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Fledglings

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Well, this is certainly an episode introduction chapter. I don't really feel like I have much to say about it because so far it's following some similar beats as the previous episode. The team is in an area under opposition control and is splitting up in the hopes of covering more ground. The big difference is there are fewer parties and more people in those two parties, leaving more chances for one of them to get caught. Which I don't expect to immediately happen until they try and go undercover at the academy. which begs the question what the rest of the crew is doing to make sure they're not recognized at all, since this doesn't sound like the type of problem that's solved in one afternoon.

The rest of the crew is presumably laying low tending to the Siglo Swellow and exploiting the fact that they don’t have anywhere near as much notoriety as Team Traveller does. The dye job and Nida evolving helps to take some heat off of them, but disguises have a shelf limit.

Cue the X-Files theme.

I could say something about this, but nah. I’ll leave it to you and the other readers to wonder where that’s going.

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I mean, there are all of like five places that get explicitly namedropped in this story that don’t show up on screen eventually in the main plot. Nagrobek isn’t one of them.

I mean... he has a point…

Maybe, but then we wouldn’t have as much color and fun on Team Zephyr, now would we? :p

"Yeah, yeah, we get it. You're the Voice of Order. Doesn't mean you have to throw the word around."

But title drops! :V

Not with that attitude there isn't!

I don’t think that’s something you can fix with just an attitude adjustment. At least not without teleportation or reality warping in the mix. ^^;

Hire Danny Ocean and his team?

No money for that, even if it would probably be a wise move on their part.

We interrupt this PMD fic to bring you Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Path of Valor. [beat] Wait a sec...

Oh, you’ve seen nothing yet. This is an arc built heavily around being in a school, so… :^)

Thanks for the review, though. It’s always a treat to get feedback from you, and especially on such a short turnaround time! We’ll be looking forward to what you have to say over the next few chapters, especially if you see a few things here and there you might find familiar.

Well, it’s a little later than August, but the new chapter is finally here for your viewing pleasure. The one after this is a bit shorter, though I’ll hold off on getting too aggressive on announcing a release date. Barring a major life crisis, the next should definitely make an October release though, and likely earlier on in the month.

The special thanks for the chapter go to my co-writer @Virgil134 and to you readers and reviewers who have stuck around for this story through the years. For those of you paying attention to the view counter, don’t worry, there is a trivia section that will go up within a day, though since it contains some spoilers for the actual chapter, it follows the body of the chapter this time instead of preceding it.

Curious what’s there? Well, I suppose that’s as good a reason as any to get right into the story, huh?
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
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Nida and her party's search at the museum turned up no shortage of paintings and relics that had been put on display, but precious little indication of any place where the Knight's Ledger was stored. The few books that they encountered there were all tomes from the early eras of the Cradle written in Footprint Runes, along with a few pieces written in mystic scripts that allegedly came from human eras such as fragments of a book full of pictures found on Kenobi Island that was apparently called a "mahn-gah". Attempting to chat up the guards had similarly not given any leads, with it turning out that all of the museum's texts that weren't on display were in safekeeping in the Academy.

The Nidorina and her companions were about to set off when Elty had hurried over from Kline's team and beckoned them over to the Academy. After a brief moment of confusion, the Growlithe explained that they'd discovered the presence of a "Vault" there, which from its description was likely one and the same as the safekeeping site they were told about by the museum's guards. After a quick group meeting in a small square a few islets away from the Academy complex, Team Traveller and their companions decided that it was best to send Nida, Crom, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia into the complex as students. Their cover was made complete after stopping by a local tailor and plying the 'mon with a sob story that the youngsters were acquaintances whose scarves had been accidentally damaged beyond repair, and that they would get in trouble with their teachers for needing replacement scarves. Their explanation drew some initial puzzlement, though was otherwise not enough from dissuading the tailor from accepting payment and a few spare scarves they supplied, bleaching them, and then re-dying them an unpatterned lavender as requested. The results weren't perfect, but they were good enough for any discrepancies in color to be played off as normal discoloration from repeated washings.

Before they knew it, Nida and the others were making their way through the central courtyard of the Academy. There, Crom stopped and peered up at the gilded statue of the Haxorus founder in the center, finding it a bit curious that the Company too owed its existence to a sailor who was a Pokémon of his father's kind, before heading in along with his teammates. After making their way through the entrance, the five entered a foyer that had been fashioned of stone flooring and brick walls built around a staircase that went up four levels, with tall, glass windows letting in light from outside and lavender banners hung from the walls here and there. After a moment's hesitation, the team opted to start by searching around on the ground floor, a coin flip steering them off down the hallway to the right where they paced along and watched a series of wooden doors pass by them on both ends.

"What exactly are we supposed to be looking for again?" Nida asked.

"Leads as to where the Vault and the Ledger would be?" Crom answered. "I mean, Kline's group did say they saw Darzin come out from this building."

"That doesn't really narrow it down, Crom," the Nidorina sighed. "What are we supposed to do? Just go rooting through every room until we find something?"

Crom, Pleo, and Elty traded blank looks amongst themselves at Nida's question, when Guardia stepped forward and gave a quiet tap at the floor with her club to draw the group's attention.

"Surely you hut dwellers have some place for gathering lore, right?" the Cubone questioned. "For a piece that's as important as this Ledger, shouldn't we be looking in places wherever the Pokémon in this hut-dweller colony would keep and remember their lore?"

Guardia's teammates raised their brows puzzledly at her suggestion, only for Pleo to tilt his head as a dawning realization came over him.

"… Do you mean like a place with a bunch of books?" the Lugia said. "I don't know anything about lorekeepers, but there might be one of those here… I think Cabot called it a 'library'?"

"I mean, it's worth trying at least," Crom mused. "Let's go take a look around."

The five gaped about the tiled hallway and noted that along the brick walls, there were doorways on either side. The group continued on, glancing about their surroundings as Nida noted that the doorways had plates with runes engraved on them, the Nidorina reading them off as they passed.

"Room 42 , Room 43 … How are we supposed to tell which of these is the library?" she asked.

"Wouldn't a library be a bit more important?" Elty replied. "I can't imagine it'd be numbered just like any other room."

Just after the Growlithe spoke up, the team noticed that there was a stretch of wall that went unbroken by doors. The five stared at the wall puzzledly, before they came across a set of double doors fashioned out of dark hardwood. The party stopped and stared up for a brief moment, as Nida gave a quiet blink after glancing up and seeing there was a plaque with an inscription reading 'Main Library' attached directly to the left of the door frame.

"… Huh, no kidding," the Nidorina said.

"Well, guess that's one way to know we've found it," Elty remarked. "Come on, let's go inside."

The Growlithe raised a paw and pressed down against the right door, pushing it open for him and his teammates to enter. At once, the five were taken aback by the presence of a tall chamber lined with tall bookshelves. Team Traveller's members blinked before they looked towards the foreground, where they spotted desks in a central space. Some of them had been taken up by students who were poring over tomes and papers, such as a Dreepy who was poring over a thick textbook about law in Company waters. Back near the entrance, another larger desk had been placed among a set of bookshelves, with a sign on a wooden board that had been labelled 'Checkout'.

To both the left and the right were rows and rows of bookshelves running perpendicular to the wall that were separated by a trio of neat paths: one in the center and two along the sides of the wall where further shelves hugged the walls of the chamber. Guardia looked about in awe at her surroundings, as she noticed that when she tried to look down the rows of shelves…

"Wow, they just keep going on and on…" the Cubone murmured, before Crom batted his wings uneasily.

"Where do we even start?" the Druddigon asked.

"Well, in the library that Cabot took me to, he said all of the books were sorted by the sorts of things they were about," Pleo said. "So maybe we just need to look around and find wherever the books are that would be about the same sort of things as the Ledger."

Nida and the others traded dubious looks with one another. The Knights' Ledger was something that both the Company and the Empire tried their hardest to pretend like it didn't exist, so what were the odds they'd find it so casually here?

"Sure, let's look under the section labeled 'State Secrets'," Elty scoffed. "I'm sure we'll find it there."

"Eh? That exists?" Pleo asked, giving a puzzled blink back. His reaction made Elty throw a paw over his face in exasperation, before Guardia shook her head and spoke up.

"Actually, I think Pleo might actually be onto something," the Cubone insisted. "Maybe we'll find a clue by looking around, or maybe the Academy has a section with forbidden books or something. Come on, let's spread out and try and see what we can find."

The four nodded back to Guardia and fanned out among the shelves, each of them taking one corner of the room while Guardia tagged along with Elty due to her lack of literacy in runes. Crom made his way to the back left corner from the entrance, reading off titles as he passed. There was Roelof's Atlas of the Whole Cradle in a section of shelves that seemed to be all about geography, The Full History of Anyilla from the Accession of Aquila in another that seemed to be in one about past ages, and Principles of Naval Engineering: Sail Plans and Construction in one about ships and shipbuilding. A bit dry perhaps, but nothing that really seemed abnormal, and hardly the place one would expect to find a volume of the Knights' Ledger…

"Ah! I found something! I found something!"

Crom perked up after hearing Pleo's voice cry out from a few rows ahead of him and hurried over towards it. The Druddigon rounded the corner of a shelf that had been labelled with a simple rune that was commonly used to compose more complex ones, where he spotted Pleo happily nosing at a book lying open on the ground with paper cutouts standing upright depicting a pair of ships pulled alongside each other in battle, one of which was a pirate ship teeming with Ghost-Types and a Sableye standing at its prow.

"The pictures in this book pop out!" the Lugia exclaimed. "It's really pretty."

The group stood blinking for a moment, realizing the scene was from a goofier story involving the misadventures of a band of amateur pirates, meant for younger and weaker readers from the looks of it. Guardia went up to paw curiously at the book while Nida shook her head, before walking up and closing it with a sigh.

"Let's focus on finding the Ledger first Pleo, otherwise we'll be buried in books," the Nidorina said. "Besides, I'm pretty sure Pokémon aren't supposed to make lots of ruido in a lib-"

"Yipe!"

Pleo, Nida, Crom, and Guardia whirled around at the sound of a large thud, turning to see a pile of books lying on the ground from a now-emptied row on the shelf and Elty flinching with a brown tome in his mouth. The Growlithe set his book down, before flusteredly hemming and hawing a moment prior to explaining himself.

"They… uh… They just fell out on their own," he insisted.

The Puppy Pokémon's teammates rolled their eyes in response when they heard a harsh, metallic hiss come up from the other side of the shelves. The five blanched and hurriedly ran along, only to stumble into a levitating metallic lump and pratfall. After a stunned moment, the lot looked up to see the form of a Metang in Company garb floating in front of them that shot a sharp glare downwards.

"What are you doing making a mess of my books?"

Pleo and his companions flushed pale and flinched at the angry librarian, the five stammering over each other before Crom finally managed to squeak out a reply.

"E-Eh… we were just looking up some stuff for class?" the Druddigon gulped, prompting the Metang to skeptically narrow her eyes down at the gathered party.

"And just what class are you from?" the Psychic-Type pressed. Crom squirmed and fumbled with his words for a moment, before hesitantly offering up a reply.

"Uh… the… first one?"

The Metang blinked and floated about, carefully eying the five with special emphasis placed on Crom, Elty, and Guardia. Was something wrong? Did they look younger than they were supposed to as Academy students? A dawning realization seemed to come over the Metang, as a Lucario in a First-Rank scarf walked up and shot a dubious frown over at Nida and her companions.

"Is something the matter here?" the Fighting-Type asked.

"Yes, these delinquents are skipping out from the early track classes and making a mess of my books!" the Metang librarian fumed.

"Eh?! That's actually a class?!" Nida exclaimed. "But we can't go there!"

"Look, kid. This isn't a Day Care and we don't have time for these antics," the Lucario growled. "Just why can't you go back to the class that you skipped?"

"Uh… well…" Elty started. "We weren't feeling so good and had a bit of a stomachache, so- H-Hey! What are you-?!"

The Growlithe was cut off by the Lucario guard slipping behind them and shoving him and his companions forward. Team Traveller's members were shooed along, flailing and protesting all the while before the Fighting-Type finally pushed them past the door. With the library returning to quiet, the Metang turned back to the fallen books, focusing as her eyes lit up in a blue sheen and she began to levitate them back to their places with a low, metallic grumble.

"Ugh… kids these days."



In the waters just north of Tromba Island, the Argent Aviso sailed ahead of a flotilla of five ships, two flanking from either end. On the deck, the crew had kept busy tending to the rigging, as Pokémon wheeled wooden cannons into place at the railings. The ship's captain barked out orders that floated through the air, as did his Weavile first mate, who clung to the rigging clad in a dark blue set of cloth armor inspecting the sailors' progress and called out his orders with an audibly agitated and impatient tone.

"We're approaching Tromba, so get into positions!" Ketu snapped. "I want the cannons ready to be fired the moment me or the Captain give the order!"

The Weavile jumped down to the deck and mingled among the sailors hurrying to and fro with a low grumble. Up in the air above him, Kane motioned with his wings and flew in tight arcs in the air, signaling to the spotters on the other ships to follow along in formation.

None of this was supposed to have happened. They were supposed to have blown up Lyn's mission and finally gotten Kline into Elilan's claws so that they could start putting their plans for Anyilla into motion. He wasn't supposed to go back to being Lyn's first mate and babysitting a bunch of useless thugs thanks to Lyn somehow getting a third chance after falling short!

Really, the only silver lining of their mission falling short was that he'd had a chance to spend downtime with Sorge again, because Lyn had gotten the hair-brained idea to use pirates to do his dirty work of capturing Pleo. And even that didn't last thanks to getting sortied again because some blotch-head made a mess of a mission he was never supposed to receive in the first place!

Ketu carried on walking the deck when his foot bumped against a heavy sack, the Dark-Type looking down to see that it was a sack of Apricorns left unattended by one of the sailors en route to a cannon. The Weavile flattened out his ears, before letting out an exasperated sigh.

"Urgh, do I have to do everything around here?"

Ketu lugged the sack up to the cannon, where a sheepish-looking Heracross hastily hurried over. The Weavile shot a sharp glare at the beetle before heading off, his features easing slightly as he thought to himself amidst the din on deck.

All things considered, things could be going worse. Until two days ago, they had no lead on where Pleo or Kline could be, and now they had a lead for both. On top of it, there was even a potential lead on the whereabouts of Manaphy to boot after she'd fallen off the radar years ago. Even if he'd have his claws full from keeping Lyn from learning more about Kline or finding him, it was hardly right to complain about an opportunity like that.

He made his way up the steps to the Argent Aviso's bow, where Lyn was perched against the railing with a spyglass held up to his eyes. The Samurott hadn't put on cloth armor for the impending raid, probably because he intended to dive ahead of his ship and hack and slash his way onto shore much like he usually did when fighting at sea. Lyn peered through the glass at Tromba Island in the distance, before pulling it back and turning impatiently towards his underlings.

"Take your places, everyone!" he barked. "This is going to be a stormy landing!"

The Argent Aviso plowed along through the water at the head of the fleet as the harbor began to come into view to the naked eye. Little by little, the harbor grew larger and larger as the minutes went by and Lyn's ship neared. Once they came into firing range, the Samurott unsheathed his blades, swinging them wide before he turned and barked out to his crew.

"Open fire!"

The sailors manning the cannons slipped blast seeds into their feed holes before clamping their barbed caps shut. One after the other, the sailors slammed down on the caps, the barbs detonating the seeds within and sending sprays of Apricorns through the air towards shore. Other Pokémon on the deck and among the escorts spat out beams of various elements towards shore, which were joined by similar volleys from the other four ships. The hail of attacks sailed off into the distance, followed by booms and crashes ringing out from shore and thin columns of smoke began to rise from Bluewhorl Town. A series of flashes twinkled from shore and the harbor's water, as a spray of returning attacks zipped in, the escorts hastily throwing up barriers of light that deflected the incoming attacks and accomplished little more than to make a few of Lyn's deckhands reflexively flinch. The Samurott's muzzle curled up in a smirk, as he gave a dismissive scoff.

"Tch, is that really the best they can muster?" he remarked. "This will be over quick, at least."

Lyn's fleet moved along, casting out further attacks and deflecting incoming ones barring an occasional pockmark here or there while it barreled towards shore. As the Argent Aviso and its entourage reached the edge of the harbor, the sea escorts came across a few of the harbor dwellers, driving them off with a few watery volleys and intimidating snarls. The Samurott walked up to the prow, ready to jump into the water to spearhead his fleet's assault, when a galleon without sails abruptly pulled away from shore, being towed by swimmers with cables who turned it sideways, blocking the entrance into the harbor.

"Captain, isn't that Commissioner Bunsen's ship?" a Huntail from the water asked. "Someone tell them to get it out of the way, or we'll crash straight into it!"

Lyn looked at the stricken galleon ahead, when at once he noticed something deeply amiss. The galleon sat dead in the water in the middle of his path and what little remained of its sails were a few torn up strips of lavender cloth dangling from the masts. The Samurott grit his teeth, before beelining for the tiller at the stern and crying out to his subordinates.

"Lower the anchor and sails!" Lyn shouted. "Take us hard to starboard and tell the other ships to come to!"

He threw his weight against the tiller and pushed it leftwards, the escorts in the air and water hurriedly churning up currents to try and help the ship turn. The Argent Aviso continued drifting for Bunsen's stricken galleon, the sailors darting away from the railing with yelps as the Argent Aviso sideswiped it with a loud crash. Lyn's ship rocked violently and groaned as a few of the deckhands lost their footing, the Samurott letting out an irritated growl as he looked around to see the other ships in the fleet had similarly come to haphazard stops, when a Sceptile's voice called out from Bunsen's ship.

"Well, you're certainly back soon, Lyn. Wasn't expecting you to want to come and visit again so quickly."

Lyn turned and saw Osmund and a party of Pokémon in various colored garb emerging from the galleon's stern. The Sceptile went up to the railing and placed his right foot on it, before giving the Samurott a teasing smirk back.

"Though, I'm afraid this is as far as we're willing to entertain you and your underlings this time," he said. "If you're planning on making it ashore, you're not doing it without sending this ship to the bottom of the harbor first."

Lyn went over to the edge of the deck with his blades drawn as his underlings began to mass growling and snarling, only to pause and his lackeys to fall silent as they realized that Bunsen's ship was missing its rudder, and that bundles of Blast Seeds had been attached just above the ship's waterline. Directly above them, harpoon darts dangled from ropes tied to the railing, a cut from any of them would be sufficient to send it falling and lancing its explosive bundle below.

"I mean, it wouldn't be fun for us to get soaked from having to make a hasty exit," Osmund continued. "But hey, those charges were meant to just blow holes into the hull, not send us all to the Spirit World."

Lyn turned his gaze down to the Blast Seeds along the hull of Bunsen's galleon and quietly sized up the situation, before narrowing his eyes back at the gecko.

"Hrmph, you presume much if you think that the Board doesn't consider losing a crippled galleon to be a fair trade for bringing this island to heel," the Samurott huffed.

"Oh really? Do they also consider having a full crew's worth of Pokémon going down with the ship to be a fair trade, too?" the Sceptile retorted. "Though in case you thought we were bluffing, I suppose you should see some of them."

Osmund motioned off towards the stern of Bunsen's ship, as roughly a dozen Pokémon in Company lavenders were marched up and shoved into view at the railing. The Sceptile shook his head, before turning back to face Lyn with a stern gaze.

"There's plenty more where they came from below deck. Now, I know leadership can be glib about the welfare of the rank and file, but they're not that glib," he chided. "So how about we try and hash out some sort of settlement here?"

Lyn narrowed his eyes and let out a low growl from the back of his throat, pointing out a seamitar at the rogue Captain of the Guards.

"If you think the Company's just prepared to negotiate with a bunch of traitors and parasites like you…"

"Last I checked, I was still on the payroll, so this is an internal dispute," Osmund shot back. "Besides, even if it weren't, I certainly doubt you'd want to have 'drowning a full crew's worth of friendlies' on your record. It doesn't exactly do wonders for career advancement."

Lyn scowled back quietly, as his underlings traded uneasy looks with one another and debated amongst themselves over whether the islanders were bluffing or not. On Bunsen's ship, the captured underlings began to fidget and grow impatient, a Zweilous and a Delcatty among the present party calling out to their peers.

"Come on! Don't just sit there!" the Zweilous' left head protested, before being joined in by his right.

"Yeah! Do something and help us out here!"

"They've turned the below decks into a glorified brig and none of these stupid hicks have been caring for us properly!" the Delcatty whined. "My last rations were a couple of stale gummies and a Durin Berry!"

The Delcatty's mention of Durin Berries being among her rations drew scattered groans of disgust and winces of sympathy from members of Lyn's crew. The Samurott captain looked over Bunsen's crew and their captors on the opposing ship, before sheathing his blades with a grumbling sigh.

"Hrmph. I'll humor it," Lyn grunted. "But I'm not going to negotiate on the spot, Osmund. I need some time to prepare myself."

"What?! Just storm the ship already!" a Politoed exclaimed. "You have five ships with you!"

The frog was answered by a small burst of fire striking his rump, prompting him to hop up with a sharp yelp. The Water-Type whirled about, where he saw a Carkol glaring back at him with an angry hiss.

"Hey! Not all of us can swim here, lunk-head!" the Rock-Type snapped.

Ketu narrowed his eyes and pinned his ears at the captured grunts' whining. Weren't they supposed to be from a Commissioner's crew? Even if he didn't think much of Lyn, he was sure his underlings wouldn't act this bad if they got captured. From the corner of his eye, Ketu spotted Lyn making his way off for the stern, with the ship's Xatu teleporter joining him halfway over before the pair slipped into his quarters.

He tensed up, realizing that Lyn must be planning on trying to stall Osmund in order to send out a party to search for Pleo and likely Kline as well. Whatever the Samurott was up to, he needed to be a part of it, since it could very well be his only chance to get at either of those two without Lyn being in the loop.

The Weavile set off, hurriedly following after the pair up to Lyn's cabin and pushing the door open. As he made his way in, he caught Lyn shaking his head and looking down at the Xatu with a low harrumph, handing out a set of scarves that had been hurriedly dyed green on one end with a crescent moon design.

"Kachina, I want you to get a team together to go search around while that skink runs his mouth off," Lyn ordered. "The sooner we know where the Guardian of the Seas and his friends are, the sooner we can end this farce-"

"Not to impose here, but I'd like to be on that team, Captain."

The Samurott and the Xatu looked back at the doorway, where they saw Ketu walk in. Lyn's face fell and he raised a brow puzzledly at the Weavile and his newfound eagerness for action. Since when was Ketu one to ask to be put on scouting duty?

"I'm surprised to hear you volunteer for a mission like this," Lyn remarked. "Why do you want to go?"

"Because we can't afford to make any more mistakes right now, especially now that there's supposedly three Protectors involved," Ketu insisted. "We both know I'm much more likely to pull things off than a bunch of First-Ranks. After all, when I went out into the middle of the Empire's capital for recon, it didn't blow up in your face like when Tarmo and Fintan tried to grab the Protector the last time we were here."

Lyn's thoughts turned back to the first time he tried to extract the Guardian of the Seas from this accursed rock, and how what was supposed to be an orderly and quiet extraction devolved into an open confrontation because the team he assigned for the task managed to get themselves spotted by some local team of runts. Sensing that he'd given his superior the desired pause, Ketu shrugged his shoulders and continued after bringing a claw up to his chest.

"Besides, I'm much less likely to get recognized than most other Pokémon on the crew," the Weavile said. "Normally I'm taking point looking after the ship when they go inland to collect tribute payments."

Lyn paused at Ketu's reply, before shaking his head back with a low grumble.

"Hrmph, who'd have thought your tendency to slack off would create an advantage for once," Lyn harrumphed. "But very well. Go and meet Maurier and Klaas under deck, Kachina will take you all to shore."

Ketu nodded back and left Lyn's cabin along with the crew's teleporter as the Samurott closed the door behind them. Ketu quickly undid the straps of his armor and took it off before casting it aside and continuing off further below the deck with Kachina.

As the Weavile carried on, he quietly breathed a sigh of relief that he was able to talk Lyn into letting him on the team without raising suspicion. It wasn't a state of affairs he could take for granted, especially with Lyn learning more and more about his own mission. So he'd have to make a point of making the most of his present opportunity to snatch Pleo and Kline. After all, it was not getting any easier to keep Lyn in the dark as time went by.



About a five-minute walk north of the Academy, a spindly clock tower loomed over the surrounding canalhouses of Canalhouse City's Hardenheuvel district. The tower had been fashioned out of brown and white bricks and topped with a tiered bell chamber that had been clad in tin, the Tintoren, as it was known locally. Metal arms and hour markers were attached to large plaques just below the bell chamber on each of its four sides, a monument to the Company's wealth and engineering prowess that enabled it to assemble the towering timepiece that marked the hours for the entire district without fail.

Just above each of the clock faces, a ledge ran about the building which Pokémon sometimes flew up to to perch on between hours. That day, the ledge facing south was taken up by a Noivern and a Mothim in Company garb, the pair eating fries from paper cones as the Bug-Type of the pair gaped off at the surrounding cityscape and the cerulean waters of Vollezee's lagoon beyond it.

"You really can see the whole city from here," Ellsberg murmured. "How did you ever find this place, Aldrich?"

Aldrich stuck his claw into the paper sack, before bringing a fry up to his mouth and eating it. The Noivern had a wistful look come over his face and glanced out at his surroundings, pausing for a brief moment when he turned and smiled back at the Mothim.

"I used to fly up here back when I was a Noibat in the Academy," the Dragon-Type replied. "I don't get as many chances to come by as I used to, but the view's still just as good as I remembered."

Ellsberg looked down at the smaller cone of fries in his tarsi and took one for himself. The Bug-Type idly munched at his fry and shook his head back with a sigh.

"I suppose that would explain why I've never heard of it," the Mothim said. "I was a Burmy when I was that age, and considering how my time in the Academy went, I don't know if there'd be anyone that I would trust to not strand me up here."

Aldrich gave a low grunt before pulling in his wings, Ellsberg's words seemingly dredging up unwanted memories.

"Yeah, moments like that have a way of sticking with you," he muttered. "That's part of the reason why I liked to come up here. It was a nice place to just get away from everything and watch the world go by."

Ellsberg finished up his fry, before giving a buzzing huff back.

"Well thankfully those days are long gone now," the Bug-Type remarked. "I've since climbed the ranks, and even if I need to put my foot down every now and then, I get more respect than I used to."

"And what do you think of those First-Ranks in light of all that?" Aldrich pressed, giving an askew glance at the Mothim. Ellsberg blinked and flitted his wings in reply, catching himself from a reflexive rant about them being riddled with disrespectful annoyances as he hemmed and hawed a moment, before trying to put forward a diplomatic answer.

"Well… they're a varied lot, but I suppose that's to be expected considering all the Pokémon that live in the Company's territory," the moth began. "With the right guidance, they're more than manageable as-"

"You don't need to be so polite," Aldrich said. "Let's be honest here, Ellsberg. The average grunt in this organization is a bottom-feeding thug who's only here for a paycheck or a power trip."

Ellsberg gave a surprised twitch of his feelers at the Noivern's response, reflexively opening his mouth to object that surely Aldrich was oversimplifying things, only to catch himself. His mind turned back to Ken and Hooke from Lyn's crew bullying him around, and how he couldn't remember a single one of their peers sticking up for him. The moth bristled at the thought, and he had to admit to himself that Lyn's underlings ultimately weren't all that abnormal for Company standards. But even so, what was Aldrich getting at here?

"I mean, I suppose that's not wholly inaccurate," Ellsberg replied. "But it keeps the ranks staffed and they're not exactly hard to motivate."

"And what good will that do if they turn tail at the first sign of serious trouble thanks to being motivated by base desires?" Aldrich scoffed. The Noivern shook his head a moment, before looking out at the surrounding city with a stern gaze.

"No, for the Company to reach its true potential, it needs to stop burning away the limited resources the Cradle has and draw upon the strengths that it's not fully realizing yet," he insisted. "Can you imagine what we'd accomplish if the average First-Rank was fighting for a cause he believed in to his bones? Something bigger than pushing out a decrepit Empire and raising lavenders above Tidemill City over a fight that started before he was born? First-Ranks like those would be willing to sail to the ends of the Cradle if they were ordered to!"

Aldrich sighed and hung his head with a disappointed growl.

"It's a shame, really. Those shortcomings of the Company were something that Administrator Elilan noticed very early on in his tenure," the Dragon-Type said. "It's something that we've been working on to try and remedy."

Ellsberg stared back puzzledly at the Noivern. This vision that Aldrich was talking about was something Administrator Elilan had shared with him? But since when had Elilan wanted something beyond taking care of some internal politics and positioning himself to become the next Director?

"… Eh? Doesn't Elilan just want to shut out unwanted rivals on the Board?" Ellsberg asked. "What sort of higher ideal could he have behind these missions? Let alone one that would suit the entire Company?"

Aldrich opened his mouth to speak, only to abruptly pause as his ears twitched. The Noivern blinked a moment, before walking over the edge and crouching down, placing his claws at the lip of the ledge as he peered down into the web of canals and streets below. Ellsberg cocked his head at the Dragon-Type and flitted up uneasily.

"Aldrich?" the Mothim wondered. "Is something wrong?"

"Come and see for yourself," he said, pointing a claw out into the cityscape below.

Ellsberg flew up to the edge of the tower, his gaze following Aldrich's claw down towards the ground. There he saw a small party of Pokémon exiting out into a small courtyard: a Fraxure, a Skarmory, a Swellow, a Gliscor, and a Talonflame…

The Bug-Type stiffened up and went wide-eyed, as he realized that these were none other than-!

"Aren't those the same Pokémon with Lugia that we ran into back on Buyeom?!"

"Well, I highly doubt there's another party of five unrelated Pokémon with the exact same species," Aldrich said. "But there's only one way to be sure…"

"But this is the Company's capital!" Ellsberg buzzed. "What on earth would they be doing here?"

The Noivern narrowed his eyes and gave a low growl in reply.

"I don't know, but let's make sure they stick around for a while. I'm sure we'd be able to learn more by interrogating them."



(Continued in next post)
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Down in the streets below the clocktower, Percy, Calidus, Pladur, Trizano, and Kiran made their way along into a courtyard in front of one of the Academy's satellite buildings north of the main structure. The five had just wrapped up a sweep around the building, carefully inspecting the nearby walls and the pavement below for any sign of a hidden room or space behind them. Here too, their search had proven to be just as unfruitful as it had been in the various places in the neighborhood they'd searched about earlier, leaving Pladur to shake his head.

"I think we're running out of places to look around here," the Fraxure murmured.

"Well, we are already on the periphery of the Academy, so maybe you're right," Calidus said. "It's hard to imagine the Vault could be much further out this way."

"It was worth a shot at least," Kiran sighed. "Though I suppose we should start retracing our steps back. The kids should be wrapping up their search by now."

The group started heading off, ducking down a nearby alley as they mused aloud to themselves as to where they'd be best off searching next. The group came across a crossroads where the alley met another, when a deafening noise rang out and a concussive wave knocked the five to the ground. One after the other, Kiran and his companions staggered up with their ears ringing, Pladur catching a fleeting glimpse of a Mothim passing with arcing, dance-like movements when his eyes shot wide.

"Agh!" the Fraxure yelped. "S-Somebody's here!"

"Well, well, well… fancy seeing you again, Percy."

The woosh of descending wingbeats rang out as Aldrich and Ellsberg swooped down from above and into the center of the crossroads, wedging Team Traveller's members along the wall between the alley they came from and the left end of the intersection. The Noivern let out a low growl, his maw curling up into a malicious grin.

"When you lot gave us the slip back in Buyeom, I was worried you were going to lie low and make us struggle to find you," Aldrich sneered. "But here you are, walking right into our claws."

Pladur's eyes shrank to pins at the mention of Buyeom, realizing between that and their species, that his foes were…

"Y-You're with that awful Weavile!" he cried.

"That's right, and you all know what we're capable of," Ellsberg harrumphed. "So why don't you do yourselves a favor and surrender here?"

"Hrmph, I don't think so, Mothim!" Calidus shot back.

The Talonflame tore along for Ellsberg as fire wreathed his plumage, only for the Mothim to hastily duck out of the way. Calidus watched as his Bug-Type foe attempted to fling a slashing gust of air back, hurriedly pulling up as the Air Slash sailed past and gouged a faint streak into the brick wall of a nearby building. Kiran and the others looked ahead, seeing that in their scuffle, Calidus had drawn Ellsberg away from Aldrich's side and left a clear line of sight between them and the bat.

"Train your fire on Aldrich!" Kiran cried. "The more we can deal with him as a threat, the better!"

At once, Pladur launched into the frenzied rhythms of a Dragon Dance as Kiran dove at Aldrich, spreading his wings wide for a flying tackle. Before the Swellow could bear down on Aldrich, he was met with a pulse of dragonfire from the Noivern's mouth, which found its mark on his right wing.

"Agh!"

Kiran fell out of the air and crashed to the ground, trying to right himself and shake feeling back into his stricken wing when he heard loud wingbeats and looked up to see that Aldrich had taken to the air.

"Did you really think that that would give me trouble, Kiran? " the Noivern sneered.

Kiran watched as Aldrich began to gather blue, fiery light at the back of his mouth, when a sharp cry rang out just to the bat's right.

"That's quite enough, Aldrich!"

The Noivern looked just in time for Percy to slam into him with an aerial tackle at his face, Trizano following suit with a glinting slash of his feathers at the bat's right wing. The Dragon-Type fell back to the ground, skidding along the ground with his wings' claws for traction as Trizano pulled up and beamed back to his teammates.

"That's more like it!" the Skarmory exclaimed. "We just need to press him a bit mo-!"

"Gack!"

A sharp thud and a squawk cut Trizano off as an unseen force abruptly flung Calidus into a wall and sent him tumbling to the ground. A quick glance opposite of Calidus revealed Ellsberg flitting nearby with a tarsus held out and his eyes just returning from a pinkish glow. The moth gave a huffing buzz and dove at the stunned Talonflame, when he was cut off by a set of red claws trailing dragonfire uppercutting him from below.

"Agh!"

Ellsberg shot up, before spiraling to the ground with a dull crash. Sensing an opening, Pladur flashed his claws and ran at the downed Mothim to attack again, only for an overpowering Hurricane to sweep him and the rest of his teammates up. The five were blown about as the winds howled and the sound of nearby windows giving way rang out, the group coming to a tumbling stop along the walls as they winced in pain and staggered back up to their feet one by one. As Percy regained his footing, the sound of wingbeats reached his ears, making him look up and see Aldrich above them and air distorting around his ears as he readied a Boomburst, prompting the Gliscor to raise his voice and cry out.

"Quick! Hit Aldrich before he can use his attack!"

Kiran beat his wings together in response and flung a cutting gust of wind forward at the Noivern, Trizano and Percy taking advantage of the Swellow's covering fire to launch themselves at Aldrich with a spread-wing slash and an ice-wreathed bite at his wing membranes. The Noivern let out a sharp grunt and fell back, before regaining his balance with a low growl. Much to Kiran's alarm, the Noivern didn't seem to be as worn down from battle as he'd hoped, leaving him to shoot a worried glance over to his teammates.

"I'm not sure if this is a fight we can win on our own," he gulped.

"Sciocchezze! We've fought foes worse than Second-Ranks before!" Trizano insisted. "We can pull through this!"

Trizano took wing and dove at the Noivern, who narrowed his eyes and spat a stream of fire back at him. The Skarmory rolled in the air out of the way of the Flamethrower, flashing his talons as he raked Aldrich's right ear and drew a pained yelp. The Noivern recoiled, bringing a claw up to cradle his ear as Trizano circled overhead with a scoff.

"Hah! Is that the best Team Sentinel can do?"

The bat pulled his claw back as ruddy drops dribbled off of them, flicking them away as he turned his head back up at the Skarmory and bared his teeth with a hateful glare.

"No, it's not."

Aldrich spat up a pulse of fiery blue light, which sailed up and struck the base of Trizano's left wing. The Skarmory squawked with a start as he pinwheeled and crashed onto the paved street. The Steel-Type lay stunned for a moment, before trying to get up when he felt Aldrich's clawed foot stomp on his neck and pin him to the ground flat on his breast. Trizano looked up, seeing fire dance at the back of the Noivern's throat before it came out and swallowed his vision.

"AAAAAAAAAAAH!"

Pained screams and screeches rang through the alley as Kiran, Pladur, Percy, and Calidus watched Aldrich spew his fire square into Trizano's eyes in a long, sustained stream, which made even Ellsberg flinch at the sight. Kiran was the first to snap out from his stunned stupor, his beak hanging open as he cried out after his teammate.

"Trizano!"

The Swellow started to move forward, only to be overtaken by Pladur shooting ahead and throwing his right claw forward wreathed with dragonfire. The Fraxure's Dragon Claw found its mark on Aldrich's cheek and made him lose his grip before Percy zipped in with an Acrobatics and knocked the Noivern off his Skarmory victim. Aldrich snarled and attempted to steady himself, when an overpowering gust of wind from Kiran's wings sent him stumbling back into a wall. With Trizano freed from Aldrich's clutches, the three hastily beelined to the stricken Steel-Type, when a sharp buzz sounded out from above.

"Oh no you don't!"

The three looked up to see Ellsberg swooping in readying an Air Slash, when Calidus cut in with a fiery tackle and sent the Mothim crashing to earth with a sharp yelp. The Talonflame's breaths came out short and tense, as cried out to his teammates below.

"Hurry! Before they get back up!"

Pladur and Percy grabbed hold of Trizano's wings and drug him up, hurriedly tugging the Skarmory along as they fled down the intersecting alley, with Kiran and Calidus covering overhead after the Talonflame churned up a Tailwind. Neither the Fraxure nor the Gliscor had gotten a good look at what Aldrich had done to Trizano's eyes, but from the brief glimpse of the blackened mess where they were supposed to be and the burnt-smelling scent that reached their nostrils, they were both sure it had been nothing good.

"Grr! Get back here!"

Aldrich's snarling voice hung in the air, curdling Team Traveller's blood as they popped out of the alleyway and into a street that ran along a canal. The five ran ahead for dear life, tearing along and jostling past pedestrians and over bridges as fast as their limbs and Trizano's weight would allow them.

"Excuse me! Coming through!" Percy exclaimed

The Gliscor turned his head back in the middle of pushing past passersby on the street and saw Aldrich and Ellsberg fly over a set of rooftops behind them. The group blanched, hurriedly darting across a bridge over the canal and down a nearby alleyway to their right as Pladur stumbled over some wooden clutter left behind and yelped after almost losing his balance.

"Gah! What's it going to take to shake those two?!"

"Eh? Hertsog?" a Grovyle's voice asked. "Did you hear something?"

"It came from the alley," a Mienshao's voice answered. "Come on, let's go and check it ou-"

Kiran and the others darted out of the alleyway where they caught a brief glimpse of an open area next to a large building lined with crates and barrels. White fur and green scales suddenly filled their vision, as the lot stumbled and fell after running into a pair of Pokémon. A chorus of yelps rang out, the five picking themselves up from a stunned stop on the ground as they looked over to see a vaguely familiar-looking Grovyle and Mienshao in First-Rank scarves dusting themselves off.

"Ow!" the Grovyle cried. "Hey! Watch where you're going!"

The Company Mienshao and Grovyle tensed up with a glimmer of realization as it occurred to Kiran and his companions that the pair were familiar for a good reason: they were Hertsog and Salvini from Mengir! The Mienshao gaped about the party's members puzzledly, before his eyes settled on the wounded Skarmory, then over to Pladur and Kiran as he spluttered out an incredulous reply.

"Kiran?! What are you doing here?" he asked, making the Swellow fidget and squirm as the bird looked back anxiously down the alleyway.

"We'd love to explain, but we're in a bit of trouble right-"

"Over there, down the alley!"

Hertsog and Salvini heard a buzzing shout and approaching wingbeats, the Grovyle hastily darting over and forcing a back door to the building open and motioning to Kiran and his teammates to follow. The five quickly rushed over, Salvini all but shoving the lot through the doorway before pulling the door shut behind them. Hertsog shot a bewildered stare over at his partner and began to make his way over to her, when a sharp snarl rang out from behind.

"You there!"

Hertsog watched as Salvini stiffened up and looked off behind him, the Fighting-Type following her gaze to see a Noivern and a visibly battered-looking Mothim flying in. The pair came to a stop on the ground and loomed over him with a pair of impatient scowls.

"Did you see a group of Pokémon in First-Rank scarves run by?" Aldrich asked.

Hertsog blinked in confusion at the Noivern, before noting that his scarf bore a large square with four smaller ones anchoring its corner, the clear mark of a Second-Rank. The Mienshao hesitated for a moment, before carefully raising his voice to reply.

"… Yes? We saw a group like that run past a short while ago," Hertsog replied. "Is something the matter?"

"Those Pokémon were Imperial Spies whose cover we broke," Ellsberg buzzed. "It's imperative that we find them before they can escape."

Hertsog and Salvini stared back wordlessly as the bat and moth all but bored holes into their hides with piercing glares. Salvini shuffled uneasily, before giving an unsettled paw at the back of her head.

"I mean, they kinda knocked us down while they ran down the loading dock," she responded. "They were gone by the time we got up again and we genuinely don't know where they went afterwards."

Aldrich stared at the two intently, making them tense up and hold their breaths as the Noivern sized them up. Salvini squirmed and worried to herself that her story had not been convincing enough as the Dragon-Type continued to warily eye her and Hertsog, only for her fears to fade when after a while the bat shook his head and let out a grumbling "useless grunts" under his breath. The Noivern huffed sharply, before turning over to his Mothim companion.

"Come on, we'll sweep the nearby streets from the air," Aldrich said. "They couldn't have gotten far."

Hertsog and Salvini watched as Aldrich and Ellsberg took wing and flew off over the nearby rooftops, exhaling out of relief as the two Flying-Types slipped from view. After a moment's hesitation, Hertsog narrowed his eyes, before making his way towards the door. The Mienshao pushed the door open, where he saw Kiran and Pladur warily poking their heads out, and folded his arms with a sharp scowl.

"Hrmph, they're gone for now, so you have a bit more time," the Fighting-Type harrumphed. "So how about you start by explaining to me just what it is you've all been up to?"



After being herded along through the Academy's hallways and up a flight of stairs by the Lucario guard, Team Traveller found themselves at the entrance to a first-floor room labeled 'Room 103'. After pushing the door open, the Fighting-type shoved Team Traveller in, the five stumbling to a stop as they saw they'd entered a classroom lined with windows with wooden desks set out in neat rows with Pokémon seated at them. Nida did a double-take at the desks and their students, as the thought crossed her mind that aside from being indoors, the room was almost like the school back in Bluewhorl Town!

The Nidorina looked to her right, where an Alakazam in a Third-Rank scarf paused and turned to face them. Nida blinked as her line of sight drifted back to the rest of the room towards the left, where curious students gawked at them and murmured amongst themselves at the arrival of the new strangers. The Alakazam diverted his attention from writing on a blackboard with a piece of chalk he'd been levitating, set it aside, and approached. The Psychic-Type drew forward and sized up Team Traveller's members briefly, before training a sharp frown at the Lucario behind them.

"Do you mind?" the Alakazam snapped. "I'm in the middle of a lecture!"

"Apologies, Professor Gerhard," the Lucario insisted. "It's just that we found these truants shirking your class in the library."

Team Traveller's members nervously smiled and waved at the rest of the classroom as the Alakazam stared at them. The professor cocked a brow, before training a piercing scowl at the guard and gesturing at his new charges.

"And just what am I supposed to do with them?" he demanded. "I don't remember seeing any of their faces in my class this semester."

The Lucario hesitated and pawed at his right arm for a moment, briefly tripping over his words before he spoke up with a wary tone.

"Er… maybe you could let them sit in?" the Fighting-Type asked. "If they've been missing class, I'm sure they can catch up from another student."

The Alakazam hesitated for a moment, before giving a grumbling sigh and shaking his head. The Psychic-Type raised a hand still clasping onto a spoon, motioning off towards the seats in the classroom.

"Just go take a seat and don't cause any more distractions," the Alakazam harrumphed. "We have a lot of material to cover today, and I'm not going to hold it up for een stelletje luilakken."

Nida and the others filed between the desks towards the back of the classroom, where a row of desks that had been curiously left empty awaited them. The group noticed the students staring at them and trading puzzled whispers as they passed, before taking their seats at the back row. Team Traveller stared ahead rigidly at the blackboard, watching the Lucario guard take his leave and the Alakazam clear his throat to continue on with a lecture about battling techniques. After the professor droned on for a few minutes, Pleo began to grow antsy and fidget in his seat, before leaning in towards Nida and whispering to her.

"Nida, what do we do now?"

The Nidorina bit her tongue and hesitated a moment, unsure what they could do other than to just sit quietly and hope someone didn't notice they weren't actually students by the time the Alakazam completed his lecture. The Poison-Type flattened her ears and opened her mouth to speak, when a quiet thump from the seats in front of them drew her attention.

"Psst! Hey!"

Nida turned her attention forward, where she spotted a trio of Nidoran in plain lavender scarves from the row ahead looking at them with curious blinks.

"Who are you guys?" one of the two purple Nidoran asked.

"And where did you all come from?" the female Nidoran of the group added. "Are you all new here?"

Team Traveller traded wary looks with one another, before Nida flicked her ears and leaned in to speak.

"Er… I'm Nida, and these are my friends: Crom, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia," the Nidorina explained. "We all moved in a few days ago and just started classes here."

The larger of the two purple Nidoran gave a quizzical tilt of his head, before moving a paw to his mouth in thought.

"Feels strange that you're just starting when more than half the school year's already over," he murmured. "But I guess it can't be helped. I'm Filbert."

"And I'm Quintin," the other purple Nidoran chimed in. "Though everyone just calls me 'Quin'."

"And I'm Braam," his sister added. "Though what's with your funny accent? Did you all get sent in from another island?"

"Yes, that's right," Elty replied, nodding back. "We all came in from-"

"Kenobi."

"Tromba!"

Guardia and Pleo both raised limbs to offer up their explanations, only to pause and flinch as they realized they'd created conflicting stories. Elty threw a paw over his face with a low sigh as the Nidoran traded glances with each other, and a Zorua, a Magikarp in a water-filled tub, and a Shinx seated nearby similarly turned to face them, the Magikarp of the lot looking between the Cubone and young Lugia confusedly.

"I didn't even know they were still taking Pokémon from Tromba into this class," the Magikarp said. "Though which of the two are you all from?"

"Er… both, really. Most of our parents were stationed out in Kenobi, while others worked on Commissioner Lyn's crew and visited Tromba regularly," Nida explained, flattening her ears out with an awkward smile. "We wound up getting to know each other after they all got reassigned to Vollezee, so we've just been hanging around."

"Oh, so you've been sticking to who you know then. That makes sense!" the Shinx cheered. "Though if you need more friends, you could do worse than us! I'm Leonard, the Magikarp's Murdo and the Zorua's Sophie. Even if Gerhard's a bit of a grouch, you five are lucky to be here!"

Quin flared his ears at Leonard's explanation, narrowing his eyes back at the Electric-Type's insistence of how fortunate the newcomers were.

"Hrmph, that last bit's debatable," he grumbled. "That geezer doesn't even know the names of his own students!"

Sophie looked over Team Traveller's members skeptically, the Dark-Type's face seeming to carry a visible hint of suspicion about the new strangers in her class.

"Wait, so some of your parents were part of a Commissioner's crew?" she asked. "How many Pokémon were on it and just what sort of work did they do exactly?"

Nida opened her mouth to speak, only to trail off and fidget for a moment at the fox's question. After a moment to gather her thoughts, the Nidorina pawed at the back of her head and sheepishly raised her voice in reply.

"Pleo, Crom, and I had parents on that ship. And they just did… normal stuff to help it sail?" she answered. Crom shook his head, before he opted to put his knowledge of sailing to use to hurriedly shore up Nida's cover story.

"That's right, they helped Commissioner Lyn on his expeditions against pirates and helped collect annual tribute from the island," the Druddigon explained. "As locals they were able to get a better idea of what sort of tricks tax dodgers would try and use to stiff the Company."

"Zgadza się, and they passed through Kenobi on a regular basis," Elty offered. "That's where my parents and Guardia's were stationed."

Sophie's face fell into a doubtful frown, as she raised a brow back at the three's explanation.

"If that's the case, then how'd you get assigned here?" the Zorua questioned. "Everyone in this class has at least one parent who's a Third-Rank or higher in the Company. For instance, my dad is an Administrator on the Board, and so's Murdo's."

Team Traveller's members set their teeth on edge as the five of them quickly realized that Sophie was none other than Administrator Elilan's daughter. The lot squirmed for a moment, wondering if she had spotted some glaring hole in their cover, or worse, if she recognized them from some story her father had told her. Before their fears could get too far ahead of them, Filbert folded his ears back, before cutting in with a dismissive wave of his paw.

"Eh, ease up a bit, Sophie," the purple Nidoran said. "Some of the Second-Ranks on that ship probably just got promoted or something."

"Uh-huh, that's exactly what happened!" Pleo quickly added, prompting Sophie to skeptically tilt her head in reply.

"Three promotions to Third-Rank from the same Commissioner's crew?" she asked. "I'm having trouble buying that. The average crew of that sort is lucky to get more than one at a time."

Pleo and his friends hemmed and hawed a moment, before Elty spoke up to try and dispel the Zorua's suspicions.

"Er… well there were only two," the Growlithe insisted. "You see, Pleo's the son of Commissioner Lyn's former head flier and Nida and Crom here are half-siblings, so when their dad got promoted, they both got drug along out here."

Nida and Crom stiffened up and flushed a flustered red at Elty's explanation. While it didn't seem to sway the young fox, the rest of her companions seemed to be convinced, as Braam sighed and turned back to the Zorua.

"I honestly think that you're overthinking things, Sophie," she sighed. "Even if these 'mons' backgrounds are a little different than normal, it's not as if they just got dropped off here out of the blue."

Team Traveller's members hastily nodded back and affirmed Braam's explanation, prompting Sophie to hesitate, before sighing and opting to not press the matter further.

"Hm, I guess… though what sort of Pokémon is Pleo anyways?" the Zorua wondered.

"He's a Wingull," Crom answered. "There's apparently this rare dark purple variant from the islands south of Anyilla that gets to be really big, as you can see here."

"No he's not. Stop joking around," she scoffed. "I've learned enough about the Pokémon in the Cradle to know there is no variant of Wingull with purple feathers, let alone one with teeth, or a long tail like that."

Sophie stared back with an unimpressed scowl, which made Crom and his companions fidget nervously as the other students traded looks with one another. The Zorua opened her mouth to continue, when a voice from the front of the classroom cut in sharply.

"Do you feel like coming up and taking over the lecture, Sophie? You seem to be very talkative for a Pokémon who's supposed to be listening."

The Zorua flinched at the sound of Gerhard scolding her, turning to see the Alakazam Professor glaring at her from the blackboard. The fox hemmed and hawed briefly, before hesitantly speaking up to try and excuse herself.

"Uh… no, I was just-"

"Disrupting my lecture and distracting your fellow students, I know," the Psychic-Type chided. "Though if you're having trouble concentrating, there is another seat open right here."

Gerhard pointed off at a small, lone desk right next to the blackboard at the front of the classroom, before narrowing his eyes at the Dark-Type.

"If you don't need it to make it through my lecture, then act the part," he harrumphed.

Team Traveller and their nearby classmates quickly fell quiet and dutifully stared back ahead at the blackboard. After becoming satisfied with the newfound silence, Gerhard returned to the slate, as he began to read off from his lecture notes.

"Anyhow, as I'm sure you're all aware by now, many factors can turn the tide of a battle, not the least of which are status effects…"

Nida and her companions breathed a sigh of relief as the lecture continued on, quietly thanking the Travellers above that Gerhard had cut in when he did. The Nidorina looked off to her left at Sophie's seat, the Zorua glimpsing back with a sharp frown before the Dark-Type focused her attention ons the lecture again. Nida blanched and sank back against her stool-like seat, pinching her brow as Gerhard droned on while her thoughts turned back to her and her teammates' mission to probe the Academy. Time and time again, she found herself being nagged by an uncomfortable suspicion that perhaps they'd bitten off more than they could chew.



Back in the storeroom that Kiran and his party had taken shelter in, Salvini stood before Trizano as she coiled the last of a set of bandages around the Skarmory's head at his eye level. The Grovyle leaned in to tie a knot at the back of her handiwork when the steely bird flinched and jerked forward. The gecko stopped and grimaced a moment, before trying again with a gentler touch as she looked away and shook her head with a low murmur.

"Gods, that Noivern really did a number on you," she shuddered. "I don't think that a little patch job like this is going to fix your eyes."

Trizano shifted and winced as Salvini tightened the bandages about his eyes, the Skarmory craning his head towards the Grovyle's voice as he spoke up, trying to project confidence in his audibly weakened voice.

"N-Non temi, Salvini. It'll be fine! An Immortal always recovers from his wounds," he insisted. "I'll be my normal vigorous self in no time at all!"

"If you say so… but even if you're right, will they still work like they used to?" Salvini asked. "I've heard a few kinds of Pokémon can regrow entire limbs without any fancy magic, but the new ones they get are supposed to never be quite as good as the ones they had originally."

Trizano fell deathly silent, as he realized that even with Cernun's blessing allowing his body to rapidly restore his wounds, nobody in Darkwood Square had any record of what would happen to an Immortal whose eyes were injured as badly as his. He'd never seen an Immortal who hadn't fully healed from his wounds in the past, but… could it really be that his sight wouldn't come back with his eyes? As the Steel-Type quietly worried to himself, Hertsog shook his head and shot a sharp frown over at Kiran.

"Hrmph, you certainly have different teammates than what I remembered you having last time, Kiran."

"Well, yes," he answered. "Though how did you two wind up here?"

"We were reassigned off Mengir when we parted ways, remember?" Salvini said. "Guarding the Academy was the assignment that we wound up getting as a group after arriving here on Vollezee."

The Grovyle gave a small smile back, only to quickly suppress it after seeing her Fighting-Type companion fold his arms and shoot an impatient frown back at the Swellow.

"Though that doesn’t explain why you’re also here, Kiran," Hertsog harrumphed.

Kiran fidgeted a moment under the Mienshao's stare, looking aside with an uncomfortable shuffle of his wings.

"I... wound up getting a different assignment myself."

"Including with a wanted 'mon who helped prisoners escape on Mengir?" Hertsog pressed, folding his arms with a sharp harrumph.

"With everything that you did to help us back on Mengir, it's hard for me to swallow the idea that you'd be a spy like those Second-Ranks claimed you were," the Mienshao continued. "But I can't say that I know too much about any of your new friends here or what they might have put you up to since then."

Hertsog looked over Percy and Calidus, his attention returning to Trizano briefly, before he shook his head and looked back at Kiran.

"So, I'd like to hear from all of you about what's going on," he said sternly. "And why you're getting into trouble with higher ranks if you're really not involved in anything questionable."

Kiran hemmed and hawed at the weasel's question, before raising a wing up in reply.

"Well… I know it sounds a bit… implausible, but a close friend of ours got into trouble with some of the higher-ups due to a misunderstanding," the Swellow offered. "We tried to help him clear his name, but…"

"Kiran and the others kept getting stonewalled, so they reached out to me and my Talonflame partner here to help," Percy added. "We hadn't crossed paths for a good while due to being stationed here in Canalhouse, but they thought that we might know someone who could help pass their concerns up the chain."

Calidus warily shot a glance over to Kiran, before ruffling his feathers and chiming in.

"We… admittedly had been having some trouble ourselves, so we had to resort to some alternative tactics."

"Including working with a wanted Outlaw?" Hertsog demanded, narrowing his eyes back sharply.

The Mienshao's audience shifted uneasily, Pladur pawing at the back of his head before he spoke up on behalf of his teammates.

"I mean, when we met Trizano on Mengir, it sounded like we had some shared interests that we could all work towards. And the more we dug into the story behind the bounty on him… well, we just kept finding more and more things that didn't make sense," the Fraxure said. "You can see why we tried to smooth things over for him, can't you?"

"Hrmph, I fail to see what could have possibly not added up when he literally aided and abetted pirates escaping my custody," Hertsog scoffed. "Or how you were all mistaken for Imperial spies, for that matter."

Trizano shifted and turned his head up at the sound of Hertsog's voice, the Skarmory's head swaying a bit before he cut into the conversation.

"Would I have stuck around to help your friends with the town shrine if I was really helping pirates?"

Hertsog curled his muzzle into a sharp frown, his eyes glaring daggers at the wounded Immortal.

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't lie to my face, Skarmory," the Mienshao snapped. "You flew off that night with the pirates, and all of my subordinates who were there saw it with their own eyes! How on earth could you have-?"

Hertsog trailed off after he noticed that Salvini had remained deathly silent and was staring back at the Skarmory with wide, startled eyes, much as if she'd seen a ghost. The Mienshao blinked for a moment, giving a worried tilt of his head at his Grass-Type partner.

"Salvini? Kavko ima?" the Fighting-Type asked. "Do you know something about this?"

"I mean, it's not proof, but… the entire time Trizano was in town prior to that night, he was nothing but kind and helpful to the local guild and the rest of the townsfolk," Salvini said. "It's just- It's hard for me to believe that the same Pokémon we heard about would just turn around and also help pirates who'd plunder the town."

The Grovyle pawed at her shoulder a moment, before continuing warily.

"And you remember those letters that we all got right before we left? The ones asking us all to come to the shrine to help fix it?" she asked. "All of them were written by the same Pokémon, and you said that it looked like they'd been made and left behind by a Pokémon with sharp talons."

Hertsog looked back at Trizano as his teammates helped him up, his eyes drifting down to the talons on his feet. The Fighting-Type fell quiet for a moment, as he realized that the Skarmory's talons certainly would've been able to leave behind the scratch-like handwriting he'd seen. The Mienshao looked back at Salvini and found himself at a loss for words, as she shook her head and carried on with her train of thought.

"If he flew off, is it really impossible that he flew back?" the Grovyle insisted. "Especially if he thought something really was wrong about those pirates we picked up and that he was helping 'mons that were wrongly accused?"

Hertsog's mind turned back to the fateful mission that had cost him his position as Captain of the Guards of Mengir Island, and the more he thought about it, the more things seemed peculiar about it.

To begin with, there was Commander Briggs' evasiveness about the entire mission from its beginning to its end. Then there was the fact that the only trace of the scheming pirates they'd found had been a bunch of youths who had been wholly incompetent as scouts. The whole episode had just been baffling to him, since the youngsters probably could've been foiled by a nighttime raid of their hostel room instead of sending them to be ambushed in the local Mystery Dungeon the way they did.

And how could he forget Phyllis' horrified reaction when they actually encountered the pirates? Or her insistence that one of them was a 'demon'? It was daft to think that there could be a Protector among pirates of all Pokémon, but Briggs had seemed to anticipate she'd react that way, so why had he kept so mum about it?

Could… they have been deceived all along about the nature of that mission by their superiors? The Mienshao faltered for a moment, before deciding that he simply didn't have the evidence to confirm his doubts. On the other paw, even if Kiran had joined up with questionable company since they last met, there wasn't any firm reason to expect that the Swellow was being less earnest in his intentions than he was on Mengir…

So… whatever his misgivings were, perhaps it was for the best to give Kiran the benefit of the doubt.

"I still think there's something you all are hiding from me," Hertsog murmured. "But at the very least, I'm convinced that you're not spies."

The Mienshao looked off outside, where a small, unattended boat with a canvas roof had been moored and bobbed along the side of the canal. The Fighting-Type hesitated a moment, before turning back to Kiran and the others.

"The boat over there will be taking some of our emptied containers back down to the harbor where you can line up treatment for your Skarmory friend and try to sort things out. I will tell the Lapras that tugs this boat that you'll be going along with her today," he said. "Though considering what happened to his eyes, whatever you're all up to, I'd strongly encourage you to think long and hard about whether you can help that friend of yours some other way. I doubt the Travellers will smile on you like this a second time."

A long silence followed from the party's members, before Kiran nodded back gratefully.

"I suppose that's only fair," the Swellow replied. "Thank you for your help, Hertsog."

Kiran and the others made their way over to the waiting boat, Pladur and Percy helping Trizano limp along as they clambered into the boat and nestled themselves among its cargo. The group settled in and let out tired sighs, as Salvini walked up along the edge of the canal and poked her head in with a wary frown.

"He's here, isn't he?"

The five Pokémon bit their tongues and fell silent at the Grovyle's question, Pladur hemming and hawing as he tried to muster up a reply.

"E-Er… who would you be referring to-?" the Fraxure started, only to get cut off by a sharp huff.

"Pleo," the Grass-Type shot back. "Why else would you be here and put yourselves through this?"

Pladur and his teammates fell silent for a moment, as they heard the splash of churning water and heard Hertsog's voice chattering indistinctly with another. After being satisfied that they weren't being overheard, Kiran sighed and turned back to Salvini with a low whisper.

"Yeah, he's here."

"Where is he?" the Grovyle pressed. A tense silence followed for a moment, before the Swellow shook his head in response.

"We can't tell you that, Salvini and you know it," the Flying-Type said. "Though you've seen him before. If you run across him, you'll know."

The lot heard Hertsog and the tugging Pokémon trade farewells, glancing ahead to see the Lapras start to tow the boat ahead. Salvini quickly pulled her head back out and watched as the boat headed off down the canals, Kiran and his companions casting furtive glances out before opting to hide away.

Salvini continued to watch as the boat rounded the corner, before turning away with a sigh and starting off. All the while, she wondered to herself what Kiran could've meant by knowing once she saw Pleo. It was then that her eyes drifted off towards the other buildings of the Academy when she froze with a start.

"No way. He didn't mean that he's in…?"



Author's Notes:

- ruido - Spanish: "noise"
- Tintoren - Dutch: "Tin Tower"
- Sciocchezze! - Italian: "Nonsense!" (interjection), lit. plural of "foolishness", "silliness"
- een stelletje luilakken - Dutch: "a bunch of slackers"
- Zgadza się - Polish: "That's right"
- Non temi - Italian: "Don't fear" (singular you). lit. "No fear" (singular you)
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
How did you come up with Vollezee?

Vollezee is another one of those islands that owes its name to referencing a location from the Pokeworld, in this case Alto Mare, or “high sea”, just rendered in the island’s indigenous language of Dutch. Like Alto Mare, Vollezee pulls quite a bit from thematic influence from Venice such as the presence of a large, urbanized lagoon though run through a very Dutch-themed lens.

Thanks to the franchise marching on a bit faster than the story, it was decided to make Galarian Pokemon and Galarian Form Pokémon more concentrated on Vollezee to make it a better thematic parallel with Giotto, which has something similar going on with Alola and was similarly a significant narrative checkpoint. Unlike Giotto, there were already some significant features of Vollezee established prior to Gen 8’s launch, including Nerea being its Protector, which felt like a logical candidate for a Protector of an island so intimately tied to the sea.

How did you come up with Canalhouse City?

Canalhouse City and its surroundings follow the inverse formula of Tidemill City, in its case being the product of taking Venice’s general footprint and plopping Dutch-style architecture on it. While Venice was a huge inspiration to Canalhouse City, there are some noticeable divergences that were thrown in to make it feel like its own beast. For one, it’s significantly closer to land and in a smaller lagoon than the real thing, and has some large-scale construction in the city proper such as a Colosseum-style arena that can support mock naval battles and a prominent military harbor modeled after Carthagian cothons that isn’t present in its real-life counterpart.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some fairly transparent nods to Venice lying around here and there in the city. Hardenheuvel is a fairly direct semantic translation of Dorsoduro, a district in the south of historical Venice that much like the real thing, is host to major centers of learning. Lyn and Osmund’s home districts of Drieboog and De Spitsen are both semantic nods to Ponte dei Tre Archi and Ponte delle Guglie, both of which are bridges in Cannaregio, the traditional working-class district in Venice. Abolitionstraat follows a similar, but looser model in being styled after Calle Larga XXII Marzo, a prominent shopping street in Venice named after the date of Venice declaring independence from the Austrian Empire as the Republic of San Marco, with the name of its counterpart in Canalhouse City tracking the roughly analogous event from a Company perspective.

Canalhouse City is one of those places where the name fell into place fairly quickly, with it named after the English term for a grachtenpand, the traditional Dutch canal house which can be found in Pokemonified style all throughout Canalhouse City and gives it its name.

How did you come up with the Board?

As you’ve likely gathered by now, but the board’s members are all takes off of Lapine words for negative concepts and feared folkloric figures from Watership Down, and were developed first along their names, with species being mapped onto them afterwards based off of what was thematically appropriate.

Darzin is named after King Darzin, an enemy to El-Ahrairah of indeterminate species in Watership Down’s internal folklore who the trickster god is able to defeat through his guile and cunning. Darzin was the first of the Board’s members to be cast, expanding Marley’s throwaway comment about having defeated a “cheating Dragonite” into a Board member who used to administer Tromba, but since overstepped and lost prominence by losing control of the island to a revolt and forcing the Company to come to an embarrassing settlement to restore some semblance of order.

Darzin was always intended to be the “weak link” of the Board, since he’s named after a character who gets outright defeated by rabbits in his story of origin. The “cheating” nature led to Darzin being cast as a Dragonite that pulled after Iris’ in terms of attitude with Lance-spec hax, complete with Barrier and an early evolution that was done to explicitly show off a setting dynamic involving Mystery Dungeons Hertsog hinted at all the way back in Episode 7. He has some additional layers to his onion from his constant scheming and attempts to work around the rest of the Board, but that’s a story for future content.

Zorn is a Lapine word for ‘destruction’, which influenced the choice to cast him as a Gyarados, a Pokemon deeply associated with destructive rampages from official fluff, along with the need for the Company to have someone in its high ranks who could be a more natural representative of the vast open sea around the islands it controls. The theme also influenced the decision to make the island he oversees a hub for Apricorn production, since it has applications for warmaking in this setting, and felt appropriate for a character themed around destruction.

Farn is a corruption of ‘tharn’, a Lapine word for the sort of ‘deer in the headlights’ reaction one has when deeply frightened. As a character named after that sort of reaction, Farn was cast as a Pokemon that could plausibly cause it. In her case, as an Intimidate Luxray.

Elilan is a South Asian name that was chosen because it’s an expansion of ‘elil’, the Lapine word that rabbits use to refer to their predators in Watership Down. Along the line, we decided to steer the Administrator who would become Elilan down a ‘trickster’ role, which influenced the decision to cast him as a fox Pokemon, which are a particularly feared predator within the story of Watership Down. Elilan’s depiction has evolved significantly over the course of Fledglings, with his entire subplot arising after Virgil134 took a shine to the character and pointing out that it would only be thematically appropriate for an Administrator modeled after an enemy of rabbits to scheme against his rabbit superior and just running with it. Where those schemes wind up going, you’ll have to sit tight and be patient, since they’ll be playing out as the story goes into its final stretches.

Inler is a Turkish name that is a take off of Inlé, the Lapine word for the moon and also a mythological Grim Reaper figure for rabbits in Watership Down, which helped finalize a decision to cast him as a fellow Nido as a villainous answer to Nida, specifically one that would normally evolve from a Moon Stone. Inler’s name also influenced decisions about filling in portions of his background, with the decision to make him a Pokemon of Mengirese stock finalized shortly after the name was due to there being a Turkish cultural presence within Bulgaria in reality.

How did you come up with the Board's families?

The Board’s family members were developed for two purposes: to fill some plot roles that would arise in the later parts of the story, particularly in the Vollezee arc, and also to give context to the Board’s members to make them feel like they hailed from an organic life and had more going on to them than just their jobs.

Inler’s family was developed first under the idea that he’d have a dynamic where he had alienated his own children by being too wedded to his job, and attempt to compensate for his mistakes with his grandchildren. Thanks to conservation of detail, Inler ultimately only had one child explicitly created, his daughter Fritha, along with her own children Filbert, Braam, Quintin. Much like Inler, the lot of them are walking Watership Down nods, Fritha being a take off of ‘frith’, the Lapine word for ‘sun’, and Filbert, Braam, and Quintin being nods to Hazel, Blackberry (who is a girl in the cartoon adaptation), and Fiver from the story’s main cast. The names that were rolled for them are a name that’s an alternative way of referring to hazel plants and hazelnuts, the Dutch word for ‘blackberry’, and a French name of Latin origin meaning ‘fifth’.

Elilan’s family was designed around respective character roles initially, with their names only coming along later. Elilan’s wife, Lela, was designed as a character who would be a confidante that he would be comfortable sharing his most intimate secrets, and to support him wholeheartedly at every turn. His daughter Sophie was envisioned as a character that would carry on her father’s cleverness and wits, but still have the innocence of childhood and be in the dark as to what her father was up to. The two both drew from a shared pool of names, with Lela winning out for Elilan’s wife thanks to it meaning ‘faithful’ and Sophie for his daughter since it means ‘wisdom’. Alida and Alexa were also names that were in the pool at one point, but left on the cutting table since they didn’t seem as fitting for either character.

Farn and Zorn’s children were the last to be ironed out of the Board’s family members, and exist primarily to show them in contexts where they let down their on-the-job fierceness. Farn’s son Leonard sports a name simply meaning ‘lion’ and sharing the same origin as ‘Leo’ and ‘Leon’, which were considered and passed up on as names along with ‘Lev’ and ‘Hari’. Zorn’s son Murdo sports a name that’s a derivative of ‘Murchadh’, a Scottish and Irish name meaning ‘sea warrior’ which is also the source of two other names that were left on the table, ‘Murphy’ and ‘Murdoch’. ‘Cyprinus’, the name of a genus of carps was also briefly considered but quickly scuttled.

How did you come up with Team Sentinel?

Team Sentinel as a faction was developed in two separate waves of expansion, which coupled both with an initial expansion of Ketu as a character from a background throwaway on the Argent Aviso, and then the later creation of a team of enforcers that Elilan would be able to field in order to help advance his schemes that started out with a working name of “Black Ops Team” and was quickly settled on as “Team Sentinel” thanks to the role of a sentinel being someone who uncovers information and relays it along as a watchman. “Team Odyssey” was also briefly considered for the team’s name but it was ultimately decided against thanks to sounding insufficiently imposing.

Ketu was the first member of Team Sentinel to be developed, and originates from an idea Virgil134 had of a “brilliant but lazy” character with some troll tendencies. His name is a phonetically rendered version of “K2”, the world’s second tallest mountain, which is infamous for being particularly treacherous and dangerous to climb. Ketu’s unused names similarly drew from this well of inspiration and included “Keitu” and “Kaitu”.

Sorge, Zelle, and Aldrich were all developed as an expansion to the narrative role that Ketu filled concurrent to the events of the Giotto Episode, with them being developed around species first which were used as their working names and then having their characters and names being mapped onto them. Given that their role was in part to act as deep cover spies, the three of them wound up rolling names that are all homages to different spies from history.

Sorge was envisioned as the team leader over Team Sentinel, and owes his name to the WWII-era Soviet spy Richard Sorge. Sorge’s unused names that were left on the cutting table are similarly names and surnames of spies, including “Horst” and “Kopkow”.

Zelle was designed as a “cutesy but dangerous” character that pulled from the same overbroad character beats as Larxene from the Kingdom Hearts series. As a femme fatale, it made it easy to zero in on “Zelle” as a name, which is a nod to Margaretha Geertruida Zelle from WWI, better known as ‘Mata Hari’, and the originator of the femme fatale archetype in spy fiction.

Aldrich as a character was the last to have his personality settled, which was decided to give him a bit of a nerdy vibe to make him stand out more from his peers and to give Ellsberg a companion he could closely relate to after the decision was made to bring him into Team Sentinel’s orbit. Much like his peers, Aldrich is once again named after a spy, in his case, Aldrich Ames, a former CIA agent that spied on behalf of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Aldrich is the member of Team Sentinel with the most unused names under his belt, with Fuchs, Emil, and Emiel all considered but ultimately left on the cutting room floor.

How did you come up with Team Zephyr?

Team Zephyr came along as characters thanks to Zygarde getting fleshed out in the franchise in the middle of Fledglings’ run as a story. Originally, Zygarde was not planned to appear in the story until the very, very end of the narrative, though originally Zygarde didn’t have Cell or Dog Formes canonically either. After those came along and the original endgame plans were made increasingly moot, the decision was made to integrate Zygarde into story earlier on, and exploit his smaller and easier-to-hide size in Cell Forme by having him lurk about with a more seasoned team that similarly heeded the call of adventure on behalf of a beloved cosmically important friend’s welfare much as Team Traveller did some years ago.

Kline was the first member of Team Zephyr to be cast for obvious reasons, with his depiction taking a bit after the broad strokes of Squishy in the anime, and the fundamental assumptions of how Zygarde works in Fledglings also largely taking after its anime depiction. Kline’s name went through a number of permutations, originally looking at things built around ‘Puni’ that included ‘Punith’, but were ultimately dropped since none quite clicked. From there, we moved on to looking for names that vibed with ‘small’ or ‘little’, of which ‘Klein’ caught our eye since it happens to mean ‘little’ in Dutch, and Kline was intended to have spent a chunk of his life living on and about Vollezee. ‘Klein’ was ultimately decided to be too on-the-nose as a name, so corruptions of it were looked into, including ‘Lien’ and ‘Lein’, before he got the name you all know and love.

Percy as a character was intended to be a character from a guild background that ran in his family and was cast in part because of Author Appeal by Virgil134. Originally, Percy was intended to track more after Ash’s Gliscor in terms of personality, though he wound up going in a bit more of a self-serious direction closer to his debut. When playing around with names, for a brief time ‘Orion’ was considered as a name for Percy, though things rapidly shifted in the direction of brands and figures associated with gliders, including Cayley, Otto, Vincent, and Elan. ‘Percy’ was one of those names that we weren’t fully sure on when we drew it, so we ultimately decided to make ‘Percy’ a nickname to ‘Pierce’, which Kline slings around as Percy’s actual name since he’s more formally minded but the rest of his friends don’t.

Calidus as a character was partially a retool of the feral Fletchinder character that earlier versions of Fledglings’ outline had, which was reused as his backstory as a dungeon recruit that Percy befriended in simpler times as a guild member. Calidus was developed as a character that would be able to serve as a close confidant to Percy. For a time “Eilert” was considered as a potential name for Calidus, with his name ultimately coming from looking through a list of peregrine falcon subspecies. ‘Calidus’ happened to be part of one of the scientific name for a subspecies that lives around Siberia and happens to mean ‘fiery’ in Latin. Calidus is quite literally a fiery falcon, and the rest was history.

Alice as a character was intended to be a bit of a fun-loving troll that was a fan of refuge in audacity with a pirate background and some backstory history that’s a tale for another day. Her potential names quickly zeroed in around mountaineers that had climbed K2, with ‘Vanessa’, ‘Julie’, and ‘Alison’ crossing the radar. Of those, ‘Alison’ ultimately won out but didn’t quite roll off the tongue well, so it was mutated into the ‘Alice’ you all know today.

How did you come up with Osmund?

Osmund was developed as the local analogue to the obligatory Sheriff Magnezone archetype for Bluewhorl Town, just drawn from a different species that’s popular in series fandom and taken to its logical evolutionary end point. Osmund’s dynamic as a Company ‘mon having gone native done primarily to help keep the town feeling friendly and homely in spite in the earlier chapters in spite of them obviously having a less-than-happy relationship with their corporate overlords.

The decision wound up helping to fill in the blanks for Osmund’s personality over the course of the story which informed the decision to make him a bit of a troublemaker, in particular when he was younger, yet at the same time always having been in relatively close orbit to the Company.

Much of Osmund’s family life went unsettled for long portions of the story, with the decision to make him a sibling to Salvini made during the process of Episode 7 where it was decided that since Salvini already tracked after Osmund in terms of naming and the decisions she was making on the job, that she might as well have gotten it from someone. Osmund being an orphan from a family of Company guards was similarly decided very late, with the premise only being firmly settled on around the time that Yesterday is Gone was still in its concept phase.

As for his name, Osmund was one of those characters whose name more or less just fell into place. He is named after Osmundales, the taxonomic order to which royal ferns belong to.

How did you come up with Marina?

Marina was developed as a character while Yesterday is Gone was being sketched out, where it was decided that it would be about a time in life where Lyn ultimately wound up putting his life on course to become the character you better know him as. Now at the time, it had already been acknowledged in-story that Lyn had father issues and a less-than-enviable childhood, with Marina filling the other half of Lyn’s parental sphere that had been unfilled up to that point.

Narrative-wise, the decision to have Marina meet an untimely demise was chosen since it felt like a relatively convenient way of explaining the depth of the venom Lyn has towards his father by giving him a family tragedy that he could lay at his feet, and drawing Lyn into orbit around the Company with no emotional counterweight against embracing its worst tendencies (especially after alienating his closest friend at the time).

Marina was also used as a vehicle for showing off some worldbuilding involving the setting. At one point in planning, she was intended to die of bland-name Valley Fever, which is a real-life source of sea otter mortality. That plot point was left on the cutting board since it was decided that it would feel like too much of a stretch since Vollezee’s geography is very different from the conditions that Valley Fever arises from in reality, and algal poisoning was chosen to fill the role instead. The practice of Samurott and other Pokemon of their lines growing secondary scalchops and seamitars was also debuted through Marina, which is based off the real-life practice of samurai wielding a main and a secondary sword as a pair. As for why those secondary blades are smaller than the main blades, the in-setting answer is that they are separated from the body earlier than the main blades are. The meta answer is that it’s an intentional parallel to how samurai swords were paired with each other in real life: one large, and one small.

In terms of species and name, Marina was one of those characters that fell into place quickly, and as such had no alternatives for either that were left on the cutting floor.

How did you come up with Gerhard?

Gerhard is a caricature of a professor that Virgil134 had the (dis)pleasure of studying under while in university, who had a bit of an overbearing and egotistical personality that made him a fairly suitable-fitting map for a leading educator figure aligned with a villainous faction. They say to write what you know, and Gerhard is no exception on that front, with his general mannerisms tracking that of the real-life professor and his spiel about mountains being modeled after a similar lecture he gave to a class involving Mount Everest and Mount Blanc.

For a period of time, it was considered to cast Gerhard as a turtle Pokemon to track after animal stereotypes of them being wise. Torterra was considered thanks to its more ‘ancient vibe’, which was ultimately recycled for Lyn and Osmund’s teacher from Yesterday is Gone, along with Carracosta which carried similar vibes but had the additional wrinkle of being sea-themed in a very waterlogged environment. In the end, Alakazam won out thanks to its canon stereotype of being a smart-alec, which seemed most fitting for a character that was basically a university professor.

On the naming front, Gerhard was one of those characters where the rough name was settled very quickly since it’s based off the real name of the professor he’s modeled after, though the fine details went through a lot of options before one was settled on. The names that were left on the cutting floor included Gerrit, Jurre, and Jorrit, which are all variants of “Gerhard” from various languages.

How did you come up with the Academy?

The Academy carries some broad-strokes influences from the University of Amsterdam, particularly for the design of its central building. For a number of years, Vollezee’s episode was intended to be built around the premise of spiriting the Company’s copy of the Knights’ Ledger out of it, with one subplot that quickly popped up being showing off Team Traveller navigating a school in the vein of “The Headband” from ATLA.

In this case, the Academy was built around the needs of providing such an environment, while making it important enough to the Company to keep a few important artifacts lying around on it, hence its role as an incubator for the best and brightest of the Company’s young talent, and means for leadership to keep its upper ranks in line by keeping a close eye on their children through the Settlement Protocol. It was also used as a way to distinguish the Company more from the Empire, since performance as opposed to family background is a bit more important to them for sorting out their internal ranks.
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
Hmm. Once again, I'm not sure I've got much to say. Mainly because this episode feels a lot like many of the other episodes' second chapters, wherein Team Traveler gets themselves into deeper trouble, including a skirmish with the island's resident problem faction (in this case, the Company), but managed to run into some good fortune and make it out in one piece. Maybe it was mentioned way back when what assignment Salvini would get to hint at her return for this episode, but it's been so long since then I couldn't remember.

I would legit think that this time the team would heed Salvini's advice and actually lay low, especially with Trizano's injury. Buuuuuut something tells me that's not going to happen, because the fic has never worked that way. The only way I don't see this ending with the typical big ol' ball of violence most of the episodes have ended with is if, somehow, the half stuck in the Academy spill the beans to the board tykes and get them to realize their parents (or grandparents) are in the wrong. Which could potentially lead to Team Sentinel swooping in to take Pleo and/or Kline at the eleventh hour, leading to Nagrobek.

I also have to say that, much like (I think?) Namo mentioned in an earlier review, you might want to tone down on the number of "hems and haws." It felt like there were more than usual this chapter and I'm sure there are other ways to describe what you're going for. I'm starting to notice their frequent use, and I tend to gloss over that kind of stuff. ^^;

I will say, whether intentional or not, it's nice that Elilan's pup is the one most skeptical about the team's fake story. Since, y'know, ruses and deceptions are his bread and butter. Either he's teaching her his ways or it's genetic.

such as fragments of a book full of pictures found on Kenobi Island that was apparently called a "mahn-gah"
and then all of team traveler became weebs. :V
"Sure, let's look under the section labeled 'State Secrets'," Elty scoffed.
To be fair, every fantasy library has a restricted sect—
or maybe the Academy has a section with forbidden books or something
—yeah, that.
"They… uh… They just fell out on their own," he insisted
"I was only checking to make sure gravity still worked. Sheesh."
"Hey! Not all of us can swim here, lunk-head!" the Rock-Type snapped.
[blinks] th... then why did you let them station you on a ship? That seems remarkably counterintuitive.
"Er… I'm Nida, and these are my friends: Crom, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia,"
Ah, yes, tell the grandkids of the enemy faction boss your real names. That's bound to have no lasting consequences whatsoever.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Hmm. Once again, I'm not sure I've got much to say. Mainly because this episode feels a lot like many of the other episodes' second chapters, wherein Team Traveler gets themselves into deeper trouble, including a skirmish with the island's resident problem faction (in this case, the Company), but managed to run into some good fortune and make it out in one piece. Maybe it was mentioned way back when what assignment Salvini would get to hint at her return for this episode, but it's been so long since then I couldn't remember.

Hrm. A bit unfortunate to hear that things structurally fell a bit flat here, though Salvini’s eventual return to the story was indeed hinted at way, way back when. You might vaguely recall Hertsog telling his subordinates that he pulled some strings to get them a shared assignment on Vollezee. This is the result of his handiwork.

As for the thing about this chapter feeling a bit samey with other episodes’ second chapters, I’m not sure if we really saw it, but it’s definitely feedback we’ll keep in mind for the future in order to sanity-check whether we can cut a different path. After all, there’s not that many episodes left to get through before the big finale.

I would legit think that this time the team would heed Salvini's advice and actually lay low, especially with Trizano's injury. Buuuuuut something tells me that's not going to happen, because the fic has never worked that way. The only way I don't see this ending with the typical big ol' ball of violence most of the episodes have ended with is if, somehow, the half stuck in the Academy spill the beans to the board tykes and get them to realize their parents (or grandparents) are in the wrong. Which could potentially lead to Team Sentinel swooping in to take Pleo and/or Kline at the eleventh hour, leading to Nagrobek.

All in due time. Though all I will say is that depending on how the endgame is divided up, there are either three or four episodes remaining in this story until the curtain call. Make what you will of that.

I also have to say that, much like (I think?) Namo mentioned in an earlier review, you might want to tone down on the number of "hems and haws." It felt like there were more than usual this chapter and I'm sure there are other ways to describe what you're going for. I'm starting to notice their frequent use, and I tend to gloss over that kind of stuff. ^^;

We’ll keep a closer eye on it. Though a text search turned up six instances in the past chapter when it was originally published. Evidently that’s still a bit too frequent relative to the past chapter’s length.

I will say, whether intentional or not, it's nice that Elilan's pup is the one most skeptical about the team's fake story. Since, y'know, ruses and deceptions are his bread and butter. Either he's teaching her his ways or it's genetic.

It’s intended to be a deliberate feature of her character. She takes after her father in some ways, but differs in a few crucial ones that you’ll get to see down the pipe.

and then all of team traveler became weebs. :V

Guardia: “I have no objection to this.”

To be fair, every fantasy library has a restricted sect—

—yeah, that.

Yeah, well they don’t know they live in a fantasy story, so… :V

"I was only checking to make sure gravity still worked. Sheesh."

… Probably a good thing he didn’t say that in front of the librarian.
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[blinks] th... then why did you let them station you on a ship? That seems remarkably counterintuitive.

I mean, they live in an Oceanpunk setting, so you don’t really have many options in the local militaries that don’t involve at least sometimes being on a ship if you want to do something other than help staff a local garrison. Eventually, you’d run out of such positions if literally every non-Surfing or flying Fire or Rock-Type just stubbornly refused to set foot on a ship.

Also even with poor swimming, it’s been established by now that Fire-Types and Rock-Types have roles out on the waves that aren’t wise to fully go without, otherwise it’d just be a contest of fielding the most Grass-Types as an “I win” button against swimming escorts to expose your enemy’s hull. Also, having a few dozen living lifeboats that can help bail you out in a pinch can help with the whole “drowning at sea” issue, even if it’s not a watertight (har har) solution.

Also, while the navies in this setting are a bit nicer about it, having super drowning skills for most of human history wasn’t a deterrent to naval service, and among some navies was actually sought after as a way to ensure that their seamen couldn’t desert if things went south.

Ah, yes, tell the grandkids of the enemy faction boss your real names. That's bound to have no lasting consequences whatsoever.

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Thanks for the review. @Virgil134 and I always like seeing what you have to say about our writing, and we’re hoping you have fun with the places this arc goes.

Speaking of which, we’re finally back with that new chapter. We’re pretty confident we can get the next one out for a November release since it’s on the shorter side like this one, but as with everything, things ship when they’re done.

I would like to take a moment to extend my thanks to @Virgil134 as my co-writer, along with the readers and reviewers who have supported this story and helped it to grow into something far beyond my imagination when I initially started it back in 2015. Though as a bit of administrivia, Virgil and I have come to the decision that from here on out, we will be launching trivia sections after completed arcs as opposed to tying them to view milestones since engagement’s kinda been outstripping our pace this year. But who knows? Maybe we’ll think of something nice to plug the gap for those moments if we don’t have any proper trivia onhand.

Though enough boilerplate preamble. We’ve got a sea yarn to get back into. ^^
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
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The sound of footprints pattering against wooden planks filtered through the air as Nida and her companions made their way back along Canalhouse City's military harbor beside Kline. Alice, Dimitri, Ander, Pyry and Pekka… everyone from his group was accounted for, but Kiran and Percy's team was curiously absent. The party tensely filed past ships in lavender sails and Pokémon in Company scarves along their way to the Siglo Swellow, but the source of the group's quiet tension ultimately wasn't coming from any of their immediate surroundings.

Nida and the others had legged it from the Academy the moment Gerhard's class let out, and not a moment too soon. The entire time, he'd harassed them with questions about his lecture and singled them out in front of the entire class so that all the other students could see them struggle and give away how unfamiliar they were with his subject material. Evidently the back row had gone unclaimed by the other students for a reason. But after meeting up with Kline's group, instead of getting the relief they'd expected, they merely traded one set of worries for another.

They… hadn't gotten the full details, but something had happened to Percy's group, and their plans for searching had been abruptly cancelled in favor of returning to the ship as soon as possible. The entire way back, they had been sticking firmly to back alleys and smaller canals, avoiding open and more crowded areas as much as they could. Nida and her teammates had grown worried, but had only gotten vague answers from their teammates so far, prompting the Nidorina to shake her head and try to press the green hound in their midst for details again.

"Kline, what exactly happened out there?" she asked. "You said that the others got into some sort of trouble earlier, so what's wrong?"

"Yeah, whatever it was, just how bad was it that Kiran and the others already went back to the ship?" Elty pressed.

Kline fell silent and looked away for a moment, before the dog-like Legendary lowered his head with a low sigh.

"… It's a long story," the Zygarde said. "Like I said, we're better off covering it during our debriefing with the crew instead of here in public."

The group made their way one at a time up the gangplank onto the Siglo Swellow, where they shuffled along for the entrance below deck and made their way for the mess hall, Captain Beatrix's preferred meeting place during their port calls. When the lot arrived, they found the room already crowded with worried-looking sailors, along with the rest of their teammates… except Trizano. The lot found the boisterous Immortal's absence to be puzzling, but regardless made their way to the front and sat down, watching as Beatrix flitted up and trained a concerned glance down at them.

"Are you alright?" the Illumise asked. "After we'd gotten notified by Kline and saw Kiran's group return, we got really worried that something had happened to you."

"We're fine, really," Nida insisted. "We got mistaken for students from the same class as the Board's children, so we sat in for lectures today."

Crom paused and pinned his wings uneasily, giving a sheepish paw at the back of his head.

"We… didn't really get a chance to look around the Academy all that much though," he admitted. "So we haven't really been able to figure out where the Ledger could be yet."

Much to the Druddigon's surprise, no real reply came after his statement. No expressions of disappointment, guarded optimism, or even any sort of reaction to them getting into the same class as the Board's children. Just uneasy glances and chatter among each other. Guardia looked about the gathering and couldn't help but sense that something was deeply amiss, prompting her to go over to Percy and paw at his wing impatiently with her free hand.

"What exactly happened to you while we were in those classes anyways?" she asked. "Everyone's reacting like someone died or something!"

Percy looked down at the Cubone and shifted uncomfortably, fumbling with his words for a moment before grudgingly speaking up.

"Ellsberg and Aldrich ambushed us while we were scouting out the Academy's surroundings," the Gliscor said. "We don't know if we just got unlucky with being spotted, but we should assume that the Company already knows that we're here."

Nida and her teammates jolted back in surprise as their eyes shrank to pins. It hadn't even been a full day and they'd already gotten into trouble?! With Team Sentinel no less?! Then for all they knew, they'd already lost their chance to get the volume of the Knights' Ledger from this island!

"E-Eh?!" Pleo squawked. "But what do we do then?!"

No response came from his teammates or from the crowd, evidently everyone else hadn't settled on an answer to that question either. Worried murmurs and grumbles started to go about the gathered sailors, before a Nosepass stepped forward and spoke up with a sharp snort.

"Like I said earlier, we should leave port while we can," the Nosepass insisted. "If the Company knows we're here, then what's the point of staying?"

"Yeah, we're a single merchant ship!" a Bayleef exclaimed. "We can't hold out against an entire city full of square-necks!"

The Nosepass and Bayleef's sentiment began to ripple through the crowd as other sailors voiced their agreement with words like "they've got a point" and "yeah, let's get out of here while we can". Nida's ears drooped at the turn of the room's mood, before Kline hastily stepped forward and leveled a stern expression back at the sailors.

"Look, I understand that this isn't an ideal situation, but things aren't going to get any easier if we run away," the Zygarde began. "If we leave now, we'll never get another chance at getting this volume of the Knights' Ledger!"

"Por todos los cielos, Trizano got his eyes burned out!" Natrix protested. "What makes you think we still have a chance now?"

Nida and the rest of the Pokémon on her team blanched at the Servine's outburst. They'd been wondering why Trizano hadn't been present for the meeting, but if what the Servine was saying was true…

"T-Trizano's eyes?" the Nidorina stammered. "What-?"

"When we got ambushed and tried to retreat, Trizano taunted Aldrich and stayed behind to fight him instead," Percy explained. "Aldrich pinned him down and burned his eyes. Right now Trizano's currently recovering in one of the sleeping quarters."

Team Traveller's younger members grimaced at the Gliscor's answer, as Philips folded his arms with a low grumble.

"Just saying, the rest of us aren't Immortals here," the Raichu chimed in. "Maybe Trizano can magically come back after getting hurt like that, but we certainly can't."

Nida blanched and grit her teeth as she felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. Could they really pull through with how bad things looked here?

… No, it wasn't a matter of could they, they had to. And they'd never accomplish that by turning tail.

"… We get that, Philips."

Nida stepped forward and waved for attention, looking about the gathered sailors with a stern frown.

"Look, I know that this is all scary. But we knew this was going to be a dangerous mission going in," Nida said. "But the fact that we haven't gotten boarded already means that Team Sentinel hasn't passed that information on to the rest of the Company yet and are most likely playing games for Administrator Elilan again."

The Nidorina hesitated a moment, before shaking her head and digging her heels in to continue on.

"If we slink off here, we'll have given away our position to them with nothing to show for it," she insisted. "Whatever's going on, they have a reason for trying to keep their supposed allies in the dark. Even if it doesn't solve the issue of them trying to come after us, it'll be easier to avoid five Pokémon than every guard on the island."

"Right, and part of the reason why things turned out so badly with Aldrich was that he caught us off-guard and we weren't prepared for him," Percy added. "There's already things I can think of that if we'd done differently, might have let us win that battle, or at least make a clean escape."

"If we try sticking in larger groups and keeping better items on hand to make sure we can put up a harder fight, it would already improve our odds of success by a good 50%," Kiran mused. "It wouldn't be easy, but we'd definitely have more options than just having to retreat."

The three's explanation drew hesitant and uneasy murmurs from the gathering. While they weren't exactly in good circumstances, it was hard to argue their point. Vicente rubbed his head and made his way forward, giving a wary stare at the trio.

"What do you propose, then?" the Hitmontop questioned.

"We stay undercover in that class for a couple of days and try to find this Vault on-campus to see if it's something we can even break into," Nida answered. "The rest of the team can either hide near the Academy to help us in case Team Sentinel or the Company gives us trouble, or stay on the ship in case something comes up here in the harbor."

Beatrix looked at Nida for a minute, before she turned her gaze over towards the Nidorina's teammates and sized the lot up cautiously.

"Is this something you're all okay with?" the Illumise asked. "I don't know how you got mixed up to end up in that classroom, but… if you go back, there's a much bigger chance someone will notice you don't belong there."

Guardia, Elty, Pleo, and Crom briefly traded uneasy looks with each other. After a moment's hesitation, the four looked back determinedly, the Cubone of the lot giving a firm nod back.

"We'd obviously need a chance to talk through some strategy, but otherwise yes," Guardia answered. "We didn't come all the way out to this Company colony just to run off with our tails between our legs!"

"It is hard to imagine better options at this point," Elty sighed. "After all, what exactly are we going to do? Sail back to Tromba and turn ourselves over to that wydra?"

Beatrix said nothing in reply for a moment. After noticing that Pleo and Crom seemed similarly at ease with the idea, she trained her attention to the other sailors with a sharp buzz.

"Then we stay the course for now. Though I want the ship prepared to leave at a moment's notice," she ordered. "Just because Team Sentinel is keeping quiet about our presence at the moment doesn't mean we can count on things staying that way."

The Illumise was cut off by a low growl, followed by Pleo flusteredly looking down at his belly. A few other growls went about the gathering, as a few sailors similarly reacted in sheepish embarrassment, leaving the Bug-Type captain to blink a moment, before turning her attention over to the ship's Fraxure cook.

"Though before then, we'd best tend to ourselves," Beatrix remarked. "It is almost time for you to start preparing dinner, Pladur."

"Ahehehe… right," the Fraxure said, giving a bashful paw at the side of his head. "No sense trying to plan things out on an empty stomach."

Pladur's reply was answered by the sound of approaching footsteps as his child and his teammates drew near.

"We'll help too, dad!" Crom insisted.

"Yeah, after a day like this, I think we could all use something else on our minds," Nida added.

"Alright, though we should hurry things up," Pladur replied. "Sounds like everyone's already waiting on us."

Pladur and the younger members of Team Traveller set off, making their way for the other end of the mess hall to head into the galley. As the lot fished out the dishes and ingredients for the night's meal, Nida couldn't help but be troubled by a nagging unease.

From what they had seen of them on Buyeom Island, Team Sentinel was hardly the type to just sit back after losing track of them temporarily, and they were still out there somewhere in Canalhouse City. So then, they had to be up to something…

But what?



Aldrich and Ellsberg's search about Canalhouse City continued well into the afternoon, only to turn up no leads as to where Percy, Kiran, and their allies vanished off to. As the sun drifted for the western horizon, the pair grudgingly called their search off to go and rendezvous with Sorge who, according to Aldrich, hung around the local Company battlegrounds fairly often much like he, Ketu, and Zelle did. Much as the Noivern suspected, Sorge was indeed there, and the two surprised the Kommo-o with news of their sighting of Team Traveller and Team Zephyr's members, prompting Sorge to insist that they get Zelle and gather together for a meeting at his residence away from prying eyes and ears.

The task of fetching Zelle fell to Aldrich, who with his swift wings and sharp hearing was bound to have better odds of finding the Sylveon on short notice. In the meantime, Sorge led Ellsberg along into a sleepier neighborhood in the south of the city, where the pair made their way past small shops and eateries to a narrow canalhouse wedged on a back canal.

After making their way in, the Dragon-Type brought his guest up a flight of stairs and to a door at the back of the hallway. There, Sorge fidgeted with a set of keys, undoing a padlock and pushing the door open to reveal a spartan apartment. Just past the door was a common room with a table set out with four simple seats and a small kitchen tucked in a corner. To the right was a room with a closed wooden door, likely a bedroom, with little sign of anything else to speak of in the dwelling.

Ellsberg flitted about the living room, where a blue scarf with a black circle with a tilted cross in it hung on the far wall to the left of the window. A couple curiosities had been set out on a simple shelf not far from it, including a set of black goggles with lenses that were made out of some sort of clear material, a strange metal-and-glass slate, and a metal necklace with a curious round, rainbow-colored stone set in it. Ellsberg tilted his head and put a tarsus to his mouth, not sure what to make of the collection of strange artifacts.

"Eh? What are these things?" Ellsberg murmured.

The Mothim cast an expectant glance over at Sorge, who gave no reply for a noticeable pause, before looking at Ellsberg with a wistful smile.

"They're momentos. Reminders of who I really am," the Kommo-o answered. "Normally I keep them in storage since I'm not around, but since I'm here, I figured I'd take them out to spruce my place up a bit."

Ellsberg's gaze lingered on the artifacts for a moment, but he supposed the explanation made sense. Though barring Sorge's little collection of these momentos, the simple apartment didn't have much to speak of for decorations. Was this cramped little apartment really the residence of a Pokémon who was a Third-Rank in the Company? Why, he knew First-Ranks with better lodging than this!

"I suppose… but, is this really all there is to your apartment, Sorge?" Ellsberg asked. "I'm just a Second-Rank and I have fairly comfortable accommodations. I wouldn't have expected you to live in someplace so… simple. Especially for a larger Kommo-o like you."

"Well, I rarely stay here, so anything fancier would just be a waste," Sorge replied. "It's not too spacious, but it meets my needs just fine."

A sharp rap came from the apartment's door, prompting Ellsberg to look back as Sorge made his way over. The Kommo-o pulled the door open and let Aldrich in, followed by Zelle who came in wearing a white coat with a hoodie fashioned from silk and woolen furs. The pair entered the room and Sorge closed the door behind them, as Aldrich glanced around for a moment before speaking up.

"Looks like we're all ready to get things going," the Noivern said. "I certainly wasn't expecting an opportunity like this to come into our claws."

"I know I definitely wasn't," Zelle sighed. "Not that I'm complaining about a new lead, but it would've been nice to not have my trip through Afschaffingstraat's stores cut short."

Ellsberg fluttered in place with a blank expression, before shooting an askew glance at the Sylveon. While Zelle had seemed like the type who would take an interest in frivolous accessories such as her winter coat, it beggared the question…

"… Why are you buying winter wear when it's the beginning of spring?" Ellsberg wondered. Zelle gave a skeptical raise of her brow, before brushing at her cheek with one of her feelers.

"Because it will be winter again by the end of the year and I probably won't be in the city for it?" the Sylveon retorted. "Besides, I'm not gonna pass up a coat like this when it was on sale for only 5000 Poké! After visiting that Move Tutor yesterday, I still had more than enough left of that little bonus from Buyeom to buy something extra."

Ellsberg blinked and did a double-take at Zelle's answer. Even before any shenanigans involving exchange rates into Thalers, 5000 Poke was almost half of his monthly salary. The Mothim raised a tarsus to speak, only for Zelle to wave him off with a feeler and turn her attention back to her teammates as she took her place at Sorge's table and waited for the others to join her.

"Anyway, what's this lead on Subject Red that you two found?" the Fairy-Type asked, prompting Aldrich to shift his wings and settle in before training his attention back on her.

"We spotted Percy and Calidus along with part of Team Traveller near the Academy," he explained. "If they are here, we should assume that Kline and Pleo are most likely here in the city as well."

Sorge and Zelle paused and stared back at the Noivern incredulously. The Sylveon of the pair tripped over her words briefly, before letting out a baffled exclamation.

"Wait, what? But why on earth would they come here of all places?!"

"We don't know yet, since they managed to slip away," the bat answered, shaking his head. "Considering how they completely disappeared after that, I suspect that someone in the city is helping them."

"I don't think it should be too much of a problem. We already know they went about with false Company sails before, and the fact that they came in Company attire means they don't know we figured that out," Ellsberg added. "If they haven't already cut and run, it should just be a matter of asking the Harbormaster to show the logs of the ships that have come into port recently, spotting the odd Ducklett out, and calling in a raid."

Sorge took a moment to mull the Noivern and Mothim's words, before he folded his arms with a quiet grunt.

"Well, bringing things up with the Harbormaster would be an obvious step… but if we do find their ship, I'm not sure if having them raided right away would be our best course of action."

Aldrich tilted his head in response, giving a puzzled, yet curious raise of his brow at his superior.

"Hm? What are you getting at, Sorge?"

"To start with, Kline has eluded us multiple times in the past using feints and trickery," the Kommo-o began. "If he and his allies came to the Company's capital willingly, is it really safe to assume that they don't have a way of leaving Vollezee in case their ship gets discovered by the guards? Especially if they really are receiving outside help?"

Aldrich and Zelle fell silent and hesitated, making Ellsberg trade glances between the two. Kline's feint on Buyeom had been… unexpected, but how many times had he and his companions given them the slip before? The Mothim thought of asking for more details for a moment, only to decide against it as Sorge folded his arms and continued on.

"More importantly, this is an opportunity to discover just what it is Kline's been plotting. We know he's been trying to stop us for a while with a plan that involves teaming up with other Pokémon like himself, and there's no reason to think he's abandoned it," he explained. "We should assume that it's related to why he's here in Canalhouse. Why else would he have come here of all places with his teammates and another Protector?"

The other members of Team Sentinel traded glances with one another as Sorge paused and shook his head before speaking up.

"Let's keep an eye on them and let things play out before we pounce," he insisted. "I doubt there's anything that would keep us from going for Kline here and now, but it'd help us figure out what exactly he's up to and get him when he's at his most vulnerable."

Zelle tilted her with a thoughtful murmur. It was hard to argue her team leader's point, though…

"Where do you think we should start? Obviously we should still get things squared away with the Harbormaster to stop Kline from just sailing off," she replied. "But what else do you have in mind?"

The Kommo-o fell quiet for a moment and thought to himself, before turning over to his Noivern counterpart.

"Aldrich, you said that you ran into Percy and Calidus near the Academy, right?" he asked.

"We did, yes," Aldrich said, nodding back. "Though that could've just been a lucky break."

"Perhaps, but it could also be a lead as to what they're all up to," Sorge mused. "We'd do well to keep an eye on the area for the next day or two."

The Kommo-o cast a glance out of his apartment window, his face curling up into a dark smile before he continued on.

"Besides, even if it is a dead end, we know exactly where to find them now."



Ketu didn't stick around with Kachina and the others for long after they made it to shore, having quickly come to the conclusion that the lot of them would be little more than dead weight for a simple infiltration. If Kline was actually still on the island, keeping them near would easily be more trouble than they were worth if they managed to spot him. Within half an hour, he was skulking about Bluewhorl's main square and its surroundings, where over the course of a few hours, he'd managed to piece together bits and pieces of what had happened to Commissioner Bunsen.

He'd sailed in, bullied the hicks around and done a surprisingly good job at keeping them in line, only for his work to fall flat on its face the moment the Protectors showed up. Ketu heard of a few things that had happened afterwards, such as how some of Bunsen's underlings had been put to work on Community Service, or how there had been a festival to celebrate the town's turn of fortune… but not a word about where any of the Protectors could've gone off to. He hadn't expected them to be talkative with Company ships visibly idling in the waters off port, but this level of tight-lippedness could only be possible if the townsfolk had coordinated with each other.

And that meant he'd have to find a weak link among them in order to learn the truth… but where would he even start?

"Hrmph, so many hicks, and no clues as to which of them would have a lead…"


The Weavile's attention drifted over to a Mightyena talking with a Machoke near the entrance of a potter's shopfront. The Mightyena didn't look like he'd be too challenging to interrogate, and even if he couldn't be separated from that Machoke, a Fighting-Type like him couldn't do much if he was frozen.

After taking a closer look however, Ketu noticed the pair were sporting bandages and trading worried conversation with one another about getting a cold shoulder from their Protector lately. The Weavile frowned and sized up the Mightyena a second time. He and his buddy must've gotten chewed up during the uprising earlier this week and spent a good while afterwards passed out. From their topic of conversation, it was highly unlikely they knew anything meaningful about Pleo, let alone Kline or Manaphy.

Ketu frowned and continued on the lane slightly, when his eyes fell on a Loudred loudly chortling with a Snorlax at a storage shop over how he was 'looking forward to working with Team Traveller again sometime soon'. The Weavile moved forward towards the direction of the Storage Shop, nearing the Normal-Type when he noticed a glinting bauble pinned to his white and green scarf, prompting Ketu to pause. The Loudred was with the local guild, and he'd surely have friends who'd notice if he went missing… not that the set of pipes a Loudred had would make that hard for them. What good did it do to try and get information out of him when it'd risk blowing his cover this early on?

The Dark-Type pinned his ears against his head and blew up a frustrated, frigid puff of air up at his head feathers. As hard as it was for him to believe, all this time, he didn't have a solid lead as to who would know about the Protectors' whereabouts. So what was he to do? Pick some random peasant and hope that he'd get what he needed out of him before breaking cover?

Those hicks on the ship had to have someone they would've let things slip to. Friends, family, some sort of connection along those lines. But how was he supposed to narrow things down at all in a village that he'd barely ever seen from closer than the deck of Lyn's ship?

"Come on, mom! The muffins should be done right now!"

Ketu's ears perked up at the sound of a younger voice calling out, making him look off down the lane where he spotted a young Druddigon tugging at his mother carrying a sack of flour. The Weavile walked forward a few paces and squinted at the two Druddigon as he couldn't help but shake a lingering sense of deja vu.

"… Wait a minute," Ketu murmured. "Those two look familiar…"

He carried along, following the Druddigon pair from a safe distance as they went further inland into the town, until he saw them duck into a small hut that smelled strongly of bread. The Weavile lingered a moment as he heard the two talk with each other, along with thumps that made him raise his brow. A quick walk past the door and glance in allowed him to see the two working in a back room behind the counter kneading dough, obviously busy since they'd have noticed him otherwise.

Ketu crept along the side of the shop, sneaking around the back where he found a pair of windows. Through the window closest to him he could see a bedroom for a pair of occupants about the size of a Marowak. There was a patch of straw bedding on either side of the room and a couple pieces of simple furniture. Odds and ends lay about the room, evidently the belongings of the Pokemon that slept there, including a toy ball, two piles of shiny baubles such as polished coins, crystals, and emera shards, and a silvery-white feather that was weighed down by a small pebble.

Ketu didn't think much of things at first, just the standard bric-a-brac that many Dragon-Types would have, only to pause after he noticed a blue scarf with a white star pattern hanging on the wall above one of the beds. The Weavile suddenly realized this was Crom's room, that little brat lizard from Team Traveller!

"Ah, so there is more to that little family of skinks than the Fraxure and his kid," he thought to himself. "Well then, let's find out what you two have been telling them."

Ketu carefully retraced his steps to the entrance of the shop and made his way in, sauntering up to the counter. There he rapped a claw against the wood, making Gwenith and Cenn look up from their work as the mother Druddigon hurried over to the counter.

"Buenas tardes," Gwenith greeted. "I don't think I've seen you around before. Are you passing through town?"

"Hm? Yeah, I've got a sister who visits here every now and then," Ketu replied. "Didn't expect things to get so crazy while seeing her, but eh. It happens."

"Well, you came in at just the right time!" Cenn cheered. "We're about to put out some fresh muffins!"

Ketu tilted his head, before idly looking over the other contents that were put on display as the two Dragon-Types ducked into the backroom, the Dark-Type taking the time to size up the rest of the shop to get a feel for his surroundings just in case things had to get… physical. A whiff of chocolate hit his nose just as Gwenith came back holding a tray of muffins studded with brown chunks that she set on the counter. Her younger helper sniffed at them briefly, before giving a cheerful bat of his wings and smiling back at their Weavile customer.

"See? They smell great, don't they? You're actually really lucky, since we got the ingredients in by special order," Cenn insisted. Ketu let his gaze linger on the younger Druddigon, curling his mouth up into a small smirk as he turned back to Gwenith.

"Kid's a great salesmon, isn't he?" the Weavile remarked, drawing a toothy smile back from the Druddigon baker.

"Well, I'd like to think that I taught him well."

"It certainly shows," Ketu said. "Though if you don't mind answering a few questions for a 'mon out of the loop… I heard the Protector here left. What exactly happened?"

Gwenith gave an askew glance in response to the Weavile's question. If he'd already seen Pleo, shouldn't he already know what had happened in town since then?

"I think one look at the harbor would make it obvious," she replied. "Those square-necks came sailing in, and he decided to make himself scarce."

"Huh? Why would a Protector need to flee?" Ketu asked. "Couldn't he just stand his ground and blow them away?"

"Eh? But Pleo's still young and his powers aren't all the way there yet!" Cenn exclaimed. "I mean, he can use them sometimes like what happened with that mean Charizard Commissioner a few days ago, but-"

Gwenith sharply cupped a claw over her child's mouth and shot a sharp scowl down. Cenn blinked and let his wings droop for a moment, as Ketu shot a knowing smile back across the corner and ran a claw along the counter's wood.

"Fair enough. I guess I can see why they're so interested in him. If they could control him, it sounds like he'd be a real nasty weapon to face down," the Weavile mused. "So… where'd he go off to anyway?"

The mother Druddigon let go of her son and turned her attention back to the Dark-Type with a sharp frown, obviously not thinking much of his comments.

"He didn't tell any of us before leaving," Gwenith said. "We all knew that there was trouble coming and he must've thought we'd be safer if we didn't know where he went."

"While going on a friendly name basis?" Ketu scoffed. "I find that a bit hard to believe, especially since there was that green snake Protector that was helping him out earlier- 'Zygarde', I think it was."

Gwenith and Cenn stared back blankly at the Weavile, the younger Druddigon starting to sense that something was amiss as he hid behind his mother, who raised a brow back at her customer.

"… How do you know this again?" Gwenith questioned, prompting Ketu to shrug back nonchalantly.

"Again, I've been here for a while," he replied. "I just paid attention to things that were happening in town."

Gwenith frowned and narrowed her eyes back, finding the Dark-Type's explanation to be completely unsatisfactory. After all…

"If you really saw that much, then you wouldn't need to ask me these things," the dragon insisted. "You should already know more than enough to answer your own questions."

"Eh, I missed a few details, and I wanted to fill in the truth a bit," Ketu remarked. "Nothing wrong with that, right?"

"Huh? But that doesn't make any sense!" Cenn cried. "If you know all of that, wouldn't you also know where Pleo went to get the Knights' Ledger?"

Ketu's jaw briefly dropped at the mention of the 'Knights' Ledger'. He didn't know the exact details of what was in those books beyond that they were about events that had happened right before the Great Calamity. The contents of the one the Company had were supposed to be state secrets and that there was no way that the little feather duster or anyone in his circle of friends should know anything about them. The Weavile hastily recomposed himself and shot back a small scowl, shaking his head back with a low growl.

"… I don't know what a 'Knights' Ledger' is, so none of that means anything to me," he insisted. "Again, I want to know where Lugia went to. So, are you going to give things to me straight?"

Ketu narrowed his eyes and dug a set of claws into the counter, dragging them along the wood and leaving noticeable gouges behind. The Dark-Type pulled them away, brushing some stray wood shavings off his nails as he shot a threatening glare back to the shopkeep.

"Or am I going to need to pry it out of you?"

Gwenith felt her blood run cold at the Weavile's words and stepped back from the counter, for the first time feeling that she and her child were in genuine danger. Cenn seemed to pick up on the Dark-Type's ill intent himself, as he folded his wings back and glanced up at his mother, pawing at her with a nervous whine.

"M-Mom? What's going on?" he stammered. "If he wanted to know about Pleo and the others, why isn't he asking Guildmaster Hatteras? I thought he said that Pleo and the others went to Vollezee!"

Ketu's eyes widened. Why on earth would-? … Never mind that, he already had a suspicion of why Pleo would want to go there, and there would be plenty of time to piece things together. For now, his priority was getting back to Lyn's ship. The Dark-Type looked down at the counter for a moment, sharply sighing and lowering his ears apologetically before turning back to Gwenith.

"… Sorry, guess I've just been a bit wrapped up in things and getting a bit pushy," Ketu muttered. "But I've stalled you two long enough, let's get those muffins taken care of."

He slid a few Poké coins across the counter, Gwenith hurriedly snatching it, and making change, not particularly caring if she was being too generous with her counting. She ought to have been more concerned by how much Cenn had let slip in the past few minutes, but at that moment she had few thoughts other than to get the obvious villain across from her out of her shop and far, far away from Cenn.

Gwenith all but threw Ketu's muffins and his change back across the counter, the Weavile taking it and making his way for the door as she knelt down to pat a visibly shivering Cenn. The mother Druddigon pulled her son into a reassuring embrace when she noted that Ketu's footsteps stopped, the Dragon-Type poking her head over the counter to see that he'd paused at the doorway to look back at her.

"By the way, how's your mate doing?" Ketu asked. "Heard he felt absolutely gutted about losing that tournament in Tidemill City."

Ketu's mouth curled up in a knowing smirk as he slipped out of the door, leaving Gwenith to flop her mouth open and her eyes to widen before narrowing in a fiery rage. The only way that Weavile could've known about Pladur's injury in that arena fight…

"You! You're-!"

Was if he was the 'mon that gave it to him in the first place!

The Druddigon ran out from behind the counter and stormed out of her shop with her claws drawn, only to see that the Weavile was gone. The Dragon-Type looked around warily and drew shallow, tense breaths when she felt a tug at her tail and looked down to see Cenn pawing at her and looking up nervously.

"Mom? Is- Is everything alright?"

Gwenith said nothing for a long pause, before picking up Cenn and pulling him in tight to her chest with a worried sigh. The mother Druddigon nosed at her child, before trudging back into her bakery, warily casting glances over her shoulder all the while.



The districts just south of Canalhouse City's historic core had always been leafy relative to the surrounding city, and with its residents wealthy enough to afford the extra space, its canals were usually quieter and less trafficked than those of the rest of the city. Not that Zorn minded the quiet, as he snaked his way up a canal lined by large estates set back behind brick walls with small access docks poking out into the water. The sleepy canal gave him the freedom to swim about the water without having to shoo passersby out of the way. But more importantly…

"Ah! That's it, dad! That's Leonard's house up ahead!"

… it gave Murdo freedom to wander ahead without Zorn having to worry about losing track of him. The Gyarados had volunteered to take Leonard home to his mother that day. A reciprocal gesture he and Farn did for each other from time to time since his own family's manor was not far away. The sea serpent swam up to a dock in front of a three-story brick manor with a hipped roof and two protruding wings, Leonard looking over just in time from his perch atop Zorn's head to see Farn come from a rear entrance watched by guards and pace down a set of steps into a manicured garden.

"Mom!"

Zorn craned his head down to the access dock and let his Shinx passenger hop off, the Electric-Type hurrying up the dock just as his mother slipped past a brass gate and pulled him into a warm embrace. The Luxray administrator nuzzled her child and drew a playful purr, before she looked up at her Gyarados counterpart with a relieved smile.

"Thanks for picking up Leonard for me, Zorn," Farn said. "Work piled up more than I thought it would today."

"Don't mention it. You've done the same for me in the past, and I'm not the type to shirk paying things forward," the Gyarados grunted back. "Besides, the kids always seemed to enjoy going home with us more than a normal guarded escort."

Zorn coiled his body in the water around his own child, before rearing his head up and peering down at his Luxray colleague down at the canal's edge.

"On that note, have you heard anything back from Lyn?" Zorn asked. "He has always been somewhat close to you, so I was curious if he'd sent anything to your desk in advance."

"Hrmph, I wish. Though it is a bit soon to be expecting any news from Tromba when he just sailed for it the day before yesterday," Farn replied, shaking her head. "I spent today talking with Olivia from the Intelligence Division about potential sources of our intel leak."

The Luxray trailed off for a moment, before flattening her ears out and curling her muzzle down into a sharp frown.

"They don't seem to have turned up anything meaningful for a lead other than it had to be from a high-level source," the Electric-Type muttered. "Even without that, with everything going on on Tromba, we're almost certainly going to have to postpone returning to our posts."

Farn perked up as she felt a paw tug at her hindleg, the Luxray looking over her shoulder to see Leonard looking up at her with a puzzled tilt of his head.

"But… doesn't that mean that you'll get to stay longer?" the Shinx asked. "That's a good thing, isn't it?"

The Gyarados and Luxray fell silent, Farn blinking back at her child for a few moments, before Zorn curled his maw up into a smile at his coworker.

"Well, that is a pretty big silver lining, wouldn't you say?" the Gyarados said. "I know that I'm certainly not complaining about getting to spend a few extra days here in Vollezee with Murdo."

Farn let a faint smile settle over her muzzle, before she turned and sat down, looking over at her son.

"I suppose that is a benefit, yes," the Luxray remarked. "So how was school today, Leonard?"

The Shinx paused and bobbed his tail back and forth as he gathered his thoughts, before looking up and opening his mouth to reply.

"Well, the lessons were mostly the same as always," he began. "But we got these new transfer students in our class today!"

Farn blinked at her son's reply, giving a puzzled tilt of her head.

"… Transfer students?"

"Uh huh!" Leonard insisted. "They're a Nidorina, a Druddigon, a Growlithe, and a Cubone! And… there was one other purple-feathered one that said he was a Wingull, but Sophie said he was wrong, so we're not sure what sort of Pokémon he is."

"They said that they came from the island you work on!" Murdo chimed in. "Are you friends with their parents?"

Farn flattened out her ears and narrowed her eyes into a puzzled scowl. While the past few weeks had been a blur, she never had a promotion to Third-Rank from her island slip her notice before. Was her son meaning to imply that somehow five promotions had happened without her knowing about it?

"… That many transfers from my island in the middle of the semester?" she murmured to herself. "I can't imagine why Commander Utsumi wouldn't have told me of that."

"To be fair, it has been an abnormal time lately," Zorn reminded. "It's not as if I pay that close attention to every promotion my own Commander sends up to me. Perhaps it's just something you overlooked in your paperwork."

Farn turned back to Zorn with a dubious frown, letting her tail bat back and forth agitatedly as she peered up at the Gyarados.

"I mean, I haven't focused too closely on my paperwork since the Guardian of the Seas turned up," she said. "But I'd hope that I wasn't that unfocused."

"Don't worry about it too much," the Gyarados insisted, idly swaying his tail in the water. "There's plenty of work ahead of us tomorrow, so just try and enjoy the evening off while you can."

Farn fell quiet, before lowering her head with a grumbling sigh.

"I suppose you have a point," she replied. "It's not as if tomorrow's going to be any less busy than today."

Leonard jolted up out of surprise for a moment, before worriedly nosing at his mother's shoulder.

"Huh? But if you're busy, then are you still going to be able to pick me up from class before you go back to Kenobi?" the Shinx asked.

Farn leaned in and nuzzled the top of her son's head, looking down with a reassuring smile.

"It's just a little extra work for the next few days, sweetie," the Luxray said. "Though I promise that I'll be able to walk home with you before I leave again."

"Walk? But why would you want to do that?!" Murdo wondered. "It's so much faster to swim here in Canalhouse City!"

Farn gave a displeased frown at Murdo's suggestion of 'swimming' to get around, prompting Zorn to give a gentle nudge at his child with his tail, and crane his head down with a bemused smile.

"I think the idea's more to spend time together, Murdo," the Gyarados remarked. "Just like we were going to on our way back. Did you feel like swimming down the central canal this time?"

Murdo splashed happily in the water at the prospect of swimming through Canalhouse City's central canal, which was always teeming with life and activity. Giddy with anticipation at taking his scenic route home with his father past the likes of the Strandmeer Arena, the Magikarp burbled happily in reply.

"Oh sure! See you at class tomorrow, Leonard!"

Farn watched as Murdo zipped ahead in the water, Zorn shaking his head bemusedly before he slunk deeper into the water and swam after him. The Luxray noticed Leonard walk past the entrance to her estate and lingered for a moment, wondering why these new students he and Murdo had mentioned sounded vaguely familiar.

The Electric-Type shook her head and brushed the matter off before following after her son. Her time with Leonard was always scarce, and it was best to make the most of the opportunities she had. Besides, what were the odds that that feeling of familiarity wasn't just stress from a long day's work getting to her?



Back on the waters right outside of Tromba's harbor, Lyn and his underlings dutifully kept the center of the deck vacant and massed at the railing of the Argent Aviso to face down Osmund and his band of locals on Bunsen's seized flagship. The last couple of hours had gone by with fruitless attempts at negotiations, with 'mons from both sides accusing the other of deliberate stall tactics. By this point, the Samurott's patience had long worn thin as he shook his head back at Osmund's latest offer with a sharp huff.

"Again, expunging this entire episode from the record is more than a fair offer considering how the Company has bombarded places from sea for lesser offenses than this!" Lyn snapped.

"You see, that's what I thought when you stabbed me and put me on bed rest for a week when you came for the Protector," Osmund retorted. "But clearly 'pretending blatant treason didn't happen' after letting you sail off with him last time didn't mean a whole lot, since the Board just sent another Commissioner here to push us around. So Mayor Hatteras insisted that there needed to be consequences this time."

Lyn narrowed his eyes with an irritated scoff. It was hard for him to believe at times that he and Osmund hailed from the same class in the Academy, much less once called each other close friends. While he'd grown out of his youthful impulses and moved on to more constructive endeavors such as climbing the Company's ranks, Osmund remained ever the troublemaker he'd been back in youth days. Clearly it was the reason why he'd ever caught Hatteras' eye in the first place when the Company forced him to pick an emissary while negotiating the island's… understanding after Darzin lost control of it.

A bright light suddenly flashed from behind him, the Samurott glancing over his shoulder to see Ketu and the rest of the scouting team having appeared at the center of the deck. A quick look back at Bunsen's ship revealed Osmund and the other Trombans had noticed it as well, the lot staring wide-eyed as their Sceptile ringleader turned to him with an incredulous scowl

"What the-?!" he exclaimed. "Lyn, did you just call in a teleporter-?"

"Hrmph, negotiations are over for now," the Samurott shot back. "Everyone, keep these peasants from snooping over the railing so that I can have a moment of privacy."

Lyn's underlings massed at the railing as he walked off, a few clambering onto each other's shoulders to form a crude wall to block off the view from the disabled galleon as protests sounded out in the background. The Samurott captain made his way for Ketu's group, which dispersed as Ketu stepped forward and brushed off the fur on his arms and fished out a muffin from his bag. Lyn rolled his eyes at his first mate's behavior, hardly the sort of first impression he was hoping for, but Ketu'd already demonstrated that he could deliver results before

"What did you find out there?" Lyn asked, prompting the Weavile to reply with a dismissive shrug of his shoulders.

"Well, some nice muffins, obviously," Ketu replied. "Why? Did you want one?"

Ketu raised his claw with his muffin and gave it a little shake as a smug smirk spread over his face. The Weavile watched as Lyn's eyes hardened into a sharp glare and the Samurott visibly started to lose his patience, prompting the Dark-Type to cut in right as the captain opened his mouth to launch into a tirade.

"Though if you're talking about the Protector, I looked around town, but it looks like our princess is in another castle."

Lyn raised a brow and shot a puzzled frown back, letting a low grumble rise from the back of his throat.

"… What on earth are you talking about?" the otter demanded. "We're pursuing the Guardian of the Seas, not a princess."

Ketu's smile faded as he narrowed his eyes and groaned in annoyance. Had Lyn never bothered to read a book when he was younger? Why he'd understood that reference since he was a little Sneasel just learning to read in school! The Weavile shook his head, before opting to repeat his point in plainer terms.

"The bird's gone, and so are the other Protectors that were with him," he explained. "They expected that we'd come for them so they left for another island."

Lyn face hardened into a skeptical scowl and eyed the Dark-Type warily. Could his first mate really have come to such a definitive conclusion in a few hours? After all…

"Ketu, Tromba's not that small of an island. There's forests and a Mystery Dungeon that they could easily have taken shelter in," the Samurott said. "What makes you so sure of that assessment when Trombans aren't exactly known for their honesty in dealing with us?"

"Because my intel came from the mouth of a brat who's got a dad working on the smugglers' ship that Lugia's been hanging around with," Ketu insisted. "I seriously doubt he'd have mentioned that Lugia went to Vollezee if it wasn't a slip-up."

Lyn paused and twitched his whiskers for a moment with an incredulous blink, before narrowing his eyes back with a sharp frown.

"You're hinging an awful lot of faith that this isn't a feint," he harrumphed. "Vollezee is the Company's capital. It's about the last place that Lugia and his companions would want to go to!"

"That's the point Captain, that we'd think that. Remember these 'mons have fake sails with our colors," the Weavile snapped, flattening his ears. "If you were in their position, wouldn't you try to hide somewhere where you thought you were least expected if you thought you could get away with it?"

Lyn fell silent and stared back in thought for a moment, before gritting his teeth and turning to the rest of his crew with a sharp bellow.

"Hoist the anchor and lower the sails!" the Samurott shouted. "Signal the other ships in the water! We're getting out of here!"

The sailors hastily cleared away from the edge of the railing and hurried back to their posts. Ketu rolled his eyes and bit into his muffin as the lot quickly brought the anchor and sails back to their sailing positions and a Crobat above the rigging signalled with his wings to the other ships in the water. Osmund and the others on his ship looked on in blank confusion, before they felt a sharp wind and noticed Lyn's ship was starting to move, with the other four ships in the background visibly unfurling their sails to similarly set sail.

"Lyn?!" Osmund cried. "What are you-?!"

With the aid of its escorts' efforts, the Argent Aviso and the rest of the fleet began to pull away much to the slack-jawed astonishment of all the Pokémon present. A couple of Bunsen's underlings that had been brought above deck went wide-eyed and ran up to the railing, crying out after the steadily vanishing ships.

"W-Wait! Stop!" a Swoobat begged. "You can't just leave us like this!"

"Y-You were supposed to get us out of here!" a Lopunny whined.

Osmund and his fellow guards left the grunts to call out their unheard pleas to their departing counterparts, the lot's minds growing troubled over the entire episode as they traded uneasy looks and murmurs with each other. Orino from among the guards walked up, the Nidoran giving a wary glance up at the Sceptile.

"Captain, what on earth just happened?"

Osmund cast his glance down towards the water below, tightening his grip on the railing as he grit his teeth and looked off at the departing ships sailing off on their northward course.

"Nothing good, I'm sure."



Author's Notes:

- (¡)Por todos los cielos! - Spanish: "By the heavens!", used analogously to "For crying out loud!"
- wydra - Polish: "otter"
 
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Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
As expected, it took all of one chapter for the word to spread about our heroes. Meaning we have maybe the next chapter for peace before things potentially devolve into the big ol' ball of violence I mentioned last time. If this were earlier in the story I'd expect Lyn to be too far to return to Vollzee in time, but I think I vastly overestimated the distance between islands. So, odds are he'll be back to slap some sense into the board members brushing off a series of eerie coincidences. Like, I would think the board would have the species of Team Traveler on some sort of "most wanted" list after all the stunts they've pulled. I also did think it a bit convenient that Ketu got the answer from Crom's sister having a big mouth. You'd think the mom would be more responsible and send her away after the first slip up.

The only way I imagine things not ending with the usual, last-minute scrambling escape is if there was somehow a very fast flying-type who could beat Lyn to the Siglo Swellow. But that wouldn't do anything about Team Sentinel. There's always time for, like, a board child to come to the heroes' aids instead, but my gut tells me short period of peace followed by a scramble to escape the island that may or may not be successful. Time will tell~

"Like I said, we're better off covering it during our debriefing with the crew instead of here in public."
They're actually learning!
"If the Company knows we're here
"Or, rather, if the Company nose we're here."
"If we try sticking in larger groups and keeping better items on hand to make sure we can put up a harder fight, it would already improve our odds of success by a good 50%,"
"It also makes us fifty percent more likely to be spotted. And I'm factoring in a zero percent chance of any backup being called in, which definitely won't happen."
"We stay undercover in that class for a couple of days and try to find this Vault on-campus to see if it's something we can even break into,"
de7.png

"Well, I rarely stay here, so anything fancier would just be a waste," Sorge replied.
"Haven't you ever watched any police procedurals? No? Oh, right, we don't have televisions..."
set of black goggles with lenses that were made out of some sort of clear material, a strange metal-and-glass slate, and a necklace formed from a metal chain with a curious round, rainbow-colored stone set in it.
Was Sorge some sort of Mad Max-esque desert-dweller?
"Let's keep an eye on them and let things play out before we pounce,"
What could possibly go— oh, wait, I did this one already.
"We'd do well to keep an eye on the area for the next day or two."
... wow, it didn't take long for Team Traveler's possibly to go wrong! :V
"I suppose you have a point," she replied. "It's not as if tomorrow's going to be any less busy than today."
Ladies and gentlemon, your board members.
"Well, some nice muffins, obviously," Ketu replied. "Why? Did you want one?"
"Incidentally, I will now be answering to the Muffin Mon."
"Though if you're talking about the Protector, I looked around town, but it looks like our princess is in another castle."
The role of Ketu will henceforth be played by Keegan Michael-Key.

"Hoist the anchor and lower the sails!" the Samurott shouted. "Signal the other ships in the water! We're getting out of here!"
... wow, it didn't take long for Team Sentinel's possibly to go wrong! :V
 

Venia Silente

[](int x){return x;}
I lost a bet against the cat so I have to not use the bed. Which means I can write. There's a bit of a review exchange with Virgil so here we have more Fledglings, this time Ch. 65 and some select parts of 66.

In the chambers that served as the Siglo Swellow's sleeping quarters, day and night knew the same darkness,
I knew it. In the end, timezones and sleep lag / "jet" lag are the true enemy.

At every turn since he'd remembered waking up, the hapless Fraxure had found himself plagued by stubborn memories of his defeat in the arena. Time and time again, he heard the Weavile's sneering voice, felt the chill of his icy wind, and the slashing pain of his claws as he sat helplessly in bed.
Don't remind me. Pladur had quite a bad time back there yeah. Now that they are in relatively calmer... waters, and the little fighter can rest, it's good perhaps to leave him some introspection.

But calling it now: the ones to kill Ketu will be either Pladur or Elmer (sweet, sweet revenge).

In the meantime, there's father & son screentime!

Pladur: "… Did something happen while you were out today?"
Crom: "Well... there was some plot with Xerneas."
Pladur: "Aha. Next."
Crom: "Ander made a scene."
Pladur: -waves a paw: "Bo-ring. Carry on."
Crom: "We met some Seagarde thing that is a total jerk to Pleo."
Pladur: "My sources totally not called Venia Silente tell me Mega Rayyylmao is the better wyrm anyway. Lacking that, poor Pleo has to learn to let it go."
Crom: -tilts head: "this seagarde thing was rather... small. Do you think it's edible?"
Pladur: "My sources say it isn't... alas."
Crom: "To make it worse that's TWO Protectors that exist and don't want to help us."
Pladur: -snorts: "Better for us perhaps? Let them do their own thing and be a distraction."
Crom: "Who knows, perhaps one of them can draw Ketu aggro away."
Pladur: "Yeah..."
Crom: "One can dream..."
Pleo: "One can dream..."
- dragon fistbump of commisserance -
Crom: "...Do you think we'll be that lucky?"
Pladur: -flashbacks to the escape from the Empire capital.
Pladur: "M'ijo, I hope so. We spent all our Plot Armor credits last arc."
Crom: -fidgetly: "...Because Lyn is also waiting to ambush us."
Pladur: "....WHAAAAAT???"
Crom: -even more fidgetly: "Aaaaand I've not yet gotten on with Nida."
Pladur: -gets out from bed and smacks Crom: "WHAT ARE YOU DOING ARE YOU OF THE MAIN CAST OR NOT"
Crom: "Owww I technically am part of the B-Team but-"
Pladur: -kicks Crom: "B-Team my ass! Get back there and smooch that 'rina."
Crom: "...what about Lyn?"
Pladur: "Lyn who?"
Crom: -groans: "He's waiting for us outside town?"
Pladur: -shrugs: "Eh leave Guardia to 'smooch' Lyn."

Really, we all want characters to be more proactive in their shipper on deck status if any, and that kiss with tongue is long overdue.

Meanwhile elsewhere we get a bit of a Privacy and Security 101: remember children, in a world of Pokémon, windows are doors and the walls either have eyes or are eyes.

Eevee: "This place is amazing! I can't believe we've got it all to ourselves!"
Ditto: "And paid with taxpayer money no less."
Nuzleaf: -raises a finger "Technically it's being paid based on donations, and those may or may not be tax-deductible."
Eevee: "Hmmm... that's bad! It's not a good enough scam if we're not flipping the bird at the State while we're doing it! What do we do..."
Nuzleaf: "If only there was someone who could teach us to be even scammier..."
Ketu: "You rang? o3o"

Kind of a shame this technically won't be an alliance..... but hey that Ditto deserves it.

"Hrmph, I was expecting more resistance from Pokémon impersonating a Protector," the Mothim scoffed.
Let's admit it: that Elmer of all mons quips this, tells us how second-rate this Ditto scam team is compared to either A-Team or B-Team of the protags. Honestly, here we see a Ditto that can't properly take advantage of its main technique.

"You mean… that group with the Marked Scyther…?" Charlie asked.
It's not the group with the deformed Wingull. It's not the group with the fat dog. It's not even the group with the loony Cubone!

Noooo. It's the group with the Marked Scyther.

Being Marked in the Fledglingsverse is Suffering™.

Anyway, Team Scam is being convinced to help set up a trap for Team Pleo and we all know how that's gonna go, so we get to see how the Nuzleaf of all mons has to sell this.

Albert the Nuzleaf: "Uuuuh s'up"
Dimitri: "You blew us."
Albert: "Uuuuh we woke up with two left feet yesterday. Can we try again?"
Kiran: "Listen kid you found us 93% unlikable!"
Albert: "We'd be willing to tone it down to 63%"
Kiran: "...What"
Albert: "Er I mean, 23%. With a meeting and a picnic and all!"
Nida: "Oh so now you want to meet."
Albert: "It was totally too dangerous before!"
Nida: "How so?"
Albert: "You know how there's that Company Samurott called Lyn..."
- everyone nods -
Albert: "...that we really should not have this much detail about."
- everyone nods -
Albert: "with a ship preparing an ambush specifically against you, outside town?"
Elty: "Ah yeah him."
Albert: "Yeah he's behind us so we need to meet up and set up."
Elty: "...What? Like, how? Even I am not that fast."
Nida: "We absolutely know him, he's been behind us the whole time. There's no way he'd have had the time to chase after you as well."
Kiran: "Yeah he's like less than 14% likely to break the laws of physics like that!"
Albert: "Uuuuh he... lost the will to live tried very very hard?"
Elty: "..."
Nida: "..."
Pleo: "..."
Nida: "...Yeah that sounds on-brand for Lyn, why not."
...Like, really. I'm impressed that Elty of all people didn't see the obvious gaps. And Kiran's one statistics braincell has once again failed him.

Albert: "So we'd like to meet up."
Elty: "Sure why not we're right here. You did mention a picnic."
Albert: -fidgetly "NO!!! It has to be in the mystery dungeon with the trap!"
Kiran: -narrows eyes "What trap?"
Pleo: "Yeah I thought you said Lyn had a trap."
Albert: "The uuuh you know how the mystery dungeons have trap tiles?"
Elty: "..."
Nida: "..."
Pleo: "..."
Elty: "Yeah sure why not, sounds like the perfect, *safe* place for a meetup."
Come on! Guys!!!!

And so, after falling for the most obvious trap in the book, the team sets out to the volcanic areas of the island. Because a normal trap doesn't cut it out, no, it has to be a rendezvous in Lethal Lava Land.

Speaking of volcanic ambience...

-Everyone in the Volcano map, not having brought Cold Drinks in their inventory-
Nida: "This sucks."
Guardia: "This blows."
Crom: "Kiss when."
Nida: "...What?"
Crom: "I mean, this sucks."
Elty: "This rocks! ^_^"

Listen. Listen well. Elty had to spend the last... well, basically THE ENTIRE STORY! on wooden planks at sea. Now it's his turn to enjoy the environment. And we're gonna like it!

And so they enter the mystery dungeon with the worst plan ever: split the team in an effort to secure the meeting and without assigning anyone the task of setting up an escape route. Because we all know wands and orbs can be subverted, or things can go awry. Come on, this meeting is secondary! Anyway, time to split the team (Y THO!) and make two groups each with their own orderly entrance holding hands into the dungeon:

Pleo watched as Nida clambered atop Crom's crest.
Dimitri: "Pick her up and kiss her you fool!"
Crom: "...What"
Nida: "...What"
Pleo: "Dimitri good sir and or madam what is a kiss?"
Nida: -flicks a poison sting: "Don't even answer that."
Dimitri: "Pleo listen, when a Nidoran and a Druddigon like each other very much, and their love imbues their characters even across different author interpretations, then... it's time to kiss."
Pleo: -nods.
Pleo: "...Okay but what is a kiss?"
Dimitri: "I'll tell you later right now I feel myself gradually losing HP."
Crom: "Must be the volcano."
Nida: -hides a blood-stained sting: "Yeah, the volcano. Totally."
Really, I'm still waiting for that glorious moment because basically you are building a variation up on that Maekrite-Teala dynamic there was back in the WAAPT roleplay in the early 2010s. It's quite similar, it even has the background of the Nidoran being the child of a Dragonslayer! o3o

Guardia in the distance: -bonks Elty.
Elty in the distance: "Oww! what was that for?"
Guardia: "For teaching bad things to birb."
Elty: "...That was Dimitri! We're not even there, we split up three paragraphs ago!"
Guardia: "Consider it an advance for when you do, then. We both know you'll slip at some point."
-momentary silence-
Elty: "...You really like hitting me."
-momentary silence-
Guardia: "I- I don't... *not*... like, hitting you. Baka."
Alder: "Guys did I mention how HAPPY I am that I don't have to grab Pleo? It's kinda difficult with these scythes, and I'm a Being a Marked Is Suffering™."

Aaaand there we go. Very, very good team split up, let's see who doesn't die first.

----

A few scenes away we jump to Nidorans... not! I'm saving Inler's scene for the end. Of course. o3o

----

Instead, we jump to open sea. Because when you are a pirate, open world is marvelous!

Once the dust had settled, the Aggron captain found him and his ship adrift in the open sea in choppy waters sporting fresh pockmarks from their escape from Tidemill and its vessels.

Here we have Hess, doing good work as a captain! Or at least, he's trying. Gotta hand it to him. Sucks there's nothing like OpenStreetMap in the Cradle.

- in the middle of not very welcoming seas, in a not very healthy ship -
Rodion: "Are we there yet?"
Hess: "Uuuuuh totally sure."
- a moment after -
Rodion: "Are we there yet?"
Hess: "We'll get there when we get there!"
- a moment after, the ship wobbles a lot -
Rodion: "Captain can we have good wine?"
Hess: "We'll have good wine at port."
- The good wine at port: -
Lyn: "Shallow waters near the shore are so comfortable~"
- Back at Hess -
Rodion: "You know, you just have to head off for land, right?"
Hess: "....."
Kichiro: "Ooooor you can just admit that we're lost ^_^"
Hess: "..."
Hess: "...Omae wa mō shindeiru"
Kichiro: "N-nani?"
- Wooosh! Storm Gust of the Unbroken Sea -
- The camera pans away from Kichiro, still alive, to the side to... -
Wilhelm: "Help! The air is angry!"
- Wilhelm is blown out to sea -
Wilhelm: [wilhelm_scream.mp3]
Rodion: "What"
Hess: "...What"
Kichiro: "Thanks O Pleo Lord of Storms, for sparing me."
- Kichiro earns 12 points in the "switch sides" Skill -
Elty: "You can also get survivability and screentime bonus for later plotlines!"
- Somewhere else -
Pleo: - squeezes Zygarde: "You disgraceful fool!"
Zygarde: "p-please forgive me Lord Pleo! I'll try and learn manners!"
Pleo: -bitchslaps Zygarde: "Too late! My new followers make me strong!"
Elty: -glares at Guardia: "Are you going to pin this one on me?"
Guardia: "...You know, this one actually is an improvement."
- back at Hess -
Hess: "...Wow, that was not me."
Kichiro: "Yeah you can't even do that right ^_^ "
Hess: "..."
Rodion: -facepalms.
Hess: "Your lack of faith in your captain is disturbing. Perhaps you need to be assigned some tasks until your morale improves."
Kichiro: "Hey! B-but I'm very happy and I'm having fun!"
Hess: "At your captain's expense. Now go."

Navigating the angry seas after disturbing Pleo Lord of Storms is Suffering™ it seems. It'd be interesting to one day find out that his powers are sorta in empathic connection to the world around him and thus ocean weather across the Cradle partly answers to his mood and anxiety. And I can only guess Hess is going to be in a foul mood too for a good while because I can assume after the details from the beginning of the scene, food will shortly become an issue.

Kichiro: "We didn't reprovision in Tidemill the whole time we were in port, and if this voyage takes too long, we'll be eating our own scarves to get by!"

Yeah, that. In general it isn't funny when you are lost and sea and then in an attempt to look for land you end up going the wrong way.

Plus, I still think Kichiro can end up switching sides. At least, the Elty style of switching sides.

Also, I read this scene and I reread this again because Hess' crew did not have the obvious idea because really, it was obvious.

Rodion: "You know, Sandshrew live in the desert."
Kichiro: "Yeah and Hoppip float up in strong winds. So."
- long silence -
- everyone's eyes meet in realization -
Rodion: "Captain are you thinking what I am thinking?"
Hess: "Yeah because I'm a good captain. Wilhelm! You will hereby be tied to a rope from the main mast and we'll use you as an observation kite."
Wilhelm: "H-hey! Captain you can't do this to me!"
Kichiro: "Technically he can, that's the point."
Wilhelm: "But I'm an underrepresented species mon in the fandom! Also I'm small, cute and vulnerable."
Rodion: "Admittedly yeah we'll lose him if he's knocked out unconscious by debris or if the rope breaks."
Kichiro: "...I'm *not* going to fetch Wil back if that happens. >_>"
- Hess and Rodion turn to Kichiro, eyes wide open -
Hess: "Speaking of that..."
Kichiro: "W-what?"
Rodion: "Kichiro, *you* are the one with the grace of Pleo Lord of Storms, right? Why don't we use you as a kite?"
Kichiro: "Hey now listen-"
Hess: "You'd do anything to get back in the good graces of your captain, wouldn't you?"
Rodion: "Well, this *is* a Saturday Morning Cartoon-rated story."
Kichiro: "So... I'm safe?"
- Rodion produces a long rope, and duck tape -
Rodion: "So you are open for comedy slapstick."
Wilhelm: "Yay! I'm officially still alive!"
Kichiro: "...I knew I should have audited for a role in Shiver Me Timbers instead..."

If Hess ever finds a way out of this storm it will be too soon! :p

----

Volcano - Area 3

Meanwhile in the volcanic map where the team did NOT take Cold Drinks for their expedition and they also did not gem their armours for Heat Resistance -- wait, it's even worse, they are not even wearing any armour! (I hope that hard lesson is learned):

Prettym much the first snafu the teams get into, after the one that is even entering the dungeon, is they stumble upon a couple local mons negotiating screentime rights.

"Nice going, babo," the Heatmor growled. "You led a bunch of hut-dwellers straight to my den!"

"Your den?!" the Turtonator spat. "After I smack you and those meddling knot-necks aside, I'll be resting in my den!"

Heatmor
Turf War +80 pts


Turtonator
Turf War +80 pts

It could not end well if the team delved into wildmon land and walked right into a fight, really. They should be packing smoke bombs or whatever helps then beeline it for their destiation... at least this time the team was prepared for this and the fight was relatively short.

Also yay! As we can see here or at least I'm totally free to infer ^_^ the power of faithful followers helps Pleo's wind powers... not to mention Nida had a moment of combat plot relevance.

Nida: "Yay! Poison awesome! Finally learned my move! And it was in a plot relevant moment! Wait until Elty hears of this."
Pleo: -in a hushed voice: "Do we tell her that Elty still beat her to it in the end?"
Crom: "Yeah we could totally—"
Dimitri: "What? Crom you are so green."
Crom: "I what?"
Dimitri: "Listen you have to go to her, pick her up and congratulate her with a kiss."
Crom: "We uhmmmmmm"
Pleo: "What is a kiss, again?"

Pleo seems to be the only one to have concerns about the meeting (Kiran come on, where are your statistics when we need them!) which honestly, for a team that has been on the run from two big factions with their share of trickery and betrayal is... a bit grating, honestly? I would have expected Pleo to be the most naïve to this, not the least naïve!

But at least he's doing his work, unlike everyone else.

Pleo: "What if we're walking into a trap?"
Nida: "Don't be silly why would Xerneas set us up?"
Crom: "The one we have to worry about is Lyn."
Pleo: "But Kline said there are worse mons than Lyn. I mean, think back to Ketu."
Ketu hidden ahead: "I resent that comment!"
Crom: "...Wait what was that?"
Nida: -shrugs: "Maybe the volcano. Let's go."
Crom: "But would Xerneas even be working with them? Plus we don't know who they are. Besides, I thought that seafood snake was a jerk to you."
Pleo: "...Yeah you're right. He just wants to ruin my day."
Nida: "Yeah, besides it'd be quite the risk to set traps for us around when there are also other Protectors around."
Dimitri: "That's a fair point. If I wanted to do it, I'd have to hmmm find a way to isolate you from the other Protectors, lead you into different directions and gather each Protector's group separately into convenient locations where to spring a trap."
Crom: "Hah! Yeah as if that was gonna work. Considering there's eight of us, you'd need to find a very convenient place for that."
Dimitri: "Yeah... I don't think it's workable. It'd have to be something like a mystery dungeon with restraining environmental hazards, and I'd have to fool you into thinking it is safe to go there. Perhaps by offering a meeting with the other Protectors."
Nida: "..."
Crom: "..."
Pleo: "...Yeah I don't see how that can possibly work. Let's go!"

Volcano - Area 5

And the teams finally make it to the meeting place, which is like totally cool for a meeting! You know how in movies the heroes are always convinced to have that meeting in a volcanic caldera, or in the middle of a hanging bridge, or right in the midst of a firing test field of the Army?

Yeah. Totally safe.

aside from the rock carved into a stone statue of a plump-faced Meowth standing over a slotted box and a path leading up to...
Is that the access to Area 11, the Felyne refuge in the map?

Of course, Ketu and Elmer give the team the welcome, so at best it's time for the sub-boss fight, at worst... well. But hey it's a chance for Crom to get revenge.

Nida: "Ketu why are you here you are not invited, this is a private meeting."
Ketu: "Right in an open chamber in a mystery dungeon accessible for anyone? Come on, even I can understand the concept of public property."
Pleo: "Still, get lost. We're waiting for a Xerneas!"
Ketu: "Xerneas? Hah! I can't believe you are so guillible so as to fall for it."
Crom: "N-nani? What do you mean?"
Ketu: "Come on did you not eye the Xerneas up to check if everything was okay?"
Crom: "..."
Nida: "..."
Ketu -snarls: "Oh come on don't tell me you didn't get an impression that there were troubles in sight."
Crom and Pleo: -stare at each other.
Ketu: "...Seriously? Look, I'm not paid for puns. We used a Ditto scammer to pretend there was a Protector around. Anyone who knows anything about Ditto in the Pokémon fandom would have instantly recognized it... except for you."
Nida: "Wait so you mean that that Protector team-"
Crom: "Hey so the eyes were because..."
Ketu - grabs two pebbles: "Of course! Wake up losers! There are no Easter Nidos, there is no Xerneas, and there's no Queen of England! This entire act was intended to get the other losers to ingratiate themselves with... these losers."
Elty: "...I resent that comment!"
- Ketu puts pebbles in front of his eyes -
uqN9pDP.png

Ketu: "I guess you didn't see that."

After watching Detective Pikachu, honestly I expect Ditto disguises to be painfully obvious if you can't get away with somehow covering the eyes. But I guess Team Traveller is guillible enough that a Xerneas with the wrong texture pack (or a wrong reflection matrix for the eye surfaces) would suffice!

I mean, Gamefreak manages to fool us (well, not me) every new Generation, so... I maybe can't really fault Team Pleo there.

Elmer: "Since we are in public property and there's no practical way for you to get away, how about we do what is called a pro gamer move?"
Ketu: -readies claws: "See it's called thievery and it seems at least one of you is familiar with it."

And thus, it's time for Team Pleo to have an important fight where they'll easily curb stomp their opponents with their 8-2 advantage and the powers of Pleo Lord of Storms and +10 Heat Resistance Elty!

(Ketu proceeds to hold his claws at the narrator's neck)

Narrator voice: "...They didn't."

Well, it is certainly a grim way to close the review for the day to leave our protags hanging in a very obvious trap. Oh well if there was a way to sweeten the mood.

----

And now, Nidos!

(See, I have a solution for everything)

Here we see Inler right after a sparring session that admittedly I'd like to see more of. I don't see much of Inler and have a bit fo hard trouble committing relevant details to memory since his storyline literally takes place so far away from everything else relevant, when he shows up, it's always good.

Did I mention he's multiskilled? He exercises and he also does office work.

Inler: "… Of course."

Sure, he doesn't have to like it but that's capitalism for you.

If only there was a way to sweeten his mood.

?????: "Opa, we zijn er!"
- A stream of Nidoran shows up! -

I don't really get what an Opa means but yay! It's Nidoran screentime! I'm only going to guess that it's something like "Dad, we're here!" and irgbklrglrwlkhbrlkbglrblk NIDORANS!!!!

Speaking of foreign languages, it tends to be good in general to use but due to its format of incredibly long chapters, Fledgligns severely suffers from using long foreign expressions that can not be context-deduced easily. An Author's Notes with the translation can be several thousand words away, or even worse a new page / new tab away. But fear not! I've taken steps to enhance the readability of fanfic everywhere starting with some forums as well as AO3 by submitting feature requests to add < ruby > / Furigana inline annotations for BBCode forum parsers and AO3. Once I see responses from some other forums, Serebii itself will get a submission from me as well, so it will eventually be far easier for you to provide these notes in a readable fashion not only here but mostly everywhere! (that matters, which ff.net does not).

But now, back to a lovable pile of one... two... three Nidos.

Three is still enough!

Inler: "I would've thought your parents would've finally gotten around to teaching you a bit of Mengirski by now."
So not "Dad, we're here!" but "Granpa, we're here!" instead? Cuuuute!!!! That also means Inler is twice successful. I know other Nidoran have been introduced before re Inler, but honestly we're talking about Nidos: I don't really expect them to have ever stopped breeding, and in several species you can have quite the generational gap between siblings.

Inler: "Kittens did your day go? More Mengirense lessons?"
- The kittens are sad! -
Totally Not Maekrite: -kicks a pebble chink
Totally Not Maekrite: "Nyet, kommrade :( "
I saw that kick! Also the kittens going to see their granpa at work gives me energy. Who among us did not go see their dad or granpa at work every once in a while? That's how I learned of swiveling chairs, and the power trip they inflict on the mind.

Also, I think this merits more of its own plot (perhaps a gaiden story!) but it at least eases one's mind to see that despite the disconnect between Inler and his own kittens, and the occupation Inler himself has, at least he's not as a result completely disconnected from his grandkittens. It is usually a good thing to see, but as I've mentioned before this storyline is so far disconnected from everything else (spatially and emotionally) that I feel it would fare better as an independent storyline of its own.

Inler: "So, grandkittens, how was your day? ^_^ "
The Kittens: "<_< v_v >_>"
Nidoran♂ #2: "I am informed we are sad, granpa."
Nidoran♀ #1: "I demand to speak to the manager!"
Nidoran♂ #1: "Professor Gerhard is a Tryhard >_>"
Inler: "Hmmm let's see on a scale from 1 to Kline, how much of a jerk was he?"
Nidoran♂ #1: "Four!"
Nidoran♂ #2: "Four!"
Nidoran♀ #1: "Four!"
- no cookie if you get the reference -

Inler - pats his grandkitten: "You are a good kitten but you have to be a better kitten and raise to the difficulty level and level up."
Nidoran♀ #1: "So we level up, then we Poison Jab the professor! ^_^ "
Inler: "Wait I never said—"
The kittens, now running in a circle: "POISON JAB! POISON JAB! POISON JAB!"

I'm so glad so see that the children love their grandpa and they want to help with his day, too:

The kittens: "Granpa can we help with your job?"
Inler: "I'd have to see what is there for you to do..."
Nidoran♂ #1: -swivels in ottoman: "Wheeeeee~"
Nidoran♀ #1: -stabs the stacks of papers and spreads them around: "Poison Sting! POISON JAB!!!"
Nidoran♂ #1 - finds an Inler Seal for office letters: "Oooooo what's this button do?"
Inler: "...Good thing this is not 14 furballs ^_^ "
The kittens: "WE WANT TO HELP!!!! ^_^ ^_^ ^_^ "
Inler: -inhales: "Lovable furballs of love, the very fact that you exist and are enjoying yourselves and happy and have little power trips for when you later grow into the Company, already puts a warm smile in this old Nidoking's heart. You make world domination so much more palatable."
The kittens: "YAYYYYY!!!!"

There. it's always good to finish a story in a good note~

Ketu, kicking Nida in the gut: "You rang? o3o"

HAPPY NOTE I SAID!
 

Venia Silente

[](int x){return x;}
Caveat emptor: this review is part of a review challenge, so it's subject to some constraints and cut down to size at some points that previous reviews have not been, comparatively speaking.

The last time we left the Fledglingsverse, Inler was being a happy grandpa with happy grandchildren dreaming of world domination.

This is important because everone can be happy!

For example:

Team Traveller and their companions dashed amid Magmapool's narrow streets, winding around one corner after the other. In their haste, they brushed past bystanders with yelps and shouts as sharp cries rang out from behind.

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

The birds (*three* in the group) could just fly. Birbs love to fly, yes? Lord Pleo LOVES to fly! He can be HAPPY flying! The Gliscor in the team can also fly. And -despite appearances- it would give them much more operational clearance than sticking out as a big weird blob of mons in a set of narrow passages that are basically deathtraps waiting to happen.

"There's enough of us that can fly and carry you for a short distance," the scorpion explained.

Exactly! Now take off, my children, take off and solve the plot.

[qupte]Kiran taking the opportunity to throw Guardia onto his [back], leaving the bone lizard to screw her eyes shut and cling tightly as the edge approached.[/quote]

Poor Guardia, the authors know her weakness.

Guardia -lightly taps Kiran's back: "You saw nothing! *or else*."


And yeah, at least they try to fly so things are not too bad, they didn't get far enough still. In the ensuing commotion, they also meet some people that really needed a break from things. Shame that this is because they set us up the bomb so that meeting (for real this time!) likely won't go well.

Nida: "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't turn you canallas into pincushions for my barbs right now!"
Albert: "We... lost the will to live invited you to a perfectly cromulent and friendly meeting?"
Elty: "..."
Nida: "..."
Elty: "Technically, they're not wrong."

After that comes the time to try and make away by ship. This is important because they are carrying a Protector and it'd be VERY SAD if said Protector once again fell in enemy hands.

But see, since this team is a totally law-abiding, social functioning hero team, they must follow proper procedure...

...which means clearing their exit with Port Authority!

Beatrix: "Would you kindly perhaps let us pass?"
Medicham Guard: "No, you might be evildoers."
Beatrix: "But we're not! The *other* guys are the evildoers!"
Pyroar Guard: "That's what an evildoer would say! We shall not let you leave"
Guardia: "Hold my bone club."
Guardia: -remote bonks the guards-

There. Guardia took care of that.

Still, usually that doesn't come really easier.

Guardia: "Could y'all, like, let us leave?"
Enemy guard: "Sure, you can leave. We'll just follow." - launch enemy ships.
Guardia: "No I don't mean it like that!"

It couldn't have been that easy, eh? Sure getting to the ship is only one thing, but everyone else has their own ships as well. Ahh the marvels of a pirate setting.

And being the only target in sight, soon the protag ship finds itself under a barrage of enemy fire; what's worse, with Pleo having to listen to what people think their last moments would be like. So, I guess, in their perspective, they were probably praying for a merciful end.

*Praying* being the operative word.

Bayleef: "Thank you Fobbie and Virgil, for giving my evolutionary stage one word of representation."
Nartrix: "I wish I had signed up for that imperial commerce MBA..."
Quilfish: "Thank you Fobbie and Virgil, for my minuscule screentime."
Elty: "I wish I could have gotten to run free on land, one last time."
Sligoo: "Thank you Fobbie and Virgil, for releasing me from alimony payments."
Kiran: "I wish the RNG of History had been 14% more merciful to our faction."
Crom: "I wish I could have gotten to snu-snu with Nida."
Nida: "...What?"
Crom: "What."
Nida: "^_^"
Crom: "v_v"
Ander -lights up a cigar, shrugs: "Eh, this is ISO Standard suffering for me."

Oh dear Team Traveler needs quite some help.

Oh if only Team Traveler had the powers of a deity by their side. If only. But their current local birb god is having a number of crises as of late and other issues and he needs more faith.

But how is a Fledglingsverse deity going to get power, let alone confidence?

Kichiro: "Someone rang?"
Kichiro: -prays to Pleo Lord of Storms.
Pleo: -gets a +4 Spec.Attack.
Pleo: "You fools! My new followers give me strength!"
-Your Lugia used Overpowering Gale!-

A moment after, the once proud little armada that was lying right before them is wrecked by a gale that caught them from a wind going up. Yes, somehow.

Pleo: "Yay! I dids it!"
Ander: "w-whut. The town is not destroyed!"
Pleo: "Yeah no, I just wanted to destroy the armada."
Ander: "B-but you aimed right at the town."
Pleo: "Oh them? No, I aimed up a bit."
Ander: "But if you aimed more up, how did the wind hit the ships?"
Pleo: "Easy: they were close to us so by then the winds were still low enough."
Ander: "That sounds like legendary monster mumbo jumbo to me."
Pleo: -tilt head "Are you questioning my powers of Trigonometry?"
Ander: "Uh... n-no, I mean—"
Pleo: -fluffs up "Or are you questioning the faith of my followers?"
Ander: -steps back: "Eeeeeh n-nope, now if you excuse me I'll return to being traumatized."

And thus, Pleo once again saves the day. About time we started seeing more of Pleo powers! And this time he had the mindfulness to not only act more tactically (starting with securing high ground before the attack) but also he had the fortune of seeing a good result, something much needed for his morale after the last couple years of storyline.

Speaking of morale...

Kline: "That attack sucked. Your aim was iffy. You friggin' yelled and telegraphed to the opponents that the attack was coming. You didn't use a spread pattern. Your hold on the railing was flimsy. Your charge time was too long. You should have this like four arcs sooner."
Pleo: "I have a response for all of that! ^_^"
Kline: "...Which is? Dropping down to cry?"
Pleo: -grabs Kline and squeezes him.
Kline: "-eeeeep!"
Pleo: -repeatedly slams Kline on the bark of the ship.
Pleo: "The beatings will continue until your morale improves!"
Guardia: "..."
Elty: "..."
Guardia: "...Th—"
Elty -snarls: "Not. a. word."

It's good to see Kline's attitude starts to improve... somewhat. Still doesn't get him off the menu in my book, it's just a matter of finding someone who would safely eat him. And he would do well to remember that despite his attitude, rough playing and backhand planning, it was Pleo who had to come and save his ass.

Meanwhile, back at Hess' ship still lost in that storm:

Valatos: "Are we there yet'"
Rodion: "Nyet yet. Captain we can't see a thing!"
Hess: "Keep trying! We're totally the right way to port."
Kichiro: "Yeah right."
Rodion: -looks out of scope at Kichiro: "...Don't you have anything better to do?"
Kichiro: -thinks for a moment: "Actually yes, I do."
Kichiro: -sits down and starts praying to Pleo Lord of Storms.
Hess: "Kichiro why are you praying?"
Kichiro: "I pray to Pleo Lord of Storms."
Rodion: "I can see that. Listen, Fledglingsverse gods are powered by belief or something, right?"
Hess: "So wait... Isn't that colluding with the enemy?"
Kichiro: "Errrr ashtually—"
Rodion: -shrugs "Well, if they escape other enemies, it means we can still grab them."
Hess: "....Considering my current record at nabbing the bird, I guess I can't argue against that logic. Carry on, Kichiro!"
Kichiro: "Thanks Captain, I shall pray for your intellect as well ^_^"
Hess: "Why thank you Kichiro you are so mindful."
Rodion: -implied facepalm.

Someday Hess manages to survive this crew and the storm and ends up... hitting a sandbar.

Hess: -gets down to kick up some sand "My day sucks."
Kichiro: "I'm trying to help! Wololoooooo..."
Weather: -has currently allegiance of "ENEMY".
Hess: -tries to dislodge the ship.
Kichiro: "Wololooooooooooo"
Weather: -has changed allegiance to "NEUTRAL".
Hess: "W-wait a moment I can see land!"
Rodion: "omg Kichiro's praying works."
Hess: -squints: "Yup, definitively an island."
Kichiro: "You're welcome, everyone."
Valatos: "So, are we there yet?"
Rodion: -slaps Valatos "We'll get there when we get there!"
Alvise: "Uhmmmm is that the right island?"
Hess: "Do you *care*? It's the island, or sinking in the storm."
Alvise: "..."
Rodion: "..."
Kichiro: " ^_^ "
Everyone: "M'aaaarrr off to land!"

And so, with the favour of Pleo Lord of Storms, Hess and his crew finally find a path and head off to... who knows what adventure, it *totally* can't be the island they were expecting to be.

Hey, Pleo's powers are not perfected yet!


----

There's another crew that's having a slightly better time than Pleo and Hess, however, and Team Cabot, now apparently rebranded to "Team 'Cpt. Nagant is finally not that ashamed of us anymore'". Recruitment season is over it seems and hey now Cabot's team is not at the bottom of the barrel, so it's good to finally see them having a bit of a thing to lord over fellow crewmembers...

...even if it's mostly "here, we'll show you how life around here sucks".

Not to mention it sucks extra because... well, it's how drafting usually sucks.

Cabot: "Ooooh there's so many new people! We can make lots of friends."
Berecien: "'Friends'? I don't think these people are going to be any friendly to us."
Cabot: "What? Why is that?"
Niilo: "Dunno if you noticed, Cabot, but those people are criminals."
Cabot -harrumphs: "So what? I'm the cheeriest Cranidos ever! I can make friends with anyone."
Berecien: "You sound quite hopeful."
Cabot: "Well I believe anyone can be redeemed! ^_^ "
Ketu, from 12 islands over: "I resent that comment!"
Niilo: "What was that?" - looks around.
Berecien: "No idea. Could have been anyone."
Niilo: "Anyone eh?" - scouts about—. "How about those, Cabot? Think you can befriend them?"
Cabot: -notices a trio of blothc-head Scraggy, Grotle, and Combusken.
Cabot: "Eeeeeh they don't count ¬¬ they were mean to me! And to my island!"
Berecien: "Still, they are recruited. So we'll have to work with them."
Cabot: "But—"
Berecien: "Them's the joys of the drafting, kid."
Cabot: -kicks a pebble. "Suddenly changing sides to Pleo's team sounds so much more alluring."
Berecien: "Aligning with those criminals? Bah, you won't see me mingling with that fat Growlithe any day in this universe."

Captain Nugget makes her appearance to welcome the new, totally friendly and willing crew. We also get some news that some of their assets are being rebranded... in near likeness to an infamous Monster Hunter creature. Not to mention the Pokémon making mention of this is quite similar to an also renowned MH monster.

Nagant: "Welcome, prisoners of fate, to the ship Uragan."
Random Jangmo-o: "Uh? Did I get the wrong prison ticket? The name here says 'Lichtkanone'."
Nagant: "Nope. It's the Uragan now!"
Random Jangmo-o: "Seriously? That might be a printing error, I think the name would be 'Uragaan'. Two a's."
Nagant: -hisses: "No, the name is right. Uragan!"
Random Jangmo-o: "Can I, like, get off? If this is the 'Uragaan' I'd presume it's going to sink into the sea like a giant walking boulder. That and or split randomly into a number of smoking rocks. And we'll have to carve the shipwreck to find a scale, let alone a ruby."
Nagant: "No! Wrong franchise, Steve!" - shoots a water beam at the Jangmo-o.

Nagant is as welcoming as ever, and Cabot is left with the sinking realization that not all is roses. But hey, he can totally switch sides still!

----

Well, before the finish, everyone is going through their own adventures at sea, so we finally also get a bit of a view of how are things going at home.

Gwenith: "I wonder how Crom is doing."
Hatteras: "Well the story has not finished yet. Surely they're fine."
Gwenith: "I just wish we could help."
Hatteras: -shrugs: "Eh we're managing quite well offscreen and out of the action to be honest."
-Suddenly, a BOOM-
Hatteras: "...What? Activity? in my offscreen figurative hut out in the woods?"
-A Charizard descends-
Bunsen: "Excuse me? Excuse me! Are you the Hatteras that oversees this place?"
Hatteras: "I usually am. Who asks?"
Bunsen: "Why I'm Bunsen! A grandiose Company dragon!"
Hatteras: -huffs: "Eh, Company has no business here. The ongoing arc is elsewhere."
Bunsen: "But see, I'm working as a Uber Eats. I'm bringing a..." - checks papers - "breakfast order for 'Marley'."
Hatteras: -looks about: "...Well? Where's it?"
Bunsen: "I'm it! ^_^ "

Yeahh this is going to end so well for Bunsen.

On the other hand, hot take but Charizard are not really dragons, are they? Perhaps Bunsen will survive this.

And that's that!
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
I also did think it a bit convenient that Ketu got the answer from Crom's sister having a big mouth. You'd think the mom would be more responsible and send her away after the first slip up.

Cenn's a brother, good sir. A bit unfortunate to hear that you found a couple bits a bit too convenient, though I suppose that's life. We'll try to keep things in mind for the later parts of the episode.

They're actually learning!

I mean, it'd be kinda bad if they hadn't been after 86 chapters.
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"It also makes us fifty percent more likely to be spotted. And I'm factoring in a zero percent chance of any backup being called in, which definitely won't happen."

To be fair, they've got the Khranitel Rod chilling right outside the lagoon. So it's not a zero percent chance of any backup showing up. :V


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"Haven't you ever watched any police procedurals? No? Oh, right, we don't have televisions…"

To be fair, I'd imagine that they still have a few of those lying around as novels and the like.

Was Sorge some sort of Mad Max-esque desert-dweller?

That… wasn't quite the intent. We touched up the description there accordingly to try and make it clear that his necklace doesn't have Mad Max aesthetics.

… wow, it didn't take long for Team Traveler's possibly to go wrong! :V

Hey man, at least it's not a new record for them in the story. ^^;

Ladies and gentlemon, your board members.

To be fair, most people don't assume that a seabird god is just chilling in their kids' school. Especially when he normally looks different and a very recent report told Farn that he was on Tromba. She also didn't know about Crom and Guardia, nor that Nida evolved into a Nidorina. She also found all of this out after getting home from a busy day at work, which isn't exactly the time when most people are at their sharpest.Lots of little things that all added up to affect how her ability to pick up on things at that moment.

"Incidentally, I will now be answering to the Muffin Mon."

I now have that little Muffin Man jingle stuck in my head. Congratulations. :V

The role of Ketu will henceforth be played by Keegan Michael-Key.

Ketu as Mario, now there's a terrifying thought.
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… wow, it didn't take long for Team Sentinel's possibly to go wrong! :V

But this doesn't really hinder Team Sentinel at all. Even if Ketu's not with the rest of his teammates right now, he is still a member of Team Sentinel, and the only reason Lyn is sailing to Vollezee is because of his direction.

I knew it. In the end, timezones and sleep lag / "jet" lag are the true enemy.

I would imagine their world's a bit small to really get the full effect of that, but yeah. Jet lag can be downright brutal.

Don't remind me. Pladur had quite a bad time back there yeah. Now that they are in relatively calmer… waters, and the little fighter can rest, it's good perhaps to leave him some introspection.

But calling it now: the ones to kill Ketu will be either Pladur or Elmer (sweet, sweet revenge).

In the meantime, there's father & son screentime!

Well, it certainly won't be Elmer since his relationship with Ketu winds up going places from this arc on. Surprised that you didn't put Crom into the running, since he's got a few axes to grind against Ketu himself. :V

In the meantime, there's father & son screentime!

Well, yeah. That was a big reason for that scene's existence. ^^

Meanwhile elsewhere we get a bit of a Privacy and Security 101: remember children, in a world of Pokémon, windows are doors and the walls either have eyes or are eyes.

Smart advice, really. Even if it's not something that immediately comes to mind for a lot of people even in reality.

Kind of a shame this technically won't be an alliance….. but hey that Ditto deserves it.

Yeah, it's more satisfying going this route, honestly.

Let's admit it: that Elmer of all mons quips this, tells us how second-rate this Ditto scam team is compared to either A-Team or B-Team of the protags. Honestly, here we see a Ditto that can't properly take advantage of its main technique.

I mean, they are an itinerant team of con artists, so… :V

It's not the group with the deformed Wingull. It's not the group with the fat dog. It's not even the group with the loony Cubone!

Noooo. It's the group with the Marked Scyther.

Being Marked in the Fledglingsverse is Suffering™.

I mean, they are a social outcast group. Being one of those in any setting isn't a fun existence.

…Like, really. I'm impressed that Elty of all people didn't see the obvious gaps. And Kiran's one statistics braincell has once again failed him.

To be fair, they'd never seen a Xerneas before and couldn't tell they were seeing one that was obviously bunk. Your immediate association when running into a Protector isn't exactly "they're working with my enemies".

Come on! Guys!!!!

And so, after falling for the most obvious trap in the book, the team sets out to the volcanic areas of the island. Because a normal trap doesn't cut it out, no, it has to be a rendezvous in Lethal Lava Land.

To be fair on them, there are valid reasons for wanting to ask to meet in a Mystery Dungeon and they don't have the knowledge of multiple PMD games' plots to make them suspicious. After all, on a practical level, it's an easy way to cover one's tracks if you don't want to be tracked down easily thanks to the constantly shifting terrain.

Listen. Listen well. Elty had to spend the last… well, basically THE ENTIRE STORY! on wooden planks at sea. Now it's his turn to enjoy the environment. And we're gonna like it!

Elty: "Music to my ears."
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And so they enter the mystery dungeon with the worst plan ever: split the team in an effort to secure the meeting and without assigning anyone the task of setting up an escape route. Because we all know wands and orbs can be subverted, or things can go awry. Come on, this meeting is secondary! Anyway, time to split the team (Y THO!) and make two groups each with their own orderly entrance holding hands into the dungeon:

Something something, if you're not expecting to get run over by strong opponents lying in wait for ambush, it's not all that bad of an idea for covering more ground. Besides, they did reunite at the end of each floor before moving on.

Really, I'm still waiting for that glorious moment because basically you are building a variation up on that Maekrite-Teala dynamic there was back in the WAAPT roleplay in the early 2010s. It's quite similar, it even has the background of the Nidoran being the child of a Dragonslayer! o3o

I mean, they're probably a bit young to get too far down the romantic Nido hole, but yeah. There will be more cute moments between those two in the future. ^^

Here we have Hess, doing good work as a captain! Or at least, he's trying. Gotta hand it to him. Sucks there's nothing like OpenStreetMap in the Cradle.

To be fair, I dunno how much OpenStreetMap really helps when you're out on the open ocean. :V

Yeah, that. In general it isn't funny when you are lost and sea and then in an attempt to look for land you end up going the wrong way.

Plus, I still think Kichiro can end up switching sides. At least, the Elty style of switching sides.

Also, I read this scene and I reread this again because Hess' crew did not have the obvious idea because really, it was obvious.

There's a reason why they basically get treated as jokes by their peers. :V

Meanwhile in the volcanic map where the team did NOT take Cold Drinks for their expedition and they also did not gem their armours for Heat Resistance -- wait, it's even worse, they are not even wearing any armour! (I hope that hard lesson is learned):

It would probably help if those items actually existed in their setting. Not a bad idea, though.

It could not end well if the team delved into wildmon land and walked right into a fight, really. They should be packing smoke bombs or whatever helps then beeline it for their destiation… at least this time the team was prepared for this and the fight was relatively short.

Also yay! As we can see here or at least I'm totally free to infer ^_^ the power of faithful followers helps Pleo's wind powers… not to mention Nida had a moment of combat plot relevance.

I mean, don't want to spoil things too much, but it's very been consistently built up that 'cutscene powers' for all their might in this story, are inherently balanced by being something that Protectors cannot do on their lonesome. Helps keep them from just deleting everything in their path.

Pleo seems to be the only one to have concerns about the meeting (Kiran come on, where are your statistics when we need them!) which honestly, for a team that has been on the run from two big factions with their share of trickery and betrayal is… a bit grating, honestly? I would have expected Pleo to be the most naïve to this, not the least naïve!

But at least he's doing his work, unlike everyone else.

I mean, when you can't run away because of Lyn's ambush and news from Giotto will catch up with you if you stay for too long… it makes you open to alternative solutions. And when you're desperate enough, you tend to overlook things. Including things that are big enough to come back to bite you that in hindsight were very clear.

After watching Detective Pikachu, honestly I expect Ditto disguises to be painfully obvious if you can't get away with somehow covering the eyes. But I guess Team Traveller is guillible enough that a Xerneas with the wrong texture pack (or a wrong reflection matrix for the eye surfaces) would suffice!

I mean, Gamefreak manages to fool us (well, not me) every new Generation, so… I maybe can't really fault Team Pleo there.

I mean, it also helps when you don't know what a Xerneas looks like. And this fake Xerneas didn't have the typical Ditto eyes. Otherwise… yeah, that would've been pretty easy to see through.

And thus, it's time for Team Pleo to have an important fight where they'll easily curb stomp their opponents with their 8-2 advantage and the powers of Pleo Lord of Storms and +10 Heat Resistance Elty!

(Ketu proceeds to hold his claws at the narrator's neck)

Narrator voice: "…They didn't."

Understatement of the century there. o3o;;

Well, it is certainly a grim way to close the review for the day to leave our protags hanging in a very obvious trap. Oh well if there was a way to sweeten the mood.

----

And now, Nidos!

(See, I have a solution for everything)

Well they're cute and usually quite effective. ^^

Speaking of foreign languages, it tends to be good in general to use but due to its format of incredibly long chapters, Fledgligns severely suffers from using long foreign expressions that can not be context-deduced easily. An Author's Notes with the translation can be several thousand words away, or even worse a new page / new tab away. But fear not! I've taken steps to enhance the readability of fanfic everywhere starting with some forums as well as AO3 by submitting feature requests to add < ruby > / Furigana inline annotations for BBCode forum parsers and AO3. Once I see responses from some other forums, Serebii itself will get a submission from me as well, so it will eventually be far easier for you to provide these notes in a readable fashion not only here but mostly everywhere! (that matters, which ff.net does not).

The AO3 and Thousand Roads versions actually have markup to that effect. Serebii's kinda the odd duck out here since it doesn't have anything like ruby text or hovertext to work with. I've asked in the past, but they didn't exactly go anywhere. If the site rolls something like that out, I'd definitely make use of it, since I know that those versions tend to dodge a lot of the complaints about having to lookup language terms that this version gets from time to time.

And FFN… well, the less said about their feature support, the better. You can't even right-justify on that site. So I'm not holding my breath on that ever getting fully fixed there.

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So not "Dad, we're here!" but "Granpa, we're here!" instead? Cuuuute!!!! That also means Inler is twice successful. I know other Nidoran have been introduced before re Inler, but honestly we're talking about Nidos: I don't really expect them to have ever stopped breeding, and in several species you can have quite the generational gap between siblings.

You'd think so, but in the grand scheme of things, Inler's ability to leave his mark through his progeny is likely a bit stunted for a Nido. He was married quite a bit to his work, and his children aren't exactly happy about it when we see them.

Also, I think this merits more of its own plot (perhaps a gaiden story!) but it at least eases one's mind to see that despite the disconnect between Inler and his own kittens, and the occupation Inler himself has, at least he's not as a result completely disconnected from his grandkittens. It is usually a good thing to see, but as I've mentioned before this storyline is so far disconnected from everything else (spatially and emotionally) that I feel it would fare better as an independent storyline of its own.

While I'll admit these bits ultimately could've been a bit less disconnected from the plot, I'll just get it out upfront that there is a reason for establishing that Inler has grandkids and has a good relationship with them. Granted, you'll have about 20 chapters before you can fully appreciate why, but there's a reason. ^^;

The birds (*three* in the group) could just fly. Birbs love to fly, yes? Lord Pleo LOVES to fly! He can be HAPPY flying! The Gliscor in the team can also fly. And -despite appearances- it would give them much more operational clearance than sticking out as a big weird blob of mons in a set of narrow passages that are basically deathtraps waiting to happen.

Yeah, that kinda saves their bacon on multiple occasions there. ^^;

Poor Guardia, the authors know her weakness.

S-She gets better?
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After that comes the time to try and make away by ship. This is important because they are carrying a Protector and it'd be VERY SAD if said Protector once again fell in enemy hands.

But see, since this team is a totally law-abiding, social functioning hero team, they must follow proper procedure…

…which means clearing their exit with Port Authority!

To be fair, if most Pokémon tried clearing their exits in the same fashion, they'd have problems afterwards. Team Traveller isn't exactly exempt from that. :V

It couldn't have been that easy, eh? Sure getting to the ship is only one thing, but everyone else has their own ships as well. Ahh the marvels of a pirate setting.

And being the only target in sight, soon the protag ship finds itself under a barrage of enemy fire; what's worse, with Pleo having to listen to what people think their last moments would be like. So, I guess, in their perspective, they were probably praying for a merciful end.

*Praying* being the operative word.

That cutaway gag you wrote up right after this gave us a strong giggle. They're always gold to read. [lolithe]

Oh dear Team Traveler needs quite some help.

Oh if only Team Traveler had the powers of a deity by their side. If only. But their current local birb god is having a number of crises as of late and other issues and he needs more faith.

But how is a Fledglingsverse deity going to get power, let alone confidence?

Truly a mystery.
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Though nah, we've been steadily building up the direction of how cutscene powers work in this story. Just playing around with the right time and place to throw it out in the open in the remaining run of the story.

A moment after, the once proud little armada that was lying right before them is wrecked by a gale that caught them from a wind going up. Yes, somehow.

Pleo: "I helped!" ^v^

It's good to see Kline's attitude starts to improve… somewhat. Still doesn't get him off the menu in my book, it's just a matter of finding someone who would safely eat him. And he would do well to remember that despite his attitude, rough playing and backhand planning, it was Pleo who had to come and save his ass.

Even if Kline probably needs a chill pill or 20, it proooobably wouldn't be wise to try and kill him off like that. He is a Protector after all, and one whose efforts wind up helping the team quite a bit for the second half of the story.

Someday Hess manages to survive this crew and the storm and ends up… hitting a sandbar.

What can I say? He's got a way of getting himself into situations like these. :V

And so, with the favour of Pleo Lord of Storms, Hess and his crew finally find a path and head off to… who knows what adventure, it *totally* can't be the island they were expecting to be.

Hey, Pleo's powers are not perfected yet!

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There's another crew that's having a slightly better time than Pleo and Hess, however, and Team Cabot, now apparently rebranded to "Team 'Cpt. Nagant is finally not that ashamed of us anymore'". Recruitment season is over it seems and hey now Cabot's team is not at the bottom of the barrel, so it's good to finally see them having a bit of a thing to lord over fellow crewmembers…

…even if it's mostly "here, we'll show you how life around here sucks".

Not to mention it sucks extra because… well, it's how drafting usually sucks.

I mean, yeah. Fledglings may be a relatively light tale, but there's definitely some dark undercurrents to it that aren't really hidden. The topic of how creaking political powers one major crisis away from implosion staff their armed forces is definitely a dark and ultimately necessary facet of the world to show off if you're going to be following the perspective of someone who hails from one of them.

Captain Nugget makes her appearance to welcome the new, totally friendly and willing crew. We also get some news that some of their assets are being rebranded… in near likeness to an infamous Monster Hunter creature. Not to mention the Pokémon making mention of this is quite similar to an also renowned MH monster.

It's actually named after a word meaning "hurricane"… and an artillery piece. Though that might've also influenced the MH monster's name too. :V

Nagant is as welcoming as ever, and Cabot is left with the sinking realization that not all is roses. But hey, he can totally switch sides still!

Well, you'll see how that plays out, but things won't be quite that simple for him. o<o

Yeahh this is going to end so well for Bunsen.

On the other hand, hot take but Charizard are not really dragons, are they? Perhaps Bunsen will survive this.

Yeah, fortunately for him, that "not really a dragon" gives him some plot armor, though even if he didn't have that going for him, I'd like to think he'd have a few party tricks to help him out. Marley won't be getting rid of him that easily, especially since he and his underlings have a couple of low blows they have up their sleeve that would trip up even Tromba's Cazadragones.

It was a pleasure to get reviews from you two, and even if it took a bit longer than we'd have hoped to nail down we're back with a fresh update. Today, we have a pair of fresh artworks to show off, one canon expression sheet of Elty, and the other a doodle of Cabot and a version of Pleo that's a bit less so. Either way, we hope you all enjoy them.

As for the next installment, we're currently targeting a January release for the next chapter, though something something "things ship when they're done". Special thanks to all of you who have been reading and following along, and we hope you find today's update a suitable reward for your patience.

And with that, it's time for some…
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
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The following morning, the Siglo Swellow settled into its normal routine, as her sailors returned to their posts tending the ship. Some crew members with nothing better to do wiled away their time making small amusements on deck, while a few braver souls opted to poke about Canalhouse City's sights. In the darkened interior of the ship, Pladur and Kiran made their way down the ship's corridors for the sleeping quarters, the Fraxure carrying a small tray bearing a breakfast of bread and gummis while Kiran held a lantern in his beak. As the pair neared the door to the sleeping quarters where Trizano was still recovering, Pladur slowed his pace and uneasily turned to Kiran.

"Are we sure he would've recovered this quickly, Kiran?" the Dragon-Type asked. "I know that Immortals are supposed to come back from nasty injuries, but…"

"Well, he was able to feel things around his eyes last night," the Swellow murmured back. "So things are progressing, at least. We might as well see how far he's come along."

Pladur breathed in sharply, before setting forward, Kiran accompanying him with his light as they entered the sleeping quarters. The Swellow raised the lantern, revealing an emptied room that had been vacated within the past few hours, with some still-mussed straw and hammocks lying about along with a few bags belonging to the sailors along the walls and supporting timbers… and little else. Trizano ought to still be in the far left corner of the room, but something about the silence made the pair wonder if perhaps he was still asleep. Pladur hesitated a moment, before raising his voice to call off into the darkness.

"Trizano? Are you up?"

The pair heard sharp jostling coming from Trizano's place in the room, prompting Kiran to turn and raise his light, which caught the glint of metallic feathers in the corner and revealed Trizano was still nesting and settled into his bedding. The Skarmory got up, awkwardly finding his footing and exposing his bandaged eyes as he tried to turn his head towards the sound of his teammates' voices.

"Yeah, I am," Trizano replied. "I… haven't really been able to sleep, even though I've been in the dark since the fight yesterday."

"Well, we brought breakfast for you," Kiran said. "Let's take a look and see your eyes are coming along, and then we'll leave you to eat and rest a bit."

Kiran and Pladur made their way over to the Steel-Type, Pladur setting down the tray of food as Kiran raised the lantern and illuminated the bandages over Trizano's eyes, along with sets of dark reddish-brown blotches on them.

Pladur flinched at the sight, which drew uncomfortable memories of similar bandages that had been removed from his own stitched-up stomach a mere five days ago. After steeling himself, the Fraxure leaned in and started undoing the bandages and pulling them away, quietly dreading whatever ghastly wounds he would find underneath…

"A-Ah!"

Pladur jolted back and fell onto his rump with a start. There in front of him, Trizano's eyes were back to their normal yellow-and-blue selves! Why, even the cross-shaped pupils that he and other Immortals had, had come back without any sign of blemish!

"Travellers above! They really did get better!" the Fraxure exclaimed.

Pladur sat there for a moment and gaped in astonishment, as Kiran set the lantern down and let out a relieved sigh. Strangely though, Trizano continued to appear visibly tense, as the pair watched a grimace spread over the Skarmory's beak.

"Kiran? Pladur? Could you come closer?" he asked. "I'm having trouble seeing you."

Kiran and Pladur caught themselves and traded worried looks, the Fraxure getting back up onto his feet and fidgeting uneasily with his claws.

"Uh… shouldn't you be able to see us fine right now?" the Dragon-Type said. "We're standing right in front of you, and the lantern we brought down's sitting right next to you and your food."

Trizano jumped and batted his wings out with a start as his eyes shrank to pins and his breaths came out tight and shallow, his voice coming out with a panicked squawk.

"C-Cernun's horns! Th-that Noivern really did blind me!" he cried. "I'm gonna be stuck like this forever!"

The Skarmory frantically looked about his body, as if trying to coax his eyes into regaining their damaged sight, prompting Pladur to cut in and wave his claws for calm.

"T-Tranquilo! Your eyes were in worse shape last night!" the Fraxure insisted. "Even if they look healed from the outside to us, maybe they're not all the way there yet! Just take some time and let yourself recover a bit!"

"B-But I'm Trizano the Immortal!" the Steel-Type exclaimed. "I've never had lingering wounds like this before!"

"Trizano, you're not healing yourself any faster by working yourself into a tizzy like this," Kiran said. The Swellow ruffled his feathers sharply, and shook his head with a low sigh.

"Why did you even do this to yourself?"

Trizano spluttered back at the Swellow, shooting his head forward with a sharp scowl.

"'Do this to myself'?! Non dire sciocchezze! Kiran, I didn't ask to get my eyes burned!" the Skarmory snapped back. The Steel-Type's sharp retort made Pladur paw uneasily at the back of his head, before he glanced away.

"I mean, Kiran did say that we needed to retreat since we were outmatched," the Fraxure said. "But you still went off ahead on your own to face that Noivern…"

"I was given this gift by Cernun!" Trizano protested, turning his beak up with a sharp huff. "It's my duty to use it to try and help others!"

"Maybe, but is it really helping to keep charging in headfirst like that?" Kiran pressed. "Like with those mercenaries on Haipheh?"

Trizano fell quiet at the Swellow's questioning and his features eased up. In normal times, his answer would've been a reflexive 'yes', but with his fight with Aldrich… it was hard to say that doing so had really accomplished much beyond putting him on bedrest. Sensing that he'd put the Immortal into a contemplative state, Kiran lowered his head and continued speaking.

"Trizano, you're able to take risks that the rest of us aren't, we get it. But that doesn't mean that you need to constantly be taking them!" the Swellow insisted. "We're a team, and part of being a team is working together. Not charging off on your own to try and make a difference by yourself!"

He shuffled his wings and looked away from the Skarmory, clearly hesitating for a moment over how to continue.

"I suppose it must be cold comfort at this point, but part of that is also picking your battles wisely," Kiran said. "You can't predict how a battle is going to play out, or when there will be consequences to live with afterwards, so it's not a matter to take lightly."

Trizano said nothing for a long silence, before drooping his head and wings and grudgingly raising his voice in reply.

"I… I suppose I'd have done things differently if I didn't have Lord Cernun's blessing," the Skarmory admitted. "Not that I was expecting this to happen to me."

The Steel-Type trailed off for a moment and fidgeted restlessly, before turning back to his teammates with a despairing look.

"B-But how am I supposed to help anyone like this?!" he cried. "I can barely see you two right now!"

"Just worry about helping yourself for now," Kiran said. "There will be plenty of time for you to lend aid after you've recovered."

"Yeah, and I'm sure the kids are doing fine right now in the Academy," Pladur added, seemingly trying to convince himself with his own words. "They've been a bit more careful after they heard what happened to you, and the rest of the team's been keeping a closer eye on them just in case they do get into trouble…"



That same morning, Nida and her fellows from Team Traveller made sure to arrive early at the Academy, starting off at Gerhard's class in the beginning where they dutifully avoided the rear row of seats and got oriented for the other classes that were offered from Filbert and his siblings after claiming to have lost their schedule. After getting walked through an itinerary, the five drifted from class to class, eventually coming to a history classroom on the other side of the central building where the Torterra instructor informed her pupils that they'd be receiving a guest lecture that day.

Much to their astonishment, the lecturers turned out to be none other than Team Taxonomy, who returned in their red-and-white scarves along with a strangely familiar Vaporeon. Team Traveller tried their hardest to remain composed and inconspicuous lest the five guest instructors recognize them and ruin their cover. Fortunately, none of them seemed to pick them out from their fellow students as the amateur researchers took turns going through a lecture about the cultures of different islands in the Cradle, how they'd formed new commonalities after coming into contact with each other after being moved from the Old World, and how other similarities seemed to predate even that. Much to Nida's surprise, the example the Vaporeon of the group focused on when it was his turn was none other than the tale of the Prince of a Thousand Enemies.

"On Tromba he is a Nidorino, on Boisocéan a Diggersby, on Gestirn a Lopunny, and right here on Vollezee, he is a Raboot," the Vaporeon said. "All different Pokémon, yet all have a folktale about them being a 'Prince of a Thousand Enemies' with mostly the same stories shared between them. Sounds impossible, right?"

At the back of the room, Team Traveller's members squirmed and kepttried to keep their heads low, dutifully trying to avoid the gaze of Team Taxonomy's members at the front of the classroom. All the while, Pleo couldn't help but find the Vaporeon's presence in front of the blackboard to be strange and off-putting.

"Isn't that the same 'Opdahl' Vaporeon we ran into on Buyeom?" he asked. "What's he doing here, and with Team Taxonomy of all Pokémon?"

"Guess they must've been the friends he was talking about," Crom murmured. "Though I don't really get how fairy tales have anything to do with 'monthropology' or whatever this lecture's about."

Pleo gave a puzzled tilt of his head. Was there something wrong about fairy tales being taught in one of these 'history' courses? Pleo considered asking further, only to see Opdahl sway his tail and continue on, prompting the Lugia to train his attention back to the front of the classroom.

"But if you flip your thinking around, it actually suggests the opposite. That all of these stories originated from a common source," the Water-Type explained. "One that was known and talked about enough to travel the distant corners of the Old World so that when pieces of it were brought here, Pokémon were able to remember their own versions of it."

"And it's not the only bit of folklore that this dynamic has been observed in," the Archen of the group added, as he stepped forward to the Vaporeon's place.

"The various tales of the Warriors of Light, the stories of Walter's Magical Kingdoms… they are all myths that have variations from island to island while mostly agreeing on their broad strokes in a way that would suggest they as stories share a common origin," Scholls continued. "So then, the question is who came up with that common source? And who else would be a more logical candidate for that other than humans?"

Nida blinked at the Archen's commentary. She'd heard most of those fairy tales growing up, and knew that the stories of Walter's Magical Kingdoms were first told by humans, but somehow the thought never occurred to her whether a human or a Pokémon first told the tales of the Prince of a Thousand Enemies. In that case, how could she be sure the stories hadn't left out important parts of the originals?

… Then again, perhaps it didn't matter if the stories had changed from the way they were told originally. After all, Pokémon rarely kept every detail in the tales they told the same without reading it from a book, but if they were good ones, they still entertained their listeners all the same. So whatever the original version of those stories were like, they had to have enthralled Pokémon back in the Old World every bit as much as the stories of the Prince of a Thousand Enemies had when she was younger for them to stick around in some form for this long.

The sound of heavy footsteps pricked Nida's ears, as she looked off at the front to see the Torterra teacher getting up and clearing her throat from beside the five guest instructors. The Grass-Type cast an impatient glance at an hourglass that had run empty on the desk, before shaking her head back at the group.

"Thank you very much for your presentation, Team Taxonomy," the Torterra said. "But I'm afraid that we'll have to leave things here for now since the next period is about to start."

The students got up from their desks and hurried along for the door, a few grumbling to themselves over losing scarce break time from how long the lecture had dragged on. As Team Traveller neared the desk at the front of the room, their ears caught snippets of Team Taxonomy's members chattering with one another.

"Hrmph, I still don't understand why we couldn't get that slot for a biology lecture," Wally remarked. "We had a lot more material prepared for that!"

"Hey, at least it got our foot in the door!" Machalí insisted. "Mira el lado bueno, we'll be able to use the funds for our next round of research!"

Team Traveller passed just as the Marshtomp of the group gathered up some books he and his teammates had left on the desk. The Water-Type chanced to look up at Team Traveller and furrowed his brow a moment, before raising a paw to point them out to his teammates.

"Hey," Garth murmured. "Didn't we see those kids before-?"

Elty and the others all but bolted out of the classroom after seeing the Marshtomp pointing after them, hurrying out into the hall past the next three classrooms before they slowed their pace. After looking over their shoulders and making sure that Team Taxonomy hadn't come after them, the lot let out sighs of relief and shook their heads.

"Whew, that was a close one," Elty said. "Of all the places to run into Team Taxonomy again, I certainly wasn't expecting to see them here."

"At least they didn't put two and two together," Nida replied. "Here I was worried that they were just going to blurt out who we were-"

"Hey."

The Nidorina and her companions turned around and froze. There behind them was none other than Salvini scowling down at them with her arms folded over each other. The very same Grovyle they'd run into all the way back on Mengir Island… except she didn't look like she was in the mood for a friendly conversation right now.

"We need to talk," the Grass-Type growled, prompting Team Traveller's members to hesitate and trade uneasy looks with each other."

Er… you mean right now?" Guardia asked. "Or-?"

"Yes right now," Salvini snapped. "Though not here. The classroom down the hall's vacant for the next hour, we can talk there."

Guardia tensed up at the gecko's insistence, before looking around and seeing a few of the passing students were starting to stare at them. If Salvini had meant to cause them trouble, she could've done so from the start. So even if the Cubone was a bit worried by how agitated the Grass-Type was, perhaps for now it was for the best to just play along.

"O… kay?"

The five nervously shuffled along as Salvini herded them down the hall and pushed open the door to a classroom on the right. As Elty stepped in, he noted that it seemed much the same as the classroom they'd just left. The same style of blackboard, same style of wooden desks and short seats, with the differences being that this classroom was empty aside from their presence and the agitated Grovyle behind them. Salvini closed the door and waited in front of it, folding her arms with an impatient tap of her foot that made the Growlithe grimace.

Did she still recognize them? With Nida having evolved, Crom now in their group, and Pleo looking completely different from when they'd last met, it was hard to say for sure… Maybe she'd thought that he and Guardia seemed familiar, but could still be convinced that she'd gotten their identities mixed up.

"I… uh… can we help you-?" Elty started, only for Pleo to cut in with a startled squawk.

"S-Salvini?! What are you doing here?! You're supposed to be on Mengir!"

Team Traveller's members stiffened up and turned to Pleo as he bat his wings out in astonishment. The other four blanched and shrank back uneasily as Salvini's face tightened up into a sharp glare.

"Well for one, you can start by telling me what you're up to and why you think it's a good idea to be anywhere near Canalhouse City as wanted 'mons!" the Grovyle cried.

Pleo and his teammates fumbled for words, unsure of where to even begin to try to explain their circumstances in a way that wouldn't endanger their hopes of getting at the Company's volume of the Knight's Ledger. After a moment of hesitation, Crom tapped his claws together uneasily and spoke up in reply.

"I… I know that it probably sounds insane to you, but we're trying to fix that! Honest!" the Druddigon insisted, only for Salvini to keep pressing them with a sharp huff.

"'Fix that' how?"

The youngsters paused and bit their tongues briefly, before Nida pinned her ears back and tried to offer an explanation.

"Er… we have to keep quiet about it? B-But look, you trust us don't you?" Nida stammered. "Do you really still think we're just a bunch of pirates like you were originally told?"

Salvini's face remained fixed in a firm scowl for a lingering moment, only for her features to soften and the gecko to look away and paw at her arm uneasily.

"I mean, I do trust you… but I'm on really thin ice right now," she murmured. "Me and the rest of the team that got sent after you were reassigned out here to babysit students in the Academy. If Administrator Zorn had been less skeptical of Darzin when he dragged me in, or if Hertsog had not trusted me so much, I might not even be alive right now."

Pleo and his companions grimaced. Clearly Trizano hadn't been kidding about Salvini having taken a risk for them on Mengir. Though… did that mean she didn't have any choice here? That she was here to…

"Are… Are you gonna tell on us?" Pleo asked.

Salvini paused at the Lugia's question, before closing her eyes and shaking her head back.

"I'm not planning on it. But I can't exactly cover for you if you get into trouble again," the gecko said. "All things considered, I got lucky with my second chance. There's not going to be another one for me after this."

The sound of distant bellchimes rang out from outside the window, making Pleo and his companions turn their heads, realizing that it was a sign that it was the top of the hour and new classes were about to start. Salvini fell quiet as the bells chimed, before backing away with a low sigh.

"Look, I'm not here to get you into trouble, alright? But you really shouldn't be here," she insisted. "Whatever you're up to, either get it done quickly or get out while you can. You're not exactly in a safe place to go off sightseeing."

Team Traveller's members said nothing for a long moment as the chimes finished tolling in the background, Nida breaking the silence and pinning her ears back.

"We'll do what we can, okay?" the Nidorina replied.

The five hurried over for the door, eager to start off for their next classes that they were sure to be late for at this rate. As he neared the door, Pleo slowed his pace briefly, turning his head back to look at the Company Grovyle.

"Salvini?"

"Yeah, what?" the gecko asked, prompting Pleo to shuffle his wings uneasily.

"I… I don't know how much it means to you, but it is nice to see you again."

Salvini remained silent, before lowering her head with a small shake and a quiet, murmuring reply.

"It's nice to see you too, Pleo," she said. "Just… don't get too used to it, alright?"

Pleo nodded back hesitantly before hurrying after his teammates, the lot making their way into the hall where they started heading off for their next class. From the corner of his eye, the young Lugia glimpsed Salvini exiting the vacant classroom, lingering for a moment as she looked after him, before eventually turning and heading down the other direction of the hallway.



After the day's classes, Team Traveller spread out to try and comb the Academy for leads as to where the vault might be. Pleo, Nida, and Crom had dutifully scanned the hallways along the ground and first floors, but failed to turn up anything of note. Before they knew it, the three found themselves retracing their steps on the ground floor towards a familiar set of double doors made of dark hardwood and filed into the library.

"I don't understand why Guardia insisted on coming back here," Crom said. "Didn't we already check the library?"

"I mean, we didn't exactly look through it for very long last time," Nida murmured. "So it's not as if it doesn't make sense to take a closer look."

Nida watched as Pleo cocked a brow back at her answer. He mused to himself that he didn't remember there being that many places in the library that they didn't already go through last time, only for him to abruptly trail off and raise a wing to point off ahead excitedly.

"Oh! There she is!"

Nida followed Pleo's wing and looked to see Guardia and Elty seated at a table crowded with a small pile of books. The three carried along, nearing just in time to find the pair buried snout-deep in a thick green tome that lay open on its spine on the table's surface. Elty's ears flicked at the sound of Nida, Pleo, and Crom's footsteps, the Growlithe turning around and pinning his ears back before hurrying behind his teammates with a low grumble. After noticing her partner had abruptly departed, Guardia looked around, before getting up with a curious tilt of her head.

"Ah, you're already back from searching?" the Cubone asked.

"Bogowie, here I thought you all would never come back!" Elty fumed.

Crom, Nida, and Pleo blinked and looked over at Elty who had an expression on his face much as if he'd just pulled himself out of one of the canals outside, and then back to Guardia and the small mountain of books all about her.

"Wait, what have you been doing with all those books, Guardia?" Pleo asked. "Did you find anything about the Ledger in them?"

The Cubone blinked for a moment, before tugging at the front of her helmet with a sheepish smile.

"Er… well… no, but I did gather quite a bit of lore for my colony!" she insisted. "For someone that also came from a Mystery Dungeon, Eltenios here is really good at reading your hut runes!"

The rest of Team Traveller's members narrowed their eyes and let their mouths crack open with a stunned silence. Nida was the first to speak up, the Nidorina fanning her barbs out in annoyance as she shot a sharp glare at the Ground-Type.

"Can't you do this some other time, Guardia?" Nida growled.

"I mean, isn't this a library?" Pleo added. "Why not take some of these books to read at the ship? Cabot told me that that's how libraries work!"

Guardia blinked puzzledly for a moment, before giving a sheepish smile back.

"… Oh, you can do that?" she asked. "That'd certainly make things a lot easier!"

The Cubone's teammates let out a chorus of groans at her belated realization, as Elty flattened his ears out with an annoyed huff.

"Just saying, I'm not helping her out with reading when we get back to the ship," he grumbled.

"Just… take whatever you can carry that looks interesting, Guardia," Crom said. "If you haven't found anything here, we should hurry up and move on."

The Druddigon and the others helped Guardia gather up her books, the Cubone taking a small stack that she balanced on her free hand and tilted back along her belly. Nida let out a quiet sigh, guessing the Ground-Type hadn't forgotten about the "loregathering" her colony had tasked her with before leaving Kenobi and let the Cubone lead the way. The bone lizard carried along with an awkward gait that made the others think of stopping to offer her help, when she rounded the corner and bumped into a furry black-and-red blur about her height and stumbled back.

"Ack!"

Guardia lost her footing and fell back with her books into Elty, shoving one member of Team Traveller into the other until finally reaching Pleo and knocking him down. The young Lugia let out a sharp squawk and dropped his bag, spilling its contents out onto the floor. The five looked up, where there in front of them was a Zorua beside some of the scattered books, leveling a piercing scowl at them.

"Hey! Watch where you're going!" she yipped.

Nida got up along with her teammates and blanched. Right here before them was none other than Sophie from their classes. The very same Pokémon who were it not for Gerhard's timely intervention the other day, would've probably revealed them to be intruders in front of his entire classroom. The Nidorina shifted her feet uncomfortably, raising her voice back to the Dark-Type in a guarded tone.

"Er… sorry about that," she apologized. "We'll pay closer attention next time."

Nida shuffled over and helped Sophie to gather her belongings, as the rest of Team Traveller tended to Guardia's books and Pleo's belongings that had flopped out onto the floor. In spite of their attempts to make nice, Sophie didn't seem particularly impressed with Team Traveller's gesture, as she shook her head and growled under her breath.

"This day, I swear," the Zorua fumed. "First someone already checked out the copy of 'I Want to be Your Bird' I wanted to borrow, and now-"

Sophie trailed off while reaching for the last of her belongings, when her eyes fell on Pleo's dropped items, including Neil's goggles currently on the floor. The Zorua blinked and stiffened up with a surprised gasp that took Team Traveller's members aback. The five stopped as the Dark-Type stooped down and sniffed at the goggles, giving a curious poke with her forepaws before she looked back at Pleo and his teammates.

"How on earth did you get this?"

Team Traveller's members looked puzzledly at the mesmerized Zorua, wondering if her reaction was some sort of trick. Pleo tilted his head back at the fox, and blinked in surprise as he wondered aloud…

"Huh, do you mean my goggles? Is there something wrong with them?"

"There's nothing wrong with them," Sophie said. "But you can tell from the material that they're made from that it's a human artifact."

Team Traveller stared blankly at the Zorua much as if she'd just done a backflip right in front of them. Neil's goggles were a human artifact? But even if that was the case…

"How… do you know that?" Crom asked. Sophie quietly prodded at the goggles' lenses for a brief moment, before shaking her head and turning to the young Druddigon.

"My dad has a small collection of human artifacts, and a lot of them are made from this same sort of weird material that these goggles are," she explained. "It's something that doesn't shatter when dropped like glass or clay, but is hard to the touch like them."

The Dark-Type leaned in closer to give a second look at the goggles, seemingly entranced by them, before she spoke up in a voice that betrayed a sense of wonder.

"I don't think he has anything in as good as shape as these though," she murmured. "No scratches… no cracks… no discolorations… why it's like it suddenly fell from the sky brand-new!"

Sophie got up and blinked to herself in a moment of puzzled realization, and turned to Pleo and his companions with a skeptical tilt of her head.

"How did you get these anyways?"

Pleo and the others hemmed and hawed back in reply. After a few moments to make sure he had his cover story straight, Pleo spoke up with what he hoped would satisfy the fox's curiosity.

"A friend of mine gave it to us back on Kenobi," he said. "I didn't know it was so special though."

Sophie quirked a brow back at the young Lugia and said nothing for a noticeable pause. The seabird and his friends began to grow uneasy, thinking that perhaps the Dark-Type was doubting them yet again, only for her to dispel their fears by giving a playful wag of her tail and shooting a small smile back.

"Well you should be a bit more careful with it, since you'll never get another one of these if you break them," the Zorua chided. "Why, if I didn't know any better, I'd have thought you somehow got it from that vault that's supposed to be in the Academy's Archive!"

Guardia perked up at the mention of the Academy having an 'Archive', and judging from a quick glance at her teammates, they must've noticed it as well.

"… The Academy's Archive?" the Cubone asked. "This is the first we've ever heard of there being a vault there."

Sophie gave Guarida a surprised look and tilted an ear back curiously. She'd evidently found something about her response strange, but after a moment's hesitation, Sophie's puzzled expression faded away and she spoke up in reply.

"Right, you're all new here so you wouldn't have heard of it. I mean, I've never seen it myself, but there's supposed to be one there," Sophie explained. "Rumor has it that it's filled with a bunch of old books and artifacts from the Old World that are too valuable to be put on public display."

The Dark-Type shook her head, pointing a paw at Pleo's goggles on the ground.

"Really, if you ever wanted a chance to see inside it, maybe bring those goggles over to them," she insisted. "If they really do keep artifacts there, it'll certainly be safer to keep them there than just leaving them around in your bag to get scuffed."

Nida put a paw to her chin as she thought over Sophie's explanation. Why that had to be the same vault that Alice said she overheard Darzin talking about! And if the Ledger really was here, what better place would there be to keep it than a place whose inherent purpose was to have precious things tucked away in it? Nida smiled back, thanking the Travellers above that this meeting with Sophie had actually gone their way, and gave a grateful bow in reply.

"Thanks for the tip," the Nidorina said. "We'll look into it, even if we kinda have our paws full at the moment."

The five picked up their belongings and made their way up to the counter, where much to their chagrin, the Metang librarian from the other day was once again on duty. After an askew glance from the Psychic-Type, Team Traveller checked out Guardia's books and sheepishly took their leave from the library, making their way down the right end of the hallway. The group continued on a short ways until Nida spotted a small, empty study room with the door left ajar. A brief inspection revealed the room had long desks and chairs propped up against its walls, and appeared to be set up to be a quiet space of some sort. The Nidorina beckoned her teammates in and closed the door behind them, the five gathering together as Elty tilted his head and murmured to himself in thought.

"So, this vault has to be the same one we heard about, right?" Elty asked. "There's no way that's just a coincidence."

"Well, it's the best lead we've found so far, that's for sure," Nida replied. "We might as well go check it out."

The group continued on mulling over their findings when faint footsteps sounded out from the hallway. Pleo paused and tilted his head at the doorway, when it suddenly creaked and a Sylveon in a Company Second-Rank scarf entered the room. As soon as he saw the Pokémon, the color drained from the young Protector's face as he jumped back with a frightened squawk.

"A-Agh! Nida!"

Nida and her teammates whirled around and froze. There at the doorway was none other than Zelle from Team Sentinel. The Sylveon pushed the door closed behind her, stepping forward as a malicious smirk spread over her face.

"I must say, I certainly wasn't expecting you to come to Vollezee of all places," Zelle said. "So who is your new friend here who totally isn't Pleo walking around in some poor disguise?"

Guardia looked round the room, and saw that beyond the windows, there didn't seem to be any other exits beyond the doorway Zelle stood in. The Cubone tightened her grip around her bone, steeling her nerves as she braced for battle with the Fairy-Type.

"If you think we're gonna go down without a fight, then you've got another thing coming!" Guardia growled.

"Hmph, you can relax. I'm not here to fight," the Sylveon scoffed. "Or to capture Pleo for that matter."

Team Traveller's members blinked and traded confused glances with one another. Pleo craned his head up warily, as he raised his voice in reply.

"You're… not?" he asked.

"That's right. I just wanted a moment to talk," Zelle insisted. "Surely there's no harm in that?"

Almost immediately, the Sylveon's smile vanished, as an icy frown spread over her muzzle.

"Though if I see even a single one of those plates on your back light up, I'll drop you and your friends before you can even think about beating your wings."

Team Traveller reflexively shrank back as they thought back to Trizano's injuries from the day before. They could try to fight Zelle right here and now, but as a member of Team Sentinel they knew that she was not a 'mon to be trifled with. Not to mention that they'd surely blow their cover if they fought her and stirred up a racket in the middle of campus. Satisfied that she'd suitably cowed the youngsters, the Fairy-Type moved her feelers and curled her mouth into a cruel smile.

"Well then, now that we've established that, let's talk about why you're here," Zelle said. "If you wanted to join the Company so badly, you didn't have to go through all the trouble of sneaking into the Academy of all places. We would have happily taken you along back on Buyeom."

"W-We're not interested!" Crom stammered. "We'd never join the Company after everything you guys put us through!"

The Sylveon let out a mocking scoff in reply, as she stepped away from the door and approached with a saunter that felt much like she was a Persian toying with a ball of yarn.

"Sure you aren't," she sneered. "That's why you're here at my old school, right?"

Team Traveller's members instinctively stepped back as Zelle neared. She looked over them for a moment, before turning her attention off to a nearby table. The Sylveon paused for a moment and brushed at its surface with one her feelers, letting out a quiet, wistful sigh.

"Not that I'm complaining. Being here again sure brings back a lot of memories," she said. "Memories of back when I believed the Company and its current course was all we needed to give Anyilla the change it's been waiting for."

Zelle glanced up at Pleo and stared straight into his eyes, making him squirm and shift uncomfortably. The Fairy-Type was completely unfazed by the young Protector's unease, as she brushed the side of her head with a feeler and flicked it out.

"I've moved beyond such fantasies since then, and with a few tweaks to the curriculum, so will the next generation here," Zelle harrumphed. "After all, we have a chance to properly change things now. All that's missing are a few last tools for the job…"

The Sylveon's ears perked up at the sound of a faint clack, where there at the mouth of Pleo's bag, she saw one of the lenses of his goggles poke out. The Fairy-Type stared for a brief moment, before turning back with a skeptical frown.

"And how did you get goggles like those anyway?" she asked. "I certainly doubt Sorge gave them to you."

Nida blinked in confusion at the Sylveon's question. Did she know the goggles were a human artifact too? But then…

"… Huh? What does Sorge have to do with-?"

"Oh, let's just say he's had a few things of that sort lying around for a while," Zelle remarked, giving back a smarmy smile.

The Sylveon looked back at Team Traveller's members with an expression that was almost warm and friendly… were it not for the fact that she appeared ready to attack at a moment's notice. The Fairy-Type stepped forward, before craning a feeler out and pointing out at the youngsters.

"But we're getting sidetracked. The real question is why you five are skulking around here as students," she said, curling her muzzle up into a taunting sneer. "Unless you're ready to tell me where Kline is, of course."

"Hrmph, w-we're not just going to tell you any of that!" Guardia exclaimed, drawing mocking, haughty laughter from the Fairy-Type in reply.

"Oh, but you've already given me a few ideas based off what I've seen of you," Zelle insisted. "I'm sure Administrator Elilan would love to find out about why you were badgering his daughter for information."

Team Traveller dug their feet in at Zelle's last words. They knew better than to trust that Zelle really just wanted to talk, but was she threatening to drag them before Elilan right here and now? The five tensed up and braced themselves, expecting the Sylveon to lob the likes of a Moonblast at them at any moment as Elty grit his teeth and growled back.

"She told us about the Vault on her own," he snapped. "And what would you know about it when you've been off-island for years?"

Zelle fell silent for a noticeable moment, before a small smirk formed on her face. Team Traveller bristled briefly and wondered if Elty had somehow said something wrong with his reply. The Sylveon swayed her feelers, before throwing her head back with an unimpressed click of her tongue.

"Tch, it's not exactly a new part of the Academy and there was talk of its existence going around about it back when I was a student here," Zelle retorted. "But who knows? Maybe you're right. After all, all I know is that it's in the Academy's Archive on the west edge of campus."

The Growlithe and his companions blinked puzzledly at the Sylveon's reply. Zelle knew where the Archive was? But if she did, why would she just tell them about this? Did she make a mistake? Zelle narrowed her eyes and studied their reactions closely, before turning up her snout with a sharp scoff.

"Not that there's a reason for you to bother going there. It's heavily guarded and it's not like you'll ever make it inside."

The sound of distant bellchimes rang out, prompting Zelle to turn her head and look left out the windows, before training her attention back to the youngsters with a quiet click of her tongue.

"Well, look at how time flies," she said. "Though I think that I've gotten what I've wanted from you."

Team Traveller's members sucked in their breaths sharply and readied themselves for battle, only for Zelle to turn away seemingly completely disinterested with them. The five looked in confusion as the Fairy-Type sauntered over to the door and pulled it open, glancing over her shoulder at them with a derisive scoff.

"What, you think I'm going to fight you here if I don't have to?" Zelle asked. "Where there's hundreds of students and teachers to ask questions about what's happening? Who do you take me for?"

Zelle curled her mouth up into a smile, bared fangs poking out at their ends.

"Besides, we'll be seeing more of each other real soon," she said. "Ta ta."

The Sylveon made her way through the doorway and departed, nonchalantly pushing the door shut with her feelers with an audible thump. Elty and the others stood there staring at the door, panting tensely as their heartbeats raced from their encounter with Team Sentinel's ranged attacker. After a moment to catch his breath, the Growlithe turned to his teammates and pinned his ears back with a low whine.

"… Yeah, forget this. I say let's get back to the ship and get out while we can," he said. "There's no way we'll be able to get the Ledger out if Team Sentinel already knows what we're up to."

A long silence followed after Elty's comment. As loath as the others were to admit it, it was hard to concede that he didn't have a point. Just then, Crom blinked for a moment, as a dawning realization came across his mind.

"Do they, though?" the Druddigon asked. "Zelle did let the location of that vault slip. Shouldn't we check that out while we're here at least?"

The youngsters hesitated for a moment, before Nida raised her voice and spoke up to her teammates.

"Even if we do wind up retreating, we might as well take a look," she insisted. "Just stay on your guard. After all, when has Team Sentinel ever helped us before in some way that didn't have a horrible catch?"

The others nodded back, Elty more grudgingly than his peers, before they crept up to the doorway. Pleo pushed the door open, as he and his friends looked about warily only to find the hallway outside empty. Team Traveller's members set off and turned left down the corridor, making their way off towards where Zelle had said the Archive would be. All the while, the five kept stealing glances over their shoulders, as they couldn't shake the feeling that somehow they were being watched.



As Team Traveller tried to regain their nerves after their run-in with Zelle, on the eastern tip of Canalhouse City's core of islets, Pokémon teemed in a square ringed by canals in front of a castle built in the lagoon's water. Long, long ago, the place had been a keep for Canalhouse when it was still Canalhouse Town, before it had been gifted to the settlement's first guild as a place for it to call home.

Through the ages, the city had grown up around it, especially after the Great Calamity. The entire time, the guild had dutifully serviced the city even after other competitors sprang up and the Mystery Dungeon it originally focused around was cleared and repurposed into a training ground for the Company's recruits. The square in front of the guild was as busy as it always was, and the resident Guildmaster that day made his customary rounds. In this case, a Gliscor visibly past his youthful prime who had just stopped to talk with a team consisting of a Gallade, a Blastoise, and a Goodra.

Unbeknownst to the Gliscor Guildmaster, Percy lingered across one of the nearby canals perched on a round public bulletin column as he looked on. The sight of the older Ground-Type seemed to stir a sense of nostalgia in him, as he let out a quiet sigh while memories of simpler times came flooding back.

"Pierce!"

Percy froze at the sound of a sharp growl and turned to see Kline glaring up at him from the street. The Gliscor paused briefly before grudgingly slipping off, the Zygarde all but dragging his fellow Ground-Type along into a shaded alleyway, where after a quick check to confirm that no one was there to eavesdrop, he whirled around to Percy with a sharp glare.

"Have you gone mad?!" Kline snapped. "What on earth do you think you're doing here?!"

Percy recoiled and stared back at Kline with an expression not wholly unlike that of an Aipom caught trying to use its tail to steal food from a jar. The Gliscor's grimace lingered for a moment, before he hung his head and drooped with a visibly wistful expression.

"I… I just wanted to see my dad," he murmured.

"Pierce, Team Sentinel knows that your dad works here!" Kline cried. "Do you think they aren't having this place watched?! That they won't try to get him involved if they know you've gone back to our old guild?!"

Percy hesitated and fell quiet, as he uncomfortably rubbed his left pincer against his other arm. He avoided the Zygarde's gaze for a moment, before shaking his head back.

"I know that, but… it's been years and so much has happened," the Gliscor said. "Dad's a Guildmaster now, and when we left he was still on a Gold-ranked team…"

"Yes, and you already knew that, because I told you about it," Kline huffed back. "I left a Cell with your father when we fled Vollezee, and since then I've told you how he was doing every time you asked me."

"That's not the same thing as seeing it with my own eyes and you know it, Kline," Percy insisted. "You can't expect me not to miss him or the rest of my family just because you've been telling me how they've been doing."

Kline continued to scowl back at the Gliscor, only to pause and close his eyes, his features softening as he let out a soft sigh.

"I understand that, but everyone on our team has someone that they miss," he reminded. "I myself spent fifteen years growing up with your father and his team after I washed up ashore here. Don't you think that I miss him too?"

Kline stepped out of the alleyway and motioned with his snout along the canal towards a brick building about the width of four canalhouses. There, blue banners bearing designs of a black circle quartered by a tilted cross hung from it. Percy thought back to encounters long past when Team Sentinel had approached them in those very same colors, and reflexively stiffened up at the sight as his Zygarde companion turned back to him with a stern frown.

"Remember that it's not just Team Sentinel that's loyal to Elilan here," Kline said. "He has more Pokémon working for him than just those four, including ones right here in Canalhouse City."

Percy grimaced and looked at the banners in the distance for a while, before he felt a paw being placed on his shoulder, the Gliscor looking down to see Kline peering up at him.

"I know it's not an easy thing to ask of you," the Zygarde murmured. "But remember there's a reason why we're doing this."

"Ja, ik weet het…" Percy sighed back. "I just hope it won't be for much longer."

The pair headed off, vanishing into the crowds amid Canalhouse City's bustling waterways. At the entrance of the guild, the Gliscor Guildmaster looked off at the bulletin column across the canal for a moment, before he shook his head and dismissed the matter as merely his ears' sensitivity playing tricks on him.



After their encounter with Zelle, Team Traveller made their way west along the canals from the main building, where sets of smaller and more nondescript structures had been constructed in matching bricks. Eventually, near the fringe where the campus' buildings gave way to canalhouses and buildings of mismatching styles, they came across a three story building with a gabled roof that had been built surrounding a narrow passage clogged with crates. Some sort of service entrance, it appeared.

After rounding the building, they came across a set of large, wooden doors that had been propped open with a sign reading 'Academy Archive' over the entrance. One after the other, Team Traveller slipped inside into a set of quiet, tiled hallways that didn't seem much different from the ones in the Academy's main building. Zelle hadn't said anything about there being more than one archive in the Academy, so this had to be where the Vault was. Even so, they didn't see any sign there was something here other than what appeared to be offices and study halls, yet the five couldn't shake the sense that something was amiss.

"Are we sure that it's a good idea to be going here?" Elty asked. "This is giving me vibes of when we thought we were going to meet Xerneas on Buyeom all over again."

"Like I said, I don't think Zelle would've just told us where the Vault was," Crom insisted. "It seems more like a slip-up that she made."

"Was it though?" Guardia murmured. "I mean, Team Sentinel did trick us back on Buyeom… how do we know that this isn't another ambush of theirs?"

Guardia's teammates fell uncomfortably silent at the Cubone's question. After a brief moment of uneasy hesitation, Pleo tilted his head and raised a wing to his chin in thought.

"Nida? Are we sure that the Vault's really here?" he asked.

Nida shook her head back in reply. She didn't like the idea of trusting a lead they'd picked up from one of Team Sentinel's members, but they had found the Archive, and it wouldn't do them any good to just turn tail the very moment they entered.

"Just keep your eyes out for something that doesn't belong," Nida insisted. "If this really is the Archive then I'm sure that there's something like-"

"Hey, kid."

Team Traveller turned towards a sharp huff coming from their left, where they saw a Sirfetch'd in a Company scarf and dark blue plates of cloth armor bearing a purple First-Rank insignia on the chest plate glaring down at them from an intersecting hallway. The five froze, expecting the guard to attack them at any second, only for the Sirfetch'd to cut in and motion with his leek off towards the distance.

"This part of the building isn't a public area like your classrooms," he snapped. "Move along if you don't have a reason for being here."

Pleo craned his head past the Sirfetch'd and took a couple steps past the corner. There down the hallway he noticed a pair of cast iron doors with similarly-armored Pokémon standing guard in front of it. That was definitely something that stood out from what they'd seen so far, and the way it guarded certainly made it look important enough to be the Vault. But with the Sirfetch'd scowling down at them and the other scary-looking figures in the background turning to notice them… they probably weren't going to get into it right here and now.

"Er… right, sorry about that," Pleo said.

The group hurried off in a brisk walk, restraining themselves from flatly running away from the Sirfetch'd and the other guards. After they were convinced they were out of earshot, the five paused and caught their breaths, before trading worried looks with one another.

"Well, I think that's as clear a sign as any that that's the Vault," Guardia said. "We haven't seen Pokémon with plates like those since we were in that Tidemill colony!"

"Just how are we supposed to make it into that thing?" Elty asked. "We can't just fight our way past 'mons like those!"

Nida paused in thought for a moment, before flicking her ears and narrowing her eyes in determination.

"Not normally anyways," she remarked, making Crom blink back in surprise.

"Eh? What do you mean, Nida?" the Druddigon pressed.

"This Vault is built into what's essentially a big school. I'm sure there's something that's being overlooked here like a way to sneak in from another part of it," Nida explained. Her teammates looked at the Nidorina expectantly, only for her to trail off and look warily about her surroundings.

"Though I don't exactly know what that something could be," the Poison-Type murmured. "We're better off going back to the ship to let everyone know what we found for now. Maybe one of the others will have an idea of what we should be looking for."

Nida's teammates nodded in agreement, before the five made their way out of the Archive, retracing their steps back toward the central building of the Academy where they ducked into it to cut across the central square. There, resting against the Haxorus statue, they spotted a black Charizard in a Company First-Rank scarf peering down at a book with runes on the cover that Nida could just make out, reading 'I Want to Be Your Bird'. The Fire-Type looked up from his pages, Team Traveller's members tensing as they continued on, only for the Charizard to turn his attention back to the tome quietly wondering himself about 'what's taking Garnet so long today?'

Nida shook her head and carried on with her teammates, making their way for the exit of the Academy complex. All the while, the group continued on unaware of the form of a Dragonite looking them over from the other end of the square and doing a double take as he stared after the departing quintet.

"… Wait a minute, those students are the same species as those runts from Haipheh."

Darzin took to the air, shadowing Team Traveller from the nearby rooftops where the height and obstructing structures would better disguise his sound and scent. He peered down below and sure enough, the party had Team Traveller's same species aside from the strange purple-feathered bird with them that was there in place of Lugia. Darzin blinked after watching the bird stop to preen his wings, realizing that aside from his color, every feature of his body had the same shape as what he remembered Lugia having.

The Dragonite ducked behind the gable of his present rooftop to hide himself and paused with a puzzled frown when his mind turned back to his time stationed on Tromba. He remembered in passing some harebrained tale of their Protector's forebear in the old world having undergone a change of color after he 'lost his heart' or some inane reason like that.

Darzin turned back to the group and narrowed his eyes, realizing that with that story in mind, the last bit that had puzzled him about the group was now made clear. With the Guardian of the Seas here in Vollezee, the fates had granted him another chance to seize the Protector and use him as leverage to reclaim what he and the others who once lived in the lagoon had lost to Inler and his ilk so many years ago.

"Hrmph. Not sure you why you brats came here, much less how you got this far with a simple dye job and change of garb," the Dragonite growled, as a small smirk spread across his face.

"But no matter. I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth."



Author's Notes:

- Non dire sciocchezze! - Italian: "Don't talk nonsense!" / "Don't be ridiculous!" / "Don't be silly!", lit. "Don't say silly statements!"
- Mira el lado bueno - Spanish: "Look on the bright side", lit. "Look on the good side"
- Ja, ik weet het… - Dutch: "Yeah, I know (it)…"
 
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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Chapter 64:

The Beedrill's answer was met by an enthusiastic squeal, the wizened old shrimp waving her claws happily before peering back up to her first mate.

"I've waited so long for this day!" Nagant burbled. "Oh, what's the first thing to do to break it in? Maybe I'll take her around the island! Or to Haipheh! Or-"
Oh my god, seeing Nagant actually happy about something--and not just happy, giddy--is not something I ever expected to see. xD (And hey, she kinda needed this after what she's been through recently.

"Because, as we agreed in our partnership, I have need of your aid, Administrator Darzin," the Clawitzer retorted, before moving her large claw about the surrounding ship.
Oh snap. I can't remember if it already got revealed before that they're working together. Man, there's been treachery and double agents around every corner so far, but Company-Empire collusion is the one thing that wouldn't have seemed possible. Makes me wonder if one of them is planning to eventually betray the other or if they actually have some kind of deal that could benefit both of them (but then who'd get to keep the Protector...?)

"Well, we have other matters to tend to," the shrimp insisted, barely stifling a snicker through her mandibles. "But good luck with the deck, sailor!"

Darzin glared and bared his fangs, only for a sharp jab at his stomach to prompt him to look down at the Avalugg, leaving him to begrudgingly grab a bucket and mop as he slipped out of view while Nagant and her first mate reached the gangplank.
Lmao, and now he's stuck doing gruntwork on an Empire ship of all places. Amazing.

Pleo, Nida, Crom, and Dimitri tilted their heads and squinted as they noticed movement towards the back of the room, where a strange green Pokémon hopped forward balanced on his tail. The creature bore a single eye, with a red, hexagonal marking on his belly, Team Traveller's eyes widening as they realized that this must've been none other than the Pokémon Opdahl encountered. The serpent narrowed his eye, peering up sternly at the young Lugia in front of him.
Oh hey! I was wondering when we'd run into the other Zygarde core! (iirc, the other Zygarde core was already shown held captive, right?)

"Wait! But that's great!" the Lugia cried. "If you're a Protector, then you can help me with-"

"No."
Damn, talk about harsh. So much for getting help from the actual Legendary here. :V

"What? How could we have done anything wrong there?" Dimitri demanded. "We were being chased by a city of guards, a Company Commissioner, and a pirate crew!"

"You seem to be forgetting the part where you disgraced Admiral Coil on your way out and threw the city into turmoil," Kline huffed.
Excuse me is that supposed to be a bad thing? That guy definitely had it coming, especially from the perspective of the Empire.

"I have nothing else to say. Just try not to cause any more problems during the rest of your journey," Kline finished. "Good luck with your travels home."
Well that was completely unhelpful. :V Call them there for mysterious reasons only to give a generic warning that doesn't tell them anything they didn't already know.

"It's 'Ellsberg'," the Mothim growled. "Not 'Elmer', not 'fuzz brain', or whatever inane name is on the tip of your tongue. Ellsberg. Got it?"
Hell yeah, I am all here for Ellsberg finally standing up to Ketu. xD (Hit him with an SE Bug Buzz!) And hey, Ketu turns out to actually kind of respect him for it! \o/

"Before we ran into Ketu, we encountered him outside our guild as a member of an inexperienced-looking Rescue Team called 'Team Traveller'," Aldrich explained. "We noticed he was a strange Pokémon from the looks, but there was a Marked with him who seemed perfectly calm, so we figured it was probably just some sort of subspecies from elsewhere in the Cradle."
Huh! It hadn't occurred to me that Ander being... mostly kind of used to Pleo by now (at least moreso than he'd be around most legends) would be a point in their favor for Pleo not being read as a Protector.

"He wouldn't. No Protector on record that's ever awakened has grown as large as him yet, and I'm sure if we got a chance to look closer, we'd probably notice more things wrong with that 'Protector' prancing around," Sorge answered. "If anything, he and his buddies probably tried to cobble together that disguise from a bunch of drawings and the like and fill in the rest with other Pokémon they saw, hence the eyes."
Ahh, okay, a Ditto. Up until this point, I think I'd been imagining literally a painted/bedazzled Deerling. So a Ditto making a poor attempt at transforming would at least look a little less cheesy than that. xD

"Uhm… yeah, about that surrender… er…" the Aggron began. "I've put some thought into it and I think the only logical thing to do is-"
--RUN LIKE HELL

"We just spent over a day cleaning out the harbor from last time!" the Simisear snapped. "Don't dump that here! Get some bellows instead for when they pass the walls!"
I like that for how OP as seafire is, dumping it in your own harbor has some pretty nasty side effects to where you wouldn't just want to use it every single time there's a kerfluffle.

The Mistral Marauder moved along, clearing the walls and hitting the deepening blue of the open sea. The crew looked back, seeing smoke trailing up from the harbor gate as Pokémon all about the ship flopped to the deck breathing sighs of relief, leaving Hess to fish a round silvery, marbled stone from under his scarf and give it a relieved rub between his claws before turning to Kichiro and Rodion.
Aaaaand once again Hess's crew has bungled their way into narrowly eluding capture. :p

"… Who is this joker supposed to be?" she demanded.

Nagant glared back, before shooting a pressurized pulse of water at the Combusken's stomach, sending her pitching back with a pained squawk. Cardino and his companions jumped back as the wet hen spluttered and gagged on the ground, Eric and Hanuna backpedaling with a blanch and audibly nervous stuttering.
Every time someone says something like this, I guarantee they're saying it to the one mon in the viscinity who is ready and willing to kick their ass. :p

"You're coming too, Detective," Nagant barked, prompting Cardino to perk his ears up and stare back in shock.

"C-Come again?!" he cried. "You must be joking, pal! I'm a detective, not a sailor! The only boats I've ever set foot on just took me across the harbor!"
Lmaooo, I was not expecting Cardino to get dragged into the next arc like this. Nagant much be pretty desperate if she's grabbing mons who've never even set sail.

"It's just what Kline said about how we're making things worse… I already felt awful about Rasp and Bech… but now I can't even escape without messing something up?" he murmured. "I didn't know that just running away would make the Company stronger! If that's already going on, then what's going to happen if I get home? Is something terrible going to happen there too?"
Man, this is such an "Aang running from the Fire Nation" mood. Can't go anywhere or get helped by anyone without inviting the fury of the forces chasing you. It's not his fault! ;-;


Chapter 65:

Crom shuffled over, stretching his arms and wings with a yawn before he laid down on the straw. Crom arced his body, curling up beside his father as he shifted his wings to find a comfortable resting experience until he settled down, letting the sound of distant chatter and waves carry on as his eyelids drooped and the Dragon-Types drifted off into slumber.
D'aww, this was a cute moment. Good to see Crom get some quality time with dad.

The four at once jumped up with a start at the sound of an unknown voice, whirling around as they realized it was coming from the front door to the villa. There, the lot saw the form of a Weavile leaning against the wall, picking at his claws in seeming disinterest of the four's visible alarm.
Oh my god, as if their cavorting wasn't already just asking to get eavesdropped on, of course it had to be him.

The Weavile felt his claws brush up against something soft and light, prompting him to fish out a brilliant red-and white feather with a green bottom. The Dark-Type paused, giving a raise of his brow as he inspected the feather closely, only to notice that there were uneven patches of white showing all along the feather's quill much like the edge of a stain on a cloth, prompting him to shoot a mocking gaze at David and his companions.
Bwaha, so one of their possible scams would have involved Ho-oh. Wonder what sort of Pokemon they'd have based that transformation on.

"Just think of all those poor, innocent Pokémon that you swindled!" Zelle exclaimed as she moved a feeler to her forehead with a swooning motion.
This is positively dripping with BS, lmao.

"Tch, do you honestly think that we don't have a way of helping him escape?" Ketu scoffed. "Just do as you're instructed and everything will work out fine… unless you prefer the alternative…"

"No! No! That's fine! I just need to hang tight and you'll spring me!" David insisted. "I can deal with that!"
There is absolutely no way that everything will work out fine for him. :p

"Just stay here awhile and put a smile on your old dyado's face," he replied. "It's taking a while, but everything's finally starting to work out the way that we need it to."
Ah heck, now we've got Inler as a family man. Welp. He hasn't really been one of the antagonists at the forefront--mostly just running things in the background. Though I do wonder if any of these Company higher-ups will ever have to get their claws dirty themselves...

Nida started to follow along after him, when she looked down and widened her eyes out of excitement after poison dribbling down her right forepaw, the one part of her attempts to learn Poison Jab that had eluded her again and again the day before.
Nice! Nida was really needing a new move to rely on other than Poison Sting. Between that and Elty learning Will-O-Wisp, they're leveling up!

The Nidoran hurried off in Elty's direction, followed by Crom, Pleo, and Dimitri as the four took a more circuitous path away from the burning lava. All the while, a lingering unease clung about them, each of the lot wondering whether Xerneas really did have some manner of unpleasant surprise for them…
Hoo boy. Time for another showdown with Ketu. Here's hoping those new moves help give them an edge...

'Til next time!

~Chibi~
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
Also posting this on TR even though this chapter won’t be there for two more years. :V

87
-It’s hilarious to see Kiran lecturing about picking and choosing battles when the entirety of this fic has had very little picking and choosing of battles from his team. Hooray for broken Aesops!
-It’s been so long that I confess that I don’t remember Opdah whatsoever or what his previous interaction with Team Traveler was like. Might have wanted to slip in more of a reminder since Pleo brought it up anyway.
-Uh, myth references. Warriors of Light = Final Fantasy 1/3/5, Magical Kingdoms = Disney. Only one I’m not sure of is the Thousand Enemies. Forty Thieves, perhaps?
-Hi, Salvini. Bye, Salvini. I can’t imagine she’s being brought up here for no reason other than a reminder she exists. Something about her second and last chance leaves me feeling lie something bad will happen to her when Team Traveler is inevitably scrambling for the exit.
-I’m… not really sure what the point of the scene with Percy here really is. I liken it to when a TV show does a backdoor pilot for a spin-off series. That’s how it read to me. Kline and Percy discussing several “as you know” facts, except neither of them have had a tremendous amount of development (especially the latter), nor was there much in the way of foreshadowing and/or references in previous chapters to suggest this was a big enough deal for Percy to risk messing everything up for. I’m afraid it does come off a bit as padding for me. ^^;
-I said my piece on the coincidences stuff last time. Both bits with the goggles — which I didn’t even remember Pleo getting at this point — felt too coincidental for my liking. I’d overlook Zelle just so happening to show up at the academy, except I feel like she’s holding the Idiot Ball. I know the characters and narration try to hammer in this is some sort of gambit on her part, but it doesn’t feel that way when one would think she’d have the authority to find them out or at least would immediately go to Elilian and say they’re fraternizing with her daughter. And if it is a gambit, then it really seems silly Team Traveler isn’t hightailing it out of there as was suggested. I dunno, it just feels like this particular episode has a conclusion that needs to happen — probably the heroes getting captured by one or more parties — but the means of getting there don’t make the most sense.
 

Venia Silente

[](int x){return x;}
Am getting here with a bit of a pending review. See, I skipped most if not all of the fight in Ch.66. There were good reasons for that back at the time (Nidos! also, fight scenes can be very long and overbearing in writing) but right now we can clear the board a bit re: that pending stuff.

Ketu, holdng a claw at Nida's neck: "You rang? o3o"

Yeah, it's time to get some very good Elty screentime back.

Anyway! The fight opens up with an attempt at an escape move that, honestly, is too far transparent for even Hess to not see through.

Kiran: "Come on children let's all hug Pleo and pull off an escape."
Kiran: -pushes an Escape Orb into Pleo's hammerspace-
Ketu: "yeah no, listen, than's not gonna work."
Nida: "W-what do you mean?"
Ellsberg: "You see, we are contractually obligued to inform you that this is an event boss battle."
Ketu -snickers: "And we're the boss."
Kiran: "Yeah we've been through those before. Your point?"
Ellsberg: "See, since this is a plot marker, this arena is inescapable. Come on, try that little Escape Orb even Hess could see smuggling."
Pleo -hushes: "I told you guys this was a BAD idea! <_<"
Kiran: "U-uh oookay?"
-Pleo and everyone hug the Escape Orb and nothing happens-
Crom: "...This usually works."
Nida: "...I call hax on this >_>"
Ellsberg: "As a plot-mandated battle, any Escape Orbs, Farcasters or Escape Ropes you might have are as good as useless. More or less like all of you."
Nida -grits her teeth: "Fine, we'll have to crack this arena open."
Crom -growls at Ketu: "Yeah, the same way I'm gonna crack open your skull!"
Elty -sits down: "Actually, I'm rather liking it in here..."
Guardia -bonks Elty.

And thus, the mandated fight starts with at least some degree of advantage for our protags. I mean, it's a 8—2 numerical advantage, they have Pleo on their side and Elty is FINALLY in his element! This is absolutely going to go right... right?

Ketu: -ices Crom.
Ellsberg: -poisons Pleo.
Ketu: -staggers Kiran.
Ellsberg: -exhausts Dimitri.
Ander: -is just a Being a Marked Is Suffering™.
Kiran: "We can't give up just yet!"
Ketu: "Sure you can, lemme show you."
Ketu: -1HKOs Kiran.
Ellsberg: "See that? Take this!"
Ellsberg: -1HKOs Ander.
Ketu: "See, suckers? Even Elmer here is better than you."
Ellsberg: "I'll let it pass this time because I'm having way too much fun!"
Well that took a bad turn fast, and now the numbers are... 3—2. Lesson to all Pokémon adventurers and Monster Hunters: inform yourself of your opponents' capabilities and don't fail to equip and protect yourself from elementals and status effects adequately! Even more in PMD where status effects are OP.

Dimitri does recover enough to join the fight and puts up a valiant effort but, come on, Ketu is Ketu and by fair margin the better happy slicey mon in the scene right now. In the early part of the fight Dmitri's useful moves are limited to intercepting Ketu's own moves and that's not gonna last forever.

Also, to Elmer's benefit he does actually come close to killing Nida for good by hanging her over lava. Did I ever mention how *bad* an idea is to fight in a lava cavern when you are not built for the environment and don't have invisible walls to protect you from the lava and put it out-of-bounds?

Pleo: "We are losing badly! Any ideas? Like the ten ones I gave you half a chapter ago? >_>"
Elty: "Let's do what we should have done from the start!"
Pleo: "You mean LEAVING? <_<"
Elty: "Er... No, I mean using items."
Pleo: "O-oh.. Yeah, sure let's go with that."
Birb is having a bad day and honestly it's not his fault!

Nida has a decent idea to try and use a Confuse Wand and it goes badly because, honestly, the enemy is not going to give you the time to close in, cry "Stupefy!" (or "Confundo!" depending on the intended use) and point and wave. Actually, why did Nida even bother running towards Ketu? She could have just aim-and-point the wand at Ketu. Or just toss it at him, it would be far harder for the Weavile to detect that than to hear Nida's footsteps incoming.

Not to mention then Elmer grabs the item in question!

Ellsberg: "Can I try that too? Stupefy!" -waves wand.
Dimitri: -is confused by the many misteries of how do magnets work.
Ketu: -knocks down Dimitri hard.
Ketu -to Ellsbweg: "I'm actually impressed you even have good enough intent to harm."
Ellsberg: "Thanks! It's just you are so easy to hate."
Ketu: "I'll take that as a compliment. ^_^"

Why does Team Traveller keep forgetting that Elmer can remote fetch or remote toss *any* item the can use??? Anyway down does Dimitri for the count, so we're now back 3–2.

????: ""That's enough!"

Finally! Good doggo is here to save the d-- waaait why is there a green doggo instead of Elty?

Guardia: "My hero!" - softly bonks Elty on the head.
Elty: "...That wasn't me. >_>"
Guardia: "...O-Oh... @_@"
Kline: "You're welcome. See, I'm actually an usefu dog."
Elty -snarls: "Hey! This is a Fire environment map! This was supposed to be my day! MY day!"
Kline: "Cry me two rivers. Not only can I be a jerk to birb, I can also steal screentime!"

Much as the extra help is welcome, we know from further ahead in previous reviews that Kline is going to be insufferable about this, and about pretty much everything.

-5 minutes mark into the fight-
Nida: "Guys if we cart three times it's game over!"
Alice: "Don't worry!"
-Alice brings in a cache of supplies-
Nida: "Now we're talking!"
Alice fulfills the role of healer while apparently Calidus goes try and tank or draw aggro against Ellsberg. Admittedly not a bad idea because, confusing as it seems, it's Ellsberg who they have to get rid of first in order to win the fight (aerial range, remote fetch and usage of items, etc).

Nida: "I'll go wake Creom up!" -nabs a Lum Berry.
Alice: "...I was going to use that <_<"
Nida: -uses the berry on Crom.
Crom: "Uuuug what happened? Am I on Siglo Swellow yet?"
Nida: "No, we have a fight to win."
Alice: "You know that was a waste. Instead of spending a berry you could just have kissed him."
Nida: "..."
Crom: "..."
Pleo: "Good madam excuse me, what is—"
Nida: "PLEO NOT NOW! >_>"

At least we have a few more combatants back up on their feet now, so this is good news.

What is bad news is that Team Traveller did not mind sharing important intel for the newcomers! Namely, that a moth can use items too.

Calidus: "Staraptor who? Here, take something from bravest bird!"
Ellsberg: "How about no?" -trollfaces, waves wand.
Ellsberg: "Stupefy!"
Calidus: "Wwwwhaaaa! @_@"

And that's yet another temporary win for Elmer. It's actually a bit scary that he's being more effective than Ketu in this fight! But in the same way it's also a welcome sight.

"Augh!"

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

Admittedly I'm rooting for Ketu right now. At least so long as his sights are on Kline.

But hey, with Elmer down for the count it's everyone vs. Ketu! The attempts att attack from Percy, Ander and Guardia were good but where was the support unit tasked with keeping Elmer at bay? Since that was the new objective in the first place, and it would have helped things.

-Ketu tumbles donw to Elmer's position but he receives an attack-
Ketu: "...Hih! A back attack? That's an unfair tactic!"
Crom: "You would know."
Ketu: "Oh it's just atta boy. Go cry to your dad. Assuming he's still alive that is."
Crom: -incoherent and tactically impractical seethe-

Crom tried but really, he left himself wide open there. Also really, how much do these fighters suck that they can't land squarely hits on one (1) Pkémon? The only ones who got something good done so far were Guardia (BUT OF COURSE!!!) and...

...Pleo!

Ketu: "So long suc-" -is swept by a glowing ball.
Pleo: "Yay! I dids it! I defeated Ketu!"
Pleo: -victory dance-
Pleo: "I won Fledglings! Now I can go home freeeee! WHOOO HOOO!!"
Hess, Lyn, Inler and Nagant elsewhere: "Uuuuh do we tell him boys?"

It was good while it lasted but then we got even more entrants in as Team Sentinel arrives to save Ketu's bacon.

Zelle: "We brought some supplies! Also we're here to save the day."
Ketu: "Eeeeh I guess I'll have to take it."
Kiran: "B-but what is going on? I thought this was Ketu's boss battle?"
Ketu: "Alas I'm not to complain. For this once."

After the mandatory cutscene recovery of sorts, Team Traveller tries to force their way forward before Ketu and Ellsberg can be properly recovered. The best part during that section was the Protect wal, which worked nicely when it had to, and the fact that Zelle kept calling Kline a tool and demeaning him.

Pleo once again tries to save the day, summoning his cutscene powers, but since there are not enough followers available, his powers can't make up for a few specifically targeted attacks and he drops down like a fly.

Nida: "Eck! What do we do now?"
Elty: "Could I suggest for the fourth time already that we leave?"
Kiran: "Elty has a point <_< Everyone, let's fall back to the next floor!"

Yeahhh, that fight's not going well.

After that comes the dreaded segment of trying to navigate a MD's corridors hoping not to drop right into a Monster House. Not very useful when Ketu and team can follow them right after, but Nida has the right idea for that one, something that IMO Crom should smooch her over. o3o.

In the end however, the team is still bound when they are about to make their escape, and Ketu's team manages to capitalize on the forced rush to escape.

-Alice falls to the ground and lets loose a number of items including Kline-
Pleo: "Oh noes! We can't go, we dropped Kline!"
Everyone else: "F*ing finally!"
Pleo: "B-but!"
Guardia: "I'll get you a Kline plushie to squeeze later, for now we must go."
Pleo: -flashbacks to all thetimes Kline has been a jerk-
Pleo: "...That sounds not too bad, actually."
Everyone: "Let's goooooo!!!!"

And with that, everyone zips out of the dungeon and the quest is over! That was a long and arduous fight and the effects linger well for the next chapter, though I have to say in terms of dramatic potency and engagement, the fight left a notable element to be desired.

The thought goes that, as the fight went, I largely prefered the non-battle royale portions more. That is, the very beginning, the pacing change when Alice and team chime in, and the corridor sections.

For a boss battle it dragged for too long and went disorderly in written form, even if most of it is caused by the decision to Super Smash Bros it instead of having a flatter, more standard boss battle with clear partitions and isolated enocunters. See, historically battle royales work better when most if not all the agents in the fight are already there at the very beginning, instead of being poured into the fight. One example is Neo's fight against the Smith Army in Matrix: Reloaded: the fight is tactically decent and the visuals are good, but it's difficult to care for the fight because, asmore and more Smiths are added into the scene at random, it basically means Neo never makes any total progress, significant or not. Deck one Smith, two shall take its place. And this fight in Fledglings suffered from a similalr issue.

This provided extra difficulty in trying to care for what was going on because expected encounters (eg.: Crom vs Ketu) either didn't happen or were brief and shortcircuitted into the overall action. The fight tried to be like the Capital Smash Battle Royale but the tactical factors in its design and the way more and more people were poured into the fight meant that the factors that worked well during the Big Clash, didn't work that well here.

In the end, most of the fight was just bad in-universe decisions from most of everyone that Kline had to see through and design a plan for, so at least in-universe there's a sense as to why the fight shifted balance at every corner. That said, Kline should have come up with a much better plan than "gather everyone into a single-target cluster and hope we're not rekt'd when we do" (to his credit tho: he built the plan's second half with the Zygarde decoy precisely on the team taking a hit during that clustering phase), and honestly he has no right afterwards to call out Pleo or anyone on not managing themselves well in a fight even when at numerical advantage.

And while as we know from later Kline did have this plan and he was unfortunately not captured and he's going to be an insufferable ass on how yes it was his plan and everyone owes him...

...at least that means one good thing comes out of it:

-later, after escaping the port-
-Pleo: is happy at saving everyone's bacon (this time for real)-
Kline: "You suck and I have a long laundry list here of reasons why you suck. Everyone else also sucks, buy they barely even matter anyway. As for you, you couldn't even use your powers at the correct time and had to be rescued. You barely did it correctly now that we were leaving port. You should have this all down to form since like four arcs sooner."
Pleo: -thinks back to all the times Kline has been a jerk-
Pleo: "I have a response for all of that! ^_^"
Kline: "...Which is? Running away and going to cry in your bed?"
Pleo: -flashbacks to Guardia's offer about a squishable plushie-
Pleo: -grabs Kline and squeezes him.
Kline: "-eeeeep!"
Pleo: -repeatedly slams Kline on the bark of the ship.
Pleo: "The beatings will continue until your morale improves!"
Guardia: "..."
Elty: "..."
Guardia: "...Th—"
Elty -snarls: "Not. a. word."
Guardia: "...I was about to say this is technically my fault but OK."

Despite the bad moments Ch.67 at least makes up for it for most of everyone (except Team Scammers, but they deserve what they got honestly :p ) and while it's a shame we didn't get to see some more proper mano a mano yet, there's still time and that's not even counting the Fledglings sequels.

Because the characters seething at how their one on ones could not work properly in the fight were among the best parts...

Crom -stands above Ketu: "At last Dad and I shall reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we shall have revenge."
Ketu: "Not in this version of the script, sucker." -dashes off to sucker punch someone else.
Crom: "M-my screentime... :( "
Elty: "You tell me... <_<"

Now, the "spam toss Orbs to break the ongoing action and reshuffle encounters" was by far the worst part of the fight even if it was the tactically sound thing to do. This comes with the territory of having a setting where both items and status effects are OP and then you walk into a situation where you have to face both things at once. Much of the fight was "watch one side get smacked without recourse from item spam until some cavalry arrives and uses *even more items*".

In general it is more evident in how IMO some 1-on-1 interventions within the fight run much smoother than the overall (Zelle vs Kline and Guardia vs Ketu, for example) and in general the fight is much easier to follow as soon as at least someone is incapacitated, partly because this is done by spending items.

Heck, one of the most crucial moments in the entire fight which is Pleo charging up cutscene powers, is shortcircuitted by tossing two items at him. The problem is, this also shortcircuits lots of the emotional momentum the fight was building up until then because we were also being shown his mental and emotional process into the powers. I think if the cost was having the cutscene powers be shortcircuited with item spam anyway, this intrapersonal focus on Pleo would have been better left off esclusively for his action in Ch.67.

Tactically speaking the fight is good, in that the side that has items... well, abuses them as one rationally would. Ironically this provides the saving grace for the item spam: the *ways* to get people incapacitated were the best parts of the fight because other than Ellsberg's attempt at literally murdering Nida onscreen via lava, they didn't really have to fall back on the layout and environmental hazards to do that work, instead, they had to work to secure their bags and the time and place to be able to use an item, even if using the item itself after that was just a trivial and overpowered matter. There vere varied items for everone, both healing and hindering!

Speaking of the moth... Really, Ellsberg was the MVP of the entire first half of the fight in my opinion simply because he wanted to be a Harry Potter wizard, with Dimitri and Calidus making pretty good arguments for being the starts of the second half mostly on the grounds of being among the few fighters properly capable to hold on their one-on-ones.

You know who was not an MVP?

Elty: [sad lost screentime whimpers]

Some other day, Elty. Some other day...

All in all tho, a decent performance that could use some reshuffling or splitting for an eventual rewrite, but so far did what it had to do and put the extended team in bad enough straits that Pleo managing to save the day in Ch.67 actually emotionally matters.

Even if it comes at the cost of Elty losing the chance to shine in his best environs.
 
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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Chapter 66

"It's the same Empire that takes three days to send a letter across its own waters," Aldrich remarked. "Would you really expect their message to not get bogged down for some asinine reason?"
If there's one thing that's universal across worlds, it's complaining about the postal service taking too long. :p

The Kommo-o shook his head, about to brush the matter off when the Gliscor faltered a moment and the bag on his shoulder suddenly slipped and shook, with a brief glimpse of a rounded green head passing through the opening of a frontal pouch that made the dragon's eyes shoot wide open.
ohhh my god, just like that their cover is blown. xD It really is a small world.

Aldrich swiftly flew up to the rooftops, slipping along the opposite side of the eaves as he caught up with the passing party where he turned his ears and heard a familiar, squeaky voice.

"Just hurry up!" Kline piped. "Once we're outside of town I can change Forme without attracting too much attention!"
Okay, I can't really give them too much flack for letting themselves be overheard, considering it's a Noivern doing the eavesdropping.

Sorge paused and brought a claw to his chin in thought. On the one claw, not intercepting the messenger would likely mean that Ketu would have to fight his way back to Lyn's ship after capturing that Lugia. But on the other claw… they had managed dicier escapes before by working together, and if it would mean being able to finally bring Kline to Administrator Elilan on top of Pleo…
It has been decided, we will make life more difficult for Ketu (I'm ok with this lmao).

"I… suppose we need to know when we're beat," the Swellow sighed, prompting Pleo to turn to him wild-eyed with a frightened stammer.
Immediately suspicion that Kiran has some kind of gambit here.

"Why it's almost as pathetic as pretending to say goodbye to your teammate in order to rub up an Escape Orb."
ah ****. It really did seem like a good plan! Unfortunately Ketu is too genre savvy.

Kiran took wing and flew after the Escape Orb, only for it to suddenly take on a purplish glow and be flung off towards the lava, a quick glance back revealing that Ellsberg had cast it aside with Psychic. The orb struck the surface of the lava, failing to shatter as it deformed and the light within abruptly dissipated, the sphere melting into a lump of glassy slag much to Team Traveller's horror.
Ah geez. It's pretty easy to forget that Ellsberg actually has a decent array of tricks. Their follow up combo attacks are pretty brutal, and the two really do make a good team now that they're finally on the same page. Also, I have just realized that almost all of the protags are weak to ice here. Ack. Uhh... go Elty?

Nida watched as Ellsberg got blown back and struggled to stay airborne. Sensing an open opportunity to attack, the Nidoran dashed forward as poison began to dribble along her forearms. She leapt up at Ellsberg as he finally stopped himself, throwing her right arm back for a Poison Jab to the Mothim's head, only to feel her body abruptly jolt and stop in midair, and see Ellsberg looking at her with an outstretched arm and his eyes lit up in a violet sheen.
Man, Ellsberg having such a strong Psychic makes him hard to fight. He's honeslty as hard an opponent as Ketu! He really could stand to throw his weight around some more...

The Weavile's budding attack was cut off by a green, dog-like Pokémon suddenly lunging in and tackling him to the ground. The strange dog cracked open a maw lined with sharp fangs, throwing it at Ketu's neck as the Weavile hastily threw his claws up to try and fight the strange creature's jaws. Up in the air, Ellsberg stared stunned as his teammate thrashed about on the ground below, recoiling in shock at the strange intruder.
Eyy, Zygarde is here! Although, another 4x Ice weakness might not be the biggest help! (I know his team isn't too far behind lol).

Ketu looked around, realizing that Ellsberg was sprawled out on the ground between the groups Team Traveller and their new allies had divided into, with the lot of them shooting harsh, newly invigorated glares at him. The Weavile set his teeth on edge and scowled back as his freshly disadvantaged circumstances settled in on him. Sensing that their foe had met his match, a smug smirk settled over Guardia's face, as she gave a rap of her club against an open palm.
Always nice to see Ketu knocked off his high horse a little ;P (though I'm sure he still has more tricks in store).

Nice job Alice with that quick Embargo!

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

"Cállate!"
I remember just enough from spanish class for this to be incredibly satisfying lmao

At once, Pleo stammered and shrank back frightenedly. These were Rescue Team members, so why were they helping Pokémon from the Company?!
It's everyone's weakness! Empire-Company collusion!

Kline's body hit the ground limply, green light enveloping him as little orbs of light shot away from his body through the fog, shrinking his body down into an amorphous mass until all that remained was the now-unconscious form of the tiny serpent that Team Traveller had encountered the day before.
Aha, I guess that answers my question of if he needs to gather nearby cells in order to maintain that form.

The Lugia got up, beating his wings together determinedly as he felt newfound vigor from the wishing voices as light suddenly erupted along his plates, bathing the chamber in a silvery glow that caught everyone's attention.
It's a classic trope, but "divine beings literally strengthened by the hopes of their people" always gets me. Shame it got shut down so easily though. I wanted to see pleo smash! :screm:

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

… only for the group to just push the feral aside and keep running, prompting the lizard to get up in spluttering surprise before snarling and giving chase.
I love how they just have absolutely no time to deal with her, there are more important concerns. xD

Zelle readied another Shadow Ball to lob at the stricken falcon, turning her eyes away from the rest of the fleeing party. Sensing an opportunity at paw, Nida dashed up, driving her paw hard into the Sylveon's chest with a Poison Jab.
Eyy, finally Nida gets to land a good hit with her newest move, and on the target most weak to it, too. (And the most annoying target lol)

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

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

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

"For crying out loud, I'm right here!"
The company with TWO zygarde, thus being able to achieve 100% completion. :unquag:

Nah, but seriously, kudos to Kline on the bait-and-switch, that was clever. Genuinely unsure how he managed to pull it off!

"You should save your strength while you can," the Weavile jeered. "Sorge already handed over your stuff to the guards and tipped them off about you, so you'll probably need it if you don't want a one-way trip to the Wastes."
lmao of course a deal with them would go south. As if there was any doubt.

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

The gathered Pokémon tensed up, as a sinking suspicion of what the questions would be about came upon them. Even so, for now, it was perhaps for the best to just play along…
Juuust when it seemed like they'd get out without trouble for once. xD

But in all seriousness, this was a decent step forward for Team Traveller! Escaped capture and got some pretty significant new allies! Here's hoping that having Kline on their side ends up helping them make headway from here on out.

~Chibi~
 
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