and your families on the receiving end of one, I'd suggest you all be good subjects and stay out of my way!"

    The Charizard breathed in and spewed a plume of fire into the air over the crowd, prompting them to break and scatter much as if they were a swarm of startled Durant. As the square cleared out, an uneasy quiet settled in, leaving Bunsen to give a shake of his head before turning back to his underlings.

    "… Start moving in," the Fire-Type harrumphed. "If we're going to be staying here a while in this town, we might as well make it ours."

    The Commissioner was met with a chorus of affirmations as the lavender-garbed Pokémon marched into the town, fanning out down its lanes and paths. Satisfied with his work, Bunsen turned back and beat his wings with a flying hop onto the stern of his ship, his claws shaking as he sat down against the deck breathing out a heavy sigh of relief.

    Out in the waters between Boisocéan and Otvaga, the deck of the Nektar Weide rumbled as sailors brought up wooden casks and rolled them out under the glow of the stars and moon, dispensing clear drinks into cups and mugs for the gathered crew. The air had a festive atmosphere to it, laughter and joking filtering about freely as a Samurott stood over the bridge raising a clay flask of jenever up for the crew to see.

    "A toast! To the Company, and to an Anyilla reunited under its banner!"

    The gathered Pokémon broke out in cheers as a few of the more restless sailors started drinking their helpings of jenever. Lyn looked around, noting the high spirits that had seemed absent from his crew for so long, and cracked a grin at the edges of his mouth.

    "It's been a far longer mission than I'd have liked, but with the Protector finally in our grasp I think it's about time we all set our eyes on our higher goals," he remarked. "Drink up! You've earned it!"

    Lyn pulled the flask to his mouth and drank deeply as another cheer broke out among the crew and others returned to their drinks, their captain sauntering down to mingle with his underlings. Further by the rigging, Team Sentinel busied themselves chattering with some curious sailors as Ketu and Ellsberg looked back at Lyn from the starboard railing of the central deck with sharp frowns, the Mothim of the pair giving an irritated flick of his wings and an unimpressed scoff.

    "Hmph, look at him hogging all the credit!" Ellsberg spat. "If it wasn't for me he wouldn't even have known that Lugia had awakened!"

    "Let him run his mouth off, he'll be knocked down a peg soon enough," Ketu said, giving a dismissive wave of his claw. "Shame I won't be able to see his face when he opens that nut in front of the Board, I was kinda looking forward to that stupid expression of his…"

    Ellsberg extended his proboscis into his drink and sipped as he began to wonder, what would the Board do with Lyn for presenting a Ditto before them? Would they boot him from the mission for his failure? No, that seemed far too tame of a punishment to expect. If they assume he attempted to trick them, that would surely lead to some manner of demotion… perhaps even a public cashiering! Why, if Lyn was still even in the Company after everything, perhaps he'd be in a position to turn the tables and see how Lyn would like being his subordinate for a change! The Bug-Type began to smile as one possibility after another played through his mind when Ketu dangled his claw out in front of him, waving a clay cup slightly.

    "Here, you can have it," the Weavile offered.

    The Mothim gave an askew glance, looking down at Ketu's cup half-expecting the Weavile to throw it in his face as a joke. After a moment's wait and noticing the Dark-Type giving him an impatient look, the moth buzzed puzzledly at his companion.

    "Huh? You don't like jenever?" he wondered.

    "Nope, I don't drink alcohol," Ketu answered.

    "… Even when you had to present yourself as a sailor?" Ellsberg asked. "I can't remember the last time one has said something like that."

    "Tch, from what I've seen, Pokémon who drink alcohol tend to get drunk and lose control of themselves," the Weavile replied. "I'd like to keep my mind clear, so I don't need that to happen to me."

    Ellsberg blinked at Ketu's reply, giving a curious flick of his antennae. There were few Pokémon in the Company who'd say 'no' to a cup of jenever after work, much less fellow second-ranks who both had lower-ranked peers to entertain and superiors to schmooze to. The Mothim briefly wondered to himself why Ketu felt this way, before opting not to press the matter and taking the cup from his claw.

    "Besides, it seems like you're a fan of jenever," Ketu said. "After everything that's happened I don't mind giving you a little extra on top of your share of those con artists' money."

    Ellsberg flitted back in surprise, nearly spilling his drinks onto the deck. The Bug-Type buzzed sharply and turned his head to the Weavile incredulously, giving a pressing stare back.

    "Wait, their money?" the moth asked. "What are you going on about?"

    "What, you didn't think we were just going to throw it into the sea, did you?" Ketu replied. "I think we deserve a bonus after all of this, and it's not like those punks were going to do anything useful with it."

    The Weavile shook his head, before leaning with his back against the railing and giving a small grin back.

    "And hey, you pulled your own weight in the end," Ketu insisted. "Sounds like a good reason to share in the reward, don't you think?"

    The Mothim shot a flummoxed look at the Dark-Type. Throughout the entire mission, Ketu had been passively neutral towards him at best, and openly threw insults and demeaning nicknames at him at worst. Telling him they had captured the Protector of Conntow earlier was already a bit of a surprise, but to go on and actually be nice for once was… unexpected, to say the least.

    "So… what are you going to do now this is all over?" Ellsberg asked. "You never did give me a straight answer earlier."

    Ketu blinked a moment at the Mothim's question, wondering why he still remembered his question from yesterday after everything that had happened since then. The Weavile closed his eyes, before giving a shrug of his shoulders and curling his mouth into a small smile.

    "Eh, I guess it can't hurt to tell you," Ketu said. "Tell me, do you know who Betulo is?"

    "I… think he's Administrator Elilan's Commander?" Ellsberg answered. "I've heard of him a few times, but never really talked with him at length."

    "That's him," the Weavile affirmed. "As Administrator Elilan mentioned, he had a different candidate in mind than Lyn to replace Darzin on the Board, and that candidate is none other than Betulo."

    "But… how does that involve you?" the Bug-Type wondered.

    "Because I'll be Betulo's Commander. The two of us go back a long way, and I wouldn't have gotten to where I am if it wasn't for him," he explained. "Unlike my current position with Lyn, I'll actually enjoy being Betulo's right hand 'mon."

    Ellsberg gave a puzzled tilt of his head back at the Dark-Type. Why would Ketu care about what Betulo wound up doing as long as he got to be a Commander? Just what was this history that they shared with each other?

    "So you're telling me that you're doing all of this just to help a friend get promoted?" the Mothim questioned.

    "Well, it's one of the main reasons at least," Ketu replied. "The other being that it'll help pave the way for some changes the Company desperately needs."

    "… What sorts of changes?"

    The Weavile shrugged back as he gave Ellsberg a teasing smirk.

    "Wouldn't you like to know?"

    Ellsberg's curious expression swiftly gave way to a sharp frown as his eyes hardened into an increasingly annoyed glare. After all they'd been through, he was still going to put him through this sort of nonsense?

    "Really, Ketu?"

    A pointed silence followed, before Ketu snickered and began to burst out in open laughter.

    "Nah, I'm just messing with you," the Weavile teased. "Come on, it's a party, lighten up a bit!"

    "I'd rather that you answered my question," Ellsberg harrumphed. "What exactly would helping Betulo become an Administrator change that's so important?"

    Ketu's smile muted a bit as he thought to himself, crossing his arms as he returned to leaning against the railing.

    "… Tell me Ellsberg, are you happy with the current state of the world?" the Weavile asked. "How we go about our lives in this pond and wait for things to get better, while most of the planet is a barren wasteland?"

    Ellsberg fell silent and stared back at Ketu with his antennae ajar. Of all the possible replies Ketu could have given, an unusual question like that was probably the last thing he'd have expected.

    "I mean… I don't think anyone is. But you of all 'mons should know the legends of how all that is set to change when the new gods wake up and the humans return," the notary murmured. "Isn't the point of trying to secure a Protector to make sure that we're best positioned for when those times come?"

    "And how much of those legends do you really believe?" Ketu questioned. "The same legends that say these 'gods' awaken fully matured and accustomed to their own powers?"

    Ellsberg paused, realizing that that part of the legends had underdelivered to say the least. The mighty Guardian of the Seas was but a mere fledgling, and from what he heard the Protector of Vollezee was little different when she was first spotted. But even so, there never really seemed to be a reason to question the rest… and where was Ketu even going with this?

    "I… admit you have a point there. But that doesn't mean the rest of the legends aren't true," the Mothim insisted. "Even while young, Protectors aren't helpless and do have the power to change things. That's why we're searching these Pokémon out to get them on our side in the first place!"

    "And what makes you sure that power alone is sufficient?" Ketu pressed. "Wouldn't you say that that power needs direction?"


    "Really, if you think about it long enough, I suspect you'd come to about the same conclusion as me," the Dark-Type remarked. "This world isn't going to magically be restored into something humans can return to simply because a bunch of Pokémon with fancy powers wake up. That's only going to happen if the right 'mons are put in a position to do something about it and are willing to use the proper tools to do what's necessary to help bring that world along."

    The Weavile turned out to sea, looking at the waves as the wind blew the feathers on his head back in short bobs.

    "Getting Betulo a seat on the Board alongside Administrator Elilan will be one step closer to that," he added. "That's why I'm going through all of this."

    "I'm… not sure I fully understand."

    "Hmph, I suppose it doesn't matter," Ketu said as he closed his eyes. "Just know that the Company will go through some big changes once this all settles out, and the help you've given so far will put you in a very good position to benefit from them."

    Ellsberg scratched his head and puzzled over Ketu's comments. It was to be expected that the return of the Protectors would shake things up, but what sort of changes was he talking about? Was Administrator Elilan planning something specifically around their return? The Mothim grew lost in his own thoughts, only to notice Lyn approaching and swiftly snapped back to attention, as Ketu softly spoke up.

    "Oh boy, here we go…"

    Ketu forced a smile before turning to Lyn, giving a playful wave of his left claw without so much as a hint of his prior demeanor.

    "Heya, Captain."

    "I see that you're in festive spirits, Ketu," Lyn said. "And Ellsberg too for that matter. I don't believe I've ever seen the two of you smiling together like this on our mission."

    Ketu paused as he and Ellsberg traded surprised looks. Did it really seem they were getting along that much better? The Weavile shrugged his shoulders, opting to play into his superior's perceptions.

    "Eh, I guess there's a first time for everything," Ketu replied.

    "So what exactly are we doing now, Lyn?" Ellsberg pressed. "You've gotten everything you've wanted, so what's next?"

    Lyn let out a low grumble and shook his head back, hardening his muzzle into a scolding frown.

    "You're getting a bit premature, Ellsberg. After I present the Protector before the Board, then we can talk about the future more in depth…" he insisted. "Not that I really blame you with how that promotion I was set to give you kept getting yanked away so many times."

    Ellsberg fluttered back with a start at the Samurott's reply. Even after all his berating and bullying… he still remembered the promise he made to him? The moth stared wordlessly, unsure what to make of the newfound revelation when the sound of approaching footsteps announced the arrival of Sorge and his fellows from Team Sentinel.

    "Congratulations Lyn," Sorge cheered. "It's not every day that we see a Commissioner rise through the ranks, let alone from bringing a Protector under the Company's fold."

    "Well, these are unprecedented times, Sorge," Lyn answered confidently. "It's only logical that someone would have to rise to the occasion… even if things didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped."

    "Surely you're not going to split hairs over things taking a little longer than planned, Lyn?" the Kommo-o asked. "This is a Protector we're talking about after all!"

    "I was referring more to your cover that we broke leaving Buyeom," the Samurott said. "Didn't you mention Intelligence had you three working under your present covers for over four years now?"

    "It's no matter," Sorge insisted. "If all goes well, we won't be needing them soon enough. When it means the Company having a Protector at its disposal, such inconveniences are worth it."

    "I'm glad to hear. With this Protector in the Company's grasp, it's nigh time to look forward to the future… and the personal touches to leave on it."

    The Samurott gave a parting wave of his paw and carried on the deck to chat with his Crobat and Huntail escort leads further off, leaving Ellsberg to flutter in place and stare afterwards. 'Personal touches'? What concern was that to Lyn when all this time he'd simply been fixated on getting promoted to the Board?

    "… Do you suppose he meant anything by that?" Ellsberg asked.

    "Eh, it's probably just him getting all worked up over that promotion he thinks he's getting," Ketu said. "I wouldn't worry about it if I were you."


    The Mothim gave a swirl of his gifted cup as the festivities continued on in the background, looking about wondering if perhaps they were dismissing Lyn a bit too quickly. The Bug-Type shrugged, opting to turn his attention back to his drinks as the Nektar Weide carried on its northeast course, sailing along with the waves for Vollezee.

    With the passage of the Sun Chaser's Traveller over the horizon, the first rays of sunshine began to fall down on the Siglo Swellow as it continued its course west. On deck, a skeleton crew manned the ship, a few yawning sailors trading places with fresher faces from further below deck. Over at a set of stairs leading to the ship's underlevels, the quiet thumping of footsteps against wood sounded out, stopping and starting awkwardly as tired pants carried through the air, followed by a Druddigon's voice and Crom's head poking out into the sunlight.

    "Take it easy, dad…"

    Crom shuffled his way up the stairs with Pladur leaning on his shoulder, the bandaged Fraxure stumbling up onto the deck with his child's help. After a moment's pause for Pladur to catch his breath, the pair shuffled along the ship's timbers in slow, cautious steps over to the railing as Pladur rested his shoulders against it and his son shot a beaming grin at him.

    "See? Told you I could get you onto the deck!" Crom cheered.

    "Heh, you did well mijo," Pladur chortled. "It's nice to finally be back on my feet again."

    The Fraxure looked out at the surrounding sea as the waves rolled quietly around the ship, muffled chatter from the sea escorts filtering up with the ocean's sounds. The dragon paused a moment, before hanging his head with a disappointed sigh.

    "I still wish I could've been there to see that other Protector," he murmured. "The rest of the crew sounded amazed just to be in his presence together with Lugia."

    Crom pawed at his father's shoulder with a claw that tugged his attention back at him, giving a reassuring smile.

    "Dad, it's okay, you needed the rest," the Druddigon insisted. "And I'm sure you'll get a chance to meet Kline again after you've fully recovered!"

    Pladur blinked as a small smile began to spread over his face, his mind returning to ease as his attention drifted out back to the sea and the passing waves.

    "I suppose there's a silver lining to everything that happened," he said. "Normally I'm too busy working just to take in the air like this."

    "Well, I heard Beatrix say we were getting close to Pioppo," Crom mused. "So maybe you'll get lucky and see the island off in the distance!"

    Pladur stiffened up, bristling uncomfortably much as if the ship's Audino medic had summarily tugged at his bandages. The Fraxure set his teeth on edge before turning to Crom worriedly.

    "Are- Are you sure there's no other way, mijo?" Pladur stammered. "If you're not feeling well about going to the island, there's no shame in staying with your papi at the ship…"

    "That's where the Knights' Ledger is though," Crom insisted. "Where else are we supposed to go to get it?"

    "But the island's haunted!" the Fraxure cried. "Aren't you scared at all?"

    Crom blanched a bit as his mind drifted back to Nida's description of Pioppo. Going to an island full of ghosts that snatched Pokémon away was… admittedly a pretty scary thought. But the Knights' Ledger was their only way to stop the Company, so they had to go there and get it! And more importantly…

    "I mean… yes. But I won't be alone!" the Druddigon exclaimed. "I'll be there with Nida! And Pleo and Kiran too! And all the friends we've made! If we all look out for each other, I'm sure it'll work out well!"

    Pladur shrank back hemming and hawing, only to be answered by Crom patting his shoulder reassuringly. The Axe Jaw Pokémon wavered a moment, shifting his glance away uneasily.

    "I-I mean… if you're really sure…"

    "Don't worry dad, I'll be fine," the Druddigon insisted. "I'm not afraid of some ghosts!"

    Pladur grimaced at the idea of Crom skulking off on Pioppo. Hadn't he already been through enough danger in this voyage? Why was he so insistent on getting anywhere near the blasted rock when all he'd ever heard of it were tales of terrifying wraiths and sailors who had vanished without a trace?

    Then again… this Knights' Ledger didn't sound like anything to sneeze at… and his child had come this far. He had made it through skulking about Andaku okay… and then the Iron Fleet's subsequent ambush of their ship… Why, even the chase out of Giotto and that horrid Weavile's ambush on Buyeom had worked out! With his son's growth and the island's Protector watching over him, surely it couldn't hurt to give them some benefit of the doubt…

    "Alright…" the Fraxure replied. "Just… please be careful out there…"

    "Oh! Crom! You're up early too?"

    Crom and Pladur turned around, spotting Pleo waddling up behind them. The seabird blinked a moment, before turning his attention towards Pladur, giving a curious tilt of his head as he scanned the long-tusked Pokémon from head to toe.

    "Who's the other Pokémon with you?" Pleo asked.

    "That's my dad!" Crom cheered. "He's the one I told you about back in Bluewhorl!"

    Pleo paced forward, eyeing Pladur curiously as he bobbed to and fro around Dragon-Type. Pladur reflexively shied away and screwed his eyes shut, made uneasy by the Protector's insistent probing, only to feel a soft, downy sensation. The Fraxure opened his eyes and saw Pleo embracing him with his wings, before pulling them back and beating them with a happy chirp.

    "Well I'm happy to meet you!" the Lugia cheered. "I'm Pleo and Crom always made you sound so fun when he talked about you!"

    Pladur blinked, before pawing at the back of his head with a sheepish smile, unsure what to say back.

    "Ahehe… well, it's nice to meet you too, Protector…"

    The Fraxure couldn't help but think the whole moment to be a touch absurd. This was Lugia, a god of the seas who could make it as calm or tempestuous as his will desired, and here he was running around and hugging common Pokémon like him! Though… even with all his powers, perhaps it had been a bit silly of him to think such a little 'mon wouldn't be a pollito at heart. The Dragon-Type trailed off, only to see Pleo still staring at him and craning his neck forward curiously.

    "So… you normally sail with the ship too, right?" the Lugia asked.

    "That's right, I'm the head cook for the ship! I make sure that everyone has something to eat during mealtimes," Pladur answered, prompting Pleo to give an excited squawk in realization.

    "Oh! So you make bread like Gwenith!"

    "Well, I make more than just bread…" the Dragon-Type said. "It's my job to make sure everyone gets a rounded meal onboard. After all, I don't think there's any 'mon who wouldn't get sick of bread if it was the only thing he ever had to eat."

    "Huh… I guess dinner would be a bit boring with only one type of food…" Pleo murmured. "Though… that actually reminded me about something else I was wondering about…"

    "Hm? What was it?" Pladur asked.

    "What do you do to burp so well?" the bird pressed. "Crom said he learned from you, so that means you can teach me too, right?"

    Pladur stared back puzzledly at Pleo's question and turned to his son for answers. Crom sheepishly pawed at the back of his head, giving a flustered grin back.

    "Ehehe… it's a bit of a long story, but we might have been having a competition with each other?" the Druddigon said.

    Pladur shifted uneasily and fumbled for words. Of all the things he could've expected a god to ask from him… tips on how to get better at an uncouth sailors' game he occasionally did with his son certainly wasn't one of them. What would everyone back home even make of it?

    "Uh…" the Fraxure murmured. "I mean is that really something that I should be teaching-?"

    "Oi! Stop loafing around down there! I see land!"

    Crom, Pleo, and Pladur looked up and spotted Scout leaning over the edge of the crow's nest, having taken quite naturally to his newfound role as a secondary lookout. Crom brushed off the Sentret's scolds and raised his claw over his brow to look when he heard his teammates' voices behind him, turning to see the other members of Team Traveller hurrying towards a growing gathering behind Beatrix as she looked out to see an island marked by rolling, tree-lined hills through a spyglass. The Illumise fluttered along with her ship carefully, when she slowed to a stop and pulled the spyglass back, staring wordlessly out at the waves before addressing the gathered sailors.

    "That's Pioppo, alright," the firefly remarked. "The description matches up with what I saw through my scope."

    Worried murmurs filtered around the crew as Natrix and Philips shifted uncomfortably at the front. The Raichu of the duo flicked his ears back, before raising his voice in protest.

    "Uh… considering this is the island with ghosts that snatch Pokémon away and do gods-knows-what to them, should we really anchor right next to it?"

    "I mean, the alternative is swimming over to that island," Natrix muttered. "If we really have to go down there, what else are we supposed to do?"

    The sailors began to offer up competing solutions, some opting to bravely press on, while others protested to keep their distance. All the while, Dimitri looked off, noticing a patch of water along the coastline where the waves kept breaking into foamy white spray, prompting him to blink before turning towards Beatrix with a wave of his scythes.

    "Wait, Beatrix!" Dimitri cried. "What do those waves keep hitting over there?"

    Beatrix raised a brow, moving a tarsal over her eyes as she looked at Pioppo's coast and noticed a spit of land jutting out. The Bug-Type reached into a satchel over her shoulder, raising a scope over her eyes and giving a surprised buzz after noticing a small cove behind the spit, before giving the scope off to Vicente who looked through before setting it aside with a disbelieving murmur.

    "A hurricane hole?" Vicente asked. "I mean, we could certainly do worse for places to anchor…"

    "I don't think we'll find much better, and it'd give us some cover to hide behind if someone's been tracking us," Beatrix said, prompting Vicente to turn to the gathered sailors with an impatient tap of his foot.

    "You heard her! Everyone at your stations!" the Hitmontop barked. "Take us hard to port!"

    The crew answered back with a rousing 'aye' and returned to their stations as the escorts whipped up currents while Beatrix flitted to the ship's tiller. With a forceful lean against the shaft, the Siglo Swellow lurched to the west, sailing off for the hurricane hole in the distance.

    As the Siglo Swellow neared the hurricane hole, the Iron Fleet had found shelter from the prior night's storm at a white beach where they ran their ship aground for repairs and disembarked to probe their surroundings. The air rang thick with the sounds of footsteps crunching sand while Hess and Rodion wandered ahead of the throng of golden-scarved underlings surveying the coastline. Uneasy murmurs filtered around the gathered pirates as a few stared off warily at the thick forest ahead of them, before turning their attention back to their captain.

    "Captain, where are we?" a Vileplume demanded.

    "Yeah, this definitely looks bigger than one of those unsettled islands!" Alvise complained.

    "Oh for crying out loud, do you expect me to have a map for every stray rock where there isn't a single civilized soul living on it?!" Hess snapped.

    "… Are we sure about this, Captain? When we were pulling in, I could've sworn I saw some sort of ruins further along the beach near the eastern side," a Staravia murmured. "What if we're not as alone as we think we are?"

    The gathered pirates whispered nervously at the idea of being on the same island as another organized group of Pokémon, especially if they didn't know they could overpower them in a fight if needed. A forceful slam and quaking of the sand underfoot cut through the chatter, as the crew turned towards their captain just as he let out an impatient growl.

    "Enough!" Hess bellowed. "For crying out loud, haven't you all heard of 'any port in a storm' before?!"

    "But we pulled onto a beach!" Wilhelm exclaimed, prompting Hess to throw a claw over his face and pinch his brow.

    "My point is, we got to a safe place when we needed to, and if we were in any real danger, those 'ruins' or whatever it was would've given us trouble right away!" the Aggron insisted. "So whatever's out there, it's not anything that we can't deal with!"

    A wave of groans went up at the Steel-Type's insistence. With all the implausible incidents that they'd dealt with over the past month, was Hess seriously trying to soothe them by dismissing things as 'probably nothing'?

    "Oh yeah, that's real assuring," Kichiro grumbled.

    "How on earth did you air-breathers talk us into this?" a Seadra fumed. "The water was just fine last night!"

    "Oi! Less talk and more work!" Hess barked. "We've got a ship that needs to be patched up and resupplied, and you all sitting around isn't helping!"

    The Aggron's cry drew a sharp growl and prompted Nori to stamp his foot irritably with an accusing swing of his club.

    "And the ruins?" the Marowak snapped. "It would be nice to know that we're not busting our tails off just waiting to be pounced on, you know!"

    Hess flinched at the sight of Nori's bone being leveled at him, backpedaling by reflex. The Steel-Type stared wide-eyed at the Marowak for a second only to realize… the blasted bone lizard had brought up something that could help get rid of him once and for all! With newfound confidence, Hess' eyes hardened back into a scowl as he gave an impatient slap of his tail against the sand.

    "Well, since you're so curious about it, you can be a part of the team to go check it out and see if there's anything worth taking from there!" Hess spat, making Nori recoil and go wide-eyed.

    "N-Nanda?!" the Marowak stammered. "I didn't sign up for-!"

    "That'll be all!" Hess announced. "You can report to Rodion for your assignments!"

    At Hess' cue, Rodion marched out and hopped atop a driftwood log on the beach sand. The Mistral Marauder's crew began to crowd around the Floatzel as he began to bark out instructions, splitting the crew into three groups. Some like Valatos and his buddies were tasked to follow Kichiro to go scout the ruins the Staravia spotted, while others like a Vileplume and a Charmeleon were spun off to go west and forage, as the rest were instructed to set up an encampment and help repair the ship. Hess watched as the crowd began to thin and gave an approving grunt, making his way back for the ship as Rodion suddenly stepped away from the log and darted up to tap at his captain's shoulder.

    "Hess, I think that we're still missing something," the Floatzel said.

    "Eh? How so?" Hess asked. "There should be food right near the beach, there's 'mons assigned to the ship, and those ruins are getting checked up on. What are we still missing?"

    "Well, what are you planning to drink once we push off?" the Sea Weasel Pokémon answered. "We're nearly out of water, and rum too for that matter. A 'mon can go a few days without food if need be, but if you try to do the same with water, you'd be quite literally left with a skeleton crew."

    Hess bit his tongue and grimaced at Rodion's reply. Even with the world as diminished as it was in present times, it was a fool's errand to try and sail without a voyage's supply of water. And with no rum, it meant that if the crew got into a mutinous mood before dying of thirst, there'd be nothing to calm them down with. The Aggron paused and shook his head, racking his mind for potential solutions to the crew's current predicament.

    "I mean," the lizard began. "We could always assign some scouts from the team that's checking the rui-"

    The Aggron looked back for the Pokémon tasked to go to the ruins, only to trail off and go wide-eyed after noting they were rapidly slipping from view down the beach and well out of earshot.

    "… Oh… Er…"

    Hess hemmed and hawed, looking off at the forest uneasily as he began to wonder how he or Rodion would be able to find water on their own without grinding repairs to a halt. The sound of a passing buzz caught his ears, prompting him to turn back and spot Kichiro and Wilhelm heading after the departing group, which made the Aggron's eyes light up as he let out a sigh of relief.

    "Oi, Kichiro! Come over here!" he ordered.

    Kichiro tilted his head skeptically, before flitting up with Wilhelm in tow. The Hoppip drifted to and fro with a happy cheer, while Kichiro let out a sharp, annoyed buzz.

    "Captain, it's Keiichiro!" the Ledian piped. "And aren't I supposed to lead the group checking out the ruins?"

    "Change of plans, we're running low on water," Hess replied. "We need you to go inland and look for any water sources."

    Kichiro hopped back with a start, lowering his antennae and curling his mouthparts into a sour frown as he shot back with an irritated hiss.

    "And why do I of all Pokémon have to scout inside that dense forest when we don't even know this island is safe?!" the beetle demanded.

    "Because you're the best aerial scout on the crew, and picking anyone else isn't going to produce better results when this could mean the difference between us dying of thirst on the way home or not," Rodion retorted.

    The Bug-Type began to splutter in protest, only for Rodion to roll his eyes and opt to bypass Kichiro entirely by turning to Wilhelm and stooping down to meet his eyes.

    "Wilhelm, go and let the others headed towards the ruins know that Kichiro's been reassigned to another task," the Floatzel ordered. "It shouldn't be too hard to check up on it and loot anything useful there."

    "Aye captain- Er… Aye first mate!" the Hoppip cheered. Satisfied with the Rodion's order, the Grass-Type took off, making his way east down the beach bobbing and babbling to himself as Kichiro stared open-mouthed while Hess looked down at him with an impatient glare.

    "Well? What are you waiting for?" the Aggron demanded. "Go and find us that water!"

    "Ugh… fine."

    The Ledian hissed and fumed under his breath before spreading his elytra and taking to the air. Hess and Rodion watched as the Bug-Type zipped along for the forest and slipped out of view, leaving the two to trade looks before Hess gave a dismissive wave with claw.

    "Come on, we should go and help get that ship together."

    The Aggron and Floatzel turned and shuffled back for the Mistral Marauder, as the bushes near the treeline quietly shifted. There, a purplish cloud settled and billowed as yellow eyes appeared and glared out at the departing pirates. The figure drifted back and ebbed away, slinking off into the undergrowth as the forest returned to its eerie calm.

    In the waters north of Buyeom, the hulking form of a four-masted ship with metal cladding plowed along through the waves. At the bow, Nagant looked ahead intently, watching as a steep reddish peak poked over the horizon with hazy black stone structures near its base. As the craft neared, the Clawitzer began to make out the colors of the ships in port in the distance, prompting her to take out a scope and look ahead. The shrimp peered through skeptically, panning to her left towards the harbor's naval yard, only to freeze and lower it with a stunned gape.

    "Chto za chert…?"

    As the Uragan entered the mouth of the harbor, the cause of Nagant's shock became apparent. All throughout the naval yard, the ships had their hulls pressed up against one another in a jumble, while a few had their masts tilting at precarious angles. The crew of the Uragan looked up from their work, watching the sight of 'mons in indigo squabbling with one another on the ships and docks about how to go about repairing the damage. All the while, the lot stared blankly along with their captain, as Jun sidled up with an incredulous stare before giving a shake of his head.

    "I certainly wasn't expecting home to look like this when I came back…" the Beedrill sighed. "It looks like the Protector came through here, though I suppose the question now is whether he's still on the island or not."

    "Hmph, either way, it looks like we've got no time to lose," Nagant piped. "Get the ship tied down, I'll go talk to the local Duke about what's going on here right away!"

    Jun buzzed in agreement and saluted before turning back for the deck, leaving Nagant to pivot on her tail for the water. The Clawitzer sprang up and leapt down, diving into the harbor's water as she plowed along for the battered docks. All along the way, the shrimp noticed from the corner of her eye Pokémon looking up from their work cleaning debris and repairing ships to stare in awe at the ironclad behind her, sentiments that would've filled the wizened crustacean with pride had the circumstances been less dire. Nagant veered hard to her right, where she saw a less-damaged dock next to two ships that had been shoved up against each other, prompting her to zip along for it and hop onto the wood, letting the seawater drip off of her as a Braixen in an indigo scarf at its end noticed her and approached.

    "Buyeom-do-e osin geol hwan-yeonghabnida, it's a shame that we could not receive you under better circumstances. You must be Admiral Coil's assistant," the Braixen said. "Do you know when your superior will be out-?"

    The fox bit her tongue as Nagant hissed loudly and glared daggers back. The Braixen hemmed and hawed audibly, before stammering out a hasty correction.

    "Uh… right, Coil has been relieved of duty… permanently," the Fire-Type gulped. "Uhm… I don't suppose I could speak to your superior-?"

    "I'm in charge of this mission here per direct orders of the crown, you dunce!" Nagant barked. The Clawitzer pivoted on her tail and gestured about the stricken naval yard around her, before turning back to the Braixen with an overpowering scowl.

    "And what on earth happened here?!" the shrimp snapped. "It looks like a hurricane just blew through!"

    "Uh… well, you see… we found the ship that took the Protector docked here in port yesterday," the Braixen began. "The guards tried to stop it, but-"

    "You let them get away?!"

    The Braixen squeaked, backing away slowly from the fuming shrimp. After working up the nerve to stand her ground, the messenger piped back with stammering exasperation.

    "W-Well what were we supposed to do?!" the fox complained. "All of the ships that were to chase after them were damaged when those pirates forced the Protector to attack us!"

    "I've heard enough. Bring me to the Duke and the Governor at once!" Nagant spat. "Those pirates are still out there and I'm not getting any closer to recovering the Protector from them wasting time on this nonsense!"

    The Fire-Type hesitated, peering down at Nagant's scarf for a long moment, and then looking up at her scowling face before uneasily rubbing at the back of her head.

    "I… can try to see if he can squeeze in a quick meeting," she answered. "But Duke Seok normally isn't the type to make impromptu meetings with just any naval captain…"

    "Nobody said these were normal circumstances," Nagant harrumphed. "Now let's go already!"

    The Braixen shuffled uneasily, before heading inland as Nagant hopped after her impatiently. The pair carried on, making their way amid the twisting lanes for the harbor's black stone gate and the form of a slate-roofed palace in the distance, overlooking Magmapool from the lower reaches of the volcano.

    The air over the Siglo Swellow's hurricane hole was crisp and clear as days after storms typically were, the quiet bobbing of the waves being broken by the sound of marine Pokémon in the ship's white scarves travelling in convoys between the ship and a ramshackle encampment sprouting on the beach. There, sailors stacked crates and drove stray wood into the sand as tattered sails were hung over them, forming a growing collection of tents and lean-tos. All the while, the sounds of construction mingled with uneasy murmurs about what lay beyond the treeline deeper in the island's forest… and grumbling complaints of how the few Pokémon tasked to care for the ship mysteriously had their numbers doubled thanks to sailors abruptly developing 'stomachaches'.

    Among the convoy's members, Team Traveller rode for the shoreline on the backs of Dimitri and a Mantine from the crew, who took them towards the western fringe of the encampment, while Pleo and Kiran kept pace from the air. After disembarking and getting their feet wet in the surf, the Mantine turned and set off back for the ship, leaving Team Traveller to look around their surroundings.

    "Well, I wasn't expecting it to take eleven days, but we're finally here," Dimitri said. "Welcome to Pioppo."

    Pleo craned his head along the beach cautiously, pacing forward with slow, hesitant steps. To his left was a long stretch of white sand, and ahead the sight of a overgrown forest thick enough to blot the sun out in darkened shade. The Lugia shrank back, feeling as if the island itself was trying to drive away curious Pokémon, but this was Pioppo and it was supposed to be where Cernun and the Knights' Ledger would be…

    "But… how do we find Cernun?" Pleo asked. "Kline said he'd be here, but I don't see any town and everything looks the same with all these trees!"

    Kiran looked over at the encampment, where he watched as Vicente went to and fro inspecting the rising structures. The Swellow began to hop along to ask the Hitmontop if he'd already assigned scouts, only to see him get pulled aside by Natrix and Philips, prompting him to pause before turning back to his teammates.

    "Beatrix and Vicente were going to start sending out Pokémon to look around. Perhaps we could take a look around the forest ourselves?" Kiran suggested. "If we split into two teams again, we'd improve our odds of finding Cernun, or at least help give the others more information to work with."

    The younger members of the team reflexively shrank back with hems and haws as Elty rolled his eyes and curled his muzzle down into a sour frown.

    "… Really, Kiran?" the Growlithe scoffed. "Because splitting up to find Xerneas really worked out for us on Buyeom."

    "Esto es diferente! That Xerneas was a fake and we were being misled!" the Swellow insisted, giving a emphatic bat of his wings. "We have a better idea of what we're dealing with right now and don't need to convince him that we have a Protector of our own, so our odds of success are bound to be at least 100% better!"

    Crom and Nida shifted uncomfortably at Kiran's suggestion. Splitting up… here of all places?

    "I dunno… in school sometimes we'd hear of scary stories from the time of humans," Nida murmured. "In them, whenever people split up, they always seemed to wind up meeting horrible fates."

    "Yeah, and if it kept happening over and over again in those stories, wouldn't there have been a reason for that?" Crom added. "Maybe the humans wanted to warn us against splitting up in scary-seeming situations!"

    The Druddigon trailed off, bringing his wings in warily against his body as his eyes shifted uneasily off to his side… to the darkened forest at the edge of the sand.

    "Ones kinda like this…"

    Kiran sidled up beside the unsettled dragon, giving a confident puff of his chest feathers and reassuring wave of his wing.

    "You're forgetting that those stories always had people meet those fates when they would go off alone. Four Pokémon is larger than most rescue teams!" the Flying-Type exclaimed. "If we truly run into any trouble, there will be more than enough of us to pull through."

    "… I don't know, Ohsubame," Guardia said. "Even if it's not exactly the same, it does feel like we're brushing aside this lore a bit quickly."

    "I can understand the hesitation, but part of being a Rescue Team is knowing when it's appropriate to take risks," Kiran insisted. "It's only a matter of time before the Company realizes they've been tricked, so isn't it better to try and find Cernun as soon as we can?"

    "That's a fair point… but… I really don't feel good about this idea, Kiran," Ander murmured.

    Kiran paused and moved a wing up to his beak in thought. He looked impatiently off at the forest for a moment, before back reluctantly at the younger members of the team. The Swellow noticed the youngsters seemed hesitant, making him uneasy about the idea of forcing them into uncomfortable circumstances. Kiran lingered a moment, pausing noticeably before speaking up to his companions with a soft chirp.

    "Why don't we split up based off where we're comfortable searching?" he suggested. "I'll lead a team inland, and anyone who feels less comfortable can search the coastline with Ander."

    The gathered Pokémon hesitated at the Swellow's suggestion, trading uneasy looks with one another. Crom began to inch back, turning his eyes towards Ander as his thoughts turned to the haunted forest ahead. The Dragon-Type began to drift towards the mantis, before thinking back to the encouragement he gave his father in the morning. If he'd really come so far, surely there wasn't any reason to shy away like this. With newfound reassurance, Crom shook his head, and stepped up towards his Swellow teacher with a determined grin.

    "I'll join you, Kiran," Crom said. "If that Knight's Ledger is really that important, then I'll do whatever I can to help!"

    "Count me in as well," Nida added. "You're going to need a good set of ears, and I'm sure that I can pick up anything that sounds suspicious through all those bushes."

    "Tch, nieważne. I'm sticking to the coast," Elty retorted. Nida blinked a moment, raising an ear puzzledly back at the Growlithe.

    "Eh? Since when did you like being around water?" she asked.

    "I'm sure I'll manage," the Puppy Pokémon scoffed. "It may be wet, but at least I can see what's going on in front of me."

    The Nidoran frowned, before shaking the bag on her shoulders loose and nudging it over to her canine teammate.

    "Well you're going to need something to help you in a pinch, and this bag is sized for you and has your smell all over it," she said. "I figured that you'd find it useful. Just don't slack off, alright?"

    "Hrmph, I appreciate the bag, but worry less about me and more about keeping your barbs together," Elty retorted. The Fire-Type bent down and slipped the satchel back over his front shoulder as Dimitri looked off at the forest in the distance, before slowly turning away back towards the sea with a shake of his head.

    "I wouldn't but mind exploring new land myself, but I am more useful to the team near water, so…" Dimitri mused, as the group's attention shifted to Guardia and Pleo who had both yet to make a decision.

    Guardia shuffled her feet uneasily, casting uncomfortable glances between the water and the forest. If these spirits were approachable, it would be a prime opportunity to learn from this island's dead. But with what Laurens had described of them, it almost made being around the sea's dampness seem comforting! The Cubone looked down at the sand and struggled between the choices, only for Pleo to step ahead towards Kiran and raise his head with a cheery squawk.

    "I'll come too!" the Lugia offered. "If it's really dangerous in the forest, you'll need a Protector watching over you!"

    "I… suppose that means I should stay near the coast then. Since that way our teams are equal in size," Guardia said. "Just be careful out there, alright?"

    Kiran and his charges nodded back, before the two teams drifted into their chosen groups and began to pace off for their respective directions. After a few steps towards the forest, Kiran turned back, giving a cheerful wave back at Dimitri and his teammates.

    "Good luck everyone," the Swellow said. "Let's meet up again soon and share what we've all found."

    The two squads carried on their respective paths, slipping out of sight of each other as the encampment and the Siglo Swellow in the distance faded from view, and their attention gravitated ahead searching high or low for any sign of the hidden Xerneas.

    Author's Notes:

    - Chto za chert (Что за черт) - Russian: "What the hell", "What the deuce" (BGN/PCGN Romanization.)
    - Buyeom-do-e osin geol hwan-yeonghabnida (부염도에 오신 걸 환영합니다) - Korean: "Welcome to Buyeom Island" (South Korean Revised Romanization)
    - (¡)Esto es diferente! - Spanish: "This is different!"
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019

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