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Fledglings

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

  1. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    In one scene, Bunsen already proves himself more competent than Darzin. And displays an even shorter temper than Lyn has. Impressive!

    The next scene is quite juicy. And not in the sense that 'mons are drinking. I know I've been very curious about what Ketu's motivation is and I've gotta say... I'm quite surprised, but in a good way! First, there's the fact that he is Betulo's buddy and wants to help him out, which is surprisingly nice, given what we'd seen of Ketu. Ellsberg's initial reaction and some of the prose made me wonder if there was somehow a "closer than friends" situation going on for a moment, before Ketu actually explained his other reason. And I found it interesting both in, again, the relative selflessness of it, and the fact that, even though the explanation is on the vague side, his line of thinking about guiding/instructing gods has a hint of dangerous theology to it, which is backed up by Ellsberg's uneasy reaction. But it's doubly interesting because Ketu's change in attitude and demeanor tells me he's really bought into whatever ideals Elilan is spouting off. It felt like the level of devotion that can drive people to do some pretty crazy things. So, I'll be interested in seeing where this goes, that's for sure.

    Huh. I could've sworn Pleo and Pladur had met all ready. Guess I was wrong. XP The small talk on the whole was cute, though I think you could've omitted the paragraph-long recap of all the stuff Crom's done to this point in the fic or, if you were really insistent, have Crom himself say it as a way of bolstering his confidence a bit.

    I, uh, really don't have much to say about the pirates again. If something does happen to them with the ruins (and I suspect them to find something), then it'll have my attention. I just personally think you could've skipped right to the juicy bit and maybe started said scene off with, say, Nori complaining about ending up on this island and getting assigned to check out these ruins.

    Also, I see Nagant has finally taken up Lyn's role of being one step behind Team Traveler in their adventure. Fitting, since they're in Imperial waters... and Lyn thinks he's won. XP And, to end things off, I honestly can't remember how similar these split-up teams are to last time, but it was interesting seeing the logic behind it.

    Now, I'm ready for spoopy stuff. >:3

    But things are already charred now that you're there. Geddit? :V

    I see Ketu subscribes to the "winners don't do drugs" school of philosophy.

    Roll credits

    Ha! It's funny b/c they're sailing toward a haunted island. :p

    The one thing that can stop the Power of Friendship... the ol' fate-tempting, "We'll be fine!" line. Smooth, Crom.

    When an island's strange... and it don't look good... who ya gonna call? TEAM TRAVELLER!
    ...
    ...
    ... what? What do you mean that's not how the song goes? [check notes] Oh. I see. [turns and shouts] Kevin! Kevin, muck up the research again and you're fired!

    Birb has his priorities straight.

    Bless you, Wilhelm. You're a good bean. <3

    What? Hess doesn't have a 'mon on his crew with Drizzle for just these types of emergencies? :p

    Elty would be great at Cinema— oh, wait, that doesn't apply here. :V

    oh my god scooby doo exists in canon. this is fantastic.
     
  2. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Yep, called it!

    You know, I’d had my doubts that Ketu would fall for that. Dude’s pretty smart. Looks like I was right.

    Pffff sorry, salazzle, no time for your crap today. :p

    But it is true! These guys are pros at property destruction at this point. :B

    Good question, friend. You’re right to ask it.

    You clever little flatworm-snake-thingy, you. :D

    Son, as it is you’ve already had to go for an unscheduled swim. Do you really wanna keep tempting fate? :p

    And now Crom tempts fate. I do hesitate to assume Pladur’s going to be all right. Sure, he’s out of bed, but sometimes people get better right before they get even worse…


    Was surprised by what Subject Red turned out to be! I would've never guessed it on my own somehow. I guess it stands to reason, then, that Micky is Subject Blue. At any rate, gotta say, I'm liking how zygarde has been worked into the picture. Those things are so neat. :D
     
  3. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    And now for Episode 7! It’s a little surprising how quickly I’m coming along with this story, all things considered, particularly because of the long chapters. Blame the commute; makes it a lot easier for me to get through these in larger chunks.

    A Little Learning was another setup chapter for the most part, and there wasn’t a whole lot for me to note on except for the fact that, well… you’re setting things up for this episode’s conflict. This is a bit of an odd approach in that despite the fact that they still need to keep on the down-low, they’re laxer about it, despite the fact that I feel like they’re in more danger here than the last episode. The dissonance is a bit odd.

    Also, Pleo having an affinity for storms is something that I really liked. I knew instantly what was up, but it’s nice to see this get a bit of lore acknowledgement, so to speak, and I’m curious what that’s going to mean down the line for him.

    One thing that I’m a bit critical about is yet another use of “small world” plot devices, just-so-happening to run into Elmer—I mean, uh, whoever that Mothim guy is, he’s probably not important—who finds a single feather left behind by Pleo. I feel like these happenstance run-ins with Company folk are happening a bit too frequently when it could easily have been spotting them from a distance but having no easy way to get to them, or something? I don’t know; I just hope this doesn’t get used much more often from here on, or at least they’re conveyed in a way that doesn’t feel like that. Just how tiny are these islands for people to intersect like this?


    The next chapter was the first time that I noticed something peculiar on why the chapter lengths may be getting so long: You’re jumping across all the perspectives that are currently at play per chapter. Now, as a stylistic choice, I don’t think that’s necessary to cover everybody in one chapter, but there is something that I’m noticing stemming out of it: With so many people, you might want to start considering your options in terms of who might be good to abridge, and who might be good to show in full. This chapter felt very slow because of all the setup, similar to the last episode, with so many people just “trying to do something,” while the core Team Traveler is… off making sandcastles. Completely understandable, and I actually liked their scene in this chapter. The problem is, there’s so much other stuff going on slowing everything else down. Hoo. I know it’s hard to juggle all these moving parts, but I hope the pacing picks up a bit more from here on.


    And pick up it did! Okay, It’s a Trap! Has finally gotten to the part of the episode that isn’t slow buildup. And we get some of my favorite things when it comes to long fics like these – lore! The depiction of what seemed to be the destruction of Xerneas was an interesting little walk, followed by what happened to the egg in present day. Very interesting, contextualizing what happened and showing perhaps more precisely what had happened. Makes me wonder if we’ll be seeing something like that near endgame.

    One minor nitpick, though, I thought the talk between Pleo and the others about death was weirdly heavy-handed and, well, for lack of a better word, choreographed on where it was going to go and how it would become relevant. I think if a conversation like that happened a few chapters ago, maybe even the episode before with the Cubone graveyard, it would’ve been more impactful, because with it taking place in the same chapter, it was a little too close to have that as a “clever callback” or foreshadowing, etc.

    That goes double for the sudden power of prayer that Pleo felt again when he was trying to defend against the wilds as what was basically a literal deus ex machina. Unlike the last time it happened on Lyn’s ship, this one didn’t have as much buildup, if any at all, and I felt that it could have had a bit more impact if it did, even if it was just a few passages earlier to make it more gradual. As it is, it felt kind of sudden.

    That being said, Pleo’s desperation for his friends when they had finally escaped hit a lot of good notes, and I’m impressed at how you were able to depict both Pleo trying to help, and his naïve confusion on why it wasn’t working as it always had before. That was a very strong scene, even if it could have been stronger for the reasons mentioned above. In a vacuum, however, it was good.

    I think the most mysterious Pokémon right now is Trizano, without a doubt. He somewhat shows up and introduces himself goofily, please tell me he has a British accent, and then scares off Nida and such, but now, here, you’re starting to set him up as what might be a key player, or at least related to one. He’s either a/the Voice of Life (or your iteration of one, considering the timing of when you first started publishing this and the fact that he feels like he’s part of the “big picture” overarching plot) or he’s an emissary of the Star of Destruction. Those are my two guesses.

    And then we end off with the inevitable betrayal of Grovyle, and them getting captured and put in a hopeless spot again. At this point I’m used to it. Anyway, this is the first exciting chapter of the episode, and while I wished it happened sooner, the payoff is still strong.


    Helping Hand continues the trend of “things actually happening” and while it wasn’t quite as exciting as the last chapter, it was definitely enjoyable and kept the wind going. The clash between Hess and Crom’s groups felt like it drew on for a while for what had been accomplished, and I was much more interested in what Nagant was going on about.

    I thought that you handled Phyllis’ fears of Pleo well this time, compared to other Marked encounters. It wasn’t focused on for too long, but it wasn’t glossed over, and it didn’t really feel needless or anything like that. It wasn’t an annoying repeat, and it had a decent impact on the plot and how things all turned out, including the reasoning for keeping them in place for Lyn to pick up.

    The other highlight of this chapter was, without a doubt, the interactions between Salvini and Trizano. The latter is a very interesting character just for how much he seems to know, yet doesn’t let on, which is a trope that I’m guiltily fond of. Salvini, meanwhile, is showing a very nuanced mixture of duty and heart, which is often something that can conflict with one another in the line of work that she decided to get into. Under normal circumstances, I imagine she wouldn’t stay in that field for long if she had that sort of outlook, so I can see why she decided to help Trizano… but I do have one nitpick, and it’s something that I haven’t really been able to pinpoint until just now:

    Sometimes, you draw your scenes on for too long. Some things can be summarized, skipped over, or condensed; other conversations can perhaps end sooner, or perhaps more snappily, than draw on idly. Sometimes the camera can pan away with good timing and lose no information. And I finally spotted a concrete example of where this could be done:


    You could have literally ended this scene right here. Because the following four paragraphs…



    provide no new information. We already know that it’s risky for her to do this; we already know that they’re going to be teaming up and planning things out; yes, that parallel retort was clever, but not in exchange for all those extra words for no new information. I feel that the scene could have ended right here on a very powerful line and achieved the same information conveyance at the same time.

    But that aside, another good chapter to roll things along. Only one chapter left to go, but with how long these chapters are becoming (seriously, they’re starting to outlast my commute!) anything can happen.


    And finally, Up in the Air. You definitely wrapped up the main arc of this plot, but you didn’t quite, eh, give that payoff to having Pleo try to train or anything of the sort. I guess they sorta got distracted by the storm and stuff, even if they were largely unaware of what to do with themselves for most of it—and the story as a whole got sidetracked by the other things going on away from the main characters. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but I feel like, by ratio, the main Team Traveler had the least screen time in this episode.

    Salvini’s arc reached its end for now, though I see potential for her to come back into the picture later in one way or another. Not sure. But I thought it was interesting to see how she wound up making her decision, even if I somewhat saw it coming a few chapters ago just from how she was introduced.

    I’m starting to get mildly annoyed at Nida’s prey instincts. I swear, that’s the most prominent trait I see from her at this point, but while it started off irrational, it’s starting to border on the downright silly at this point, all because Trizano happened to be the same species. This sorta falls under the same prejudice as the Marked, in a way, judging by species or appearance, heh. Speciesism or, uh, Markism and all that.

    Also, another theory that crossed my mind, and it was only because of some past “Immortal” characters in PMD: what if there are two Trizanos? The way Trizano appears fully healed after clearly being injured could be chalked up to being an immortal and/or being healed, and there is a lot of lore surrounding that, apparently, but there’s, like, a 10% chance of a bait-and-switch and there are two of him, similar to the Haunter trio of PMD Sky. But it’s… a huge stretch right now. I’m gonna keep an eye out for how this guy ticks in future episodes.


    So, overall? Much better than the last episode, which more or less felt like a speed bump for approaching this one. Still hard to top that episode of escaping from Lyn’s ship, but this one’s picking up the pace and giving a sense of tension. I wasn’t really sure how they were going to get out of this one, all things considered. The way they eventually managed to escape made for a very interesting turn of events, and now I’m curious about this ever-spoken “subway” is going to be like.

    As an aside, regarding more comparisons to TTYD, I think you’re handling this location-hopping adventure genre quite well. Even if not every location is really spent a great deal of time on, most of the story revolves around the simple premise of trying to evade capture while finding a way to get home safely. The sub-intrigue is going to all these locations and seeing what each one is like—and while some of them feel a bit the same in terms of what can be seen, each one had a slightly different flavor. Still, if this kept up for any longer, I’d start calling it repetitive. But not anymore, assuming the subway is as different as I think it’s going to be. For the first time in a while, it feels like we’re genuinely entering a new arc in the story. Looking forward to it.
     
  4. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    @Ambyssin:
    Well I’m glad that you found the hook tantalizing. It’ll take a while before the full picture comes into play, but you should be able to see those inner cogs surface here and there in the future.

    Yeah, she’ll be a bit more of a thorn in Team Traveller’s side in the near future.

    I dunno if IGN would give it a 7.8, since that’d definitely be a “Not Enough Water” situation even if Hess did have a ‘mon that had that ability among his underlings. Plus, you’d need to somehow catch all of that falling water to actually drink it.

    @Sike Saner:
    Probably not the thing you’d want on your resume as a rescue team, though. :p

    To be fair, his lucky charm lets him get away with more of these moments than he rightfully ought to be able to.

    Yeah, I’ll be giving ol’ Axe Jaw a bit of a break from being thrown around this episode. No promises for his kid, though.

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed him, since he’ll definitely be popping up here and there in later portions of the story.

    @Namohysip:
    All in due time, though part of Fledglings is the greater journey of growing and developing. The midget storm god in the mix is not exempt from the dynamic.

    Yeah, this is definitely one of those moments that I definitely would do differently if I were to rewrite Episode 7. In my defense, I don’t think there’s ever another moment as “small world” as this one later on.

    Well, I’m glad to hear that the delivery outweighed the issues you had with it.

    To be fair, her world is strained to say the least and this is probably the most directly she’s had to ever balance duty and heart against each other. But in the end, you are what you are in the dark, and Salvini chose accordingly.

    I will have to keep that in mind. Admittedly, my impulse for trying to describe a clear image sometimes leads me down the wrong track.

    I’ll be eagerly awaiting your reactions to when you do see him again.

    It was a pleasure to hear that the story’s keeping you hooked even if it’s had its share of ups and downs. And yeah, part of the reason why you’re feeling that “new arc” sensation was that Episode 7 was intended to be a wake-up call for the team. I’ll be looking forward to your impressions about the subsequent ones as you get to them.

    Things took a bit longer than planned this time, but I’m finally here with the follow-up to last month’s update. I will be aiming to get the next chapter out the door within 3 weeks again, though even if it takes longer it will be up prior to July 27th, as I will be vacationing out of the country for a week afterwards.

    I’d like to extend my thanks to the readers and reviewers who follow this sea yarn, and to give particular thanks to Virgil134 for helping to make this chapter a reality.

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

    [​IMG]

    The forests Kichiro made his way through were maze-like spaces filled with tall, overlapping treetops that served to crowd out the sun from its understory. Closer to the entrance of the island's Mystery Dungeon, the shelter of the trees above helped to preserve a thin layer of mist that radiated out from its Distortion, clinging low to the ground in a milky haze. There, Kichiro flitted to and fro among the trunks, searching high and low for any sign of water, only to find nothing but the occasional sight and sound of passing ferals in the brush and a parting glimpses of dungeon fog in the distance.

    "Bah, of course I'm the one looking for water in this creepy forest," he complained. "Why is there never anyone else competent enough to do these stupid jobs?!"

    The beetle flitted in place a moment before catching a glimpse of rays of light to his left. Kichiro bobbed his antennae curiously and flew after the light towards a small clearing where short grasses grew in a long strip. He eagerly darted ahead, zipping clear across the strip only to spot nothing but grasses and shrubs at the end. The Ledian buzzed puzzledly, looking to his left and his right to discover that while the earth had stones scattered about much as a riverbed would, there wasn't a drop of water to be seen!

    "Ugh, how is this supposed to be easier for me anyway?!" Kichiro fumed. "I can't even search from the sky with all these dense trees- Huh?"

    The Ledian trailed off when he heard a trickling sound, looking around when he realized that the sound was continuing on and coming from closer to the ground.

    "Wait, that sounds like water."

    Kichiro pressed on, flying low to the ground as he followed the sound, which took him towards a gully obscured by ferns and bushes where in the shade of the trees was the sight of a slow-moving stream cascading down a set of short rapids. The beetle stared out of surprise, before letting out a sigh of relief in realization that the hard part of his task was finally over.

    "Yatto…" he said. "All that's left is to find where this stream goes and then the others can-"

    Tchh-shh…

    Kichiro froze at the sound of rustling coming from behind him. Instinctively, the Bug-Type flew back, calling out in surprise to the bushes.

    "Huh? Who's there?"

    The beetle was answered by a long, deathly silence, broken only by the quiet flow of the stream nearby. Kichiro frowned and let out an annoyed chitter as he raised his fists, surmising the rustling must've been from some feral stalking him.

    "Whoever you are, I know you're out there!" the Ledian buzzed. "So show your ugly mug already!"

    "You… shall… join… us…" a ghastly voice answered.

    Kichiro blinked at the strange voice from the bushes, feeling a slight sense of unease as he lowered his fists out of surprise and wondered who… or what he was dealing with here.

    "… What?"

    The bushes suddenly rended as a billowing column of purple haze came out, followed by two others from further behind that settled into wispy forms with glowing yellow eyes. With growling moans, the spectres extended pairs of shadowy claws, leaving Kichiro to recoil with a buzzing start.

    "W-What the hell?!"

    The ghosts churned and lurched forward as they raised their claws and yellowish points of light formed in their palms. The wraith at the head of the group let out a guttural snarl, as the light in its claws gathered into orbs that began to dance around in its grasp.

    "Join us… in the Spirit World!"

    The hazy figures abruptly flung a spray of yellowish orbs, prompting Kichiro to hastily fly to the side in a panic as the orbs sailed off and burst with sparking pops among the trees. The Bug-Type looked back at the ghosts, going wide-eyed as they rushed at him.

    "Oh screw this!" he squeaked. "The others can find their own damn water! I'm out of here!"

    Kichiro zipped up as the wraiths descended upon him, flying upward for dear life when he spotted a pocket of sunlight directly ahead. Instinctively, Kichiro flew for it, going past the treetops and out into the open sky as a pair of claws poked out beneath him, and then a second, and a third. The Ledian flew higher and higher in a panic, only to hear the ghostly moaning grow fainter, prompting him to look back towards the treetops and notice that the claws were groping around blindly behind him.

    "H-Hah! You missed, you stupid clods!"

    Kichiro swiftly took his leave, flying back for the beach and the relative safety of the Mistral Marauder. All the while, the claws ebbed and stilled, sinking back below the treetops in a purple haze as the forest settled down into an uneasy quiet.




    On the white beaches of Pioppo, the faint crunching of feet trodding on sand rang out as Dimitri led Ander, Elty, and Guardia along the contours of the island in their search for any sign of Cernun. Thus far, they had turned up little beyond driftwood and worn-down stones, as Elty and Dimitri busied themselves with idle chatter.

    "You know even for a Water-Type I'm surprised you didn't go into the forest, Dimitri," the Growlithe said. "Aren't you the one always going on about exploring on land?"

    "I mean, you were searching along the coast and if you spotted something out in the water, who else could help you?" Dimitri replied. "It's all part of working as a team."

    "What do you mean by that?"

    "Well, when you work on a team, sometimes you need to set aside what you want to do right here and now for the sake of helping everyone move forward," the Kabutops explained. "If I left you all in a position where you could get stuck because of skills I had, I wouldn't be doing my job as a teammate, now would I?"

    Guardia smiled, taking heart that even in such an alien upbringing under the waves with nomadic sea Pokémon, evidently the same wisdom her dead passed on had found its way to a 'mon like Dimitri. The Cubone's expression eased as a nagging question entered her mind, leaving her to slow her pace before turning to her teammates.

    "… Wait, but if that's the case, why didn't Gardie go inland with the others?" Guardia pressed.

    "Hrm? What brings that up?" Ander asked.

    "Well, it's just what Dimitri was saying earlier," she murmured. "A Gardie is supposed to be good at tracking things by scent and the others were going inland… so why didn't he go with them?"

    Elty stood blinking a moment, before shaking his head back and continuing along the beach with a sharp harrumph.

    "I just know bad news when I smell it," the Growlithe said. "We were warned about how dangerous that forest was, and there's no point to taking obviously stupid risks like splitting off into small groups before going in."

    "But the others wouldn't be taking such a big risk if you were there in the forest!" Guardia exclaimed. "A 'mon can't see as well with all the plants while the dirt doesn't constantly get wet or blown around like the sand does here on the beach. In that case, you'd quite literally be able to smell things out better there than here."

    "Yeah, well I didn't think of that when we were splitting up. I'm sure I'll survive somehow," Elty scoffed back. Guardia's face fell as a sharp frown formed from beneath her bony helmet, prompting her to fold her arms over each other and growl back at the impudent pup.

    "Hrmph, with this attitude you're giving I'd almost think you didn't go in because the island reminded you of your 'Nagrobek'."

    Elty paused and lowered his ears, turning back slowly with eyes that betrayed a deep sense of unease.

    "… What makes you say that?" he asked.

    "Well, when Kline brought up Nagrobek, you recoiled from it as if he brushed up against a wound on your body," Guardia began. "You always struck me as a bit too hard-headed to get scared off by a little ghost story, and you're clearly used to using your senses to get around dungeons and territories unclaimed by hut dwellers. So why else would you be acting like this unless if Nagrobek is like this island?"

    The Puppy Pokémon hardened his eyes as his mood turned sour and testy, leaving him to shift his gaze away as he grumbled under his breath.

    "Of course a bone-head like you would be such a little pain…" the Growlithe muttered, before turning back with a sharp glare.

    "Look, what Laurens told us wasn't just 'a little ghost story', okay?" he insisted. "And Nagrobek's not relevant to our present circumstances at all! The trees in the forest back there don't even have leaves on their branches!"

    "So why'd you react as if you'd just gotten your tail stomped when Elilan was brought up, huh?" Guardia demanded.

    The Growlithe folded his ears back and grit his teeth, shooting a harsh glare back at Guardia as Ander eyed him skeptically and began to murmur aloud.

    "You did act a bit strange when it was brought up. Almost as if you had some sort of bad experience there with the Company," Ander said. "Are you sure there's nothing else you're not telling us here…? I just don't see why you'd get so defensive over idle musings about the forest otherwise. After all, it's not as if you used to be some manner of feral-"

    The Scyther's musings were quickly cut short by a sharp snarl as Elty crouched and bared his teeth back at the others. Guardia recoiled, surprised at her teammate's sudden temper as his words came out in hot and angry breaths.

    "Look bub, I came with you all to help look for Cernun! Not to be asked about my life story!" Elty snapped. "I already told you all why I didn't want to go in, so how about we do what we came here for or else I'll call it a day and go back to rest at the ship!"

    Guardia, Ander, and Dimitri stood in stunned silence, as Elty snorted and carried along fuming down the beach. Guardia watched as Dimitri began to pace after, only to stop and decide to give the Growlithe his berth, prompting her to look back at Ander as his words lingered in her mind.

    "… I'd never thought about it before Strike, but maybe you're onto something," the Cubone murmured. "The way that he gets through dungeons and always seems to know how to deal with things in the wilderness isn't the same as the way that Nida or Crom do it…"

    "It's not that implausible, really," Ander replied. "Pokémon like you who leave the wilds aren't that uncommon."

    "Don't get too ahead of yourself. I'm merely taking part of an excursion on behalf of my colony," Guardia corrected. "But… I wonder what on earth could've happened to him there."

    Ander paused, visible conflicted whether to speak up with thoughts of his own when Dimitri turned back with a raised scythe and gave a sighing shake of his head.

    "… Some things aren't meant to be known right away. Just let him be for now," the Kabutops insisted. "If it's something he feels we need to know, I'm sure he'll tell us sometime later."

    Guardia shuffled her shoulders uneasily at the crab's reply. Gardie was hiding something from them again. Considering the last thing he hid from them, wasn't it at all proper to try and get to the bottom of the matter? But… this thing felt… different.

    "I mean, I guess…"

    The Cubone looked after the departing Growlithe, her mind turning back to the night he had walked in on her pining for her father. Could it be that under his impudent and mischievous exterior that he was nursing a similar wound? The Ground-Type drifted in her thoughts only to see the dog abruptly freeze and his tail raise tensely, prompting her to motion to her teammates and quickly catch up.

    "Gardie, what are you doing?" she pressed. "You suddenly froze for no reaso-!"

    "Why do I have to look for food on land?" a barking voice complained. "I have flippers for crying out loud!"

    "Give it a rest already, Pieter," a growling voice piped back. "You're handling carrying around that basket just fine, and it's not like you actually have to pick anything anyway."

    The four Pokémon stiffened up at the sound of the other voices, Ander drawing his blades near him warily.

    "Wait," the Scyther said. "Are those other-?"

    Ander's question was answered by the sight of a Charmeleon, a Sealeo, a Noibat, and a Chingling in golden scarves rounding the corner. The four pirates caught sight of the Growlithe and the other Pokémon before them, and dropped their fruits into the sand with a startled jump much as if they'd seen a ghost.

    "Huh?! Eltenios?! What are you doing here?!" the Charmeleon cried. Elty's eyes widened and he pinned his ears tightly to the sides of his head, his tongue lolling over itself in hesitant stammers.

    "I… er…"

    "Hmph, I could say the same to you pirates!" Guardia snapped. "What are you doing here?!"

    "Well I thought I was wasting my time being on land," the Sealeo snarled. "But it looks like it was worth it after all."

    "Yeah, you twerps have a lot of nerve showing your faces on our island!" the Noibat added. "We got here first!"

    "I say let's drag 'em in front of the Captain!" the Chingling cried. "I'll bet Eltenios would be all for it after all the stuff they put him through!"

    Elty blanched at the Bell Pokémon's words, as he spotted Ander, Dimitri, and Guardia assuming fighting stances from the corner of his eye. The dog looked back at the pirates as they reciprocated and stared past him with low growls.

    "I… That's really not-" the Growlithe began, only to be cut off by a bellow from the pirate Charmeleon.

    "Let's do it! I'm sure the Captain would like some payback for what happened in Tidemill-!"

    "I'd like to see you try!" Dimitri hissed.

    The Kabutops dashed ahead, wreathing his body with water as he zipped into the Charmeleon with an Aqua Jet. The lizard tumbled back with a yelp, Ander dashing after with raised scythes to pin the pirate down before he could recover, only for a squeaking screech to cut through the air.

    "I don't think so, bug!"

    Ander was cut off by a Chingling jumping in and abruptly knocking him back with an unseen shove at his thorax. The Scyther buzzed with a start, spreading his wings to steady himself when the Noibat swooped in with a Wing Attack, making the mantis pratfall into the sand. The Bug-Type shook his head and threw himself back onto his feet, lunging forward with a flying jump and bringing his scythes together in a cross-shaped slash that launched the Chingling into a driftwood log, where he bounced off and rolled along the ground groaning incoherently.

    Elty froze and went blank as the din of battle thickened from Team Traveller and the pirates diving at each other. He'd always wanted to go back to his old crew… but having to hurt the 'mons who got him through Sormus, Giotto, and Buyeom… He wasn't going to sign on for that! The Growlithe racked his mind for what to do and who to join, when a Sealeo's annoyed bellow cut through the air and shook him back to attention.

    "Argh! Could we seriously not have done this in the water?!"

    Elty looked over to see Pieter flopping awkwardly after his teammates on the sand, forcing his flippers back and forth into a rocking gallop. From the side, Guardia darted along minding her distance, sweeping her bone out to the side as she began a whirling dance, only to lose her balance and pitch face-first into the beach coughing up mouthfuls of sand.

    "Pah! Pah! That didn't happen last time I tried!" she whined.

    "Here, take this while you're at it, you little sneak!" Pieter barked.

    The Sealeo cracked his mouth open as ice and rainbow light began to build within, aiming square for the toppled Cubone when a burning blur dashed in and struck the side of his head with a cartwheeling tackle.

    "Eyagh!"

    The seal flopped over, coughing up a few inert, icy lumps as he lay on the sand hacking. The Water-Type got up and looked around bewilderedly, before seeing a Growlithe looking up at him, making him beat his flippers indignantly.

    "Eltenios?! Wat doe je nou?!" the Sealeo fumed. "You completely missed the lizard and hit me, you stupid mutt!"

    "I'm sorry, but I can't let you throw her around," Elty replied. "Chasing them off is one thing, but I'm not just going to sit back and let them get hurt!"

    "The hell you will!" the seal bellowed. "You'll be seeing stars by the time I'm through with you for that little stun- Ow!"

    Pieter recoiled as a whirling bone zipped in and struck him from the side, before the club sailed back as its Cubone owner who braced herself for its return. The Sealeo pivoted with an angry bark and turned his attention to the bone lizard in the distance, prompting Elty to lunge in with opened jaws and be rewarded for his efforts by a spray of salty water to his face.

    "Aagh!"

    Elty felt his body shoot up, before falling and hitting the sand headfirst. The Growlithe let out a pained whine and lay there as the world around him spun, catching fleeting glimpses of Ander reeling from visibly rippling waves of air coming from the Noibat's ears, and Dimitri flailing at a smoke cloud. The Fire-Type struggled up to his feet, gagging up drops of the Sealeo's water when a startled scream rang out over the beach.

    "A-Aaaah!"

    Elty's fur raised and he looked back to see Guardia frantically darting around on the beach… chased around by the flopping form of the Sealeo spitting up streams of water during his awkward pursuit, with Guardia's club left a good distance behind him.

    "Seriously, bonehead?!" he fumed. "You're supposed to be the strong one on land!"

    The Growlithe began to run after, only for Pieter to spit up a Brine at him and force him to roll out of the way as it splattered over the sand. Elty blanched as the seal turned back to pursue his Cubone foe, realizing that if he took another square hit like that from Pieter, he'd be sunk! The Fire-Type quickly shuffled his bag over his shoulders, nosing through it until he felt smooth glass, pulling out the silky white form of a Slow Orb as he looked up and noticed a patch of cragged beach rocks between the positions of the golden-scarved pirates.

    "… This is it," he said. "Let's hope it's worth it."

    Elty threw the orb with his mouth towards the rocks where the sphere disintegrated into an explosion of glassy shards and silken strands that shot out and latched onto the nearby pirates. In the middle of his stride, Pieter went wide-eyed as a glob of silk pinned his right flipper to his body, making the Sealeo faceplant into the beach and cough up a mouthful of sand.

    "H-Hey what the-?!" the pirate yelped.

    With her newfound respite, Guardia dashed past her Sealeo attacker for her bone, leaving Pieter to flop and vainly try to keep chase when he felt a bite at his neck blubber. The seal yelped and thrashed in the sand, turning his head to see none other than Elty latched onto him.

    "Agh! Get off of me, you lousy furball!"

    The Sealeo rolled onto his side, pinning Elty with a yelp. Pieter slammed the side of his head against the beach again and again, until he felt Elty's jaws slack and look down to see him lying dazed in the sand. The Growlithe cringed and curled his body as Pieter readied a watery spray, when he heard a cry from his side and looked just in time to see Guardia jump at the pirate with her club raised, bringing its knob down on his brow with a harsh thwack.

    "Nnghk!"

    Guardia fell onto her back in the sand and hastily scrambled to her feet, looking up as the Sealeo staggered and tottered off to the side, before slumping over snout-first into the sand. Elty lay panting and wide-eyed, looking up as Guardia neared and lowered a claw to help right her stunned ally.

    "N-Nice save there," Elty wheezed.

    "Th-Thanks. Same to you."

    The two turned their heads at the sound of a pained screech, watching as the Noibat was swatted out of the sky by a clumsy swing of Ander's scythes and left lying limp in the sand. In the smoke cloud, a loud cry rang out as Alfred was ejected from it and tumbled onto his belly. The Charmeleon stumbled to his feet, pawing at a fresh scrape left on his belly when he looked around and paled at the sight of his fellow pirates strewn about unconscious.

    "Oh screw this!" he whined. "I'm letting the others deal with you!"

    Alfred turned and ran, prompting Guardia to spring up and send her bone into a spinning throw, zipping along for the fleeing lizard when it struck the back of his head. The Charmeleon yelped, pitching snout-first into the sand and leaving the rest of his body sprawled out limply. Guardia watched warily as the Charmeleon's tail flame dimmed into a tired ebb and threw a claw up as her bone returned to her grasp.

    The four hastily regrouped to each other and looked at the pirates, only to see them lying still with no sign of life but the faint rising and falling of their chests. Guardia sighed out of relief, before shaking her head and stamping her feet in irritation.

    "Grah! How did they even get here?!" the Cubone fumed. "Have they been following us?!"

    "I… don't know. We didn't see them around Buyeom and they were just as surprised to run into us," Dimitri murmured. "If anything, it looked more like they were more worried about finding food."

    "I mean… even so, what are the odds that they'd just run into us like that?" Ander mused.

    Elty folded his ears back and inched away as a troubling realization dawned on him. Back on Orleigh during his night back with the crew, he'd told them all about what he'd been through, including that the team had been on a journey towards Pioppo! Could… could it be that the Iron Fleet had come all the way out here because of him not keeping his yap shut?

    "Alfred? Pieter? What's with that racket that we heard?"

    Elty grimaced at the sound of a voice from beyond the bushes, realizing it was none other than the Vileplume from the crew… Minhwa, if he remembered right. The Growlithe looked back at the felled pirates, dreading another fight with more of their fellows after they found their friends sprawled out. The Fire-Type gulped and froze blankly when a sharp hiss reached his ears, prompting him to see Dimitri hurrying away and motioning impatiently for the others to follow.

    "Time to go, everyone!" Dimitri said.

    "How?" Guardia demanded. "We'll leave footprints everywhere on this beach!"

    The Kabutops cast a glance out to sea, watching the waves come in as a ray of inspiration struck him and he motioned for his teammates to follow.

    "I can think of a way around that. Come on!"

    Dimitri stooped down and slid into the water, letting Elty and Guardia latch onto him as Ander took wing behind him. The Kabutops jetted forward, circling about and approaching the beach once more as the waters churned behind him and the felled pirates began to stir and woozily raised themselves up.

    "Argh… everything… spinning…" Pieter winced.

    "Ngah… where'd those lousy twerps go?" Alfred groaned. "We can't just let this go unansw-!"

    The Charmeleon was cut off by a large wave bearing down and promptly knocking him and his fellow pirates further along the beach, melting away any footprints all the while. Back in the water, Dimitri tore away for the deeper waters, leaving Elty to sigh and shake his head as the beach faded further and further behind him.

    "A-AAAAAAAH!"

    Elty's ears jolted up at the sound of a Charmeleon's screams in the distance, Alfred's screams. The Puppy Pokémon's blood ran cold at the cries as they suddenly faded, leaving him to fold his ears and turn uneasily to his teammates.

    "… What was that?"

    Elty, Ander, and Guardia looked back, the Cubone of the trio putting a claw over her brow to peer off at the beach as her teeth clenched into a tense grimace. Back there, there was nothing to be seen but white sands and the occasional dark rock, with neither hide nor hair of any of the pirates to be seen.

    "They're… gone," she said.

    "But that was Alfred screaming!" Elty cried. "How could he just be 'gone'?!"

    "Maybe… it was the ghosts," Guardia murmured.

    A chill went down the spines of the three. Could… could the ghosts Laurens was talking about really have taken those pirates? Then, if they had waited just a little longer, what would have become of them? The trio's pallid unease was broken by an impatient scoff from their swimmer underneath, who slowed his pace to raise his head from the water.

    "We were just there. If there were really ghosts, we'd have noticed something," Dimitri insisted. "Let's just focus on getting out of here before their buddies catch up!"

    The others looked back uneasily at the beach, before shaking their heads and letting Dimitri carry on his course. Whatever had happened to the pirates, it wasn't worth risking discovery by the others that were just around the bend. And it wasn't as if it would take a ghost to make a pirate scream like that… Perhaps one of the others with Minwha used Wake-Up Slap in Alfred's face… or he rolled his tail into a puddle, for that matter.

    Elty, Guardia, and Ander let the matter drift from their minds as Dimitri moved along, not knowing that all the while, a violet presence with yellow, glowing eyes billowed from the treeline of the beach. The cloud-like being shifted as others followed behind, drifting along the forest up the beach, following the course of the Kabutops and his companions in the distance.




    Meanwhile, Nida and her companions made their way past trees and bushes in the darkened forest that coated Pioppo's interior. Crom and Pleo led the way, pacing forward as Pleo would occasionally stop to examine a flower or peculiarly shaped rock while Nida and Kiran followed closely from the back. Every now and then, Nida would rear up to sniff the air and scout her surroundings, time and time again seeing nothing but a seemingly endless expanse of trees and undergrowth all about her.

    "It's so dense here… you'd never know it was morning from how dark it is right now," the Nidoran murmured. "Why, if it got any thicker, I'd half-expect these trees to fuse into solid walls!"

    "Eh, that's overstating things a bit, as if there'd ever be a forest that dense. But even so, it seems like Crom's taking it fine. Pleo too, for that matter," Kiran replied. "I'm surprised at how far the pollito has come along since you left Tromba. He's handling being at the front of the group as if he studied alongside you all this time."

    "Well, he kinda had to with everything that we've been through," Nida said. "Though it's nice to have things sorta back to normal again… I don't think I'm quite ready to be a team captain yet."

    "Hm? You shouldn't sell yourself short, Nida. I think you've been doing quite well."

    The Nidoran slowed her pace and perked her ears up at the Swellow's reply, turning back with a surprised tilt of her head.

    "You… do?"

    "Of course! You took the initiative to try and get Pleo back from Lyn's ship, and all this time it's you who's helped lead the group one step ahead from the Company," Kiran chirped. "That would be a tall ask for any Pokémon, let alone one who's just made Normal Rank like you."

    Nida paused and blinked incredulously a moment, her loss of words being filled by a ruffling of Kiran's feathers as the bird shook his head and continued on.

    "Really, you've come a long way from the little spike ball I saw back on Tromba. Both in how you battle and in how you handle exploring dungeons," he insisted. "I'm sure that if you keep at it, you'll have a great career as a rescuer ahead of you."

    Nida stood as her mouth curled up into a wider and wider grin, beaming from her captain's compliment. So they had been growing stronger from this ordeal. Why, after having to go through everything with the Company and the Empire chasing after them, going back to prowling dungeons seemed like a cinch! The Poison-Type daydreamed a moment, watching her ranks fly past in her mind when a sharp squawk from ahead caught her and Kiran's attention.

    "Huh? There's something up here in the bushes!" Pleo cried.

    The two looked ahead and spotted Pleo looking curiously at a pink tuft in the bushes. His teammates drew near, unsure what to make of the strange object when Pleo moved his beak down and gave it an exploratory nip.

    "Agh!"

    Pleo's eyes shot wide as the tuft abruptly yanked out of his mouth and a pink Deerling sprang out of the bushes. The feral Grass-Type pulled her tail in close to her body, before shooting a sharp glare at Pleo and letting out a furious snort.

    "What is your problem, you stupid bird?!" the Deerling snapped. "Do you think it's funny to just go up and yank a 'mon's tail like that?!"

    "Sorry! Sorry!" Pleo insisted. "I didn't know that was your-"

    "Non voglio starti a sentire!" the Grass-Type snarled back. "Take this!"

    The Deerling lunged forward with a jumping tackle, prompting Pleo to fly back with a startled yelp and bolt for his teammates. The Deerling growled and gave chase, only for Crom to rush in and ball a claw up into a fist.

    "Knock it off!"

    He pulled his arm back and threw it forward against the Deerling's jaw, sending her flopping to the ground with a pained yelp. Crom exhaled, feeling his blood course through his veins much as it would after a good bout of training when he looked down and chanced to see a few stray orange flecks dissipate around his knuckles. The dragon's eyes widened in surprise, giving way to triumphant realization that he'd clocked the Deerling with none other than…

    "Hey, wait a minute. That was Power-Up Punch!" Crom exclaimed. "I finally did it! I finally used it right!"

    "That's amazing, Crom!" Nida cheered. "I knew it wouldn't take you long!"

    The Druddigon turned and beamed back at his teammates, giving a satisfied wag of his tail when he heard shifting behind him as the Deerling got up groaning, before recoiling and shrinking back wide-eyed.

    "G-Gah! You stupid hut freaks from the dungeon are only tough because you never fight by yourselves!" the Deerling stammered. "W-Why don't you try fighting without someone to hide behind, huh?!"

    The Grass-Type wheeled and gave a pair of stiff kicks with her hooves, catching Crom in his stomach and sending him stumbling back wincing in pain. The Dragon-Type looked down and rubbed at his injured stomach, before looking up and spotting the Deerling's tail slipping past a set of nearby bushes.

    "Ow! Hey! Get back here!" the Druddigon growled.

    The four gave chase, catching glimpses of the fleeing Deerling in between the bushes as they tried to keep pace, only to suddenly lose sight of the Grass-Type entirely and come to a skidding stop. The group looked around, but saw nothing but bushes and trees about them, with their hearing and smell similarly failing to catch any trace of the Deerling.

    "Do you see where she went?" Crom panted.

    "I thought you saw her!" Nida cried. Kiran frowned, puffing his feathers out as he took to the air to try and spot some clue from above, only to find things similarly fruitless.

    "Pah, I can't see anything with all these trees- huh?"

    Kiran trailed off as he saw a chunk of wood poking over a nearby patch of bushes. The Flying-Type moved ahead warily with his teammates, going wide eyed as they discovered they were shingles to a crude hut constructed from unpainted wooden planks.

    "Wait, a shack?!" the Swellow squawked.

    "Eh? But I thought there was no town on this island!" Pleo exclaimed. "Why's there a building at all?"

    Nida, Crom, and Kiran had no answer to the Lugia's question. The group began to creep towards the building, carefully avoiding disturbing the ground and branches around them to avoid giving away their approach. While it was on the rougher side, from the lack of rotted timbers or missing shingles the hut hadn't been sitting abandoned… or at least not for long.

    "It's not going to win many awards for construction, but it looks like someone's been keeping it up," Nida said. "So I don't think it's from when Blackmoon was still around…"

    Pleo eyed the shack and shrank away uneasily. Laurens had said that shortly before he ran into the ghosts, his crew had found into signs that Pokémon other than ferals had been living nearby, so was it really safe to be around this suspicious hut…?

    "… What if it's haunted and a trap made by the ghosts?" he asked.

    "But wouldn't it look all creepy if that was the case?" Crom countered. "I mean, this looks a little rough around the edges, but it doesn't look haunted…"

    Kiran paced warily along the shack's side, rounding the corner to see a rickety door built in the center. A cursory glance revealed neither a keyhole nor a padlock attached to it, which prompted him to turn to his charges with a quiet murmur.

    "The door doesn't have a lock," he said. "Let's go take a look inside."

    Kiran pushed the door open and proceeded in, followed closely behind by his pupils. There inside, they discovered the interior of the shack consisted of a single room with flooring made of rough wooden boards and a crude table and stools set out in its center. To the left, there were a few chests tucked in a corner, along with a tattered map of Anyilla and a map of an island, presumably Pioppo tacked onto the wall. To the right was a firepit filled with cinders, which Crom neared and sniffed at warily, tensing up as he noticed the lingering smell of smoke about it.

    "Someone was here recently," the Druddigon said. "But who? And why?"

    Nida paced around, curiously eyeing the hut's furnishings when she suddenly felt her toe brush against a hard, flat object on the ground. The Nidoran looked down and saw a Skarmory feather at her feet, prompting her to cringe and flatten her ears as uncomfortable memories of being slashed and jabbed at by cruel, steely talons returned to the fore of her mind. The rabbit inched away, trying to blot out the unwanted reminder when she noticed a small stack of objects including the familiar glossy black glass of an Escape Orb piled in a corner. She paused and thought of how strange this all was, only to flare her ears out of sudden realization.

    "That Deerling earlier thought that we came from the Dungeon," she piped. "Maybe there's some sort of town built in there?"

    "A town in a dungeon?" Crom asked. "But who would build such a thing?"

    "A town full of Pokémon with something to hide…" Kiran murmured, prompting Pleo to shift uneasily and tuck his head close to his body.

    "Are… Are we sure that it's okay to be here?" he gulped. "When Laurens said that he came here, he said that the crew with him ran into places that looked like Pokémon lived there just before the ghosts attacked…"

    "But we've only seen this one shack and haven't heard anything at all," Crom insisted, shaking his head back insistently. "Maybe those ghosts that everyone talks about only come out at night or something like that."

    "I'm not sure… but regardless, it seems like the local Mystery Dungeon seems like the best place to look next," Kiran offered. "We should tell everyone what we found before considering heading in though."

    "… Right," Nida said. "We wouldn't want them to think we've gone missing."

    The Nidoran paced ahead for the door as Crom, Kiran, and Pleo followed along. After exiting the hut, the four looked back at it for a moment, before plodding along retracing their steps through the broken foliage as the forest returned to its prior silence.




    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
  5. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    As Team Traveller made their way back to their encampment, the Iron Fleet's scouting party came upon a beachside field riddled with ruins much as the Staravia had described. There, charred planks and stumps littered the ground along with broken-down walls of stone that outlined shacks that had long been destroyed by fire. The pirates set about rooting through the destroyed settlement, Valatos, Alvise, and Nori examining the low-walled remains of a stone house where they pawed at an ash pile next to a burnt chair, shooting disgusted glares as they turned up nothing of value much as everyone else had since their arrival.

    "Pah, what a dump!" Valatos hissed. "There's nothing but rubble and ash here!"

    "How does the Captain even expect us to loot anything from this place?" Alvise grumbled.

    "Well there's nobody here, meaning it's safe at least," Nori sighed. "Though what do you suppose this place even was?"

    "Probably some sort of abandoned encampment or the like," Valatos replied. "We're not the only pirates who had to find shelter from a storm at some point, so maybe another crew had the same idea and torched the place to cover their tracks."

    "Aren't there just a few too many ruins for that?" Alvise asked. "I mean, if I didn't know any better, I'd say we were in the middle of a destroyed town… like Blackmoon Village or something like that."

    The three paused as a cold chill ran down their back. Being in the Blackmoon Village? The place that was supposed to have been destroyed by the Empire so mercilessly that its inhabitants lingered on as vengeful spirits that dragged off anyone who dared tread on Pioppo? The thought alone was enough to make a 'mon shudder!

    But… if that was the case, wouldn't they have found bones, shells, or any evidence at all that 'mons died here? Why, if it wasn't for the foundation of a building or a piece of broken glass here or there, they would've thought they were just in a burnt-up patch of forest! And they hadn't seen any sign of there being ghosts since they came… so who was to say that Valatos' earlier musings weren't right?

    "It doesn't matter," the Marowak grunted. "Let's just focus on getting the stuff we need and-"

    "Ow! Hey watch it!"

    Nori and his companions turned to see a Wimpod and Litten staring each other down, the bug of the pair heatedly hissing at the offending cat over trodding on him. The argument went back and forth with the two accomplishing little more than to blow hot air over who was at fault, much to Valatos' groaning dismay.

    "How did we ever get stuck on a crew full of dweebs like these in the first place?" the Yanmega grumbled.

    "I seem to recall this was your idea instead of trying to hold out for a better crew," Alvise chided. "And when's Kichiro supposed to show up? He's supposed to be helping us out here!"

    "Huh? But he's not coming out here."

    The three blinked out of surprise and turned to see Wilhelm floating by and settling down on a nearby rock, spinning his leaves happily. Valatos cracked his mandibles incredulously, before piping back to the Hoppip with a sharp buzz.

    "What are you going on about?" the Bug-Type demanded. "The Captain told him he was supposed to lead our group!"

    "Well, when I was coming up he told Keiichiro that he needed him to find water for the ship instead and that we should work on our own…" Wilhelm murmured, before jumping up into the air and giving a wave of his limbs.

    "But that shouldn't be a problem, right?" the Hoppip cheered. "We're all one big team, so let's do our best for the crew and find those supplies!"

    Wilhelm carried along, drifting with a passing breeze while humming to himself as Alvise, Valatos, and Nori stared after him slack-jawed. The Marowak among them shook his head, gritting his teeth as he gave a seething stomp of his foot against the dirt.

    "Pah, I don't believe this!" Nori fumed. "What sort of incompetent captain just leaves a group without anyone in charge?!"

    A disgusted approximation of a frown settled over Valatos' mandibles as Alvise continued staring blankly, only for his muzzle to curl up into a grin and his eyes to harden into a sneering gaze.

    "Really now? Are you sure there's no one in charge here?" Alvise asked.

    "Huh? But Keiichiro was supposed to be here and now he isn't," Nori rebutted. "Who else is supposed to be in charge?"

    "Well, I can think of three 'mons from a crew that's more experienced than this one," the wolf explained. "Do they really have a reason to work with these biflóne as equals right now?"

    Valatos and Nori blinked a moment, before similarly turning their faces up into malevolent sneers. Even being stuck on the Iron Fleet wouldn't be as bad if it meant having 'mons to push around, and these dweebs around them would fit the bill just nicely!

    "Hah! I like the way you think, Alvise," Valatos piped up. "Come on, let's go show these dorks who's boss!"

    The three carried on among the charred ruins, their eyes turning to a rocky outcropping poking over the surroundings where Alvise clambered up, followed by Valatos to his right and Nori to his left. After taking a moment to survey the working pirates, Valatos let out a sharp buzz to break through the chatter.

    "Hey everyone!" the Yanmega exclaimed. "Come around and listen close, something important's come up!"

    One after the other, the members of the Iron Fleet in the ruins looked up, before crowding in front of the stone and trading puzzled glances with each other, peering up curiously at the Yanmega and his companions.

    "Eh? Aren't those the new guys?" a Litten asked.

    "What's going on?" a Cherrim wondered. "Did they find something?"

    "Look," Alvise said. "I think we can all agree this place is a dump and no one likes we got assigned to check it out, right?"

    The Manectric was answered by nods and a chorus of agreeing murmurs from the gathered pirates, the budding agreement punctuated by Wilhelm piping up excitedly.

    "I don't mind!" the Hoppip cheered. "It's exciting to check out!"

    "… Right," Alvise said, narrowed his eyes into an unamused stare. "Well since everyone else hates it and we're stuck without a leader, the three of us are willing to do you a favor by having us be in charge of this little mission."

    At once, the mood of the other pirates soured as disgruntled protests flew up one after the other. A Pawniard and Voltorb made their way to the front, the Sharp Blade Pokémon waving his arms threateningly as his partner let sparks dance on his spherical body.

    "Why should we listen to you for that?" the Pawniard demanded.

    "Yeah! The Captain didn't give you any special position!" the Voltorb protested. "You're no different from the rest of us!"

    The Ball Pokémon was summarily answered by a swat from Nori's bone that knocked him into the Pawniard's belly, knocking him onto his back with a yelp. Alvise leapt off the rock, stepping forward into the crowd as he shot a harsh glare at his peers.

    "Because, we're elite pirates and we've got the experience to back it up," Alvise growled. "If Hess, Rodion, and Kichiro aren't going to be here to push you around, we're the logical candidates!"

    "'Elite' my butt!" a Staravia squawked. "You all lost us the tournament and have barely been on this crew for two weeks!"

    Alvise turned and kicked a spray of dirt and ash with his hind legs into the bird's face, leaving her to splutter and cough. The wolf let a weak jolt of electricity arc off his body and run through the Staravia's plumes, leaving her limbs to freeze and send their owner plummeting face-first onto the ground as Alvise sneered down and turned his attention to the others.

    "We're stronger than any of you and have done more in two weeks than the lot of you have done in however long you've been loafing around on this crew!" he snapped. "If you've got such a problem with it, why don't you do something about it, huh?"

    The Manectric arced his back and let sparks crackle along his pelt as Valatos and Nori sidled up and entered similarly aggressive stances. The pirates fell silent and shrank away timidly, leaving Nori and his companions to flash predatory smirks.

    "Heh heh heh! Looks like we're making our way up that ladder nice and quick!" Nori sneered.

    "Well now, since we're all in agreement, let's have you get to work," Valatos said. "To start with-"

    "Mwee hee hee! Foolish bug, there's no need to be so worried about who's in charge…"

    "Huh?!" Alvise exclaimed. "Who's there?!"

    The wolf whirled around in time to see a huge, purplish cloud drift out of the tree line, the entire assembly flushing pale as it rose into a towering column and suddenly sprouted a pair of glowing yellow eyes and wispy claws that stretched ahead menacingly.

    "I'll take things over from here…" the ghost said. "Starting with your souls!"

    Alvise's audience quickly lost their nerve as the pirates bolted and ran, a few stopping to drag the Staravia off along with them. All the while, the air filled with frightened yowls and squeals.

    "A-AAAAAAAAH!"

    "Monster! Monster!"

    The Manectric and his companions stood frozen in terror while the haze-like wraith approached. As it drew near, Alvise hastily threw up some sparks along his fur while Valatos sharply beat his wings and Nori tightened his grip on his bone.

    "A-As if!" Nori stammered. "We're tough 'mons!"

    "Y-Yeah! We'll kick your ghostly butt into the sea!" Alvise retorted.

    Nori lobbed his club into a spinning Bonemerang, with Alvise and Valatos following up with Thunderbolt and Air Slash. The attacks zipped into the haze, only for the three to watch horrified as their efforts passed through without any discernible effect. Nori stood slack-jawed, staring blankly as his bone flew back out of the haze and landed inertly at his side, leaving him to quiver at the sight of the large ghost and squeal out of fear.

    "Y-Yeeeek!"

    "Wh-What do we do here?!" Alvise whined.

    "G-Gih! Where's the rest of you stupid clods?!" Valatos demanded. "Help back us up here-!"

    The Yanmega and his companions turned around and went wide-eyed, seeing that all that remained of their teammates was a line of trampled sand up the beach in the distance.

    "Th-They ditched us!" Nori cried.

    "R-Run for it!" Alvise yelped. "Don't look back!"

    Alvise and Valatos tore along with loud screams, Nori grabbing at his bone and stumbling as he ran after the two for the beach. The giant wraith gave chase for a short distance, before slowing to a stop and falling back, allowing the pirates to slip off into the distance and their cries to grow muddled as snickering came from a cluster of bushes behind the ghost, along with murmuring voices.

    "Shouldn't we keep going after them? We do need to make some examples here."

    "And be stuck with those jerks for all eternity? Golly, no!"

    "Mwee hee hee! Well I'm not complaining about this outcome! Let's move on and see if we can teach any of their buddies a lesson!"

    The cloudy wraith spread out over the ground, receding back into the bushes as a slight breeze kicked up. As the last tendrils of the ghost faded away, the ruins returned to their normal, dead, quiet, with naught but the whistling of the winds disturbing the silence.




    About half an hour after Nagant had arrived in Magmapool Town, the Braixen led her into the Duke's palace overlooking the town. The estate had been built out of ruddy wood with black slate tiling around a courtyard laid out with decorative stonework, with steam curling up from a small hot spring on the site. The Fire-Type led the visiting Clawitzer down a series of winding hallways illuminated by opaque, vaguely paper-colored windows to a double door where a Typhlosion and a Cradily kept watch. After a hasty explanation from the Braixen in her native tongue, the guards opened the doors and escorted the pair in, where they came upon a wide room held up by lacquered columns with a raised throne at the back of the room. Nagant surmised that this must have been an audience chamber, though the sound of loud snarfing and the sight of heavyset Rhyperior on the throne gobbling down pastries from a silken table set out before the throne seemed to indicate it was being put to… alternative uses at the moment, much to the visible dismay of a tired-faced Lycanroc with light brown and white fur standing nearby.

    "Duke Seok! I bring Captain Nagant of the Uragan!" the Braixen announced. "She says she's here with urgent news from the crown!"

    The Rhyperior looked up from his food with an unimpressed snort, before putting aside a half-eaten macaron and lazily turning his gaze over to the still-waiting shrimp.

    "And what exactly would this 'urgent news' be, Nugget?" Seok demanded. "Can't you see I'm busy here?"

    "It's Nagant, Your Grace. And there should be a 'Captain' in there," the Clawitzer grumbled. "And… what exactly were you busy with right now? I don't see much else on the table beyond your pastries."

    The Rhyperior let out an affected scoff, hardening his eyes before turning away. Hoping to wrangle her superior's attention back, the Lycanroc Governor swiftly darted up, pawing insistently at Duke Seok's arm.

    "Your Grace, if it's really a matter from the Crown, perhaps it would be for the best to hear her out," she insisted. "The commotion yesterday was caused partly by a communique from Her Highness, after all…"

    Seok grumbled annoyedly, shifting his body in his seat as he leaned forward and rolled his claws against the table impatiently.

    "Very well, I will generously take time from my matters to hear out your petty concerns," the Rhyperior said.

    Nagant's mandibles cracked wide as her eyes narrowed in disgust. Who did this fat oaf think he was?! The Clawitzer quickly shook her head, opting to swallow her pride and try to press the Rhyperior's attention while she could.

    "As I'm sure you've heard by now, Her Majesty has been putting the fullest efforts of the Crown into finding the pirates who stole away the realm's new Protector," Nagant began. "While I was tracking them, their course led me to your island only to find out they already left! They could very well be headed outside our waters and that's why I need your help to determine which route they took as quickly as possible!"

    "Pah! Pirates?" Seok scoffed. "Do you not see that I have more important things to handle, Nugget?"

    "Your Grace, this is a Protector we're talking about here!" the Clawitzer snapped. "What could possibly be-?!"

    "First I hear one of my island's best Rescue Teams turns out to be a bunch of Company spies, and then I learn that I have been tricked by a bunch of andang with a fake Protector!" the Rhyperior fumed.

    Nagant blinked slowly at Seok's outburst. She had to admit, Company agents disguising themselves as a Rescue Team on an Imperial island and a Pokémon pretending to be a Protector certainly weren't everyday matters that could be brushed under the rug… But that didn't change anything about the situation at hand! Even with everything going on, it would be cold comfort to bring spies and a false Protector to account if it meant putting the entire Empire at risk! Whether by ruffians seizing him or the commoners turning against the crown in their impatience for a sign of divine forgiveness, the realm was in peril and the Duke was just brushing it off as another inconvenience!

    The Clawitzer shook her head, raising her voice with newfound adamance as she tried once again to explain the seriousness of the situation to the noble.

    "But that doesn't change that there's a real Protector-!" she insisted, only to be cut off by a clattering thud.

    "I will not be made a fool by square-necks and common scoundrels!" the Rhyperior roared, pounding a claw against the table over and over. "I must see to it that they are answered!"

    "Except we don't have time for this nonsense!"

    An audible gasp came from the other Pokémon in the room as the Duke rose from his chair with an offended harrumph. Undeterred, Nagant continued on, hoping that the severity of the situation would reach through to the corpulent Rock-Type.

    "Tidemill was thrown into an uproar when the Protector was carried off. If he is not found soon, there's nothing to prevent such uproars from spreading across the realm!" Nagant exclaimed. "They could be halfway into Company waters right now and as such, it's critical that I follow after those pirates as quickly as possible!"

    "Well how am I supposed to help with that?" Seok demanded. "Nobody here knows where those blasted pirates sailed off to, and I don't exactly have any seaworthy ships to offer right now thanks to the Crown wanting me to capture those pirates in the first place! Go look around port yourself if you need a lead!"

    Nagant fell silent and let her large claw hang limply. He- He wasn't giving her any help?! The Lycanroc Governor closed her eyes and shook her head and let out a grudging sigh.

    "… I'm afraid that he does have a point, Captain," she added. "As urgent as the matter with the Protector is, we do have our paws full and aiding your quest means precious little if Magmapool's black walls go undefended."

    Nagant glared daggers back across the table fighting with every ounce of her willpower to not summarily fire off a Water Pulse at the pair on the other end. The shrimp let out a sharp sigh, fighting with her mouthparts to present a flat, stern expression as she forced out a grudging reply.

    "That's… completely understandable…" she muttered. "I suppose it can't be helped."

    "Then I shall bid you farewell, Nugget. And do shut the door on the way out," Seok instructed.

    The Clawitzer turned on her tail and hopped off slowly, laying a claw on the doors as she passed their threshold before she slammed them shut behind her and let out a seething hiss that filled the hallway. The guards inched away warily as Nagant continued on and rounded the corner, grumbling with barely-hidden contempt on how such a useless fat lump could have just left her out to dry like that. Duke Seok knew as well as she did that Lugia had been here, but instead of so much as pointing a claw after his direction for her to follow, he left her once again without a lead as to how they were heading back to Tromba! The shrimp leveled her claw at a nearby vase and fired off an orb of water in frustration that dashed it against a wall with a crash, before pulling it back with a sharp huff and hopping off, eager to take her leave from the blasted palace.




    "I can hear the others up ahead!"

    Nida followed Crom's voice and brushed past a final barrier of bushes back to the sunlit white sands of Pioppo's beaches. The Nidoran waited for Kiran and Pleo to follow her out of the forest, when her ears pricked at the sound of murmuring to their right. The four turned their attention down the beach, where the incomplete encampment they remembered seeing when they'd left had turned into a half-circle of tents and lean-tos fashioned from spent sailcloth and wood built around a firepit. The party breathed a grateful sigh that they'd have a place to rest for a bit, setting off for the tents when they caught sight of Elty, Guardia, Dimitri, and Ander talking with a large group of sailors crowded around them.

    "Hey! You guys won't believe what we found in the forest!" Nida cried.

    "I… think we could say the same, Nida," Elty murmured.

    "Huh?"

    The Nidoran tilted her head, noticing that Elty and his group all had surprisingly grave expressions on their faces. Guardia pulled her bone in close to her, giving an uneasy tap of it against her claws as she looked warily over her shoulder.

    "We ran into Gardie's old pirate buddies further down the beach," the Cubone explained.

    Kiran and his charges went wide-eyed at the revelation, the Swellow hopping back with a flapping start as he spluttered back incredulously.

    "W-Wait, what?!"

    "We encountered four of them foraging for berries when they threatened to bring us in front of their captain," Ander replied. "We knocked them out, but didn't have time to figure out more about how they got here since we overheard more of their buddies coming."

    Nida, Pleo, Crom, and Kiran dropped their jaws at the Scyther's words. The last time they saw that lousy band of pirates was when they escaped Giotto, so how could they have known to come here?!

    "B-But we shook them off in Tidemill!" Pleo squawked. "Why are they here right now?!"

    "We're not fully sure, actually. We first thought they followed us here, but the pirates we ran into were just as surprised to see us," Dimitri replied, leaving Crom to blink curiously at him.

    "Huh? But how else could they be here?" the Druddigon asked.

    "That's… a good question."

    An uncomfortable silence settled over the group at the Kabutops' musings. Right now, they were all alone on an island with killer ghosts on the one hand, and a marauding band of pirates on the other. Did the Iron Fleet know about this place? If so, who was to say that they weren't in the process of walking into a giant trap?

    Uneasy murmurs floated up around the surrounding sailors, as a few more fainthearted 'mons from their number began to suggest that perhaps it was a sign to get going while they could. Vicente stepped forward from amidst the crowd, shaking his head as he shot a serious glance over at Team Traveller's members.

    "Look, regardless of how they got here, the question is what we should do about it," the Hitmontop said. "I get that your mission here is important, but those pirates likely know we're here now, and after their ambush between Kenobi and Mengir, I'm not too eager to get into another fight with them."

    "Well, maybe we won't need to be here for that long," Kiran offered, drawing a puzzled frown back from Vicente.

    "What do you mean?"

    "Out in the woods, we ran into a feral who said there were scarf-wearers living in the Mystery Dungeon," the Swellow explained.

    "That's right, and just after that, we found a shack that had been recently lived in with maps of the island on the wall," Crom added. "If those Pokémon are really in there, we'd be able to find the dungeon through those maps and ask them where Cernun is!"

    Crom and his mentor's musings seemed to inspire a bit more confidence in the gathered crew, the budding whispers of turning tail silenced by the idea of having a leg up on finding out where this island's hidden Protector was. All the while, Guardia tensely prodded her bone against the sand, looking back uneasily at the forest in the distance.

    "I suppose it could work, but… how do we get back out afterwards?" the Cubone asked. "We didn't get a chance to get another Escape Orb before we left Buyeom."

    "I'll have Kelly handle that," Vicente replied.

    The Hitmontop whistled, beckoning an Elgyem to approach from the crowd and give a bow. Team Traveller's members sized up the Psychic-Type puzzledly, as Vicente gave a determined glance back.

    "Kelly may not work the Rescue Team circuit regularly, but she knows enough about teleporting to get a group out from a Mystery Dungeon," the Hitmontop reassured.

    "Just give me your badges a moment," the Elgyem instructed. "Treat it like you would a mission back at home."

    The younger members of Team Traveller undid their badges, before making their way up one by one to the Psychic-Type, who held the metal baubles aloft and focused, doing likewise with Ander, Dimitri, and Kiran's badges. The eight turned their gaze to the treeline after receiving their badges back, having their attention called back by Vicente's voice calling out to them.

    "Good luck out there," he said. "If you run into any trouble, call out to Kelly for help as soon as you can."

    "We will," Kiran insisted. "And we'll pass on what we find in case we need others to help us."

    The Swellow and his teammates waved before heading off, slipping off under the cover of the forests as they pressed on, letting the beach's sand fade away behind the undergrowth and tree trunks around them as they retraced their course to the abandoned shack. The group followed their steps, making their way up gullies and over hills when Pleo began to slow down, wondering aloud to himself.

    "How are we gonna explore the dungeon?" the Lugia asked. "We don't know anything about it or how it's laid out… Would it make sense to split into groups again the same way we did on Buyeom?"

    "It would help us cover ground more quickly," Kiran mulled. "Even just staying in two groups again would already make our search go faster."

    "It… doesn't… matter…"

    Team Traveller froze and felt their blood chill at the sound of the spectral voice filtering through the trees. The lot tensed up, Dimitri reflexively throwing his scythes at his ready as he eyed his surroundings tensely.

    "Who's there?!" Dimitri demanded.

    "The only place you will explore…" the ghostly voice answered. "Is the Spirit World!"

    The trees in front of the group lurched and rended as a looming figures burst forth, seemingly made of purplish haze pockmarked with glowing yellow eyes. Dimitri and his companions stood fixed in terrified panic as they watched the misty figures near and extend disembodied claws towards them.

    "B-Bogowie, are these the ghosts Laurens talked about?!" Elty gulped

    "I don't know, but they're going down!" Guardia growled.

    The Cubone planted her feet firmly and hurled her bone at one of the spectral figures with a whirling Bonemerang, followed quickly by a salvo from her teammates that included a Weather Ball from Pleo, a Scald from Dimitri, and an Ember from Elty. One after the other their attacks zipped through, accomplishing little other than to part the haze temporarily or make the ghosts lurch away for a moment. Ander backpedaled, holding his blades out defensively, before finding his nerves and lunging for one of the figures. The Bug-Type sprang up, bringing one of his scythes down with a mighty swing that made the ghost's eyes widen, before flickering and vanishing, leaving the mantis swinging at little other than purplish smoke.

    "I-It's not doing anything!" Ander stammered.

    The ghost suddenly circled back, knocking Ander down as a set of eyes focused on him. The Scyther screeched and thrashed, only for his cries to trail off as he grew woozy and seemingly lapsed out of consciousness to Nida's horror.

    "Ander!"

    The Nidoran dashed forward, followed by Kiran and Dimitri ahead of their teammates as they tried to rush to Ander's aid, only for the ghost to latch onto the fallen Bug-Type while the other wraiths rushed in with outstretched claws. One of the ghosts lunged for Nida and tried to grab her, prompting her to fan her barbs out and force the spectre to recoil. Further aside, Dimitri stumbled back from a shadowy orb that struck him in the face, leaving him to hastily regain his bearings to see a ghost charging him and promptly use Aqua Jet to get out of the ghost's path. From above, Kiran was forced back by a spray of yellowish orbs as his teammates threw attacks for cover, making the wraiths recoil with hisses, moving aside to reveal nothing but empty dirt where they'd last seen Ander. Team Traveller froze, their blood draining from their faces as their Swellow leader broke out into a panicked squawk.

    "F-Fall back! Fall back!"

    The lot tore along, running back along their forest path in a hasty retreat. Crom ran behind Nida, desperately forcing his way forward over rocks and undergrowth when the sound of a squawking scream reached his earholes from behind.

    "H-Help!"

    The two turned back, Pleo's screams making the rest of the team ahead freeze and whirl where they saw him getting pinned to the ground by pairs of claws, sparks arcing among his feathers before fading inertly as one of the hazy figures gave a piercing look that seemed to freeze him in place and others began to circle around him. Without thinking, Nida reversed course, bounding for the stricken Protector as her Druddigon companion followed behind her.

    "Pleo! Hang in there!" Nida shouted.

    "We're coming to help!" Crom cried.

    Kiran, Dimitri, Elty, and Guardia hastily attempted to come to their companions' aid, when the trees beside them suddenly rustled and were brushed aside by a pair of wraiths rushing out into the path ahead of them.

    "And where do you think you're going?!"

    The ghosts curled down, spewing a hail of yellowish orbs at the four as their vision ran muddy and the world about them spun in a daze. Guardia and Elty thrashed, throwing attacks around wildly as they heard Kiran and Dimitri shout, along the sound of Nida and Crom screaming. A shadowy ball struck the Cubone and the Growlithe, knocking the two to the ground panting and cringing, expecting the wraiths to settle over them next.

    "Nida! Nida! Where are you?!"

    Elty rose to his feet woozily, his vision stabilizing enough to see Guardia propping herself up on her bone, and Kiran and Dimitri calling out into the upended forest ahead. The four looked around for any sign of their companions, or the wraiths that had attacked them, only to be answered by the sound of silence, broken by a low whine from Elty's throat and the faint pattering of droplets of water against the ground beside Kiran.




    Author's Notes:

    - Yatto (やっと)… - Japanese: "Finally…" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - Wat doe je nou?! - Dutch: "What are you doing?!" lit. "What do you now?!"
    - Non voglio starti a sentire! - Italian: "I don't want to hear it!"
    - biflóne - Venetian: "nerds"
    - andang (악당) - Korean: "villain(s)" (South Korean Revised Romanization)
     
  6. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    [obligatory "nice" with the chapter number goes here]

    That chapter title's great, too. Here's a spheal of approval:
    [​IMG]

    If this is from the pirates' POV and they don't know where they are, doesn't it make sense not to name the island? I was one of the readers who actually didn't know where they were, so this kind of sucks the excitement out of a potential reveal. Especially since it turns out to be the exact same island Team Traveller is currently on. I... really didn't know that. Would've been nice to potentially make the connection once spoopy ghost arms went for Kichiro. Speaking of which... ahem... "Like, zoinks, Hess! This place is totally crawling with g-g-g-g-g-ghosts!" I'm sorry, I had to. XP

    And now I see the relevance the pirates have in this episode. We're once again shown a potential conflict of interest with Elty, only this time there's the added wrinkle of his teammates probing him about what exactly happened at Nagrobek. At this point, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Elty and Guardia wind up becoming confidants of a sort and/or fire-forged friends. They frequently wind up paired together in split-up situations or battles... like with what happened in this pirate skirmish. You must be setting something up, here. Though, I do think Elty was, once again, a bit quick to move past any conflicted feelings once the topic shiften to ghosts.

    I also just now realized that the way you split the teams is such that the original Team Traveller is one group and all the various additions are in the other group. Ahh, nostalgia. XD Kiran's comments about how far they come are rather on-the-nose, since I know a common criticism has been the lack of "level ups" the team has gotten throughout the fic. In any case, I think the idea of a town inside a mystery dungeon offers up an array of interesting ideas and possibilities. It's also totally not adding to the spookiness. Nope. No sir.

    Oh, well that's certainly not terrifying and filled with disturbing implications. Y'know it's bad when pirates are freaking out about it. Though, it does seem our misfit trio's case is more played for laughs than anything. Trying to step up into leadership roles only to get scared off right away.

    Also, it wouldn't be a haunted episode if some of the heroes didn't get captured by the spooky ghosts. I guess I'll have to wait to see where this ends up going. Because something tells me the answer isn't the Spirit World. XP

    Ander's tempting fate, I see.

    About 100%, given the way this fic operates. :V

    Unless I'm misremembering, wasn't there some sort of knight-esque Skarmory guy in an earlier episode who fancied himself some kind of hero? Don't tell me he's making a comeback.

    [squints]Waaaaaaait a second.
     
    Virgil134 likes this.
  7. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Hey there! Virgil asked me to check out the April Fool's special from last year, and it seemed like a lot of fun anyway, so here I am! ^^

    Let’s see, I know it’s been a while, but to refresh myself, I last left off with them getting their butts kicked by Berecien and company, right? (It does help that that group is fresh in my memory thanks to Casting Off, heh.)

    I really like the fact that they just got plunked here without any kind of a lead-in, making us just as lost as they are. xD

    She’s not wrong. :p

    Pfft, I like how quickly he changes his tune on this.

    Pleo’s finally in a setting where people know what Legendaries are! :D

    Ok who’s responsible for this line. >:/

    How’s that 4x weakness to Fighting treating ya, Sneasel?

    Oh my god, I was literally thinking to myself “wow these guys sure spend a lot more time reacting than doing things,” and he literally goes and says this. Go Nida for proving that talking is not a free action! xD

    Okay, this is a fair point, yeah. Though given how often people mistake Pleo for a weird Wingull, I’d say that even stories about the Legendaries seem to be pretty unknown in the Cradle.

    Hard to argue with that. xD

    Ahhh, should’ve figured that Ultra Wormholes would have something to do with them hopping stories like this. It’s perfect!

    Alright, end of the first post and I like the way you use the subtle differences in their worlds to show that something’s off even though they can’t yet pin down what, exactly. Stuff like a huge, ancient forest not being something you’d find on the islands of the Cradle, bandits without scarves, people actually recognizing a Legendary—that sort of thing.

    Heh, I like Guardia calling this out, since a lack of scarves is hardly weird by her standards.

    I can already tell that people knowing about Legendaries in Horizon is going to be the most fun part of this.

    Huh! Is that so? Obviously their shipbuilding and governmental structures are on a whole other level, but Horizon does have magitech going for it.

    Ahh, another fun bit of culture shock.

    Honestly, she’s got a pretty good point here. And it’s hardly like she’s suggesting they stay here long-term or anything. But an opportunity to learn about Legendaries without being constantly hunted by the naval powers from their world is too good to pass up.

    Hoo boy. I like how this lines up, with this plot thread from Guiding Light being very relevant and very concerning to the heroes from Fledglings.

    Aww. This is cute, and also very mature of him. Really shows how much he’s grown throughout his travels.

    We don’t deserve Pleo.

    Well I’m glad that they’re not too pleased about this at least.

    Well considering that Gallian’s claims are based on practically nothing, I'd say they're pretty unfounded. :p

    Huh, I’m actually a little confused as to why Sticky and Luxeira are attacking, seeing as they seemed pretty unconvinced by Gallian’s paranoid ramblings earlier. There wasn’t really a moment where they were shown deciding to join the attack.

    UM. Is… is that a good idea? xD;

    An excellent question, Elty.

    Yeah I don’t trust this for a second. :p

    Nida is having all the best comebacks in this.

    Gee I wonder why. :V

    Me @ Necrozma: You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

    AVATAR STATE GO

    Oh for the love of— no one has time for you clowns right now!

    ...oh my god. xD

    oh hai there Team Radiance!

    Overall , that was a lot of fun! I like how you took advantage of all the ways that the different mechanics of the two PMD settings would be familiar-yet-unfamiliar, particularly with how you played with Pleo being a Legendary in a world with a vastly different situation regarding Legendaries. And it got to play into the running them of Pleo learning how to be a protector!

    ~Chibi~
     
    Virgil134 likes this.
  8. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    (Episode 8)

    Aaah, so it seems that the Imperials are also a bit keen on infighting when they need to. I guess nobody on the kinda-antagonist side can really keep it together for very long, huh? Oh well. I’m not quite as interested in these guys just yet since they haven’t really done anything, and this is kinda just buildup for when they actually try something. Until then, though, I’m more interested in what the rest of ‘em are doing.

    So, unfortunately, it seems that the subway location was quickly becoming another place-to-visit, following the formula of the past… most episodes except the first few. I’m wondering how it’ll get changed up this time, but man, we’ve been following this beaten track for a while. Though I am curious how they’ll figure out how to head into the subway… If a fight breaks out, would that destroy the bubbles, too? Tough call.

    My last bit that irked me a little was the interaction between Crom and Ander. It was nice to get a bit more lore (not that we already knew this from past talks) but the reasoning behind why it’s so unknown to non-Marked is… strange. Surely there’s at least one Marked out there who knows the scripture, but told it to others? Statistically, it’s gotta happen, yet… I dunno. It still feels odd that an entire society would be so willfully ignorant of what the text of this apparently very important book even says, at least down to the basics. It’s a really weird spot of contrived ignorance that both permeates the setting, yet still feels that it has to be this way for some plot-critical or information-management reason.


    Not sure how I managed it, but I read the next two chapters back to back! So, these chapters continue to be long for the sake of trying to cover everybody once or twice, but at this point I’ll just stop openly complaining about that and just get into the actual content as if they were multiple chapters instead. First thing – the fight with the pirates was actually pretty interesting in terms of Hess actually… being a proper threat! I guess without Pleo to scare him off, he can actually do some decent damage, at least to the ship.

    The “hearing” with Salvini, now, that was an interesting turn of events. I didn’t expect her to get out of it with such a stroke of luck, but it looks like all the infighting actually played to her favor. And that means she’ll definitely be turning up later, seeing as she’s going to be relocated. Hmm, let me guess, maybe to the next destination or two ahead of the Travelers? Who knows. Something like that.

    Oh! And them running into that Ampharos, the elderly one. That was pretty interesting, particularly because, well, it’s the same species as one that we had run into before. Now, I know that in my work, I go a little nuts with odd pairings, but over here, it seems like same-species pairings are not too uncommon, and that leads me to believe that this Ampharos is related to Hatteras. She’s even from Tromba, I mean, come on! But one thing that’s throwing me off is whether it’s the mother or mate of Hatteras. Elderly… was Hatteras described as elderly? I know he was looking for someone precious, but ahh, I can’t… no, because she has Flaaffy kids. So perhaps the mate? Either way, it’s an interesting little coincidence.

    And that sort of leads me to what is perhaps one of my biggest, overarching gripes that I’m finally seeing in full force here. This plot runs on happenstance coincidences. And it’s never been more noticeable than in this chapter. Despite all the remarks about how huge this subway is, let alone the underwater town itself, the two Imperials who happened to divert from their duties and happened to be passing over the Travelers, who at the same time happened to run into Lyn’s brother in town (Who I later learn is a sellsword, so he happened to be there at the time, too!) … it’s just really, really a stretch at this point how many of these coincidences can be happening at once. People are constantly running into each other across islands, in crowds, at the same time, and it’s just way too convenient.

    Now, there is a possibility that I’m ignoring here: What if it’s not quite a coincidence, and someone behind the scenes, perhaps some kind of hand of fate, is toying with where everyone is? Aside from you, the author, of course. But if that’s the case, I haven’t caught a lot of foreshadowing or acknowledgement of how crazy these coincidences are becoming beyond a remark of “we probably won’t get that chance again.” But I will keep that possibility in mind, just in case.

    As an aside, Inler is the first character in this story to immediately get a voice in my head. He sounds like the commander from Monster Hunter World, English dub. Deep and powerful, but not quite rough.


    Next, On the Table, I don’t have a whole lot to say for the bulk of this chapter, since it’s kinda just more setup and people talking and stuff that I’m generally less interested in. We see a glimpse of life back home, we see more of Darzin’s position relative to all the others, the Imperials are doing their thing… meh. Let’s see how they do when the talking and planning is done.

    The main highlight is them finally seeing the Blue Fairy – I did not expect it to be Manaphy! Another Protector! And… I feel like that aspect was a little downplayed, all things considered. I’d expect a bit more of a mystified feel, or even a little flourish, but it seemed kinda mundane, especially after the opening we had with Pleo at the beginning, full of wonder and curiosity. Yet here we have a fully grown Protector, and… it’s for more exposition. I dunno. I feel like more could have been done, though the lore was interesting to read about. I thought the Blue Fairy was going to be some kind of well-traveled Azumarill.

    As an aside, I’m curious how that meeting between Lyn and his brother will be.


    Surprisingly, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this last chapter as a whole. Though I’ll at least admit, I was expecting Pleo and the gang to just get totally kidnapped or something, but instead they managed to escape… into a Dungeon again! Similar formula, tempting fate as always, but I’m curious where Elty will be taking them, since we’re at his home. I also see that there’s a special episode next, so I’ll read through that in addition to the rest of this chapter.

    As an aside, I felt that the struggle against the two Waters felt a bit drawn out; perhaps it could have been streamlined? Eh, I think it worked fine enough as it is. The little “mutually assured destruction” bit between Darzin and the Imperials, though—now that was a very clever use of political power versus raw power. Kudos for that.

    Ooh, and also, I enjoyed seeing the fracturing alliances within the Company. They really are starting to fall apart, huh? Just like Manaphy said. One person contemplating treason, someone getting high school bullying flashbacks… the winds of change are coming, but it doesn’t look like the Company will come out quite the same by the end.


    As with all Special Episodes, I’m glad to see you quickly established when something was taking place with very clear time markings—Lyn just becoming a third rank, and Pladur being a new daddy of his second child.

    One thing that I noticed about Tarquin’s gang, and especially Tarquin himself—you were a biiiit on the nose with his baddie bad aura, always using words like greedy or malevolent to describe the way he smiles, which happens pretty often. I dunno, seemed a bit “tell”-y and not very showy, since for the most part he didn’t actually behave that badly, at least for the first half of the episode that I’ve read so far. He didn’t quite… demonstrate the adverbs given.

    In any case, that was a fun little special episode with a few characters introduced, though I personally think the only thing that I’d consider truly interesting was that brief glimpse into the Dead Zone’s outskirts. The red light (a star of destruction remnant?) and the Pokémon statues (Dark Matter relations, perhaps?) is an interesting prelude.


    Well! In any case. Overall? I’d say this episode had some good moments, some interesting bits of lore… though I was hoping that it would’ve turned out a little differently than all the other ones since they were under the sea and all that. Unfortunately, it sort of turned out to be almost the same formula… Oh well. Guess we’ll see what the next set has in store now that we’re in Elty’s old pad. Maybe we’ll finally get more development for him.
     
  9. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    @Ambyssin:
    That was actually a lapse which I went back and edited out. Though hope things work a bit better now.

    Well, I did dip into meta a bit when I had Kiran give his commentary there, though glad to hear that you’re finding the buildup to be interesting.

    To be fair, do they really seem like the type of Pokémon that could fill leadership roles beyond bullying others around? o3o;

    My lips are sealed. You’ll just have to read the next installment and find out.

    No idea what caught your eye there. :3

    @Chibi Pika:
    That’s correct. The April Fools’ Day special is essentially an AU at the same time as the start of Giotto’s episode.

    Sometimes you just need to have how bad your idea is stare you in the face to change your mind.

    *Points at @Ambyssin.*

    The average resident of the Cradle is an awful lot like the average NPC from the mainline in the sense that their knowledge of legendaries tends to be very heavily biased to the local Protector with knowledge of off-island legendaries usually being very high-level.

    Yeah, it just wouldn’t be Pleo if he didn’t try to do something to make the world a little better.

    Reverse psychology can pull off some amazing results. :3

    And I enjoyed writing it! Who knows, perhaps sometime in the future, Pleo may have a chance to have a misadventure in some other brave new world out there.

    @Namohysip:
    I would counter that somebody finding out about hidden information doesn’t guarantee it’ll spread, especially when there are a number of real life belief systems that employ esotericism to hide knowledge from outsiders that aren’t seen as safe to trust. I doubt Crom is the first “normal” Pokémon to brush up against that scripture in Cradle history, but given what it’d have to say, I would think the vast majority of exposed Pokémon would quickly dismiss it out of hand.

    I’m gonna play a combination of the “hand of fate” card plus “teething pains while writing”. Ideally the later chapters should be a bit better about the contrived coincidences, but alas that particular one wasn’t one of them.

    I’m going to be upfront and just say that that is basically the fundamental “episode” structure for this story. Each arc is set against a different backdrop, and as such the “intro” and “outro” of each one will factor getting to/from places into them. If they stay at an island longer, the episode will simply be longer.

    That said, I think you’ll find that the dungeon isn’t as big a part of the next episode as you might be expecting whenever you get to it.

    I made a tweak, so hopefully it tones down the “tell”-y vibes a notch.

    It’s a little disappointing to hear that things didn’t quite click here, though it was admittedly a less actiony arc. That’s certainly something that wouldn’t be applicable for describing the one that you’re about to start.

    I was admittedly fighting the clock while writing this to get things out for vacation, so sorry if the preamble feels a bit spartan this time around leading up into today’s update. The chapter originally was a decent bit longer, but due to timing and management constraints, it was decided to divide it up into two. The second half will be targeting a release date in the third week of August, as the next week will be fairly dead in terms of being able to do any work other than soaking in the rays with family.

    Special thanks for helping to get this chapter out the door goes to Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net, along with all the readers and reviewers who continue to peck at this sea yarn and provide the love it needs. With that, I’ll be leaving things here and we’ll be continuing on with today’s chapter:

    [​IMG]

    At the Siglo Swellow’s beach encampment, Vicente made his way up and down the lines of tents as the sailors began to wrap up their construction work. The Fighting-Type looked around as some of the Pokémon started to drift into the shade of the shelters, when buzzing wingbeats sounded out from behind, prompting him to turn and see Beatrix approaching him.

    "Vicente! How is that encampment coming along?" the Illumise pressed.

    "See for yourself, Captain."

    The Hitmontop motioned around him at the fan-like layout of the encampment. While spartan, the tents and lean-tos provided sufficient shelter for a base camp, with the fire pit already stocked and a chunk of worn sail repurposed for a flag hanging from a driftwood pole. A small smile formed at the ends of the first mate’s mouth, as he proudly turned back to his superior.

    "Ideally we won't need it for too long,” he said. “But it should provide a better base to work with than the Siglo Swellow's hull."

    "Hrmph, not bad at all,” Beatrix remarked. “I'll need to start dividing up the crew for scouting parties. The sooner we find Cernun and the Knights' Ledger, the sooner we can sail off from this rock-"

    “Vicente!”

    The pair looked up at the sound of a sharp squawk as the sailors around them began murmuring uneasily upon seeing the haggard forms of Kiran, Dimitri, Elty, and Guardia hurrying in, visibly distraught. Beatrix grimaced as the sailors gathered around them, prompting Vicente to hurry up to the four.

    “Kiran? What are you doing here?” the Hitmontop asked. “I thought you left for the Mystery Dungeon!”

    "Th-The ghosts!” Kiran cried. “They ambushed us and took Ander along with Pleo and half my pupils!"

    The eyes of the surrounding sailors widened as a few recoiled with audible gasps. Among them was Natrix, who had flushed pale and backpedaled a few paces at the Swellow’s words.

    "Y-You mean there really are ghosts out there?!" the Servine squeaked.

    “Yes!” Guardia insisted. “All of the lore that Laurens told us is true!”

    “They were a bunch of big, purple and cloudy monsters!” Elty yipped. “We tried to fight back, but our attacks just passed right through them!”

    Beatrix and Vicente grimaced, turning an insistent gaze over to an Elgyem in the group of gathered sailors.

    “Kelly, where are they?” Beatrix insisted. “Even if they aren’t in the dungeon, you should still be able to sense their badges, shouldn’t you?”

    The Elgyem floated in place and closed her eyes deep in focus, waiting quietly for a few moments before starting to shift and abruptly snapping back to attention in alarm.

    “I-I can’t feel anything around them,” she stammered. “Their badges must have been taken off.”

    A palpable sense of panic settled on the gathered sailors, as a few started to shrink back from the direction of the treelines, while others retreated to the perceived safety of their lean-tos. With his eyes firmly trained on the Siglo Swellow, Philips hastily scooped up a bag at his feet and threw it onto his shoulders as he called out to his peers.

    "Oh drown this, let's get out of here before they find us!" the Raichu exclaimed.

    "All of you, just calm down a moment!” Beatrix snapped. “We're not going anywhere without our Protector!"

    The sailors froze, trading nervous looks with one another as the flightier members of their ranks warily slunk back out in front of Vicente and Beatrix, casting apprehensive glances inland all the while.

    "B-But what are we supposed to do?” a Sliggoo demanded. “We don't have any idea of where the Protector could've been taken!"

    "Yeah, and if those things took the Protector, what hope do we have?" a Dwebble asked.

    An uncomfortable silence settled over the group as no one seemed to have an answer to the Dwebble’s question. Elty, Guardia, and even Kiran shifted uncomfortably, unsure what they could even offer with how impotent they’d proven to be against the ghosts earlier. Dimitri brushed his scythes together uneasily, when his mind turned back to the shack that Kiran had described seeing in the morning, along with his passing encounter with a local feral...

    "I mean… we found out there's supposed to be Pokémon like us living in the Mystery Dungeon. If we can find them, maybe we can see if they can help us at all since they've clearly been getting by even with these ghosts,” Dimitri said. “We’ve still got our items and Kelly knows how to find us, so we can try to retreat if we run into trouble. If nothing else, it'll make sure that if anyone else gets taken, it'll just be us."

    The crowd began to murmur, seemingly satisfied by the Kabutops’ plan, only for Natrix and Philips to suddenly pause and grimace as an uncomfortable realization came over them.

    "… What do we tell Pladur about this?" Philips asked.

    "Yeah, if he hears that his niño is on his way to the Spirit World, he'd probably keel over from shock in his state!" Natrix cried.

    "Let's… keep things quiet for now until we find out more,” Beatrix instructed. “Everything that you all have heard on this beach stays on this beach until I say otherwise."

    The Illumise turned to Kiran and his teammates with an uneasy pause. She opened her mouth to speak to the four Pokémon, struggling to find the right words before shaking her head with a sigh.

    "… If you haven't returned by nightfall, I'll gather the crew and try to figure what we can do."

    "Right,” Kiran answered. “We'll do our best out there."

    The Swellow and his companions hastily bade their farewells, heading off back into the forest as the gathered deckhands watched the group melt out of view, quietly hoping and praying that somehow their Protector and the Travellers above could help turn these dire circumstances around.




    In the grand hall leading up to the Board’s meeting chamber at the Company's headquarters in Vollezee, the sound of tapping footsteps rang out as Lyn made his way towards a pair of double-doors at the end. The Samurott’s pelt had been freshly cleaned and scrubbed of its normal salty tang, his lavender scarf newly fastened, and his gait carrying an impatient stiffness to it as he made his way to what would surely be the beginning of his career as an Administrator. Along the way, a party consisting of a Cryogonal, an Empoleon, and an Espeon chattered amongst themselves before the doorway, leaving the otter to growl and thrust a seamitar forward.

    “Out of my way!”

    Lyn shoved the Cryogonal to the ground with the flat of his blade, the Empoleon and Espeon hastily darting aside from the Samurott’s path. The otter returned his seamitar to his scabbard as the three guards quickly reassumed their posts, leaving him to push the doors open and reveal the long stone table from which the Company Board convened, with Inler already waiting at its head with the full gathering of Administrators present.

    "Welcome, Commissioner,” the Nidoking said. “We've been expecting you."

    "Hrmph, you certainly look confident this time around,” Darzin growled. “That's... unexpected, to say the least."

    "I should hope so, Darzin,” Lyn retorted. “At long last, I have completed my mission."

    The Samurott fished through his satchel and proudly raised a Red Apricorn before the gathered Pokémon. Elilan shifted in his seat and gave a skeptical raise of his brow at the sight, prompting him to rest his right arm against the back of his left paw and move his right claws up to his chin with a piercing scowl.

    "Well, that’s certainly bold of you to say that to our faces,” the Zoroark scoffed. “What's going to be your excuse for disappointing us this time?"

    "Oh come on, Elilan. He's here and he's even got an Apricorn with him!” Zorn chortled. “Have him open it and let's see the Protector for ourselves!"

    "Gladly,” Lyn replied. “I bring you Lugia, the Guardian of the Seas!"

    The Commissioner took out a decorated clay cup and fit the Apricorn into its curvature at the floor before the table. He took up his right seamitar, training the tip on the nut’s surface, before slicing the top off with a flick of his paw. Inler and the gathered Administrators watched as a jagged beam of light shot out and began materializing on the floor before them into the frightened form of a Ditto, who blinked his beady eyes and looked around warily, noticing the members of the Board staring down at him.

    "Er… hi?" David said.

    Lyn’s jaw dropped from shock as he let his seamitar fell to the floor with a clatter. From the other end of the table, Inler, Farn, Zorn, and Elilan at once let out fierce, livid growls. Darzin was the sole exception among their number who stared in befuddled shock, before he too joined the others and let out a sharp snarl as Elilan shot a piercing glare back at the Samurott.

    "Tsk. Why am I not surprised, Lyn?” the Zoroark scoffed. “Every time I think it's impossible for you to sink any lower, you always manage to prove me wrong."

    A loud slam rang out from the end of the table, Lyn’s blood chilling as he saw Inler had stood up and pressed his claws onto the stone, his horn lowered threateningly as his mouth cracked open to reveal a mouthful of fangs.

    “Commissioner! What is the meaning of this?!”

    Lyn recoiled from Inler’s roar and stammered nervously. How could this be?! He had captured Lugia as clear as day in front of the entire crew on Buyeom right before they were chased out of port! There wasn’t any time that the Apricorn could’ve been switched before they left!

    "I- I can explain-"

    "Oh, I think it's perfectly clear, Lyn,” Elilan interrupted. “You've been getting desperate and thought you could get away with misleading us thinking that you'd finally completed your mission with this subpar imitation!"

    "B-But I captured the Guardian with this very Apricorn in Magmapool Town! I shot him out of the sky myself!” Lyn insisted. “There's no way that this Ditto could've been in there unless-"

    The whole thing had been a ruse of course, precisely to engineer this embarrassment! Lyn set his teeth on edge, realizing that whoever had put him in this circumstance could only have done so with this Ditto’s willing cooperation. With his blood boiling, the Water-Type scooped up his dropped seamitar, leveling its tip in front of David’s startled eyes with a forceful swing.

    "A-AAH!”

    "You! If you feel like leaving this room alive, you'll tell me who you work for and who put you up to this right now!" the Samurott bellowed. The Ditto shrank back, staring at the tip of the blade shaking like a leaf as he struggled to answer.

    "I- I- A-Aah…"

    "Really Lyn, that's supposed to convince us?” Elilan sneered. “The Ditto will obviously say whatever he feels will save his own gummy hide at the moment, so why am I supposed to believe a word from his mouth?"

    Lyn froze and blanched at the Zoroark’s retort, backing away with a grimacing silence. As loath as he was to admit it, drawing his blade on the Ditto had poisoned the well on anything he had to say right here. The Ditto did have a role in all of this, he just knew it! And yet, even if the Ditto blurted out the truth now, it meant little as he would’ve just as easily proclaimed himself to be the King of Conntow if he felt it’d save himself! The Samurott hung his head, unsure what he could do to defend his name now that it looked like he’d been the one to put the blob up to this deception as the Ditto got up and began to wave for attention.

    "H-Hey!” David insisted. “If you all let me go, I'll-!"

    The Ditto was abruptly cut off by the large yellowish orb of a Focus Blast that flung him back and splattered him against the wall. Elilan brought a raised claw back to his side as Inler pinched his brow and shook his head with a low grumble. At the other end of the room the doors flew open and the sound of running footsteps rang out, prompting the gathered Administrators to turn and see a Cryogonal, an Empoleon, and an Espeon rushing in as Elilan pointed a claw off at David.

    "Scrape him off and wring out what he knows before sending him on an expedited transfer for Nagrobek!" he snarled.

    “I have no objections,” Inler harrumphed. “Guards! See to it that Administrator Elilan’s request is fulfilled!"

    The guards swooped upon David, prying the groaning blob from the wall and hastening out the chamber with a loud slam of the doors behind them. The Zoroark in the room turned and growled, shooting a fierce glare back at the ashen Samurott.

    "I see that the apple truly doesn't fall far from the tree,” Elilan snapped. “Really, when your father undermined the Company under the leadership of the prior Board, at least he didn't have the gall to do it to their faces!"

    The Zoroark shook his head disgustedly before leaning back into his chair, the faint outlines of a smirk beginning to spread over his mouth.

    "And I see no reason why a wretch like you shouldn't meet the same fate,” he sneered. “I motion to strip his rank and expel this sorry excuse of a Commissioner!"

    Lyn grimaced and felt his blood run cold as droplets began to form at the corners of his eyes. He had stuck things out ever since the fateful day when his father ruined everything, going through the Academy even when Sevan had thrown in the towel for sellswording and he’d been tempted to do much the same when illness claimed his mother. He’d earned his place here through years of hard work! A-And it was all going to be erased over a dirty trick he was in the dark about?!

    "Y-You can't do that! I've served the Company faithfully for years!” Lyn cried. “All of you should know that I'd never stoop to such a harebrained-!"

    "Stop talking, Lyn!"

    Lyn bit his tongue and looked over surprised at Farn, who was staring at him with piercing, golden eyes. The Administrator had never been one to take lightly, but as a ‘mon who he’d looked up to since being a Second-Rank, the harsh tone all but sucked the life out of the Samurott’s face.

    "A-Administrator Farn?"

    "Even if your version of events is right and you were sabotaged, you’re not helping your own case,” she chided. “What argument do you even have right now? This is the third time we've heard from you that you've had the Protector only for you to turn up empty-pawed! What sort of track record is that to stand on?!"

    The Luxray let a few stray sparks fly among her fur out of annoyance, shaking her head as she turned away.

    "I know that you obviously place some importance on succeeding at what your father failed at, but this is a company,” she snapped. “We can't advance Pokémon in our ranks over the sentiments of a subordinate that for all we know just isn't cut out for duties above his rank. You of all Pokémon should know that."

    Lyn stared ahead blankly, the surroundings around him turning fuzzy and faint as he felt his world slipping away from him and his seamitar to slip out of his paw. A loud splash rang out as Zorn slapped the water of his pool with his tail, the Gyarados giving an unimpressed snort as he chimed in.

    "Hrmph. Save your time, Farn,” Zorn scoffed, before turning to Lyn.

    “If you ask me, it looks pretty obvious you thought you could pull a fast one on us and take a seat at the table!” he snarled. “You’re through, Lyn! And you’ll be lucky to pick berries for a living by the time we’re done with-"

    "No."

    The four Administrators turned and stared in surprise at the Nidoking at the head of the table. Zorn stuttered at a loss of words for a moment, realizing that after everything the Director still had an objection?

    “… Director?!”

    "While Commissioner Lyn's results are… disappointing to say the least and he certainly would have motive to want to deceive us, there just isn't any evidence to prove that was his intent," Inler explained.

    "Director, you can’t be serious. Do you think that Ditto got himself captured in an Apricorn for his own amusement?” Elilan demanded. “Of course Lyn tried to deceive us!"

    "Hrmph, for someone who wants to one day lead the Company, you sure jump to conclusions quickly, Elilan. We know that Lyn compromised his cover in Giotto, so who's to say that the Imperials didn't get the idea to try and deceive him?” Inler rebutted. “A wasted trip would mean they would have the freedom to hunt for the Protector at their leisure as we waste our time trying to salvage this mission!"

    The Nidoking shook his head, before letting out a sharp harrumph.

    "Due to inconclusive evidence, and with the stakes so high, our best course of action is simply to stay the course, and get this mission back on track so the Imperials don't have such an opportunity," he continued.

    Lyn paced back and he stared blankly at the Nidoking who now held his fate in his paws. From the left side of the table, Elilan shot up out of his seat, fuming and seething back at the Poison-Type.

    "Hold it right there! That decision isn’t yours alone to make, Inler!” the Zoroark spat. “We’re a Board and make decisions based on votes! Especially if they are determining the fate of this Company and of Anyilla!"

    "I do not need a reminder of how basic proceedings in my own Company work, Elilan,” Inler growled back. “And especially not from a whelp like you!"

    The Administrator and Director traded sharp glares with each other for a moment, before the elderly Nidoking turned to the rest of his subordinates with a low grumble.

    "But very well, let's settle this,” he said. “There's four votes between us, so let's put them up and see where things fall."

    "Four votes?” Darzin fumed. “I'm here too, you know! So that makes fi-"

    "Shut up!"

    The Dragonite flinched, shrinking back and pulling his antennae close to his head as he opted to not press the matter any further. With the loose end in their ranks tied down, Inler turned to the other three Administrators as he began to speak.

    "I've already made my case and my own vote should be clear,” the Nidoking said. “The rest is up to you three."

    "Hmph, it should go without saying that my vote is 'no'. Lyn's tenure on this mission has just been one exercise in incompetence after another,” Elilan scoffed. “The fact that a simple extraction mission led to the Lugia ending up in the Empire's claws and being lost to a bunch of Tromban peasants ought to speak for itself as to why he should be pulled from this mission."

    "I second that motion. I remember having to intervene multiple times during Lyn’s first mission as a Third-Rank to recover documentation from the Merchantry due to him acting like a reckless loose cannon,” Zorn glowered. “I hoped that the extra experience since then would've dulled those tendencies, but not only are they still around, I had to effectively do his mission for him on my island! You’re telling me that I now have to overlook a blatant attempt to deceive me? I'm sorry, Director, but I can't stand for this."

    Lyn grit his teeth, as the gathered Pokémon trained their attention onto Farn. The Luxray stared with a lengthy silence at the Samurott, prompting him to drift back to memories of his father’s fall from grace and hang his head in despair and wait for what would surely be the final vote needed to seal his fate...

    "I vote in favor of retaining Commissioner Lyn on this mission."

    Lyn sprang up in surprise as the Administrators in the room stared stunned at Farn. From his place across the table, Elilan spluttered in shock, hardening his eyes into an incredulous scowl at his Luxray colleague.

    "Farn?! What do you mean you vote 'in favor'?!" he exclaimed.

    "Because as frustrating as Lyn's recent run of failures has been, him deceiving us just doesn't align with his record of service as a Commissioner,” she explained. “Beyond that, there's just too many alternative explanations for what could have caused the incident with the Ditto to definitively lay blame at Lyn's feet."

    The Luxray shook her head, before continuing on with audible conviction before her peers.

    "If the record said something different, I wouldn't be taking this position. But reorganizing the mission at this stage would only cause more chaos and you know it, Elilan,” the Electric-Type continued. “So for now, it is better to look past the coincidences, as frustrating as they may be, and to trust that things will revert to their mean."

    "And as Director, my vote counts for two in the event of a tie,” Inler reminded. “So as it stands, Commissioner Lyn remains tasked to retrieve Lugia."

    Lyn exhaled out of relief, picking up his seamitar from the floor and sheathing it as his paws continued to waver. In the background, Elilan pounded the table and buried his face in an open paw growling under his breath, as Inler turned and stared stone-faced back at Lyn.

    "Be mindful that results matter in the Company, Commissioner. We've been exceedingly patient with you so far with your attempts to bring the Guardian of the Seas before us, but this is your final chance,” the Nidoking said. “Even if it’s far from what I want, the Board does have another candidate who can pursue him should you appear before us empty-pawed again."

    Lyn shifted uncomfortably and quietly gulped at the Director’s ultimatum. The terms were as stark as they’d ever been, but at least there was no confusion over what needed to be done...

    "Understood... Director."

    The Board’s members got up and began to depart, Lyn staying behind to calm his nerves as Inler and his subordinates started filing out. After hearing his superiors’ footsteps begin to fade away, the Samurott shuffled off, hesitantly making his way for the doorway at the other end. The Commissioner made it to the last few paces before the doors, when he saw Farn stop and wait for her peers to leave, before turning back with a forceful scowl.

    "I don't normally make decisions like the one I did back there, Lyn,” she said. “Don't make me regret it."

    The Luxray hardened her eyes as stray sparks danced through her mane, leaving the Samurott to pause, before nodding back.

    "I don't intend to."

    Lyn carried on past the doors and away from the chamber, passing the Cryogonal and Espeon remaining outside keeping watch and making it to the end of the hallway at a three-way intersection where he headed left and hung his head. He had seen Lugia fly around the harbor with his own eyes, so how could all of that have just been a ruse from the Empire?! They hadn’t even known he was in their waters until Giotto!

    … They couldn’t have, unless there was someone on his crew who worked with them. Lyn’s teeth clenched as his eyes hardened into a glare, storming along angrily as his mind grew ever-consumed by one desire:

    To find the spy who had set him up and to make him pay.




    (Continued in the next post)
     
  10. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    "Ander, wake up!"

    Ander shifted as a chirping voice reached his ears, feeling his joints ache while his eyes opened to a hazy dimness. The Scyther let out a weak groan, shuffling his limbs against a stony surface as he heard other voices nearby. The mantis brushed up against something soft and looked up, only to see a Lugia’s face staring down at him. At once, Ander sprang back wide-eyed and let out a frightened shriek.

    "Aah! G-Get away from me!"

    "H-Huh?! Ander it's just me!" Pleo insisted.

    "Wh-Wha-?"

    The Scyther lowered his blades, spotting Crom and Nida stirring in the background and realizing it was merely Pleo who’d given him a start as he looked about his surroundings. The last thing he remembered was getting pinned down and succumbing to a sudden drowsiness after staring into the yellow eyes of an attacking ghost. Whatever had happened to them since then, they had been taken to this darkened chamber with stone flooring and walls, where a glance to his right revealed an exit into a hallway that was blocked with iron bars and a padlock as Crom and Nida shambled to their feet.

    "Ow… why can’t I feel my badge?" Crom murmured. “And where are we?”

    "That's what we'd like to know!" a Charmeleon’s voice piped.

    Ander and his companions looked behind them to discover the wall to the right of the cell was an open grate of iron bars, were on the other end were a haggard-looking Charmeleon, Sealeo, Chingling, and Noibat. The four blinked confusedly a moment at the strangers, and as their eyes adjusted to the light, they noticed the Pokémon’s’ scarves were an uncomfortably familiar gold pattern with a spiked, silver teardrop on them.

    "Wait, you're from the Iron Fleet!" Nida cried.

    "And you're one of those Tromban dweebs, so what's your point?" the Noibat demanded.

    "Did… you get taken by the ghosts as well?" Pleo wondered.

    "Hmph, it wouldn't have happened if Eltenios hadn't turned traitor,” the Sealeo growled. “The only reason why we're here and your stupid friends aren't is because they got lucky!"

    "Right… 'luck'. I suppose we shouldn't have dismissed those screams so quickly,” Ander said. “But I don't really understand what's going on here. The ghosts said that they'd be taking us to the Spirit World. This feels… surprisingly like our own."

    "Pah, who cares!” the Charmeleon growled. “The Captain wants that bird, so we're gonna capture him!"

    "Huh? But aren't you all locked up as well?" Crom asked.

    Alfred trailed off, holding his mouth open with a blank, flustered stare. The Charmeleon hemmed and hawed a little before shaking his head and summoning his prior adamance.

    "Er... we'll capture him after we get out of here!" the Fire-Type insisted.

    "And how do you plan on doing that without tipping off those ghosts or whoever is holding us captive?" Ander pressed.

    "Uh… er… look, we'll think of something, alright!” Alfred snapped. “And when we do, we're knocking you into next week and taking you all back with us to the ship!"

    “Yeah! So you better start saying your prayers, twerps!" the Chingling added.

    Nida folded her ears back and narrowed her eyes unamusedly. Evidently even utter defeat was not enough to make some of Hess’ underlings know when they were beat.

    "I'm sure we'll manage somehow…" she grumbled.

    "Basta! Would you all keep it down in there?" a rumbling voice growled.

    Team Traveller turned their heads towards the hallway at the sound of tramping footsteps, where they saw a group of Pokémon approaching with an Aggron at its head. The lot of them sported blue scarves bearing a white design that seemed to be a pair of intertwining antlers, and curiously enough all had eyes with cross-shaped pupils.

    "You're already on thin ice as it is,” the Aggron snapped. “I'd suggest you not do anything to push your luck."

    From the pirates’ cell, the four Pokémon blinked and stared at the Aggron in the group. The Noibat raised a brow, scrutinizing the stranger as he couldn’t help but think he was...

    "… Captain Hess?" the Noibat asked.

    "Oh for crying out loud! How do you mix him up with that Aggron?” the Sealeo snapped. “He looks way younger than the Captain and he’s got those freaky eyes!"

    "Hrmph. I've certainly been hearing that name a lot today, but no,” the Steel-Type said. “The name's Roteck, and I'm here to bring you all to your date with eternity."

    At the Aggron’s words, the pirates went wide-eyed and dove into the far corner, quailing in front of the cross-pupiled strangers while the Chingling squealed out of fright.

    "Y-Yeeek!"

    "’E-Eternity?’ W-Wait! Please!” Alfred squeaked. “Don’t kill us! We didn't steal anything yet!"

    "Not you. You'll be dealt with later,” Roteck growled, before turning to his subordinates and pointing over at Nida, Crom, Pleo, and Ander.

    "Those four,” he instructed. “Bring them before Duke Valter at once."

    Team Traveller blanched out of surprise, Nida staring up with an uneasy grimace at the Steel-Type as his underlings began to undo the padlock on the cell door. Who exactly was this Aggron? What was he planning on doing to them? And...

    "Who is Duke Valter- Hey!"

    The Aggron and his accompanying underlings stepped in and unceremoniously dragged the four out, marching them down a short hallway full of empty cells before reaching a set of rickety wooden stairs. The lot pressed on, passing a crude lobby with tables and chairs formed from battered crates and barrels when Nida and her companions exited it and looked around, surprised to find themselves in the middle of a street lined with simple huts and tents with small patches of fog off in the distance.

    “Ah!” Pleo cried. ”There’s an entire town here!”

    “Yeah, yeah, we get that a lot,” Roteck harrumphed. “Now keep moving.”

    The Steel-Type and his fellow guards forced Pleo and his companions forward, taking them down a street lined with shops and stalls, including one staffed by a Kecleon and a Yamask who had tried to style it after its scaly proprietor through a coat of red and green paint and eyes on the awning. Nida noticed that curiously, all of the shops seemed to trade pieces of paper back and forth, with their owners referring to them as the likes of “two rations of wood” or “three rations of gummi mix”, while the shoppers looked up at them with cross-shaped eyes much as their captors.

    Nida wondered to herself what the significance of the eyes could be, when further down the path, they came across berry bushes being tended to in cramped plots sandwiched between shacks along the banks of two intersecting streams. The Nidoran squinted off at it to try and catch a better view, before they crossed a rope bridge over the nearer of the two streams. As she passed over, Nida noted that unlike the stream further off in the distance, this one seemed to drop immediately from the ground and into the water, almost like a gouge in the earth.

    Do try and make a decent first impression,” Roteck grunted. “The Duke and the others are waiting for you just ahead.”

    Nida, Pleo, Crom, and Ander looked up to see a pavillion formed from stone pillars with a ring placed atop it and vines growing along the structure’s surface. The lot marched in where a small crowd had gathered around a Dusknoir, with a curious number of its ranks composed of Ghost-Types who traded wary looks at the four and among each other. Crom looked around, noting that for whatever reason, the Dusknoir seemed to lack a cross-shaped pupil unlike the other Pokémon. Whatever was behind it, it didn’t seem to make him come off as any friendlier, leaving Crom to wonder to himself what the Pokémon had in mind for them given the Aggron’s mention of ‘eternity’, when the Dusknoir floated up and addressed the Aggron and his charges.

    "Ahh… so they've finally awoken,” the Ghost-Type said. “My name is Valter, and I'm the leader of this town."

    The Dusknoir approached Nida and her companions, who inched away from the Ghost-Type uneasily. Unswayed by his guests’ discomfort, Valter shook his head, giving a quiet harrumph before continuing on.

    "Make yourselves comfortable, not that you would be going anywhere fast,” he remarked. “I had a few questions for you, as did our patron…"

    "Your patron?" Crom gulped.

    Team Traveller turned at the sound of clattering hooves from their left as a blue deer paced into the pavillion’s shade. Ander at once recoiled with a startled yelp as the youngsters with him stared mesmerized. The creature’s shape was the spitting image of David, except his shoulders came up to about Crom’s snout, his antlers were a pale blue, and most curiously of all, his eyes bore the same cross-shape as the other villagers in town. The deer pranced around, throwing his antlers back proudly with a beaming smile before his audience.

    "That's me!” he cheered. “Cernun, the Voice of Life!"

    Nida and Crom looked at the creature with a loss for words, their silence broken by Pleo who excitedly squawked and darted up waving his wings before the Xerneas.

    “Wait, it’s the real you!” Pleo exclaimed. “We’ve been looking for you all over the island!”

    The gathered Pokémon traded surprise glances and murmurs at Pleo’s outburst, a few wondering aloud if he somehow had met Cernun before. All the while, Valter eyed Pleo warily and moved over, giving a probing stare down.

    "And just how do you know of our Lord Cernun, little one?" Valter demanded.

    "I don't think it matters too much, Valter,” Cernun chuckled. “He seems nice enough and I'm always looking for more acolytes. Darkwood Square needs all the helping hands it can get."

    "This is great!” Pleo chirped. “It's just what we need to take on the Company and go back to Tromba-"

    "Hold on, nobody said anything about you being able to leave."

    Pleo’s words died in his mouth as he and his teammates looked over at Valter. The Ghost-Type’s red eye had hardened into a pointed scowl, prompting Nida to uneasily shuffle her feet and speak up.

    "What… do you mean?" the Nidoran asked.

    "Well, the outside world's full of Pokémon that want to take me away and harm this town,” Cernun explained. “So the safest way to keep that from happening is to make sure that as few Pokémon as possible come here."

    "As you can see, many of the inhabitants here are Ghost-Types,” Valter elaborated. “Because of that, we are able to combine our powers to trick any outsiders into believing this island is haunted to leave us alone."

    Crom and his teammates jolted up at the Dusknoir’s response. Did he mean to say that those ghosts that had attacked them were really Pokémon that they’d seen here around the village?! But… they captured them and brought them here, and at the same time they wanted other Pokémon to leave them alone? How did any of that make sense?!

    "But… if you didn't want us here, why won’t you let us leave?" Crom asked.

    "Because, you're not alone, and your friends will surely abandon this island thinking they are in mortal danger,” Valter replied. “In order to maintain the ruse, those who we take are kept here on the island as part of our numbers."

    "H-Huh?! But we need to go back home!” Pleo cried. “Everyone's counting on us!"

    Valter harrumphed and narrowed his eye as he curtly responded to the young Protector, peering down with a scolding shake of his head.

    "Hrmph, well I'm sure that being in the Voice of Life's presence and receiving his blessings will surely be an adequate recourse-"

    "V-Voice of Life?! That's no Voice of Life, that's a demon!"

    Cernun recoiled at the sound of a piercing cry, jerking back as Ander sprang up and flashed his scythes defensively with widened eyes.

    "The Voice of Life is the collective will of nature that keeps life on this planet going on!” the Scyther insisted. “How is being stuck with this monster that perverts life supposed to be any comfort?!"

    Nida, Crom, and Pleo bit their tongues as the surrounding Pokémon began to glare and glower over Ander’s words for what felt like a silent eternity, the mantis’ rant evidently a grave insult to the Xerneas before them. Wisps of shadow danced around Valter’s fists for a fleeting moment, before they dissipated with a sharp harrumph.

    "I've heard enough for now. Whatever plans you came here with, they're not happening. There will be plenty of time for you to get accustomed to your new roles here, whether you choose to resist it or not,” the Dusknoir snapped. “Roteck! Get these disgraceful wretches out of my-"

    "Un attimo!"

    A silvery blur cut in from above, coming to a stop in front of Team Traveller and revealing the form of a Skarmory. Nida flushed pale at the sight, stammering until she noticed the bird was also sporting eyes with cross-shaped pupils, and wearing an off-white scarf with a blue square she remembered seeing on Mengir…

    Wait a minute! This Skarmory was-!

    "Trizano?!" Nida cried.

    "Hear them out for a moment, Duke Valter,” the Skarmory insisted. “After all, it's not every day that Lord Cernun is graced with the presence of a fellow Protector."

    Cernun raised his tail and flared his ears out of surprise, the fawn’s eyes widening as he darted up to the intervening Skarmory with an incredulous stare.

    "A fellow Protector?"

    "That’s right, the white one among them is the Protector of Tromba!” the Steel-Type insisted. “Surely it would be worth listening to what he has to say, wouldn't it?"

    "What makes you so certain about this, Trizano?" Valter asked, shooting a dubious frown back.

    "The Valiant Knight Skarmory never forgets a face,” Trizano answered. “And I distinctly remember this one as none other than the Protector that I encountered in my last visit to Mengir."

    Valter raised his voice to object, only for the Xerneas behind him to near and nudge at his shoulder. The Ghost-Type blinked puzzledly, turning back to see Cernun looking insistently at him.

    "Let them speak, Valter,” Cernun insisted. “I want to hear what's going on."

    Valter paused, before grudgingly drifting out of the way and allowing Pleo to pace forward uneasily. The seabird ruffled his feathers awkwardly, before clearing his throat to speak up.

    "Well… we were being chased around by the Company and we met Nerea around Braveshoal, and she said this island is supposed to have a 'Knights' Ledger' that would make the Company and the Empire leave us alone,” Pleo explained. “And then when we ran into Kline, he said that you'd be here, Cernun, and that you'd be able to help us!"

    The Xerneas paused with an uncomfortable expression, before shying away and shaking his head.

    "I… think you may have been mislead," Cernun murmured.

    "H-Huh?! What do you mean 'mislead'?” Nida demanded. “You're here, aren't you? So why wouldn't the Knights' Ledger be?"

    "All things that come here must remain hidden in order to preserve Lord Cernun's safety,” Valter retorted. “Including that ledger. Not that I'd expect that impudent snake to have told you of that."

    "Wait, why? And what's wrong with Kline?” Crom pressed. “He was helpful to us when we ran into each other!"

    "Hmph, we can hardly say the same."

    The Dusknoir floated up slightly and pointed back towards the bridge Pleo and the others had crossed earlier. The Lugia and his companions looked back at it blankly, before Pleo gave a puzzled tilt of his head back to Valter.

    "That stream we crossed?” Pleo asked. “What did Kline do to it?"

    "The ground used to be flat there, that's what!" Valter snapped.

    "It's a scar he left behind while he was here,” Cernun said, shaking his head. “Valter tried to explain to him that it was safer for him to stay with me, but he refused to listen and lashed out at my acolytes when they got in his way. I attempted to stop him, but my powers were somehow weakened when I tried to fight him."

    Ander grimaced and shivered at what must have happened to the town for Kline to leave such a wound on it. Nida and Crom stared wordlessly, wondering what on earth could’ve made Kline lash out in such a manner, before Pleo turned back and gave an insistent beat of his wings to Valter.

    "B-But you'd have to let us go eventually!” Pleo cried. “I’m Tromba’s Protector and I’m needed back there!"

    "You go ahead and think that, uccello,” Valter huffed. “Unlike last time, I won't so easily allow this haven to be disturbed just so that you can chase your whims, Protector or not."

    The Ghost-Type turned around and took his leave for a set of steps leading to a raised bluff when he stopped and turned his head towards Roteck on his way over.

    "See to it that they are settled in,” he instructed. “This village will have new members to tend to, and it can't afford to sustain idle hands that add nothing back to it."

    "Understood, Duke Valter."

    The Aggron paced ahead as Valter departed, walking up to Team Traveller as he looked down at them with a gruff, impatient scowl.

    “Come on, you're not going anywhere soon,” Roteck said. “So you might as well get used to your new home."

    Nida, Crom, Pleo, and Ander stared bewildered as the Aggron pushed them along for the bridge, the four staring puzzledly as Trizano hopped up and gave a reassuring smile.

    "Go on. I'll explain what's happening as you tour the village."

    One by one, the four set off, grudgingly going ahead of Roteck as Trizano followed after them. All the while, Nida cast uneasy glances at her surroundings, wondering just how they were supposed to get the Knights’ Ledger, much less find their way back to their friends in these circumstances.




    As Team Traveller was marched towards their new home, the less-seaworthy members of the Iron Fleet huddled together tightly below deck. A few of their number poked timid glances up the staircases to the deck, while others traded worried murmurs of what had become of Alfred and his group. An air of lingering expectation hung about the anxious gathering as the pirates looked over to Hess and Rodion, hoping to persuade them to flee the wretched island.

    "Wh-Why are we here right now?” a Litten whimpered. “You saw those things, let's get out of here!"

    "Uh... technically, we didn't see anything,” a Drednaw replied. “We just couldn't find Alfred-"

    "You know what I meant!" the cat snapped.

    "All of you just simmer down a moment!” Rodion barked. “We can't get going anywhere fast before the ship's water is replenished!"

    The Floatzel’s scolding at once drew a torrent of protest from the other pirates in reply. Was it really so bad to just sail off with a little less water? After all, getting water from this wretched hellhole meant going back… and that meant...

    "You can't seriously expect us to go out there! Those... things are eating souls!” a Wimpod exclaimed. “Gods knows what they're doing to Alfred and the 'mons with him right now!"

    "Look, I at least roughly know where the water is,” Kichiro said. “It’s somewhere east of the Mystery Dungeon here."

    "So go and get it yourself!" the Wimpod spat.

    "Oh drown that noise, I already got chased by those ghosts going out there!” the Ledian snapped. “One of you can have a turn!"

    The crew broke out into a heated uproar, with conflicting demands for Kichiro to go back or for so-and-so to fill his place flying about in an overlapping din. Hess threw a claw over his face, pinching his brow with an audible groan before slapping his tail against the timbers and letting out a sharp bellow.

    "All of you just shut up a moment!” Hess shouted. “Look, between the ghosts and the abandoned island, it looks like we're on Pioppo. Or else some island that's really similar to it."

    "And we know there is water here,” Rodion added. “Which is more than what can be said about the other islands around here. We just need to know where exactly it is to replenish our supplies..."

    "... What do you mean by that?" a Vileplume asked.

    "We've got enough water left for about a day at sea,” the Floatzel replied. “If we set sail for an unsettled island, there's no telling that there will even be water for us to find."

    "And we already got caught in a storm once already!” Hess growled. “I don't know about you, but I'm not in the mood of becoming the laughingstock of Orleigh for dying of thirst at sea!"

    Hess shot a piercing glare around the gathering, the crew’s protests quickly ebbing away as the Aggron shook his head and continued in a low rumble.

    "So... do we have any volunteers?"

    Chirp chirp chirp

    Hess narrowed his eyes, turning towards the back right of the gathering where a Kricketot was chittering to himself. The Aggron let out a low growl, prompting the Bug-Type to abruptly stop, before shrinking back uneasily.

    "I... uh... didn't say anything."

    The Aggron captain’s face fell into a sour frown as he let out an impatient snort and stomped the timbers of his ship underfoot.

    "Are you seriously going to make me pick someone again?” Hess fumed. “Show a little backbone already!"

    "I volunteer Alvise!" a Pawniard cried.

    Alvise reflexively jolted back with a start at the Pawniard's outburst and looked back with a surprised stare. The Manectric wondered what on earth had come over the Dark-Type, only for it to dawn on him that the runt had been one of the dweebs he'd whipped into shape back at the ruins, prompting him to harden his eyes into a harsh glare and bare his fangs angrily.

    "Wait, what?!” Alvise cried. “Volunteer yourself, you stupid jerk!"

    "I remember you couldn't shut up earlier about being an elite pirate," the Pawniard growled.

    "Yeah! Last I checked, elite pirates didn't sit around on their butt all day while others did all the work!" a Voltorb added.

    "So why don't you head out and find us some water, oh mighty elite?" the Pawniard demanded.

    The Manectric let out a sharp snarl and began to let furious sparks dance on his pelt, prompting the other pirates to shrink behind their captain with whimpers and whines. Hess stared at the scene puzzledly, wondering what had happened between them and the new ‘mons and why they were suddenly going on about this ‘elite’ nonsense. The Aggron opened his maw to bring up the three’s failure at the tournament, when a sudden thought crossed his mind… Alvise was one of the buddies of that blasted Marowak, so if he was sent out, his friend would be a natural pick to help him scout the island full of soul-eating ghosts! With his mind set, Hess stomped the deck underfoot and let out a low growl.

    "Hrmph, with an attitude like that, maybe making yourself useful is just what you need!” Hess snapped. “And take that Marowak friend of yours with you!"

    "N-Nanda?!” Nori protested. “They didn't even mention me earlier-!"

    "Nah, you can go too," the Pawniard insisted. “And you can take Valatos with you while you’re at it!”

    "Yeah, show off that eliteness you're made of!" the Voltorb jeered.

    The Marowak spluttered incredulously, waving his club and stomping his feet frustratedly back at his Aggron superior.

    "If you think this is some sort of joke, it's not funny!” Nori growled. “We already had to scout Tidemill and you're not dragging us into something like that again!"

    Hess yelped and backpedaled at Nori’s outburst, before cringing and freezing in realization that he’d cowered in full view of his crew. The Aggron’s mind went blank, dreading what he expected to be derisive mockery when a Staravia’s scoff cut through the air.

    "Hrmph, sounds like you three are just a bunch of cowards," she harrumphed.

    Valatos let out an irritated buzz as his teammates growled and bared their teeth back at the Staravia. The Yanmega beat his wings and flitted up, hissing square into the bird’s face.

    "Say what?" the dragonfly fumed. “If you’re so brave, why don’t you volunteer yourself!”

    "Because you lot have been going on about how great you are, but now that you've got a chance to prove it, you try to fly from it like a bunch of weenies!" the Staravia spat.

    "Hey! This isn't cowardly at all!” Alvise insisted. “Part of being brave is knowing what battles to pick, and-"

    Bwok bwok bwok!

    The Manectric trailed off at the sound of derisive clucking, looking ahead to see the other pirates making mocking jeers while the more able mimed wingbeats… including none other than Hess, who paused, before giving a sheepish glance down to an incredulously staring Kichiro.

    "Wait, is it right for me to be doing that as the captain?" Hess asked, prompting the Ledian to bury his face into one of his fists.

    "Aren't you asking that a bit late here?"

    "Look, you've gotten your orders,” Rodion harrumphed. “So if you're as strong as everyone else seems to think you are, either give a clear reason why they're wrong or get going!"

    Valatos, Alvise, and Nori hemmed and hawed uneasily. Going out to get water on this hell island was just asking for a trip to the Spirit World! Surely Rodion had to understand it was unreasonable to demand them to just waltz out there by themselves!

    ... On the other hand, if they didn't go out after how much they'd bragged about being elites to the rest of the crew, they'd never live it down. If they had to go around being treated as cowards by a bunch of bottom-tier pirates like these dweebs for the rest of their career, they might as well walk into the forest and offer themselves up to the ghosts! With their minds set on avoiding certain humiliation, Alvise and Nori dug in their heels as Valatos shot back a defiant scowl at the Floatzel.

    "You know what, fine! We'll find your stupid water!" Valatos snapped.

    "Hrmph, glad to hear. When you get to shore, just keep going straight ahead until you see the Mystery Dungeon and then look around the eastern side of it,” Kichiro instructed. “The stream’s somewhere there, and I’m sure you’ll find it if you keep at it."

    The three huffed and made their way up the deck, hounded by the other pirates all the while even as they clambered down a set of rope netting to a waiting blue Gastrodon. Amidst jeers and taunts, the three set off on the Gastrodon’s back, reaching the beach where Alvise and Nori got off the mollusk who beelined back for the ship without so much as looking back at them. Alvise and Nori walked inland groaning and grumbling as Valatos flitted after them, the three pausing and looking off at the thick forest ahead of them with palpable dread.

    "Uh... is it too late to walk that 'elite pirate' thing back?" Nori gulped, before a rumbling voice called off from the distance.

    "Oi! Hurry it up already!"

    The three looked back towards the ship, which was too far to make out Hess’ form clearly, but not far enough to keep his voice from booming over the water to them. Alvise shook loose some seawater from his legs, before giving an annoyed grunt and turning back towards the forest.

    "... Come on, let's go."

    With that, the Manectric set off, followed behind by his Yanmega and Marowak teammates as they slipped off the beach and into the overgrowth. As the sunlight faded and the beach disappeared from view, the three crept along, tensely eying their surroundings as they tried to trace Kichiro’s path to the water the ship needed.




    At the same time, the crew of the Uragan had dispersed onto shore into Magmapool Town to help with the search for the missing Protector. Cabot, Niilo, and Berecien were among the sailors to look around, passing up visits to hot springs, markets, and card shops as they searched high and low for any clue of Pleo’s whereabouts, only to come up empty handed time and time again. Eventually, the trio’s stamina wore down, prompting them to trudge along tiredly into the doorway of a tavern, where they noticed its tables were taken up by fellow Pokémon in indigo scarves.

    "Looks like we're not the only ones who wanted to take a break from searching," Niilo sighed.

    "Blugh... just what we needed after not being able to find a single lead," Berecien groaned.

    "Maybe we can ask to join someone's table?” Cabot proposed. “After all, most 'mons here seem to be from our crew..."

    The Cranidos and his companions began to mill around in search of a table with open seats, only to find themselves struggling unexpectedly. The first table they came across was already crowded with other crewmembers, while another had only two remaining seats, with one taken up by a Pikachu in a deerstalker hat scooting in with a mug of black coffee. The three opted to try their luck in the back corners, where they came across a pair of tables: one filthy and covered in spilled, half-dried drinks, and the other occupied by a red-scarved group consisting of an Archen, Tropius, Nidorino, Marshtomp, and Vaporeon that had left tomes and papers strewn about while babbling amongst themselves about some 'green Dunsparce'. Cabot sighed and began to drift back with his friends for the door to come back to the tavern later, when a buzzing cheer reached his ears from behind.

    "Hey! Over here!"

    The Rock-Type turned and saw a Vespiquen at a table near a side window waving cheerfully, a Salandit next to her drinking from a rum-filled cup before giving a wave of his own. Berecien and Niilo’s expressions eased a bit, before the pair shuffled along with Cabot for the table, the Vespiquen pulling along a pair of extra seats with an amiable buzz as the group neared.

    "How have you been doing?” the Vespiquen asked. “Any luck with finding that Protector?"

    "I wish, Melli,” Berecien sighed. “Everyone saw him here with those przemytnicy, but nobody seems to know what route they took to get back to their island."

    "That's some really poor planning if they just kept all the ships together close enough for Lugia to put them all out of commission with one attack,” Niilo grumbled. “Who signed off on that?"

    Cabot shifted uneasily as his friends talked about Pleo. After how much the Lugia had opened up to him on Giotto, it just felt... wrong to be hunting after him like a common pirate again. The Rock-Type shook his head, before opting to see if the Salandit and Vespiquen at least had any idea of how the young Protector was doing.

    "So what about you two?” Cabot wondered. “Did you find any leads yet?"

    "We haven’t really been looking around town for any,” Tegu replied. “Jun assigned us to show the ropes to some of the newer members on the crew."

    The Salandit motioned off at a Sneasel and a Jangmo-o creeping up behind a Whismur in indigo at the bar, as the Dark-Type of the pair snatched away a coin purse at the Normal-Type’s waist. The Whismur paced ahead a few steps, before looking down in alarm to see his purse had been snatched, and turned to see the pair laughing and waving it tauntingly in front of him.

    "Those two in particular. Clyde and Barrow is what they go by."

    Berecien’s face fell into a sour frown as the Sneasel and Jangmo-o continued to jeer at the Whismur while he hastily reclaimed his purse, leaving the Ponyta to turn away with a disgusted snort.

    "What a lovely bunch," he scoffed.

    "Eh, they’re not bad Pokémon,” Tegu insisted. “They’re a little slow to pick up on stuff, but for a pair of thieves from Giotto who'd never set foot on a ship before, I guess I can’t really blame them."

    The Salandit tilted his cup back to drink up the final drops of his rum, before pushing the cup aside and hanging back, propping his feet onto the table much to Berecien’s visible annoyance.

    "You know, other Pokémon still have to eat off that table," the Ponyta grumbled.

    "Well, good thing I won’t be here to take up space by the time that happens," Tegu retorted.

    "Quit your shenanigans and get your feet off that table, Tegu!"

    The gathered Pokémon at the table looked to their side to find Nagant staring at them with a sharp, irritated glare. The five blanched before the shrimp directed her scowl at the Salandit of the group, making him blink in surprise as the Water-Type let out an audible hiss.

    "You're a member of Her Majesty's navy, not some band of pirates,” the Clawitzer snapped. “Act the part."

    Tegu bit his tongue, before grudgingly pulling his feet off the table and returning to his normal sitting stance on his chair. Nagant hopped along huffing and grumbling, shoving an unfortunate Pansage out of her way as she beelined for a tub of water set at the end of the bar. The Water-Type steadied herself, before hopping into it with a loud splash that kicked up a spray of saltwater that splattered onto Clyde and Barrow, making the pair turn around with audible frustration.

    “Agh! Hey!” the Sneasel protested. “What’s the big-?!”

    Nagant shot a wordless glare at the two that made Clyde’s protest abruptly die in his throat, the Sneasel and his companion hastily retreating to the other end of the counter. Back at Cabot’s table, the Cranidos and his friends stared at the irritated Clawitzer for a moment, before opting to turn their attention to a cluster of hollowed apples filled with nuts set out at the center of the table.

    "Yeesh, who spit in her drink?" Niilo murmured.

    "Well, she was going off to meet the Duke this morning..." Berecien said.

    A sharp clink rang out as Nagant grabbed a clear bottle, pouring a portion into a clay cup before slamming the bottle back against the bar. Berecien and his companions watched as a volume of clear fluid sloshed out of the top and onto the counter, as the shrimp grabbed her cup and guzzled its contents.

    "I'm guessing it didn't exactly go well," the Ponyta muttered.

    "Maybe someone should go cheer her up?" Melli proposed.

    “And spend the night in the sick bay after eating a Water Pulse from her?” Niilo retorted. “No thanks.”

    "Whelp,” Tegu remarked. “Nothing we can do other than to give her a wide berth for a while."

    The Salandit shifted and promptly put his feet back onto the table, leaving Berecien to stare nonplussed a moment, before shooting an unimpressed frown.

    “Are you really going to disobey the Captain’s orders when she’s in a mood like that?” Berecien questioned.

    "Hey, she technically never said I couldn't put them back on," Tegu said with a sly grin, prompting Berecien to roll his eyes.

    "Ugh, whatever."

    Tegu disregarded the Ponyta’s warnings with a dismissive wave as Niilo gave a teasing chide to Berecien, sparking a bantering back-and-forth between the two over who was more in the right. All the while, the conversation flew over Cabot’s head entirely as the Cranidos wrestled over what to do once he ran into Pleo again, when he looked back at Nagant, noticing that she was alone with her drink and not interacting with any of her underlings around her.

    “I… need to talk to the Captain,” Cabot murmured.

    "Wait, right now?" Niilo asked.

    “Yeah. Something’s been bothering me and I don’t want to wait with it anymore.”

    The other Pokémon at the table traded wary looks with one another, before turning their attention back to Cabot.

    "Look, whatever it is, I really think you should give her some space for now, Cabot,” Berecien insisted. “You know how the Captain can be."

    "I’m aware of that, but this is important and I’ve already waited with this for long enough,” the Cranidos replied. “Just trust me on this?"

    “… If you say so,” Tegu said. “But I’d be careful how to bring things up with her.”

    Cabot nodded back, getting up from the table as he made his way across the tavern. The Cranidos breathed in as he neared Nagant in her tub, clearing his throat to speak.

    "Captain Nagant, I-"

    The Clawitzer turned as the corner of her eye caught Tegu’s feet on the table, prompting her to hiss sharply and jump out of her tub, shooting out a watery pulse from her firing claw that launched him into the wall with a splash and sharp cry. Cabot turned wide-eyed back to the table where Tegu flopped forward into a puddle on the floor as Melli gave a startled gasp and Berecien and Niilo blanched. The tavern’s patrons stared at the scene and the Pokémon near Nagant quietly inched away from the clearly unsettled shrimp, leaving Cabot to squeak and cringe as Nagant turned to him grumbling under her breath.

    "Insubordinate little whelp…” she fumed. “And what was it, Cabot? I barely started my drink."

    Cabot stammered and shrank back, looking off once again at the felled Salandit at the other end of the room. The Cranidos wondered to himself if coming to plead his case was really such a good idea and fumbled with his words trying to avoid stirring his superior’s wrath.

    "I-I was wondering if we could have a moment to talk in private?" Cabot stuttered, prompting the Clawitzer to look around her before harrumphing and flicking some water off her smaller claw.

    "Hrmph. This is private enough, just keep your voice down."

    "Uh... w-well, I was just thinking... what if?"

    The Cranidos gulped, bracing himself as he hoped that enough of Nagant’s patience remained for him to mutter out his next words.

    "What if we're better off just letting Pleo go back to his home island?" he asked.

    "What?!"

    The hubbub in the tavern suddenly quieted down at Nagant’s shout, as she noticed that everyone in the hut was now staring at her and the Cranidos. The shrimp hopped up, still dripping as she neared her Rock-Type subordinate with a harsh glare.

    "Fine, we’ll go somewhere more private,” she growled.

    The Clawitzer latched onto Cabot’s scarf with her large claw and dragged him away with a yelp across the tavern’s floor. Berecien, Niilo, and Melli traded worried looks as Cabot slipped past the doorway of a side entrance where Nagant pulled him into a shaded alleyway and let him go with a sharp hiss and irritated click of her claws.

    "Cabot, have you gone mad?!” she demanded. “'Let Lugia return to his home island'. Travellers above, why didn't you just suggest that I deliver him in person over to the Company’s Director himself!"

    "I haven’t gone mad!” Cabot exclaimed. “I know that it sounds a little crazy, but-"

    "Do you not remember anything from Giotto?!” Nagant snapped. “How could you say that we should just let the Protector go when Her Majesty's realm is falling apart because her subjects think that he abandoned her?!"

    "I know what’s happening on Giotto,” he insisted. “But-"

    "That bird is the only hope our empire has right now!” Nagant barked. “And you just want to let him fly off?!"

    "Captain, if I could just-"

    "Did you really think that I needed to deal with this after Duke Seok blew me off?!” the shrimp shouted. “Honestly, as if it wasn't bad enough that Her Majesty's nobles aren't taking matters seriously-"

    "Stop interrupting me already!"

    Cabot watched as the Clawitzer stared back incredulously, making him flush pale out of realization he’d snapped at his superior. The Rock-Type flinched and stumbled back, attempting to stammer out an apology as he cringed out of fright.

    "Aah! I-I’m sorry, Captain!” the Cranidos squealed. “I didn’t mean-!”

    "Stop."

    Cabot felt a pinching sensation tug at his shoulder and looked up to see Nagant pull her claw back as she scowled back at him, yet had a surprisingly calm demeanor about her.

    "Take a deep breath and tell me what you were trying to get at,” she ordered. “Respectfully."

    Cabot inhaled sharply and hesitated over just how he could best plead his case given how bad of an impression he just made. The Cranidos looked down, as he fidgeted with his claws and warily began to speak up to his superior.

    "It's just that... when I was spending time with Pleo, he felt so miserable all the time and kept talking about how much he missed being at his home and with his friends,” the dinosaur murmured. “After he left us for his friends at the stadium, I kept thinking about how what we’re doing might be wrong…”

    The Cranidos pulled his arms back to his sides and looked up at Nagant, giving an uneasy stare back at the wizened shrimp.

    “We're supposed to be the good guys, aren't we?” Cabot asked. “So why are we hunting down a Protector and forcing him away from his friends when it makes him so miserable?"

    Nagant stared back silent, her features unmoved outside of a serious scowl. Cabot paused for a moment, before continuing on uncertainly.

    "I mean, I know that the Company is still going after him, and I'm sure he knows it too,” he said. “But in spite of that, he genuinely wants to be with his friends. If we try to drag him away... aren't we just doing what the Company's doing?"

    Nagant’s face fell into a frown, prompting Cabot to gulp realizing that he was losing his superior’s patience. The Cranidos waved his arms, hoping to try and persuade the shrimp to bear with him a little longer.

    "Th-That's not to say that we shouldn't do anything!” Cabot insisted. “I'm sure Pleo would let us help him keep the Company off his back! And we could try and explain how everything's a misunderstanding, and do the same with those Pokémon in Tidemill, and-"

    "I've heard enough."

    Cabot blinked, watching as the Clawitzer turned away towards the tavern’s door with a low grumble.

    "I appreciate your idealism, Cabot, and the Navy needs Pokémon who can see the silver linings in these cloudy days,” she said. “But this is one time where it's just not going to cut it."

    "Wh-What do you mean?” Cabot stammered. “This is the Guardian of the Seas, we can't just-"

    "Humor every idea that bounces through his mind because he doesn't know any better?” Nagant demanded as she looked back at him. “Think, Cabot. When you were young, didn't you have any things that you wanted that in retrospect you were stubborn or irrational about?"

    The Cranidos reflexively opened his mouth to protest, only to trail off after his mind turned back to when he first signed up for the navy. His own enlistment had happened on a whim thanks to his recruiters making naval life sound like an exciting adventure! Even if everything had worked out in the end, with how the whole episode had led to a fight with his parents and how little forethought he'd put into the matter at first... it was hard to argue that his thought process wasn't childish or irrational. The Rock-Type stared back at a loss for words as Nagant let out a harrumph and shook her head back.

    "That's what Lugia is going through. How can he possibly understand his place in the world or what he needs when he's been hatched for all of a month?” she asked. “And why should I stake the Empire and my place in it on that?"

    Cabot shrank away uncomfortably at his captain’s retort. Nagant… admittedly made a fair point about all the Pokémon in the Empire needing Pleo… b-but was there really no way to resolve this other than to hurt him and tear him away from his friends?! The Cranidos struggled with his thoughts, when the clink of metal drew his attention back to the alley and prompted him to see a small bag of coins at his feet.

    "Wh-What's this?"

    "Money, for a fare back to Giotto,” the shrimp replied. “If you're not prepared to carry out your orders in this mission, you're better off taking leave to go home until we’re finished to help patch it up after that pirate raid."

    "H-Huh?! But I want to stay on the crew with everyone else!" Cabot insisted.

    "Then are you going to follow your orders and do what's expected of you in this mission?" Nagant asked.

    The Rock-Type faltered a moment, grimacing before drooping and grudgingly replying to his superior.

    "... Yes."

    "Hrmph, I couldn't hear anything,” Nagant scoffed. “Must've been the wind whispering-"

    "Yes, Captain!"

    The Clawitzer paused, tilting her head slightly as she watched Cabot stare back at her with hardened, determined eyes. The Water-Type said nothing as a faint smile spread over her mouthparts, leaving her to shake her head and turn back for the tavern.

    "Glad to hear we're on the same page then,” she said. “That bottle of vodka isn't going to finish itself."

    Nagant hopped off, leaving Cabot alone to peer uneasily at the dirt underfoot. For all his bluster and conviction he’d mustered just moments ago, he couldn’t help shake the sense that it was a terrible mistake to chase after Pleo once again… How was he supposed to face him when they saw each other again? Explaining that he was there to take him away back to the loneliness he’d felt on Giotto…

    The Cranidos shook his head and forced his chin up. No, it wasn’t a choice between Pleo and his happiness. It was a choice between whether Pleo would be able to be around any friends at all or if those awful Company Pokémon would get their claws on him! The dinosaur set off, slipping back through the door to the tavern rationalizing that Pleo would surely understand once everything was explained to him…

    Or at least he hoped he would.




    Author’s Notes:

    - niño - Spanish: “kid", “boy”
    - Basta! - Italian: Interjection meaning roughly “Enough!” or “Stop it!”
    - Un attimo! - Italian: "Hold it!” lit. “A moment!”
    - uccello - Italian: “bird”
    - przemytnicy - Polish: "smugglers”
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
  11. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Confession time: so far, I've been envisioning this episode taking place at night. Or, at the very least, that the island is shrouded in a dense fog that makes it seem like it's nighttime. It's probably because of the spooky atmosphere. So, seing the crew trying to create shade made me pause for a second. XD

    So, the cat's out of the bag. Or, er, well, the ditto's out of the apricorn. I'll be honest, I was sincerely hoping this would lead to a dramatic shake-up of sorts... so I am a bit bummed that the status quo wound up winning out in the end. Especially since it was through a technicality of sorts with Darzin getting treated like a scaly footstool... again. Poor guy. This could've been an opportunity for him to advance his own agenda. Alas. At least there's good dramatic tension between Inler and Elilan though that does just beg the question of why Inler is keeping him around when it's clear that Elilan has a low opinion of his authority and leadership. Maybe it's all for the sake of avoiding internal chaos? (Aka the same reasoning he doesn't kick Lyn to the curb.) I guess expelling a high-ranking member would tip-off the Empire that the Company is in a vulnerable position... or something. And I suppose this is setting up a potential confrontation between Lyn and Ketu. Lyn's not dense... and when even Darzin could sniff out rats, I'm sure he'll catch on eventually that Elilan is trying to undermine him via Ketu.

    Okay, the next part has a lot to digest, but I'm not entirely sure I can get all my thoughts out. We discover the village, meet the real Sparkle-Deer™, re-encounter Trizano, learn the Knights' Ledger is on this island, and find out what the deal is with all the ghosts. Goodness. It happened pretty quickly, too. I can't tell if there was some sort of pseudo-brainwashing used to make the townspeople loyal. That'd xplain the x-shaped pupils :p. But Cernun seems, uh... he seems pretty childish, with what little he got to say. There was the prancing around... and apparently his spat with Kline is over a little damage to the terrain? I'm gonna assume there's more to it than that... otherwise it seems really petty. Though I can understand the ghosts wanting to, well, protect their Protector from nefarious individuals.

    Speaking of which, points to Cabot for growing a backbone and standing up to Nagant even if, again, status quo prevailed. It's not like his idea was necessarily a bad one... have the Empire back Pleo up against the Company. I take it that it's one of those moments where we, as the reader, see it as feasible b/c we know about Elilan and Kline... while Cabot just thinks that way because of his idealism or something. I do maintain he's either gonna "mutiny" at some point... or, at the very least, convince people Protectors need to be left alone. Bonus points if this happens before Micky (Mickey?) enters the fray under antagonistic control.

    Well, your Protector's a kid, so... I wouldn't count your chances out! :V also you don't have the type disadvantages pleo has

    Top 10 Lines Said Before Disaster.

    Jevil is typing...

    Wouldn't they end up sick bay for drinking a Water Pulse? :V y'know, cause it's water
     
  12. Kindoflame

    Kindoflame Member

    I recently read the entire story and absolutely loved it! My favorite aspect is probably that it is so long. I simply adore long stories. Character development can happen slowly (Elty flipping back and forth between his old and new friends), minor characters can be more flushed out (focus jump around between entire cast), and just so much more stuff can happen (first learn of MacGuffin in chapter ~60)!

    I have always been a sucker for 'strange man in a strange land' type of humor, which makes Pleo one of funniest character I have ever read. That part in the beginning where they try to explain what training is pure gold, although you probably should have used the word 'injure' instead of 'fight'. Another scene I was really looking forward to was when Pleo and Pladur would finally meet, because there were so many different ways to play out. However, I think you actually made a mistake with it. This type of humor really excels when someone tries to explain the reasoning behind a basic concept to the innocent and naive character. Having Pladur try to explain why burping is a bad thing to do while also recognizing that he encouraged his own son to do it would have been one of the funniest scenes in quite a while. I imagine it ending with Pleo saying, 'So... you're a bad father?' and Pladur replying, '...yes?'

    If the story is going in the direction it is going, then it will probably replace Pedestal as my favorite work of fan fiction. I have complete, 100% confidence that you had no idea about this, but your story is actually a really scathing critique of Thomas Hobbes' political and moral philosophy. Hobbes is notorious for being a philosopher that advocates for things that most modern people find abhorent, but being very hard to argue against. If you want, then I can give you a detail analysis of this.
     
  13. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Hello there! I'm jumping back into this with Episode 11!
    Oh noooo. Even Lyn wasn't willing to sink that low. Dx
    I love Guardia.
    Oh Cabot, you... poor oblivious cinnamon roll.
    ohhh my, the Empire is planning to take Tromba from the Company, isn't it. (Which... might not even be all that bad for them? Depending on how the Empire treats its territories compared to the Company. And with the threat of pirates, being an independent territory really isn't a viable option either...)
    Honestly, it makes sense that the Empire really wouldn't need to imprison them or chase them out. They got what they wanted, after all--the rest of the kids are irrelevant. It's a nice change of pace to have a break from the chase and the island-hopping to settle down with a more suspenseful puzzle of how to get Pleo back.
    For once, this is actually a perfectly good reason for Ellsberg to get saddled with something he doesn't want. xD
    Ohhh that’s right, Ketu actually has a secret agenda, doesn’t he (given by the Company higher-ups iirc.) Could you refresh me on that, it’s been a while. ^^;
    I do really like that this arc is sending all these players into the same location because it gives us the potential to see the setting from multiple angles at once. (The Swellow crew scenes used to be a bit dull because they were always in areas where we’d already been, where we already knew what happened, so there was no new information to give the reader.) I can already tell this is going to be an interesting arc.
    Something tells me his plan is going to be less-than-stellar. xD
    These two things are not mutually exclusive, Nori. ;P
    ...oh my god are you serious. xD

    Overall, this is a nice change of pace from the previous arcs. While the tension of being on the run was nice, it did get a bit repetitive arriving on a new island, fleeing the Company/Empire, going to a new island, etc. Having all the major factions all in one spot is also a great way to tighten up the pacing, as they'll all be moving the plot together, as opposed to some sides trailing behind. Overall, I think this was a good direction to move the story (sorry Pleo!) and I'm interested to see everyone's infiltration plans come together.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Virgil134 likes this.
  14. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    @Ambyssin
    I would think that Lyn’s present bind is not exactly a status quo situation, and it would be a bit of a waste to just fire him after 70+ chapters of story without a dramatic confrontation. Darzin hasn’t quite put as many dots together as you seemed to think, though considering how he is actively colluding with an Imperial captain, I also think he’d be fairly blocked from advancing his agenda right here. As for Elilan, it’s mostly a matter of avoiding any overly large shocks to the Company and having a better track record than Darzin. Nerea wasn’t kidding when she said that both the Company and Empire were in unstable circumstances, so it doesn’t make sense to turf out a strong performer.

    It’s not brainwashing, their free will is very much intact though the eyes are a signifier of something that’s not just cosmetic. What’s going on with them will become a bit clearer in the next few chapters. As for Cernun, recall he is a Legendary, and as such they age quite a bit slower than the average Pokémon, as his dwarf size can attest.

    Regarding the terrain, there’s a reason why it’s called a ‘scar’. I believe that Virgil134 might have already talked with you on Discord about what his spat with Kline was really about.

    Cabot’s not really the mutinying type, but you’ll see how that plays out starting in the next episode. As for Nagant, she isn’t the type to be immediately swayed by a starry-eyed cadet’s suggestions, no matter how endearing he may come across to readers like you.

    Besides, would you really be satisfied if she just changed her mind in a single scene?

    I’m pretty sure you don’t even need the water to get in your mouth to end up in a sick bay… o3o;;

    @Kindoflame
    I’m glad to hear you’ve been enjoying the story so far. Admittedly, I simply hadn’t thought of playing that joke with Pladur in the same way, but I think that it still delivered decently. As for the critique of Hobbesian philosophy, that’s admittedly something that’s unintentional and am not sure how you got that reading, since I hadn’t really thought about putting much in the way of philosophical messages when writing the story.

    That said, glad to hear you’ve been enjoying things, and I’ll be looking forward to your next review! ^^

    @Chibi Pika
    A few extra decades of life and experience will suck the sentimentality right out of you when it comes to dealing with a Protector. But hey, at least she didn’t put Pleo in chains.

    I’m glad that you liked it, and even if Nagant can be a bit cold and ruthless at times, she does strike me as the type to avoid barbel-twirling villainy.

    His mission is to snipe out a Protector from under Lyn’s nose and bring it back to Elilan.

    Well, it’s not the first franchise cameo I’ve done in the fic so far. ^^

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! And hopefully the subsequent chapters in the arc will be a fun romp for you to read through.

    There was a bit of a crunch over the past few days to get this chapter out, and it’s not quite the third week of August, but it’s in a place where I feel comfortable with putting it out there for the world to read. This is the last third of what was originally one large chapter with the prior one, plus about the first third of what was originally the second. That said, I’m fairly confident that it’s been retooled enough to feel standalone in its present state.

    Special thanks for this chapter goes out to Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net, both of which once again provided valuable guidance that helped make this chapter what it was. I would also like to thank the readers and reviewers of this story, and am hoping to have another installment for you all to sink your teeth into before the end of September, since both me and Virgil134 will be vacation for the next week.

    And now, it’s time to resume our scheduled programming.
     
  15. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    [​IMG]

    Roteck and Trizano led Pleo and his companions down a set of winding paths away from the town's center, towards a thick line of trees in the distance that surrounded the clearing the village sat in. Along the way, the shops quickly thinned out into solid clusters of houses as Team Traveller continued on, the surrounding buildings becoming increasingly more simplistic as they strayed further and further from the center. The march for the fringes had largely gone without incident, barring an attempt by Crom and Nida to ask for their badges back that was gruffly rebuffed by Roteck. As the lot carried on, Pleo craned his head from time to time, spotting wary, cross-shaped eyes glimpsing out of windows and doorways before he looked ahead at Trizano, picking up his pace to tug at his steel plumage for attention.

    "Trizano, how did you find us here?" the young Lugia asked. "We didn't meet each other after Mengir... did we?"

    "I believe that it is I who should be asking you that question. My home is here in Darkwood Square," the Skarmory beamed. "When duty and adventure don't call, it's only natural that I would return to my patron, isn't it?"

    "But then how did you even get to Mengir if that 'Valter' is so insistent on nobody leaving?" Pleo insisted. "He got mad at us when we just wanted to go back to our friends!"

    "Duke Valter can be persuaded to let some of us go… or at least for a time," Trizano replied. "After all, somebody's got to make the world think Blackmoon is dead and buried, and Cernun does wonder about his rightful home. I simply do my part and help relay what I encounter in my travels back to them."

    The Skarmory let out a soft chuckle, shaking his head as he brushed a set bladed wingtips past the tip of his beak.

    "Besides, it gives me a chance to help out 'mons in need," he said. "Like your Druddigon and Scyther friends' little construction project back in Fensedge."

    Crom and Ander at once let out a small cry, staring wide-eyed at the Skarmory. He must have been the one who wrote all those letters! The one who was responsible for getting Salvini and her friends back together to work on the shrine! But… if he'd gone out of his way to help them as strangers there, why would he insist on keeping them captive now? The two puzzled over the strange discrepancy, only for Nida's voice to interrupt them.

    "Wait a minute, 'make the world think Blackmoon Village is dead and buried'?" Nida questioned. "But it is destroyed, isn't it? You even said so!"

    "The buildings, sure. But a town is so much more than that," Trizano explained. "The Pokémon that made Blackmoon what it was relocated here after they burned it down with their own claws."

    The four stared stunned at the Skarmory as they shuffled along, Roteck trudging on unmoved in his same, impatient gait. The Pokémon they saw all around them… were the same Pokémon that lived in Blackmoon Village? And they destroyed their own home? Ander blinked at Trizano, half-supposing that it must be the influence of the demon prowling here that had driven these Pokémon to do such a thing. But… perhaps it was for the best to hear things from the bird's own mouth.

    "What on earth would compel you to do that?" the Scyther buzzed.

    "I don't know the details as well as Duke Valter, since Roteck and I were mere Bronze Ranks at the guild back then... But Lord Cernun had awakened on our island after his egg washed up with an abandoned ship about fifteen years after the Great Calamity," Trizano began. "When the Empire found out about it, they came to oversee him and... there was a falling out. It was bad enough that everyone opted to destroy the town and go into hiding with Cernun so that he could grow and come of age in peace."

    "But that's around the time my parents were born!" Crom exclaimed. "How could you already have been part of a Bronze Rescue Team by then?"

    The Druddigon's surprise was answered by a sharp scoff as Roteck looked back over his shoulder and answered with a low, rumbling voice.

    "Hrmph, it comes with the territory when he's a spring Torchic at only 41 years," the Aggron grunted. "Being an Immortal does wonders for helping you age gracefully."

    The group's jaws fell, as they looked over at Trizano. 41 years?! Why, the same youthful vigor that exuded from the Skarmory was coming from someone old enough to have grandchildren! The metal bird gave a sheepish grin back, extending a wing out playfully.

    "Yeah, I get that a lot."

    "But how?!" Crom demanded. "You don't look anything like a 'mon that old!"

    "Was it because of something Cernun did to you?" Pleo asked. "Or...?"

    "Hrmph, your questions can wait for later," Roteck interrupted. "You've got other things to worry about right now."

    The Aggron stopped and pointed ahead down the lane towards the end of their path. The four carried along warily, where next to a structure shaped after a Haunter's head, there was a rough shack… if it could be called that. The "house" was but glorified heap of straw and stray timbers, sporting open windows and a doorway that was merely covered by an old cloth. Pleo tilted his head puzzledly, as the Aggron looked down at him and his companions.

    "This is yours," he said. "It might not be a whole lot to work with with all the other Pokémon we need to split supplies with, but you'll have plenty of years to worry about renovating it."

    The four's expressions flattened at this… most unimpressive display of hospitality. Nida paced ahead with an audible scoff, frowning and twitching her whiskers as she neared the doorway, eying a patch of stray straw that poked out from the walls.

    "You can't be serious," the Nidoran piped. "Why this thing looks like it'd fall over if I sneezed on-"

    "BOO!"

    Nida's eyes shot wide at the sight of an open maw suddenly phasing through the cloth covering, prompting her to leap away with a loud shriek as her teammates jolted back with a start. The mouth abruptly clamped shut as its owner emerged, revealing a Haunter beside himself with laughter who was promptly joined by a snickering Misdreavus and Drifloon that similarly phased through the cloth and filled in before the team with teasing smiles.

    "Mwee hee hee! Pleasure to meet you! We're Team Phantom, your new neighbors for eternity!" the Haunter beamed. "I'm Vince, and the Misdreavus and Drifloon are my partners Lisa and Cantone."

    "Our... neighbors?" Pleo asked, his question quickly followed by Nida giving a disgusted frown and flattening out her ears.

    "Travellers above, could this get any worse?"

    "Wait, eternity? But we have to leave from here eventually!" Crom cried.

    "Don't be so sure about that..." Cantone said, before pointing out a mother Kangaskhan and her child playing in front of a simple hut with wooden shingles further down the lane.

    "It isn't the first time we've heard that song and dance," the Drifloon chided. "Six years ago, she was all 'Rawr, you can't keep me from my Wrecknamer' and now she's just as settled in as anyone else."

    "To be fair, her falling for someone in town and the kid coming along afterwards probably helped with that," Lisa added, only for Roteck to interrupt by clearing his throat and shooting an unamused scowl down at the three.

    "Hmph, you're certainly making yourselves comfortable," the Aggron harrumphed, folding his arms. "What happened with your last patrol, Vince?"

    "With that pirate captain? After we scared off a bunch of his lackeys at the village's old ruins, he turned tail with his crew and now they're all huddling scared in their ship," the Haunter chortled. "Why I'd be surprised if he didn't sail off by sundown!"

    Roteck paused, shaking his head and turning away as he pinched his brow and let out a somber sigh.

    "I never thought he'd come here like this..."

    The four members of Team Traveller blinked amongst each other. Hess, the bumbling bully who ran the Iron Fleet, was someone that Roteck knew? Crom looked up, wondering if the two could be related somehow, only to be caught off-guard by the Aggron letting out a gruff snort and scowling back at the Ghost-Types.

    "Anyhow, don't just float around there," he grunted. "Get back out there and make yourselves useful!"

    "Huh?" Vince asked. "But what would there still need to be-"

    "The dungeon?" Roteck chided. "These four were in a larger group when they were caught. Do you really think it's safe to assume that nobody from their crew is going to go out and look for them?"

    Vince and his companions blinked with flustered hems and haws before awkwardly drifting off, leaving the Aggron to shift his shoulders and turn back to Pleo and his companions.

    "As for you, this is ciao. I've got other things to take care of," he grumbled. "Just go in and make yourselves at home for now."

    "B-But we really do need the Knights' Ledger and to go back home!" Pleo insisted. "Can't you just let us know what happened with Kline? Whatever it is, I'm sure we can leave without going through it again!"

    Trizano looked down at the pleading Lugia, extending a wing over his shoulder with a reassuring pat.

    "I don't really know what happened with him since I was away at the time, but I do know that impatience won't help you win over Duke Valter at all," the Skarmory said.

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

    "Rest," Trizano answered, as he began to pace off with Roteck. "We'll see what we can do with Valter, but for now, take advantage of this refuge you've been given."

    "You- You promise you won't just leave us here?" Pleo pleaded. The Skarmory paused and fell silent, before quietly speaking up.

    "I didn't last time," he answered. "I don't intend to this time either."

    The Skarmory gave a parting wave before turning away, heading off along with Roteck. All the while, an uneasy grimace clung to his face as he wondered just how even he would be able to keep such a promise…




    The day after Bunsen's arrival to Tromba, life in Bluewhorl slowly returned to an uneasy semblance of normalcy. The villagers warily went back to their daily routines around town, in the fields, and at the guild, with some even taking time to enjoy themselves. As the sun hung in its noontime position, Marley and Gwenith proved to be no exception as the pair sat at a terrace outside of Mirlia's juice bar during a lunch break. The Druddigon among the two sipped at a serving of Haban juice in a clay cup, much as she would have on any other warm day where sales at the bakery had been better than normal… except today the sight of lavender sails cast a pall over the town from the harbor, making her hang her head and sigh in a deflated voice.

    "I can't believe it's come to this..." Gwenith muttered.

    "Hrmph, it's not as if we haven't dealt with the Company poking around our island before," Marley scoffed. "Not that I'm enjoying seeing those canallas strut around like they own the place."

    "I suppose, I just imagined we'd have some respite after hearing that the Protector was finally found," Gwenith said. "But with this, I just don't know what will happen if they come back."

    "I'm sure it'll work out," the Nidorina replied. "For the Company to send three ships at once means they're feeling threatened."

    Marley licked her paw, eying a few lavender-scarved Pokémon passing in the background before turning back to the Druddigon with a wry smile.

    "And I don't know about you, but I'm not putting money on their weaknesses holding up under the weight of a god," she insisted.

    "You there!" a voice from behind piped up. "Get up and stop lazing around!"

    Marley and Gwenith looked to the side, seeing a scowling Roserade in a Company Second-Rank scarf approaching. Behind her, the glaring forms of an Aromatisse, a Scrafty, and a Forretress followed, prompting Marley to narrow her eyes and let out a low growl towards her would-be intimidators.

    "I'm doing fine, you lousy weed," she snarled, raising the barbs under her fur. "I'd like to remind you that Pokémon from the ranks who cross me tend to wake up in a medic's hut."

    "So I've heard," Sicula harrumphed. "That's why I was instructed to give you this."

    The Roserade unceremoniously threw a sheet of paper onto the table, leaving Marley and Gwenith to peer down at it and recoil in shock after seeing it was a resettlement notice for Marley and her family. The Nidorina hopped up from her seat, her face blank with bewilderment for a fleeting moment before she grit her teeth and glared back with a seething growl.

    "Qué diantres es todo esto?!" Marley demanded. "You can't just take me away from my fields!"

    "'You just can't take me away from my fields!' Tough seeds, Nidorina," the Forretress snapped. "It's a resettlement notice for Vollezee and you know full well we can hand 'em out."

    "Besides, it's not so bad," the Aromatisse sneered. "Some city life would do a buck-toothed hick like you some good-"

    The Fairy-Type was cut off by Marley lunging forward and driving a poison-slicked paw into her throat, promptly knocking her down and leaving her gagging and coughing for air. The Scrafty and Forretress at once rushed forward, the Fighting-Type charging in with a Headbutt that knocked Marley off balance. The Forretress attempted to join in with a Heavy Slam, when a loud roar rang out and blue and red blur stormed in, the Bug-Type's advance being swiftly stopped by Gwenith raking him with claws trailing greenish flecks of dragonfire. The Forretress pinwheeled back while the Dragon-Type let out a low snarl and looked over back to Marley, with her body tensed and ready for battle.

    "I've got this one, Marley!" the Druddigon cried. "Just try and get to that Roserade!"

    The Nidorina shoved the Scrafty aside, tearing along the ground for Sicula with her eyes livid with murderous rage. Droplets of poison began to build up her on her paw as she lunged ahead, swinging her paw down only to feel it strike a hard surface. Marley lost her balance and fell forward to the ground, shaking her head as she saw the Roserade skid back while the remnants of a Protect faded between her flowers, leaving the Nidorina to seethe and give chase when a sharp cry from the Roserade pierced the air.

    "Enough!"

    Sicula slung the satchel over her shoulder and yanked out another piece of paper, being filled with the same orders for resettlements barring a few unfilled blanks for names and dates. Gwenith and Marley slowed to a stop, as the Roserade shot a hateful glare over at the Dragon-Type of the pair.

    "Keep it up and I'll have you on the first ship after her, Druddigon!" the Grass-Type hissed, before turning back to Marley. "And you..."

    The Roserade stormed up to the Nidorina, pulling an arm back before landing a fierce slap across the rabbit's face. Marley recoiled, folding her ears back and staring wide-eyed as Sicula continued with her tirade.

    "You should be mindful of who's in charge of writing these," the Roserade growled. "Do you think I'm going to allow the children of some miscreant to follow her out of the goodness of my heart?! Maybe it'd be better if they were scattered across the Company's islands!"

    Gwenith backed away from Sicula as Marley stood in stunned silence, the fire in her eyes seemingly going dark before her tormentor. Sicula hissed and narrowed her eyes, before holding out one of her flowers accusingly in Marley's face.

    "So what will it be, Nidorina?" she demanded. "Are you still planning on being a rebel today?"

    Marley screwed her eyes shut bitterly, looking away as she grudgingly muttered in reply to her inquisitor.

    "... No."

    "I see that you can be reasoned with," Sicula harrumphed. "Good. You'll need all the help you can get to get your affairs in order."

    The Roserade turned to take her leave, brushing some dust off her petals before she paused to glance over at Gwenith with a piercing scowl.

    "As for you," she snapped. "If you feel like staying on this sorry rock, I'd suggest you do your part to make the Company feel that you're needed here."

    Sicula hurried off with a sharp huff, the Scrafty and Forretress helping their Aromatisse teammate stagger along as Gwenith stared apprehensively after the departing group. From the corner of her eye, the Druddigon spotted Marley staring at the ground ashen-face, prompting her to draw near to try and provide reassurance.

    "Marley, I-"

    The Dragon-Type was cut off by the Nidorina raising a paw for a stop, looking away as she muttered in a low, defeated tone.

    "It's alright, Gwenith," she murmured. "I... just need some time alone."

    Gwenith stared uneasily, pacing up to Marley to try and give a reassuring pat only for the Nidorina to turn away. Sensing there was nothing else that could be done, the Druddigon inched away uneasily, pacing off as she began to hear the sound of a hitching voice and crying behind her. Gwenith shook her head, carrying on without the heart to turn back and confirm her suspicions of who she was hearing, wondering just how much further the gods would allow their sleepy island to be tested.




    Shortly after Lyn's departure for the Board's meeting chamber, Sorge and the rest of Team Sentinel left the Nektar Weide alongside Ellsberg, passing a letter postmarked for Elilan's desk off to a Dartrix messenger. After passing it along, they stopped and obtained replacement scarves from the local garrison where Ellsberg discovered that Aldrich and Zelle were fellow Second-Ranks. Much to his surprise, he also learned that in spite of seemingly only having two subordinates, Sorge was a Third-Rank much as Lyn. The Dartrix returned not long after with a summons calling for the lot to come to Elilan's private residence, prompting the group to take their leave, making their way across Canalhouse City's maze of islets and bridges past passing swimmers and watercraft in the shadow of slim, tall roofed buildings.

    Their course eventually took them into the wealthiest portion of the city, which was south of the central core, where the tall, stone buildings along the canals were noticeably wider and built with glass windows and decorative statues. They followed the route of a busy canal, where a row of storefronts had been set up plying silks and gems to well-kept shoppers, before turning right at a fountain built around a sculpture of Manaphy. The five carried on from the fountain down a quiet tree-lined canal flanked by large stone houses surrounded by small yards separated by walls of brick and stone which Ellsberg took in with quiet awe.

    The lot carried on as Ellsberg gaped about the surrounding mansions. Space in Canalhouse City had always been at a premium, even moreso after the Company had built it up in the process of turning it into its capital, leaving such manors to be rare specimens snapped up by the rich and powerful. In all his years as a notary, he'd never spent more than a few passing moments in this district within the city, though even in their hemmed-in footprints the residences in the neighborhood exuded a tangible aura of wealth... if not always taste as a nearby mansion festooned with red and gold banners with Merchantry symbols evidenced.

    The Mothim and the others eventually found themselves at the front of an iron gate that closed off a three-story house with parapets that had been fashioned from light stone where a pair of Company guards kept watch and fliers in lavender circled the perimeter overhead. Ellsberg tried to peer past the gate's bars, catching a glimpse of a small garden built around a fountain that left the Bug-Type twitching his antennae speechless.

    "For a secondary residence, Administrator Elilan's house is a lot more impressive than I'd expected…" he murmured.

    "Considering that the Settlement Protocol forces his family to live here, it only makes sense," Sorge replied. "Even if the Administrator spends most of his time overseeing Nagrobek, he still wants his family to live as comfortably as possible."

    "Well I certainly wouldn't have any trouble living comfortably around here!" Zelle insisted. "The shops in this part of the city are totally worth every Thaler!"

    "I know where someone is gonna spend her share of the money we took from those con artists," Ketu teased.

    The Weavile gave an impish smirk and poked at her side with a claw. Zelle shifted back with a small chuckle, before pushing Ketu's claw away with a feeler and giving a self-assured smile back.

    "What can I say? It is a great way to celebrate we finally got Subject Red after all these years."

    Ellsberg watched as Zelle teasingly jabbed Ketu's side back with a feeler, making him move away with a stifled laugh before smirking reciprocating with a jab of his own. The Mothim tilted his head and watched as the two carried on much like rambunctious youngsters, with no hint from Ketu of the lazy, uncaring demeanor he gave to Lyn, nor the mission-focused ruthlessness he exhibited when they were planning to capture Lugia. He had noticed before that Ketu seemed to act differently around his friends than how he'd gotten to know him the past few years... Was this who he really was? The Bug-Type flitted and wondered to himself, only for Aldrich to speak up with an upbeat cheer.

    "Heh, well let's not keep the Administrator waiting and go show our prize," the Noivern said. "After that we can all go celebrate together."

    The members of Team Sentinel nodded among each other and approached the gate, where a Hariyama turned his head and warily eyed the party.

    "Who are you all?" he demanded. "This is a private residence, so if you're here for a meeting-"

    "It's fine, they're friends of the Administrator," a Golurk interrupted, before turning to Sorge.

    "Hey there Sorge, it's been a while. Administrator Elilan's been expecting you," he greeted. "Come in and make yourself at home."

    "Heh, it'll be a pleasure, Jan," the Dragon-Type said.

    The Hariyama looked back puzzledly, and then back at Team Sentinel, before sheepishly helping his counterpart open the gates and let Ellsberg and the others through. The five made their way through the garden, coming to a set of double-doors hewn from solid wood with metal knockers styled after a Zoroark's head. The Kommo-o of the lot pulled at the knocker and clattered it against the wood, leaving the group to wait until footsteps sounded out and the door creaked open to reveal a female Zoroark.

    "Sorge? What are you doing here?" the Zoroark asked. "It's been years since you and your team last visited."

    "Good afternoon, Lela. We just wrapped up a mission on the other side of Anyilla for Elilan," the Dragon-Type replied. "It's kept us busy for quite a while, so we figured he'd be eager to see the results."

    "Hardly a bold assumption there," a deeper voice answered from further within. "But still, I can't say that I'm not surprised."

    The sound of approaching footsteps rang out as Elilan came up from further within the hallway, joining the side of the female Zoroark as he smiled down at the party on his doorstep.

    "I had merely been expecting Ketu and Ellsberg's presence, but it's really quite a treat to see you all again," he said. "From what you told me in your message, there's surely a fascinating story behind it. Step inside, and we'll discuss it at my office."

    "Dad, what about me?"

    Elilan's mane abruptly shifted and rustled as a Zorua poked her head out, peering down with a protesting wave of her forepaws.

    "You said we were gonna hang out all day!" the younger fox insisted.

    Elilan reached up, pulling the Zorua out and setting her down on the ground as he crouched and cast a reassuring glance down to her eyes.

    "I know I did, Sophie. But this meeting is very important," the father Zoroark explained. "It may very well mean I'll be able to move here in the near future and stay with you and your mother permanently."

    The Zorua wavered a moment, casting a hesitant glance at Team Sentinel's members before turning back to her father.

    "I mean… if it really means you'll finally be able to move…" the Zorua murmured.

    "I promise it won't take long," Elilan insisted. "After that, we'll spend the rest of the day together."

    Sophie looked up with wide eyes, Ellsberg watching as the young fox stared up half-hoping for her father to change his mind. After a moment's silence, the Zorua relented, folding her ears back with a disappointed sigh.

    "… Alright, but I'm going to hold you to that, dad."

    The corners of Elilan's mouth started to curl up into a small smile, as he extended a claw to pat the top of his daughter's head with a soft chuckle.

    "I wouldn't expect you otherwise."

    The Zorua made her way inside, prompting Elilan to nod to his wife who followed suit and slipped down the hallway into a chamber to the left with the door creaking shut after them. After their newfound solitude, Team Sentinel and Ellsberg made their way in and closed the doors behind them, with the Zoroark Administrator setting off for a set of stairs ahead and motioning after himself.

    "Come on, this way."

    Elilan led the group up a set of stone stairs to a hallway lined with a red rug, passing a portrait of Elilan, Lela, and Sophie that overlooked them from the left as they entered an ajar doorway on the right. The Zoroark pushed the door open, revealing a room that had been laid out around a dark-wood desk and high-backed chair that Elilan sat down in. Team Sentinel made their way towards the other end of the table, Ellsberg looking around the room as Ketu hung back near the doorway and leaned against a bookcase set against the wall with his arms set behind his head. The Bug-Type frowned a moment, before noticing that the walls of the room had been lined with bookcases packed with various tomes, broken in occasional intervals by glass cases that seemed to contain curious artifacts. In one, there was a curious machine made of rusted metal consisting of a frame and a pair of tatty wheels with spokes of metal wire, while another had what appeared to be a strange bracelet built around a glass surface in the center, and further down was yet another artifact with a cracked and dirt-caked contraption made of an unknown material that had been unfolded much like a flipbook or some manner of oversized locket. Ellsberg wondered to himself what the strange objects in the cases could be, when Ketu spoke up, prompting the moth to turn his attention back to Elilan across the table.

    "So how did your meeting with Lyn go, Administrator?" Ketu asked. "I do hope you liked the surprise we left for you."

    "I'll admit it was quite amusing, but unfortunately it didn't make much of a difference," Elilan answered. "Aside from Zorn, the rest of the Board still wants Lyn to continue his hunt for the Guardian of the Seas."

    The members of Team Sentinel scrunched their brows and let their jaws hang in disbelief as Ellsberg let out an incredulous buzz. Second chances in the Company were rare commodities to come by, and here Lyn was getting another one from the Board?

    "But how?!" Ellsberg exclaimed. "Especially after they saw that Ditto!"

    "Inler seems to be convinced the Imperials sabotaged Lyn," the Zoroark harrumphed. "Even if his patience has worn thin enough to make this Lyn's last chance, Inler must be real paranoid about Betulo joining the Board to excuse that sort of blunder."

    The Zoroark shook his head with a grumbling sigh, before focusing his attention back at Team Sentinel's members.

    "But it's just a minor setback considering why you're here," he said. "I assume you have the Lugia with you?"

    "We actually have something better, Administrator," Sorge replied. "A Legendary we know you've been waiting for far too long."

    Elilan blinked and his eyes widened as Team Sentinel began to smile proudly. Could it be that at long last, the four had finally managed to...

    "… You captured Subject Red?"

    "We sure did," Ketu chimed in as he stepped away from the bookcase to join the rest of his teammates. "After me and Ellsberg ambushed the Lugia in Buyeom's Mystery Dungeon, Subject Red jumped in to try and save him."

    "We spotted him and his friends in Magmapool Town heading for the Mystery Dungeon earlier," Aldrich explained. "So we followed them inside and confronted him after he intervened with Ketu's ambush."

    "Even though they did manage to help the Lugia escape, it doesn't really matter," Zelle added. "Subject Red got himself captured in the process."

    Elilan sat stunned for a moment, before leaning back into his seat as a sneering grin began to spread widely over his face.

    "I had considered the possibility that this would happen, but for it to actually play out and get Subject Red captured… it's exceeded even my wildest expectations," the Zoroark said. "This will accelerate our plans so much more than that Lugia ever could…"

    Sorge answered back with a warm smile as he fished through a satchel slung over his shoulder. The Kommo-o dug around inside, carefully pulling out the form of a white Apricorn that he displayed proudly between his claws.

    "I'm glad to hear that, Administrator," Sorge answered. "In that case, let's not wait any longer and show you Subject Red."

    The dragon took out a concave clay stand from further in his bag along with an Iron Thorn to keep his superior's desk tidy, setting the Apricorn down as he carefully prodded at the nut's surface. After aligning the barb with a dent in the nut's shell, Sorge drove the Iron Thorn in harder and harder until the Apricorn's surface split, and a zig-zagging ray of white light shot out, materializing on the table in front of Elilan into a green serpent with a red spot visible on his back. The Zoroark stared intently for a moment, only for his mouth to suddenly curl down in a sour frown, a change that Team Sentinel's members quickly picked up on as they gave worried looks back.

    "Administrator, what's wrong?" Aldrich asked.

    The Zoroark snatched the Zygarde Cell by its tail, looking unimpressedly as he lifted it up. The serpent dangled limply, leaving Elilan to run a claw along the red spot on its back. A portion of it flaked off in his claw, prompting him to raise it to his nose, and catch a spicy odor in his nostrils.

    "You've been tricked. This is not Subject Red."

    Team Sentinel's members blanched out of surprise and Ellsberg twitched his antennae puzzledly as Elilan put a nearby jar over the Cell to silence its hearing. The Dark-Type scowled down at the Cell in the jar, before turning back to Team Sentinel's members with a sharp glare.

    "What you captured is just one of his Cells with Tamato juice used to mimic his markings," he growled.

    "But that's impossible!" Zelle exclaimed. "We fought Subject Red and saw that little snake right there move exactly like him!"

    "She's right. We've been chasing Subject Red for years and he's always been clumsy and jerky with his cells," Aldrich insisted. "We would've seen through that sort of deception!"

    "Clearly you've underestimated how much more control he has gained over his powers since the last time you encountered him," Elilan spat.

    One by one, Ketu and the other members of Team Sentinel hung their heads in shame. From the side, Ellsberg blinked puzzledly, wondering what these 'Cells' Elilan had grown so agitated over were if this wasn't Subject Red after all. The Mothim thought to ask further, only to decide against it after a low growl filled the air and Elilan looked at Team Sentinel's members with livid, blue eyes.

    "Well then, you've created quite the situation," the fox snapped. "Not only did Subject Red elude you once again and is that Lugia still out there, but three of you blew your covers for absolutely no reason!"

    The Zoroark shook his head irritably, gritting his teeth as his words took on an exasperated tone.

    "What am I supposed to do with you three right now?!" he demanded. "You're now wanted spies in Imperial territory, and as members of the Intelligence Division I can't just freely reassign you without making Inler suspicious!"

    "I don't think things are as bad as they seem, Administrator. My cover with Lyn is still intact, and we know he'll go out there again to hunt for that Lugia," Ketu said. "Subject Red was last seen helping him, so if I stay with Lyn there's a good chance that I'll encounter both again and have another shot at capturing them."

    "And how do you expect that will go after everything that's happened, hm?" Elilan pressed. "Even if Lyn doesn't suspect you, he still knows that there's a spy on his crew that tried to set him up. He may be a fool, but he's not dense enough to just assume he'll no longer be sabotaged, and making any sort of move without raising suspicion will be next to impossible."

    Ketu raised his voice reflexively to rebut the Zoroark's charge, only to trail off as he realized that there really wasn't a good reason to think he'd have the same leeway that he had before going to Buyeom. The Weavile fell silent, looking down as he let out a low mumble under his breath.

    "I'll figure something out…" he muttered.

    Elilan gave an unimpressed scoff and shot Ketu an irritated look, only for Sorge to step forward and clear his throat to speak.

    "I think Ketu has a point, Administrator," he insisted. "It's true that Lyn is on edge right now, but we've played the long game before and he's bound to feel more at ease eventually. Even if Ketu can't make a move for the Protectors immediately, if he bides his time he'll eventually be able to. Not to mention that if Ketu can get us a firm location of the two, we can still go after them ourselves if needed."

    Sorge shifted his shoulders and shook his tail slightly, letting out a faint rattle as Elilan's scowl seemed to ease a little. Sensing an opening to plead his case, the dragon continued on, looking square into his surperior's eyes.

    "Besides, when we hunted Subject Red all those years ago we knew he wanted to team up with other Protectors for some sort of plan to stop us, but we were never able to figure out what it was or how serious a threat it would be," the Kommo-o said. "Now he's with that Lugia, perhaps we can get answers to those questions."

    Elilan paused at the Dragon-Type's argument, his expression softening before he pinched his brow with a sigh.

    "I suppose I can see your argument," Elilan admitted. "And the best way to move on from this debacle would be to plan our next move..."

    The Zoroark hardened his eyes into a stern gaze, giving a rap of his claws against the desk before his spoke up again.

    "Though let me be clear: I will not tolerate another blunder like this. You now know about this trick and I expect you to double check whatever Pokémon you catch out in the field," Elilan snapped. "I know what positions within the Company you desire, and I can assure you they'll be filled by other candidates if you fail to deliver results thanks to clumsy oversights like this."

    "Yes, Administrator…" the group muttered.

    "Good. In that case you'll go back to Lyn, Ketu. Lay low and support him in his attempts to find this 'Imperial spy'," the Zoroark ordered. "The sooner he feels more at ease, the sooner you can make another move."

    The Weavile directed his gaze down to the floor, curling his mouth into a sour frown. After glowering over the prospect of having to continue spying under Lyn, Ketu folded his ears back with a resigned sigh and looked back up at Elilan.

    "Understood... Administrator."

    The Zoroark left Ketu to stew in his displeasure of having to return to Lyn's command, turning a sharp glance over to Ellsberg that made him flit back with a start.

    "Ellsberg, you'll return to your normal duties for the Legal Department. Now that Lyn's infiltration is over, he's bound to return to the Argent Aviso and won't be in need of your brigantine anymore," the fox continued. "If you still want that promotion, I suggest you'll be ready in case I or Lyn asks for your help again."

    "... Understood, Administrator," the Mothim sighed. "I suppose it would be a nice change from being bossed around on my own ship."

    "As for the rest of you, you'll remain on standby here in Canalhouse," Elilan instructed. "It will take a while for the Intelligence Division to come up with a new assignment for you, but it will likely be somewhere in Linglan or Garanza. I will see what I can do to assign you somewhere more useful, since we obviously know Subject Red is far closer to home."

    Sorge, Zelle, and Aldrich straightened up and nodded back at attention, the three's expressions taking on a tense and serious demeanor as they snapped back in affirmation.

    "Yes Administrator!"

    "Good," the Zoroark said. "Then we're done here."

    Elilan got up and opened the door to his office, waiting as Team Sentinel and Ellsberg filed out one by one and made their way for the stairs. After his company departed out into the hallway, the Dark-Type closed the door, pacing back to his desk where he sat frowning as the sound of footsteps faded away. The Zoroark let out a frustrated sigh, pinching his brow before he pulled the glass jar off of the Zygarde Cell in the room, and scowled down at it.

    "I must say, Kline, I never expected you to develop such a cunning streak after all these years."

    Elilan peered down intently at the Cell, waiting for a response only for it to continue to remain unmoving. The Zoroark closed his eyes, letting out a derisive scoff at the motionless serpent.

    "But it doesn't matter. Tricks only work once, and you can't run from me forever."

    The Zoroark picked up the cell, letting it hang limply in his claws as he headed off to a shelf in the back corner. Elilan set the cell down and put the jar back over it before making his way for the hall and exiting his office, closing the doors behind him to leave the room empty barring the unmoving cell inside.




    At the stream that Kichiro discovered, the water flowed along its streambed, softly trickling above the quiet creaks and rustles of the forest. A buzz cut through the air, as Valatos flew low along the ground, settling on a rock as Alvise and Nori followed along, stooping down to drink from the flowing water.

    "Hrmph, those lazy bums could've found this on their own," Valatos grumbled.

    "Well, I'm not complaining," Nori harrumphed. "They're the thirsty ones and we're not."

    "I say we take a dip in it," Alvise growled. "Clean ourselves off and let those stupid dweebs drink from that!"

    The wolf batted a paw against the water, leaving Nori to pause before turning and raising a brow skeptically back at his teammate.

    "Wait, but wouldn't we be drinking from that same water afterwards?" the Marowak asked. "This water's being used to reprovision the ship, right?"

    "What sort of question is that?" Alvise scoffed. "We'll obviously just take our own water first!"

    "Uh… but how would we do that?" the lizard wondered. "I didn't grab anything that would hold water back there."

    The Manectric blinked after hearing his teammate's reply, realizing that the lot of them had left the Mistral Marauder without grabbing any additional supplies, prompting him to sheepishly try to amend his explanation.

    "Uh... well... I mean, we could drink more first and wait until we get to the next island, or..."

    "Genoeg. Let's just get back to the ship and get this over with," Valatos hissed. "We'll figure out a way to get back to them that doesn't involve drinking our own fil-"

    "That's it over there!"

    The three paused and raised their heads at the sound of a familiar Growlithe's yips carrying along the winds, their eyes widening in surprise as they realized it to be none other than the mutt that was always with that Lugia. One by one, Valatos and his companions crept up the stream's bank, following the sound of the Growlithe's voice as they spotted a fog-wreathed passage between a row of trees, and the Growlithe hurrying up with a Cubone, a Kabutops, and a Swellow carrying a rolled up map in his beak.

    "Isn't that that Eltenios mutt and those dweebs who keep giving us trouble?" Nori whispered. "What are they doing here?"

    "Impossible... it must be some sort of trick by the ghosts," Valatos said. "There's no reason for them to be here of all-"

    "This is the Mystery Dungeon from that map on the wall," Elty remarked. "Wherever Cernun is, this is our best chance of finding him."

    "Egh... I'm not feeling so hot about our odds here," Guardia replied. "What if those ghosts are inside waiting for us?"

    "Well we can't just sit here!" Dimitri exclaimed. "Pleo and the others are in danger and the longer we wait, the more likely it is that something terrible will happen to them!"

    "Rihth, nah a momen to looth," Kiran said, before stowing the map in his beak back into his bag. "Everyone hold on tight and we'll make our way in!"

    Alvise and his companions watched as the four hastily formed a chain with their limbs and shuffled off into misty ether. Nori blinked, trading confused looks with his teammates as they tried to make sense of their eavesdropped conversation.

    "Wait, but if this is some sort of trick, wouldn't the ghosts be trying to show us things that we know?" the Marowak wondered. "Who the hell is Cernun?"

    "... I think you might be onto something," Valatos said. "It must be someone they're looking for."

    "Then they must have gotten separated from that Lugia after all!" Alvise barked. "All we've got to do is find him and we can take him back to the crew ourselves!"

    "Alvise, we don't even know why they're here!" Valatos snapped. "How do you suppose we figure out where that bird is?"

    "Well, Eltenios seems to have an idea," the Manectric insisted. "Let's just follow him and his buddies into the dungeon and snag that Lugia when we've got the chance."

    Valatos flitted his wings and mulled the idea over. Following someone who had an idea of where the Protector would be would certainly make finding him easier than trying to find him themselves… and coming back to the Iron Fleet would be sure to shut those uppity dorks on the crew up about where they stood in terms of rank. A devious smile spread over Valatos' mouthparts, as he turned to his teammates with a sharp buzz.

    "Let's do it!" the Yanmega exclaimed. "Last I checked, a 'mon who found a Protector didn't get pushed around by dweebs hiding behind the Captain."

    "Uh... didn't we try something just like this back on Kenobi?" Nori asked.

    "Look, do you see that Rhydon here? Or Farn? Or any of those other square-necks?" Valatos demanded. "No? Then it's not the same, so shut your yap!"

    "But there's ghosts around!" Nori whined. "And we have to tell the crew about the water!"

    "Pah, let them get their own water if they're so thirsty! We've done our work!" the dragonfly buzzed, turning his gaze off to the dungeon's misty entrance.

    "I say that we give ourselves a bit of an advantage going back," he sneered.

    "I mean... when you put it that way… it doesn't sound so bad," Nori murmured. "But how are we supposed to get out?"

    The Yanmega paused and held a tarsal up in the air blankly, realizing that he and his companions hadn't brought any fresh supplies with them to prepare a dungeon crawl. Alvise raised a brow and peered over at Nori's bag, before lowering his snout towards its opening and pulled away the cover with his teeth. The wolf pawed through the satchel's contents, where in short order he found a black, glass orb and turned his head back to his teammates.

    "Looks like we've got an Escape Orb," Alvise said. "It'd let us get out with the bird quickly after taking him down, and if we did get in trouble, we've at least got a way out."

    Valatos gave a buzzing harrumph, turning back to Nori with an insistent scowl.

    "So, any other complaints to throw on the pile?" the Bug-Type demanded. "Or are we good here?"

    Nori batted his club against an open claw, his face turning up into a sneer as the pirate was filled with newfound confidence.

    "Heh heh! I'm sold! Let's go grab us a Protector!"

    With that, the three carried on, venturing off into the fog after Elty and his companions. All the while, their minds swirled with daydreams of forced respect on the Mistral Marauder, and well-earned revenge against the yappy mutt and his friends when they caught up with them.




    Pioppo's Mystery Dungeon was a tangled mass of trees, darkened dirt, and undergrowth much like the surrounding forest, the Distortion rearranging branches and trunks haphazardly from floor to floor. In spite of the foreboding appearance, Kiran and his companions' journey had largely gone by without incident barring the occasional scuffle with a resident feral. Their current search took them to a chamber next to a shallow pool that faintly reflected treetops dangling from an inverted floor above as Dimitri craned his head to look around his surroundings. After peering warily off at the chamber's exit, the crab shuffled along with his teammates, pacing ahead for the mouth of the exiting corridor.

    "As creepy as this place looks, at least we haven't encountered any ghosts yet..." Dimitri murmured.

    "Well, there's certainly no shortage of Ghost-Types..." Kiran muttered, prompting the Kabutops to shoot back an unamused stare.

    "Real ghosts, Kiran."

    Elty carried along at the back of the group, shifting his gaze anxiously towards the thick vegetation around the chamber and expecting a wraith to lunge out at every turn. The Growlithe overheard a clinking noise behind him, prompting to turn over his shoulder where he spotted Guardia lingering behind to grab a yellow emera, adding it to a small pile within her claws.

    "... Bonehead, what are you doing?" Elty asked.

    "Collecting Lapis, of course!" the Cubone piped. "At an island as this we'll need all the ones we can get!"

    The Growlithe narrowed his eyes and flattened his ears out in annoyance. Of all the things to worry her helmeted head...

    "Are you seriously thinking of painting right now?" he grumbled.

    "Of course not! I'm thinking of warding off those evil spirits!" Guardia retorted.

    Elty blinked and his jaw hung open a crack as he furrowed his brow disbelievingly back at his Ground-Type teammate.

    "... Evil spirits. Seriously?"

    "That's what they do!" the Cubone insisted. "Why else do you think the colonies back home use them to make paint?"

    The Fire-Type rolled his eyes, before turning around and pacing forward with a dismissive snort.

    "Whatever, I'm sure that I'll manage fine," he scoffed. "It's not the first time I've gone off into a dungeon before."

    "So I've noticed," Guardia said. "I wouldn't think a sea walker would go all the way into dungeons so often... but you're handling them like been visiting them all the time!"

    Elty stumbled over his forepaws at the Cubone's exclamation, giving a tense shift of his body before lowering his head and continuing on.

    "You could say that I've had some experience," he muttered.

    "From being in a team like this one?" she asked. "Or...?"

    Elty pricked his ears and looked back puzzledly at his teammate. His surprised expression began to melt away as he recognized Guardia's question to be much the same as her earlier ones from the beach, his eyes quickly hardening into a sharp scowl

    "I just said I had some experience," the Puppy Pokémon harrumphed. "How I got it is none of your business."

    The Growlithe turned his nose up and marched forward, leaving Guardia to look after before shuffling along and trying to settle her agitated teammate back down.

    "Look, all I was saying-"

    The Cubone's train of thought was abruptly curtailed by Dimitri and Kiran tensing up, the Kabutops of the pair putting the flat of his blade out to motion for a stop.

    "Keep it down!" the vampire crab whispered. "We've got company!"

    Elty and Guardia looked ahead, hurrying to the side of their teammates as the forms of a Haunter, Drifloon, and Misdreavus floating ahead of them. Much to their surprise, the three were all donning scarves, each made from blue cloth bearing white, overlapping antlers as if they were a band of guards or scouts.

    "Do we really have to go making rounds like this?" Cantone grumbled. "Why, they've probably fled already by now!"

    "It would be better to play it safe than be sorry later," Lisa retorted.

    "Besides, if they're not here, maybe we can skip out and give those other jerks a good parting gift if they're still around!" Vince chortled. "Those looks on their faces last time were hilari- Huh?!"

    The Ghost-Types turned and jolted back in surprise at the sight of the four strangers staring slack-jawed at them, the Swellow among them giving a dubious raise of his brow.

    "What... exactly are you going on about?" Kiran asked.

    The three Ghost-Types looked back in flustered shock, the Haunter of the group fumbling for words as he drifted away uneasily from the intruders.

    "We were... uh..."

    Vince threw his arms out, joined in by the Drifloon and Misdreavus as a violet haze abruptly billowed up, forming a large wraith with yellow eyes and disembodied claws that snarled back at Kiran and his companions.

    "About to become your worst nightmare!" the ghost sneered. "Quiver in fear as we drag your souls to the Spirit World!"

    The ghost paused for effect as unimpressed, frustrated scowls settled on Kiran, Dimitri, and Elty's faces, their loss of words punctuated by a flying yellow emera, with Guardia pulling her free arm back from a throw.

    "Take this, spirit!" the bone lizard cried. "And that! And that!"

    The Cubone threw a red emera, then a blue, and a green one. The last sailed into the haze when a sharp yelp rang out and the wraith's form abruptly flattened out into a mound.

    "Ow! That hit me in the eye!" Lisa cried.

    "You're not fooling anyone with that act, you know," Dimitri harrumphed.

    The mist quickly boiled away, revealing the Haunter and his companions' forms again, glaring and growling back at their disguise's lack of effect.

    "Well aren't you the little killjoy!" Vince snapped. "No matter, we'll keep you from running off all the same!"

    The Haunter reached into a bag, fishing out an orb full of golden spheres and readying it for a throw as Team Traveller jolted back with a start. Instinctively, Kiran stepped forth, batting his wings frantically for attention.

    "Wait a second! We just wanted to talk!" the Swellow insisted. "Look, things are obviously more than they seem, but perhaps you've seen a group with what'd look like a giant, long-necked Wingull lately?"

    The Ghost-Types paused as the Drifloon and Misdreavus of the trio traded wary looks with one another. Vince faltered a moment, before lowering his raised hand with the Totter Orb slowly to a neutral position as the pre-battle tension faded away.

    "Kinda sounds like our new neighbors," Cantone replied. "So what?"

    "Ah! So you have seen them!" Dimitri cried. 'Where are they now? We've been looking for them!"

    "Now hold up here, granchio! Nobody said anything about you being allowed to see them!" Vince shot back. "They're staying here with us!"

    Guardia shuffled into a tense stance at the Haunter's cry, tightening her claws around her club as she lowered her head and let out a low growl.

    "Grr... sounds like they're itching for a fight-"

    "Hold on a moment," Kiran interrupted, raising his left wing for a stop. The Swellow approached Vince, staring back intently at the still-glaring Haunter.

    "Look, if you're not ready to let Pleo and the others go right now, maybe you could take us to them?" the Swellow offered. "You know the area better than we would, so it's not as if we'd be able to cause you trouble, right?"

    Vince eased and shifted back, trading glances with his teammates before turning back to Kiran warily.

    "Er... I mean, I don't think it would hurt?" the Haunter replied.

    "Though we're doing this we're going to take some precautions..." Lisa said, prompting Elty to raise a brow puzzledly.

    "And what would that -Ack!"

    Elty's scarf abruptly jerked up and wrapped itself around his eyes as the Misdreavus' eyes flashed a glowing violet, leaving him fumbling around startledly.

    "Hey! What are you doing?!" the Growlithe yelped.

    "If you come with us, you're coming blind," Lisa insisted. "You're not finding your way out unless we let you. Got it?"

    Kiran, Guardia, and Dimitri hesitated, looking over at Elty as he lowered his ears and pulled his tail in tight with a low whine. These three strangers were effectively asking them to submit them to their mercy with nothing to go on beyond the few moments they'd seen each other! At the same time, it was evident that they had seen Pleo alive and well, and fighting them would put them back to having no lead at all! With the stakes as high as they were… perhaps there really were no better alternatives for them at this moment.

    "... We agree," Kiran replied. "Just lead the way."

    The three Ghost-Types floated forward and the Misdreavus of the trio pulled Team Traveller's scarves into crude blindfolds, while her teammates seized Team Traveller's badges along with Kiran and Elty's satchels. After the four were disoriented to Vince and his partners' liking, the three prodding their 'guests' off along the floor of the Mystery Dungeon. Unbeknownst to the lot, from around the corner, Valatos, Alvise, and Nori poked their heads around, watching puzzledly as Team Traveller and their escorts slipped off.

    "What on earth just happened between them?" Nori asked.

    "I dunno," Valatos buzzed. "But we're following to find out."

    "Valatos, we just watched them get blindfolded and put at those Ghost-Types' mercy," Alvise retorted. "How can we be so sure those dweebs aren't getting led into a trap?"

    "We'll follow just close enough to in earshot. If there really is an ambush, we'll be far enough behind to get away if we have to," the Yanmega insisted. "Besides, if that bird's really a 'neighbor', those three must be headed to some sort of stable zone. We can see how they get in to plan out our own approach."

    Nori and Alvise looked at each other, before grunting back satisfied. The dragonfly set off, followed by his companions as they quietly continued along after Team Traveller's footsteps deeper into the dungeon.




    Author's Notes:

    - ciao - Italian: "goodbye"
    - Qué diantres es todo esto?! - Spanish (Latin American): Expression roughly equivalent to "What is the meaning of this?!"
    - Genoeg - Dutch: "Enough"
    - granchio - Italian: "crab"
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
  16. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Interesting opening here. So, Cernun's original problem was with the Empire and not the Company, huh? Also… it's amusing how big of a difference we have when it comes to pokémon lifespans. I imagine a skarmory in my world would likely live about 1.5x as long as that. And… ah, so there IS significance behind Roteck being an Aggron. He knows Hess! Lemme guess… brother? Father? Uncle? Cousin? Well, they're probably related, anyway.

    At first I was wondering what the point of the Tromba scene was… but then we got to the reassignment notice and won't that be a huge slap in the face for Nina if she ever manages to get back home at all? Or maybe Scout will make a return and she'll learn through him? Anything's possible. Assuming, of course, Marley doesn't hatch some sort of ploy to escape the reassignment. Which is perfectly possible.

    You're aware of my biases, so you know I will always approve of more stuff with Elilan. While I'm sad it looks like Ellsberg will be getting pushed into the background — since he always struck me as the "straight guy" or only sane 'mon amongst the Company personnel — it was nice to (briefly) meet Elilan's family. They clearly love each other, but it seemed to be that neither his mate nor daughter had an exact idea of what his secret project might be. Wonder if they would approve or not. Other than that, the general scheming makes it hard for me to predict exactly what'll happen, though I'm wondering if this is the end of Team Sentinel as far as main appearances goes. I kind of liked seeing Ketu play off them (and Ellsberg), so it's a bummer they're splitting up again.

    As for the rest of the part, Kiran used Diplomacy! It's super effective! Seriously, nice to see things not devolve into a scuffle after an episode that's been full of scuffles. Though with the pirate mook trio trailing behind them, I sense further scuffles in the near future.

    squinting intensifies

    Is… is that ship teasing I smell? Get it… because this is ocean punk! Everyone rides on ships! :V

    Nori would be good at fic sins. :V

    It's funny since, if I remember correctly, the stuff with the colony was written before we knew much about Gen VII and fire/ghost Alolan marowak.
     
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  17. Kindoflame

    Kindoflame Member

    Personally, I find giving a review of every chapter a little odd since how good any given chapter is depends a large part on the surrounding chapters, including ones that come after. Instead I am going to give my thoughts on some aspect of the story overall.

    When a story turns up the stakes without changing its focus, it is called a difference in scale. Think about how the antagonists in many anime are basically reskins of older enemies, but much stronger. The Dragon Ball franchise in particular is infamous for this. When a story shifts what it is focusing on with the stakes remaining unchanged, it is called a difference in kind. Think about how at Batman comics have him switch roles between investigator, fighter, and inventor.

    A really common mistake creators make is to only have difference in scale, sometimes to the point that the entire plot becomes a predictable cycle (e.g. One Piece). Of course, raising the stakes does not actually make a story more engaging*. However, you have been doing a really good job alternating between both. The three main subjects I have seen you switch between for differences in kind is travel, socializing, and combat. You have not been neglecting differences in scale either. Early in the story, the party flew from a ship at sea to the nearby island of Boisocéan where they had to gain support of a politically neutral leader and one Marked Pokemon, before fight off some Company mooks. Much later the party arrives at Orleigh through a secret path in an underwater Mystery Dungeon and then had to stay unnoticed by the entire island's population until a city-wide battle between pirates, soldiers, and ferals breaks out. On top of all of that, you have more recently introduced a new subject; intrigue. Not only has the dealings, diplomacy and sabotage among the Company and Empire been been more engaging as the story progressed, but even now the main cast is getting in on it, trying to manipulate the political state of the entire Cratle to get an advantage.

    You have done such a great job balancing the differences in scale and kind that the story is still fresh and interesting even after ~800,000 words.

    *Citation: Overly Sarcastic Productions video on saving the world. I would include a link, but the site's spam filter will not let me.
     
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  18. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Chapter 56:

    Still as much of a cinnamon roll as always. Never change, Cabot.

    I like how this whole scene kinda subverts the usual "protagonist imprisoned by the empire" routine, what with them just cheerfully trying to make him feel at home and totally not catching onto why he feels like a prisoner.

    Ahh, I was wondering if this would happen. I'm betting Cabot getting to spend more time with Pleo might give him the opportunity to see the Empire in a new light, eventually.

    Bwahaha, this was literally what I was thinking going into this scene.

    A nice reminder that Elty has no real qualms with criminal activity, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have morals.

    xDD I love this callback to the wild Cubone culture.

    Ohh wait, I hadn't quite connected that this egg-traffciking case was connected to the raid that was mentioned earlier. And they were telling Cabot that it was no big deal and nothing happened. D:

    Random detail, but it's fun to see a moth referring to annoying kids as grubs.

    What on earth would Hess do without Rodion, lol.

    I am so glad that Lyn didn't fall for Ketu's nonsense here. :p

    ...soooomething tells me that finding out their defendants' crew was involved, even if the trio themselves had no hand in it, is not going to look so good...

    I actually quite like the idea of us heading into a tournament arc! There are quite a lot of factions at play right now, so having to cut between them all the time would get tiresome if not for the fact that they're all currently working toward the same goal in the same place. Should be interesting to see how it all plays out (and of course, how the inevitable encounters with each other go.)

    Chapter 57:

    ...are you serious.

    ...oh my God, it is Mettaton. I was not ready. xD

    Ahh!! I hadn't realized we'd be getting a reunion here! It's actually kinda funny how understated the circumstances were--just bumping into each other at the stadium. If you'd asked me 10 chapters back or so, I'd have guessed they'd be reunited in the middle some kind of big, dramatic event.

    pffft, this got a snort out of me. They do sound pretty unimpressive, yeah. :P

    It is fun that you get to have Team Traveller be totally outclassed in fights but still come out ahead through banding together and using creative strategy. They really have gotten a lot better at working together.

    awww, he does care.

    ...oh my God, it's this chapter. I knew that something like this was coming, since it was nominated for an award last year, but I didn't realize it was going to be here. xD

    Wait, did Nico just... Object to his own side? xD

    Guyyyyys, I dunno if pointing out just how much your defendants' crew was involved in this incident is going to help things.

    Hey, someone's gotta take Ketu down a few pegs. ;P

    UM?! That's awful bold of him. I don't know how he possibly thinks this is going to end well. I could totally see him trying to frame it as "hey you guys don't want this sort of thing being carried out by rivals on your turf, do you?" But framing it as a threat is... eesh. Hope he's got a plan here...

    ~Chibi~
     
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  19. windskull

    windskull New Member

    Hey there! Previously I'd reviewed this on FFN, but since I recently made an account here, I thought it would be nice to cross-post my reviews here. I previously reviewed episode 1, so I'll be going through episode 2 today. I'm also trying out a different review style for bulk chapter reviews, so excuse me if my thoughts are a bit disjointed.

    Chapter 4

    You do a great job of setting the scene at the beginning of chapter 4. I can easily picture the inside of Hatteras’ hut. The only minor critique I would have of this description, however, is in this line:

    I think the length or structure of this sentence leads to a bit of fatigue. I found myself having to read the line twice to make sure I understood it correctly. Rearrangement of words or restructuring it into two separate sentences might help with that.

    Back to the positives, Hatteras’ antics never cease to amuse me. I got a solid laugh out of his switching of the scarves in my first read-through, and it still makes me laugh now.

    More little hints at the unique situation Tromba is in - not that one would know it at the time. Things like this make the reread worth it.

    In retrospect, a froslass running a daycare is quite the interesting choice. Froslass certainly isn’t a pokemon you’d typically associate with a daycare of, so it’s a neat little element.

    Pleo insisting he get a name and naming himself is adorable.

    It was just muddy, because of course it was. Don’t worry Nida, soon enough a muddy badge is going to be the least of your problems.

    I kind of feel like the placement of this paragraph is to the detriment of the scene. Obviously it’s meant to explain the conversation, but I feel like it could have been introduced more organically, as most of the information in this conversation had.It’s repeated a few paragraphs down to explain the role of the company, but I think it works better that time, partially due to being phrased like rhetorical questions. Word choice might make this paragraph stick out less. But an explanation comes up later with the pirates much more naturally and provides just as much information.

    On a more positive note, I appreciate that Harettas at least tries to make sure Ander gets the respect he deserves, even if he kind of lets it slip in the end. There’s still a lot to learn about the Marked, even where I am in the story. I have some stuff to say about them, but I'll save it for a later review.

    Chapter 5

    I appreciate the fact that pokemon in your fic have varying sizes (such as Chrom’s mom being bigger, since Chrom’s still a kid, and his younger brother being smaller.) It helps it feel more natural, instead of everything being standardized and uniform with pokemon popping out of the eggs at full size.

    I like the ways you found to build some pokemon moves into the world. Like the uses of protect, for example. I found it clever.

    Oh zubat, if only you knew.

    Calino’s earlier statement comes back to bite him in the butt. Nice callback.

    Another line that got a kick out of me.

    Chapter 6

    After having read the rest of the fic, going back to when Nida was struggling with a poison sting is… quite amusing.

    Drama queen much?

    Joking aside, of course Pleo is anxious about hanging around Gwenith afterwards, when this is the only experience of fighting he has to go off of. Of course Nor has he had a chance to learn to fly yet. He’s only a few days old! Give him time to learn!

    I like that pokemon actually show battle damage, even in minor sparring matches.

    Pomeg berry actually being like a pomegranate on the inside? Nice.

    I’m so glad that Hariti doesn’t treat her marked children differently. I have some thoughts on the marked that I’d love to talk about but I’m going to hold off until a later conversation that I seem to remember.

    And now we get some nice world building! There’s a lot of little things I appreciate here, like how you’ve found a way to use gummis within the story both as a common food source and as a way to explain why pokemon that, by real world logic, would be obligate carnivores don’t have to eat meat. (And on that subject, maybe it’s just my style, but I do like when PMD fics acknowledge pokemon eating other pokemon.) I also like that the feral pokemon aren’t just like regular animals or anything like that, as it works well with a PMD mechanic that I remember comes up later.

    Crom being so shy of Marley also amuses me, not that I can blame him based on the stories of her beating down a certain dragonite.

    And of course, shortly after Pleo learns about pirates, the pirates come. Because we can’t let him have too many nice days, now can we!

    Chapter 7

    I feel bad that I keep reading “Mildrew” as “Mildew”

    This needs no commentary.

    I like little things like this, where we see pokemon doing animal behaviors. It really sells that these are non-human creatures we’re talking about.


    Oh hey, Trizano. It’s going to be a while before we see you, but it’s nice to see him hinted at as early as now. And here’s one of the first uses of the wingull running gag. I suppose it makes sense that no one outside of Tromba recognizes Lugia, considering how long it’s been.

    After that big display of power he’s taken out by tripping on a rock. Ironically fitting.

    Chapter 8

    I feel like this type of opening is a bit cliche, but I don’t think it really detracts anything in this case.

    I know he’s young, but it still amuses me that one moment Pleo is ready to get back out there to fight the pirates because he’s needed, and the next he’s all but cowering in the corner at the sight of a captured one.

    Is that really what you’re worried about right now buddy, not the hostile crowd?

    Bubblecide. The charges against the pirates just get sillier and sillier.

    Pleo’s got a good heart, I’ll give him that.

    Oh hey, apricorn thickets. That’s not ominous at all. And by that I mean very ominous.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. It introduces a lot of little things that become relevant later, and it also happens to introduce us to the ever-comedic Iron Fleet. I very much love Hess, but I haven’t had much chance to see his personality shine yet, I’ll hold off. On a technical level, I think chapter 4 was the weakest, but none of them really stood out as bad.

    Now that I’ve had time to get reacquainted with the main cast, I’d have to say ma by favorite out of Nida, Chrom, Kiran, and Pleo would be Chrom. He’s kind and eager, but also has a bit of a timid side at times (especially around Marley, understandably.) It may be a while before I get to episode 3, but I'm really looking forward to it. Until next time.
     
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  20. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Hi, I’m back. After catching up on other fics and some other things getting in the way, I’ve finally returned… and with a lot to comment on, too!

    Episode 9!

    44

    And this time, we’re popping up in the pirate town. That being said, I’m not really sure what to make of it compared to a previous, similar premise… Kenobi. They’re in the middle of enemy territory and one of the antagonists is nearby. I dunno if it’ll wind up the same way, too, or… I don’t know. I’m almost apprehensive this time around because these episodes have been very similar lately.

    The most interesting part in the first chapter is probably the political scheming going on in the background, though I have to say, the pacing is really bogged down by trying to show every little thing that all parties are doing.

    Aside from that, I don’t have much to add for the first chapter.

    Oh, but I do want to point something out again, because it’s still extremely egregious. This line right here:


    That… that middle paragraph was just painfully redundant. A single sentence would have sufficed. Again, less is more, but I just felt a strong need to point out this passage in particular. It could have been implied through all the context clues we’ve had prior, rather than just… outlining it like that. I’ll get into this later if the episode goes as I think it will, but I definitely recommend being very careful or aware of meandering around during the narrative.

    45

    The second chapter is similar, except we have some new characters to look at, but I’d like to focus on an interesting tonal shift for this episode that is a lot more apparent. Compared to everywhere else, I think this is the first episode where verbal or narrative threats of mortality took center stage; we had a bit of that with the ferals two episodes ago, but this time, it’s more of a systemic aspect. It’s definitely an interesting flavor, but it was also very sudden, between threatening Guardia to the, ah, disciplinary policies of the Pirate guild. To be honest, I’m kinda surprised there was a pirate guild at all, since until then, Hess seemed to more or less be a free-floater. Nice cameo of that Tyrantrum from the special episode, though.

    And also, we’re finally getting that Elty arc, several episodes too late.

    That’s one thing worth noting—Elty feeling like he’s at home again and showing tiny, tiny signs of worry and concern for his involuntary team, and so on. Oh, and also Guardia very clearly being the one crying out to the moon, as per their ‘Dex entries… maybe? Hmm. It seems almost too obvious, since that’s one of the most well-known (and illogical) pokedex entry series out there, so I’m going to wait until it’s actually confirmed.


    46~49

    The next several chapters, which I finally got to read in succession after getting everything taken care of, was an interesting take on the payoff. At first, I was pretty worried that it was going to be just like all the other encounters to a T, with them running off or something, but then Elty’s house of cards finally fell over and everything fell with it. The fight itself was more of the same at first, and I wasn’t particularly enthralled, buuuut… I think everything changed when Pleo got a sudden buff.

    Once again, I felt like the outburst came out of nowhere. This thought just occurred to me, but I feel like if Pleo really hears these voices and pleas and prayers when he gets powered up, I wonder if it would be a good foreshadowing if he just… hears them occasionally as he passes by? Maybe it’s a manifestation of his Psychic Typing, but I feel like this would be a much better way to foreshadow it than for it to all happen at once. And then the voices become more and more intense, culminating into the blast—which, by the way, was actually my favorite moment of the story in a while. Still doesn’t top the first time it happened against Lyn waaaay back then, but it was at least reminiscent of it.

    The destruction that followed was, I believe, the current top spot for the most sudden and intense attack to ever take place. The aftermath was a bit on the nose (Pleo thinking about if this was what the Marked meant was probably unnecessary, and actually detracted from the implications by being so directly acknowledged so soon.) However, the actual moment before it was pointed out so obviously was good. Everyone had a hand in the chaos, and that chaos of the two factions trying to get a hand on Pleo was what allowed them to escape in neither’s clutches. A classic tale.

    And the chapter ends… and, well, the episode as a whole ends… Well, I won’t say exactly the same, but it’s still similar. We had some big shakeups—the biggest one that actually lasted, I’d say, being the fact that now Elty’s disloyalty is out in the open. But the rest is still the same formula, Crom’s group being one island behind, Pleo’s group escaping the clutches of their enemies… And since we’re always doubling up on islands and then also looking at what everyone else is doing, it really bogs down the pace.

    Still, at the very least, I’m curious about where this Elty situation will take us.


    --

    Episode 10

    50, 51

    Well, that’s an opening! I nearly forgot about Lyn, but once the winds of fate brought Pleo a bit closer, I already knew it was going to be the Company and their turn to have a hand at grabbing the Guardian from the skies. The awkward talks between Pleo and Elty after everything was said made for another interesting exchange, too—I don’t recall for sure, but I’m pretty sure this is the most fragmented Elty had become from the group since he had first joined. I guess now that the façade is down, he doesn’t have much of a reason to act nice.

    I think, again, you were a bit on the nose with Pleo’s perspective on things. It’s pretty easy to infer that he couldn’t help out his partners. I’m fine with it being said outright once, but I recall two times almost word-for-word it’s said again within these two chapters. Like, I think I get it.

    And so it seems that Hess is going to be going after them despite everything, mostly out of convenience. I think what’s more interesting is the prisoner exchange, basically nullifying the Imperials’ losses in terms of manpower, while still giving Hess a second start on his new approach. If these new henchmen see him as incompetent, does that mean Hess will be getting a boon to his army, technically? All he needs to do is boost their morale, and… Perhaps he’ll be more intimidating than being the clear-last-place in this three-way race to Pleo.

    And so, once again, they flee into a Dungeon, battle some random mooks, and keep trudging through. Oh! Actually, before I go on, I want to mention one thing that caught me by surprise—I didn’t expect every instance of a species to be related, but it seems like our heroic Grovyle is related to Osmund! And a sister, no less! …Why did he never mention that at all until now, and how did nobody…? Well, either way, that’s interesting. I’m curious what that’ll mean for chemistry down the line.

    The final bit with Guardia was something that I suppose I half-saw coming. I’m a little annoyed that the reveal was actually as underwhelming as I thought it’d be for its episode-long buildup (subverting it with it being both parents didn’t quite cut it for me) but I do like the fact that it gave Elty a reason to relate to her. A glimmer of hope? And also a hint at Elty’s familiarity with loss, which is a curious side that I’m hoping gets explored soon.

    I’ve ranted a lot about how the Cubone’s traditional dex entries are contradicted and, if played straight, makes no logical sense from a population standpoint, so I’m glad for the “nice stereotype” line, at least.


    52

    Was it bad that the moment they stole from the Kecleon, I assumed they were boned? I’m actually genuinely surprised that with how much this work seems to follow the canon Dungeon mechanics to an extent, the Kecleon weren’t one-shotting the team in a swarm like Cuccos from Legend of Zelda.

    The following encounter with Ken’s duo (Side note, wow, actual, standard, American names? I was legitimately wondering when we’d get an island themed after that.) was another battle, same as always, though it seems that as of where I had to briefly stop reading, they sent word out that they’d been found. That’s gonna be interesting.

    Oh! And speaking of interesting. Nagant and Ketu! Like oil and water. I like Ketu’s casual, yet clever play on deception here, even opening with something that could have been extraordinarily incriminating just to throw Nagant off their trail. Very clever, and I could really get an image of him resting on his icy throne.

    Looks like Pleo got a bit introspective again after Elty and Nida made up, at least on an unspoken way. I imagine it’s still a rocky road ahead for them to fully make up to one another, but it’s first steps… And it would have been a wonderful scene, had it not been for the fact that Pleo’s on-the-nose introspection was back again. Leaving it with just, “Pleo beamed toward both of them, feeling a small weight lifting from his wings” or something to that effect—not outright saying what Pleo was thinking, but implying it very clearly—could have been stronger. Spelling it out weakens the message.

    But it’s good to see that they’re starting to make progress, even if running into another mook fight was what was needed to get them rolling again, though.

    Oh, I also noticed something—during the final scene with Crom’s bit, why exactly were they introduced to distantly?

    You refer to many of the characters by name with little mention of their species, even if said characters appear less often compared to the core cast. Yet with these characters, which I’m significantly more familiar with, why are they introduced like this was the first time we were seeing them? I’m not sure what the rationale is behind this sort of prose.

    53, 54

    The final two chapters were interesting, but the first portions of it were definitely a huge mixed bag for me. It was only until the very final portions did I actually start to see the payoff, and I was kind of getting the sinking feeling that this was going to be another repeat. They go to a new island, struggle in a Dungeon, rest at an inn, run into trouble, and flee.

    This has been, with a few minor variations or reordering, what the past several episodes have been like, and I think repeating it so many times is a huge issue for me. I know you told me in your last review response that that’s the formula for this part of the story, but to repeat it so often, I wouldn’t call that a style so much as a design flaw. I was literally rooting for them to lose just to break the trend.

    That makes the ending of this episode that much better; the final chapter was very solid. In particular, I’d like to note that the portion where Nida and co. were fleeing from Lyn was something I was able to visualize very easily in my head, which is something rare when it comes to action scenes that are written out by others. At least, to visualize them so precisely. I haven’t had that in a while here, so I was happy to get that going for me.

    Right now, I'm curious how Hess is going to stack up against these trained elites in particular. So far, the narrative hasn't been able to fully show what he can do, so to speak... or if he's already at his limit and he actually has to be cunning for once. That's something I'll be keeping an eye out for.

    So, that was a bit of a long trek, but I’m glad that I was finally able to get back in the swing of things. Bit of a large review, but oh well.

    I’ve been told that the next chapter I should read is the April Fools entry, so I’ll be skipping ahead to that before returning to form. I’ll cover that here as a final hello as I get back into the swing of all this.


    April Fools:

    This is too long. Hooo boy. I read this one in two halves because it was just so long that I couldn’t tackle it all at once, so bear with me here. First of all, the opening half was a bit on the weak side. It lingered a little bit too much on them getting their bearings, and it opened with a fight against some randos that were more or less just villain cameos as of now. I guess Team Fang needed some relevance after being shafted for the bulk of Guiding Light, eh? But eh, opening with an inconsequential battle could’ve gone better.

    That’s pretty much my only major critique for the first half, though. Afterward, I really appreciated all the interactions they had with the GL cast—Team Spectre and Crabrawler Café in particular, off the top of my head. I also liked Latias’ reaction to Lugia, though I wish it lasted a bit longer for the sake of comedy. The cultural disconnect was overplayed a bit, I think, but that’s a minor nitpick, all things considered.

    Oh, another thing I noticed—it happens a lot throughout the story in general, but it seemed particularly noticeable here. You have a tendency to go over exposition twice because of a perspective change. For example, first Team Traveler asks about Zero and so on to Team Captivate, and then they ask about it to Umbry and Espy… but it’s sort of weird at the same time, because the thought process for both of them was the same. It’s new to them, but not to the reader, and it felt very redundant / overexplaining things in narrative, something prevalent even at the start of Fledglings. But now that I’m getting closer to caught up, I think it’s worth mentioning again that it’s really good to think “less is more” when it comes to narrating thoughts.

    Halfway through, I actually get some semblance of a plot for this chapter beyond Gallian showing up near the start. But during what’s basically an anime recap episode of Guiding Light, there was an odd line that caught my attention. That tidbit about people in Fledglings getting sick and spreading "miasmas"… Like another one of those special episode plot previews. I think I'm gonna back pocket that.

    Boy, that whole recap went on for a whiiiiile. All just to convince Nida and Elty that this place has a scope even worse than their world, hah. But I guess it was necessary to make sure they had to get going, but I still feel like it went on for a while. Or maybe I just feel that way because it comes off as a giant advertisement for GL.

    ...Oh huh. I'm kinda surprised they found Gallian. Since he first appeared at the start in Dewdrop, and then Meta gave a different location under the presumption they'd've still been there recovering. Talk about luck. Sigh. I forgot how stupid Gallian was. Oh, wait, no, I didn’t.

    These epithets are killing me just so you know "the dog" throws me off. Elty? Lux? I gotta double take sometimes. The fight was fun, and it makes me wish that Sticky used his traps more often in GL, but I guess compared to all the other stuff going on, he was a bit outclassed. And also—calling the Lightless Black. Wow! That’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve heard in this chapter so far! Let’s see how that goes.

    Also, wow. Props to you guys, but probably Amby for pointing it out, that Pleo’s team would be immune to Necrozma’s soul-steal because they don’t operate in a light-based world. I’m probably one of the few readers to get that, having read both~

    Okay, that was actually a pretty fun read, and I was definitely able to appreciate it thanks to having read both epics at this point. Very nice and fun chapter to look through, and I decided upon Virgil’s request to actually give it a more thorough look this time compared to the other special episode entry. And… this is now a monster review. Oh well. Next time I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled reading habits.


    --


    As a reminder, I’m eager to see where episode 11 will take me, because the trend FINALLY ended… hopefully. I’ll just have to read along and see!
     

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