1. We have moved to a new forum system. All your posts and data should have transferred over. Welcome, to the new Serebii Forums. Details here
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Be sure to join the discussion on our discord at: Discord.gg/serebii
    Dismiss Notice
  3. If you're still waiting for the e-mail, be sure to check your junk/spam e-mail folders
    Dismiss Notice

Fledglings

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

  1. windskull

    windskull Member

    I’m back once again with a review. This time, though, I’m only covering the special episode. Episode 6 will come at a later date. For now though, let’s check this chapter out.

    First off, I find it interesting that Tromba celebrates New Years on the winter solstice. It does make sense, especially if they base their years off of a lunar calendar. Based on the later passage with the pirates, that’s not universal. Does that mean every island has their own calendar system? Or is it perhaps just the Company and the Empire that celebrate New Years separately. Obviously each island has their own holidays, which makes sense. But if they have their own calendars as well, that sounds like a logistical nightmare.

    Oof, the age-old “spend holidays with friends vs with family argument.

    Aww, that’s adorable!

    Oh, this can’t end well. The story says so! It’s a bit of a foregone conclusion since no one recognizes the pirates during the raid back in episode two, but it’s still fun to see how Hess fails.

    I guess this is a play on the aggron dex entries? It does make me wonder if aggrons claiming mountain territory is a common occurrence in fledglings. I suppose it would be for ferals, at least And it was evident from his demeanor that like others of his kind, a trespass on his domain was an invitation for confrontation with the much larger and stronger Steel-Type.

    It’s probably just me, but Tromba feels more lively than usual. Not a complaint, just an observation . Probably because its a holiday?

    Marley Please! It costs money to fix that! Even though he was probably not sharing bc greed, I still feel a little bad for Calino getting the short end of the stick here. More for the property damage than for the goading into gifting items though.

    Glad this pays off later in the chapter. Also, due to the relatively upbeat, lighthearted tone of Fledglings (in comparison to other pmd fics I read) sometimes I forget alcohol exists.

    Minor nitpick: considering the first sentence already starts with an epithet, it would probably flow better to use either Keiichiro's name or the name or even just "he" since who "he" refers to could easily be inferred.

    It wasn't super clear what "it" was in this sentence. I initially thought it was referring to the shrine and was very confused, before working out that "It' was the star.

    Aww, how cute!

    And man, Hatteras had such an inspiring speech here.

    As I’ve come to expect you’ve created fireworks for your world in a way that jives with the technology level as well as PMD canon.

    Even though they’re minor characters that barely get attention in the future, I liked that we got to see what kind of gifts Nida’s siblings got, since their gifts say something about their interests, and who they are as a result.


    Typos:

    Missing “and”

    Lead should be led

    Think you need a “had” between “town” and “already”.

    Breathes should be breaths. "Breathing" might even be better.

    I… think it should be “Tiny,” capitalized? Unless you’re using tiny as a description as opposed to referring to Tiny Reviver Seeds.


    Final thoughts:

    Although not really something that would matter in the grand scheme of the story, this was a cute little chapter. It definitely feels more skippable in comparison to future special chapters, though. I do have a few gripes that would apply if this chapter had been meant to stand alone as a one-shot, but when put into the context of a larger story don’t matter as much. (Primarily, my gripes have to do with the fact that Nida and Hess’ parts of the story have little to do with each other. In a oneshot that would have bothered me, but when this chapter is more meant to provide further characterization and context to characters in a larger story, I don’t mind.)

    Other than that… I don’t really have much more to say? It’s a cute chapter, but I’m excited to get back to the action. So with that in mind, I’ll hopefully be back to do the next episode soon. Take care.
     
    Virgil134 likes this.
  2. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    @Venia Silente
    Yeah, this was a part that actually got expanded upon during editing. I felt it was important to show the simmering tensions going on in the Empire that help make them desperate enough to resort to the same basic tactics as the Company to get a Protector for themselves.

    Clearly Crom got a lucky stealth roll when sneaking in.

    He’s actually an Alolan Marowak. You’d be hard pressed to find another Pokémon who could beat them out in firedancing.

    Well, “high opinion” is relative, though Alvise would say he’d consider his teammates to be family, even if that isn’t always enough to get him to put his neck out on the line for them. As for the shaggy dog story… well, Alvise is a bit of a magnet for misfortune, so it’d hardly be out of character for something like that to happen to him.

    I guess that’s a sign that I’m doing something right if there’s so many characters and moments you want immortalized in art. o3o

    Well… it was happy for Team Traveller. ^^;

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the chapter, and your commentaries were hilarious as usual. I’ll be looking forward to reading more in the future. ^^

    @windskull
    Fledglings tends to crib much of its expressions from how the anime handles things, with a few nods to things a Pokémon’s real-life counterpart might do. So basically imagine Ellsberg in the anime and you’ve got your answer.

    It’s something that I’ll keep in mind for the future, though if I were doing things all over again, there are definitely a few past moments where I’d have tried to be a bit less infodump-y.

    That is correct yes, and I’m glad you enjoyed that little worldbuilding detail. I always enjoy adding details that help show off what the world of the Cradle is like and how it works.

    I went with “still-weakened”.

    Yeah, I made it a point to try and incorporate as much from the games as possible. And I’ve always been of the school that it’d be illogical for Pokémon to have one universal language when they already have regional subspecies, so it seemed as good an excuse as any to mine the different localizations the franchise has.

    I went with “moment” here.

    Well, his cut-off phrase wouldn’t win him much endearment from passing mothers and their children in Sormus… or modern Finland for that matter. I’m glad that you enjoyed that easter egg, though.

    Yeah, I tend to have a lot of fun slipping in little details like these to help remind the reader that they’re not seeing things from a human point of view. I am a bit curious as to what that RPG series is, though I suppose you can always spoil me in a more private setting.

    It actually should be four, since it’s exactly enough for three rounds where one substitute is destroyed

    I think this is fine since it’s the same sentence. Perhaps it might have been better to render it in one line, but I haven’t received any complaints on the rare occasion that I’ve done something like this.

    I went and tweaked this to give Crom’s line better parallelism to Marley’s dialogue.

    I removed the extra “end”.

    Yeah, the franchise kinda marches on like that, though they’re not talking about Ultra Space alas. Though I’m glad that you enjoyed how that exploration into how the Marked see Pleo and other Legendaries played out.

    I went and got rid of the duplicate phrasings for these parts.

    Well, I’m glad you enjoyed the episode. Boisocéan’s arc helped a lot for orienting myself for later islands and episodes that I hope you’ll enjoy in due time.

    Tromba is actually the only island in all of Anyilla that has a lunar calendar, primarily by virtue of the fact that it didn’t always used to be controlled by Anyilla. It’s a background detail that I haven’t fully worked out how to bring up within Fledglings’ story, but it might become a bit more relevant if and when there’s ever a continuation.

    It is indeed a play on that ‘dex entry. As for how commonly it happens among ferals, I doubt there’s too many Aggron out there that can live up that entry literally. After all, there’s a limited number of mountains to go around in the Cradle.

    That would help, yeah. As would the extra focus on stuff going on in and around the town.

    I went and edited these to flow a bit better.

    I also went back and tweaked these. Thanks for pointing them out.

    Part of that is because specials aren’t intended to be fully standalone like Casting Off was. They exist in tandem with the rest of the story and as such assume the reader will have knowledge surrounding at least some of their subject characters going into them.

    @Ambyssin
    Being a direct reference to that scene would help yes, though there’s some additional comedy value from nobody quite having the heart to tell Melli what they really think about her handiwork right then and there.

    Well, it helps that Pleo’s been doing a fairly good job of not living up to his fears. ^^

    That’s fair enough, some chapters simply have less action in them and this was one of them.

    @Chibi Pika
    Yeah, well he’ll have plenty of time to catch up and see what’s changed.

    Yeah, it’d be pretty boring if every antagonist had the exact same vibe as each other. Though ‘heroism’ is always in the eye of the beholder.

    To be fair, that’s gonna make for some awkward conversations if it ever catches up with Kiran’s record as a guild member. o3o;;

    Yeah, he’s a bit frozen there from the chaos and the severity of the thrashing some of the crew is taking in the process.

    Yup, the original flavor of this in real life, Greek Fire, was similarly feared by sailors in its day for this exact reason.

    Something something “last chance to try and grab any advantages for the subsequent chase on the way out”. Also, as one of the higher-ranked members of Lyn’s crew, I think that the Huntail likely has more of a margin of error for expressing skepticism.

    Not sure how hilarious they’d find it, but it does make for some funny gags, yes.

    Well, all in due time. But I’m glad that you enjoyed Team Traveller’s reunion. It was a long time coming then.

    And while it’s about a month late thanks to meta chaos, I’m back, and with a new set of portraits of Alvise to boot. I’d also like to thank everyone who voted for Fledglings during this year’s Fan Fiction Awards. I didn’t expect to win Best Pokémon Chaptered Fic, so I was very happy to see that.

    The next, and final chapter of this episode is currently shooting for a release sometime in July, though as always things release whenever they’re finished. I’d like to extend my gratitude to Virgil134 for helping to write and edit today’s chapter, as well as to the readers and reviewers who have patiently hung in there as this story has continued moving along. Since Fledglings now has over 70k views I wrote up a new trivia session for today as well. And with that, let’s get going into today’s update:
     
    GastlyMan and Chibi Pika like this.
  3. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    How did you come up with Haipheh?

    Haipheh as an island was developed first as a concept based around a tropical island that was unnaturally frigid by the intervention of the activities of Ice-Type Pokémon, leading to its oh-so-creative working name of ‘Tropical Freeze’. Further along in development, it was decided to make the local tongue a Chinese language, and after some internal consideration, Hokkien was chosen for those purposes. The name owes its origins to being a Hokkien rendering of ‘Seafoam’, the beloved haunt of Articuno in Kanto, and didn’t go through many prior changes other than a brief moment considering rendering it as ‘Haiphoeh’.

    How did you come up with Whitepalm Town?

    Whitepalm Town as a location was one of those rare places in Fledglings where it originated based off its underlying culture prior to other intervening factors. In Whitepalm Town’s case, it is a blend of a few quirkier regional cultures and practices in China as adapted for large numbers of Ice-Type Pokémon, including large communal round houses modeled after tulou that are seen in some parts of South China, and the coloring put on ice sculptures that are placed about the town takes inspiration from the annual Harbin Ice Festival. As for the name, it was chosen as a reference to the frozen-over palm trees that are described as being in the town. Whitepalm town from early on was built around a ‘palm’ naming theme, with names that didn’t make the cut including Whitepalm Village, Icepalm Town, and Icepalm Village.

    How did you come up with Neil and Chan-iu?

    Neil and Chan-iu were developed as a pair in a rough “PMD pair” mold, with Chan-iu being the more experienced member of the duo and Neil the lesser. Chan-iu for a time was not going to be a Greninja but a Delphox, though his ultimate choice in species helped in settling on his name, which originates from a compound of two characters, meaning “to help”, “to support” and “ocean” respectively. Neil’s species was chosen to be one that could easily be outwardly ambiguous in age, and was named after Neil Armstrong. The theming around astronauts was always a constant when coming up with Neil’s name, with an unused beta being “Gagarin” from Yuri Gagarin, the name of the first man in space. As for why Neil was named after an astronaut, I shall leave that unanswered for now, though his interactions with Team Traveller this episode may help give some clues.

    How did you come up with Valan?

    Valan as a character was developed as someone who could fill Admiral Coil’s role and grow into a foil for Nagant as her character progresses down a different path in the second half of the story. Valan has always been envisioned as an arrogant and unintentionally off-putting character, which helped steer things fairly quickly towards casting him as a Salamence, which in canonical fluff has a tendency to be described as domineering and intimidating. Valan’s name was initially considered primarily for its sound, though its meaning happened to fit his character well due to it being a Scottish Gaelic name meaning “healthy” or “strong”. Other names that were considered for him but didn’t make the cut include Nerva and Sisu.

    How did you come up with Tegu and Melli?

    Tegu and Melli first appeared in this story as a pair of randoms on Nagant’s crew from Chapter 44 and Chapter 45 that were subsequently expanded to be cast as part of Casting Off and brought back in expanded form into Fledglings. During the process of being fleshed out for Casting Off, Virgil134 opted to give them a background of a duo of former pirates, playing off the fact that the Royal Navy consists of all kinds of Pokémon, something that was acknowledged in the first depiction of the Vasilek’s crew.

    During their expansion, the two had a pair dynamic developed for them built around how both Pokémon are of species where only the females can evolve, where the male of one would paired with the female of another. This contrast was further carried to their personalities as well, which is why Tegu continues to exhibit mannerisms not far removed from a pirate while Melli... doesn’t.

    Tegu’s name comes from a number of lizard species from the Teiidae family, whereas Melli’s name comes from Apis mellifera, which is the latin name for the European honey bee, both of which were settled in short order during the drafting of Casting Off Chapter 2, and as such there were no unused beta names for either.

    How did you come up with Clyde and Barrow?

    As those of you who also read Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light surely gathered, Clyde and Barrow are fairly transparent expies of Sneasel and Jangmo-o from Ambyssin’s story, down to their verbal tics. Their names derive from Clyde Barrow of the infamous Depression-era bandit duo Bonnie and Clyde, modeled after the same naming scheme used for Team Rocket in the anime.

    How did you come up with Niilo’s Mercenary Buddies?

    Niilo’s mercenary buddies are imported characters that were initially introduced in Casting Off, and were created to help flesh out Niilo’s backstory as a mercenary in the Empire’s ranks. The three owe their names to the different creatures and plants their species are based off of, Molina being named after a biologist who helped to classify camels taxonomically, Orcutt after a researcher of cacti, and Chalco after a lake in Mexico where axolotls natively live.

    What's the deal with Teleport Gems?

    Teleport Gems in Fledglings are loosely based on the Teleport Gems from PMD R/B that allow Pokémon to jump large distances to a fixed end point, which in the Cradle are usually locations within the Wastes. As of the moment, Teleport Gems are rare and hard-to-craft items that run off of unexplained wibbly-wobbly much like the canonical ones, though given the nature of the setting, it is almost certainly a product of the Distortion of Mystery Dungeons channeled by experienced Teleporters.

    What's Casting Off?

    You probably already gathered from the chapter listing, but Casting Off is a gaiden story focusing around Cabot’s early days in the Royal Navy. While it doesn’t connect directly with Fledglings, a number of characters and setting devices were initially debuted there, and it is by far worth the time to stop and give it a read to get a chance to see more of Cabot and his friend circle in a light that doesn’t come up as much in this story.

    How did you decide what characters to get art of?

    It was primarily a matter of my and Virgil134’s preferences, though we made a priority of getting portraits of members of Fledglings’ and Casting Off’s core casts. As you might have noticed, we wound up growing fond of @Chibi Pika ’s artstyle, and have been rewarded by quality service and output that we’d highly recommend for anyone looking for commissions from within the Serebii community.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2020
    Kindoflame and Chibi Pika like this.
  4. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    [​IMG]

    The main entrance of Haipheh's Mystery Dungeon was an ever-snowy forest clearing in front of a fog-shrouded cave mouth, which in normal times was empty outside of the occasional Pokémon venturing in. Today, the normal calm was disrupted by a soft chorus rising from a large crowd of Pokémon in indigo scarves that Nagant had marshalled, the dull chatter from the gathering occasionally punctuated by sharp, barking orders as she finished spelling out the last set of instructions for their pursuit after Pleo.

    "Double check every nook and cranny before moving on from your search area!" Nagant ordered. "Are there any questions?"

    "Nay!"

    "Good, then let's move out!" the Clawitzer shouted.

    Amid the crowd of murmuring and jostling underlings, Cabot fidgeted uncomfortably. This was it… they'd track Pleo down and then capture him, just like the Empire needed. But on the other claw, this was his friend, and after everything that had happened, how was he supposed to just fight him like some common pirate?

    "Cabot!"

    The Cranidos jolted up and whirled to his right, seeing the faces of Berecien and Niilo staring back at him. The Ponyta of the duo pawed at the ground, before letting out a hot, impatient snort.

    "Stop spacing out like that!" Berecien snapped. "It's time to go!"

    "Yeah, the Captain wants us to lead the others with her!" Niilo exclaimed.

    Cabot blanched at the thought of having to search for Pleo alongside Nagant, when success meant sprawling him out unconscious and dragging him away as a prisoner. The Cranidos wavered a moment, rationalizing that surely he could have a chance to explain things to Pleo afterwards if things came to that. He inhaled sharply to clear his mind, before exhaling and shaking his head to steel himself.

    "Right, here goes nothing…"

    Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo lined up behind Nagant and set off after her into the haze, not knowing that all the while a pair of olive-green eyes were watching from the brush. From his hiding place, Darzin watched Nagant and her party disappear, narrowing his eyes with particular venom at Niilo. The Dragonite watched as the four were followed by one group after the other, the whole procession prompting him to let out a loud snort in disgust.

    "Of all the Pokémon she'd go in with, of course she'd choose that useless sand rat and his friends," Darzin fumed.

    The Dragonite looked on as Nagant's underlings continued making their way into the fog, with a few particularly unremarkable members catching his eye. A Scorbunny, an Aipom, a Delibird… all mediocre Pokémon who Nagant found more urgent to bring along than him, a sight that served only to make Darzin's blood run hotter and his voice come out with a low seethe.

    "This is ludicrous! I'm easily the strongest Pokémon of this sorry lot! Why on earth would she just keep me loafing around town?!"

    Darzin thought back to how Nagant had left him out of the loop of Lugia's capture and transport to Giotto… then to how she'd shooed him off back at the naval base. Every thought made the Dragonite grit his teeth tighter and tighter, as it all seemed to reinforce a growing suspicion he'd had since being driven off at the docks…

    "Seems like she never planned to keep her end of the deal to begin with!" the Dragon-Type growled. "Well, let's see how that works for her when two play that game!"

    Darzin turned his attention back towards the Mystery Dungeon's entrance, waiting for the last groups to head in until all that remained were a Boltund and a Ludicolo keeping watch at the entrance. The Dragonite took to the air, arcing around in a feint to give the appearance of coming from further away when he swooped down for a landing, walking up as the pair of guards raised their brows skeptically at him.

    "Eh? Aren't you a bit late, buddy?" the Boltund asked.

    "Yeah, all the search groups already went in," the Ludicolo added.

    "Hardly," Darzin replied. "I'm here to take over the next shift."

    The Boltund and Ludicolo traded dubious looks with one another, before turning back to the Dragonite with sharp frowns.

    "We just started ours," the Boltund scoffed. "Why would we be switched out already?"

    "Yeah, and even if we're needed back in town right now, where's your partner?" the Ludicolo pressed. "You don't expect us to believe that the chief back in town couldn't spare more than one Pokémon to watch the entrance, do you?"

    "Look, we're all stretched thin thanks to that blasted Clawitzer pulling everyone off left and right looking for her 'pirates', so the captain of the guards is trying to put Pokémon where they're most needed," Darzin huffed. "Besides, do you really expect a Dragonite to be overwhelmed like a common Raticate by a couple pirates?"

    The two guards hesitated a moment, shifting uneasily as they traded wary glances with each other.

    "He's got a point there," the Boltund said, prompting her partner to shake his head back.

    "Egh… I mean if he wants to freeze his tail off getting cold air blown on him constantly, that's fine by me," the Ludicolo harrumphed. "I could personally go for a nice, warm cup of peh-chiú right about now."

    The Boltund and Ludicolo sauntered off, Darzin watching keenly after the pair until they slipped from view, leaving him to turn for the Mystery Dungeon's entrance with a low growl.

    "Time to end thi- Ah- Ah- ACHOO!"

    The Dragonite bowled over and sneezed, shivering a little from the frigid temperature before rubbing his snout and letting out a displeased grumble. The Administrator shook some snot off his claw before pacing ahead, slipping off into the fog after Nagant and her subordinates.




    Far from its appearance in the areas near Whitepalm Town, the far end of Haipheh was a verdant, tropical jungle sharing little with the icy village beyond the settlement's namesake trees. Just offshore, the crew of the Siglo Swellow gathered warily at the railing after the lookout announced the all-clear, leaving the lot to peer off into the island, including Crom who glanced around puzzledly at the unexpected heat.

    "Eh? The air feels so much warmer here," Crom murmured.

    "Well, the Pokémon here aren't making the air cold like in Whitepalm Town to stay comfortable," Pladur explained. "So things feel more normal here."

    Crom's jaw flopped open and his eyes scrunched in astonishment at his father's words. The cold, the snow, everything about the weather back in Whitepalm Town…

    "They made everything so miserable and awful in town to feel comfortable?!" the Druddigon exclaimed. "What on earth is wrong with them?!"

    A nearby Bergmite along with a few other sailors rolled their eyes at Crom's outcry, muttering about how he was overreacting. Further down the deck, Ander shook his head, before turning over to Kelly with an insistent look.

    "Kelly, are you able to give them a heads-up right now?" the Scyther asked.

    "It doesn't work like that, Ander," the Elgyem replied. "I can't tell them much of anything until they press their badges."

    A few of the sailors traded nervous whispers and glances among each other. They'd risked their hides sailing back to Haipheh and now all they could do was sit and wait to find out if Pleo and the others were still safe? The revelation made Guardia pause for a moment and rub at her chin, before having a moment of realization.

    "Actually, maybe we should just wait for them to contact us first," the Cubone suggested. "It'd certainly beat having to try and comb an island full of enemies looking for them."

    "Eh?! We just got chased away from here by Imperial ships a few hours ago!" a Golduck protested. "That garrison on the other end of the island didn't exactly vanish while we were gone!"

    "Yeah, if we just sit around on deck with our sails up, we'll get discovered!" a Trumbeak cried. The Flying-Type's protest drew murmurs of agreement from some nearby sailors, as Vicente shuffled to the fore with a glum shake of his head.

    "They have a point… we don't even know if Pleo and the others can call for Kelly right now," Vicente sighed. "What if they need to lie low? Or if their badges got lost or taken? How long are we supposed to just sit here in the open waiting for some word from them?"

    Team Traveller's members stared back at a loss when Dimitri spotted a few passing bubbles passing overhead. The Kabutops sidled over to the starboard side of the ship, following the course of the bubbles back towards land where he spotted a small stream of bubbles being blown along the wind from Haipheh's direction.

    "… Maybe we don't need to," Dimitri insisted. "When I finally made it to the sea, I left from a beach with a colony of feral Krabby that blew bubbles out at sea. I'm pretty sure that's the beach there, so it'd just be a matter of me retracing my steps back to the house with a few others. Once we find it, we could let them know that Kelly is in range and can get them out of there."

    "It sounds like a good place to start," Nida said. "I'll come along to help look."

    "Yeah, same here!" Crom piped. "Those are our friends out there!"

    Beatrix watched as Crom nodded back determinedly, Ander, Guardia, and Pladur pacing up beside him. The Illumise sized up the waiting party with a raise of her brow and a skeptical buzz.

    "Are you all sure about this?" Beatrix asked. "Especially you, Pladur. This is the first you've been off the ship in a small group since your fight in Tidemill."

    "I think I'll be fine?" the Fraxure insisted. "Besides, you can't expect me to send my son off in harm's way without at least trying to look out for him."

    The Fraxure's insistence drew a flustered beat of Crom's wings, as Nida pawed at the timbers before looking back up at Beatrix.

    "I suppose all that's left is for us to figure out a way for the ship to not get spotted while we're out," Nida said. "I don't think it'd take us that long to find Pleo, but you never know with all the Imperials swarming this island."

    Beatrix ran a tarsal under her chin as she weighed the Poison-Type's request a moment, before shaking her head back with a sigh.

    "… We'll try to disguise ourselves as a derelict, but be on your guard," the Illumise captain warned. "It's not exactly a robust disguise, and if we need to get going, we won't be in a position to wait for you to escape."

    "We'll send a message out to Kelly every ten minutes," Pladur offered. "That ought to be enough to check up on you guys, right?"

    "It'll have to do," Vicente sighed. "Good luck out there. We'll be rooting for you."

    The lot nodded back and made their way for the railing, waiting for Dimitri to reach the water before Nida, Crom, Pladur, and Guardia clambered aboard. After all taking their places, the Kabutops swam ahead and Ander took flight after him, heading off for the beach further off in the distance and onwards in search of their friends deeper within.




    Back in the manor where Orleigh's Council met, Hess' return had gone by in a blur as he was drug through the corridors bound and struggling by Dirk's Conkeldurr messenger all the way up to the entrance of the Council's chamber. The Fighting-Type was let in by a Perrserker in Dirk's colors and a Raticate in Tarquin's posted at the doors, before shoving Hess forward towards the Council's table. The messenger turned and took his leave as Hess looked up to see the Council's seats empty, only for Dirk and Tarquin to enter through the opened doors behind him and Ingela to swim in from the waterside entrance. The Perrserker and Raticate slammed the doors shut, before the Dirk and his fellows made their way to their seats about the table with piercing glares at their Aggron captive.

    "You've returned sooner than I thought, Hess," Dirk glowered. "Though I was expecting you to have company when you came back here."

    Hess squirmed and inched away, shrinking from the Council members' withering glares before stammering back a reply.

    "I- I- mean I didn't get a chance to bring anyone along with me if th-that's what you meant," the Aggron squeaked back.

    "Don't play dumb, Aggron," Tarquin growled. "You were supposed to come back here once you'd gotten that Protector. Where is he?"

    Hess froze and blanched for a moment before letting out an audible gulp, the Aggron pulling his tail tight against his body and stammering back a reply.

    "S-Still flying around?"

    The Steel-Type watched as the three Council members' faces somehow managed to become even more livid than they had been when he was brought in. The lot got up from their seats with a trio of low growls, making Hess' eyes widen as he hastily attempted to calm his furious captors.

    "W-Wait! I know this looks bad, but I can explain!" he insisted. "I had followed him out to Pioppo, when- ARGH!"

    Hess yelped as Ingela spat up a stream of hot bubbles at his underbelly that sent him bowling over to the ground coughing. Ingela shook her head and turned towards Dirk, letting out a disgusted scoff as Hess slowly tried to right himself.

    "I've heard enough from that useless rock lump, Dirk," the Primarina snapped. "Do you need anything else from him?"

    Dirk stepped forward, raising his right blades as he let light glint along its edge, and raised his voice back in a low growl.

    "No."

    The Bisharp stormed over towards Hess, the Aggron yelping and desperately attempting to crawl away. Hess squealed as he felt Dirk stomp on his tail, looking up to see Dirk lifting his right blade up into the air, and screwing his eyes shut out of fright as he braced for the Bisharp's killing blow.

    "Hey! Who the hell are- AUGH!"

    An agonized screech rang out from behind the doors, making Dirk pause as he stopped his blade and looked up. The sound of shouts and blows landing came from the hallway, prompting Ingela and Tarquin to make their way over and brace themselves as they neared the doors.

    "What on earth?" Ingela murmured.

    The doors abruptly burst open as the Perrserker guard tumbled in, stopping facedown and groaning on the rug at the entrance. There in the doorway, the form of a Samurott with both seamitars drawn could be seen, along with a number of pirates sprawled out all throughout the hallway behind him. Dirk and his colleagues grit their teeth, as the unwelcome intruder entered, stepping over the fallen Perrserker before leveling a sharp glare at the Bisharp.

    "I see your manor gives a warm welcome, Captain Dirk," Lyn said. "But I must interrupt you a moment before you behead my associate there."

    Dirk and Ingela shot incredulous scowls back at Lyn, as Tarquin paused before narrowing his eyes and flashing his teeth with a low, livid growl.

    "You! Dirk, set aside that joker for a minute!" the Tyrantrum seethed. "I've got history with that sea rat over there!"

    Dirk hissed and kicked aside a still-quivering Hess with a sharp yelp, giving a snarl down at the bewildered Aggron.

    "I'll deal with you later."

    The three Council members drew near Lyn with their bodies tensed and prepared for a lunging attack. All the while, Lyn seemed strangely unmoved, giving a flash of his seamitars back at the pirates before suddenly sheathing his right blade. Dirk, Tarquin, and Ingela watched puzzledly as the Samurott fetched a scope from his satchel, before holding it out with a sharp scowl.

    "Before we air out our differences here, do me a favor, would you?" Lyn asked. "Look out at the harbor towards the horizon. Tell me what you see."

    Dirk paused a moment, before snatching the scope and heading over to the window and raising it to his eye. The Bisharp peered through the spyglass, where he caught the sight of a lavender-sailed galleon with cannons trained at them and Pokémon loading up a catapult on the deck with barrels sporting rope fuses. Dirk lowered the scope, before passing it off to Ingela and Tarquin which similarly took the pair aback, the lot turning over to Lyn as Tarquin grit his teeth and let out a low growl from the back of his throat.

    "You're a long way from home…" the Tyrantrum snarled. "Commissioner Lyn."

    The Samurott narrowed his eyes, before undoing the white and blue scarf about his neck and balling it up, revealing the familiar interlocking squares of a Third-Rank Company scarf. Lyn let the decoy scarf fall to the ground, keeping his left seamitar drawn and body tensed for battle as a small smirk crept over his muzzle.

    "Well, I suppose there's no point in keeping up pretenses, now is there?"

    "You presume much to think that you can just come here, square-neck," Ingela chided. "Ship or not, you can't expect yourself to leave this place unscathed."

    "I would hope that you'd be more cautious in dealing with emissary from the Board," Lyn scoffed. "They don't take being slighted lightly."

    "Neither do we, Samurott," Dirk shot back. "So what do they want that's important enough to put your neck on the line like this?"

    "I'm here to make an offer," Lyn said, before turning to point the blade in his left paw off at a still-shaken Hess. "But before I can discuss any details, I need my partner over there freed."

    Dirk narrowed his eyes in a sharp glare, before grudgingly heading over to Hess' still-quivering body and slicing the bindings about his arms. The Aggron gasped for air before running for a corner and pulling his tail in tight against his body, leaving Dirk and his colleagues to scowl in disgust a moment before turning back to Lyn.

    "So what is this offer?" Dirk demanded. "And be aware that I don't have a lot of patience for games right now."

    Lyn turned his head, spinning his left seamitar about his knuckles before grabbing it and giving a stern, sidelong glance back at the Bisharp.

    "The Board's become aware that you all have been pursuing a Protector that has recently awakened," the Samurott replied. "It's only natural that they'd eventually respond to it."

    "Hrmph, the lot of us have been regrouping after an incident that happened a little over a week ago," Ingela spat. "We haven't exactly been out and about lately."

    Lyn curled his muzzle into a frown, before turning over to Hess' corner where the Aggron continued to quiver and cower.

    "Which is why you sent a proxy on your behalf."

    Lyn began to pace about the room with his left seamitar still drawn, idly moving back and forth as Dirk and the other pirates keenly eyed him.

    "I suppose it was somewhat clever. Have a patsy go out and do your dirty work for you, and you'd have a Protector in your claws while we wasted our time sending him to the bottom of the sea," the Samurott continued. "Though not clever enough to foresee that there'd naturally be consequences that would come to this island regardless."

    The three Council members shot withering glares over at Hess, making the Aggron squirm and shrink back at their palpable displeasure. After a moment, Dirk shook his head and turned back to Lyn with an audible scoff.

    "You could say I'm a bit of a gambler, and I know when I have a high hand to work with," the Bisharp snarled. "If that's all that you have to say on behalf of your paymasters, I'll get back to carving up your hide right now."

    "Hrmph, ever so eager to get to the point," Lyn said. "The Director and his Administrators are interested in forming an alliance. They're aware of the colors of the ship that the Protector is using for safe passage and need a crew from here to fly those colors as it goes about its normal business pillaging and raiding all the safe harbors the Protector could seek out. If and when the Protector comes into trouble with one of them, you all would then step up and capture him on our behalf."

    Hess stepped forward before the Council's members, puffing his chest out and nervously forcing a grin over his face.

    "Th-That's where I come in!" the Aggron explained. "I've got their sails and everything, so I'd just be sailing around and raiding while using them!"

    Dirk, Ingela, and Tarquin looked over at Hess, and then back at Lyn, their features hardening into increasingly displeased frowns.

    "Hrmph, and just what is in this for us?" Dirk demanded.

    Lyn passed over an envelope with a lavender wax seal, which the Bisharp took into his claws. The Dark-Type set it on the table and undid the seal, as he and his fellow Council members took out a sheet of paper. The three set the paper down on the table, their eyes darting back and forth reading it before screwing their brows up in puzzlement, as they realized it to be a contract to enjoin Orleigh with the Company.

    "The Board is prepared to give you amnesty for your past crimes and bring you into its fold," Lyn explained. "Orleigh will need an Administrator, along with some Third-Ranks serving under him. Who better to turn to than locals familiar with how things work?"

    Tarquin flashed his teeth with a sharp growl, giving the ground a heavy stomp as he straightened out his body and narrowed his eyes at Lyn.

    "Keep your stinking position!" the Tyrantrum snarled. "Don't think I haven't seen how things work in your ranks! I'll storm your headquarters myself before I go back to that!"

    Lyn frowned back at the Dragon-Type's threat, before moving the tip of his blade towards the bottom of the paper.

    "There's an alternative offer spelled out in the fine print," Lyn harrumphed. "Perhaps that would be of more interest to you."

    Dirk, Ingela, and Tarquin directed their attention back down at the paper towards a set of lines of small runes near the bottom. The three's eyes followed along the lines of text before Dirk raised a brow, and turned back towards the Company commissioner with a skeptical gaze.

    "'Privateer for the Company'?" he asked.

    "It's not a route I would choose, but it's certainly an option," Lyn said. "The Board will see to it that you're well-equipped, and that your recruits remain in the clear so long as they operate as privateers are expected to."

    A distant crash rang out, prompting the gathered Pokémon to turn and look out the window as a fiery burst flashed in the distance and kicked up a column of dust and smoke. Lyn shook his head with a disgusted sigh, before turning his attention back to the pirate captains.

    "If you took the ranks you were offered, you'd obviously need more Pokémon as subordinates. If you didn't… well, I seem to recall that a pirate's prestige is measured in the number of ships that answer to him," he explained. "I don't think any of you would have a problem getting new ones, nor a shortage of recruits looking for the protection of your newfound influence."

    Dirk and his colleagues traded wary glances with each other as the Samurott's words lingered in their mind. As distasteful as the idea was, joining ranks with the Company meant getting access to their ranks of peons. And it was no secret that strength attracted talent in Orleigh, which even the Company merely placing their protection over them as privateers would boost in spades. When all was said and done in such a scenario, it would easily leave each and every one of them with a fleet on par with the one Beatrice the Swift led in her heyday. The three pirates murmured among one another, before Dirk turned back to Lyn with a low grunt.

    "You drive a hard bargain, Samurott," the Bisharp said. "But we've thought it over, and-"

    "There is one last condition," Lyn interrupted, the Samurott raising his seamitar and pointing off at Sibich's old seat.

    "I noticed you have a vacant space in your ranks right now," he remarked. "The chaos it's currently bringing to this island would make our arrangement unworkable. So as part of sealing our agreement, I want to choose someone to fill it."

    As soon as the words left Lyn's mouth, a sharp growl came from Tarquin's throat as the Tyrantrum rolled his eyes at the Commissioner's demand.

    "Tch, so you're going to have one of Inler's tail kissers fill the seat?" the Tyrantrum harrumphed. "What on earth would one of them know about piracy?"

    "More than you think, Commander Tarquin," Lyn shot back. "But I was thinking of someone you all would be more familiar with…"

    The Samurott turned his head over to Hess, who straightened himself out and gave a sheepish wave of his claw back. After a moment's pause, the three Council members hardened their eyes into fierce scowls, Ingela giving an angry slap of her tail against the stone floor..

    "No. Absolutely not!" the Primarina barked. "This is the Council, we have standards!"

    "He was good enough for you to send after the Protector," Lyn scoffed. "Surely he'd be good enough for you to work with directly."

    "And if we refuse?" Dirk demanded, prompting Lyn to narrow his eyes back with a harsh glare.

    "Then the Board's offer will be withdrawn," the Commissioner replied. "I can't say what the Director will do if it gets rejected, but don't expect things to remain comfortable here."

    The three pirates paused and lingered a moment, when Dirk walked over to a small inkwell next to a pad and dipped his claw in it before giving a stiff jab at the bottom of the paper. Ingela went up to the paper next, dusting a flipper in charcoal before pressing it next to Dirk's signature, leaving Tarquin to linger a bit before handing back Lyn's scope and following suit with a grumbling snarl.

    "We're in," Dirk grunted. "Now leave and sail off back to your hiding hole."

    "Very well," Lyn said. "I'm sure that Hess can handle giving a debriefing in my absence. I'll leave him some instructions for you all to review."

    The Samurott made his way over to Hess and shoved a sealed envelope into the Aggron's claws. Hess looked down at the envelope as Lyn carried on for the shattered doorway, turning back with a stern gaze back at the Steel-Type.

    "I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again very soon."

    Lyn carried along, slipping off down the hall as the remaining pirates watched through the broken doors. After the Samurott disappeared from view and his footsteps faded from their ears, Dirk and his companions were interrupted by the sound of Hess clearing his throat, the Steel-Type forcing a large, overeager smile over his maw as he approached them.

    "S-So I'm one of you now! Heh heh!" the Aggron cheered. "So… I should just go ahead and take Sibich's old sea-"

    "We're not talking about anything with you until you do something about this mess you made first," Dirk snapped, snatching Lyn's envelope from the Aggron's claws.

    Hess recoiled from the Bisharp's snarl and harsh demeanor, giving a confused blink at the Dark-Type's demand.

    "Mess I made?" he asked. "What do you-?"

    "Let's see here, there's the doors that were kicked in, there's the saltwater that Samurott tracked in, there's the 'mon lying in the middle of the room passed out bleeding and drooling on the rug…" Ingela said.

    A few scattered groans came from the hallway, prompting Hess to look and see the Perrserker still slumped over in front of the doorway, along with the weakly stirring forms of pirates strewn about beyond it.

    "Oh, and there's all the others your friend hacked his way through on the way up here," the Primarina added, prompting Hess to whirl and look around before turning back with a whining tone.

    "H-Huh?!" Hess protested. "But I didn't cause any of-"

    "I don't care, you fat dunce!" Ingela seethed. "I want it taken care of!"

    "Meep! Okay! Okay!"

    Hess hastily darted off and slung the fallen Perrserker off the carpet, hurrying out the door when a sharp yelp and whine about a stomped tail came from the hallway. Ingela threw a flipper over her face with a sharp sigh, as Tarquin frowned, shooting a wary, sidelong glance over at Dirk.

    "Is this really it?" the Tyrantrum asked. "We're just giving into those square necks and doing their bidding?"

    Dirk paused a moment, before looking back at Tarquin with a stern frown. The Tyrantrum wavered a moment, before Dirk flicked one of his blades with a dismissive scoff.

    "I don't see any reason to change our original plans, even if we can't use that buffoon as cover like we hoped," the Bisharp said, before shooting his fellow pirates a knowing smile.

    "Though until we actually have that bird, there's no reason not to play along to get some heat off our backs."




    In the tropical interior of Haipheh Island, the faint rustling of bushes rang out as the head of a Kabutops poked out and looked around. Dimitri stepped out of the bushes before the forms of a young Druddigon, a Nidorina, a Cubone, a Fraxure, and a Marked Scyther emerged and broke cover onto the path for Neil and Chan-iu's cottage. The lot followed the crab's lead as Crom glanced about warily before giving a tense prod at Dimitri's shoulder.

    "Do you think anyone's spotted us?" the Druddigon whispered.

    "I haven't noticed anything since we hit the beach," Dimitri answered. "Just keep it down and stay on your guard. We should be getting clo-"

    "Quit your excuses already! I don't see a single bruise on either of your bodies, so where'd that bird and the others run off to?!"

    The six tensed up and snuck back into the brush, creeping along as Neil and Chan-iu's house came into view. The group hesitated a moment, before Nida continued ahead towards the sound of a heated argument.

    "That can't be good."

    Nida and her companions peered out of the brush, spotting a Rhyhorn and a Greninja in front of the cottage staring down the visibly battered forms of a Cacturne, Marshtomp, and Camerupt in imperial garb glaring daggers back at them. Neil dug his feet in, tensing his body as he shot back at the three with a sharp huff.

    "Look, we just don't know, alright?" the Rhyhorn insisted. "They took off and ran into the bushes by the time we came out to see what was happening."

    "If we had sensed something was wrong with them while they were here, I guarantee you we'd have told you about it," Chan-iu added.

    The pair's reply drew a heavy stomp from Molina, who snorted embers from her nostrils before turning to her Cacturne teammate.

    "Orcutt, how much more of this garbage do we need to take before I can light these jokers' shack up?" the Camerupt growled, prompting Orcutt to glare daggers at the Greninja and the Rhyhorn.

    "Not much more at this rate," he spat, making Chan-iu fold his arms back in irritation.

    "Look, we've told you all that we know, alright?" the Greninja snapped. "And if you think I'm just going to sit back while a bunch of sellclaws threaten to trash our base, you've got another thing coming!"

    "Oh yeah, tough guy?" Chalco hissed. "What do you think you can do to u- Nngh!"

    The Marshtomp flinched and instinctively reached for a gash on her left side, looking back at Neil and Chan-iu with a tense grimace. Molina and Orcutt paused a moment, looking at their stricken friend, before turning back towards Neil and Chan-iu while the Rhyhorn of the pair shook his head.

    "Look, even if you three really don't believe us, you aren't in any condition to keep fighting right now," Neil insisted. "You were out cold long enough that our guests could be on the other side of the island by now if they really wanted it."

    "So go back to base and lick your wounds a bit instead of trying this tough guy act on us!" Chan-iu growled.

    The three mercenaries fell silent, Molina and Chalco grudgingly turning away and starting to head off as Orcutt remained in place, narrowing his eyes as he held out a spiny arm at the two Pokémon.

    "This isn't over, Greninja," the Cacturne glowered. "You can try pleading your innocence to the Captain of the Guards and see how much he buys your story!"

    Team Traveller's members watched as Orcutt turned and drifted off after his teammates, the six holding their breaths as the mercenaries passed and headed down the path. The party waited for their footsteps to fade from their ears, pausing a moment to exhale before stepping out of the brush. Neil and Chan-iu straightened up with a start, prompting Dimitri to raise a scythe and give a reassuring wave back at the pair.

    "I suppose that I ought to apologize for being late on my errand," the Kabutops said. "But I can see you've got other things to worry about."

    Neil and Chan-iu traded worried looks with one another, the Greninja of the duo pawing at his shoulder as he forced a determined look over his eyes.

    "Eh, we'll manage," he said. "I've built up some goodwill at the Guild, and I think it'll count for a bit more than the words of some hired phái-tô͘."

    "I suppose…" Nida said. "Though what exactly happened to Pleo and the others?"

    "Well, as you can see, they ran into a bit of trouble and had to take off in a hurry," Neil explained. "I assume that they made their way for that back entrance to the Mystery Dungeon I told Dimitri about."

    "Right," Dimitri answered. "Thanks for that, we'll go and look for them right away-"

    "Actually, hold on, Dimitri," Neil interrupted.

    The Rhyhorn hurried inside before returning with a set of goggles in his mouth. He passed them over to Crom who he peered down puzzledly at the peculiar trinket.

    "Huh?" Crom asked. "What's this for?"

    "Well, Pleo seemed to have an eye for it while he was here," Neil murmured. "And I don't think he'll be seeing me again anytime soon."

    Ander blinked and examined the set of goggles fashioned from materials that he couldn't recognize. The lenses clack with unnatural quiet when tapped versus the expected glass, and the article's soft and hard parts were seemingly melded together without any seams or stitching. The Scyther looked down puzzledly at the Rhyhorn, wondering how any Pokémon could have fashioned such a thing.

    "What exactly is this thing made of anyways?" Ander asked.

    "Some materials that are hard to come by around here," Neil replied. "Consider it a token of encouragement from one 'mon that doesn't quite fit in normally with this world to another."

    Team Traveller's members blinked back puzzledly at the Rhyhorn's comment, before opting not to pry further into the matter with Pleo and their teammates' fates on the line. One after the other, the six began to shuffle off, with Nida slowing her pace a moment to look back towards Neil and his partner.

    "Thanks for everything," Nida said. "And good luck."

    "The same to you!" Neil exclaimed.

    Nida and her companions set off, hurrying further inland as Neil and Chan-iu watched after them. As the lot slipped from his field of view, Neil lowered his head, giving a quiet murmur after his abruptly departed guests.

    "I know there's a lot of Pokémon in this world counting on your friend…"




    (Continued in next post.)
     
  5. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    About half an hour after moving on from Neil and Chan-iu's house, Team Traveller found themselves brushing past trees and bushes towards a frozen waterfall deeper in the interior of the island. The air had taken on a sharp chill, with the sight of dungeon fog poking out from the sides of the falls evidencing that they were one and the same as the one the Rhyhorn and Greninja had spoken of.

    "Looks like we're getting close to that entrance," Dimitri said.

    "Uhm… Dimitri," Pladur gulped. "Are you sure that this is a safe approach?"

    "As safe as we can hope for," the Kabutops insisted. "It's supposed to be an entrance that not many Pokémon know about, so if there's one place the guards would overlook-"

    "There's no question about it, the Protector came through here," a buzzing voice said. "Fan out and take positions around the perimeter."

    Team Traveller's members blanched and stilled their breaths, as Nida nosed ahead and peered through the bushes. There, over at the iced-over waterfall was a Beedrill wearing an Imperial scarf with a twinleaf design, standing at the head of a party of seven. A Salandit and Vespiquen… a Sneasel and Jangmo-o… a Darmanitan and Poliwrath… Why, even the same Pidgeotto who'd tried to carry off Elty on Orleigh was here! The lot hesitated and grimaced, as it became apparent that they weren't just going to be walking into the sleepy secret entrance Neil had described.

    "Looks like we've gotten beaten to the punch," Nida murmured.

    "Uh… we do have a way of getting around them, right?" Guardia asked. "Not that I'm one to shy away from a fight, but the numbers aren't exactly in our favor. Especially with that big hachi leading them."

    The rest of the group fell silent, each struggling to offer even the seed of a solution that wouldn't end in obvious failure. As the lot quietly hemmed and hawed, Crom's mind turned to his bag, prompting him to set it down and open the flap to paw through it.

    "I think some of the seeds and orbs with us ought to help…" Crom mused. "But let's double-check."

    The Druddigon began to fish through the satchel, pulling out a Pecha Berry, and then fumbling with a Petrify Orb in his claws. The Dragon-Type started to reach in afterwards, prompting Nida to walk up and look into the bag herself. There, she saw an assortment of items jumbled about where the Petrify Orb had laid, the familiar orange-scaled form of a Blast Seed catching her eye among them.

    "Well, what if we distracted them?" Nida suggested.

    The Nidorina stuck her paw in, picking up the Blast Seed before giving it a gentle toss up and down.

    "Surely a loud sound would get them up to go and investigate," she explained. "This Blast Seed would easily pull that off!"

    Nida's companions murmured in approval regarding the idea. It was a simple enough plan, and all it required was a single seed and some patience. Ander paused and hesitated a moment, before giving a wary glance over to the Poison-Type.

    "I think it can work. Just… be careful alright?" the Scyther insisted. "If someone overhears us or sniffs us out, we really will have to fight our way through."

    Nida nodded back to Ander before creeping along through the bushes towards the path away from the falls. The Nidorina paused and flared her ears, looking back off at the entrance to make sure that Jun and the other guards weren't paying particular attention. After seeing Jun turn his head to prattle for a moment, Nida reared up and flung the Blast Seed forward, sending it flying in an upward arc before it hit the ground and detonated with a fiery burst. Back at the dungeon entrance, Jun and the other Imperials whirled around in alarm, catching the sight of a cloud of dust and smoke curling up from the seed's charred point of impact.

    "What was that?!" the Poliwrath exclaimed.

    "Sounded like someone attacking!" the Darmanitan shouted.

    Jun stiffened up, crossing his stingers defensively as he scanned his surroundings, lingering for a silent moment before bringing them back to his side.

    "It's rather quiet if that's the case," the Beedrill buzzed. "Surely there'd be more than a single attack…"

    The Bug-Type turned and pointed one of his drills over to the Pidgeotto, the Darmanitan, and the Poliwrath of the group, giving a sharp buzz as he motioned them along.

    "You three, go and check it out," he ordered. "We'll keep up the entrance secured."

    "Aye aye," the Pidgeotto replied.

    The three moved out, leaving Jun to linger behind with the others by the dungeon entrance. From their hiding place, Team Traveller's members stared off at the entrance and grimaced out of realization that their gambit had fallen short.

    "Gih! That worked on less than half of them!" Pladur cried. The gathered Pokémon traded blanching looks, as Guardia prodded uneasily at Nida's shoulder with her bone.

    "What do we do now?"

    Nida raised her voice to speak, only to catch herself when she realized that she didn't have any good ideas of how they'd even start to get out of their predicament. As the Nidorina wrestled with her thoughts, Dimitri paused and thought back to the items in Crom's bag they took out earlier, the Kabutops turning and pointing off at the Druddigon's bag with a scythe.

    "We still have that Petrify Orb, don't we?" Dimitri asked. "Why don't we just throw it at the stragglers? Even if they see us, they wouldn't be able to do anything to stop us."

    "B-But they'll alert the others!" Pladur protested. "And all it takes is a stiff shove to undo the effects of a Petrify Orb!"

    "Well, we'd have a head start getting through the fog and the others would have to stop and help their friends, wouldn't they?" the Kabutops insisted. "It might be a tight escape, but it ought to at least throw them off our trail."

    Dimitri's teammates looked at the group surrounding the Blast Seed's landing spot, before turning back towards Jun and his remaining underlings. With how close they were to the fog, they'd surely beat the other Imperials into the dungeon. It was a dicey proposition, but with the alternative being to try and fight their way past the entire group…

    "I don't think we've got many options at this point," Ander said. "Come on, let's hurry."

    Team Traveller's members crept along, nearing the frozen waterfall where Jun and his remaining underlings continued to guard the dungeon entrance. The six crouched and took cover behind bushes and tree trunks as they peered ahead, where they saw the Jangmo-o of the group doing his best to press up firmly against Tegu's flank, much to his frowning displeasure.

    "Come on, Barrow, give a 'mon some space already," the Salandit sighed.

    "But I can't feel my tootsies right now!" the Jangmo-o whined.

    "Oh, stop complaining already!" Clyde snapped. "This place feels fine."

    The group paused and held their breaths, Nida lowering her ears before turning to Crom with a hushed whisper.

    "Ready?" she asked.

    "Yeah," the Druddigon replied. "I've got this."

    Crom crouched and clung tightly to the Petrify Orb, peering off at Jun and the other Imperials at the entrance. The Druddigon braced himself, creeping ahead to try and get a clear path for an arcing throw when…

    Crack!

    Team Traveller's eyes shot wide in horror as the sound of splitting wood rang out, prompting Crom to look down and realize he had accidentally stepped on a branch. Near the waterfall, Jun had whirled around with a sharp jolt and raised his stingers ready for battle.

    "Someone's here!" the Beedrill buzzed. "Over there behind those bushes!"

    "Ack! Hurry up and throw, Crom!" Guardia yelped.

    Crom popped out of the bush and hurled the Petrify Orb forward. Jun hastily flew back and shot forth a spray of flechette-like pins, shattering the orb in midair as sparks danced inertly in front of him and his party. After flinching a moment, Tegu, Melli, and the others braced themselves for battle, as Jun turned his head to call off to his other subordinates further down the lane to sound the alarm.

    "Everyone back to the entrance!" he shouted. "The Protector's friends are here!"

    The Beedrill refocused on Crom before lunging at him with an X-Scissor, only for a hail of rocks to zip in as Dimitri charged out, brushing the Bug-Type aside and clipping Clyde in the face, leaving him cradling his nose.

    "Yeow!"

    Tegu, Melli, and Barrow were further behind, Melli flitting back at the last second as some of the rocks passed by them while her partners ducked against the ground. As Team Traveller's other members darted out, Barrow shot a quick glance over at his Sneasel partner with a startled yelp.

    "Clyde's been hit!" the Jangmo-o cried, before turning to Team Traveller with a glare. "You meanies!"

    Tegu instinctively rifled through the satchel on his back, pulling out a wand with a glassy knob filled with red bubbles. At once, the Salandit sprang back onto his feet and readied the wand with a devious smile.

    "Let's give them something to remember, then!"

    Tegu swung his wand, shattering its outer layer and sending a spray of bubbles at Dimitri that broke along his shell. The Kabutops looked down unimpressedly at the leftover residue when a sharp buzz rang out, prompting him to hastily throw the flat of his right scythe up to block an incoming jab from one of Jun's stingers. Meanwhile the Pidgeotto, Darmanitan, and Poliwrath rushed in from further down the path, when the Pidgeotto among them noticed Pladur was beginning a whirling dance with fiery blue lights surrounding him.

    "Over there!" the Pidgeotto exclaimed. "Don't let that Fraxure finish his Dragon Dance!"

    "You'll have to get past me first!"

    The Pidgeotto and his fellows diverted their attention to see Ander jumping out with his blades drawn to cover Pladur. Further behind, Guardia looked on at the dancing Fraxure when an idea came to her mind, prompting her to turn over her shoulder towards her Nidorina teammate.

    "Nida! Cover me a moment!" Guardia shouted. "I'm going to follow Pladur's lead!"

    The Cubone swung out her bone, entering the frenzied rhythms of a Swords Dance when Barrow spotted her preparations, prompting him to charge ahead readying a Dragon Tail.

    "Oh no you don't- Owie!"

    Nida cut in with a sharp jab from a poison-slicked paw, sending Barrow tumbling off his feet. Crom ran in with his claws drawn to try and pounce on the Jangmo-o, when from the corner of his eye he spotted Melli forming translucent blue hexagonal barriers about her body, making him call out to his teammates in alarm.

    "Eh?! That Vespiquen's doing something to protect herself!"

    Crom dug his feet in, readying a bluish ball of dragonfire in his mouth when a spray of icy flechettes struck his flank. The Druddigon recoiled as his budding Dragon Rage abruptly dissipated into a spray of stray flickers, leaving him rubbing against his stinging and sore hide.

    "Kweh heh heh! A little stray frost is all it takes to shut your attacks down?" a Sneasel's voice jeered. "And here I thought dragons were supposed to be tough!"

    Crom brushed the ice off his scales and looked over to his right where he saw Clyde sneering back at him with his tongue stuck out. The young Druddigon flashed his claws, flaring his wings as he let out an angry growl back at his opponent.

    "Let's see you try that a second time!" Crom snapped.

    The Druddigon sprang forward and swiped with his claws at the Sneasel, only for him to move out of the way and leave him swinging at empty air. Crom snorted out of annoyance and swung at him again, only for Clyde to evade his grasp by hairs and fling another spray of icy flechettes back. The Druddigon jumped back from Clyde's Ice Shard with a frustrated growl, watching his foe keenly for an opening when a sharp crack rang out and he saw an approaching stream of red bubbles from the corner of his eye.

    "Huh?!"

    Crom flinched and vainly tried to shield himself as the bubbles settled on his body and popped inertly. The Dragon-Type looked on puzzledly over the seeming lack of effect as Tegu threw aside the used-up wand, leaving Crom to blink in confusion before Clyde darted up, readying his claws for a running slash.

    "Kweh heh heh! Now you'll be even slower and more useless than-"

    The Sneasel was cut off mid-sentence by a punch trailing orange flecks of light that drove deep into his gut, sending him flying off his feet and crashing to the ground limply with a weak groan. From the side, Barrow turned back from following Melli into a strafing run at Nida, looking over wide-eyed as his jaw flopped open in shock.

    "A-Aah! Cly- AUGH!"

    The Jangmo-o was interrupted by Guardia charging in freshly invigorated from her Swords Dance and striking the side of his face with her bone. Barrow let out a pained shriek, before crumpling to the ground unconscious as his assailant brought her club back to her side with a shake of her head.

    "Hrmph, somehow I was expecting more from you," she piped.

    The Cubone's self-satisfaction was cut short by the sound of a loud buzz, prompting her to turn and see Nida jumping back as Melli shot a glowing red beam from her forehead's jewel and just barely missed her. Guardia rushed in to intervene and swung her club at the Vespiquen, only for her to weave around it and fly up out of the Cubone's reach, leaving her stomping the ground in frustration.

    "Gah! Get down here and fight!" the Ground-Type fumed.

    "No way! You'll just hit me!"

    Melli beat her wings and shot forth a cutting gust of air, which struck Guardia in her chest and sent her rolling back along the ground. The Ground-Type righted herself, pulling her helmet low against her head and gritting her teeth back at the Bug-Type.

    "You're not the only one who can play that game, you know!"

    Guardia threw her bone ahead in a whirling arc, only for the Vespiquen to blow it away with her wings. Guardia's determined expression quickly melted into wide-eyed alarm as she watched her club sail off, veering far to the left and well outside the returning arc she was expecting.

    "Gih!"

    The Cubone hastily gave chase after her bone, prompting Nida to bound ahead and try to harry the Vespiquen, when a jeer from her side reached her ears.

    "Hey Nidorina, heads up!"

    Nida turned as a purplish mist blew into her face, prompting her to recoil and stumble back when she saw Tegu looking at her. The Nidorina coughed and saw droplets from the poisoned haze lingering on her fur, before flicking it away and shooting an unimpressed scowl at the Salandit.

    "Seriously? Toxic?" she scoffed. "Who on earth taught you to fight?"

    The Salandit remained unfazed at the Nidorina's question, a knowing smirk spreading over his face before he shot back a taunting reply.

    "I should be asking you that question, spike ball."

    Nida flicked her ears and prepared to lunge at her Salandit attacker when she suddenly felt a chill run down her body and felt a flash of pain ebb over her body.

    "A-Ah!"

    "I guess your guild didn't teach you that my poison works even on other Poison-Types," Tegu sneered. "It's basic knowledge for anyone dealing with a Salandit!"

    Nida stood dumbfounded for a moment, realizing that the little lizard's Toxic had somehow poisoned her. After a moment's loss of words, she shook her head, hopping back with a guarded stance and calling out to Crom for assistance.

    "Crom! If this is really poison, then a Pecha Berry ought to be able to heal it!"

    "R-Right!" he cried. "I'm coming!"

    The Druddigon tried to run forward, only to find his limbs tired and unresponsive. The young dragon fought to move his legs, only to find his attempts to dart ahead yielding little more than a couple lethargic steps forward. Crom's eyes shot wide as he realized much to his alarm that in place of the vigor he just had, his body felt as tired as it would've right before going to bed on New Year's!

    "H-Huh?! What- Why am I feeling so tired?!"

    "Never heard of a Truant Wand before?" Tegu taunted. "They'll make you feel as tired and worn out as a Slaking!"

    The Salandit smirked as he watched Crom and Nida's faces contort into bewildered alarm, tensing his body as he waved his tail back and forth.

    "Though here's something you should be more familiar with!"

    Tegu dropped to all fours and spat out a beam of blue, fiery light at Crom, knocking him off his feet and sending him toppling to the ground. The Dragon-Type fought to try and get up to his feet, only for his muscles to seize up and his limbs begin to waver.

    "N-Ngh… Grk…"

    The Druddigon's strength failed him as he flopped over unconscious onto his back, leaving Nida to look on with slack-jawed shock as a Salandit's jeering laugh filled the air.

    "Ha ha ha! Not bad for a Salandit, huh?" Tegu sneered. "Dragon-Types aren't the only ones who can learn Dragon Pulse, you know!"

    Nida grit her teeth, realizing that the Salandit was by far a stronger foe than his appearance let on. The Nidorina saw Crom's bag lying open next to his prone body and darted over to it where she fished out a Pecha Berry and a Reviver Seed, before whirling back towards Tegu.

    "Grr! Well, you're not the only one with tricks up your sleeve, you know!"

    Nida was summarily answered by a fireball that sailed into her and exploded on contact, which promptly flashed over her paw and made her drop the seed and berry to the ground with a pained cry. Nida shook her paw and stared down in horror to discover that the two items were now charred and blackened beyond use, as Tegu called out another taunt.

    "Maybe not, but they're certainly not as lame as the ones you and your boyfriend have got!"

    Nida felt her blood boil as her breaths came out hot and seething, the Nidorina lowering her head as her thoughts grew increasingly crowded out by a singular, overwhelming urge…

    To make that blasted Salandit pay.

    "Oh, that tears it!"

    She barreled ahead and charged after Tegu, who slipped to the side and stuck his tongue out, before darting off to his left. Nida followed the Salandit to and fro, attempting to keep chase when she felt the poisonous chill from earlier sweep over her body and watched as her vision began to run muddy.

    "Nrk…"

    Nida thought back to her lessons from the guild, and realized that Tegu's Toxic was surely starting to wear down on her. Why the blasted little skink knew the bind she was in and was just stalling and leading her around so his poison would seep in faster! But… with everything that she'd tried so far having failed, what else was she supposed to do at this point?

    "Whoa!"

    The Nidorina turned her head at the sound of a sharp cry as Guardia tumbled head over heels into her path, the Cubone coming to a stop face-first in the dirt before getting up and shaking her head to regain her bearings. Nida looked over the Cubone, and back at Tegu, when a sudden realization dawned over her.

    "Guardia! Throw your bone at that Salandit over there!" she cried, drawing an incredulous gape back from her Ground-Type teammate.

    "Huh?! But he's just a Yatoumori and that big Beequen is still there!"

    "Just trust me on this!" Nida insisted. "It's the only way we'll beat these two!"

    Guardia nodded, prompting Nida to run ahead towards Tegu while the Cubone provided cover by throwing her club forward into a spinning Bonemerang. Guardia's club sailed forward, only for the Salandit to dodge it by dropping to the ground on his stomach. Tegu got up as soon as the bone flew by, revealing a Sleep Seed in his hand much to Nida and Guardia's mutual horror as a sneer spread over his face.

    "Hah!" he jeered. "Was that really the best you could think-?!"

    The lizard was cut-off mid-sentence by the Bonemerang returning, striking the back of his head and sending him faceplanting into the dirt. Nida lowered her head and continued charging ahead, Tegu's dazed groaning driving her legs forward in pursuit of much-deserved vengeance when a sharp wind struck her and knocked her off her feet.

    "Eyaaah!"

    Nida staggered and fought to retain her balance, her vision wobbling as she heard a deep buzz approaching her, only for Guardia's voice to reach her ears.

    "Keep going! Just don't let that Yatoumori get up!"

    Nida turned, seeing Guardia run at Melli and lunge at her with a Headbutt, forcing the Vespiquen back with a startled buzz. The Nidorina ran ahead, summoning her flagging strength to barrel towards Tegu as the lizard started to stumble back onto his feet. With the last of her energy, Nida lunged at Tegu, pulling her paw back as she bellowed out to the Poison-Type ahead.

    "Here's to your stupid tricks!"

    The Nidorina brought her paw down and raked her nails over Tegu's body, and did it again, and again in a rage until her fourth swipe led her to drive a swipe deep into the Salandit's gut and make him shout out in pain.

    "ARGH!"

    The Salandit wrenched himself away, staggering and tottering away before he slumped over, leaving Nida to give an extra kick at her tormentor. The rabbit paused a moment, realizing that her technique must have been Fury Swipes when she felt another chill rack her body. Nida watched as her vision ran spotty, prompting her to hastily grab at Tegu's bag and fumble through it. After brushing past seeds and wands, her paw felt the rind of a Lum Berry, reflexively snatching it out and greedily consuming it as she panted and fought to keep her balance.

    "A-Aagh!"

    Nida turned her head at the sound of Guardia's startled cry and saw her falling to the ground from a hail of blue hexagonal lights that Melli shot forward in buzzing, zigzagging paths. The Nidorina watched blankly as the hapless Cubone thrashed under the effects of the Attack Order and the Vespiquen drew near to finish her off. Time seemed to slow in front of Nida's eyes, her breaths coming out ragged and as she realized her strength was not enough to carry her into battle, when she spotted the Sleep Seed by Tegu's hand. Without thinking, she grabbed the seed and flung it at Melli where it dashed against her exoskeleton in a cloud of peach-colored mist.

    "Nn-wha…?"

    Melli jolted up in reflex and turned towards Nida, her gait tottering as the effects of the Sleep Seed began to overtake her. The Vespiquen's wings failed her, sending her dropping out of the sky and to the ground with a dull thud. Guardia breathed in and out sharply, clutching onto her bone for dear life as she looked on at the dozing Bug-Type when she glanced up and saw Nida approaching with Tegu's bag slung over her shoulder. The Cubone let out a sigh of relief, getting back up to her feet as she kept a wary, uneasy gaze trained on Melli's sleeping body.

    "Th-That's not going to hold her for long…"

    "It'll work for long enough," Nida panted. "Come on, let's heal up and go help the others."

    The pair turned towards their teammates to see Dimitri slumped over on the ground cold and unmoving. A little further away, the two saw Pladur running towards the Pidgeotto of Jun's group and swiftly bringing a pair of powerful strikes from his tusks against the bird's breast. The Flying-Type reeled under the blows, and crashed to the ground fainted with a quick glance revealing he was in the company of a similarly unconscious Darmanitan and Poliwrath. Further aside, a pained screech rang out as Jun threw Ander aside, the Beedrill's attention quickly settling over Pladur with an indignant hiss.

    "This has gone on long enough!" Jun exclaimed. "Let's see you manage this, Axndo!"

    The Beedrill doubled back with a Poison Jab, thrusting a drill forward that Pladur caught with a swipe of his claws, before following it with a second thrust that caught the Fraxure square in his chest.

    "A-AAAH!"

    Pladur let out a bellowing cry of pain and tumbled to the ground, leaving Jun to fly up as he prepared to finish off his opponent. From their position, Guardia yanked impatiently at Nida's arm, before running ahead with a parting call over her shoulder.

    "We don't have time for that, Nida!" Guardia insisted. "Come on!"

    The Cubone darted ahead, readying her club as she made her way for Jun. As the Beedrill flitted back, Nida tried to hop forward, only to feel fatigue from her prior wounds catch up with her. The Poison-Type turned her attention to her pilfered bag of items, where after pawing through it she came across a Blinker Seed. The Nidorina grasped onto the seed and pulled it out of the bag, wheeling around at the Beedrill with a sharp cry.

    "Heads up, you overgrown Cutiefly!"

    Nida hurled the Blinker Seed forward, sending it flying towards Jun. The seed found its mark on the Bug-Type's shoulder, leaving him to lurch around in a daze as he tried to steady himself and fight against his impaired vision.

    "H-Huh?! What's the meaning of-?! Ack!"

    The Beedrill was cut off by Guardia jumping up and smashing her club into the back of his head, sending the wasp jerking forward as Ander dashed up with a spread-wing tackle. Jun crashed to the ground, giving a weak beat of his wings as he tried to prop himself up on the points of his drill before his limbs abruptly went rigid.

    "C-Captain… I'm sorry…"

    The wasp's strength gave out, leaving him to collapse against the ground as Nida and her companions looked around. All around them, their foes had all been overpowered, though Team Traveller's members were too haggard and tired to take any real satisfaction from their victory.

    "C-Come on," Nida wheezed. "We need to get Crom and Dimitri back up and get out of here!"

    Nida hurried over to Crom's body as Guardia made her way over to tend to Dimitri, the Nidorina slipping a Tiny Reviver Seed into the young Druddigon's mouth and clamping it shut. The Dragon-Type began to stir, his eyes flickering as he bit down on the seed and stumbled up coughing and groaning from his wounds.

    "Ungh… Nida?" he murmured. "A-Are you alright? You look awful."

    "I… I think I can hang in there a bit longer," the Nidorina insisted.

    Crom stumbled up onto his feet and glanced around his surroundings, seeing Jun fainted in the path with Tegu's group strewn about near the iced-over entrance. Further down the path, the remainder of Jun's party laid sprawled out, with Dimitri uneasily staggering back upright and Pladur wobbling up the lane towards him. His father's red eyes fell upon him for a short moment, when the Fraxure stumbled and toppled over, making Crom's eyes widen in alarm.

    "Dad!"

    Crom hurried over and grabbed onto his father's arm, pulling him up as he pawed and stammered worriedly back at the Fraxure.

    "A-Are you alright?!" he cried. "If I'd known you were-"

    "Mijo, it's okay," Pladur replied. "I… I just need a moment to catch my breath."

    The pair froze as they heard a weak buzz, turning to see Melli stirring on the ground, struggling to prop his head upright in a disoriented daze.

    "N-Nrgh… Jun? What's going on?" the Vespiquen groaned, prompting Dimitri to blanch and turn back to his teammates.

    "Blurgh… doesn't look like we'll have time for that," he said. "Come on, we'll heal up once we make it inside!"

    The Kabutops quickly led the rest of Team Traveller's members along, ducking past the frozen waterfall and into the fog-shrouded cave mouth behind it. As the lot made their way deeper and deeper, Nida watched as her surroundings melted into the fog, hoping to herself that Pleo and the others weren't in as bad of straits as they were.




    As Nida and her teammates made their way into the Mystery Dungeon, further below on the eleventh floor, a Lampent, an Aipom, and a Togedemaru in Imperial scarves surveyed a stable zone lined with icy crystals. The chamber had been recently inhabited, as the still-smoldering cinders from a fire at the center of the room evidenced. One after the other, the three went around, glancing and listening about their surroundings as the Togedemaru sniffed at the air, before the Lampent paused and shook his body with a low harrumph.

    "Looks like nobody's here," the Ghost-Type grumbled.

    "But their scent's fairly strong here and the ashes from the fire here are still warm!" the Togedemaru protested. "Are you sure we're not overlooking anything?"

    "They must've moved on," the Aipom said. "Come on, they can't be far."

    The Aipom and Lampent turned and retraced their steps back through the fog, their Togedemaru companion giving one last sniff at the air before shaking her head and following suit. As the three vanished off through the fog, their footsteps grew increasingly soft and muddled, leaving the stable zone to return back to its prior quiet.

    "I think they're gone," a Swellow's voice said.

    At once, Kiran poked his head out from behind a cluster of ice crystals, prompting the rest of his companions to emerge and follow him out onto the floor of the stable zone, the lot inhaling and letting out a collective sigh of relief.

    "That was much closer than I would've liked," Trizano muttered.

    "Yeah, for a sec I was worried they'd sniff us out," Elty piped.

    Pleo turned off towards the foggy entrance, shuffling his wings uncomfortably for a moment before craning his head back towards Kiran with an uneasy grimace.

    "Kiran? What do we do now?" the Lugia asked. "These encounters are happening more and more often and I don't think we'd be able to get out of another one like that so easily."

    Kiran said nothing back for a short moment, before his eyes came across the glint of his badge on his scarf. It was admittedly a shot in the dark, but it had been well over an hour since he'd last tried speaking into it…

    "Let's try Kelly again," Kiran suggested. "Maybe Dimitri managed to tip off the others by now."

    The Swellow moved a wing over his badge, pressing down on it with his flight feathers as he spoke into it with a hesitant, wary murmur.

    "Kelly?"

    "Kiran?! Oh Travellers Above, you're still alright!"

    The four's eyes lit up with a mix of disbelief and relief, Kiran letting his wing fall away from his badge a moment as he briefly wondered if he was dreaming, only to shake his head and press down again.

    "We all are, or at least for now," he said. "We don't have a lot of time left to make an escape though."

    "You're in a stable zone with a bunch of ice crystals right now, right?"

    "Yes."

    "Step towards the edges a moment. I'm coming in from pretty far out and I'll need a bit of space to overshoot."

    One after the other, the four Pokémon dutifully backed away from the center of the stable zone, turning back and watching intently. Much like a bolt of lightning, a sudden flash lit up the room, making the lot reflexively blink before they spotted Kelly's form bobbing about a paw's height off the ground in the air, next to their now-dead fire pit.

    "Thank gods, I was starting to wonder if we'd need to swim our way back to you," Elty said.

    "Well, don't get comfortable just yet," Kelly insisted. "We're not exactly in the clear ourselves, so the sooner we all get back to the ship, the better."

    "Right, then let's not waste any time," Trizano replied.

    Pleo, Elty, Kiran, and Trizano hastily gathered around the Elgyem, the lot forming an interlocking chain with their paws and wings as the Psychic-Type began to breathe in and tense her body in focused preparation for a Teleport. Before she could finish, a spray of black orbs abruptly flew in and struck the back of her head, sending Kelly flying face-first into an iced-over wall as Team Traveller's members' jaws dropped and Pleo squawked in alarm.

    "A-Ah! Kelly!"

    The four watched in shock as Kelly slumped over and hit the ground unconscious, when the sound of a sharp hiss filled the air from the stable zone's entrance.

    "That's quite enough, Protector."

    The party turned and saw as Nagant hopped forward from the stable zone's entrance, Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo following closely behind her. Far from their surprise from their last encounter, this time the lot were all ready and braced for battle, including Nagant who lowered her large claw, training its tip square at Pleo's breast.

    "You've been giving us all a lot of trouble chasing you from one island to the next," the Clawitzer snapped. "That all ends here."

    Team Traveller's members blanched at the sight of the Nagant and her underlings nearing, the lot hastily adopting battle stances as they tried to force some level of composure and stand their ground.

    "G-Gah! Don't think we're just gonna give up and go back with you to Giotto!" Elty yipped.

    "Tch, have it your way then," Niilo scoffed. "It's not like you have a choice."

    "Yeah, I'm not one to pass up the chance to kick pirate scum like you around again!" Berecien spat.

    Pleo looked back at Nagant and the others blankly, noticing that Niilo and Berecien were sporting hardened expressions and visibly spoiling for a fight, when he saw Cabot hesitate and look away. Sensing a chance to try and avoid their imminent battle, the young Protector beat out his wings waving desperately for attention.

    "Cabot! Isn't there anything you can do here? We don't need to fight like this!" Pleo pleaded. "If you'd just let me explain-"

    "Save it!" Nagant barked. "I won't let you talk your way out of my claws!"

    The Clawitzer leveled her claw as a black orb began to form at its tip, shooting a spray of them forward at Pleo before he could muster a reply. The Lugia froze out of fear, watching as the Dark Pulse zipped towards him when a silvery flash cut it off, tumbling to the ground to reveal Trizano stumbling back up to his feet with a disoriented squawk.

    "N-Nrgh! Brace yourselves, everyone!"

    As Trizano fought to regain his bearings, Elty took off running, lowering his head in a charge towards Berecien. At the same time, Pleo took to the air, flying off towards Nagant when Kiran flew up readying a slicing gust with his wings.

    "Pleo! Now!"

    Pleo discharged a crackling stream of electricity towards the Clawitzer, Kiran joining suit by sending his Air Slash alongside it. Nagant braced herself as the attacks flew at her, only for Niilo to abruptly dart in front of her and form a translucent green barrier with a swift motion of his claws. The attacks struck the barrier, sending the Sandslash skidding back slightly before it dissipated, leaving the pair with not even a scratch to show for Pleo and Kiran's efforts as Niilo curled his muzzle up into a smug smirk.

    "Did you think you were the only one who learned a new move, Lugia?" the Sandslash asked.

    Pleo's beak stiffened into a sharp grimace at Niilo's taunt, when a sharp yelp rang out to his right. The Lugia turned to see Elty tumbling back from Berecien after a tackle wreathed with electric sparks, the Growlithe falling onto the ground before getting back onto his feet and letting out a disgusted growl as static continued crackling on his fur.

    "Gah, you don't say…"

    The four quickly fell back, retreating as Nagant and the others began to approach and attempt to flank from the sides. As their foes came in tighter and tighter, Pleo looked about uneasily, seeing there didn't seem to be any way of avoiding another direct confrontation like the one that they'd just struggled with.

    "Is… Is there anything else we can do, Kiran?" Pleo gulped.

    "We need to thin their numbers somehow," the Swellow said. "I'm just not sure where we'd even start."

    Elty shifted his bag off his shoulders, hurriedly pawing through it before pulling out a blue orb with a glowing, sun-like ball of fire inside. The Growlithe turned his glance back towards his teammates with newfound confidence, as a widening, devious smile spread across his muzzle.

    "Putting a handicap on that overgrown rak and her water attacks seems like a good place to start," he piped. "Get ready to make your moves!"

    Elty picked up the orb with his mouth before throwing it to the ground, dashing it against the stony ground underfoot. Immediately, the ball of fire inside darted up into the air, bursting and leaving behind a bright, overpowering glow overhead that made the chamber feel like high noon on Sormus. As Nagant recoiled from the effects of the Sunny Orb, Trizano took wing, calling back to the others as he led the charge ahead.

    "Follow me!"

    The Skarmory dove down, striking Niilo in the stomach with a Steel Wing as the rest of his teammates charged in trading attacks. Amidst the confusion, Cabot hastily rolled out of the way of a Flame Wheel from Elty, the Growlithe getting summarily knocked away with a yelp by a stream of fiery blue light from Nagant. The Cranidos looked up and saw Pleo jumping back from a spray of small fireballs, watching as the young Protector noticed him, slowed to a stop and stared back at him. The two looked at each other blankly for a moment, neither of them sure what to do when Berecien abruptly struck Pleo with an electric tackle.

    "A-Agh!"

    Pleo tumbled away from the Ponyta's blow, static crackling on his feathers before he hastily flew away in retreat. Back on the ground Berecien stomped his hooves impatiently, before turning back at a still-staring Cabot to snap him back to attention.

    "Cabot, keep it together-!"

    The Ponyta's chiding was cut off by an Air Slash from Kiran knocking him flat onto his left flank, promptly drawing Cabot's focus back to the ongoing battle with an alarmed shout.

    "Ah! Berecien!"

    Reflexively, the Cranidos stomped that ground and thrust his right arm towards Kiran, calling forth a spray of edged stones, which sailed up towards Kiran and struck him from his left. With one fell swoop, the Swellow tumbled from the air and pinwheeled to the ground, crashing below unconscious as Pleo and his companions watched in wide-eyed shock.

    "K-Kiran!"

    Pleo's cry was met by a sharp scoff, prompting him to look over and see Niilo shooting back a taunting sneer.

    "Hah, doesn't look like your friends are really pulling their weight!" the Sandslash jeered.

    "All the better for us," Berecien said. "We ought to be able to wrap this up just as fast as we did on Sormus!"

    The Sandslash and Ponyta darted ahead, Team Traveller's members scattering as Berecien lunged forward and entered a fiery somersault strengthened by the overpowering light that struck Trizano from below.

    "Gah!"

    As the Skarmory shot up and fought to steady his body, Berecien bounded back, stomping his hooves against the ground as he gave a smug smirk back at the Steel-Type.

    "By the way, thanks for using that Sunny Orb earlier!" he called back. "It's always nice having an edge!"

    Trizano evened out his body, quickly rolling out of the way as a Stone Edge zipped just past his wingtips. The Skarmory's earholes picked up the woosh of disturbed air, followed by the sound of a sharp cry, prompting him to look down and see Pleo recoiling from a swipe from Niilo.

    "Augh!"

    "Time to end this-"

    Niilo was abruptly cut off as Pleo spat up a fiery glowing ball in a panic, sending the Sandslash flopping onto his back in a daze. Before the pangolin could right himself, he saw Trizano's shadow pass and felt a slashing gust of wind at his stomach that made him cry in pain. Niilo hastily jerked his body away when he saw Elty jump over an errant Water Pulse as drops visibly dripped off his drenched pelt, before charging along and somersaulting into the disoriented Sandslash with a Flame Wheel. The Puppy Pokémon's blow found its mark square on Niilo's belly, making him stumble back with a yelp.

    "Gih! No fair ganging up on me like that!"

    Niilo curled up into a ball and hurriedly rolled away from Team Traveller in retreat. Pleo flew along with Trizano and Elty, chasing after the Sandslash when he saw Nagant level his claw at him with a pink orb of light forming inside. The three went wide-eyed, hurriedly retreating when they saw Niilo uncurl and spring up square in Nagant's line of fire just as she expelled the pulse at his body.

    "Huh?!"

    Pleo watched in surprise as the pink light struck Niilo's body and dissipated with a trail of ripple-like rings about him. Far from the painful injury the Lugia had expected, Niilo's wounds seemed to visibly heal and his limbs tightened up with renewed strength. The young Protector looked on in bewilderment, trying to puzzle out what had happened when a sharp hiss turned his attention over to Nagant.

    "Have you all really never seen a Heal Pulse before?" she scoffed. "Or did you think that I'd charge into battle without some way of keeping my subordinates healthy?"

    Team Traveller's members' jaws flopped open from shock as the direness of their circumstances sank in. All this time, they'd never anticipated that their foes could heal each other without items, much less from halfway across the chamber! Desperately trying to find any way to turn the tide of battle back, Elty fumbled through his bag, before hurriedly pulling out an orange orb with red, arrowlike markings under its surface.

    "Y-Yeah?" he stammered. "Well this ought to help us even things out a bit!"

    The Growlithe dashed the Quick Orb against the ground, spewing out a reddish aura that settled on him and his teammates and breathed newfound vigor into them before fading away. Pleo quickly jumped up to dodge an incoming Wild Charge from Berecien, the Ponyta crying out of dismay as Pleo noticed his body's movements felt quicker and Berecien was struggling to keep pace with him. Sensing a chance to press his advantage, the Lugia dove down, plumes of bluish aura erupting along his body as he rammed into Berecien with a Dragon Rush.

    "Argh!"

    Berecien was knocked off his feet from the impact of Pleo's tackle, landing hard against the ground on his flank. Elty's attention settled on the Ponyta as he struggled and fought against his body to get back up. After seeing Berecien rise back up visibly fatigued and panting, the Growlithe nervously turned back towards Nagant when it dawned on him that with a bit of good timing, he had an opportunity to get the better over him.

    "He's running out of steam!" he yipped to his teammates. "Come on! A little extra push will knock him down for the count!"

    At once, Trizano beat his wings, swooping down with a slash with his talons that found its mark on Berecien's flank. The Ponyta let out a whinnying cry in pain, recoiling back as he tried to keep his balance amid the pain pulsing through his body. At once, Nagant pivoted on her tail, and shot a Heal Pulse forward towards Berecien.

    "Not so fast!"

    Before the Heal Pulse could find its mark, a flash of orange abruptly cut in. Berecien and Nagant stared gaping open-mouthed as they watched Elty somersault in the air before landing on his feet, pink ripples flickering across his pelt before he turned back to Nagant in front of a slack-jawed Ponyta with his muzzle curled up in a smug smile.

    "By the way, thanks for the Heal Pulse! It's always nice having an edge!"

    Berecien spluttered and fumed, letting out a fierce whinny before charging at Elty with his head lowered. The horse reared up and sprang up to stomp down with his hooves, only for Elty to swiftly sidestep and bite down on Berecien's rump.

    "Nnrkh!"

    The Ponyta's strength ebbed and gave out, his legs slumping forward and sending him toppling to the ground. Elty unclamped his jaws, spitting up stray hairs from Berecien's hide as he turned back to the fallen Ponyta with a gloating taunt.

    "Hah! Chew on that, you dandy! Now we're even from Sormu-!"

    The Growlithe's gloating was abruptly cut off by a hail of pointed stones from Cabot's position, launching the Fire-Type up and sending him crashing back to the ground unconscious. Pleo and Trizano blanched at seeing Elty taken out so easily, an incoming Dark Pulse prompting the pair to hastily jump up and turn their attention back to Nagant and her underlings. Keenly aware that two of their three foes were strongly advantaged, Trizano looked around hurriedly when he spotted Kiran's bag next to his prone body flopped open, his mind recalling that the Swellow had packed Reviver Seeds with him.

    "We're going to need to turn this matchup around, fast," the Skarmory said. "This way, Pleo!"

    Pleo and Trizano dove down, flying low and fast along the ground for Kiran. As they neared, Pleo felt an icy pain flash over his wing and wobbled in the air, looking back to see a strip encrusted in frost from a grazing Ice Beam. The Lugia came to a hurried landing, desperately running the rest of the distance while beating his stricken wing to try and restore feeling to it. As the young Lugia neared, he saw Trizano rooting through Kiran's bag, pulling out a Reviver Seed and throwing it over to him.

    "Here!" the Steel-Type cried. "Pass it onto your friend!"

    "Good luck with that one, kana!"

    Niilo abruptly barreled in, his body curled up into a ball of brown, thorny spikes. Trizano hastily threw up a wing to deflect the incoming Rollout, prompting Pleo to squawk and scamper over to Kiran as he slipped a Reviver Seed into his mouth.

    "Grah! Mind your space, Sandslash!"

    Pleo looked up from Kiran just in time to see Trizano regain his bearings and strike at Niilo with a wing trailing silvery flecks of light that sent the Sandslash's attempt at a retreat veering off course. The Skarmory beat his wings to try and regroup towards Pleo, only to stagger back after Cabot hastily rammed him with a headbutt trailing shadowy wisps. Pleo recoiled from Cabot's Assurance with an alarmed stare when he felt Kiran's body shift beside him, a quick glance revealing him to be rising up woozily onto his feet.

    "Ngah… Pleo?" Kiran asked. "What's-?"

    "Look alive!" Trizano shouted.

    Pleo and Kiran jumped out of the way as Niilo barged in curled up into a Rollout, the pair hurriedly taking to the air alongside Trizano as they flew over Nagant and her remaining underlings. As the three weaved around errant pulses in the air, they noticed Niilo continuing to roll about in his spiky ball, making Kiran's eyes light up as a realization came over him.

    "Ah! The Sandslash! He's still stuck rolling about!" he exclaimed. "If we attack him, he'll have a harder time striking back!"

    "Right!" Trizano replied. "Let's make this count then!"

    Trizano and Kiran swooped in, buffeting Niilo with a hail of cutting gusts and dive bombs. A sudden, icy beam cut through, forcing the two back and letting the Sandslash scramble ahead, only for a glowing, fiery orb to strike him from above. The Ground-Type yelped and flopped forward limply, Pleo looking down with stunned relief as he sized up the results of his Weather Ball.

    "We- We did it!" Pleo cried. "Now we just need to get Elty back up, and-!"

    The Lugia jolted back with a startled squawk as an icy ray zipped past his wingtips, followed by a spray of black orbs and a fiery blue beam as Nagant wildly spewed her attacks into the air that forced the Protector and his companions to fall back. As Pleo retreated away from the Clawitzer's hail of attacks, he saw Cabot in the corner of his eye darting over towards Elty's fainted body.

    "Ah! Cabot!" the Lugia squawked. "What are you-?!"

    "Stay away!" the Cranidos shouted. The dinosaur called up pointed stones from the ground, sending them flying up at Trizano above him. The Skarmory attempted to roll out of the way, only for the Stone Edge to badly clip his right wing, sending him plummeting to the ground with a loud thud. The Steel-Type woozily got up, watching as Cabot came barreling at him with another Assurance, when a sharp cry cut through the air.

    "That's enough!" Kiran exclaimed. "Let me give you 200% more airtime!"

    Kiran brought his wings together, sending forth an overpowering Whirlwind that knocked Cabot off his feet and blew him across the stable zone. With his opponent now a safe distance away, the Swellow quickly plucked an Oran Berry from his bag before turning to Trizano.

    "Here!"

    The Swellow threw the blue fruit, sending it sailing into the air for Trizano to jump up and snatch with his beak. The Steel-Type hastily devoured the fruit, letting it work its way through his body when he heard a sharp yelp behind him. Trizano whirled around just in time to see Pleo tripping over, having been badly grazed by a Dark Pulse from Nagant's firing claw. The Lugia desperately tried to stumble back to his feet while the Clawitzer neared with an agitated hiss and readied herself for a second attack as stray static crackled on her carapace.

    "This ends now!"

    "Not if we have anything to say about it!" Trizano shot back.

    The Skarmory jumped up and dove at the Clawitzer, spreading his talons and launching into a raking slash that sent Nagant skidding back. The shrimp dug her claw into the ground to steady herself from Trizano's Aerial Ace, when Kiran charged in with an Air Slash from his wings, sending her tumbling to the ground. Pleo watched as Nagant started propping herself up, seeing her entirely distracted with Kiran and Trizano. Instinctively, the young Lugia darted forward, electricity coursing among his plumes before he spread his wings and cast forward a second Thunderbolt square at the Clawitzer's body.

    "Ack!"

    Nagant froze and seized up as sparks danced on her exoskelton's plates. Pleo braced himself as she struggled against her paralysis, his spirits rising after she proved unable to attack, only for his relief to quickly fade when he looked up and noticed the light from the Sunny Orb starting to vanish.

    "Ah! The sky!" Pleo cried.

    "Looks like we're on borrowed time," Kiran said. "Everybody, make your blows count here!"

    Kiran, Trizano, and Pleo threw in attacks one after the other, buffeting Nagant with a Wing Attack, a Slash, and a Dragon Rush. The hail of blows drew a sharp cry, prompting the three to look down and watch Nagant fall over. After a moment's hesitation, the trio neared to examine the Clawitzer, only to jump back with a start as her eyes hardened into a glare and she threw herself back onto her tail, leveling her firing claw once more with panting and winded hiss.

    "Nrgh… No! It's not over yet!" Nagant insisted. "I won't let it end like this!"

    "Please, stop!"

    Pleo stepped forward, waving his wings desperately for attention in front of the tired Clawitzer. Nagant held her claw still, still scowling as the young Protector cried out to her.

    "We don't need to keep fighting like this!" the Lugia insisted. "Just give us a chance to explain what's happening without shooting at us constantly!"

    The shrimp let out a frustrated hiss in reply, readying an orb of water at the tip of her firing claw when she felt a claw pawing at her back, prompting her to glance behind her and see Cabot looking up at her with a pleading expression.

    "Captain? Maybe… Maybe we should hear them out," the Cranidos said. "Even if we manage to beat them… how's Pleo ever gonna want to be the Empire's Protector if we bring him in like this?"

    Nagant said nothing for a long moment, before allowing the orb in her claw to dissipate and dribble to the ground in an inert puddle. Still fighting against the effects of her wounds, she lowered her claw before letting out an impatient growl.

    "… Fine, I'll humor it," the Water-Type huffed. "What have you got to explain here?"




    Author's Notes:

    - peh-chiú (白酒) - Hokkien: "baijiu", a type of Chinese rice wine. Lit. "white wine" (POJ Romanization)
    - phái-tô͘ (歹徒) - Hokkien: "thug", "ruffian" (POJ Romanization)
    - hachi (蜂) - Japanese: "wasp" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - Yatoumori (ヤトウモリ) - Japanese: "Salandit" (Official Romanization)
    - Beequen (ビークイン) - Japanese: "Vespiquen" (Official Romanization)
    - Axndo (액슨도) - Korean: "Fraxure" (Official Romanization)
    - rak - Polish: "crayfish"
    - kana - Finnish: "chicken"
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020
    Kindoflame likes this.
  6. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Nagant taking investigation lessons from my man Edgeworth.

    Apparently pseudo-legend status is a thing in the Fledglings verse.

    [​IMG]

    Tempting fate, I see.

    >Hess has no redeeming qualities.
    "Oh no, the humility! It reminds me of... myself! You're meeting all my standards!"

    [​IMG]

    Wrong PMD universe, buddy. XD

    Okay, but, like, why are you telling your opponents something that them not knowing works to your advantage with? I know it's, like, a rule of anime, but for a character who's supposed to be clever, this seems kinda boneheaded. :p

    "We can cry, Pleo."

    Said the pot to the kettle.

    Oh god not you too, Nagant. Don't explain it to your enemies! <_>

    You might say she's... determined. B)

    All it took was a few blows to the head to get Cabot to drink his smart juice. :V

    The most interesting part of this for me is actually the scene with Lyn and the pirates, even though it has very little to do with the rest of the chapter/episode. While we've seen various characters trying to make deals and allegiances behind one another's backs, we haven't really been shown a scene of a negotiation with an entire group like this. About the closest to it was back when Lyn first visited Tromba and that was, like, soooooooo long ago my hair's grayed. Most of what the Company's done has been throwing some weight and firepower around, so it's nice to see one of their top 'mons actually at the negotiation table. It's something I'd have liked to see more of from a group calling itself the Company. Even if, y'know, Lyn negotiated terms with a group that has no intention of following through with this bargain. It's still nice to see.

    However, I must confess I kinda glazed over the fighting. Perhaps it's because I wrote such ridiculous stuff myself that I find my tastes changing, but I'm not too keen on how long these fights are running. Part of it owes to just how many combatants each side has and wanting to make sure they all have their time to shine and show off their knew skills. At the same time, though, there a lot of repetitive patterns of characters either dropping superhero-esque one-liners before launching an attack or getting cutoff mid-sentence by someone swooping in. Going forward, you might be best served picking a POV character to anchor the fight around and just make passing mentions of what some of the other folks are doing.

    Other than that, I'm curious about the goggles mostly because I don't actually know what they are. Go-Googles or Safety Goggles come to mind otherwise I got nothing.

    Anyway, who wants to bet the rest of the team will crash this 'peace' talk and mess everything up? Anyone? Just me? :V
     
    Kindoflame likes this.
  7. Kindoflame

    Kindoflame Active Member

    I agree with Ambyssin that the fight scenes were a little dull. A lot of times in Pokemon (both fan-fiction and not), fights break down to just the Good Guys and the Bad Guys hitting each other in turn-based combat until someone falls over. This is not an inherently bad way to structure a fight, but you need to mix things up or it will get repetitive.

    One option is to change the goal of the fight.
    For example, imagine if outside the dungeon Jun called for help when he saw the Petrify Orb instead of destroying it with an attack. This is a simple change, but has huge impact on how this fight will actual play out. The Imperials are now divided into 2 groups; a small, weak group far away that is able to act and a large, strong group at the dungeon's entrance that can do nothing but stare. Obviously, the Imperials strategy is for the weak group to revive the strong group and then work together to overpower the protagonists. This in turn forces the protagonist to get between the two group and try to stop the weak group from advancing. This fight is more about space and movement than it is about dealing damage. Combatants would actually want their attacks to miss, if it meant the enemy had to move backwards to dodge it.

    Also, imagine if instead of Guardia's Bonemerange being blown into some random bushes by the Vespiquen, it went sailing directly toward Jun, so Pladur had to jump in front of it and it hit him directly on his old injury. You would show the reader that Pladur is aware enough of the battle to notice this disaster and willing to do what was needed to prevent it, making this a ideal example of 'show, don't tell' characterization. Even more importantly though would be the lasting effects this has on the characters after the fight. I am pretty sure that Guardia sense of duty and dedication to the colony would leave her guild-ridden. Meanwhile, Pladur would be trying to downplay the entire incident because he hates looking weak in front of his son. Speaking of which, I see two very different, but powerful reactions Crom could have. Crom has only known Guardia for a few weeks, so it would make complete sense if he becomes absolutely furious with her. This creates a tension in their relationship that no one else in the story has. At the same time, all of Crom's worries about his father's health would flare up and he would go back to fretting like a mother. If you keep inverting Crom-Pladur's relationship like this, having the child care for the parent, then Pladur could have a really interesting identity crisis! Pladur has build up his identify around being a father, the person who provides for, protects, and inspires his son. Many times already, Crom has acted independently without Pladur there to save him if things go wrong. As usual in father-son relationships in fiction, this is forcing Pladur to slowly learn that his son has grown up. However, few other authors has explored is what happens to a father when he needs his son for support. Every time Pladur is in need and Crom comes to his aid, Pladur's identity is attacked and broken down. If this keeps happening, Pladur's notion of what a father is will be destroyed and he will be forced to reconstruct his identity from what remains. And all of this comes from a simple change in an otherwise unnoteworthy fight scene.

    Another option is to change to actual space the fight takes place in.
    The stable zone Pleo and Nagant fight in was basically a flat, large arena with large ice crystals around the outside. Imagine instead if those crystals were scattered throughout the interior. I have actually already spent over an hour on this comment, so I am going to cut it short here. Needless to say, that could have had a huge difference on how the fight played out.


    Here is a good video on writing fight-scenes that really changed how I look at them. Brandon Sanderson, who has won 4 Hugo Awards and who finish the legendary Wheel of Time series after the original author died, has a lecture up on fight scenes and romances here, with the part focusing most heavily on fight scenes here.
     
  8. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hey, he has some redeeming qualities! Like… he's… uh… endearing for a pirate! Yeah, let's go with that.

    Because what's a Saturday Morning Cartoon without villains that cede tactical advantages to stop and gloat? Though I understand that Virgil already explained in conversation with you that Tegu didn't quite fit the mold. During the whole fight, Tegu was fairly in-control of the situation up until he got cocky with that Bonemerang.

    https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/308320049188438029/738485238900064295/Crying_Lugia_Small.png

    Filled with detemmienation, even.

    Well, I'm glad that you're enjoying it, though there's a bit more flux surrounding the outcome of the deal than you're picking up on right now.

    You know you can just hit me or Virgil up on Discord if you wanna do a crossover with Path of Valor characters.

    That said, I think we basically already did that with Tegu's fight. I don't think that the practice will work for every fight, but I'll certainly be mindful of the suggestion.

    A direct answer would give the game away a bit much, so let's just say that they're goggles that are out of this world.

    Scroll down and you shall see. o3o

    I'm not sure if Ambyssin was exactly saying the fight scenes were dull. I appreciate the feedback and definitely make it a point of trying to avoid rehashing things, though I think that this is one area where we simply won't wind up seeing eye to eye on designing battle scenes.

    I do hope that you've still been enjoying the story even if those scenes didn't quite click for you.

    I'm back, and happy to say that I've made it just in time to publish while it's still July, if a bit further into the tail end of it than I would've hoped for. Today's chapter is the last from the current episode, with the next one kicking off a smaller arc that leads into the final quarter of the story. Today's chapter wouldn't have been possible without Virgil134's efforts during writing and editing, along with the feedback of the readers and reviewers who have stuck with this story for the past few years. Thank you all for your patience, and I hope that today's installment will be another enjoyable read for you all.
     
  9. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    [​IMG]

    Amid the icy passages of the eleventh floor of Haipheh's Mystery Dungeon, Nida and her teammates quietly moved into a small crevice in the icy wall where fog swirled about deeper within. After pushing their way past, the group made their way into the mist, their vision and senses fading out as the haze thickened around them. Nida continued on, flicking her ears and sniffing at the ground to try and pick up any hint of the rest of her teammates, when she heard garbled voices from up ahead, with Pleo's voice becoming increasingly discernible with each step forward.

    "I hear Pleo!" Nida piped. "They must be just ahead!"

    "A-Ack! Habla bajo!" Pladur exclaimed in a hushed tone. "We're already low on items from those search parties! We'd be in real trouble if we ran into that Clawitzer-!"

    As the dungeon's fog cleared, the five began to see the contours of a chamber flecked with clusters of icy crystals ahead of them, when they froze and came to a startled stop. There, in between them and their missing teammates, was Nagant along with the same underlings who'd snatched Pleo back on Sormus!

    "… as well," the Fraxure gulped.

    Crom and his party members quickly shifted into defensive positions, readying themselves for battle as the Druddigon shot a frantic look over towards the young Lugia.

    "Pleo! Get away!" he cried. "We'll cover you!"

    "Oi! Simmer down a bit!" Elty snapped. "We're alright here!"

    Nida and the others blinked back puzzledly, looking again to see Niilo stepping back from applying an Oran Berry to Pleo's flank and Cabot doing much the same to Kelly a little further away. The Nidorina tilted back an ear puzzledly, before warily walking up with her teammates to the young Protector.

    "What's going on?" she asked.

    "Uh… well we talked Nagant into not fighting us right now," Pleo replied. "So that's something."

    "Mind you there is an entire Empire waiting for you right now," Nagant scolded. "If you want things to stay that way, you better come up with a convincing reason for me not to drag you along!"

    Team Traveller's members grimaced and traded nervous looks with one another at the Clawitzer's warning. Amid his teammates' unease, Pleo's features hardened in determination, as he stepped forward towards the wizened shrimp.

    "This whole thing is only happening because if you don't take me, the Company will, right?" the Lugia asked. "Well, what if we could do something that would make sure the Company wouldn't do that? Then you wouldn't need to capture me anymore."

    "Hrmph, I'm going to need more than mere words to sway me," Nagant scoffed.

    Pleo bit his tongue and paused uneasily at Nagant's prodding. Even if she would back off from attacking him, surely it wasn't safe to just blurt out everything they'd found out about the Knights' Ledger. The Lugia's hesitance quickly drew Kiran's notice, prompting him to mull the matter over, before raising a wing for attention.

    "It's a bit difficult to explain, but we may have come across something that could make the Company stand down for good," the Swellow explained.

    Nagant narrowed her eyes into a skeptical scowl, her barbels flicking impatiently at Kiran's answer, all but telegraphing the words that immediately followed from her mouth.

    "And that would be?"

    "Well… we met someone with a lot of eyes in different places," Kiran began. "And he told us of some blackmail that could be used against-"

    "Save the excuses!" a booming voice snapped. "They're obviously trying to lie their way out of your claws, Nagant!"

    Nagant jolted up out of alarm, the gathered Pokémon's attention turning off towards the entrance at the thuds of heavy, approaching footsteps. There at the mouth of the stable zone was the form of a scowling Dragonite, his Imperial First-Rank scarf doing little to disguise his identity from Pladur, who promptly flushed pale at as he recognized it to be…

    "H-Huh?! Administrator Darzin?!" the Fraxure squeaked.

    Pleo's eyes widened and he whirled over to Nagant as he recalled the night when the Company Administrator tried to snatch him away from Fensedge Village… all the way on the other side of the Cradle. So why was he now here on Haipheh?!

    "W-What's going on here?!"

    Nagant tightened her mandibles, sensing something had gone deeply amiss for Darzin to have flatly ignored her insistence to stay in port. The Water-Type braced herself and hopped forward, shooting a sharp glare back as she raised a claw up at the Dragonite.

    "V chem smysl etogo?!" she demanded. "Go back to town! I told you that I had everything under control!"

    Far from the passive-aggressive retort she was expecting, the shrimp's demand did little beyond drawing a low growl from Darzin as he neared with his body poised to lunge forward.

    "That's for me to decide," the Dragonite snarled. "And I say it's time for me to take matters into my own claws!"

    A weak arc of electricity crackled along his antennae and jolted out at Nagant, sending the Clawitzer toppling over paralyzed before he abruptly flew up and lunged forward. Pleo froze as Darzin barreled towards him, when the voice of a Sandslash and the flashing of long claws announced Niilo's presence.

    "Not so fast, you fat jok-AUGH!"

    The Sandslash's attempt to interfere was swiftly cut off by an Aqua Tail, sending the Ground-Type pinwheeling into one of the ice crystals. Darzin bore down on Pleo, who hastily attempted to scamper away, only to feel his tail get yanked from behind. The young Lugia thrashed desperately as Darzin pulled him in and latched onto him with his right claw before swiftly pulling out an Escape Orb with his left.

    "Ack! Don't let him get away!" Kiran squawked.

    The group rushed over towards Darzin, Trizano giving a slash with his wings at Darzin's left arm in a bid to get him to fumble his Escape Orb. The Dragonite jerked his arm back when he felt a heavy tackle at his gut that sent him stumbling back, seeing Cabot pulling away from a Headbutt. Darzin felt his grip on Pleo slacken as he saw Nida trying to tug him free, and after noticing Trizano and Cabot descending on him again as the rest of their companions bore down, he hurriedly threw the orb against a set of nearby ice crystals.

    CRACK!

    The Escape Orb dashed against the crystals, knocking a few pieces free to the ground as a flash of light swallowed up Darzin along with his captive and his three attackers. As quickly as the light came, it faded, leaving the rest of Team Traveller and Nagant's party to look on with stunned grimaces as Pleo and the others had quite literally vanished into thin air.




    Cabot fell forward and landed in a small drift of snow as he felt small, icy objects pelting the back of his head. The Rock-Type got up, noticing that he was under a gray sky with hail falling in front of a foggy cave entrance with forests on either side. There in front, Cabot could see Nida and Trizano getting up and shaking themselves back to attention as the dinosaur rubbed at his head from his unexpected stumble.

    "Ngah… where are we now?" Cabot murmured.

    "Gwark! Get back! Get back!"

    Cabot turned his head at the sight of Pleo jumping back with a start, the Cranidos froze and stiffened up as he watched Darzin righting himself and approaching with bared fangs, and a low, threatening growl.

    "Annoying little pests!" the Dragonite snapped. "You should have backed off when you had the chance!"

    The four Pokémon blanched as Darzin neared, hastily digging their heels in as Nida stepped forward with her barbs fanned out, trying her hardest to raise her voice back in defiance.

    "And just leave our friend to the likes of you?" Nida spat. "As if we'd just let that happen!"

    Darzin flashed his claws in response, his tail moving back and forth rhythmically as he glared down at the Nidorina and her companions.

    "I'm a Company Administrator," the Dragonite growled. "Do you four really think that you're going to get the best of me?!"

    Nida, Pleo, Trizano, and Cabot braced themselves as the Skarmory of the lot shot back a defiant scowl.

    "We wouldn't have come if we didn't think we could," the metallic bird said. "Let's see if you've improved at all since Mengir!"

    A loud thud rang out as Darzin stomped the ground in front of him, the dragon letting out a low snarl as he spread his claws ready for battle.

    "So be it! There won't be some lucky fluke to save you this time!" he shouted. "I'll beat every one of you into the dirt!"

    The Dragonite let out a bellowing roar before casting forward an overpowering vortex of wind at Pleo and his companions. The four hastily dove away as the Hurricane passed by, pinning the lot along the ground as Trizano looked up to see Darzin taking wing and preparing to swoop down at them.

    "Brace yourselves!" the Skarmory cried.

    Darzin threw himself forward, his fist sprouting into flame as he pulled it back and swung it forward at Trizano. The Dragonite's Fire Punch caught the Skarmory square in his chest, sending him back tumbling when he jumped into the air and beat his wings to slow his body. The Steel-Type wobbled a bit, before he rolled to the side and struck the Dragonite's flank with a glinting, spread-wing tackle.

    "Grah!"

    "Take this!" Cabot shouted.

    The Cranidos charged ahead as the blue flecks of light of a Zen Headbutt began to build up on his head. Cabot lunged for Darzin, only for the Dragonite to jump up and fly out of his reach. Pleo joined in, hastily flinging an icy Weather Ball after Darzin that made the Dragon-Type lurch out of the way to try and regroup when a poisoned barb abruptly zipped in and struck him in his rump.

    "Nrk!"

    The Dragonite jerked up, reflexively pulling the barb from his hide when he felt a sickened chill run through his body and looked down to see Nida staring back at him with a taunting raspberry.

    "Hah! Is that really the best you can do?!" the Poison-Type jeered.

    The Nidorina's features remained curled up tight in satisfaction even as the falling hail continued to sting her hide, when Darzin took out a Pecha Berry from under his scarf, gobbling it up much to her surprise.

    "Hardly," the Dragonite growled. "I've learned a thing or two about dealing with your kind-"

    Darzin's gloat was cut off by an icy Weather Ball striking him in his flank, making him pitch down towards the ground. The Dragon-Type hastily righted himself, pulling up and flying back into the air when he narrowed his eyes at Pleo with a sharp snarl.

    "Here, let me show you who you're up against!"

    Bright light built up in Darzin's mouth, prompting Pleo to hastily dive out of the way as the Administrator disgorged a thick, overpowering beam. As Pleo tried to fly away, he felt a searing pain across his back, sending him crashing down with a squawk. The young Protector groaned, looking up to see Darzin winded and panting himself from the Hyper Beam. The Lugia quickly stumbled and tried to retreat, when a Stun Seed flew in and struck Darzin's snout, sprouting crackling veins of electricity that stunned him with a yelp as Nida turned her head to her teammates.

    "Now!" she exclaimed. "While he can't move!"

    The Nidorina ran up, letting poison build up along her paw before she jabbed it hard into the Dragonite's belly. Darzin recoiled from the blow, when Trizano cut in and slashed at his right arm with a Steel Wing, and Cabot began to ready a Stone Edge. With a frantic beat of his wings, the Dragon-Type abruptly backed away and moved his arms to form a translucent barrier of light that lingered a moment before settling onto his body.

    "Huh?!"

    Cabot looked in confusion for a moment, before shaking his head flinging his stones forward, which found their marks on Darzin's body. Far from the harsh blow the Cranidos had expected, the stones were inexplicably slowed by glints of light and Darzin quickly righted himself and glared back as Team Traveller's members looked on stunned, Cabot realizing out of alarm that Darzin had used a move that should have been impossible.

    "Th-That's Barrier!" he cried. "How can a Dragonite like you know that?!"

    "Some things are just an art to learn," Darzin growled. "Have fun dealing with it."

    Nida's mouth hung open in disbelief, before clamping together with her teeth grit in frustration as she recalled what her mother had said over and over about the Dragon-Type.

    "You really are a cheat!" she fumed. "What sort of sorcery is that supposed to be?!"

    "Hrmph, a fat lot that means coming from someone who can't fight without the help of dungeon items," Darzin scoffed. "Though let me indulge you at your level a moment."

    The Dragonite reached into his satchel, pulling out a wand filled with peach-colored mist at its tip, before swinging it towards Nida's direction. The glassy knob at the end shattered, sending forth a plume of mist that swept over the Nidorina. Nida struggled against the effects of the Slumber Wand for a moment, before her stamina gave out and she slumped over asleep much to Pleo's wide-eyed alarm.

    "A-Aah! Nida!"

    Cabot reflexively called up pointed stones that he flung up at Darzin's body. The Dragonite fell back in mid-air, just barely pulling his flank away as the Stone Edge zipped past when he caught a glint from the corner of his eye, seeing Trizano swooping down at him in a spread-wing approach.

    "You look tired, Skarmory," the Dragon-Type harrumphed. "Why don't you take a rest?"

    Darzin swung the Slumber Wand a second time, the final glassy layer breaking and spewing peach mist at Trizano. Much like Nida before him, the Skarmory's energy rapidly left him as he crashed to the ground asleep. Darzin threw the spent wand aside with a clatter, turning around towards Pleo who looked up at him frozen out of fright much like a cornered Rattata.

    "A-Ahh…"

    The Lugia fell into a trance-like state, his eyes flashing a golden yellow as he opened his beak and spat forth a few rings of golden light that came out in a rough cone. The light faded almost as quickly as it came, making him blink puzzledly at his attack suddenly fizzling out. The sound of a loud snarl drew Pleo's attention back ahead of him, as he squawked in fright at the sight of Darzin encroaching on him.

    "Save your games for later, child," he snapped. "You'll have plenty of time to amuse yourself on the way back to Volle-"

    "Back off!"

    Darzin turned and saw Cabot charging at him with his head lowered, prompting the Dragon-Type to spin and catch the Cranidos square in the face with an Aqua Tail. Pleo recoiled as Cabot cried out in pain from the blow, sailing up before flopping to the ground on his back.

    "Still your tongue, Imp brat!" Darzin huffed. "This isn't your fight!"

    Cabot groaned and struggled to lift his body back up, the Rock-Type forcing himself back to his feet amid the falling hailstones as he fought to keep his balance.

    "You're wrong, it is," the Cranidos panted. "I'm… I'm not giving up. Not like this!"

    "Save your blabber for someone who cares," Darzin spat. "I'd like to see you try and stop me in your state."

    The dragon wheeled around towards Pleo, who stumbled back with a squeak and cringed as the Dragonite lunged for him, when a sharp shout suddenly pierced the air.

    "Stop!"

    Darzin looked back and went wide-eyed as he saw Cabot's body suddenly glow and begin to transform, growing larger and shifting shape in what the Dragonite instantly gathered to be the light of evolution.

    "Oh no you don't!"

    Darzin rushed forward as fiery light built up at the back of his mouth, only for his flight to be caught up in an overpowering whirlwind, sending him sailing into the tree next to Nida's sleeping body. As the dragon's hefty frame made the tree's wood shudder, the snow on its branches came loose, falling to the ground below and onto Nida, abruptly dashing her sleep and sending her up to her feet in a confused start.

    "Ack! Huh?! What happened-?!"

    GRAAAAAAWR!

    Nida turned and gasped out of surprise as she saw the light fade, revealing a tall, heavy-built dinosaur with dark gray scales, a rock-hard head crowned with large spikes, and vivid red eyes. Why, that was Cabot! The Nidorina looked on in awe, watching as the newly-evolved Rampardos stomped the ground and pointed stones abruptly lurched from the ground's surface.

    "I said, I'm not giving up!" Cabot shouted.

    Darzin blanched as the Rock-Type threw his arm out towards the dragon and followed through with his Stone Edge, prompting the Company Administrator to jump and hastily try to fly over the incoming barrage. Before the Dragonite could get far, he felt the hail of stones dig into his torso, which despite Barrier's effect sent him crashing to the ground. Pleo looked on as the Dragon-Type panted and struggled to right his body, turning over to Nida with his eyes lit up in realization.

    "Nida! This is our chance!"

    Nida nodded back before darting off to Darzin's right, Pleo following suit and making his way to the Dragonite's left. Darzin eased himself when he saw the pair bearing down at him, falling back in a bid to evade the two when he felt a sharp jab into his right flank, stumbling back with a sharp cry to see Nida pulling her paw back from a Poison Jab, with Pleo diving at him just afterwards wreathed in blue, fiery light with a Dragon Rush that struck him square in his back.

    "ARGH!"

    Darzin fell back to the ground, coming to a crashing rest on his stomach. The Company Administrator raised his head up, struggling to lift the rest of his body, only to slump forwards limply, leaving Nida, Pleo, and Cabot to look on in stunned surprise as they realized…

    "We… we did it," Nida gasped. "We actually won!"

    Pleo beat his wings excitedly for a moment, before sighing out of relief, struggling with his aching limbs to inch away when he turned and spotted Cabot examining his newly evolved body. Pleo tilted his head, before warily going over towards the Rampardos.

    "Cabot?"

    "Ah! I mean, it's still me here!" Cabot insisted. "I know that I'm a bit bigger and probably look a little scarier, but-"

    The Rampardos' explanation was cut short by a soft, warm feeling at his belly. The Rock-type looked down from his newfound height, where he saw Pleo nuzzling at him, pulling back and looking up with a tired smile.

    "It's alright," Pleo reassured. "Thanks for helping us. I think you look great after your evolution!"

    Cabot gave a bashful smile back, bringing a hand up to the back of his head as he pawed at it sheepishly.

    "Well, it wasn't that big of a deal," the Rampardos said. "I was just doing what I would for any of my friends."

    Nida cast a sidelong glance at Pleo and Cabot as they chattered with each other, shifting her paws uncomfortably. Less than an hour ago, Cabot was an enemy to their team and had been working to snatch Pleo away from him, and here Pleo was happily playing with him as if he were part of their team all along! Could Cabot really be a friend? Or was this friendliness just an act that'd vanish as soon as Nagant returned?

    The Nidorina paused uneasily before noticing Trizano still lying on the ground asleep. The Poison-Type shook her head and walked up, nudging at his body to try and rouse him.

    "Trizano?"

    The Skarmory groaned, shifting back up to his feet groggily as he ruffled his metallic feathers and craned his head towards Nida.

    "Hrn? Cosa è successo…?" Trizano asked. "What exactly did I miss?"

    Nida stuck out her paw, Trizano following it over to see Darzin sprawled out unconscious on the ground. The Steel-Type stared blankly a moment, before looking back and realizing that Cabot had grown noticeably taller and bulkier from the Cranidos he remembered fighting alongside earlier.

    "Quite a bit, I see," he murmured. Trizano watched as Pleo and Cabot made their way over to them, the Lugia of the pair pausing uneasily before he began to fidget and squirm.

    "What do we do now?" the young Protector wondered.

    Nida pondered a moment, before looking down at her scarf and seeing her badge glinting on it. The Nidorina ran her paw over it, her mind turning back to her friends still in the Mystery Dungeon.

    "Well, letting everyone know we're okay's a start."

    Nida pressed down on the metal bauble, lowering her muzzle to it with tired breaths as she spoke into it.

    "Kelly?"

    "Nida?! Oh Travellers Above, you're still there! Where's Pleo? And Darzin-"

    "We're all up at the dungeon's entrance right now," the Nidorina said. "We kept Darzin from flying off with Pleo."

    "You did?! What exactly happened? Is everyone alright?"

    Nida said nothing for a noticeable pause, the Poison-Type's face curling up in a tired smile as she gave back a laugh through the badge.

    "Heh, never been better."




    After Hess' hasty induction into Orleigh's Council, the pirate Aggron quickly returned to his crew to relay the turn of events. While some were skeptical of his claims of a newfound seat at the Council's table, the more boastful members were quick to try and puff out their chests, wandering off into their normal haunts in Rosequartz Town to proclaim their new and well-earned rank after braving Pioppo's hidden village. Other crew members found themselves gathering at their base, where they amused themselves over rum and cards as their Aggron captain slouched forward with his head in his claws while Rodion and Kichiro looked on.

    "I can't believe that things have come to this…" Hess muttered.

    "What? You mean getting roped along into doing grunt work for some square-neck wasn't a great idea?" Kichiro grumbled.

    The Aggron looked up and turned his gaze away uneasily, as Rodion reached over and pawed at the Steel-Type's shoulder for reassurance.

    "Hess, if it's about what happened on Pioppo, there's no need to beat yourself up about it," Rodion insisted. "Those selyane got lucky and won by a fluke. It happens."

    Hess paused at the Floatzel's reassurance, before testily pulling away and letting out a huffy snort in reply.

    "H-Hrmph, I don't need a reminder about that!" the Aggron insisted. "I was just having a little trouble working out some stuff we've got to do now we're part of the Council!"

    "Well, where do we start?" Kichiro pressed.

    "… We've got a deal to keep," Hess sighed. The Aggron reached into the satchel slung over his shoulder and fished out a map of Anyilla's waters, spreading it out on the table before glancing back at his subordinates on the other side.

    "Lyn said that part of the deal was that we needed to go around with those hicks' colors to try and get them in trouble," he explained. "Well, what better than doing our normal business everywhere we can for a while?"

    Rodion turned his snout down, carefully studying lines on the map marking currents and chains of buoys as his eyes darted back and forth following them. The Floatzel visibly pondered the matter, before noticeably hesitating and looking back up at his superior.

    "That would involve a lot of raids," Rodion said. "Shouldn't we be getting the other Council members involved planning this?"

    "Uh… well, they kinda chased me off from their meeting room," Hess replied. "I think they expect us to go about this alone."

    Kichiro and Rodion frowned at their captain's reply. Hess had told him his promotion happened… in unusual circumstances, to say the least. But hearing how little respect he commanded still couldn't help but stir up doubts as to whether the whole venture had been worth it.

    "Sounds like that Council seat's really working for you," Kichiro harrumphed. "Though how are we supposed to go around just raiding everything? It takes time to plan out a raid where we actually get decent loot out of it."

    "Well, given all the places we need to hit, I think just stirring up some trouble would be fine," Rodion offered. "We'll grab some low-hanging fruit, sail off, and get out before the locals know what hit 'em."

    Hess bit his tongue and wavered a moment. Pulling off one successful raid on short notice with his crew already was like pulling teeth at times, and now they had to handle an entire string of them in a matter of days? The Steel-Type pawed uneasily at his scarf, glancing down at the silvery stone underneath he kept for good luck as he murmured back a reply.

    "I just hope we're not pushing our luck here," the pirate captain said.

    "Let's take things slowly and start by looking over what islands to raid first," Rodion offered.

    One after the other, the three pirates turned their attention down at the map, their eyes moving from one island to the next as they began to plot out the Iron Fleet's next course of action. All the while, Hess' mind kept circling back to his defeat on Pioppo and his worries about whether it was undermining him in front of his underlings, with one solid conclusion…

    Whenever they crossed paths with that bird again, he'd need to settle that score once and for all.




    Back on Tromba, the sun beamed down on the island's beaches as the waves lapped up against them. The beach overlooking the town from the west was quiet that day, its sand undisturbed barring Pyry and Pekka sitting there idly shifting it around. The Trapinch of the pair burrowed his body into the sand, before popping out and dusting himself off while the Gabite kicked at a pile of sand underfoot. Every now and then, the two would look back at the town, where the lavender sails of Bunsen's fleet could be seen looming over the harbor much to Pyry's audible displeasure.

    "Remind me why we're sitting here instead of getting sloshed at that Kangaskhan's bar?" the Gabite asked.

    "Because the square-necks that took over the town have been swarming the place during our afternoon breaks?" Pekka retorted. "Besides, she stopped letting us have more than one drink during the day anyway."

    Pyry frowned and cast his glance down at his feet, idly moving his toes around in the sand as he let out a low sigh.

    "Right… I just don't know why those square-necks are getting to me so much."

    "I mean… when Mildrew and his yappy grub were in a good mood, it wasn't all that bad before that Charizard's goons came along," Pekka murmured. "I dunno, it almost felt like a place to call home."

    Pyry blinked back at the Trapinch's reply. While he hadn't put much thought into it, working at Gwenith's bakery and the various sights about Bluewhorl had become almost second nature to him, and the villagers had long since stopped reflexively treating him as a hostile stranger. The Gabite mulled the matter over, wondering if getting accustomed so quickly was a good thing or not, when he noticed a patch of blue scales bobbing in the waves, which made him turn back to Pekka.

    "Veikka, was that fish always there?" Pyry questioned.

    "… Ei, I don't think he was," Pekka said. "Do you think he's a spy?"

    The Gabite frowned and flashed his teeth, narrowing his eyes at the Pokémon out in the water.

    "Hrmph. Well let's let him know we're onto him."

    Pyry brought his claws together, cupping his mouth before letting out a sharp scold out over the waves.

    "Hey, fishface!" the Dragon-Type growled. "We can see you lurking around there!"

    The hidden figure rose above the surface, revealing himself to be a Kingdra. The seahorse quickly slipped from view again, carrying along just beneath the water's surface before settling in a tide pool where he propped his body up and shot back a sharp glare.

    "I was taking a moment to rest, you stupid airbreather!" the Kingdra snapped.

    Pyry and Pekka flinched from the irritated seahorse, when Pekka noticed that the Kingdra wasn't wearing a scarf, but a blue-and-red belt. Realizing the Pokémon was from an ocean clan and not in much of any position to spy on anyone above water, Pekka shifted his shoulders and offered up a wary apology to try to calm the Kingdra.

    "Uh… sorry? Though what exactly brings a nomad like you here?" the Trapinch asked. "In case you hadn't noticed, Bluewhorl Town's not a very friendly place to visit right now."

    "I can see that. Everyone else turned around as soon as we saw all the Company ships in port and stuck me with having to scout this glush!" Kuda spat. "How on earth did you hicks even manage to bring this upon yourselves anyway?!"

    "Oi! We're not hicks! We don't live here!" Pyry protested. "… Sort of."

    "It's all because this island's Protector woke up," Pekka sighed. "Those square-necks chased him off some time ago and now they sent another bunch to just sit around here and ambush him once he comes back."

    Kuda let out a low grumble and shook his head, the Kingdra brushing his fins impatiently against the tide pool as he turned back for the sea.

    "Oh, Ataman Viktor is going to love that…" he muttered, prompting Pyry and Pekka to blink and stare back in surprise.

    "Uh… are we missing something here?" Pekka wondered. "Who's this 'Oughtaman' you're going on about?"

    Kuda paused from his efforts to leave the tide pool, before answering the Trapinch's question with a sharp, impatient scowl.

    "Hrmph, it doesn't concern you," the Kingdra huffed. "Just go on with your lives and try to keep your heads down for a while."

    The seahorse worked his way out of the tide pool and back into the sea's waters, fighting against the waves before he zipped along and dipped below the water's surface. Pyry and Pekka looked on after the departed Kingdra, before turning to each other unsure what to fully make of their encounter.

    "Pbbt. What a weirdo," Pekka chittered. "Though what do you think he meant by that last part?"

    "Probably just some stuck-up fish being a jerk," Pyry harrumphed.

    The Gabite turned back off towards the sea, wondering what had motivated the Kingdra to skulk about in such a fashion. The Dragon-Type paused as the thought came to mind that perhaps the uppity seahorse had some sort of connection to Pleo and the Siglo Swellow…

    Nah, what would the odds of that be?

    He dismissed the notion with a snort and kicked at the sand as he returned to lazing about on the beach with his companion.




    (Continued in next post)
     
  10. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    About half an hour after Darzin's defeat, his body had been propped up against a thick palm tree, showing little sign of activity beyond an occasional twitch of his antennae and the faint rising and falling of his chest. All the while, Team Traveller's members gathered around, watching the Dragonite keenly as they traded wary murmurs with one another.

    "Are we sure this is a good idea?" Pladur asked.

    "Nagant did say she could handle him," Kiran replied. "Just… be careful."

    Darzin abruptly shifted, his antennae twitching as the drake's eyes began to crack open and a dazed groan came out from his maw.

    "Urgh… of course they left me in this miserable weather," the Dragonite grunted. "Where did those four run off to-?"

    The Dragon-Type's words abruptly trailed off as he looked before him, spotting Team Traveller alongside Kelly and Nagant's party clustered around him with Pleo standing at the fore. The Dragonite grit his teeth, letting out a seething snarl at the young Protector before him.

    "You!"

    Darzin threw his arms out, attempting to grab at Pleo as the Lugia jumped back with a startled squawk. The dragon lurched forward to try and give chase, only to feel his chilly body refuse to budge further.

    "Huh?!"

    The Dragonite looked down, seeing that his body below his chest had been encased in a lump of ice attached to the tree trunk behind him. The Dragon-Type stared blankly when a large blue claw abruptly thrust into his field of view, a quick glance revealing Nagant was looking back at him with a sharp glare.

    "I suggest you don't try that again," Nagant said. "I thought that we had an agreement between us, but I suppose the real question I ought to be asking myself right now is why I shouldn't turn the Company Administrator in our midst over to the Admiralty. I'm sure they'd have no shortage of things they'd be dying to learn from you."

    Darzin paused for a moment, before gritting his teeth and sinking back with a frustrated sigh, realizing that he had few options other than to humor his captors' curiosity.

    "Grr… what do you want from me?"

    "What are you even doing here?" Nida demanded. "And how do you know Nagant?"

    "Hrmph. We had an alliance of convenience," Darzin scoffed. "I have some priorities that the Company alone won't fill for me, and she happened to be able to make a trade for my help."

    Team Traveller grimaced at the Dragonite's reply, giving wary glances over at the elderly Clawitzer before Nida spoke up.

    "Is that true?" the Nidorina asked, prompting Nagant to hesitate a moment before pulling her claw away from Darzin's body.

    "Da," the pistol shrimp answered. "He cornered us on Mengir while we were spying on the Board before we came to our… arrangement."

    Nagant's expression took a sour turn, as she shook her head and scowled back at her captive trapped against the tree.

    "Not that much has come of it since working with him has proven to be next-to-impossible," she huffed.

    "I'm the problem here?" Darzin spat. "You've literally been leaving me in the dark over your attempts to seize that Lugia!"

    "And you've been constantly breathing down my neck while trying to micromanage my attempts at holding up our bargain," Nagant retorted. "Why, you even laid an ambush for him on Tromba without me knowing about it!"

    Team Traveller's members jolted up in alarm, Crom and Kiran quickly speaking up to try and press Darzin further about Nagant's comment.

    "An ambush?!" Crom exclaimed.

    "What did you do?" Kiran demanded. "What's out there waiting for us?"

    The Dragonite reflexively clamped his jaws shut in reply, before hardening his brow back into a withering glare.

    "Hrmph, why don't you sail off and find out?"

    Nagant summarily leveled her claw and spewed out an icy beam that struck Darzin's right shoulder, making the Dragonite bellow in pain. As the drake latched onto his shoulder and attempted to rub feeling into it, the Clawitzer hopped up towards him, her claw raised as she leveled an icy glare back at the Dragon-Type.

    "Do be aware that the moment you lose consciousness is the moment my patience with you is over," Nagant snapped. "Don't test it and answer their question."

    Darzin glared back, hesitating a moment before lowering his antennae and speaking up with a sour grumble.

    "The Board got wise to your travels and dispatched a Commissioner to lock down Bluewhorl until you came back," he explained. "I had an opportunity to put my claw on the scale and saw to it that the Commissioner would be a Marked that I could keep loyal, to improve my odds of capturing that Lugia."

    Team Traveller's members blanched at the Dragonite's answer, the word 'Commissioner' stirring up unpleasant images of some fierce Pokémon casually bullying and tormenting the townsfolk much as Lyn and his underlings did every time they came ashore…

    "A-And this Commissioner's there right now?!" Crom cried.

    "Obviously. When else did you think that ambush would have taken place?" Darzin scoffed. "Anyway, by making the Commissioner a Marked it would ensure that your Lugia friend would either manage to slip away in a weakened state, or that the Commissioner would be desperate enough to be rid of his dreaded 'demon' that he'd gladly hand him off to me."

    Pleo and his companions said nothing, their heads drooping as an overpowering feeling of dread came over them. They'd come all this way thinking that Tromba would be a place of refuge, a safe harbor, but now…

    "How are we supposed to get back now…?" Pleo murmured.

    "Hrmph, that's not my problem," Darzin huffed. "I've given you what you wanted and don't have anything else to say. So let me go already!"

    "So be it," Nagant grunted. "I'm a 'mon of my word… if with some caveats."

    The Water-Type reached into a satchel and fished out a lavender scarf with an intricate fractal pattern of purple squares dyed on it, holding it aloft as Darzin recoiled and grimaced for a fleeting moment at the sight.

    "Namely that I'll be asking for a price for your freedom," Nagant said.

    "And what do you think you're doing with that?" Darzin shot back. "That's my scarf."

    "I'm well aware," the Clawitzer retorted. "I can see the pattern on it as clearly as you can."

    The Dragonite turned up his snout with a fuming growl, snorting out hot air from his nostrils as he glared back at the Water-Type.

    "Are you really so petty as to humiliate me on my way out?!" Darzin seethed. "What on earth does the Admiralty teach its captains these days?!"

    "To recognize insurance when they see it," Nagant answered. "Which is why you're going to cease chasing after this Protector."

    Darzin fell silent and bit his tongue at the shrimp's reply. Even though the elderly Clawitzer hadn't outright said so, it would've been obvious to even a child that she was threatening him with blackmail.

    "An Administrator's scarf is fairly distinctive in the Company's territory, the fabric to make it isn't cheap, and few tailors can make its pattern without defects," Nagant mused. "Merely going back to Vollezee without it and needing a replacement is bound to raise some questions, but it's certainly not unprecedented since even they get damaged occasionally."

    The Water-Type slackened her grip, twirling the Administrator's scarf about the tip of her claw as she continued addressing her Dragonite captive.

    "However, I'm sure it will be different if your scarf turns up intact in the claws of an Imperial Captain alleging that you've been plotting against them," she said. "I certainly hope you've built up some goodwill, since I can't imagine they would just dismiss such an event, even with that strip of my scarf in your claws."

    Darzin said nothing, scowling back at the impudent shrimp for a moment before he gave a grudging mutter back.

    "And just where are you going with this?"

    "I'm looking for you to make a decision. Would you rather yield to my demand and merely have to explain to your peers why you need a new scarf?" Nagant pressed. "Or be condemned as a traitor by your own faction?"

    The Dragonite glowered, casting his glance over at Pleo with a noticeable pause before he closed his eyes with a frustrated grimace and spoke up with a throaty grumble.

    "… Ugh, I'll leave the bird and his friends alone," he replied. "Now hurry up and let me go."

    "Fine," Nagant harrumphed. "Niilo, give him an Aspear Berry."

    The Sandslash rifled through his bag and pulled out a round, yellow berry, stripping the rind and pressing its juices up against Darzin's joints. The residue of the berry bubbled against the ice's surface, making it thin out until the Dragonite was able to snap the thinned sections of ice and free his limbs. Team Traveller watched as Darzin brushed the ice off his body, the Dragon-Type looking back at them with a sharp glare.

    "Don't think for a moment that this is the end of things."

    The Dragonite leapt up and took to the air, leaving Nagant to reflexively move her claw up after him, only to stop and watch after the departing drake as he slipped from her range. Elty pinned his ears back, going up the Clawitzer with a worried frown.

    "Are you sure you made the right call there?" the Growlithe asked. "Just how much do you trust a 'mon like that?"

    "Hrmph, not much obviously," she retorted. "But with his scarf in my claws, I'll be able to handle any trickery from him well enough."

    Nagant's face fell into a stern frown, as she shifted her firing claw back to Team Traveller with a guarded tension about her body.

    "Though as for you, I'm still undecided," the Clawitzer continued. "You never did finish telling me what your plan was or why I should humor it."

    Team Traveller's members hemmed and hawed at the shrimp's insistence, as they tried to square away the easiest way of convincing her without saying too much. After a pondering twitch of her whiskers, Nida realized that Nagant and Darzin had worked together after coming to a deal with each other. So… if that was the case…

    "Well… you were willing to make a deal with Darzin to help get Pleo, weren't you?" the Nidorina offered. "So why not make one with us? We have blackmail that can make the Company stand down, and all we want is to be left alone."

    Berecien and Niilo traded dubious looks with one another at Nida's offer. Nagant's reaction proved little better, as she narrowed her eyes back and let out a sharp hiss.

    "No, absolutely not," she scoffed. "Why on earth should I take such a blind leap of faith?"

    Nida paused at the shrimp's reply, before shaking her head and folding back an ear curiously.

    "Well… do you really need Pleo?" Nida asked.

    "Of course we do! With him under our banner, we'd be able to force the Company into surrender and finally reunite Anyilla!" Nagant exclaimed. "Would you rather see the Company take over and bully your island with even more impunity if they get him first?"

    "And the commonfolk have been in an uproar after you left Giotto. Bringing Pleo back is the fastest way to get them to calm down," Berecien added, only to be summarily met by Guardia folding her arms and turning up her helmeted snout.

    "Hrmph, you all never struck me as the types to need a god to fight your battles for you, and it'd be quite arrogant to think you could force him to," the Cubone scoffed. "But if we already have a way of getting those knot-necks you're fighting with into leaving us alone and have Pleo explain that he's not mad with your colony, doesn't that solve your other problems?"

    "This way would involve whatever you dug up on Pioppo, I presume?" Nagant demanded.

    Guardia and her teammates widened their eyes and blanched at Clawitzer's question, their alarm and fumbling attempts to cut in with an excuse doing little more than to deepen her scowl.

    "Don't play coy with me, I know from what my crew found that you went there. The only reason why anyone would go there would be out of desperation or because they knew to look for something," Nagant harrumphed. "Even my immediate superior gave me a startled look when I brought that island up, and changed the topic as soon as he could. So since you've been there, tell me. What exactly is out there?"

    Team Traveller's members paused as they weighed over just how open they could afford to be about the Knights' Ledger. After mulling the matter over, Kiran reasoned that it surely wouldn't do any harm to bring up the broad strokes of the Ledger… or at least as it related to their shared enemy.

    "We found some records from back when the Company was still loyal to the Empire. They were… less than flattering about them to say the least," the Swellow explained. "We figured they wouldn't want them coming out, so they'd rather leave us alone than risk getting them exposed."

    "And why shouldn't I just capture you all here and take those records for myself?" Nagant questioned. "You're a merchant crew, while I have a navy at my back. What can you offer that would sway me?"

    "Because… Tromba is where he's needed," Elty said.

    Nagant said nothing back, her expression visibly unmoved by the Growlithe's appeal. Sensing that he was losing the shrimp's patience, Elty hastily carried on, hoping to keep Nagant's attention before her mind made itself up.

    "Look, I know that it sounds a bit corny and I wouldn't have cared about this if you'd asked me a couple weeks ago, but Tromba is his island, and now it's in trouble," he insisted.

    "Hrmph, his island is hardly the only place in Anyilla with troubles, Growlithe."

    "Maybe not," the Puppy Pokémon admitted. "But if your home was in trouble and its Protector was around… wouldn't you want the same if there was a chance of doing something to help it?"

    Nagant fell silent at Elty's words her mind drifted back to her former home on Conntow. For ages, it had been said among the local Pokémon that even while he slept, Zygarde, the local Protector, kept balance in the world around him. For years after the loss of her family to the Great Calamity she'd lifted up prayers to Zygarde to no avail, in the hope that he'd awake and restore the island they both called home. If he had merely been awake at the time of the Great Calamity, surely his power could have saved the island, and the Pokémon who were eagerly awaiting him…

    Were he awake then, it would've been unforgivable if any Pokémon denied him the right to defend the city that had grown in his shadow. Even now, in her advanced years and the memories of happier times slipping from her, she had never fully abandoned glimmers of hope that she'd live to see her Protector restore what was rightfully his. Then… even if it was a mere hamlet, was it right to force the same upon another Protector just because he had fewer souls at home to call out to him? Nagant shifted uncomfortably at the idea, remaining in conflicted thought as Elty shook his head and continued on.

    "As long as his home needs him, we're going to keep on fighting to get him back there," he said. "Are all those Pokémon upset with you right now going to be less upset if he runs away a second time? A third? If he's always looking miserable every time so much as a feather is seen of him?"

    Nagant faltered and looked away from the Growlithe, shifting her gaze towards the ground. The Water-Type lingered a moment, when she felt a hand prod at her left arm, turning her head to see Cabot looking down at her with pleading eyes.

    "Captain, is capturing Pleo really the only way we can move forward?" the Rampardos asked. "Isn't there anything different we can try at all?"

    The Clawitzer hesitated, saying nothing for a long moment before turning over to Team Traveller with a wary glance.

    "… What would you do if I let you go?"

    "We'd go and get our home back, and then blackmail the Company into leaving us alone," Nida answered. "It'll be a hard fight, but we've got friends there to help us. Even if Pleo's still young and learning as a Protector, we're not just going to let ourselves get pushed around."

    Nagant frowned back, making Team Traveller's members tense up as the lot half-expected her to berate them or shoot an errant jet of water into their faces, when the Clawitzer surprised them by closing her eyes with a loud sigh.

    "… Fine, I'll humor it," she murmured.

    Pleo and his companions exhaled out of relief, happy that in spite of their fears they'd seemingly gotten through to the Clawitzer. Cabot meanwhile stared at Nagant stunned, half-disbelieving that after their conversation on Buyeom that she was actually agreeing to let Pleo go.

    "Do you really mean it, Captain?" the Rampardos asked.

    "Hrmph, I don't kid around, Cabot," the shrimp scolded. "You of all Pokemon should know that."

    Nagant's answer made Pleo beat his wings excitedly, the young Lugia letting out a happy chirp in response to the Clawitzer.

    "Thank you!" he exclaimed. "I promise that you won't regret-"

    "The pleasantries can wait for another time," Nagant interrupted. "If we're going to go through with this arrangement, you must leave Haipheh as soon as possible."

    "Huh? Why are you in such a rush to shoo us off?" Guardia asked. "Aren't you in charge here?"

    "No. Ever since you left Giotto we've been working together with another crew that's led by a higher ranked Salamence. I sent word to him about your presence this morning and he'll probably arrive here by the end of the day," Nagant explained. "He doesn't know anything about any arrangements that I've been making, and you shouldn't expect him to honor any bargain between us."

    "Yeah, that Commodore Valan's a real stick in the mud," Niilo added. "He'd Hyper Beam any of you into next week if it meant getting ahold of Pleo."

    Wait… Valan? As in the Lieutenant that served under Admiral Coil all those years ago?! Guardia and the others grimaced as their minds turned back to the tale Valter told them on Pioppo. Having yet another strong Pokémon with no shortage of underlings giving chase to them was the last thing that they needed right now. Sensing the group's unease, Nagant gave a reassuring wave of her claw and shook her head back.

    "Don't worry about it too much. I'll see to it that Valan doesn't find your trail so long as our arrangement is in place," the Clawitzer began, before her features hardened into a stern frown.

    "Though there are limits to it. I've got an estate to restore and I won't stand by this deal if it means the Empire is endangered," she warned. "If anything happens to you out there, I will track you down and bring you back to Tidemill City myself even if I have to chain you to the center mast to do it. Are we clear?"

    The gathered Pokémon shuffled uneasily at the shrimp's ultimatum, only for Pleo to step up with a confident glance, giving a firm nod back at the Water-Type.

    "Understood," the Lugia chirped. "But I really think that we can do this."

    "… Let's hope so. Just don't make me regret this," Nagant said, before shifting her gaze over to Kelly.

    "Though this is the point where we should part ways," the Clawitzer remarked. "The rest of my crew is waiting for me, and I'm sure yours is as well."

    Team Traveller nodded back, before Kelly moved away to prepare a safe space to teleport from, prompting Elty, Ander, Guardia, and Trizano to follow after her. Nida began to make her way over to the group as well, only to catch herself and flick her ears as she felt cloth straps tugging against her shoulder, prompting her to turn to Niilo and hand over Tegu's bag.

    "Oh right, this came from a friend of yours earlier," the Nidorina said.

    Niilo took the satchel from the Poison-Type, pausing after he noticed it felt unusually light. The Sandslash opened the bag, peering inside before raising his head back up with an annoyed frown.

    "And where's the stuff in it?" he asked. "Knowing the 'mon this belongs to, I doubt you took an empty bag earlier."

    "Eh, we put them to good use," Nida replied, waving her paw back dismissively as she made her way to Kelly's teleport circle. "We wouldn't have made it past those patrols in the dungeon without them."

    Berecien narrowed his eyes as the Ponyta curled his mouth into a sour frown and gave a disdainful snort.

    "I can't believe we're making an agreement with a bunch of thieving dranie like you," he grumbled, his complaints being swiftly answered by a smug smile from Elty.

    "Nah, it's compensation for the whole 'kidnapping a Protector' thing you guys did on Sormus," the Growlithe teased. "Or do I detect a hint of jealousy that your sticky paws aren't all they're cracked up to be?"

    Berecien spluttered angrily back at Elty's retort and opened his mouth to snap back, the Growlithe blowing a raspberry as he vanished in a flash of light with Kelly and his teammates. After a few moments as the Ponyta continued to fume over his wounded pride, Kelly returned and turned her attention back to Team Traveller's remaining members.

    "Alright everyone, it's your turn."

    Crom, Pladur, Dimitri, and Kiran made their way over to Kelly, prompting Pleo to walk off after them when he heard a downcast sigh. The young Lugia paused and turned back, seeing Cabot hanging his head and looking at the ground in low spirits.

    "I suppose this is goodbye again," the Rampardos murmured.

    "Well… yeah. My home's in trouble, and the Pokémon there need me to help them," Pleo answered as he shifted uneasily. "You understand, don't you?"

    "I do, but… I just wish that we didn't have to part ways like this," Cabot said.

    "But, Cabot, it won't be for that long," the Lugia replied. "I'm sure we'll see each other again soon!"

    Cabot blinked in surprise at Pleo's exclamation, the Rampardos staring back at a loss for words as the Lugia gave a determined look back.

    "I know we'll be able to get through this and beat the Company. Besides, we're friends!" he insisted. "Maybe I can't see you until we've gotten everything sorted out, but that doesn't mean I don't want to see you afterwards! I just know that you'd love Tromba, and Bluewhorl, and everyone there…"

    Pleo paused at the sight of the downcast Rampardos, wondering to himself if there was anything at all he could do to lift his spirits. After a moment's deliberation, his eyes lit up as an idea flickered across his mind. The young Protector craned his head back towards his wings and nosed about before clamping down on a loose feather and plucking it out. Cabot raised a brow at the seabird's preening, as Pleo turned back to face him with a silver plume held firmly in his beak before bringing it up to Cabot's hands.

    "If you had something to remember that by…" he offered. "Maybe it'd help?"

    Cabot took the feather and ran it between his digits, looking down in fascinated awe at the silvery-white feather. The Rampardos' gaze lingered on the plume for a moment, before he looked back at Pleo with his mood having taken a visibly happier turn.

    "Heh," Cabot chuckled. "I… I guess I can try that out- Huh?"

    Cabot looked down to see Pleo wrapping his wings about his body in an embrace, prompting him to join back with a hug of his own. Team Traveller's members blinked out of surprise and Niilo and Berecien looked on silently for a moment, when the quiet was broken by Nagant hopping up with an impatient hiss.

    "Alright, alright, break it up you two!" the Clawitzer snapped. "We don't have time for all of this!"

    Cabot gave a sheepish smile back to his captain as Pleo let Cabot go and shuffled up to Kelly's teleport circle. The Lugia put his wings out and began to entwine himself when a sharp call drew Pleo's attention and turned it back to Nagant.

    "Just don't do anything stupid out there," she scolded. The Clawitzer said nothing for a moment before a faint smile spread over her mouth.

    "And good luck… Pleo."

    The young Protector blinked in surprise for a moment, before nodding back gratefully.

    "Thanks, and good luck to you too."

    With that, the Lugia and his friends were swallowed in a flash of light, vanishing and leaving Nagant and her subordinates behind in the snow-covered forest. The Clawitzer and her party quietly looked on at the now-empty patch of forest, before turning and making their way off towards Whitepalm Town in the distance.




    At the same time, within Inler's office at the Company's headquarters, the Nidoking shuffled through papers at his carved wooden desk as the patter of harsh rain could be heard outside, his work that day having gone by slowly since Lyn had hurriedly pitched his fallback plan to retrieve the Protector. While he and the rest of the Board had found it adequate enough, the Poison-Type was still plagued by a dissatisfied mood from the debacle with the Ditto earlier, which had made his work more of a chore than normal.

    The Director peered down at some paperwork documenting a recent harvest of Apricorns from Mengir when a deafening thunderclap made him fold his ears back, before getting up and turning out the window. The Nidoking looked out at the pouring rain and dark gray clouds overhead, pinching his brow with a frustrated sigh when the sound of the door creaking reached his ears. The soft tramp of footsteps against his rug rang out, prompting him to turn and see the approaching form of an Inteleon in a Third-Rank scarf, who he recognized as none other than the Pokémon in charge of the Company's Intelligence Division.

    "Ah, Olivia," Inler greeted. "I take it that you have news from the interrogation?"

    "Hrmph, it depends on your definition," the Inteleon replied. "I wasn't expecting my subordinates to get much out of that gumwad, but things managed to surprise my already low expectations."

    "What do you mean by that?"

    "The Ditto claims that he was forced to deceive Commissioner Lyn by our three operatives that were stationed on Buyeom Island," Olivia explained. "Not only that, but he said that the Commissioner's first mate and the notary he hangs around with were in on it as well."

    Inler paused at the Water-Type's reply and narrowed his eyes into a dubious scowl.

    "And have you found anything that would point towards him speaking the truth?" he pressed.

    "It's a spy's word against that of our own people, so the question is which of the two is more likely," Olivia said as she crossed her arms. "That one of the best teams under my command have been plotting treason with two members from the expedition you sent out, or that the Ditto was simply naming off most of the Second-Ranks around the Commissioner to try and get us to waste our time."

    Inler's muzzle fell into a sharp frown, the Poison-Type letting out a low grumble from his throat before speaking up.

    "Hrmph, it wouldn't be the first time an Imperial spy's tried to turn our ranks against each other…" the Nidoking muttered.

    Olivia paused, sizing up the Company Director before her. From the way he'd described things, it was as open-and-shut a case as she and her subordinates surmised. But in spite of all that, the Nidoking's face still remained firmly fixed in a skeptical frown.

    "… And yet you don't sound convinced, Director," Olivia remarked. "Is there something that you think we're missing here?"

    "Perhaps it's just my old age, but I'd like you to task a few operatives to watch over the Board's members for a while," Inler said. "If the Empire's attempting to interfere with our attempts to retrieve the Guardian of the Seas in such a manner, we shouldn't assume they aren't similarly targeting the higher ranks."

    "Understood, Director."

    Olivia turned and pushed the door open, slipping off into the rooftop garden as she closed the door behind her. As the thud of the closing door reverberated, Inler turned his attention back out the window, looking off at the surrounding city of islets with a low growl as the rain pattered outside.

    "And it'd help make sure they're not causing their share of mischief either."




    After returning to the Siglo Swellow, the ship quickly undid its disguise as a derelict and set sail as Team Traveller reoriented themselves with the rest of the crew. The deckhands' initial enthusiasm surrounding the team's reunion and their tales of their encounters with Nagant and Darzin were quickly quashed, giving way to concern as the topic of conversation inevitably turned to the presence of a Company Commissioner on Tromba and the ambush he had been setting for them, drawing the expected alarm and confusion from their ranks…

    "H-Huh?! But that means those square-necks are in town right now!" a Bayleef exclaimed.

    "You don't suppose he was bluffing, do you?" Pat asked. "Marley did always say that Dragonite was a cheat and a liar. Who's to say he was being truthful there?"

    "As loath as I am to admit it, I think he was telling the truth," Kiran sighed. "He tried to keep what was happening in Tromba quiet at first, so why do that if it's really safe?"

    The crew's members traded grimaces and uneasy glances with one another. All this time, they'd taken it for granted that all they had to do was sail home with their Protector, but with that no longer the case…

    " …What are we supposed to do now?" a Sliggoo asked.

    "Isn't it obvious?" Guardia scoffed. "We sail in and kick those rotters out!"

    The Cubone's cry drew skeptical mutters and frowns in response, the gathered deckhands finding no shortage of potential problems or shortcomings of the Ground-Type's suggested approach.

    "You can't be serious…" a Nosepass grumbled. "We'd be sailing straight into an ambush!"

    "Yeah, and the only armaments we've got beyond our own abilities and a small stash of dungeon items is a Lyle Gun!" Natrix protested. "How do you expect us to fend off a ship's worth of Company goons with that?"

    "I mean, we know about their ambush, which they don't know yet. And it's not as if fighting a Commissioner is gonna be harder than fighting an Administrator," Nida offered. "Besides, if we can make it to land with the sails Valter gave us we'll have us a chance to work with the rest of the town so we don't have to fight them alone."

    The Nidorina's insistence prompted the gathered sailors to hem and haw uneasily, as Vicente stepped forward to air their collective misgivings with a dubious shake of his head.

    "Those still aren't odds that I'd bet on," the Hitmontop said. "And what about the Ledger you found? I thought you sought that out precisely because we couldn't take on the Company in a straight fight."

    "He does raise a point," Beatrix added. "Besides, after that Commissioner and his goons have had the chance to stomp around, we don't exactly have a home turf advantage. We'd be going in blind with no help until we made contact with everyone else."

    "Not to mention we have to organize everything on the fly once we do that," Vicente muttered.

    Nida and Guardia fell silent in reply, only for Dimitri to raise a scythe and clear his throat for attention.

    "Actually… maybe we wouldn't be as alone as we think," the Kabutops began, prompting Vicente to blink back puzzledly.

    "… What do you mean?" the Hitmontop pressed.

    "Well, in my last message that I sent out to my rod, I'd told them that I was headed out to Tromba," Dimitri explained. "Since they wanna see for themselves that Pleo is safe, they'll surely be nearby and able to lend a helping claw."

    "And Kline will be there too!" Pleo insisted. "Don't you remember how we agreed to meet up again near Tromba? He left his Cell here before leaving, so he should know about what's going and will surely help us!"

    The young Lugia paused and remembered that before he left, Kline's cell had been on the ship's mast. Pleo looked off at the mast, wondering if Kline could even hear them right now.

    "… Wouldn't he?" Pleo asked.

    Pleo watched the mast a moment and tilted his head puzzledly, when the outline of a Zygarde Cell filled in and wriggled back and forth in reply. The nearby crew members began to chatter in reassured tones with each other, taking the Cell's appearance to be an affirmation as Vicente turned over to the ship's Illumise captain.

    "… It's your call, Captain," the Hitmontop said. "Admittedly these are still some long odds, but I can't say we have nothing going in our favor."

    Beatrix paused and fluttered in place in quiet deliberation. After a moment's pause, she turned back, with newfound determination coming over her eyes.

    "Let's press on," she answered. "We came all this way to get back home, we might as well learn more about what we're facing before throwing in the towel."

    The Bug-Type turned and called out to her crew, prompting them to return to their places on the deck and maneuver the sails in place to push the Siglo Swellow forward along the winds, carrying on across the sea for Bluewhorl and the unknowns waiting for them.




    Author's Notes:

    - (¡)Habla bajo! - Spanish: "Keep it down!"
    - V chem smysl etogo?! (В чем смысл этого?!) - Russian: "What is the meaning of this?!" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - Cosa è successo? - Italian: "What happened?"
    - Ei - Finnish: "No"
    - glush (глушь) - Russian: "backwater", "(place in the) middle of nowhere" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
     
  11. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Averting a misunderstanding before it can descend into a Saturday AM ball of violence. Good boi, Elty. You deserve dog treats.

    And, thus, Nillo became an Alolan sandslash.

    Wouldn't that be a razz berry in this universe? :p

    [​IMG]

    Obligatory "every dragonite knows hyper beam because Lance."

    ... oh. Maybe he is a distant descendant of Lance's dragonite? [thinking emoji]

    [​IMG]

    Easy, with the power of:
    [​IMG]

    100%, given the way this fic works. B)

    "Yeah, how dare you not mention to her that you were going to ambush us!" Beat. "Waaaaait a second..."

    Of course it's not. None of the villains have exited the story properly yet. Only some grunts have.

    Oh, so her island's protected by Kline. Ow, the irony.

    I'm sorry, the mental image of a big dino giving puppy-dog eyes is too hilarious.

    "My brow is so furrowed I make Miles Edgeworth jealous, Cabot."

    At some point these two are gonna each learn about one another's ties to Nagrobek and it will be delicious.

    "After all, I'm too popular for this to be my last appearance."

    Well, I expected Darzin to crash the party and he did. I did not expect Cabot to evolve or Team Traveller to end up learning about the ambush waiting for them back home. Though if Tromba's where they're heading next, I can't see it ending well. It's inevitable they're going to end up on Nagrobek, so a bungled attempt to "liberate" their home seems inevitable /thanos. Bonus points if it gets Kline into trouble. Plus there are the threads being set up by Inler at the end here. I think we'll eventually see Ketu and Lyn come to (non-training) blows... maybe Inler and Elilan, though likely not in a physical sense. Inler's old, after all.

    Though one thing that struck me as strange was why no one on Traveller chose to mention Valan being in the Ledger to Nagant. I know they didn't want to tip their hand too much and whatnot, but they're smart cookies. They could probably hear the disdain in Nagant's voice and giving her info that Valan might not be so noble could've made for good insurance to make sure they get left alone. And, since he worked with Coil and Coil's now disgraced, it'd tie nicely back into the uproar Nagant mentioned.
     
    Virgil134 likes this.
  12. GastlyMan

    GastlyMan Ghost Type Trainer

    I’ve gotten a bit behind, so here’s a super quick review:

    Chapter 76:

    Oh no! Hopefully they will be okay. The Rhyhorn seems to have good intentions. But, how long can they lie low for?

    Yep, they’re onto him! D:

    Kiran is so positive. I love it.

    I mean, he’s not wrong…

    Uh-oh.

    Wholesome. Love this.

    Chapter 77:
    Great chapter, was honestly invested enough in the story that I forgot to write anything down haha.

    Chapter 78:

    This will be an interesting dilemma.

    Ha, this made me chuckle.

    Good battle, also I’m curious as to how this will go over…

    Chapter 79:

    YES!

    That was another great battle to read; glad they won it.

    Ooh! That’s great!

    Exciting! I’m really enjoying how this plot is progressing. This upcoming battle should be intense.
     
    Virgil134 likes this.

Share This Page