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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

That night, the Siglo Swellow's members gathered in the mess hall, just as they had done many times before. The ship's sailors sat near the different tables throughout the room, as Team Traveller and Team Zephyr had come together around a larger table that had been cleared out at the center.

Beatrix and Vicente counted off the Pokémon in the room as the last few stragglers came in. A few Pokémon were absent, having missed the proceedings from what everyone presumed was a lack of energy from a day's hard work. Even Pyry and Pekka had come for the occasion… even if they seemed to be trying their hardest to convince the rest of the gathering otherwise they wanted to be anywhere else from the sluggish daze they'd been in since they belatedly regained sobriety. A few of the nearby sailors shot the two disapproving frowns, including Natrix and Philips, the Raichu of the pair folding his arms with a sharp scoff.

"You know, the plan called for you two to act drunk, not be drunk," he grumbled

"Yeah, just how dense do you have to be to mix that up?!" Natrix snapped.

The Gabite and Vibrava both flinched from Natrix's scolding and cradled their heads. The comedown from their rum had left the pair with splitting migraines, which made so much as a stern bark affect them like a stiff blow to their heads.

"Ngah! Ei niin kovaa!" Pekka buzzed. "My head's still killing me!"

"Y-Yeah, can't this meeting wait until we're feeling better?" Pyry whined.

"No!" Kline bellowed, slamming his forepaws against Pyry and Pekka's table as the two jumped up with startled cries. "Every minute counts here, and we can't afford to put this off because you two decided to be irresponsible idiots!"

The pair shrunk back, giving whining moans over Kline's alleged "lack of pity" as the Zygarde irkedly shook his head and looked away. Nida cocked a brow as she looked at Kline, bringing a paw to her mouth puzzledly.

"Actually, why haven't we started the meeting yet, Kline?" the Nidorina asked.

"We're still waiting on Alice," Calidus replied. "She said she wanted to buy some provisions for the ship before our meeting."

The Talonflame's explanation prompted the other Pokémon in the mess hall to trade uneasy stares and whispers with one another. Vicente himself was among them, as the Hitmontop looked over at the Fire-Type worriedly and tilted his head.

"For almost two hours? Is she alright?" he asked. "It shouldn't have taken that long to-"


Everyone looked over to the entrance of the mess hall at the sound of a Sneasel's voice and approaching footsteps. There, they saw Alice coming into the room, holding a bulky shopping bag in her right claw and chewing at what appeared to be some sort of brown cookie. The Sneasel finished her snack, before shooting a beaming grin and proudly raising the bag in full view of the gathered audience.

"Hope you all look forward to tasting some of Vollezee's snacks, since I got a bag of those gevulde koeken and speculaas that Percy told me about!" she cheered. "It only took visiting three bakeries to get enough for everyone!"

Loud, disapproving groans went about the room. While some, like the former pirates, seemed more excited about the prospect of free food, most of the gathering, including Percy and Calidus, buried their faces in paws or wings upon discovering Alice had kept them all waiting for a snack run. Kline took the revelation particularly poorly, as he stomped up to the Sneasel with his fangs bared in visible irritation.

"Alice! What on earth would make you think that was a good idea?!" the Zygarde snapped.

An impish smirk spread over the Sneasel's face, the Dark-Type giving no answer beyond a small shrug of her shoulders.

"Because those stroopwafels were great and this way everyone on the crew gets to enjoy some of the local food?" she retorted. "Besides, how can you hold an important meeting without some snacks?"

"Team Sentinel knows we're in the city!" Kline fumed. "They could've ambushed you while you were going about!"

Alice blinked quietly for a moment, seemingly taken aback by her teammates's reply. After her initial hesitation, she looked the other way and gave a dismissive wave back to Kline.

"Well, they didn't, so… yeah. Besides, when was the last time anyone from Team Sentinel set up a trap around some random bakery?"

Percy let out a low grumble and pinched his brow. While Alice was certainly quick on her feet, she certainly could try a 'mon's patience at times. But there would be plenty of time to chew her out later, right now, they had more important things to worry about.

"Enough," the Gliscor sighed. "We don't exactly have the luxury of time to work with, so let's just get this briefing started."

Percy motioned for the Pokémon about him to come closer to the center table. Team Traveller and their companions waited for the sailors to approach and peer over, while Alice went around passing out snacks in the background, with Elty and Pleo taking a particular shine to the sweets. The Gliscor pulled a long roll of paper from under the table and unfurled it on its surface, revealing a rough drawing of a set of four floorplans that were drawn near each of the corners, which Kline pinned down with a forepaw.

"We made a map of the Archive to help plan things out," Percy began. "It's not as good as it could be, since we had to copy most of the floorplans in a hurry from a library, while we drew the basement level based off what Kline saw."

"It's as detailed as we could've hoped for half a day's observations," Kline insisted. "Anyhow, the Archive is sectioned off into a secure wing to its west by iron doors on the ground floor. The access to the basement level is behind them, with the actual Vault sitting in the center of it."

The Zygarde lifted his paw, moving it along the paper until he stopped at the center of the leftmost floorplan. Just then, a few crumbs dribbled onto the paper, prompting him to glance up and see Alice eating a cookie over the paper. After a brief, wordless glare, the Sneasel pulled back with a roll of her eyes, leaving Kline to dust the floorplan off in annoyance, before pointing at an unfilled circle that had been drawn in a gap between thick lines representing the Vault's walls.

"The door to the Vault and its locks are all made from solid metal. From the glimpses I could see whenever the guards opened the door, the interior also seemed reinforced on all sides," Kline explained. "Even if it wasn't constantly being watched, we'd never be able to break into it through brute force without alerting every guard in the Academy to our presence."

Guardia gave a puzzled tilt of her head, before giving a curious poke at the map with her club.

"That… sounds a lot harder to get into than I thought," the Cubone said. "I thought that we had a way of getting in, though. Will it really work against doors that are built so strong? While Team Sentinel's lying in wait for us?"

Kline paused briefly at Guardia's question, before shaking his head back and continuing on.
"I don't think that whatever Team Sentinel is planning is meant to happen before we make it into the Vault. Otherwise, they'd already have started searching places for us, like the docks," Kline insisted. "But that's a problem for us to get to a bit later. The solution to the issue of how to get into the Vault is simple: we have the Company open it for us."

The Zygarde's declaration drew nervous whispers and grumbles from most of his audience, a few sailors muttering comments such as "he's joking, right?" or "eso es una locura". Strangely enough, Team Traveller's members seemed wholly unbothered, as Pleo raised one of his purple-dyed wings up and piped up.

"They will, actually!"

Pleo waddled over to his bag and after pulling back the flap, stuck his head in. He briefly nosed about inside, before he took out his goggles and set them on the table. The Lugia's eyewear drew some puzzled frowns and brow raises from the audience, before the young Protector spoke up to explain himself.

"Sophie told me that my goggles were something that would normally be kept inside the Vault, and that if I brought them over the Pokémon there would take them," Pleo chirped. "We can use that to get into the Vault!"

The Lugia's plan drew skeptical looks from the rest of the room. The sailors tried to keep their doubts more polite and reserved, while the former pirates were much more forthright. After all, everything about the description of the Vault had made it sound like even a Protector would have trouble breaking it down, so then…

"Eh? How's that supposed to work?" a Sableye questioned.

"Yeah!" a Quilava added. "The Company's not just going to let you waltz in and snatch that ledger just because you have some way of getting the door open!"

"No, but they would if there was a big enough distraction happening from inside of it," Kline answered. "As long as I got in, it'd be trivial for me to both provide such a distraction and hide my presence afterwards. It'd also give Pierce and the others all the cover they need to come in as Company reinforcements."

Kline's explanation was met with puzzled murmurs from the rest of the gathering. An Unfezant peered over with a blank stare, furrowing his brow in disbelief.

"Wait, it does?" Pat wondered. "I'm not sure if I follow you there."

"Kline can turn invisible, remember?" Guardia replied. "If he changes back into that "Core" form he normally goes around in someplace where he's not being watched, we can sneak him in without the guards knowing. He could even do it right here below deck!"

"That's right. It shouldn't be that hard to sneak him in along with those goggles. And as long as he moves his Cells away from the ship before he goes in, it'll look like he's coming from everywhere at once." Elty insisted. "Once he gets in, he just changes back into his current Forme, raises a little hell, and there you go. A ticket for us to send in those 'reinforcements' to help out."

Elty beamed and wagged his tail, only to stop and trail off after noticing the ship's crew still seemed to be unconvinced. A Sliggoo narrowed his eyes, before casting a glance over at the Pokémon around the central table.

"Then who exactly are we sending in as 'reinforcements'?" the Dragon-Type asked.

"Older Pokémon who have a feel for the campus grounds and aren't already well known by the guards," Calidus insisted. "That's where we would come in."

"Right, the guards wouldn't be likely to turn down our help if we were in Company colors," Alice explained. "Once we're in, the inside of the Vault would be a mess, so it wouldn't raise any alarms if the Ledger didn't turn up right away."

"Exactly," Kline said. "Additionally, the very properties that make the Vault so robust also make it hard for others to watch from the outside, even from the likes of a Luxray trying to peer in."

The Zygarde moved his paw back to the location of the Vault on the floorplan, where there inside, four dots had been drawn in a pattern that looked like a diamond or a cross.

"That's why there's a small team of four guards normally posted inside with badges for Psychics to sense if something is amiss," the Keeper of Balance continued. "As soon as they're overpowered, I can throw their badges into a corner, and the Company would then be none the wiser to Percy and the others switching out the Ledger for a dummy book."

As soon as Kline finished speaking, Pyry and Pekka's eyes lit up. Even in the midst of their hangovers, the two sensed an opportunity for adventure and rare loot. With everything the Zygarde had told them, it sounded like they could literally just walk in and take whatever they wanted!

"Ah! That's easy!" Pyry cried, before Pekka chimed in with a buzzing flit of his wings.

"Yeah! We'd be able to find that Ledger in-!"

"You two are staying on the ship," Kline snapped. "The guards already know you quite well from your drunken brawl earlier, so you'd only cause trouble if you came along."

The Gabite and Vibrava froze for a moment, their enthusiasm deflating as the two Dragon-Types looked away with a pair of quiet sulks. Undeterred, Alice walked up and gave the pair some reassuring pats.

"Eh, don't take it too personally, it's just what's most practical. Besides, you two are pretty experienced sailors, and we're going to need all the help we can get to make sure we pull out of here in one piece," she insisted. "I'm assuming that Team Sentinel's prepared some sort of nasty surprise for us when we attempt to leave, and if we can't slip out in spite of it, then all of this will have been for nothing."

Pyry and Pekka blinked and hesitated at Alice's reassurance, before grudgingly conceding the point. Towards the center of the gathering, Beatrix shook her head, casting a wary glance off at Kline and the others.

"On that note, once you have the Ledger, how are you planning on getting back before anyone notices?" the Illumise captain asked. "Even with our disguises, we shouldn't risk lingering around more than we need to."

"Filbert and the others showed us a shortcut out of the Archive," Crom explained. "It goes right to the canal that runs through the main building, which connects directly to the central one of the entire city. As long as Dimitri's waiting in the water, we should be able to get out in a hurry."
"With only one swimmer?" Beatrix pressed. "Especially if you're expecting Team Sentinel to attack you after leaving the Vault?"

"One swimmer and three fliers. We're not exactly sitting this one out, and it should be just enough to carry everyone," Percy reminded. "As for Team Sentinel, we'll be putting together some orbs and seeds we can use to delay pursuers if something goes wrong on our way out. If Team Sentinel does come after us, it'll help us even the odds a bit."

The Siglo Swellow's crew mulled the Gliscor's reply, and the more they talked the matter over to themselves, the more and more it sounded like this plan could actually work. The sailors' mood began to take on a more confident turn, as Kiran looked around and gave a quiet ruffle of his feathers.

"… I know that this is a big risk, but we all knew that before we came here," the Swellow insisted. "Are there any objections to this plan?"

A few 'nays' came back in reply, as more and more joined in. Before Team Traveller knew it, the crew had whipped themselves up into an eager mood, with a couple more enthusiastic Pokémon chiming in with cries of 'Let's get on with it!' and 'We'll have that Ledger in no time!'. Team Traveller and their companions breathed out sighs of relief, as Kline stepped forward and gave a grateful nod back at the surrounding sailors.

"Thank you for trusting us. And rest well," the Zygarde said. "We've got a big day tomorrow, and we'll need to be at our best for it."

As the beating heart of the Company, Canalhouse City's more trafficked districts hummed with activity at almost all hours of the day. Even well past nightfall, the streets and canals remained busy with more nocturnal Pokémon who roused from their daytime slumber to take the place of their diurnal compatriots.

It was that hustle and bustle that had been Albert's motivation to finally get off the Siglo Swellow after almost three days without setting foot ashore. He, Charlie, and Marilyn needed a change of scenery from the ship's decks, and as the three con artists made their way along the central canal of Canalhouse City, the crowds on shore, the swimmers and watercraft in the canal, and the surrounding canalhouses more than satisfied that yearning.

The Nuzleaf soaked in the hubbub of the world around him and let out a content sigh. Perhaps when all of this was over, they'd come back and ply their trade here. After all, in a city this size, there were bound to be no shortage of suckers. The Grass-Type turned off to gawk at a passing raft, when from the corner of his eye, he spotted Marilyn fidgeting uneasily, before the Eevee shot a worried glance up at him.

"Albert, should we really be going this far out from the ship at this hour?" she murmured. The Normal-Type's question drew a dismissive scoff from her Nuzleaf teammate, who turned back with his hands on his hips.

"It's fine, Marilyn. We're not the ones who are wanted here," Albert insisted. "And after all the work that slave driver of a snake's put us through since Buyeom, we deserve a night out on the town."

Marilyn hesitated a moment, before perking her ears up and letting a small smile spread over her muzzle.

"I mean, I suppose seeing a showing of The Luxray King wouldn't be the end of the world," the Eevee chuckled.

Albert shot a cheerful grin back at his junior partner and continued on a ways, only for his eyes to notice that Charlie's gaze remained fixed at the paving stones underfoot. Before the Nuzleaf could pry further, the Riolu raised his head, shooting a small frown back at his ringleader.

"How much longer are we going to have to do this though?" Charlie asked, prompting the Nuzleaf to raise a brow in reply.

"Eh? What do you mean by that?" he asked.

"I mean, when are we going to go back to how things were?"

Albert blinked and bit his tongue in awkward silence for a moment. The Nuzleaf's features drooped, before he shook his head with a low sigh.

"Look, I know it hasn't been fun, but it's been barely over a week since we got sucked into all of this," the Grass-type insisted. "Just hang in there a little longer."

"And what about David, huh?"

Albert fell silent at Charlie's question. He said nothing in response, after all, just what could he say? The Riolu balled his paws up at his partner's lack of answer, and grit his teeth in frustration.

"We're just supposed to sit and let him rot while none of those jerks care about helping to get him back?!" Charlie cried. "How long are they going to make us do this?!"

The Nuzleaf slowed to a stop as he passed the mouth of an alleyway, before hanging his head. As Charlie and Marilyn caught up with their leader, they saw him hesitate and heard him let out a quiet sigh, before turning back to them with a glum expression.

"Charlie, we're three 'mons, and we don't even know where those square-necks took him!" Albert exclaimed. "I get that you're worried, but be reasonable here! What do you expect us to do?! Just go up to those 'Team Sentinel' goons to give them a piece of our mind?"

"That can certainly be arranged."

Albert froze, before seeing a dark-furred arm shoot in front of him and wrap around his throat from behind. The Nuzleaf felt himself get dragged back, when he abruptly heard the sound of strong wingbeats along with Charlie and Marilyn letting out stifled yelps. The Grass-Type flailed his arms and thrashed as he tried to break free of his assailant pulling him into the inky shadows of a darkened alley. Albert tried to turn and see his attacker, when he felt icy claws dig into his neck and his blood run cold.

Albert's mind went blank in a panic, and the next thing he knew, he was being thrown against a wall, with Charlie and Marilyn meeting the same fate after a pair of large, bat-like wings tipped with red claws did much the same. Albert sucked in a sharp breath and turned around, where much to his horror, he saw Ketu and Aldrich staring down at them with malicious sneers.

"Now there's some faces I never expected to see again," the Weavile said. "You know, you really should consider covering your tracks when sneaking off from your ship this late."

The Weavile sauntered over with a threatening smirk, flashing his claws as he neared the cornered shysters.

"I'm sure that there's a long, not terribly interesting story behind why you're here, but let's cut to the chase here," he snapped. "We've got some questions for you, and you're going to answer them. Right now.."

For a moment, the only thing Albert could hear were the sound of his, Charlie, and Marilyn's panicked breaths, as his eyes darted about for any sign of a way to escape. His Riolu and Eevee companions dug their paws in, trying their hardest to summon defiant scowls, only for their eyes to betray their barely-suppressed fear of the Weavile and Noivern accosting them.

"A-As if we'd ever work with the likes of you again!" Marilyn piped.

"Y-Yeah! You left us out to dry once already!" Charlie snapped. "How stupid do you think we'd be to trust you again?!"

Aldrich leaned in towards the two younger Pokémon with an overpowering glare, the pair letting out frightened squeaks as he bared his fangs and let out a low snarl.

"I don't think you understand just how bad of a situation you're in right now," the Noivern said. "You'd be wise to pipe down and answer our questions."

Albert, Charlie, and Marilyn squirmed and shrank back against the wall. After being satisfied he'd cowed the three into submission, Aldrich let out a sharp huff, narrowing his eyes as he continued to speak.

"In case you haven't noticed already, you're not going to fight your way through us. Not to mention we just caught you red-handed impersonating Company personnel," the Noivern harrumphed. "That alone would get you stuck picking Apricorns in a field for years, or considering what your current buddies are up to right now, rotting behind bars on Nagrobek."

Ketu's expression eased up a moment, and reached out a claw. The three flinched, expecting a sudden blow at any moment, when they peeked up and saw the Dark-Type staring back at them with a smile that seemed almost amiable.

"But there's no need for things to come to that. We're reasonable Pokémon and open to negotiating," Ketu insisted. "After all, we already have some idea of why you're here."

Albert and his companions stiffened up at the Weavile's words. They hadn't expected to run into these bastards again, and yet they already knew why the Siglo Swellow drug them along?

"You- You do?" Charlie gulped.

"A little bird told us that your new friends are going around searching for pieces of something called the 'Knights' Ledger'. We also heard that they're sitting on one of them right now," Ketu said. "Help us find it, and we'll pull some strings so that way you can see your little blob friend again. You do miss him, don't you?"

Charlie and Marilyn hesitated at the Weavile's question. Every bone in their body was screaming not to trust him and that Noivern. B-But those two knew where David was and how to find him! They could very well make good on their offer. Could. But even if they made good on it, at what cost would it come?

"I-I…" Marilyn stammered. "We…"

"The crew dips their toes into smuggling," Albert suddenly cut in. "If I had to guess, they probably have that Ledger of theirs shoveled away in Captain's Quarters."

Albert quietly sucked in a sharp breath and blinked nervously, casting a glance slightly downward. Ketu and Aldrich's eyes widened briefly, as if they were surprised by his answer, before the Weavile studied him with a scrutinizing gaze. After a brief moment of hesitation, Ketu narrowed his eyes, as ice suddenly sprouted on his claws. The Nuzleaf reflexively raised his hands to try and shield his face, only to feel an icy punch at his stomach. Freezing agony shot through Albert's body, the Grass-Type bowling over from the blow and crumpling to the ground much to Charlie and Marilyn's yelping alarm.

The Nuzleaf lay in place wheezing for air trying to nurse his frigid and bruised stomach. Just then, he felt himself get yanked up by his head leaf and Ketu's claws wrap around his throat as their points dug into his skin. Albert drew in shallow, frightened breaths as he looked up, and saw Ketu's face leaning in against his, his eyes locked into a piercing glare.

"Next time I hit you, it won't just be a little love tap," the Weavile spat. "So let's try this again, where is the Ledger?"

Albert hesitated and grimaced. While he hadn't gotten that close to the Siglo Swellow's crew, he still felt uneasy about throwing them under the ship—to 'mons who'd left David trapped in an Apricorn and ratted them out to the guards on Buyeom, no less! Why, there was exactly zero reason to trust a word that came from this cat's mouth!

Pain shot through the Nuzleaf's neck as he felt Ketu tighten his grip and dig his claws deeper into his skin. Whatever he thought of undermining the Siglo Swellow, one thing was crystal clear: this 'mon was ready to kill him if he didn't say something that satisfied him.

… He just wanted to know a location, right? It's not as if the Siglo Swellow wouldn't be able to defend the Ledger if he was able to slip away and pass a warning along to them, right?

"Look, they're always going in and out of the second-to-last sleeping quarters from the bow on the ship's port side. I've never seen it for myself, but I've heard wood clattering a few times when passing by there," Albert insisted. "If they really have this 'Ledger' you're going on about, there's gotta be some sort of compartment in there where they're hiding it!"

Ketu paused and fell silent at the Nuzleaf's reply, the Dark-Type pulling his claw back as he stepped back and curled his muzzle up into a knowing smile.

"See, I knew I could count on you to come through, Albert."

Aldrich shuffled his wings, turning to his Weavile partner with a small frown.

"Is there anything else you need from them, Ketu?"

The Weavile stopped and pondered for a moment, before closing his eyes with a wave of his claw back in response.

"Nah, I think I can work with what these jokers gave us."

"L-Look, you have what you want," Marilyn stammered. "So let us go already!"

The Weavile rolled his eyes and nonchalantly pulled back the flap of the satchel around his shoulder. There at the top, Albert and his companions saw the rind of a White Apricorn poking out. The three froze and felt the color drain out of their faces, looking up to see the Dark-Type shooting them a threatening smirk.

"And keep you from being able to say 'hi' to your Ditto friend again?" Ketu asked. "Now what kind of person would I be if I did that?"

Aldrich beat his wings together and brought a swirling, overpowering gale down on the three con artists, throwing their bodies about limply like a trio of Substitutes. As the winds of Aldrich's Hurricane died down, the alley returned to silence beyond the faint churn of lagoon water and Canalhouse City's nightlife in the background.

Ketu glanced over the unconscious forms of Albert and his companions, before he brought a White Apricorn down on Albert's head. A flash of light swallowed up the Nuzleaf as he collapsed into the Apricorn. The Weavile scoffed and reached with a thick cloth into his bag and pulled out another white nut before repeating the process with Charlie, and then once again with Marilyn. Ketu deposited the three now-filled Apricorns into Aldrich's bag, before turning his attention back to his teammate.

"So they really do have a volume of the Ledger," the Weavile remarked. "I dunno what they did to pull that one off, but no reason to complain about a lucky break."

Aldrich looked down at the Apricorns briefly and covered up the mouth of his bag, when he glanced over at Ketu with a wary twitch of his ears.

"You know, we could've taken care of this half an hour ago," the Noivern began. "Alice had her guard down with that shopping bag of hers, and she would have had a better idea of where the Ledger was being kept anyway."

Ketu flattened his ears and looked away towards the ground. After a moment's hesitation, the Weavile turned back with a low, bitter-sounding mutter.

"Yeah, well, it wasn't that easy and you know it," Ketu said. "She wouldn't break like some random sailor, which is why we waited for a group like these guys to turn up. Besides, things worked out fine, didn't they?"

The Noivern raised a brow and looked at Ketu skeptically for a moment. After a noticeable pause, the bat closed his eyes and relented with a sigh.

"Fair enough."

"Anyway, I'll let you take care of putting these jokers on the first ship to Nagrobek. As for me…"

Ketu walked out onto the street and turned his head slightly, his eyes picking up the sight of the lights from the Company's military harbor on the other side of the central canal. The Weavile crossed his arms, before a small smile formed on his face.

"I've got a mission to prepare for right now."

Much to her relief, Salvini's job guarding the Academy's grounds went by that day without incident. Her companions had gone without seeing anyone from Team Traveller, and after hours, they all had an urge to spend time with one another.

Her idea for an activity had been the one to ultimately win her friends' favor, namely to spend the evening together over drinks at a tavern near her new lodgings, not far from the modest apartment she'd grown up in for much of her childhood. Before long, the four found themselves happily wiling away their time and sobriety at a simple wooden bar in a room dimly lit with warm candlelight, as a Gothorita barkeep darted to and fro between customers.

The four spent the evening at a set of stools set out at the bar, with Hertsog at one end, Salvini at the other, with Phyllis and Payak between the two. The Ariados of the lot sat at a taller seat and raised a clay cup by slipping one of his legs into a holder, before bringing it to his mandibles. Payak gave a wary swig of the cup's contents and clicked his mouthparts, Salvini watching carefully from a shorter seat to his left to study his reaction as she gave a curious tilt of her head.

"So, what do you think?" the Grovyle asked.

"Well, it's not rakia…" Payak began. "But the jenever here isn't half bad! I think I could get used to it."

A small smile settled over Salvini's face as she watched Payak take another sip from his drink. It was nice to see that in spite of their circumstances, Payak was finally warming up to her old home, and what would be her companions' for the foreseeable future. The Grovyle reached for her cup on the counter, when she saw Hertsog staring down idly at his own drink. Phyllis had evidently noticed it too, as the Marked Leafeon tilted an ear back and pawed uneasily at his side.

"Is something the matter, Hertsog?" she asked. "You've been awfully quiet tonight."

The Mienshao turned his attention from his cup and glanced over at his Marked colleague. Hertsog blinked briefly, seemingly drifting in his own thoughts, before shaking his head with an apologetic sigh.

"Izvinyavaĭ," he replied. "I've just had things from work on my mind."

Salvini, Payak, and Phyllis traded glances with each other. Even if Hertsog was usually more reserved than them, it wasn't like him to be this withdrawn when they went out for drinks together…

"Did something happen on the job?" Payak asked.

Hertsog remained silent for a moment, and picked up his cup to drink from it, before setting it aside and turning on his stool. Salvini helped herself to the rest of her own cup's contents, noting that the Mienshao had a serious, guarded expression. Hertsog nodded back to Payak, before speaking up in a low voice, just loud enough for him to be heard over the chatter of the other patrons in the background.

"There was a disturbance that happened around the Archive earlier today," the Fighting-Type explained. "Apparently some drunken students had gotten into a fight with each other. Normally I wouldn't think too much of it…"

The Mienshao trailed off for a moment, before shaking his whiskered head with a low sigh.

"But there's just been some strange things happening lately, and it stood out to me," he remarked. " What about you? Did any of you see anything strange during your patrols?"

Salvini flinched mid-drink as Hertsog spoke, and broke down into startled coughing. The Grass-Type accidentally spat up a good half of her remaining drink onto the counter and tried to calm herself, when she turned and noticed her teammates staring at her.

The Grovyle brushed her mouth with the back of her hand as the Gothorita barkeep shuffled up and shot a sour frown at her. Salvini grimaced briefly, where after a bit of awkward stammering, she forced a sheepish smile over her face in front of her teammates.

"S-Sorry, I was just drinking a little too quickly," she insisted. "The stuff burns a little."

The Gothorita summarily wiped down the counter in front of her, Salvini squirming from embarrassment and deep unease as her teammates continued to eye her. Payak was the first to turn his attention back to his drink, shooting an askew glance back from the corner of his eye.

"I mean, I knew you liked your jenever, but I didn't think you were that eager to get through your drink, Salvini," Payak murmured. "Though to answer your earlier question, Hertsog, I don't think that I have seen anything strange."

Phyllis shuffled her forepaws uneasily at the Ariados' words. She seemed to visibly weigh whether or not to say anything for a moment, before opening her mouth to speak up.

"Actually… the other day I saw a Cubone and a Growlithe in the library that reminded me of the ones we ran into on Mengir," the Leafeon said. "I… told myself that it was probably nothing, since there's no logical reason why they'd be here, but…"

The Grass-type visibly shivered and pinned her ears back, as her voice came out in a low, worried whine.

"I… I know that it's going to sound crazy, but… what if that demon really did come back?" she asked. "What if he's right here in Canalhouse City while nobody even knows about it?"

Phyllis's questions were at once answered by a dismissive scoff, as Payak turned and glanced at her from his stool with an unimpressed frown.

"Nima? This story again? Phyllis, it was just a case of mistaken identity, it happens," the Ariados chittered. "There's no reason for you to still be so wound up over some overgrown Wingull!"

"… And if things weren't that simple, Payak?"

Payak and the others paused and blinked as Hertsog's question hung in the air. Payak turned on his seat to face his Fighting-Type companion, who was staring at him with a serious gaze, making the Bug-Type warily raise a brow.

"Eh? What are you getting at, Hertsog?" the spider wondered.

"Let's just assume for the sake of argument that Phyllis is right," the Mienshao began. "We… obviously wouldn't agree on whether or not what she saw was a demon, but… would you still be dismissing her concerns so quickly?"

The Ariados fell silent and hesitated for a moment, before giving a puzzled tilt of his head.

"You mean, if those brats really were here again?" the Bug-Type asked. "What are the odds of that happening, let alone that that bird with them actually being a Protector?"

Hertsog shook his head back and narrowed his eyes with a small frown, raising his voice to continue to press his point.

"I'm well aware of what the odds are, Payak. Again, this is a hypothetical," the Fighting-Type said. "If Phyllis is right and there really is… such a unique Pokémon like that in the city, would you still feel this way?"

Payak fell silent for a moment, before he quietly pulled his legs close to his body and grudgingly spoke up in reply.

"I mean, I guess I wouldn't… since that'd mean that bird really is a Protector. That's not the sort of 'mon you would want to get on the bad side of, especially not for how much we're getting paid," the Ariados admitted. "But why would the Company get involved with trying to 'monhandle a Protector like that?"

Salvini cleared her throat to suppress a nervous titter, which Payak thankfully didn't seem to pick up on. After a moment to compose herself, the Grovyle let her attention drift back to Hertsog, as he shook his head with a low murmur.

"I don't know, but Phyllis has been adamant that one of the Pokémon we ran into on Mengir was a 'demon'," the Mienshao insisted. "If nothing else, it makes sense to be a bit open-minded."

Salvini blinked at Hertsog's statement. While she hadn't expected him to be nasty about Phyllis' fears, hearing him even entertain the possibility she was onto something was… unexpected, to say the least.

"What… makes you say that?" the Grovyle asked. Her Mienshao companion remained silent at first, turning his gaze down at the counter with a shake of his head.

"There's… just been a lot about what's happened to us over the past couple weeks that doesn't make any sense to me," Hertsog replied. "I'm well aware of what the official explanation was, but between the way Commander Briggs and Administrator Zorn were conducting themselves, and the rumors circulating about what happened with those riots in Tidemill City… there's just some things that don't add up about what those two told us on Mengir."

Hertsog reached for his cup and gave it an idle swirl, before letting out a quiet sigh and speaking up to reassure his teammates.

"It's probably nothing, but still. It's not unreasonable for Phyllis to think there might have been something more to what happened back there," he insisted. "And perhaps whatever did happen there is not as behind us as we thought. After all, the higher-ups aren't doing a whole lot to act otherwise."

A brief silence fell over the group, as one after the other, the four returned to their drinks. Salvini reached for her cup of jenever and as she raised it to her mouth, she could hear Phyllis quietly murmuring a 'thanks for having my back there' to Hertsog.

The Grovyle shot an aside glance at the former Mienshao captain, wondering to herself if the Fighting-Type genuinely believed the words he'd said on the Phyllis' behalf earlier, or if he'd just said them as a courtesy to help her mood.

… Either way, she supposed it didn't matter much, since for all she knew, Team Traveller would turn tail and sail out of port tonight. Right now, perhaps it was best to just focus on her drink and have a good time with her friends.

The next morning, the skies over Canalhouse City were overcast and gray. The gloom above did little to lift Darzin's mood as he flew through the air, the dampness reminding him of a home he'd long lost, while the chill brought back unwelcome memories of his first few cold nights away from it.

Not that he'd have been in better spirits even without the weather weighing down on him. Much of the past couple days had gone by in a fruitless search for the Siglo Swellow, as time and again, his attempts to shadow the Guardian of the Seas and his friends kept failing due to him losing sight of them amid the crowds of the city. He had also made an attempt to find their ship and capture Lugia there, but in spite of combing the expected docks high and low, there was no trace of the dark gray sails they'd flown on Haipheh.

On top of it all, the indignity of Team Sentinel's ambush yesterday also lingered on the Dragonite's mind. After everything he'd endured to try and use the Guardian of the Seas as a bargaining chip with the rest of the Board, it'd be a snowy day on Sormus before he'd let that Kommo-o and his cronies ruin all his efforts at the last moment!

"Hrmph, if those meddling spies think that they can steal Lugia out from under me, they've got another thing coming."
He hadn't been able to track down their personnel files in a mere day, but even so, he had… methods that would hopefully take the lot of them off the board as competitors. The Dragonite shifted his glance over at his right claw, which he'd tightly balled up into a fist around a scrunched-up indigo cloth. The Dragon-type gave a firm squeeze at it, before training his attention down at the city's islets below.

Darzin flew ahead as the military harbor came into view among the gabled rooftops. The Dragonite looked down among the network of canals and streets below, studying the surroundings when he chanced to come across a waterside terrace directly south along the canal running past the harbor. There, the Dragon-Type spotted a Kommo-o and a Noivern seated among the tables and blinked, circling about for a better look. Alongside the two Pokémon was the same Sylveon from the day before, and a Mothim that he didn't seem to recognize, but could have sworn he'd seen somewhere before. But even between the three faces that he could recognize, it was clear that this was the group he was looking for.

"And here I thought I'd need to comb the Academy to find them again," he grumbled. "Let's hurry up and move this along."

Darzin swooped down from the air and landed on his feet in a low crouch, his arrival causing a noticeable thump that drew the attention of the nearby Pokémon away from their drinks and meals.

"There you are!" Darzin fumed. "Where on earth have you all been?!"

Team Sentinel looked up from the table, with Ellsberg jolting up and letting out a surprised buzz at the sight of the Dragonite.

"H-Huh?! Administrator Darzin?!"

The Bug-Type wondered briefly what on earth the Administrator was doing away from his duties at the Records Department, only to notice Sorge, Aldrich, and Zelle's reactions transform into frowns of sour annoyance. Zelle narrowed her eyes, throwing a feeler over her face and dragging it downwards with a low groan.

"You have got to be kidding me…"

"No, I'm not kidding," Darzin snapped. "And you'd do well to respect your superiors here!"

Sorge shot a dark glare across the table and balled his left claw into a fist. The Kommo-o paused when he noticed from the corners of his eyes that there were other Pokémon in Company lavenders staring at them. Sorge hesitated briefly and exhaled, before forcing a more muted expression over his face and leaning in with a quiet growl.

"You should rein in your attitude," the Kommo-o snarled. "How do you expect this to end any different than yesterday?"

Sorge noted that Darzin didn't seem fazed by the implied threat and instead bared his fangs back. Was it the other Company Pokémon nearby giving him such boldness? Him misreading their strength? Or just him being that much of a glutton for punishment?

Sorge didn't know, and frankly didn't care too much about the reason. Whatever had made the Dragonite think it was a good idea to seek them out, he was advancing on them all the same, and clearly eager for a confrontation.

"Bold of you to think that you're in any position to publicly deny me!" Darzin exclaimed, holding out an accusatory claw. "Though if you'd like to try your luck with expulsion from the ranks, go ahead and-"

"Hey there, buddy! Good to see you again!"

Darzin felt a sharp slap against his back as a wave of dizziness settled over him. The Dragonite whirled his head around and saw a Weavile smirking up at him just as his vision went blurry. The Dragon-type Administrator lurched in a confused stagger, only for Ketu to slip past him as he patted at his back.

"C'mon, It hasn't been that long since we saw each other!" Ketu exclaimed, shooting a smarmy smile up at Darzin. "Why, with that sort of treatment, you'd think we were enemies or something!"

Darzin tottered and struggled to keep his balance. He turned to his left in an attempt to follow the Weavile's voice but merely faced empty air.

"Ngah… who are-?"

The Dragonite wobbled forward, as Ketu waited for the Dragon-Type to raise a foot to turn to face him again, only to give a shove mid-stride that pushed the reeling Administrator off-balance. Darzin stumbled ahead a few steps before righting himself in confusion, leaving Ketu to fold his arms as he called out to the Dragonite in a smug tone in front of the nearby onlookers.

"Might want to lay off the jenever though if you're getting that wobbly from it, though," the Dark-Type insisted. "We need a moment to touch base first, so let's catch up with each other in a bit. For now, why don't you get some fresh air to clear your head?"

Darzin staggered into the table of a hapless party of guards, where he upended the group's meal and drinks with a chorus of yelps and protests.

"Hey! Watch it!"

Satisfied with his clawwork, Ketu ignored the unfolding commotion in the background and took a seat beside the other members of Team Sentinel, kicking his feet up onto the table with a sly grin as he let the splintered husk of a spent Totter Seed fall under the table. All the while, Ellsberg looked on in bewilderment, watching Darzin walk around in a daze, before turning his attention back to the others.

"What on earth just happened?" he asked, drawing a dismissive scoff from Aldrich in reply.

"Hrmph, Darzin beclowned himself yet again," the Noivern said. "Though what else is new?"

Ketu cast a glance back at Darzin after the sound of him bumping into another table rang out, before turning back to his Noivern teammate with a small shrug.

"Not too much. Like we expected, it looks like today's the day that Kline and his friends are going to try to hit up the Vault," the Weavile said, prompting Aldrich to look at him expectantly.

"I take it that you're ready to handle your end of things, then?" the Noivern asked.

Ketu fell quiet for a moment and studied the mouth of the military harbor, before giving a wary nod back to his friend.

"Mostly. I've got an idea of where to find the Ledger and it shouldn't take too long to zero in on it," he replied. "I'm pretty sure I could snatch it and get out on my own if I had to, but I could use a distraction on that schooner to buy me some more time."

Ketu's teammates remained quiet and thought to themselves what could be used to create a distraction on such short notice. A pained yowl rang out and caught the group's attention, as they glanced over to a nearby table and spotted a hapless Liepard getting up whimpering from a still-dazed Darzin having stepped on his tail. The five traded looks with each other, before Zelle raised a feeler and pointed off at the lurching Administrator in the background.

"You mean a distraction like that?" she asked. Ketu turned and let his gaze linger on the Dragonite for a moment, before giving a grunting nod in affirmation.

"Yeah, he'll do," he said. "Let's go ahead and point him where we need him to go."

Sorge started to get up, when much to his surprise, Darzin turned back and began lumbering towards them on his own. The rest of Team Sentinel rose from their seats as well, expecting Darzin to crash into their table, when he abruptly veered towards Sorge. He threw his right arm out to steady himself, his claw falling onto the mouth of the Kommo-o's bag. Sorge's eyes lit up with fiery indignation and he grabbed the Dragonite's arm with his left claw, digging into it just enough to draw a pained yelp and a few ruddy droplets.

"That's quite enough, Darzin," Sorge snapped.

The Kommo-o shoved the Dragonite away, sending him stumbling back and pratfalling onto the paving stones behind him. Darzin sat there, shaking feeling back into his arm and nursing his rump as a few stifled snickers came from the surrounding onlookers. The Dragonite frowned with a low, annoyed growl, before getting up and sharply glaring back at Sorge.

"What do you think you're-?!"

"Reacting as any other Pokémon would to having his stuff rifled through," Sorge harrumphed. "Even as an Administrator, you surely know better than to expect a 'mon to just accept that!"

The Dragonite bared his fangs back, but didn't get much of a reaction aside from an unimpressed frown from Zelle, who rolled her eyes and turned her attention towards Ketu.

"Hrmph, we've wasted enough time on this," the Sylveon insisted. "We should get going if we want to wrap things up within the hour. That schooner near the mouth of the military harbor isn't going to take care of itself."

Darzin blinked and fell silent after the Fairy-Type's words. Had she just slipped up? He wouldn't have expected Pokémon from the Intelligence Division to have such loose lips, but he certainly wasn't about to complain about it.

The Dragonite wondered for a moment how on earth Lugia and his companions would have docked their ship in the military harbor for multiple days. After all, only Company ships were allowed to dock at its piers!

… Then again, they surely would've had an easier time infiltrating the Academy if they had passed themselves off in Company colors. And it wouldn't be hard to confirm things one way or another. Why, the harbor was literally visible from this terrace! It'd only take a quick look to verify if that schooner was there, and if it was… well, snatching Lugia thanks to that Sylveon's mistake would be as convenient a way as any to repay the Kommo-o and his underlings for their intrusion.

The Dragonite turned and headed off from the terrace with an audible huff, only for Ketu to call out from behind him.

"Leaving already?"

Darzin looked back, flexing the digits of a free and empty right claw much as if they'd grown stiff from exertion. Curiously, the Dragonite seemed to be at ease, as the faintest glimmers of a smile crossed his face, before being suppressed into a deep scowl.

"I'm a busy 'mon, Weavile," he huffed back. "Besides, even if you were extremely rude throughout it, I got what I wanted from our meeting."

Darzin leapt up, taking wing as he flew up into the gray sky and sailed along with the churning air currents above. Back on the ground, Team Sentinel's members watched as the Dragonite Administrator slipped off, before Aldrich let out a low scoff.

"Tch, he's not still trying to scheme against us, is he?"

"Hmph, just let him think he's accomplishing something," Sorge said. "Though there's your distraction, Ketu. Make the most of it while you can."

"Right," the Weavile replied. "Good luck out there with the mission."

Team Sentinel's members left the terrace and set off, Ketu heading off for the military harbor as his teammates began to make their way towards the Academy. All the while, as Sorge's team drifted off further into the city, the Kommo-o's bag jostled with his movements, and little did he know that there at its top, the corner of an indigo cloth could be seen poking from it.

Author's Notes:

- gevulde koeken - Dutch: A type of cookie made with a soft center filling made of almond paste. lit. "filled cookies"
- Nima? (Нима?) - Bulgarian: Expression used to express skepticism or surprise, analogous to "Really?" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
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Winter can't come soon enough
As expected, this was the "planning" chapter. Though about the only scene that went as I expected was the one on the Siglo Swellow. The plan sounds like it's setting things up for Kline to get captured. He sounds a bit too sure of his abilities, here. And you know what they say about overconfidence killing. I had expected Ketu to start infiltrating the ship, but I guess that comes later. Using Darzin as a distraction didn't occur to me, but that's probably because I expected him to continue bumbling about on his own like the imbecile the fic's presenting him as.

Speaking of imbeciles, I'm amazed no one was keeping a close eye on the con artists. Like, given how important this plan is, you would think the crew would have eyes on (arguably) the least three trustworthy individuals on the ship at all times to prevent something like this from happening. Sure, no one could predict they'd run into Team Sentinel, but this almost seems to counter how the planning scene showed them trying to account for Team Sentinel. Kline even mentions the possibility they're being watched to Alice. I get it, you needed a way for Ketu to be more sure of where his target was. It feels a bit forced, but it's whatever. I fully expect to see them again once we visit Nagrobek.

And poor Salvini. I still can't shake the feeling something bad's about to happen to her. I expect she and her colleagues will get mixed up in the Archive break-in somehow. Perhaps as part of the reinforcements. Otherwise, you wouldn't be showing her so much. ;P

"Hope you all look forward to tasting some of Vollezee's snacks, since I got a bag of those gevulde koeken and speculaas that Percy told me about!" she cheered. "It only took visiting three bakeries to get enough for everyone!"
H... how can she afford that? o_O
"They could've ambushed you while you were going about!"
"Nah, the author's saving the ambush for later."
with Elty and Pleo taking a particular shine to the sweets.
And I here I thought a fire-type would go for spicy. If I had to guess, Elty is hasty nature and Pleo is naïve or timid. :p
The access to the basement level is behind them, with the actual Vault sitting in the center of it.
Y'know, if their vault was really in danger. I suppose the Company could self-destruct their archives and kill the intruders in the resulting cave in, all while the vault is protected. :V
"Sophie told me that my goggles were something that would normally be kept inside the Vault,
and that if I brought them over the Pokémon there would take them," Pleo chirped.
There are a number of these weird random new lines. Copy-paste issue, me thinks.
"As long as I got in, it'd be trivial for me to both provide such a distraction and hide my presence afterwards.
I think I see how this is going to end badly.
even from the likes of a Luxray trying to peer in.
So, it's got a large lead component, then. I sure hope the guards get regular lead level testing in their bloodwork.
We're reasonable Pokémon and open to negotiating
"I've seen enough 'Claw & Order' to know how to fake offering a plea deal." ~Ketu, probably
we'll pull some strings so that way you can see your little blob friend again
In before that "offer" is really just a one-way ticket to pris—
Now what kind of person would I be if I did that?
—theeeere it is.
I dunno what they did to pull that one off
"Groveled at Xerneas' hooves for, like, five chapters."


PMD Writer
Speaking of imbeciles, I'm amazed no one was keeping a close eye on the con artists. Like, given how important this plan is, you would think the crew would have eyes on (arguably) the least three trustworthy individuals on the ship at all times to prevent something like this from happening. Sure, no one could predict they'd run into Team Sentinel, but this almost seems to counter how the planning scene showed them trying to account for Team Sentinel. Kline even mentions the possibility they're being watched to Alice. I get it, you needed a way for Ketu to be more sure of where his target was. It feels a bit forced, but it's whatever. I fully expect to see them again once we visit Nagrobek.

Sorry to hear this plot point felt a bit forced to you. The idea was that Kline and the others had more important things on their mind since they were busy planning the heist, especially since the con artists have behaved well enough since they got to Tromba. While it's true that Kline lectured Alice about Team Sentinel watching them, I don't think the Siglo Swellow's sailors would have expected that Team Sentinel would have been interested in the con artists, even if they did spot them.

And poor Salvini. I still can't shake the feeling something bad's about to happen to her. I expect she and her colleagues will get mixed up in the Archive break-in somehow. Perhaps as part of the reinforcements. Otherwise, you wouldn't be showing her so much. ;P

Interesting thoughts! Guess, you'll have to read today's chapter in order to find it :p

Something I will say is that you'll be seeing Salvini and her friends somewhat regularly even after this episode. Today's chapter will help set things up for that.

H... how can she afford that? o_O

By spending other people's money, of course.


Y'know, if their vault was really in danger. I suppose the Company could self-destruct their archives and kill the intruders in the resulting cave in, all while the vault is protected. :V

B-But there's some study rooms with students on the ground floor.

There are a number of these weird random new lines. Copy-paste issue, me thinks.

Oops. Yeah, good call. I think we fixed all of them now.

I think I see how this is going to end badly.

I have no idea what you're talking about.

So, it's got a large lead component, then. I sure hope the guards get regular lead level testing in their bloodwork.

"You can get poisoned by being around lead all day?!"

Alternatively, it could be made of a sufficiently thick concrete wall, since I doubt that Luxray X-ray vision generates the world's most powerful X-ray radiation. But I would suspect that even if the vault does have lead-lined partitions, that the guards are probably fine since it's strongly implied to be a repurposed vault of human construction that would've been built in mind for avoiding massive ambient lead exposure for people chilling by it.

I mean, those safeguards could've very well degraded with the ages along with cognizance of why lead exposure would be a bad thing. But even if that's the case, eh. It's a low-tech setting, so the locals don't always have the safest solutions for their engineering and infrastructure. There's a reason why Lyn's mother died from algal poisoning after swimming in dirty water too much, after all.

Anyway, thanks for the review as usual, Amby! I'll look forward to your next one.

Whelp, new month, new chapter. Before we get into things, there's actually a couple of new art pieces we wanted to share:

1. Kiran by canisaries
2. Cabot by integration
3. Crom by Domingize
4. Elty and Guardia by spinaltapdancer3

The first one is a reward from Thousand Roads' Review Blitz, the second one is from a commission I did and the other two are art prizes @Spiteful Murkrow won on the PMD Writers' Union Discord server, so I hope y'all enjoy them. Anyway, without further ado, let's check in with Team Traveller and see how this heist is about go:

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

While Team Sentinel set out to prepare their ambush, Nida and the younger members of Team Traveller found themselves back in their same scouting position within the Archive's hallways that they were in two days ago. There, Crom held onto the pocket mirror that had been lent to them by the ship's crew, using it to see around the corner for his teammates. On the other end was a Machamp and a Slowbro with a shell on his arm in dark blue armor standing guard in front of the iron doors into the secure wing. Crom lingered for a moment at the sight of the pair's reflection, before he sucked in a sharp breath and turned to his teammates.

"Are we all sure we're ready?" he asked. Elty hesitated and briefly looked in the direction of where the guards were, before shaking his head with a quiet sigh.

"I think this is as ready as we're going to get, Crom. Let's just make sure we've got the names of those guards we saw straight."

Pleo ruffled his feathers as he peeked past the corner at the Machamp and the Slowbro. The young Protector shrank back, giving a worried look to his teammates with a nervous stammer.

"B-But what if something goes wrong?" he murmured. "What if they catch on to us? Or-?"

"Cálmate, Pleo. It's okay."

Pleo paused as Nida leaned in and moved her paw over him, giving a reassuring pat and small smile in reply.

"We went through worse than this to help you escape from Tidemill City," the Nidorina insisted. "At least this time there's a chance we can get away without fighting."

Pleo calmed slightly at the Poison-Type's words, the five collectively inhaling sharply as they rounded the corner and forced smiles over their faces as they approached the Machamp and Slowbro. As they neared, they noticed the pair watching them keenly, Elty opting to break their silence by greeting them with a friendly wag of his tail.

"Oh, hey there!" the Growlithe cheered. "We've got an artifact for the Vault!"

Elty and his companions watched as the Machamp and Slowbro traded dubious glances with each other. After a moment to stew over the youngsters' claims, they turned back, both of the guards sporting deep, disbelieving frowns.

"Ja hoor," the Machamp scoffed. "And I'm the king of Conntow."

"Look, don't you have classes or something?" the Slowbro growled. "If there really was something being brought to the Vault today, we'd have heard of it."

The five grimaced reflexively at the guards' hostile reception, trading hesitant glances with each other. After a moment to steel herself, Nida stepped forward, stopping to take the lid off the box in her paws and reach inside.

"I think there must be some sort of misunderstanding, since we were specifically told by Daan to bring our artifact here," she insisted. "And I can't imagine that nobody would've told you about this."

Nida fished out Pleo's goggles, proudly holding them up before the Machamp and Slowbro. The Machamp narrowed his eyes, folding both sets of his arms and giving a sharp harrumph in reply to the Nidorina.

"A set of goggles? Really?" the Machamp said. "If you were going to pull some kind of prank on us-"

"Hold on a moment," the Slowbro insisted. "Those goggles are made of plastic."

The Machamp blinked as the Slowbro reached over and took the goggles from Nida. The Slowbro pawed over the goggles and inspected them with a quiet, entranced awe, before stopping and giving a wary glance back at the youngsters in front of him.

"How on earth did you kids get this?" he asked.

"It's a treasure passed down in our friend's family which we found out was really a human artifact," Guardia explained as she pointed at Pleo. "We didn't realize it was so rare and valuable until another Pokémon pointed it out. That's why we got the box for it."

The Machamp looked down at the goggles, and then back at the box in Nida's paws. With a shake of his head, he deposited the plastic accessory back inside and clamped the lid back over it, taking the box into a pair of his hands. The Machamp went over to the doors to the secure wing, leaving his Slowbro counterpart to look after him before turning back to Team Traveller's members with a low huff.

"Hrmph, we get the point," the Slowbro remarked. "Though, I'll need to have a word with Daan about communicating properly."

Team Traveller's members nodded back as the Machamp opened the iron doors and slipped into the dim, blue-lit hallways behind. The Fighting-Type dutifully made his way through the halls, down the stairs into the basement, and much as he had innumerable times before, eventually found himself in front of the entrance to the Vault. A party consisting of a Garchomp, a Klinklang, and a Doublade stood at attention by the entrance, as the Machamp headed over to the Steel-Type of the group holding out his box.

"Got a new addition for the collection, Liv," the Machamp said, prompting the Klinklang and the others to narrow their eyes skeptically.

"Eh? Just out of the blue?" the Klinklang asked.

"Yeah, I was surprised too," the Machamp replied. "But apparently it's a real artifact."

The Machamp pulled the top off the box and showed the goggles to his colleagues. At once the guards fell silent, the Klinklang examining it as the Doublade peered over and the Garchomp reached for a metal badge pinned against his scarf and pressed a claw down against it. There was a brief murmuring conversation between the Garchomp and an unseen presence on the other end—the guards' security dispatcher. After a moment's pause, the Garchomp let go of his badge and motioned at the Machamp to bring the goggles over.

"You're clear," the Garchomp insisted. "We'll get the door open right away so you can hand it off to the Internal Team."

The Garchomp stepped up to a metallic knob labeled with little stripes engraved into its metal, dutifully paying attention to them as he stopped the dial at a series of stripes. Left, right, and then left again. After stopping the dial on a final stripe, a heavy click sounded out, prompting the Dragon-type to grab onto a battered crossbar and turn it clockwise with an audible creak until it came to a firm stop. The round door of the Vault slowly swung open afterwards, revealing a Gengar, a Wobbuffet, a Malamar, and a Sawk gathered at the other end waiting for them.

"Here's the artifact," the Klinklang insisted. "Sounds like you'll have some excitement on the job today after all."

The Gengar of the four walked up and took the box out of the Machamp's hands, giving a nodding grunt in reply as the Fighting-Type drifted back down the hallway. The other guards outside set to work at once pushing the vault door closed with a sharp creak, as it closed shut with a loud click and its bolts slid back in place. The Gengar turned around as his fellow guards eyed the box curiously, before the Ghost-Type motioned for a pause.

"Let's find a spot for this first," he ordered. "You'll have plenty of time to gawk at whatever's in here after it's been shelved."

The Sawk, Malamar, and Wobbuffet moved away as the Gengar made his way for the back of the Vault, passing artifacts that were set on display throughout it. In a glass case, there was a discolored white plastic box that stood on its side next to a rod of the same color and composition with buttons laid out in a line on it. A little ways away, there was a large, flat plastic panel with a thin frame that was hung on a wall, and a red tome on a shelf that had a cover graced with a prominent line with two arms that branched out at its top.

The Gengar paid none of them any heed as he walked over to a tall shelf at the back of the Vault. There, he came to a small table set aside for sorting artifacts, when he suddenly realized that the box felt strangely light for its size. The Ghost-Type blinked a moment, and set the box down on the table, pulling the lid back to inspect it. The Gengar quickly discovered that the container was seemingly empty, but for a set of white-colored goggles made of unusually well-preserved plastic.

"Hrmph, they didn't need something this big for an artifact as small as this," the Gengar scoffed.

The Gengar stuck a hand into the box to grab the goggles, when he felt it brush up against an invisible lump inside, prompting him to abruptly pull his hand back.


The Gengar looked into the box, where a green, serpentine creature with a single eye seemingly appeared from thin air, and stared up at him with a flustered blink. Kline narrowed his eye into a glare, and at once, light bathed the box as alike-sized objects began to converge in on him through the Vault's walls, much to the Gengar's wide-eyed alarm.

"H-Hey! What the-?!"

Outside, just to the north of the Vault, Ander, Calidus, and Percy waited on a small grassy knoll hemmed in by canals on two sides. The three sat and rested, where they posed as guards supposedly on break from patrolling the Academy's grounds, and cast a glance in the direction of the Archive, where the rest of their teammates had been waiting on another portion of the knoll closer to the Archive's northern wall.

Ander let his gaze briefly linger on the others, before uncomfortably tapping the flats of his scythes together and turning to his nearby teammates.

"Did Kline say at all what we were supposed to look out for?" the Marked Scyther asked.

Calidus shook his head back in reply, casting a wary glance back at the building ahead of them.

"He didn't, actually. Just that we'd know when it's time," the Talonflame replied, prompting Ander to shoot a puzzled glance back. "I mean, Percy and I have some ideas of what we could expect, but-"

The Fire-Type paused as he and his teammates suddenly saw green lights zipping in from all around them. The lights converged on the Archive, and after a few seconds, they felt the ground violently shake. Distant shouts suddenly broke out inside and around the building, Kline's handiwork, they presumed. Without a moment to spare, Percy got up and motioned for the others to follow along.

"Well, that's as good of a sign as any," the Gliscor said. "Come on. We need to get that Ledger before other guards come to investigate."

The three hurried along, ducking into the Archive with the rest of their teammates as they rushed down the hallways. Before they knew it, they were at the iron doors leading into the building's secure wing, where there at the front, a startled-looking Machamp and Slowbro peered back towards the doors, seemingly hesitating over whether to go in or not. Percy and the others' approaching footsteps and wingbeats turned the pair's attention towards them, prompting the two guards to reflexively block off the entrance.

"Hey! What do you think you're doing here?!" the Machamp exclaimed.

"We're here to see what on earth is going on, of course!" Kiran shot back. "A bunch of lights just came in and we could feel the ground shake from outside! Are you seriously telling us that everything's fine in here?"

The Machamp and Slowbro hesitated a moment, when they heard faint shouts ring out from beyond the iron doors. The pair traded uneasy glances with one another, before the Machamp sighed and shook his head, hurriedly pushing the doors open as the Slowbro motioned for the Swellow and his companions to follow.

"Alright, but let's hurry up!" the Poison-Type insisted. "The disturbance came from inside the secure wing!"

Kiran and his peers hurried along past the iron doors and after the guards. They made their way through corridors bathed in cool blue light, turning when prompted by the Machamp and Slowbro, and making their way down the flight of steps into the basement, until at last they came across the Vault door.

There, the guards on duty were arguing with one another, the Garchomp hurriedly trying to turn a few knobs, only to fumble with a low growl and be forced to try again. The group slowed as they neared, prompting Pladur to suck in a sharp breath and warily approach the guards with a puzzled tilt of his head.

"What on earth happened here?" the Fraxure asked.

"We don't know! We brought in an artifact not even ten minutes ago and then a bunch of green lights shot in through the wall!" the Klinklang at the door explained. "After that, there was a crash and the sound of a struggle inside!"

"Just hurry up and get that thing open already!" Percy barked. "The culprit can't possibly have gotten far!"

The Garchomp slid the knobs into place when a dull click sounded out, prompting him to turn his attention to the crossbar and hurriedly whirl it about clockwise. The Vault door creaked open, and on the other end, Percy, his teammates, and the gathered guards found a scene of general disorder. All about, shelves had been upended and glass cases lay shattered into pieces, including one with a white box and rod that now lay toppled onto their sides.

The group made their way inside, where they spotted forms of the Internal Team lying limply on the ground, with fresh gouges ripped into their armor and little signs of life beyond an occasional weak groan. The guards posted at the door looked about with blank stares, the Machamp wincing after seeing a flat, plastic panel hanging ajar with a radial crack near one of its corners.

"Yeesh, what a mess," the Machamp murmured.

"Is there any sign of a breach in there?" the Slowbro asked.

The Garchomp looked around the upended vault. In spite of the mess of relics and damaged displays lying about, there was no obvious sign of forced entry. Wherever he looked, the walls of the vault remained unbroken, as did the floor and ceiling. The Garchomp mused aloud to himself if someone might have teleported or phased in, before having a moment of dawning realization and whirling about to Percy and his teammates with an impatient scowl.

"Look, don't just stand around like that!" the Garchomp grunted. "Either help us make sure all the relics are still here or go get a medic!"

Percy and the others fanned out into the room, as their members slowly worked their way towards the room's shelves, which seemed to be the most logical place to start searching for a book. Being ever the bold type, Alice was the first to make her way to one, coming to a stop at an upended shelf in the middle of the left end of the Vault. There, she pawed through artifacts of metal and plastic strewn about the floor, when she heard Pladur call her from behind.

"Alice, come here a minute."

The Sneasel looked up and saw the Fraxure motioning for her a little way towards the front of the Vault. There, next to his feet, she caught a glimpse of a bulky, worn red object half-buried wedged in the space under a toppled shelf. She made her way over and pulled the shelf back upright, where the pair quickly discovered the object was an old tome with a glyph on the cover that looked almost like a two-branched wand.

"Good eye there," she whispered back.

Alice quickly feigned a stumble and let a red tome spill out of her bag. Its pages were blank, but so long as she kept the cover closed, nobody here needed to know that. The Sneasel hastily shoveled the Ledger into her bag as Pladur stooped down and picked up the dummy book, hesitating as he brought it up to the uprighted shelf when he heard a sharp growl and looked over to see the Garchomp among the guards shooting a sharp glare at the two of them.

"Hey! Be careful with that!" the Dragon-Type snapped. "Everything in here's worth more than you'll ever make in your lifetimes!"

"Ack! Sorry!" Pladur stammered. "It's just that when you said to help inventory-"

"Just get out of our way and go and help set up a perimeter or something!" the head guard ordered. "This entire building's needs to be put on lockdown over this, and if you just sit there dawdling, the culprit will slip away beforehand!"

Pladur looked off at the other end of the Vault just in time to see Percy lower his claw to the ground and quickly shove an unseen mass into his bag. That must've been Kline, and assuming it was, it was sign enough for the Fraxure that their time here in this building was complete.

"Okay! Okay!"

Pladur made his way to the Vault's entrance and called for the others on his team to follow, the seven hastily retracing their steps through the secure wing of the Archive. They snaked through the blue-lit hallways, up the steps to the ground floor, and then back out the cast iron doors at the entrance, where sure enough, they'd returned to the hallways that Nida and the others had been skulking over the past couple days. As the group made their way towards the service entrance, they breathed sighs of relief, only for a quiet hiss to suddenly come from Percy's satchel as Kline irkedly poked his head out.

"Pierce, where is my cushion?" the Zygarde snapped.

"Sorry, but we needed the extra space for items today," the Gliscor answered. "I'm sure you can manage one mission without a silk cushion."

Pladur, Kiran, and Ander traded flummoxed stares and blinked as they ran, before the Fraxure cocked his head back at Percy and gave a puzzled quirk of his brow.

"Wait, you had a silk cushion in there-?"

The group's attention shot forward as they looked up to see a flash of pink fur exit the service entrance and skidded to a stop. There, just in front of the exit that the kids had told them about was Hertsog, followed by Salvini, Payak and Phyllis from Mengir. The seven froze for a moment as Hertsog and the others stopped and stood in place with dumbfounded stares.

"Huh?! Kiran?!"

After an initial moment of surprise, the Mienshao stepped forward with his arms at the ready to strike and his eyes narrowed into a sharp glare.

"What are you doing here?" the Fighting-Type demanded. "And why am I getting the feeling that whatever's going on right now is somehow related to you?"

Kiran faltered for a moment, shifting in place uneasily as he struggled with how to even begin to explain their circumstances… let alone in a way that wouldn't just prompt Hertsog and the others to attack them and tip off the other guards.

"… Er… well, you're not wrong," the Swellow began, before hastily beating his wings out in interjection. "B-But it's for a good reason, we swear!"

Salvini rolled her eyes at the Flying-Type's reply, curling her mouth down into an unimpressed frown.

"… Seriously? That's the best you can come up with, Kiran?" the Grovyle grumbled. "You're supposed to be trying to dispel our suspicion right now!"

"Just what sort of reason would justify all of this?" Hertsog pressed.

Kiran and his teammates hesitated, Ander and Pladur seemingly having the beginnings of an explanation on the tips of their tongues, only to think better of it and suddenly clam up. Then, Kiran shook his head, before sucking in a sharp breath to speak.

"… Like we said last time. We're trying to clear a friend's name," the Swellow said. "His name is Pleo. He's one of my pupils along with Crom back on our home island. My understanding is that you've already met him alongside some younger companions of his."

Salvini immediately froze after Kiran's words and from his reaction, Hertsog had evidently also found the name he mentioned to be familiar. Payak and Phyllis traded uneasy glances as their friends fell silent, before the pair stiffened up—it suddenly dawning on them that there was a reason why the name sounded so familiar…

"T-Those are those pirates from Mengir!" Payak cried.

Phyllis' eyes shot wide and the Marked Leafeon's breaths came shallow and quick at the realization that her suspicions about the Growlithe and Cubone from the other day were onto something. Worst of all, it wasn't just the pirates from Fensedge Village that were present, but none other than the demon that was with them was here too!

Kiran grimaced briefly at the guards' reaction, before deciding to throw caution to the wind and press on with his explanation. Hertsog and the others held their fates in their paws at the moment, so if they were going to win them over without a risky fight, they needed to say something—and fast.

"… Those are the charges they are facing, yes," Kiran sighed. "But look, they really were falsely accused and we just wanted to-"


Phyllis crouched in front of Kiran and the others and bared her fangs, shooting a frantic stare back at her friends, and especially at the Mienshao among them.

"H-Hertsog, please! You can't just let this happen!" she begged. "They're going to set that demon loose!"

"We know that," a voice quietly buzzed back. "But we're doing that because the alternative of letting you capture him is worse."

The Leafeon blinked and hesitated for a moment as the Marked Scyther from Kiran's party approached, stooping down as he neared. The mantis breathed in sharply, before kneeling and looking into Phyllis' eyes.

"Look. I… can't say that Pleo's not a demon. I recognize him as well as you do from our scriptures," Ander said. "But I know that this entire time I've been with him, he's been kindhearted and he's trying to be something different than what we feared."

The Bug-Type shook his head, before letting out a quiet buzz and continuing on.

"But that's not why your employers have been lying to you about him," he said, prompting Alice to join in.

"That's right! If the Company gets him, they're going to try and use him as a weapon," the Sneasel insisted. "I might not buy your whole thing about him being a 'demon', but if they succeed, he'll be a lot closer to becoming one like that than if you just let us try to clear things up here!"

Phyllis evidently never had the thought cross her mind, as she remained frozen in place after the Scyther and Sneasel's explanation, and visibly wavered. Ander tapped the flats of his scythes briefly, before continuing on with a quiet, faltering tone.

"I don't blame you for being afraid of Pleo. And honestly… part of me is still scared of him," the Scyther admitted. "But just standing back and letting the Company have their way with him isn't going to make it less likely that he'll make our fears come true! Surely you realize that by now."

Phyllis stared back in silence after hearing Ander's words and looked away for a moment, as Hertsog and Payak seemed to paralyzed with indecision. The three cast a glance over to Salvini, when they noticed that their Grovyle partner seemed to be unfazed. At once, everything about her behavior, about why she'd let Pleo and the others go, became clear. Some way, somehow, she'd known, that the pirates they were after were really just a bunch of kids and…

"S-So that bird really is some sort of Protector?!" Payak stammered, prompting Calidus to shoot a sharp frown in reply.

"Ugh, learn to read the room, Ariados," the Talonflame muttered.

For a brief moment, Hertsog seemed to be genuinely uncertain as to what to do. Payak and Phyllis both shrank back, both having lost their will to fight for their own reasons. Hertsog paused and visibly hesitated when he felt someone put a hand on his shoulder. The Mienshao looked down, where he saw Salvini looking up at him with a torn look.

"Hertsog…. do… do we really have to do this?" the Grovyle murmured.

The Mienshao said nothing back for a brief, silent moment that seemed to last an eternity, before his features eased and he shook his head back.

"No. We don't."

Hertsog stepped away from the door, and motioned at his companions to follow. One after the other, Salvini and her teammates complied, as Kiran and his fellows gave disbelieving stares back at the Fighting-Type. The Mienshao breathed in and said nothing at first, before shooting a sharp frown over at them.

"As far as we're concerned, we never saw you or your friends, Kiran," Hertsog said. "Just make the most of your lead and don't count on us coming to your rescue if you get caught."

Kiran gave a grateful nod back to the four, before pushing the door open with his wing.

"Thanks for letting us go… and we will!"

Kiran held the door open as he and his teammates slipped off, letting it close behind them. Salvini's thoughts turned back to the fateful night she and Pleo first crossed paths as she glanced off at the rest of the city through the window. She didn't know if Kiran and his teammates would prove successful in clearing Pleo's name, but… for their own sake, she hoped that some way, somehow, they would manage to pull through.

At that very moment, Canalhouse City's military harbor remained abuzz with activity much as it normally did. The din of Pokémon milling about hummed along the air, as lavender-scarved creatures of varying shapes and sizes loaded and unloaded cargo, and others tended to various ships in Company sails. The noise could be heard all about the surroundings, including through the windows of a small, stone, two-story building near the mouth of the harbor bearing a simple sign in runes marking it as the Harbormaster's office.

There, in an office on the second floor with a plaque bearing the label of the Harbormaster on the door, an Omastar rested behind a low table. The room was furnished with a set of simple drawers against the wall, with some framed paper certificates and a Mystic Water hung above it. At the other end of the table, a Grimmsnarl in a Second-Rank scarf stood at attention, casting an idle glance off at the window, where the harbor and its piers could be seen.

"Did any word come down about when we were supposed to raid that schooner?" the Omastar asked.

"No sir," the Grimmsnarl replied. "No word since the last visit from Sorge and his team."

The Omastar Harbormaster frowned back and sighed, turning his gaze back out towards the lavender-sailed ships in the harbor.

"I would've thought they would've kept us more in the loop," the Omastar murmured. "I don't understand why they would feel a need to be so secretive about-"

A sharp crash rang out from the room's entrance, the Omastar and Grimmsnarl whirling about with a start. Much to the pair's astonishment, there, barging in past a door that had just been thrown open, was a Dragonite in an Administrator's scarf, who barreled towards them as the Harbormaster looked on in stunned surprise.

"Administrator Darzin?!" the Omastar asked. "Can I help you?"

"Yes," the Dragonite growled. "Has a party led by a Kommo-o come by recently talking about a suspicious ship or the sort?"

The Harbormaster blinked in surprise for a moment, before shifting in his seat and speaking up.

"There was one who came a couple days ago," he replied. "Why?"

"I need you to field some guards right now and dispatch them towards the Academy."

The Omastar and Grimmsnarl turned and stared at each other blankly over the Dragonite's words, both seemingly at a loss for how to reply. The Grimmsnarl was the first to break the silence, as the guard looked back at Darzin and folded his arms with a dismissive harrumph.

"Yeah, good luck with that one," he scoffed. "We've got our own problems to deal with right now."

"Er… Administrator, you are aware that I have a harbor to watch here, right?" the Omastar questioned. "Why on earth would I need to field 'monpower out to the Academy of all places?"

Darzin narrowed his eyes, holding out an accusing claw as he raised his voice with an impatient growl.

"Because you've been probed by Imperial Spies over the past couple days!" the Dragonite insisted. "And the fastest way of apprehending them in this city is to send someone already familiar with them to track them down."

The Harbormaster and Grimmsnarl stiffened up, as Darzin began to pass along descriptions of Sorge, Aldrich, and Zelle. Per his account, he'd chanced to run into them scheming in a back alley while on a flight about Canalhouse City, and been threatened to keep quiet, though not before he could make off with proof of them having an Imperial handler.

"I was able to recover this from them," Darzin explained. "You'll likely be able to find their true colors among their belongings."

The Omastar and Grimmsnarl doubted him for a moment, only for the Dragonite to fish out the strip of Nagant's scarf he'd kept from their encounter on Mengir and pass it over to the Omastar. Even if it was no longer useful as leverage over her, judging from how much the Omastar was taken aback by it, he still had some use for it…

The Omastar flipped the cloth strip about his tentacles and pawed at it carefully. On one side was a strip of red and white cloth, but on the back, there was Imperial indigo. The fabric's weave was even the same that Pokémon from its ranks wore. The Harbormaster hesitated as he thought back to Sorge and the assistance he and his subordinates had provided over the past four days. Surely Darzin wouldn't be lying about such a matter and the evidence was what it was, but there had to be another explanation for what had happened…

"Administrator, this must be a misunderstanding of some sort," the Omastar said. "Sorge and the others could've just seized that from someone else."

"That's right!" the Grimmsnarl exclaimed. "Those three literally came by earlier this week to point out an Imperial ship that's impersonating one of our own here!"

Darzin let out a terse scoff in response, turning his snout up and narrowing his eyes back at the Omastar and Grimmsnarl.

"And did they help you apprehend it?" the Administrator demanded.

The Harbormaster fell silent at the Dragonite's question. While Sorge and the others did point out the schooner that had been flying false colors, they had been adamant that the ship wasn't to be interfered with until it attempted to leave and not a moment sooner.

"Well… no, they didn't," the Omastar said. "But they insisted that apprehending it would be a sensitive matter."

"Yes, so they could distract you from their actual escape vessel!" Darzin cried.

The Omastar looked out the window towards a two-masted schooner near the mouth of the harbor, as Darzin followed his gaze. After seeing the Omastar's attention settle on the ship and the Water-Type visibly hesitate, the Dragonite deduced that he'd succeeded at planting seeds of doubt in the Harbormaster's mind and also confirmed the Siglo Swellow's location after that Kommo-o's Sylveon friend clumsily gave away its presence in the military harbor earlier.

Satisfied, the Dragon-Type sensed his opportunity to press his advantage. The Administrator let out a sharp harrumph, before shooting an impatient frown down at the Harbormaster.

"Go ahead and close the harbor to traffic," Darzin ordered. "I'm going to go and pay that decoy of theirs a closer inspection."

The Harbormaster paused and pawed uneasily at his scarf, before looking back up at the intricate one about the Dragonite's neck. Even with Darzin's diminished stature, it was far from wise to get on the wrong side of an Administrator. And if this was just the Dragonite blowing hot air, it would surely be easy to disprove him later by giving Sorge and his team a cursory questioning.

"Go and track down Teun from the swimmers and take a party out to the Academy to find Sorge and the others," Omastar said, turning to the Grimmsnarl. "If this is all a misunderstanding, I'm sure it can be cleared up quickly."

"… Yes, sir," the Grimmsnarl sighed.

The Dark-Type saluted and quickly slunk out of the office. After the Grimmsnarl departed, Darzin began to make his way for the door himself, prompting the Omastar to raise a brow and call after the Dragonite.

"Administrator, if you're wrong about this, it'll be you against an entire ship," the Harbormaster insisted. "Let me square away some reinforcements to help before you-"

"Hrmph. That won't be necessary right now," Darzin scoffed. "Focus on your duty and let me see if this matter can be dealt with quietly first."

The Harbormaster quirked a brow back puzzledly, but was too late to stop the Dragonite. By the time the Omastar had raised his voice to ask for a further explanation, Darzin had already set off, retracing his way outside the office, down a flight of steps and out onto the docks as he made his way through the crowds of Pokémon for the schooner docked near the harbor's entrance.

(Continued in next post)
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
As Kiran and the others went into the Archive, the rest of Team Traveller began to make their way towards the Academy's main building in order to slip out of the complex. Not far from it was the place they and their teammates had agreed to meet with Dimitri after the heist, where they would make their way back to the ship together. Their own part in the mission to break into the Vault had gone smoothly enough, and the green lights they saw overhead and the sharp jolt they'd felt while walking earlier was as good of a sign as any that Kline had succeeded in getting into it…

Maybe it was nothing, but the entire time, Pleo couldn't help but worry that something would go wrong. Would the guards figure out that Kiran and the others were fakes? Would they get caught while trying to switch around the Ledger with their dummy book? The young Protector shuffled his wings uncomfortably, before giving a worried glance over at his teammates.

"Do you think everyone is doing alright?" the Lugia asked.

"Well, we haven't seen or heard any sign of an open battle going on around Academy after Kline did his thing," Elty replied. "So… probably?"

"I think they're managing and don't need our help. Let's just focus on making it to our meeting place," Guardia insisted. "The longer we stick around here, the more likely it is that something will go wrong with our mission."

Team Traveller hurriedly made their way along the canal, making their way across the islets via the bridges linking them, until they crossed the last one to the site of the northern half of the Academy's main building. There, the five rounded the corner, towards the passage into the middle of the compound and its courtyard…

"Hold it right there!"

… when a sharp, barking shout rang out from behind them. Nida and her companions froze, turning to see Gerhard approaching them with a Lucario and a Runerigus at his sides, the lot of them sporting harsh glares. The five flinched for a moment, before Crom steeled himself and tried to force a smile over his face.

"Oh! Uh h-hi, Professor Gerhard!" the Druddigon gulped. "Is something the matter?"

"Yes," the Alakazam huffed back. "Did you really think that I wouldn't notice you've been impersonating students in my class?"

The youngsters felt their blood run cold and grimaced. It had always been a risk that their luck would run out passing themselves off as students in the Academy, but they never expected that it would happen now of all times. Elty pinned his ears back and pulled his tail in tight against his legs, the Growlithe nervously backpedaling from the scowling Professor and the accompanying guards.

"I… uh… Don't you have that lightshow from earlier to deal with?" he gulped. "W-We were just leaving anyway, so see you later!"

He turned to run, only to suddenly see his body glow with a blue aura and feel himself get lifted up off the ground. Elty looked down in alarm to see he was floating in midair and flailed briefly, before turning back to see Gerhard holding out a hand with his eyes glowing a blue sheen.

"Leuk geprobeerd, but there's no shortage of guards already looking into that," the Alakazam scoffed. "If you know what's good for you, you'll come along to answer a few questions. Quietly."

Team Traveller's members recoiled at Gerhard's words. It clearly wasn't a suggestion, but an order. The thought of attempting to fight their way through him crossed their minds, but between the Alakazam's Third-Rank Company scarf and him already having Elty at his mercy, they were surely in for a hard battle. Pleo blanched and shrank back briefly, wavering over what to do, when he noticed the forms of a Shinx and Magikarp darting up from behind Gerhard.

"Professor Gerhard? What are you doing?" the Magikarp asked.

"Yeah!" the Shinx chimed in. "Those are the transfer students!"

Why, it was Leonard and Murdo! Professor Gerhard seemed to be taken aback by the two cutting in, and lost his grip on Elty, who faceplanted onto the ground. Taking advantage of the Alakazam's distraction, Leonard quickly stepped in between Team Traveller and Gerhard, with Murdo propping himself up and poking his head over the edge of the canal to join in. The pair looked over at the Professor and the surrounding guards, giving pleading expressions up at them.

"I mean, sure they've been a bit slow to catch up," Leonard murmured. "But they haven't done anything wrong."

The Shinx's insistence prompted Gerhard to raise a spoon at him with a sharp frown.

"I suggest you mind your own business, Leonard," the Alakazam harrumphed. "This doesn't concern you."

"Yes it does! You're trying to get a bunch of our classmates in trouble just because you don't like them!" Murdo cried. "How is that fair?!"

Gerhard brushed past Leonard and narrowed his eyes back at the Magikarp in the canal, his patience having worn thin with the two's interruptions.

"They've gotten themselves in trouble because they're not students, Murdo," the Professor scoffed. "They never had any paperwork turn up like every other student that's transferred in-"

"Yes, because I had them transferred in."

Nida, Pleo, Crom, Elty, and Guardia felt their ears prick at the sound of a deep, rumbling voice and turned around, only for the color to drain from their faces. There in front of them were Filbert, Braam, and Quin hurrying in, followed along by the glaring form of a Nidoking in a Company scarf with a more intricate pattern than any of them had seen before.

Th-That was Director Inler! Gerhard and his guards had their eyes widen briefly, only for the wizened Alakazam to blink back at the Nidoking facing him down.

"You had them transfer in? I… never heard of you personally ordering any student transfers before," he murmured. " And you sound a bit hoarse, Director."

"Hrmph, it happens when he spends all day yelling at incompetents like you," Filbert huffed.

"Yeah, opa was just telling us about how he'd met with Nida and her friends' parents on a recent tour of the islands," Braam chimed in. "That's how he wound up promoting them so they could come here!"

Gerhard wavered a moment and the Psychic-Type bit his tongue as a flash of genuine worry came over his prideful face. After a moment to collect his thoughts, the Alakazam composed himself and brushed uneasily at his scarf.

"Then it should be a simple matter of finding the paperwork-"

The Nidoking cleared his throat, letting out a growl that came out slightly different from his earlier speech. The Poison-Type muttered a "Why am I still keeping this guy around?" just loud enough for everyone to hear, before glaring daggers back at the Alakazam professor.

"Gerhard, I'm the Director," the Nidoking spat. "I'm not letting my orders get held up over a few pieces of paper!"

"Yeah, it probably got lost in the mail or something," Quin insisted. "Are you really going to make the Company's Director look bad by kicking out the kids of the 'mons he just promoted?"

The Lucario and Runegrigus guards both traded uneasy glances with one another, as Gerhard began to grow flustered. After giving a tug at his scarf, the Psychic-Type shuffled back and visibly hesitated.

"I… suppose I can double-check my office," the Alakazam said. "I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, Director."

Gerhard hurriedly took his leave along with the Lucario and the Runegrigus, leaving Team Traveller to stare off confusedly, before warily turning back towards the Nidoking. Wasn't this the Company's Director? Their enemy? Then why on earth had he helped them?

The Nidoking narrowed his eyes in reply, and shook his head with a sharp frown. After opening his mouth, the Poison-Type began to speak, except this time, a young, high-pitched voice came out with a scoff.

"Hrmph, you five sure know how to get into trouble."

Team Traveller's members jumped back at the realization that that was Sophie's voice. Sure enough, the form of the Nidoking abruptly flashed magenta and dissipated, barring a few flecks of light that clung more stubbornly in the air as the form of a Zorua took its place. There, Sophie stepped forward, walking up to Nida and the others with an icy scowl.

"I knew something didn't add up about you," she scoffed. "You five wanna explain why you've been lying to everybody this whole time?"

The group hesitated for a moment. Should they just be honest with Sophie? Could they be honest with her? Everyone traded uneasy glances with one another, before Nida sucked in a sharp breath and began to speak.

"We… needed to find something here in the Academy," the Nidorina explained. "Something that Pleo really needed."

Sophie raised a brow and shot back a dubious frown. She didn't look particularly impressed with Nida's explanation, but even so, she felt more curious than upset for some reason.

"I assume that it wasn't just some book from the library?" she questioned. "And that that tremor and those green lights in the sky earlier wasn't just a coincidence?"

"I mean… sorta. We came here because Pleo's… in trouble for some things that aren't his fault," the Druddigon replied, giving an uneasy paw at the back of his neck. "And there was supposed to be something here that we could use to help get him out of it."

Sophie fell silent and let her eyes drift to the ground. She paused briefly, before closing her eyes with a quiet murmur.

"So then it has something to do with him being a 'purple-feathered' Wingull, huh?"

Nida blinked at the Zorua's response and noticed her teammates get visibly taken aback. Did Sophie know Pleo's true identity? Would she see through them if they denied her question? After a moment's hesitation, Nida shuffled her paws, before answering back warily.

"Something like that, yes," she said. "B-But look, we need to get going and we don't have time to explain this right now!"

Sophie said nothing back, prompting Leonard and Murdo to blink and shoot puzzled looks at the young fox.

"… Sophie? What exactly is going on here?" Leonard wondered.

"Yeah, if Pleo's really not a Wingull, then what sort of Pokémon is he?" Murdo pressed.

The Zorua hesitated for a moment, before her expression eased and she shook her head with a low sigh.

"… I have a couple ideas, but it's not really important right now. Though, Nida's right," she insisted. "You five need to get out of here before you get into real trouble."

Guardia blinked at Sophie's reply. 'Real' trouble? How could they get into worse trouble than what they were in just a minute ago?

"Wait, we do? Didn't you all just get us out of trouble?" the Cubone asked. "What else is wrong?"

"Well for one, I saw the real Inler going around campus earlier," Sophie replied. "If Gerhard runs into him, your little secret will be out and he'll come looking for you again. If that happens, Inler will probably want to know why you were pretending to be students here and going around saying your parents were friends of his."

Team Traveller's members felt their faces fall into a collective grimace. Yes, running into Director Inler on their own would be getting into real trouble. Trouble that they weren't sure they could overcome. Filbert seemed to pick up on their unease, flicking his ears and twitching his whiskers in thought, before turning over to Leonard and Murdo and motioning with his head off at them.

"Leonard. Murdo. Take Nida and the others off-campus," he said. "They should be able to slip off into the rest of the city while we keep Gerhard busy."

Leonard nodded back at the Nidoran's instructions, with Murdo joining in from the canal's water. Whatever was going on with Pleo and the others, they weren't letting an old pill like Gerhard ruin things for them.

"Right!" Murdo burbled, as Leonard chimed in with a small puff of his chest.

"Piece of cake!"

Filbert, Braam, Quintin, and Sophie darted off after Gerhard's group, as Leonard and Murdo hurried Team Traveller through a passage into the main building's courtyard. The five hastily ducked across, where Pokémon had just started to file out for midday breaks. The group made their way past the shadow of the Haxorus statue of the Company's Founder, where there, just as the group neared the eastern entrance…

"Oh, there you are!"

Team Traveller blinked and froze after they heard a Luxray's voice along with the sound of quiet footsteps approaching. Curiously, Leonard's eyes seemed to light up at the voice, as he bounded ahead towards it.

"Ah! Mom!"

Pleo and the others blanched as dead ahead of them, a Luxray in a Company Administrator's scarf rounded the corner. The five shrank back with frightened grimaces, Leonard going up and nuzzling Farn as Murdo swam up alongside her, blissfully unaware of their companions' reaction.

"What are you doing here?" Murdo asked, prompting the Luxray to bob her tail and smile back.

"Today's my turn to take you two home, remember?" Farn replied. "Work ended a bit early for me today, so no reason to just keep you waiting if-"

She trailed off as she noticed five Pokémon inching away from her in the background. The Luxray eyed them warily, noting that the lot of them looked as if they had seen a ghost, and stiffened up after realizing that she'd seen them. A Nidorina, a younger Druddigon, a Growlithe, a Cubone… and some manner of seabird she couldn't place. Why did the bird of the lot feel strangely familiar to her?

"And who are those friends of yours in the background?" Farn asked.

Leonard blinked for a moment, realizing that perhaps it wasn't the best idea to tell his mother that he was technically spending time with wanted troublemakers. The Shinx rubbed his forepaws together as he fumbled with his words briefly, before offering up what he hoped would be a satisfactory explanation.

"Oh. They're… uh… our classmates!" he insisted. "That's Nida, and Pleo, and-"

Farn tensed up at her son's mention of 'Pleo', as a sudden realization dawned over her. Ellsberg had mentioned the name in his first report from Tromba as the one that that the islands Pokémon called the Guardian of the Seas. She didn't have an explanation for why the bird wasn't a silvery white like he was supposed to be, but between the Growlithe, and there being an evolution of a Nidoran much like the wanted posters she'd helped Lyn distribute… it just couldn't be a coincidence.

The Luxray bat her tail back and forth impatiently and narrowed her eyes with a low growl, making Murdo and Leonard pause uneasily. Leonard flattened his ears, pawing uneasily at his mother's foreleg with a worried tilt of his head.

"Mom? Is something wrong?" he asked.

Farn's glare at Team Traveller lingered for a moment, before reeling in her mood and giving a small smile down at Leonard.

"It's nothing, dear. It's just that those friends of yours look… familiar," she said. " I want a chance to talk with them on my own. You should go ahead without me and go home with Murdo."

Murdo poked his head out of the water with a puzzled blink, looking between Farn and Team Traveller's members with a confused burble.

"Huh?" the Magikarp asked. "But we can just wait here for-"

"Now, you two."

Murdo and Leonard flinched from the Luxray's harsh tone and shrunk back as she shot a piercing scowl with her red eyes that evidenced that she wasn't in the mood to debate the matter. The pair gave grudging farewells to Team Traveller, Pleo and his companions watching helplessly as the pair drifted off, before a low snarl turned their attention back to Farn.

The five saw the Luxray glaring daggers at them, prompting them to turn back and run into the passage surrounding the courtyard. Pleo and his companions tore along for dear life as they heard electricity crackle behind them, circling around the courtyard back for the complex's exit. They blew past a stall selling books and brushed past students with yelps, when they saw the archway ahead of them.

"Ah! Up ahead!" Nida cried.

The Nidorina charged through with her teammates and exited the Academy's complex, before immediately ducking into a side street as they kept running along. A sudden blur of blue and black leapt overhead, where they saw Farn coming to a crouching stop ahead of them. Nida looked around in a panic when she saw an entrance to an alleyway to her left and hurriedly shepherded her teammates along as Farn lunged at them. The group tore along, when they came to a brick wall ahead of them blocking their path.

"A-Ah! It's a dead end!" Pleo cried.

The Lugia stooped down and thought to let his teammates aboard, only to realize that Nida had gotten a lot bigger since she'd evolved, and Crom was larger than he was. Whatever thoughts he had of ferrying his friends to safety ended with the sound of a faint electrical crackle, as he and his companions turned back to see Farn drawing near them, ready to pounce.

"Hrmph. I don't know how you've managed to sneak in here, or why Lyn's left it to me to handle his duties," the Luxray began. "But I know who you are, and you all seem to know who I am."

Farn bared her fangs and let sparks dance in her fur, drawing frightened squeaks from the lot as Elty pinned his ears back with a low whine. Satisfied she'd communicated her strength, the Administrator let out a low harrumph and looked square into Pleo's eyes.

"So I'm sure that you already know what I can do," she growled. "Come quietly, Lugia, and I'll see your friends have a future to look forward to."

Pleo cringed and quietly shivered. Farn was an Administrator, and one whose attacks would hurt him a lot more than Darzin's. Could they even beat her like this? Would it even matter when their fight would almost certainly draw the attention of the guards?

The Lugia grimaced as his mind went blank, when he was suddenly snapped to attention by Crom stepping forward, visibly trembling, but forcing a brave face all the while.

"A f-future?! That's what you call standing back and letting you bully Pleo?!" the Druddigon asked. "Turning him into some sort of weapon?!"

"Th-That's not a future, that's a nightmare!" Elty exclaimed. "Take your offer and shove it!"

"As if we'd just roll over for you, Rentorar!" Guardia snapped, giving a nervous swing of her club. "If you want Pleo so bad, you're going to have to fight us for him!"

Pleo sucked in a sharp breath and shook his head. What on earth was he thinking considering giving in like that? These were his friends, and just like on the night when they'd fled Lyn, they were ready to dig in and fight. Sure Farn was scary, but they'd gotten tougher since then, and there was no sense in letting the Administrator psych them out like this.

"I-I'm their Protector, not yours!" the young Lugia insisted. "If they're going to fight, then I'm going to help them!"

"Yeah, and we already beat Darzin before and he's an Administrator just like you!" Nida piped. "We'll take our chances here!"

Farn blinked puzzledly for a moment. These whelps had fought with Darzin before? How on earth did-? The Luxray narrowed her eyes back into a harsh glare. Whatever had happened there, she could get to the bottom of it some other time. All that mattered now was capturing the Guardian of the Seas right here, right now, and ending the stalemate with the Empire once and for all.

"Hrmph, so be it," she snarled. "If you can't listen to reason, I'll shock it into you!"

Sparks danced on the Luxray's pelt, as she arched and shot out a wide spread of blue electrical bolts. Team Traveller's members reflexively flinched as Guardia ran forward, the electric tendrils abruptly changing course and arcing towards her as they struck her with a sharp crackle, but otherwise did nothing but leave static to dance on her scales. Farn blinked, and curled her mouth down into a small, annoyed frown.

"Hrmph, I should've known there was a reason behind your boldness," the Electric-Type remarked.

"Yeah, you should've," Elty spat back. "Here's something else for ya!"

The Growlithe lunged forward, breathing out a spray of searing, bluish-white flames that found their mark on Farn's shoulder. The Luxray reflexively winced from Elty's Will-O-Wisp as a burn began to spread over the site of impact, prompting Nida's eyes to light up as she sprang ahead and motioned to her teammates to follow.

"This is our chance! Come on!"

The Nidorina darted forward, poison slicking over her left forepaw as she ran a Poison Jab square into Farn's left side. Guardia followed up by flinging her club into a whirling Bonemerang that clipped the Luxray twice, along with a bluish, fiery Dragon Rage from Crom, and the telltale cone of golden rings of an Extrasensory from Pleo.

The Luxray lost her footing briefly and sprang back, freeing up about half the distance of the alleyway. If they could just fight their way out into the open, then however poorly or not they were matched up against Farn, they could make a break for it and escape!

Except… they first had to fight through her, and given the crouching pose she was reassuming and how she didn't seem particularly hurt from their salvo, she was going to make them fight tooth and nail for every step forward.

"Hrmph, so you can at least keep yourselves from being swept," Farn scoffed. "But let's see how well you can handle a targeted strike!"

Farn dug her heels in and sprang forward at Pleo, baring her teeth as shadowy flecks danced among them. The Lugia froze out of terror, watching as the Luxray sailed at him with her paws outstreched and maw open for a crushing bite, when Crom suddenly cut in in front of him, followed by a sharp cry.


Pleo reflexively beat his wings and hopped back as Farn tumbled with Crom's body, the Druddigon having been pushed behind and to the side from their mutual collision. The Luxray jumped back and recoiled, pulling back as her forelimbs sported disheveled fur and her cheek now had a reddening, dribbling scrape from brushing up against one of the spikes on Crom's arms. Pleo hurriedly looked over at Crom, where, much to his alarm, he spotted the Druddigon laying on the ground on his side, whining in pain as a set of puncture wounds oozing blood now studded his right arm.


Crom got up, cradling his arm as he grit his teeth. The Druddigon pinned his wings back, shaking his arm to try and nurse feeling back into it when he noticed Farn hesitate and wince from her burn.

"Ngah… i-it's alright, Pleo! Just stay on her!"

Pleo obliged, cracking his beak open as he once again hit Farn with an Extrasensory. Nida focused just as she had in her attempts to practice Ice Beam since leaving Tromba, when she felt her mouth suddenly turn frigid and a chilly sensation linger in her throat.

"Take this!"

The Nidorina spat up a whitish beam from her mouth and struck the Luxray's face. Th-That was the Ice Beam that mami had helped her learn!

The beam threw Farn off balance as lingering frost flecked her face's fur, leaving her open for Crom to dash in with a rake of his claws that trailed white flecks of light. The Luxray staggered back, as Elty and Guardia threw in a fiery somersault and an overhead swing of her club, forcing Farn out onto the lane along the canal. Team Traveller's members hurriedly ran ahead and out of the alley, where the Luxray Administrator let out a low growl and arched her back as Team Traveller stared her down.

"Fine, I've tested the waters enough," she snapped. "Let's remind you of what you're up against!"

Farn lunged ahead with her maw opened wide. For a fleeting second, the group saw ice build up along her fangs, before she pounced on Guardia and sank them deep into her shoulder.


Farn lifted Guardia and shook her in her mouth as she screamed in agony. The Cubone's cries lingered briefly and then faded away, before the Luxray threw the Ground-Type aside limply onto the cobbles. Pleo and his companions looked on in blank shock, as Guardia laid there in a heap, with her chest weakly rising and falling.

The four backpedaled towards their fallen comrade, the color draining from their faces while their breaths came out shallow and tense, as Farn drew near with a sharp snarl. With Guardia defeated, there was nothing protecting them from the full force of Farn's electric attacks, and even in spite of their hail of attacks earlier, she didn't seem to be showing many signs of visible fatigue.

Team Traveller's members watched in horror as Farn began to spark, the Luxray readying a Discharge, only to pause and let the sparks die off as she noticed something behind them. Nida and the others stood in blank shock for a moment and traded confused glances, when a low, growling voice cut in.

"Hrmph. That's quite enough."

The group slowly turned around when their jaws flopped open. There, walking up to them along with Gerhard and his guards was a Nidoking in the same scarf pattern that Sophie had as part of her disguise.

That was Inler, the real one!

The four let out startled yelps and flinched at the glowering Nidoking, as Gerhard held out a hand and motioned at them.

"That's them, right there, Director," the Alakazam huffed. "Those are the imposters I was telling you about!"

Inler narrowed his eyes and scowled down at the trembling youngsters, letting a low growl out from the back of his throat.

"Oh trust me, Gerhard, they're a lot more than that."

Team Traveller's members shrank back in a trembling panic, as Nida held out a paw and let out a stammering cry.

"A-Ah! Y-You're the Company's Director!" she squeaked.

"That's correct," Inler scoffed. "And you should give up if you know what's good for you."

Pleo froze and felt a chill run down his spine. This was the Director of the entire Company. The same Pokémon who Nerea had said to be strong enough to overpower her strongest teammates all at once with just a few blows. Even if he didn't have guards helping him, how were they supposed to fight a 'mon like that?

… Why did they have to fight like this anyways? Pleo stood there trembling for a moment, when in the midst of his fright, he steeled himself and raised his voice back at the Nidoking…

"Wh-Why are you doing this to us?" the Lugia demanded. "Why can't you let us go?!"

Inler flicked his ears and dug his feet into the ground with a low huff. Even in spite of his old age, the Nidoking knew how to project a presence, and the piercing, overpowering glare he leveled was no exception.

"Because the needs of this company, of this world, are bigger than you," the Poison-Type icily replied. "And we can't afford to wait on you to realize that."

"What on earth is that supposed to mean?!" Nida demanded.

"Anyilla's been waiting for forty years in order to be unified under one banner again," Inler said. "One that's grown and learned from past mistakes."

The Nidoking lowered his head, narrowing his eyes as he pawed at the ground, seemingly readying for a charge.

"And if you think I'm prepared to just throw that away for the sake of the feelings of a child who doesn't understand how fragile Anyilla's hope for a better future is, then you're sorely mistaken."

Nida and the others felt their blood run cold as they saw Inler advance on them, as Farn and the rest of his party fell back in opposing directions. The Nidorina watched as the Nidoking crouched and braced his feet, her mind running blank as she realized he was about to spring up with an Earthquake…

"N-Not so fast, square-neck!"

Nida snapped to attention after seeing Elty spew up a spray of whitish cinders at the Nidoking which caught him on his hip. Inler grimaced briefly, before jumping up and stomping the ground as it churned under his feet. Nida watched as waves shot through the surface of the ground and flung cobbles into the air, and then felt herself get launched upwards. The Nidorina bounced off one of the walls, before pitching back to earth and hitting the pavement, laying there panting much to Pleo's alarm from above.

"A-Ah! Nida! Get up! Get up!"

Pleo batted his wings together and threw a churning Whirlwind at Inler that pushed him back towards Gerhard. The Lugia dove down and tugged at her, dragging her up with a dazed groan. From the corner of her eye, they could see a wobbly Crom helping Elty onto his feet with a pained whine. Down the street, they could see Inler steadying himself, as he, Farn, and Gerhard with his lackeys were coming for them from both sides readying attacks.

The pair's mind went blank. They couldn't win. Not like this. Nida fanned out her barbs, as Pleo pulled his head in towards his chest and flinched, looking away as their enemies converged on them.

"Hold it right there!"

The sound of a sharp, squawking cry rang out, as a crackling Petrify Orb zipped in between them from across the canal and doused them all in a hail of sparks. Nida yelped and felt her limbs lock up, her breathing turning shallow and panicked as she heard her friends cry out. Inler and the others evidently hadn't expected the orb either, as in the midst of their petrification, their eyes widened in surprise. Nida frantically tried to turn her head to no avail as she heard approaching wingbeats, when she suddenly felt a feathery shove and looked up to see Kiran staring down at her.

"That was a good 50% closer than it needed to be," the Swellow sighed. "Sorry about the rude entrance. Are you all alright?"

Nida panted briefly, before she turned to her friends and let out a wavering sigh of relief as they were similarly shoved out of their petrification by Dimitri, Kline—now back in his dog-like form, and their other teammates. After taking a moment to let the team's turn of fortunes set in, she shook her head and turned back to Kiran.

"W-We're fine," she insisted.

A little further off, Calidus nudged Elty free from the effects of the Petrify Orb. The Talonflame glanced off warily at the Director and his subordinates to ensure they were still safely immobilized, before looking down at the Growlithe with a ruffle of his feathers.

"Come on, we'll patch you all up while we're moving," the Talonflame remarked. "This encounter's certainly not going to make getting out of the city any easier for us…"

"Gah… you don't have to tell me again, " Elty insisted, flattening his ears out. "Though would it have killed you all to get here sooner?"

All the while, Inler and his subordinates stared in dumbfounded shock, as Farn spluttered incredulously at the scene.

"You-!" the Luxray cried. "What do you think you're-?!"

"Stepping in to help some friends. Though stick around for a while!" Alice jeered. The Sneasel pulled her eyelid down and blew a raspberry at the immobilized Board members, before suddenly getting cut off by an impatient huff.

"Alice, let's go already!" Kline snapped.

The Zygarde tugged her along by her claw, as Dimitri got into the water and Nida and Crom climbed onto him. At the same time, Elty helped to hoist Guardia onto Calidus' back before joining himself. One by one, Dimitri and the team's fliers pushed off and knifed ahead along the canal as Kline ran alongside them on their path for the Siglo Swellow. All the while, Crom glanced behind them back towards the Nidoking Director and his allies, before turning ahead as he felt his stomach begin to knot up.

"Why does this all feel strangely familiar?" the Druddigon asked.

"Because we went through something like this back in Tidemill City?" Elty replied.

Nida glanced back as the Academy slipped away from them, and then at the maze of canals up ahead. It really did feel almost like they were back in Tidemill City again, but even so, the Nidorina couldn't help but feel a gnawing feeling in the pit of her stomach that something was wrong…

"I just hope it ends as well as it does too."

Author's Notes:

- Ja hoor - Dutch: "Yeah, sure"
- Ne! (Не!) - Bulgarian: "No!" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
- Leuk geprobeerd - Dutch: "Nice try"
- Rentorar (レントラー) - Japanese: "Luxray" (Official Romanization)
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Winter can't come soon enough
So, that didn't exactly shake out the way I was expecting it to. About the only things I think I was decently close with were Salvini et. al. showing up and the board kiddies stepping in in an attempt to buy time. I... still think the latter might've been more interesting if they had time to actually bond with the team, but given how hastily they got ferried away due to Farn showing up, I guess it was more a case of "Students rebelling against the mean ol' teacher."

The vault infiltration went eerily smooth, helped by Salvini's crew, which might've been deliberate misdirection on your guys' parts to have it be all the more shocking when Farn and Inler both show up. Neither of which I'd really expected, since things pointed toward the trouble involving Team Sentinel, Lyn, and Darzin. At least the latter will definitely crash the ship next chapter. But I do imagine the actual board getting involved throws a new wrench into the matter. I... still firmly expect this to end with someone getting captured. And, like, those who aren't flee to more... uncharted territories to try and strike back on their own terms.

I do think having Inler easily petrified lessons any of the intimidation factor of the first face-to-face meeting with the team, but perhaps that was intentional? Since Elilan wears the more sinister hat, so to speak...

There, Crom held onto the pocket mirror that had been lent to them by the ship's crew,
I just have to imagine someone brought this with them on a ship because they're very concerned about their looks.
What if they catch on to us?
Listen to the bird. He speaks the truth.
We went through worse than this to help you escape from Tidemill City
I think this is what we in the business call "foreshadowing."
Those goggles are made of plastic
Amazing how it sounds mystical to them while it's destroying our planet.
a Wobbuffet
I like to believe it's one of the guards because Arena Trap could prevent a thief from escaping?
the Garchomp hurriedly trying to turn a few knobs, only to fumble with a low growl and be forced to try again
"For god's sake, why didn't they assign someone with hands to this position?!"
there was no obvious sign of forced entry.
Ah, a classic police procedural line.
I… can't say that Pleo's not a demon.
"Dude, where's my respect?" ~Pleo, probably
"As far as we're concerned, we never saw you or your friends, Kiran," Hertsog said.
I'm sure nothing bad will come of this, as he casually suggests to flee the island. :V
The Omastar and Grimmsnarl doubted him for a moment, only for the Dragonite to fish out the strip of Nagant's scarf he'd kept from their encounter on Mengir and pass it over to the Omastar
Darzin used String Shot! It's... super effective?
And you sound a bit hoarse, Director."
Hiiii, Sophie.
"Fine, I've tested the waters enough,
"This isn't even my final form!"
Why does this all feel strangely familiar?" the Druddigon asked.

"Because we went through something like this back in Tidemill City?" Elty replied
No, bad kids! You're not supposed to lampshade the deja vu when the fic's playing things straight. [bonk]


Active Member
So a couple years ago I watched Akira for the first time. My brother asked me what I thought about it and I said something like, "It was a excellent movie with a extremely powerful and important message. I have no idea what that message is, but I know that it is there." I feel a very similar way about Fledglings. This is an absolutely fantastic story and I love it, but I have no idea why? I 100% plan an rereading the entire story as soon as it ends to try and figure it out. Until then, I can try my hand at chapter reviews. I'll just focus one thing I really liked and one thing I though could have been done better though. Otherwise I will literally spend over an hour dissecting every little thing.

Chapter 87
The chapter has 6 sections; Nida's group enters the school, Ketu and Lyn arrive at Tromba Island, Ellsberg and Aldrich talk on the tower, Trizano's group has the awesome allyway fight with Ellsberg and Aldrich, Nida's group joins the class, Trizano's group talks to Salvini and Hertsog. I am not sure if that ordering is the best. I would have switched the last two sections so the entire activities of Trizano's group is a single, larger section and the chapter ended with Nida narrating "Time and time again, she found herself being nagged by an uncomfortable suspicion that perhaps they'd bitten off more than they could chew." I just don't see what splitting Trizano's group's scenes into two sections accomplishes.

That being said, I think the Trizano's group fight with Ellsberg and Aldrich is magnificent. I love how the narrow alleyway really plays into the fight. The environment is so confining that both sides get thrown against the walls and attacks either hit their targets or damage the surrounding buildings. Even though most of the combatants can fly, the fight does not turn into a aerial dog fight because the building are in the way. If the fight were in a courtyard or another wide open space, this fight would have been so much different. Aldrich's area of effect attacks (Boomburst, Hurricane) would have been much less effective, Team Traveler's two additional fliers would have given them a huge mobility advantage, and Pladur would have been nearly useless or have to use a very different strategy. The best part though is that there were serious consequences for losing. The way you pause the fight to focus on Trizano's eyes being burned and Salvini's concern over the injury signals that this injury is not a regular battle injury. If you play it anything like Pladur getting stabbed in his arena fight, then regardless of if Trizano fully recovers this fight will be a significant part of his character arc.

Chapter 86
I absolutely love Ketu's interigation scene. It filled me with so much horror and anger that I wanted to just punch that little jerk in the face so much! What is really interesting is that much more violent scenes, like Trizano losing his eyes, did not get that same reaction. I am not really sure what about the scene works so well. Part of it could be that at the start of the section we see Ketu measuring up different Pokemon and figuring out how to hurt them. Part of it could be the dramatic irony that we, the audience, know how much danger Gwenith and Cenn even when they don't, so the suspense just builds and builds. What I am sure about is that the ending, where Ketu reveals his identity for no benefit other than the sadistic pleasure of causing Gwenith emotional pain, is just brutal and shows a side to his character we have not seen often.

On the other hand, I also agree with Ambyssin that having all the information come from Cenn was a bit much. In the scene Cenn gives away three pieces of information

"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-"...

"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?"...

"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!"

The first piece, that Pleo's powers are still undeveloped, definitely could have come from Gwenith. It would also make more sense if the adult who helped train Pleo had more realistic understanding of what the Protector could do than the star-struck child.

A bigger problem is that Cenn then name dropped the Knights' Ledger and Vollezee. Even if you argue that a child giving that much away is realistic and does not beak suspension of disbelief, I would respond that the larger problem is that giving that information to Ketu so easity is uninteresting. Imagine if Cenn named only one of those things and then gave a clue to the other, so Ketu has to piece the information together. For example, if Cenn never mentioned Vollezee but did mention that his father is on a week-long voyage, then Ketu could have pieced together that the only place that could hold the Knights' Ledger and is that close to Tromba Island is Vellezee. I think that would have been a more interesting way to get the same effect since it would rely a lot more on Ketu's cunning than Cenn's mistakes.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
So, that didn't exactly shake out the way I was expecting it to. About the only things I think I was decently close with were Salvini et. al. showing up and the board kiddies stepping in in an attempt to buy time. I... still think the latter might've been more interesting if they had time to actually bond with the team, but given how hastily they got ferried away due to Farn showing up, I guess it was more a case of "Students rebelling against the mean ol' teacher."

I mean, we did try to slip in some undertones of them bonding, even if more would’ve been nice. It was a bit of a crowded Episode, so we opted to let the cards fall where they may there.

Plus, “messing with your annoying, mean-spirited teacher” is always a decent motivator for a kid.

The vault infiltration went eerily smooth, helped by Salvini's crew, which might've been deliberate misdirection on your guys' parts to have it be all the more shocking when Farn and Inler both show up. Neither of which I'd really expected, since things pointed toward the trouble involving Team Sentinel, Lyn, and Darzin. At least the latter will definitely crash the ship next chapter. But I do imagine the actual board getting involved throws a new wrench into the matter. I... still firmly expect this to end with someone getting captured. And, like, those who aren't flee to more... uncharted territories to try and strike back on their own terms.

Well, you’ll have a solid answer to that question once the time curtain call rolls for this episode, which will be in the update after this one. Originally we were hoping to make this update the final chapter of the episode, but… yeah, considering the wordcount of just this update, we decided against publishing everything in a single take.

I do think having Inler easily petrified lessons any of the intimidation factor of the first face-to-face meeting with the team, but perhaps that was intentional? Since Elilan wears the more sinister hat, so to speak…

Yeah, that wasn’t intentional, and it makes us glad we didn’t go with the original version of events, since Inler got petrified even easier there.

The intent was more “team swoops in and saves the day by catching him off-guard”, but I suppose it is what it is. And to paraphrase TTGL, “a surprise only works once”. This won’t be the last time the gang crosses paths with Inler in this story, and it’ll take quite a bit more to get the better of him next time.

I just have to imagine someone brought this with them on a ship because they're very concerned about their looks.

I personally envisioned it as being used for more practical purposes, but hey, I won’t rule out vanity as a motivating factor.

Listen to the bird. He speaks the truth.

Well, that’d certainly have solved some problems, now wouldn’t it?

I think this is what we in the business call "foreshadowing."

That subtle, huh? :V

Amazing how it sounds mystical to them while it's destroying our planet.

I mean, it helps if you have at least several centuries’ worth of time to degrade them and leave just a handful of examples behind. But yeah, “things we take for granted being mystical” has been a hallmark of how the Cradle handles its mainline world roots.

I like to believe it's one of the guards because Arena Trap could prevent a thief from escaping?

We actually had that in mind, yes. The Mirror Coat and Counter spam in order to protect valuable objects also helped with the decision.

"For god's sake, why didn't they assign someone with hands to this position?!"

Because his strength made up for it. I could buy that Garchomp whining about that though given that he wasn’t exactly super enthused about his duties last chapter. [loltias]

"Dude, where's my respect?" ~Pleo, probably

I mean, even if Ander was firmly convinced that Pleo wasn’t a demon, he kinda has to speak Phyllis’ language to win her over here.

I'm sure nothing bad will come of this, as he casually suggests to flee the island. :V

Payak: “Hrmph, it’s not like these sorts of things have a tendency to get characters in hot water in stories, you know!”
Salvini: “No, Payak… they… kinda do.”

Darzin used String Shot! It's... super effective?

Well, certainly moreso than Team Sentinel would’ve liked.

Hiiii, Sophie.

Fortunately for her, Gerhard wasn’t quite as perceptive. ^^;

"This isn't even my final form!"

I mean, it is since as of present there are no morph changes Luxray can undergo canonically, but she definitely kicked up the difficulty meter a few notches there.

No, bad kids! You're not supposed to lampshade the deja vu when the fic's playing things straight. [bonk]


So a couple years ago I watched Akira for the first time. My brother asked me what I thought about it and I said something like, "It was a excellent movie with a extremely powerful and important message. I have no idea what that message is, but I know that it is there." I feel a very similar way about Fledglings. This is an absolutely fantastic story and I love it, but I have no idea why? I 100% plan an rereading the entire story as soon as it ends to try and figure it out. Until then, I can try my hand at chapter reviews. I'll just focus one thing I really liked and one thing I though could have been done better though. Otherwise I will literally spend over an hour dissecting every little thing.

I mean, you have good taste there. Since Akira is indeed a fine film. Better manga, though. And it’s nice to get reviews from you here again, since your past ones were fun to read over. ^^

The chapter has 6 sections; Nida's group enters the school, Ketu and Lyn arrive at Tromba Island, Ellsberg and Aldrich talk on the tower, Trizano's group has the awesome allyway fight with Ellsberg and Aldrich, Nida's group joins the class, Trizano's group talks to Salvini and Hertsog. I am not sure if that ordering is the best. I would have switched the last two sections so the entire activities of Trizano's group is a single, larger section and the chapter ended with Nida narrating "Time and time again, she found herself being nagged by an uncomfortable suspicion that perhaps they'd bitten off more than they could chew." I just don't see what splitting Trizano's group's scenes into two sections accomplishes.

The intent was to basically sell a sense of time passing between Trizano’s moment coming fresh off the alleyway fight, and then picking up on him after he’s getting patched up with much of the “catchup” between him and Hertsog getting shoved offscreen. We’ll keep your feedback in mind for future revisits to that chapter, though at least for now, we’re not sure if we’re ready to change up that dynamic in Chapter 85.

That being said, I think the Trizano's group fight with Ellsberg and Aldrich is magnificent. I love how the narrow alleyway really plays into the fight. The environment is so confining that both sides get thrown against the walls and attacks either hit their targets or damage the surrounding buildings. Even though most of the combatants can fly, the fight does not turn into a aerial dog fight because the building are in the way. If the fight were in a courtyard or another wide open space, this fight would have been so much different. Aldrich's area of effect attacks (Boomburst, Hurricane) would have been much less effective, Team Traveler's two additional fliers would have given them a huge mobility advantage, and Pladur would have been nearly useless or have to use a very different strategy. The best part though is that there were serious consequences for losing. The way you pause the fight to focus on Trizano's eyes being burned and Salvini's concern over the injury signals that this injury is not a regular battle injury. If you play it anything like Pladur getting stabbed in his arena fight, then regardless of if Trizano fully recovers this fight will be a significant part of his character arc.

Glad to hear that you enjoyed the fighting sequence, since we consider that to be one of this story’s stronger suits. As for Trizano, yeah, it’s very much intended to be a part of a broader character arc for he that will be sticking with him for a couple Episodes. And he is an Immortal. It’d be remiss of us as storytellers to not take advantage of it with Trizano if the plot provided an opening to do so.

I absolutely love Ketu's interigation scene. It filled me with so much horror and anger that I wanted to just punch that little jerk in the face so much! What is really interesting is that much more violent scenes, like Trizano losing his eyes, did not get that same reaction. I am not really sure what about the scene works so well. Part of it could be that at the start of the section we see Ketu measuring up different Pokemon and figuring out how to hurt them. Part of it could be the dramatic irony that we, the audience, know how much danger Gwenith and Cenn even when they don't, so the suspense just builds and builds. What I am sure about is that the ending, where Ketu reveals his identity for no benefit other than the sadistic pleasure of causing Gwenith emotional pain, is just brutal and shows a side to his character we have not seen often.

Yeah, it was very much intended to be a tense scene where the readers would be kept on edge over whether or not some faces they grew to know and love would be alright in the face of a dangerous situation. We’re glad to hear that you enjoyed the overall buildup and delivery of where things went there.

The first piece, that Pleo's powers are still undeveloped, definitely could have come from Gwenith. It would also make more sense if the adult who helped train Pleo had more realistic understanding of what the Protector could do than the star-struck child.

A bigger problem is that Cenn then name dropped the Knights' Ledger and Vollezee. Even if you argue that a child giving that much away is realistic and does not beak suspension of disbelief, I would respond that the larger problem is that giving that information to Ketu so easity is uninteresting. Imagine if Cenn named only one of those things and then gave a clue to the other, so Ketu has to piece the information together. For example, if Cenn never mentioned Vollezee but did mention that his father is on a week-long voyage, then Ketu could have pieced together that the only place that could hold the Knights' Ledger and is that close to Tromba Island is Vellezee. I think that would have been a more interesting way to get the same effect since it would rely a lot more on Ketu's cunning than Cenn's mistakes.

I’m not sure if we fully see eye-to-eye with the specific details of your suggestion, but we’ll keep it in mind. You do raise a pretty decent argument about how it’s ultimately a bit more narratively interesting if Ketu puts things together a bit more from his own sleuthing, though it’s not exactly a trivial change to make. There’s a few bits about that scene that we might fine-tune down the road since we’re actually doing a syndicated release on Thousand Roads, and when tend to look over a chapter for improvements whenever we make an update there. Once it’s time to publish chapter 86 on get there, we might see if we can tweak the execution there a bit to make it feel a bit less like Ketu gets a jackpot dumped into his lap.

Though thanks again for your helpful reviews. It’s definitely given us a lot to think about, and it’s a pleasure seeing you posting here again on Serebii. ^^

Alright, it took a little longer than we would’ve liked to get it together, though we’re here with a doodle of Lyn by @Chibi Pika , a fresh chapter, and a few big shake-ups to this story that will be rolled out.

First and foremost is that @Virgil134 will be taking a more hands-on role in publishing and uploading chapters in alternating order with me on forum versions, both here, and on other forums floating around on the net. Whenever one of us handles chapter publishing, the other will be handling writing up the accompanying review responses.

The other big change that we’ll be rolling out is that this will be the part where we introduce multiparters to this story, which will be used for events that are thematically one chapter, but long enough to need to be divided up for ease of consumption. This particular chapter was as good as any to roll it out on since in its original form, it was on track to be upwards of 25,000 words published in a single update. For obvious reasons, we felt that was a bit much to ask readers to get through when a number of current chapters were already striking people as long, so we’ll be publishing this current multiparter in two updates. As of this point in time, we do not plan on converting longer earlier chapters here on Serebii into this multipart format, but you may notice it on the FFN and TR versions of this story.

But that’s enough boilerplate for now, it’s time to get into the actual meat of the story. So without further ado, we’re happy to present the first part of…


PMD Writer

After Farn shooed them off, Murdo and Leonard uneasily made their way home from the Academy, only to come across Zorn about halfway there. The Gyarados was initially at a loss for why on earth the two would've left the Academy on their own, and after a brief explanation from them, grew increasingly concerned about what had happened between Farn and these 'friends' of theirs.

After flagging down a small group of mostly-swimming guards, Zorn made his way up the canal towards the Academy with Murdo and Leonard in tow. The whole time, he grumbled under his breath, wondering what on earth had come over Farn to make her do something so reckless. He'd be sure to give her a piece of his mind for letting his child go unattended in such a fashion. And yet, he couldn't shake the sense that something was wrong.

It just wasn't like Farn to do something like that, especially without a good reason. Then, what exactly had happened to make her drop everything with the kids and focus on these friends of theirs? Murdo and Leonard seemed similarly taken aback by everything, as the Magikarp splashed in the water and looked up at his father with an uneasy expression.

"Dad?" Murdo asked. "What's going on?"

"Yeah, why are we going back to school with all these guards?" Leonard chimed in.

A few possibilities crossed his mind: perhaps she'd chanced to stumble across pirates or spies and didn't want the kids to be exposed to her… dealing with them. But it was hardly wise to excite young and impressionable minds with such topics, or at least not when they were idle speculation. The Academy wasn't that far ahead, and whatever the truth was, it'd become clear soon enough.

"There was just something about what you two said about those friends of yours that worried me a little," Zorn explained. "Maybe, it's nothing, but…"

Murdo shifted his fins uncomfortably in the water, and Leonard pinned his ears back from his perch atop Zorn's head. Both of the youngsters seemed uneasy about the Gyarados' reaction, as if they knew that something was wrong and that they didn't want to tell him.

"Do you mean the way Leonard's mom suddenly got all upset with them?" the Magikarp asked. "Do you know why she did that? It's not like they did anything wrong!"

"Yeah, mom said that she needed to talk with them alone!" Leonard exclaimed. "And then she wouldn't let us listen in! She never does that!"

Zorn started to shake his head back in reply, only to stop himself after hearing Leonard yelp with a start. Right, he was carrying a passenger now. The sea serpent quickly muttered an apology, before lowering himself into the water and casting a guarded glance down at his child.

"Look, whatever's going on, I'm sure that I can get to the bottom of it…"

The Gyarados trailed off as he looked towards the side of the canal, off at the mouth of an alleyway near the entrance of the Academy's main building. A party of guards in Company lavenders had gathered and stood at attention, while at the center, Farn was shooting a piercing glare at a flustered-looking Alakazam, all while Inler pointed a claw accusingly at the Psychic-Type. Zorn blinked at the sight, as he realized the Alakazam was none other than the Academy's Headmaster. He was too far away to hear the conversation between the three and wondered for a moment what was happening, when Gerhard gave a chastened bow right before the guards hurriedly dispersed.

Zorn paused at the head of his party of swimmers for a moment, and looked down at Murdo. The Magikarp squirmed uneasily in the water and raised his voice in a concerned tone.

"Why are you looking like that, dad?" Murdo asked. "Is something wrong?"

Zorn gave no reply as he stopped and watched Inler ordering around the Alakazam professor, who quietly flinched under his gaze. The Gyarados raised a brow, when he could've sworn he heard his earholes pick up some sort of comment about 'letting them get away'.

… This didn't seem like a matter that was wise to just swim off from. Zorn made his way over to the edge of the canal and lowered his head down to the street level, glancing to his Magikarp child trailing after him. The Gyarados noted Murdo had a worried stare from the corner of his eye, before letting out a rumbling sigh.

"… I'm going to need a moment, you two," he explained. "I think that this has something to do with work."

"But you're supposed to be off work right now!" Murdo cried, splashing his fins in protest.

Zorn said nothing as he bobbed his head to motion to Leonard to get off, the Shinx reluctantly jumping to the street's pavestones. As soon as his passenger got off, he reared up and looked down at the youngsters with the most reassuring smile his fierce features allowed.

"Just go on ahead of me, alright? I'll be back home before you know it."

Murdo and Leonard hesitated for a moment and looked up pleadingly at the Gyarados for a moment, only to waver as he stubbornly refused to move from his place. The pair began to grudgingly drift away along the canal, when Zorn turned his attention over to a pink Jellicent and a pink Gastrodon from his following party and motioned with his head after the two children.

"You two, take the kids home," he grunted. "This is probably going to take a while."

The Jellicent and Gastrodon nodded back to the Gyarados Administrator, before hurrying off to shepherd Murdo and Leonard along. Zorn coiled in the water and swam over for the patch of the stone lane on the other end of the canal. He arrived just in time to see Gerhard hurry off as Inler let out a sharp huff and Farn glowered under her breath. … A group of Pokémon had gotten away from the Academy? But who? And what had they been doing?

"Director? What are you doing here around campus?" Zorn asked. "What happened here?"

"We just caught Lugia and his companions impersonating students," the Nidoking growled. "They stole something from the Academy's Vault a few minutes ago and are currently on the loose here in the city!"

Zorn jolted back in the water, the ripples from his body churning it enough to make a small wave that doused the faces of a few of his accompanying swimmers. The abrupt soak drew a few reflexive cries of protest, which were quickly suppressed after a brief glance back up at the Administrator's scarf. Fortunately for them, Zorn's mind was distracted from Inler's sudden revelation, as he tried to make sense of how on earth the Protector they'd had Lyn chasing across Anyilla for the past month could've possibly just come into Vollezee on his own.

"Wait, what? But why on earth would-?"

"That's not relevant right now. What is relevant is finding them here before they can get away!" Farn snapped. "With how long they kept us stalled with that Petrify Orb, they could be anywhere right now!"

Inler paused and brought a claw to his chin in thought, before a dawning realization came over him. The Director turned to his Gyarados subordinate, and motioned off towards the direction of the island's lagoon.

"Lyn's ship is still in the lagoon right now. Get him and whoever else you can summon along the way to blockade its exits," the Nidoking ordered. "It's the most likely escape route the Protector and his entourage would try and take if they came here by ship. Farn and I will try to cover the other scenarios by mobilizing the guards to comb the city in case they attempt to lay low or escape overland."

Zorn narrowed his eyes and gave a firm nod back to his superior.

"Understood, Director."

The Gyarados beckoned the guards with him to follow with a sharp cry, before swimming off through the canal's water as quickly as his fins could carry him. He knifed through the water as Inler and Farn hurried off in the opposite direction. All the while, the Administrator and his guards shooed passing Pokémon and watercraft out of their way as they tore ahead southwards for the cerulean waters of Vollezee's lagoon.

If they could get to the Protector in time, the Company's future, their future, was theirs for the taking.

At that same time, a little ways north of the Academy, Sorge, Zelle, and Ellsberg rested next to a row of canalhouses overlooking a canal and its surrounding paths from a cobbled residential street. The small strip of tall, gabled-roofed buildings had been quiet, with few companions other than a couple clotheslines that fluttered with the wind. Not that one would expect any different in the middle of the day from a street like this with no obvious businesses to speak of. Most of their occupants would be off at work, or if they were nocturnal, fast asleep.

More importantly, the buildings and the neighboring canal formed a blind corner shaped much like a wedge. Any Pokémon heading northwards along the canal's bordering street would never see them while passing, or at least not without stopping to look back.

The sound of approaching wingbeats turned the trio's attention skyward, where they saw Aldrich swoop in over the rooftops and come to a stop on the ground. Sorge and the others glanced over as the Noivern looked back at them, before the bat gave a firm grunt in reply.

"I spotted them coming from the Academy," Aldrich said. "Looks like they'll pass by here, just like we expected."

"Excellent," Sorge replied, a small smirk coming over his face. "Then we don't have a moment to lose."

The Kommo-o fished through his bag and pulled out a peach-colored orb with mist swirling in it—the Slumber Orb from the items they'd prepared for their ambush. It, along with the other orbs of its sort, had been primed by the four in anticipation of Team Traveller and Team Zephyr's arrival. And not a moment too soon if Aldrich's report was anything to go by.

Zelle braced herself, readying herself to attack at a moment's notice. Meanwhile, Aldrich looked up at the gabled roofs above and motioned at Ellsberg with a claw.

"Come on, Ellsberg," he said. "We'll be able to pincer them better if we come down on them from above."

Ellsberg nodded back and already started to flutter up, the Noivern crouching and readying his wings to take wing after him, when a voice suddenly called out from behind them.

"Excuse me."

Aldrich paused as Sorge put the Slumber Orb away, before they and their teammates whirled about to see a Second-Rank Grimmsnarl at the head of a small party of guards. A Second-Rank Milotic, along with a yellow-eared Raichu floating on her tail with a First-Rank scarf, and a similarly-garbed Scolipede. Team Sentinel's members blinked for a moment, before Zelle sharply glared at the Grimmsnarl.

"Do you mind?" the Sylveon demanded. "We're in the middle of something here!"

The Grimmsnarl and his fellows shrank back, keenly eyeing the scarves of the Sylveon and her companions. They clearly saw every single Pokémon in her party held Second-Rank or higher. The Raichu and the Scolipede traded uneasy glances, before the Grimmsnarl stepped forward and gave an apologetic bow.

"My apologies," the Grimmsnarl offered. "It's just that Administrator Darzin called in a complaint about you and the Harbormaster sent us to go and check up on you."

Team Sentinel found themselves at a brief loss for words, Aldrich tilting his head puzzledly before realizing that the whole encounter must've been from some harebrained plot by Darzin to try and get back at them. The Noivern narrowed his eyes, before scowling at the guards with a sharp scoff.

"'Administrator Darzin'? Seriously?"

"Look, we don't want to do this any more than you do," the Milotic insisted. "He probably just woke up on the wrong side of the bed or something. But as a sanity check… the lot of you wouldn't happen to be carrying any Imperial paraphernalia for whatever reason, right?"

Ellsberg let out an annoyed huff and flitted up into the Milotic's face with a piercing glare.

"If this is your idea of a joke, then it's not funny! Of course we don't have any Imperial garb on us!" the Mothim snapped. "Back off, or I'll make you regret wasting our time!"

The Milotic blinked as Ellsberg attempted to loom over him, before coiling and turning his snout up with a dismissive scoff at the display.

"Oh yeah, I'm trembling in fear right now, Mothim," he harrumphed.

Ellsberg fumed with an angry buzz, only for Aldrich to motion for quiet with a wing.

"I don't know what you've been told, Grimmsnarl, but this is just wasting both our time right now," the Noivern growled.

The Grimmsnarl leading the guards let out a sharp sigh. He pinched his brow and shook his head, before looking back and raising a hand to try to motion for calm and settle the four down.

"Look, we have to give something back to the Harbormaster," the Grimmsnarl insisted. "Just let us do a quick bag check and we'll get out of your hair. That's reasonable, isn't it?"

The group rolled their eyes and grumbled at the Grimmsnarl's stubbornness, and stole glances back at the canal. After a moment's hesitation, they quickly decided that it was better to yield to the guards' demands. After all, Team Traveller and Team Zephyr would be coming through at any minute, and it wouldn't too be hard to cut things short if they had to.

One after the other, Team Sentinel's members presented their bags. Aldrich was the first to offer his for inspection, then came Ellsberg, followed by Zelle, the Grimmsnarl doing little more than to open them and lightly paw around at their surfaces. At the very end, Sorge stepped forward, handing his bag over when the Grimmsnarl opened its mouth and an indigo cloth flopped out.

"Huh? What the-?"

The Grimmsnarl stooped down and picked the cloth up, holding it up to reveal that it was an Imperial scarf, complete with a single, white leaf pattern. Ellsberg's eyes widened as the moth recoiled with a start, shooting an alarmed stare back at his Kommo-o teammate.

"E-Eh?! Sorge!" Ellsberg yelped. "When on earth did that get in there?!"

Sorge looked down at the scarf blankly. How could an Imperial scarf have gotten into his belongings? He'd had an eye on his bag the entire time today! There wouldn't have been an opportunity for anyone to go through it aside from…

The Kommo-o grit his teeth as his mind turned back to when Darzin bumbled into him and grabbed at his bag back on the terrace. He had no idea how the Dragonite managed to slip it in such a short time, but all signs pointed to the culprit being none other than…

"That dirty, worthless-!"


Sorge and the others turned their attention back to the guards, with the Scolipede, Raichu, and Milotic still gaping in stunned surprise. The Grimmsnarl at their fore was a visible exception, as he narrowed his eyes into a stern frown and motioned at the Kommo-o and his companions to follow along.

"I'm… not sure what exactly is going on, but you four need to come and answer a few questions," Grimmsnarl said. "Peacefully."

Team Sentinel's members gave sharp glares in reply, as Aldrich made his way forward and flashed his teeth in irritation.

"Look, we don't have time for this," the Noivern snapped. "If you need answers, you can wait for them later!"

The Grimmsnarl crouched and assumed a fighting stance. The Dark-Type moved a hand towards a satchel about his waist, visibly grabbing at a wand as he bared his teeth back.

"No, we can't wait," the Grimmsnarl insisted. "You need to come. Now."

Team Sentinel's members hastily fell behind Aldrich as the Noivern sprang up and cast a deafening, reverberating shockwave from his ears. The Boomburst knocked the Grimmsnarl and his companions off their feet, with Zelle wasting no time lunging forward to fling the brilliant wave-like light of a Dazzling Gleam down the street. Ellsberg hesitated briefly as the Grimmsnarl and Milotic staggered up after the barrage, when Sorge ran in with a Poison Jab and sprawled out the Grimmsnarl with a blow to his stomach. The Milotic desperately attempted to form an Ice Beam in his mouth to intervene, only for a Bug Buzz to zip in and send him crumpling to the ground.

Ellsberg flitted in place, looking about in worried confusion at the sight of the four unconscious guards on the street. Zelle sized up the felled guards for a moment and rolled her eyes with a low grumble.

"Oh well that's going to be a mess to explain," Zelle sighed, prompting Aldrich to shake his head back with a low growl.

"We'll have time to clear things up afterwards when we settle things with that fat newt! Just focus on the-!"

Aldrich abruptly trailed off and he wiggled his ears after having noticed a sound off in the distance. The Noivern turned his head to follow it, only to see it was headed straight towards the Company's military harbor. The bat let out a startled cry of realization, before gritting his teeth with an aggravated snarl.

"Gah! We missed them!"

The Mothim looked off at the empty canal and grimaced, before shaking his head with a sharp buzz.

"They can't have gotten far!" Ellsberg insisted. "Let's chase them down-"


Sorge shook his head back insistently and turned away from the empty canal.

"There's too many places they can give us the slip in if we try to pursue them like this," the Kommo-o explained. "They're headed for the military harbor and coming from the south. I know a shortcut to its eastern entrance, so we can wait for them there and try again."

Ellsberg and the others hesitated a moment, before the Mothim let out a sigh and let his antennae droop.

"Hrmph, figures this wouldn't be easy…" he grumbled. "I just hope there's no more surprises with this operation."

The Bug-Type gave no further protest, as Sorge slipped off ahead past the still-groaning guards sprawled out on the ground. One by one, Ellsberg and the others followed, melting off into the shadows towards the military harbor and its ships.

In Canalhouse City's military harbor, the docks teemed with activity from various lavender-scarved Pokémon milling about, tending and provisioning ships of different sizes that had been berthed at the piers. Amidst the hubbub, Ketu rested against a stack of crates along the path linking the piers together, tapping his claws against his arm impatiently and occasionally glancing up at the sky with an expectant gaze.

He figured Darzin would've arrived by now. The Dragonite didn't seem like the type to suddenly get cold feet, yet here he was. Waiting on him.

He'd seen Team Traveller and their companions leave their ship almost an hour ago, and the Academy was a mere twenty minutes away by overland travel. Only an idiot would assume that they planned their mission around taking scenic routes to and from it, so it was likely they were already on their way back.

He wasn't the only one making that same assumption, either. The entire time following Team Traveller's departure, the crew of the Siglo Swellow had spent it readying their sails and hurriedly cramming aboard a few last-minute provisions. The way he saw it, he had about five minutes before he'd need to just wing things without Darzin, lest he risk blowing his shot at Team Traveller's volume of the Knights' Ledger entirely.

Ketu's ears flicked as he suddenly heard a faint woosh along with a startled "Watch it!" from the skies above. The Weavile glanced up, just in time to spot Darzin zipping in and heading straight for the Siglo Swellow. The Dark-Type shook his head, and narrowed his eyes with an impatient harrumph.

"Took him long enough…"

Ketu began to make his way towards the Siglo Swellow, right as Darzin swooped down for the ship's deck. While he neared, the Dragonite landed on the deck with an audible thump. The surrounding sailors looked up with a start as the ship began to slightly rock underfoot, immediately blanching after they noticed that there was now a Dragonite with a Company Administrator's scarf standing on the middle of their deck.

"A-Ah!" a Golduck yelped. "You're-!"

"Administrator Darzin," the Dragonite snarled. "It's come to my attention that you lot have a Pokémon of interest for the Board among your crew. I'll be escorting him off. Now."

After the initial moment of startled shock wore off, the sailors hastily dug themselves in, some taking cover, with stronger members bracing themselves for battle. From her place at the stern, Beatrix hesitated at the sight of the Dragonite Administrator, before she hurriedly flitted over towards Darzin. Along the way, she noticed a few of the sailors already starting to ready attacks and went wide-eyed. The moment so much as a Gravelerock sailed at Darzin, their cover was good as gone, so for now, they needed to just hang in there.

"Hold it! At ease, everyone!" she buzzed.

The Illumise cast a quick glance down at the docks. Team Traveller and Team Zephyr would be back soon. Once they were safely back aboard with the Ledger, a broken cover would be something that'd be more manageable, especially with two Protectors aboard and a third in the waters waiting offshore to lend aid.

… But they weren't there yet, and a lot could happen in the span of a few minutes, or a few seconds for that matter, considering Darzin's strength. For the time being, it was best to try and string him along until the others made it back.

"We have no idea what you're talking about, Administrator," Beatrix insisted. "This ship is only used to transport goods, not prisoners."

"Don't try to play dumb, Illumise!" Darzin growled back. "I know who you lot really are and you're in no position to refuse me here!"

While Beatrix and Darzin argued back and forth on the deck, towards the Siglo Swellow's stern, Ketu sized up the windows of the captain's quarters of the ship from a nearby dock. He carefully studied their glass panes, when he noticed that one of them had been slightly left ajar.

Just the opening that he needed.

After a brief glance towards the ship's deck to make sure that nobody was paying attention to him, he leapt forward and latched onto the side of the hull with his claws. The Weavile dug his claws in between the planks and planted his feet against gaps in the timbers for footing, before throwing one set of claws up after the other to make his way up to the open window. A quick peek inside revealed it to be seemingly unoccupied, as he pulled the window open and hoisted his body over the sill, coming to a crouching stop behind a wooden desk as he closed the window behind him.

"So far so good…" he thought to himself.

Ketu looked around the room as he studied his surroundings. There was an upholstered chair tucked up against the desk, with a map and a folded spyglass on it. To the right, there was a door left ajar to a bedroom where a bed with a mattress could be seen through it, and off to the wall beside it, there was a shelf with some books in a neat line, and a portrait of a Volbeat… nothing that was of interest to him.

The Weavile carefully made his way over to the cabin's door and cracked it open, peering through it to see an empty hallway lit up by glass lanterns stuffed with blue glowmoss. After pausing a moment to listen in and hearing nothing but the sound of the water and the ship's timbers creaking, Ketu slunk forward into the hallway, creeping ahead as muffled shouts and cries coming from the deck began to reach his ears. He listened to the voices briefly, and while he couldn't make out specifics, he could definitely hear a Dragonite's voice bellowing and ranting among them. From how long it was going on, Darzin probably hadn't gotten into a fight on the deck just yet. Why on earth was he not surprised that that fat newt would blow around some hot air before getting into a scrap?

"They're certainly not making this hard. Now… where are those sleeping quarters?"

Ketu took the light off its mount and continued forward. He was in a quarterdeck, so unless he was going to announce his presence to the entire crew by walking outdoors onto the main deck, he needed to find a set of stairs. The Weavile snuck along the hallway, when he noticed an alcove to his right, and lowered the lantern to spot a steep set of stairs heading down alongside a railing. A bit simple in construction, but perhaps he shouldn't have expected better from a glorified pile of driftwood like this.

Ketu grabbed the railing, making his way down the steps as he entered a fresh hallway. He made his way forward, creeping past doors and inspecting them as he passed. A storage room, the mess hall…

The Weavile's ears pricked up at the sound of approaching footsteps and worried voices. Ketu hurriedly cupped a paw over his lantern and ducked into a nearby room, hiding just behind the doorway as a Dwebble and Bayleef passed.

"Espera, Administrator Darzin is up there?" the Dwebble asked. "But how could he have-?"

"I don't know either, but come on," the Bayleef insisted. "Things could get dicey."

Ketu crouched as ice began to form in his free claw and he began to mold it into a large, flechette-like shard. He braced himself, expecting the Dwebble and Bayleef to turn back at any moment, only for the two to carry on none the wiser. The Weavile flicked the Ice Shard aside and raised his lantern, where at once he saw piles of straw on the floor and hammocks strung up from the rafters.

That was as good a sign as any that he'd found one of the sleeping quarters.

"Nrgh. Kiran? Is that you?"

The Weavile turned with his lantern and caught the sight of a Skarmory stirring in the corner. He hurriedly covered his light and began creeping for the door, only to notice the Steel-Type raise his head briefly, before settling back down and curling up to sleep.

… A Skarmory should've been able to see that sort of light from such a short distance. For a moment, Ketu wondered if that was the same unfortunate sod that Aldrich said he'd blinded a few days ago, when his thoughts turned back to Albert's explanation of where the Ledger's hiding-place was…

"Second last from the bow, on the ship's port side …"

He was pretty sure that he was on the port side of the ship right now. And the second-to-last sleeping quarters from the bow would be the second one he encountered coming from the stern…

The one right next to the room he was currently in!

Ketu hurriedly ducked out and slipped into the room the next door over, where after raising his lantern for light, he found he was indeed in another set of sleeping quarters. One that was fully empty this time.

The Weavile paused and realized that he distinctly recalled Albert telling him and Aldrich that he'd heard wood clattering in the room where the Ledger was supposed to be. A quick glance at the doorposts revealed that the wall to the hallway was too thin to viably hide a hollow space. The side bordering the hull was similarly out as a potential hiding place, since smugglers of all 'mons would know better than to mess with the part of their ship that held back the sea. So that just left the side walls and the floor to check.

Ketu made his way over to the left wall as the floor's wood creaked underneath. He carefully ran his claws along the gaps of the timbers, only to find them tightly joined. A few exploratory knocks similarly revealed a lack of hidden hollows behind it.

He frowned, and retraced his steps to the other wall, where he repeated the same process… and found much the same. That left the floor to check, but with a good chunk of it covered in straw at the moment… where would he even start?


Ketu's ears swiveled as he suddenly heard a sharp creak underfoot, far sharper than any he'd heard while walking around earlier. The Dark-Type crouched and ran a claw carefully along the floor, where he felt it catch on a gap and the wood lift up slightly underneath.

"That's certainly not normal…"

The Weavile pulled the wood up to reveal a panel over an empty compartment below. Well, mostly empty anyways, aside from the wooden chest tucked in the corner. He leaned forward and picked it up, pulling the lid back, where sure enough, there was the blue cover of a tome with a cross-shaped glyph on its cover. Ketu curled his mouth up into a smirk at the sight.

"Heh, this is too easy…

"Stop trying to stall me! I know you have that bird, and I'm leaving with him even if I have to have the guards raid your ship right here and now!"
Ketu pinned his ears at the sound of Darzin's shout coming through the timbers above. He guessed that was as good a sign as any that it was time to hurry up and leave.

He hurriedly slid the panel back over the compartment with a quiet clatter, before throwing the ledger into his bag and slinging it over his shoulder. The Weavile made his way to the exit and ducked out into the hallway, just in time for the blue glow from his lantern to catch the forms of a Raichu and Servine coming into view. The pair froze and went wide-eyed, the Servine raising his nubby arms with a startled cry.

"Hey, what the-?!"

"Who are you?!" the Raichu demanded. "And what do you think you're doing here?!"

Ketu crouched and shifted himself into a defensive position, gritting his teeth back with a sharp snarl.

"Just someone who was leaving," he spat. "By the way, you should get some better security."

The Weavile suddenly blew forward a frosty gust of wind that swept up the Servine and Raichu, who fought to keep their footing. Philips sparked and tried to shoot a Thunderbolt forward at his assailant, only for the Weavile to exploit his slowed gait and swiftly rake his claws trailing shadowy wisps over the Raichu's stomach, flinging him into the wall where the Electric-Type bounced off of it and faceplanted limply onto the floor. Natrix froze with a start for a moment, before sharply hissing and somersaulting onto his head.

"You'll pay for that, you dirty square-neck!"

The Servine twirled his body about as leaves began to fly from his tail and swirl around him, the Leaf Tornado's flechettes zipping at the Weavile and digging into his pelt. Ketu grimaced from the cutting leaves, before lunging forward as his left claws slicked over with ice. The Dark-Type brought his Ice Punch into a sharp uppercut, catching Natrix in his stomach and sending him flopping over onto his back unconscious. Ketu paused for a moment, shaking some stray ice and Servine scales off his left claw as he looked over the fainted sailors with an unimpressed harrumph.

"Tch, why do they always insist on getting in the way?" he scoffed.

"Hey! There's someone down here!"

Ketu pinned his ears and turned back towards the stern, the same direction that he'd snuck in from the captain's quarters. Guess he wasn't using that exit to get back out. The Weavile took off running for the bow and eventually hurriedly rounded a corner where he came face to face with a Trumbeak who recoiled with a start and squawked in alarm.

"Ah! You're-!"

"Stick around a while!" Ketu snapped.

He hurriedly threw the Trumbeak aside before blowing an Icy Wind that froze her wing to the wood of the wall. The Dark-Type continued on as futile, squawking protests of "Wait, stop!" rang out behind him. He found an exit onto the main deck not long afterwards, clambering up a ladder just as concerned murmurs rang out from above and the head of a Sliggoo peered over.

"What in the-?"

Ketu swiftly threw an Ice Punch at the Sliggoo's face, flinging the Dragon-Type back with a pained yelp. The Weavile sprang up onto the deck, where Darzin and the gathered sailors whirled and stared at him with incredulous gapes. A few surprised cries went about the sailors as Darzin blinked at the sight of the Weavile, before narrowing his eyes into a sharp glare.

"You again!" the Dragonite snarled. "What do you think you're doing interfering with my mission?"

Beatrix stared at Ketu, before her mind put two and two together from the Dark-Type's species and the Company garb about his neck. This was that Weavile from Team Sentinel! The Illumise reflexively batted her wings, pointing a tarsus at him with an accusing glare.

"Better question, what are you doing on my ship?!" she demanded.

A Golduck hurriedly spat a jet of water at Ketu, prompting him to spring up and latch onto the rigging of the center mast. From above, the Weavile peered down, giving a sneering smirk down at his bewildered audience.

"Oh, I just figured I'd stop by to pick up some interesting reading material aboard your ship," the Weavile said. "Not that it was exactly hard thanks to that dim-witted skink distracting you all."

Confused murmurs went about the sailors as to what the Dark-Type meant with 'interesting reading material' and using Darzin as a distraction. The Dragonite for his part seemed to take particular offense at the Weavile's statement, as he snarled up at the Second-Rank.

"'Distraction'?! Whatever you think you did, you're going to explain it, you furry runt!" Darzin exclaimed. "And you'll be giving your findings over to me right now!"

"Pfft, don't make me laugh," Ketu scoffed back. "Though if you're that insistent on me giving you something, how about this?"

Ketu reached into his bag and lobbed a Luminous Orb at the deck. He closed his eyes and dropped down as a blinding flash and startled yelps rang out, before whirling on his heels and taking off running for the bow. The Weavile's attention turned to a coil of rope near the railing tied to one end that looked like a recently untied mooring.

"That'll work nicely."

The Dark-Type stooped mid-stride and grabbed the rope, jumping over the railing and tightening his grasp around the fibers. Ketu felt the rope tighten and swung forward, letting go just as he was about to level out with the ground and then dropped into a rolling crouch in front of a startled Centiskorch and Duosion in Company lavenders. The Weavile looked back just in time to see Darzin going up to the bow's railing. The Dragonite shook some sense back into his head from the aftereffects of the Luminous Orb, before he noticed Ketu down on the pier and met his gaze with narrowed eyes and a low growl.

"Why you-!"

Darzin was suddenly cut off by a Sleep Seed sailing in and bursting against his hide. A small puff of peach-colored smoke suddenly erupted as the Dragonite's eyes grew unfocused, and he pitched forward over the railing and crashed into the water below with a loud splash. From above, Pyry hurried and peered over, looking down at the water with a beaming grin as he cheered on the product of his handiwork.

"Hah! I got him!" the Gabite cried. "I got him!"

"See!" Pekka buzzed, turning to Beatrix with a beaming grin. "Told you we could be useful-!"

The Vibrava trailed off after looking towards the docks and seeing the lavender-scarved Centiskorch and Duosion staring up at him incredulously, with almost an army of other square-necks similarly staring up from their work about the docks. Pyry and Pekka froze and grimaced, realizing that they'd come to blows with a Company Administrator in the middle of what had to be one of the biggest gatherings of square-necks in the middle of their capital.

"Uh-oh," Pekka gulped.

Further down the docks, Ketu nonchalantly made his way along with his bag slung over his shoulder as other Pokémon in Company lavenders continued to look at the Siglo Swellow. After realizing the other Pokémon were just staring dumbly at the scene and not doing anything, the Weavile gave a quiet frown, before he whirled around and pointed off at the schooner with a sharp cry.

"Hey! That schooner is a fake and their crew just attacked an Administrator!" Ketu shouted. "Stop standing there and get them!"

The nearby grunts began to make their way over, some with disbelieving expressions, others already growling and hostile. Ketu sauntered off and cracked a smug smirk, not bothering to look back at the Siglo Swellow as crashes and shouts along with the sounds of a fierce battle began to ring out behind him.

"That went better than I thought."

(Continued in the next post)
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PMD Writer
While Ketu was searching the interior of the Siglo Swellow, the world went by for Guardia in a darkened blur. The first thing she felt after she woke up was the feeling of a seed in her mouth, and a dull, frigid pain on her shoulder. The Cubone immediately noticed that she couldn't feel her club in her grasp, cracking her eyes open to see she was lying down on her stomach on something red-orange and feathery. A quick glance up revealed Elty holding her steady with his paws and looking at her with her bone in his mouth.

Guardia sat up and spat the Plain Seed in her mouth off to the side. She reflexively snatched the bone and pawed at the feathered surface beneath her, before she woozily nursed her head. The bone lizard noticed she still heard the sound of rushing air and heard dull beats from around her, before turning to the Growlithe as he clung tight to the surface they were on.

"Nrgh… Eltenios? Wh-what going on?" Guardia groaned.

"You got wiped by Farn with an Ice Fang and missed out on Inler walking in on us," the Growlithe explained. "Kiran and the others bailed us out with a Petrify Orb, and now we're on our way back to the ship."

Guardia turned her head to see black and orange wings, along with windows and rooftops zipping past. The Cubone stiffened up and realized she wasn't on the ground at all, and looked over to see Calidus' head in front of her. She cast a brief glance downward to see canals and cobbled streets pass underneath, before she reflexively flinched and groaned back at Elty.

"Urgh… if I'd known we were going to fly again, I'd have asked you to wait with reviving me."

Elty looked back, pinning his ears against his body with an unimpressed frown. He supposed Guardia's reaction was better than her screaming bloody murder and whimpering like in the past, but he still had to wonder how on earth the Cubone found it in her to complain about being revived of all things.

"Yeah, well, beggars can't be choosers," he grumbled, prompting Calidus to cut in with a sharp cry.

"Stay alert, you two," the Talonflame insisted. "Team Sentinel is probably plotting an ambush of some sort, so we might be in for a dicey landing."

Guardia looked up and saw the masts of the ships docked in the military harbor a short distance ahead. They were almost in the clear, so whatever Team Sentinel was planning for them, it soon wouldn't matter.

She tensed up as the sound of shattering glass suddenly rang out from behind her. Calidus' eyes widened and he abruptly pulled up, Guardia and Elty clinging on tightly as he did. The pair looked back and saw a hail of sparks as startled yelps rang out. There, much to their alarm, they saw Kline, Percy, Crom, Pladur, and Ander all frozen in place, with a few tumbled over stiffly to the ground.

"Ack!" Guardia cried. "What just-?!"

Calidus wheeled around as he and the others noticed that something was amiss, and hurriedly attempted to go back for their teammates when a quartet of figures in Company garb abruptly rushed out from an alley. There, standing between them and their stricken teammates were Sorge, Aldrich, and Zelle from Team Sentinel, with Ellsberg accompanying them to boot, each of them tensed and ready for battle. The Kommo-o briefly noted the spent shards of the Petrify Orb and grumbled quietly about how he "didn't mean to throw that one" to himself. Zelle kept her attention focused on Team Traveller and Zephyr's members in the interim as she flared her feelers and bared her fangs with a malicious smirk.

"Did you really think it'd be that easy?"

"Move in and secure Subject Red!" Sorge exclaimed.

Everything that happened afterwards went by before Elty, Guardia, or any of their stunned teammates could react. The Kommo-o bellowed and ran in as flecks of green dragonfire began to dance on his claws. The Dragon-Type brought his claw forward with a vicious swipe that caught Kline in the chest, launching him into a nearby wall with a dull thud. Right after he hit it, Aldrich spat up a burst of fiery blue light, with Ellsberg following with a slicing gust of air and Zelle with a glowing pink orb that pinned Kline to the wall and left visible cracks around the site of impact.

The Zygarde fell forward and hit the ground limply. His hound-like body melted into green lights that dispersed, leaving behind his Core lying facedown on the pavestones with a low groan.


Sorge lunged for Kline and scooped him up into his claws. The members of Team Traveller and Team Zephyr that were still able to move reflexively ran ahead, with Nida bounding forward at the head of the group, just in time for Zelle to crouch and block their path.

"So you decided to try and stay to help your friends instead of running off," the Sylveon sneered. "How touching… and stupid."

Nida raised her barbs and dug her feet into the cobbles, before bracing herself and shifting her body into a fighting stance.

"Come on everybody, just like we planned!" the Nidorina shouted. "Let's put our strategy to use on these guys!"

At once, Elty charged ahead as Nida swung at Zelle with a Poison Jab, the Growlithe running off towards Sorge as attacks rang out behind him. As the Kommo-o fell back with Kline held firmly in his claw, Elty called out to him while bluish cinders began to build up in his mouth.

"Oi! Over here!"

He hastily spat up a Will-O-Wisp onto Sorge's flank. The Kommo-o grit his teeth and grabbed into his bag, pulling out a glassy orb with what looked like peach clouds swirling inside it.

"You'll have to do better than that, Sorge!"

In a flash, a blur of black and red shot in, lobbing a shadowy ball at his face. The Dragon-Type recoiled as the ball erupted into tendrils that settled over his body with a dark aura, the mark of a successful Embargo. Sorge abruptly lost his grip on the Slumber Orb and watched as it clattered to the ground, still intact from the drop. He grit his teeth and attempted to smash the Orb with by slamming his arm down onto it, when his assailant darted in and kicked the primed Slumber Orb away and into the water of the nearby canal with an audible splash. The Kommo-o's eyes widened, the Dragon-Type growling as he looked down to see the culprit—a most familiar Sneasel—shooting a smarmy smile up at him.

"Didn't anyone tell you that throwing things around was dangerous?" Alice taunted.

Sorge snarled and threw a punch at the harrying Sneasel, who sprang out of the way as Pleo came to her aid with an Extrasensory. At the same time, Kiran hurriedly flew in overhead as Dimitri trailed him from the water, only for Ellsberg to get in their way with a cutting gust. Further aside, a ball of peach-colored mist sailed through the air, zipping along just as Aldrich weaved out of its way. The Noivern looked back at the culprit and saw Guardia had a Slumber Wand at her ready with her teeth grit in frustration. Aldrich huffed, before curling his mouth up into a taunting sneer.

"Did you really think you could take me out with that little Wand of yours?"

"She can with this!"

An orange blur dove in from the side as Calidus barreled into Aldrich with a tackle trailing blue streaks in the air after him. The Noivern shot back from impact and hurriedly beat his wings to regain his balance when another orb of peach-colored mist zipped in and hit him in his face. Aldrich snarled in frustration and frantically tried to bat the mist away, only for his movements to grow sluggish, and the Noivern to slump out of the air and onto the street with an audible thud.


Meanwhile, Zelle staggered back as Nida struck her from underneath in the chest with a Poison Jab. Nida sprang back and hopped to attention, flicking off some stray poison from her forearm. A faint shiver ran down Zelle's back, which Nida quickly pieced together to be a sign that her foe had been poisoned from her blow. The Nidorina couldn't help but take some satisfaction from it, as she shot a smug smirk over at her foe.

"Poisoning you a second time?" she scoffed. "Guess today's just my lucky day!"

Zelle fought back a wince, narrowing her eyes as she curled her mouth up into a knowing smile.

"Are you sure about that?"

The Sylveon closed her eyes in focus as an orb of blue light built over her head, before it dispelled in pulsing waves with a sound that reminded Nida almost of a bell chiming. At once, Zelle's gait seemed to return to normal, while Aldrich's eyes snapped open and he sprang back into the air. Worse still, an alarmed yelp from Elty turned Nida's attention to Sorge, where she saw his reddened patch of burnt scales had returned back to a normal, healthy gray color. Nida's mouth flopped open, as a sharp huff turned her attention back and saw Zelle staring at her with a small smirk.

"What's wrong? Your strategy not working out?" the Sylveon taunted. "As if we weren't going to learn from your little gimmicks from last time!"

Nida stood there dumbfounded for a brief moment and grit her teeth. They needed to have some sort of breakthrough, and if they couldn't wear Team Sentinel down with ailments like they had originally planned, they needed something else to tip the balance.

The Nidorina noticed her other teammates still stood there petrified behind Sorge, when it occurred to her: if they just gave them so much as a little shove, they would be able to fight alongside them again. Nida crouched, letting out a low growl as poison visibly accumulated along her forepaw and she braced her feet to leap forward.

"You've got another thing coming if you think all we can do is just 'gimmicks'!" she huffed. "Everyone! Go for the others!"

Nida threw her paw forward with another Poison Jab, only for Zelle to spring back and fire a Psychock that knocked Nida off her feet. Further ahead, Elty and Alice attempted to force their way past Sorge, only for the Kommo-o to cut them off by launching the Growlithe into his Sneasel teammate with a Dragon Tail. The lane devolved into a confusing fray, with Dimitri and Kiran knifing through the water and air as Aldrich churned up a Hurricane in the background. At once, Dimitri dove into the canal as Kiran banked sharply away from the vortex. The Swellow then saw Percy and the others cross his line of sight, when a sharp buzz rang out from below him.

"That's as far as you go, Swellow!"

A blue aura suddenly enveloped Kiran's body as he futilely flailed his wings in place against an unseen force, prompting the Swellow to look down and see Ellsberg with his eyes aglow and his right tarsus held out. The Mothim moved his tarsus with a sharp sweep, flinging Kiran into a wall that he bounced off of with a loud squawk, the Swellow barely righting himself in time to avoid crashing to the pavement.

Meanwhile in the water, Dimitri surfaced in the wake of Aldrich's Hurricane. Looking around, he saw Team Sentinel's members were still blocking the approach to their teammates. The Kabutops wondered briefly how he was supposed to sneak past to free them, when he looked at the water around him and his eyes lit up in realization.

"Everyone, brace yourselves!" he cried. "I'll try and hold back, but this is gonna sting!"

Team Traveller's able members hastily obliged and threw parting attacks in their wake, as Team Sentinel attempted to follow to get out of the way of Dimitri's coming Surf, only to be bogged down with incoming blows and missiles. Just then, Dimitri churned up the canal's water, forming a cresting wave that he rode up onto the lane. The Surf crested onto the street, crashing into Team Sentinel's members before it carried on with diminished force into Ander, followed by the rest of his petrified teammates.

Dimitri came to a stop as startled cries rang out. He grimaced briefly, wondering if he'd perhaps overdone his attack when he saw Ander and the others get up, coughing and spitting up water, Ander in particular giving an annoyed shake of his head.

"Ugh, could've done without the Surf there," the Scyther grumbled.

"Let's just make the most of it!" Percy insisted. "Crom! Ander! Give Pladur some cover! We've only got one shot at turning this fight around!"

Pladur launched into a rhythmic, frenetic dance as Ander hastily scarfed down a Quick Seed and Crom stepped forward to spit up a gout of dragonfire to cover his father. Crom's Dragon Rage sailed along, driving Aldrich back as Ander stormed ahead at Zelle with his scythes drawn. The Bug-Type swung at the Sylveon, who hurriedly side-stepped as she moved her feelers about in a circle and spewed out a plume of fire. Ander dove out of the way of the Mystical Fire with a startled buzz as it zipped past him, before steeling himself and circling around his opponent. From above, Aldrich righted himself and narrowed his eyes at Pladur, before firing a fiery blue ray at the Fraxure's position.

"Dad! Look out!"

Pladur wrapped up his Dragon Dance and looked up with a startled yelp as he saw Aldrich's Dragon Pulse bear down on him. The Fraxure flinched and looked away when a violet blur shot in and the hiss of dragonfire rang out. There above him was Percy, his claws spread wide as he held up a barrier of light that blocked the incoming ray. The Gliscor scanned his surroundings as the Dragon Pulse dissipated and saw Sorge slipping off behind Aldrich and Zelle with Kline in his grasp.

Percy grimaced. On the one hand, he doubted Team Sentinel would just back off from Pleo if they didn't have to. On the other hand, if they managed to leave with Kline… No, it was no use thinking about that. He needed to change their script, and fast. His eyes darted over to Alice and Elty as they jumped back from a stray Air Slash from Ellsberg, and after seeing Kiran fly in to help handle Aldrich, he hurriedly dove down and called out to the Sneasel and the Growlithe.

"Alice! Elty! I need your help to get Kline back!" the Gliscor cried.

Elty peered over with a puzzled stare briefly. "What? But what are you-? Yip!"

Before Elty could finish his words, he felt Percy yank him up by the scruff of his neck. Elty flinched briefly and landed onto Percy's back, latching on as he felt the Gliscor spring up and take to the air. The Growlithe tried to catch his breath as the Ground-Type evened out, seeing the canal and narrow street below him along with Alice falling back from Ellsberg as Pleo drove him off with a bolt of electricity. After a brief moment to study the situation below, Percy shook his head and called down to his Sneasel teammate.

"Alice, keep Sorge busy for a moment!" the Gliscor exclaimed.

"Way ahead of ya!" the Sneasel replied.

Alice ran ahead, springing up over an incoming Moonblast and running along the wall of a nearby building for a few steps. Before her momentum gave out, she leapt and jumped behind Sorge, spitting up an icy wind at his back. The Kommo-o winced as his joints numbed up from the wind's chill, whirling about with a sharp glare to face the Sneasel. Undeterred, Alice shot an impish grin up at the dragon as she motioned tauntingly for her foe to come near.

"Never pegged you as the type to just run from a fight, Sorge!"

Sorge gritted his teeth and pulled back a fist that trailed streaks of green light about his knuckles, letting his voice come out in a low, dangerous growl.

"Hrmph, you really have learned nothing over the years!"

Sorge lunged ahead with a Drain Punch, only for his blow to miss as Alice sprang aside, taking the time to pull an eyelid down and stick out her tongue.

"Look who's talking here!" she taunted. "By the way, you should look behind you!"

Sorge ignored Alice and readied another Drain Punch, when Percy suddenly shot in and slammed into the dragon's back from above with a diving tackle that left afterimages in its wake. The Kommo-o pitched forward and tried to break his fall with his free claw, only to slip off the paving stones' wet surface and hit the ground on his belly. Kline bounced from the Dragon-type's grasp, as Elty quickly pounced on the fainted Zygarde and threw him onto his back.


Elty hurriedly brought Kline back to Nida's side as she fished through her bag and pulled out a Tiny Reviver Seed. She wasn't sure how Kline consumed seeds without a mouth, but figured that moving it below his snout was as good a place as any to start. After a few frantic prods, she felt warmth and pulled her paw back as green light bathed the seed and pulled it against Kline's body. … Was that how he 'ate' things?

The light dissipated as Kline's eye flickered open and a Plain Seed fell to the ground, the Zygarde uneasily rising onto his tail and looking about wearily.

"Nrgh… what happened?"

"You got knocked out," Elty said. "Turns out that Team Sentinel was planning an ambush after all."

Kline looked about just a set of shockwaves in the air zipped past and hit the canal's water with a loud splash, making him stiffen up and see Team Sentinel regroup and try to press Team Traveller and Team Zephyr's members. The Zygarde pivoted on his tail, looking back to Elty with a nod and low grunt.

"Right," he replied. "Then let's not waste any time here!"

Kline braced himself as his body came alight with a green glow, and flecks of green light converged on him from every direction. From up ahead, Zelle spotted the swirling green lights as Kline's form grew and began to transform back into a hound-like shape, prompting her to fan out her feelers with a sharp hiss.

"Oh no you don't!"

The Sylveon sprang forward as pinkish light built up in front of her, before throwing it at the Zygarde in an undulating wave. Alice and Percy hastily zipped in, forming barriers of light that stopped the Dazzling Gleam and directed it around Kline as they skidded back. The Protects held, and in a few brief moments, the green lights subsided as Kline returned to his canine Forme, digging his paws in before he threw his head back and bellowed out to his teammates.

"Now! Press your advantage!"

One after the other, Team Traveller and Team Zephyr's members threw their blows and missiles forward. Calidus dove ahead with a Brave Bird, Kiran spread his wings for a Wing Attack, and Elty lunged ahead with a fiery somersault. Off by the water, Dimitri drove a scythe into the pavement. A loosened chunk of stone shot up afterwards, before Dimitri abruptly swept his other scythe forward as the stone followed its trail and launched ahead at Ellsberg, smacking the Mothim out of the air. Sorge turned his head briefly as Ellsberg crash-landed onto the ground, before he once again noticed green light coming from Kline's body. There he saw the Zygarde growling, with his dog-like body having become wreathed in a green aura that gave off a glowing light.

"You thought you could take us down easily, didn't you?" Kline scoffed. "Well, let us show you just how wrong you were!"

Kline sprang up and brought his paws downwards, churning the ground underfoot as the pavement cracked around a string of green lights that snaked their way for Sorge and Zelle. The pair's eyes widened briefly, before a string of pillars of brilliant green light shot up as the ground erupted around them. Pleo and his companions flinched at the sound of rending earth and heavy stone falling into water, watching as a great cloud of dust suddenly filled the street.

Team Traveller and the rest of Team Zephyr watched as the dust settled, revealing a stretch of cracked and broken pavement. The entire left side of the street was half-sunken in the canal, with Sorge and Zelle lying on the ground. Then, much to everyone's horrified astonishment, the pair righted themselves and dusted themselves off, Sorge brushing a bit of dirt off his scales as he narrowed his eyes with a low growl and raised his voice to call out to his teammates.

"Aldrich, Zelle! Throw up some cover!"

Sorge entered into the frenzied motions of a Dragon Dance as Aldrich and Zelle stepped to the front of their group. Aldrich spread his wings and Zelle her feelers, throwing up a pair of overlapping barriers of light—the signature sign of freshly-cast Protects—just in time to cut off a wave of Team Traveller and Team Zephyr's attacks. The group grimaced, watching as their blows and missiles bounced off the barriers. Undeterred, Kline narrowed his eyes and turned to his allies with a sharp cry.

"Everyone! Keep your fire focused on their Protects and pin them down together!" the Zygarde shouted.

"Huh?!" Nida exclaimed, shooting a puzzled stare back. "But our attacks won't do anything to them like-!"

"Just trust me on this!"

Nida looked at the Protects, before shooting an Ice Beam forward. Guardia joined in and attempted to flank Team Sentinel from the side with a Bonemerang, Ander doing the same with a hack with his scythes. Some of their attacks landed against the Protects, others zipped just past their edges. A few of the attacks made Aldrich and Zelle stumble back, but the barriers still held strong, while Sorge and Ellsberg were driven ever closer behind the Noivern and Sylveon to maintain cover. From behind his shield, Sorge let out a sharp scoff, readying his claws as he stared back through the barrier, clearly preparing himself to lunge forward once it lifted.

"Do you really expect us to be impressed with a little show like that?" the Kommo-o growled.

"No, but you might be by this!" Kline shot back, before turning over to Pleo.

"Pleo! Get a Thunderbolt ready! You'll know where to aim when you see it!"

Pleo braced himself and focused on his Zygarde teammate, wondering what he was planning. All of a sudden, he felt a sharp pat and saw his body get overtaken by a bluish aura, with a similar one settling over Kline's body. A brief glance down revealed Elty to be at their sides, as the Growlithe looked up with a sharp yip.

"Here! Whatever you're up to, you could use a boost for it!"

Kline crouched as the Helping Hand's blue aura still radiated off his body, before spewing out a torrent of violet sludge that hit the ground and began to pile up into a wave. As the Sludge Wave began to crest, Pleo's eyes lit up in realization of Kline's words.

"Ah! That's it!"

At once, Pleo spread his wings and shot out a bolt of electricity at the poisonous wave, filling its surface with crackling static as it bore down on Aldrich and Zelle.

The Noivern and Sylveon held firm as the wave approached, only for their eyes to widen as the lights of their Protects abruptly dimmed. The electrified Sludge Wave overtook them and carried on into Sorge and Ellsberg, as the sound of sharp cries filled the air. Nida looked on in astonishment as the wave swept the four down before it subsided, seeing Ellsberg limply lying on the ground as Zelle and Aldrich were slower to rise than they'd been after earlier attacks. Even Sorge seemed to be struggling, as the Kommo-o attempted to get up from his knees and back onto his feet, only for him to grimace and freeze after his limbs locked up and static danced on his scales.

"Ah! We're finally getting the upper hand!" Nida cried. "Come on! While they're still-!"

Before Nida could finish her statement, she was forced to hastily leap to the side as Aldrich spat up a beam of dragonfire that just missed her feet. A quick glance over revealed the Noivern flicking some poisonous sludge off his wings with a disgusted snarl and a fierce glare, before turning his head towards his Sylveon teammate with an agitated huff.

"Grr… genoeg!" he spat. "Zelle! Hop on!"

Zelle sprang onto Aldrich's back at once, before the Noivern took to the air as Nida and her companions tried to cut them off. Sorge hurriedly stepped in with a rattle of his scales that sent shockwaves into the air and drove Team Traveller and Team Zephyr's members back. After a moment to regain their bearings, they looked up and saw Aldrich further down the street, wheeling around with his fangs bared.

The Noivern beat his wings together and brought together an overpowering, swirling gale that flew down the canal and surrounding streets. From her place on her teammate's back, Zelle spread her feelers as a halo of sky-blue light formed between them. The light abruptly gathered into a ball, the air in front of her swirling and forming a second gale that she flung forward at Aldrich's Hurricane. As the two vortexes collided with each other, they combined and grew large enough to fill the entire space along the canal, making Percy's eyes widen with alarm as he called out to his allies.

"Quick! Get up those Protects-!"

But it was too late. The enlarged Hurricane picked up more speed than expected, and overran the Gliscor before he could finish putting up his barrier of light. From the middle of the group, Crom looked over at Nida as she stared on blankly, trying to dive for her when the raging winds overtook him and blew him into a wall. The next thing Crom remembered was the winds howling above him and buffeting his scales. The winds finally cleared and he flopped forward onto the pavement, feeling aches and stinging pains racking his body and hearing disoriented cries all about him.


Crom staggered up panting, the world spinning around him. As he struggled to piece together his surroundings, he could make out damaged facades from the surrounding buildings with torn-up shutters and blown-in windows. A look around revealed Alice, Elty, and Kiran to all be visibly tottering in disoriented dazes, with other members of his and Percy's team hurrying up to try and aid each other. The Druddigon couldn't get a good view of where Aldrich and Zelle were, but caught the sight of Sorge eating a Lum Berry and blanched, realizing the effects of Alice's earlier Embargo had worn off.

For a brief moment, Crom stood there at a loss at the confusion all around him. It was then that his eyes came across a blue lump lying up against a damaged doorway, the color draining from his face as he saw it was…


Crom's eyes shrank to pins as he realized that his attempts to shield Nida had come too late. The Druddigon started to run ahead, only to bump into a large, bulky creature, and see Ander had stepped out in front of him in a tottering daze. The Dragon-Type's eyes darted between the Marked Scyther and his Nidorina companion, before realizing Ander was much closer to him, and that if she were still on her feet, Nida surely wouldn't want him to pass over Ander just to come to her aid. Crom stopped and felt around for a Lum Berry in his bag as he waved down the Bug-Type with his free claw.

"Ah! Ander! Hang in there!" the dragon insisted. "I can heal-!"

A sudden, icy flechette zipped in, catching Ander in the side of his head. The Scyther crumpled up and hit the ground, leaving Crom staring in shock. As the Druddigon whirled around he saw much to his astonishment a black-and-red blur dart in and come to a crouching stop. The feathers, the fur, those awful, awful claws… Th-that was-!


The Weavile tauntingly waved a claw in reply, before curling up his mouth into a devious smirk.

"Did you miss me?" Ketu jeered. "Sorry to keep you waiting, but I had an errand to take care of on that ship of yours. Not that that blue Ledger you kept under the floorboards was very hard to find."

Crom's jaw flopped open and he felt the breath get taken out of him. His teammates were in a similar state of shock as the full weight of the Weavile's words sank in. H-He had their Ledger?!


Panicked questions swirled through the group's mind, only to be silenced by Zelle letting out loud, derisive laughter. The lot stared at the Sylveon briefly, before she quieted and turned her face up with a mocking sneer.

"Did you really think that we didn't know about your Ledger? That I told you about the Vault from the goodness of my heart?" Zelle scoffed. "No, it was because we wanted a way to be able to control your moves and step in when it was most advantageous for us!"

Pleo looked up at the sky above the military harbor and saw distant shapes and flashes of light zipping around it. He grimaced, realizing the Siglo Swellow was in trouble right now. Was that also Ketu's doing? If so, was there anything about their plan that Team Sentinel hadn't figured out?

"Part of me was worried you'd get caught rooting through the Academy the way you did, but looks like I was right to not underestimate you, Kline," Sorge said. "I knew we could count on you to fetch that Ledger for us, and there's nothing you can do to win right now. Even if you somehow get away, you can't use those Ledgers against the Company if we have any of them."

Pleo looked over to Kline, who seemed to recoil and look much as if he'd suddenly been backed into a corner. His teammates didn't seem much better. The young Lugia quietly gulped, looking to his companions for any indication of how they could turn their circumstances around when he was cut off by a sharp harrumph, as Aldrich flew back in the air and scowled down.

"But enough talking," the Noivern snarled. "It's time to take that other Ledger you just stole and put you down for the count."

Aldrich fired a Boomburst at the team, with Sorge joining in with Clanging Scales, Ketu an Icy Wind, and Zelle throwing in another Dazzling Gleam. This time, Percy and Calidus were able to ready their Protects in time, the barriers of light blunting their attacks as Team Traveller and Team Zephyr's members ran for the safe area behind their impromptu shelter.

The din of battle proved to be too much for their less lucid members, as in his confusion, Elty misjudged where the barriers' cover ended and wandered out into the hail of attacks, getting swept off his feet with a sharp yelp and crumpling to the ground limply. Kiran turned his head in a daze at the Fire-Type's cry, fighting with his wings as he lurched in the air and looked down to see a black-and-red blur knifing towards Elty. The Swellow squawked in alarm as he realized that that must surely be Ketu moving in to attack him while he was down.

"Nrgh… hang on Elty!" Kiran cried. "I've got you!"

Kiran swooped down and rammed the figure with a spread-winged tackle that launched it back with a sharp yowl. The Swellow grinned for a moment, only for a moment of lucidity to reveal Alice getting up wincing in pain. From further off, Ketu looked on alongside his companions and gave an unimpressed scoff, before turning towards Ellsberg's fainted body behind them.

"Cover me," the Weavile said. "Gonna patch up a friend."

Ketu ducked back and made his way for the felled Mothim in the background. Percy looked on and grimaced, hurriedly dodging an incoming Moonblast when he glided up and retreated beside Kline as Team Traveller's more able members desperately filled the air with attacks to try and drive Team Sentinel's members away.

"Kl-Kline?" Percy stammered. "What do we do?"

Kline stared ahead blankly as his eyes drifted down towards the ground. Just what could they do? Half their team was incapacitated, and with the half that was still standing, they had no hope of defeating Team Sentinel or even fending them off. Not even his power would make a difference in this situation!

"Your current power, Kline. You still have more."

Kline sidestepped a Dragon Pulse as he heard the voice reverberate through his mind. That was Micky! Right, he was also seeing this through their Cells. Then by more power, he meant…

No. Absolutely not. He couldn't use that. Not here in the middle of the Company's capital where the whole world would see it after a decade of drifting from one island to the next struggling to stay hidden.

Nerea's words replayed in his mind: how she kept pressing him on whether or not he'd be willing to come and help everyone in person. He snapped to attention at the sound of the battle raging about him, where he saw Percy forming another Protect in front of him as he struggled to keep it up.

Everybody was risking everything for him and Pleo at the moment. He was a Protector, and with it came the duty to be there for others. Even if it was at his own expense.

As he dug his paws into the ground, right there, right then, Kline knew exactly what his teammates needed from him.

"… Pierce, I'm going to do the only thing I can do right now," he said. "Just… please, make the most of it."

The Zygarde threw his head back as all of a sudden, a thick hail of green lights converged in every direction, painting the sky aglow much as if they were trails from smoldering fireworks. Percy skidded back as his Protect gave out and went wide-eyed for a moment along with the rest of the group.

"Kline, wacht!"

"That's enough from you!"

A bellowing roar filled the air as Sorge barreled ahead at blistering speed, his teeth grit and his claws trailing flecks of dragonfire. A sudden Whirlwind swept over him and forced him to wedge his claws into the gaps between the paving stones for traction. The Kommo-o looked up to see Pleo attempting to blow him away, and snarled as the lights began to gather around Kline and settle into a towering form. Sorge struggled forward, only for Guardia to lob a whitish orb with what looked like swirling clouds inside. The Blowback Orb shattered on the ground right in front of Sorge, sending him tumbling back from an overpowering gust of wind that spewed out from its remains.

Crom looked on in awe from his place in the torn-up street, when his eyes came across Aldrich diving from above, with dragonfire swirling in his mouth.

"Ah! Up there!" Crom shouted. "Everyone, train your fire on Aldrich's attack!"

In a flash, Aldrich spat up his Dragon Pulse. Without thinking, Crom spewed up a Dragon Rage, while Pladur fired a Dragon Pulse of his own at the Noivern's incoming attack. The pair's dragonfire careened into the fiery ray, kicking up a plume of smoke. As it settled, they looked back at Kline. There, instead of seeing the hound who'd accompanied them all this time, there was a towering green-and-black serpent with what looked like a set of five tendrils coming from the back of his neck.

Guardia stared up with her mouth hanging open. So this was Zygarde's power. The one that he'd been trying to keep away from Elilan and others who would use it for their own purposes. And with so many lights that had come in, he'd surely exposed it to all of Vollezee—the Company's biggest colony—to help them.

"Kline…" she whispered.

"What on earth is going on over there?!"

Aldrich's ears twitched and the Noivern turned and spotted a Hatterene at the mouth of an intersecting street to their right with a small crowd gathering around him. At once, his eyes widened as he looked back at Kline's new Forme, and then again at the crowd. The Noivern's mouth fell open in stunned shock, as the bat motioned over at the crowd with an alarmed cry.

"Ack! Sorge!"

The rest of Team Sentinel followed Aldrich's gaze and grimaced as Team Traveller and their allies followed along and stared back at the gathering onlookers, as Kline flared his tendrils with a derisive scoff.

"What's the matter, Aldrich? Too much attention for your liking?" the Zygarde asked. "Well, I for one say it's time we brought our fight out into the open!"

Kline lowered his head to the ground and rushed down the length of the street in the blink of an eye, before coming to a stop right in front of the crowd. The Pokémon recoiled and hurriedly fell back as the serpent reared up, startled cries beginning to fill the air.


"Wh-What is that thing?!"

A Fuecoco in the crowd with a dark blotch in the shape of a five-tailed comet looked up and stumbled back, stammering in a gibbering panic as she saw the great serpent before her and realized that the hulking figure was none other than a…

"D-Demon! Demon! Everybody run for your lives!"

The Fire-type turned and ran off screaming into a small square located behind her, when the sound of smashing glass rang out and a flash of light pulsed down the side street along with the sound of attacks deflecting off Protects. Kline looked over and saw Team Traveller's members running in carrying their wounded members with them. Stomping footsteps followed afterwards as Sorge and the rest of Team Sentinel approached, still pawing at their eyes from the Luminous Orb's effects as the Kommo-o shot a livid scowl at the Zygarde.

"You idiot," Sorge growled. "Do you realize what you've done by revealing yourself like this?!"

"I do. And I'm not afraid of what will happen afterwards," Kline said, leaning his head forward. "I've been hiding from you for far too long, and I'll do whatever it takes to stop you or anyone else from using Pokémon like us as your tools, even if it means bringing the entire Cradle down on me."

Team Traveller watched as light began to gather about Kline's body and took off running for the Zygarde's side, carrying their wounded teammates along the best they could. As they passed, they watched as Kline shot a hail of green, arrow-like lights down the side street at Team Sentinel, where they exploded on impact.

Clouds of smoke and fragments of wood and stone flew about as Aldrich and a recently revived Ellsberg plummeted to the ground. The crowd erupted into frightened cries and screams, as the gathering onlookers hastily turned and fled from the scene while guards at the fringes of the square began to point out their position. Team Traveller and Team Zephyr hurriedly pulled their wounded into a shopfront just right of the side street's intersection with the square and rifled through their bags for seeds and berries to heal them. In the midst of it, Pleo briefly caught a glimpse of Team Sentinel's members picking themselves up amidst the shattered side street and approaching with low growls.

They didn't have much time, so it was best to make the most of it. Pleo quickly slipped a Reviver Seed into Ander's mouth as the Scyther began to stir. The Bug-Type let out a woozy groan as he raised his head wearily to try and make sense of his surroundings.

"Whuh…? What's going-?"

A loud crash and jolt rang out and startled the Marked Scyther to attention, as he saw the front wall of a building had fallen into the side street they came from and spilled into the neighboring canal. The Scyther looked up and his eyes shrank to pins. There at the mouth of the intersection, coiled and ready to strike, was a great green-and-black serpent, which he recognized as the all-seeing demon his scriptures had spoken of, in—fresh in the middle of laying waste to his surroundings.


Ander screamed and desperately scrambled away from Kline, Pleo looking at him with a worried grimace. That fear, why it was just like the fear Ander had of him when they first met on Tromba! Kline reared up, casting a second Thousand Arrows into the air and off in the direction of the military harbor as Ander cringed with a low whimper. The sound of distant crashes and shouts ringing through the air turned the young Lugia's attention towards the military harbor, where he caught sight of Pokémon in lavender scarves hurriedly retreating from smoke curling up further within where Kline's most recent attack had landed.

A loud crash filled the air and made Pleo flinch as he turned and saw the form of a schooner with Company sails pockmarked with small holes and burn marks clip a wooden blockade at the entrance that cut gouges into the hull above the waterline and barge out into the main canal, sideswiping and overturning a small skiff in the process. T-That was the Siglo Swellow!

The Lugia looked back at Kline and watched the serpent slither out of the path of a Moonblast as Percy and his teammates lobbed seeds and attacks at Team Sentinel to keep them at bay. Pleo grimaced and wondered to himself how the five could still be giving them so much trouble, when he suddenly felt a heavy object prod against him, and looked over to see Alice all but shoving the red Ledger into his chest.

"Take the Ledger and get out of here!" the Sneasel cried. "We'll keep Team Sentinel busy!"

"B-But what about you and Kline?" Pleo asked. "A-And the Ledger that Team Sentinel stole!"

The sound of shifting rubble turned Pleo's attention to the direction of the side street they had come from. There, much to his alarm, the Lugia saw most of Team Sentinel's members fatigued but still advancing. Around them, he began to see various guards prowling towards him and his teammates, making the young Lugia blanch and grimace. Percy braced himself and held his claws open at the ready, as he looked back at Pleo.

"You won't have any ledgers if you keep hanging around at this rate! And don't worry about us," the Gliscor insisted. "We've been keeping them on their toes for almost ten years now, so what's one more battle?"

Team Traveller's members hesitated and traded glances between the ship and Team Zephyr's members, paralyzed with indecision. A sharp cry snapped them back to attention as they spotted Calidus in the air, calling out as he passed overhead.

"It's now or never for you!" the Talonflame shouted. "We'll try and draw them away from the harbor, but we're going to have our wings full here!"

Team Traveller watched as Team Zephyr's members threw attacks back at Team Sentinel's position. Percy climbed in the air as ice built around his mouth, while Kline readied another Land's Wrath. Sorge and Aldrich quickly cast a pair of Protects for their teammates, the walls of light forming just as the earth erupted in front of them. Pleo looked off at the Siglo Swellow as it lurched further down the canal, before he threw the red tome into his bag and took wing. The Lugia lowered his head as he flew along, his companions darting after him, fighting against their wounds as Pleo fought back a choking croak from his throat.

"I-I'm sorry."

From behind Sorge's barrier, Zelle spotted Pleo and his teammates fleeing after the Siglo Swellow and narrowed her eyes, turning up to Sorge as the pink arc of a Psycho Cut dashed against his barrier.

"Sorge, do we go after them?"

Sorge glanced after the lot as his barrier began to fade. Just getting the Ledger, Kline, and Pleo altogether had been the lucky break of a lifetime, and it bothered him to think that they wouldn't be able to get them all.

The Protect gave out after Calidus zipped in with an aerial tackle that trailed blue streaks and sent Sorge skidding back. The Kommo-o steadied himself, looking over at Team Zephyr's members before he grit his teeth and flashed his claws. Kline wasn't to be underestimated in this Forme, especially with his friends fighting at his side, and attempting to split up to try and capture all of their initial goals just increased the odds that they'd get none of them. They'd surely have more chances at getting at Pleo later.

Perhaps sooner than they thought. After all, there was a set of sea walls in the lagoon that he and his ship would have to try and fight their way through.

"Leave them!" the Kommo-o ordered. "Capturing Subject Red is more important right now!"

Team Traveller's members fled as fast as their limbs could carry them for the departing ship as the sound of fighting rang out behind them. As they neared, they could see the Siglo Swellow's escorts massed in the central canal and the air above it. A few of them—such as the Mantine who'd ferried them to shore at Pioppo—stopped briefly to let Crom and others Kiran and Dimitri couldn't ferry clamber aboard. Crom hopped aboard the Mantine without thinking, the churning water splashing against his scales as they made it to the side of the ship where rope netting had been thrown over the side for them. The Druddigon desperately climbed up, hearing his teammates pant as they did the same with Kiran settling on the deck with Elty and calling for help to tend to him. As Crom made it to the top of the deck, he lost his grip and lurched back towards the open air.


A set of red claws suddenly shot in, Crom looking up to see Pladur leaning over the railing and grabbing onto him.

"I've got you!" his father cried. "Quick, give me your other claw!"

Crom hurriedly complied as Pladur took his other claw, the Fraxure pulling along with a Golduck and a Bayleef to hoist the Druddigon over the railing as the ship continued to lurch forward. Crom hit the deck, lying against the planks as his heart pounded in his chest. After a moment to steel his nerves, he got up and saw the last few members of his team make their way up. A quick headcount revealed that everyone was present as Beatrix flitted over and sized them up, only to instantly trail off.

"Wait, where is Team Zephyr?" she asked.

"Th-They insisted we go on without them," Pladur said. "We wouldn't have made it back here otherwise."

The Illumise captain blanched a moment at the Fraxure's words, looking at the raging battle behind the stern with a quiet grimace as Vicente prodded at her worriedly.

"Captain, I don't think we have much of a choice," the Hitmontop said. "If it weren't for those green arrow things that suddenly came in and tore up the docks, we wouldn't have made it out of the harbor ourselves. We shouldn't push our luck any further here."

Beatrix flitted in place and paused for a moment, before shaking her head and turning to bark out at the nearby sailors.

"Someone get some Oran Berries!" she exclaimed. "It's going to be a hard slog out, and we need everyone we can back on their feet!"

The sailors answered with overhasty 'ayes', before hurrying off and ducking below deck in search of Oran Berries and other healing items for their injured comrades. As the deck buzzed with confusion, Pleo waddled over to the railing and looked out as he could spot lavender-scarved figures trailing after them from the canal, its banks, and the air behind them. He looked off further as his teammates neared him, seeing dust and smoke curl up from the distance. The Lugia caught a brief glance of Kline's serpentine form, along with attacks zipping back and forth going further into the city. Pleo froze afterwards, before drooping his head and wings with a low murmur.


Crom walked up beside Pleo, and patted his shoulder, trying to force a brave face to reassure him.

"He did his part, Pleo," the Druddigon said. "Now it's our turn."

A Thunderbolt suddenly zipped in and struck the ship right below the railing, making Pleo and his teammates jump back with sharp yelps. Pleo righted himself as attacks from other guards thickened in the air, the young Lugia scurrying off alongside his teammates to take their places alongside the Siglo Swellow's defenders as the schooner tore along desperately for the blue lagoon just off in the distance.

Author's Notes:

- Espera - Spanish: "Hold on" / "Wait"
- wacht - Dutch: "wait"


Winter can't come soon enough
"At All Costs," huh? Guess that means it's time for Kline to--

Oh, yup, there it is. :V

I saw 25k words and this requiring a split up and, uh, is it really all combat? Or majority combat like this part? Because that sounds quite exhausting. The bulk of the chapter is the good guys vs. Team Sentinel round two and there was a clear back and forth as far as advantages go, with Team Traveler's strategies amounting to nothing initially, then leading to strength in numbers, which then leads to Ketu dropping in, and eventually Kline going full GODZILLA and tearing through the streets like the big ol snek that he is. Except Ketu still has the other ledger half, I think? Maybe that's part of why Team Zephyr is staying back? The other part being Kline is their buddy and stuff.

I'm going to assume Kline's sudden appearance and rampage is why Team Traveler is able to get onto the ship with little issue? Since, y'know, Ketu was setting the harbor against them and, yeah, they're still under fire, but they get back onboard a lot easier than I would have thought given how things ended before. On that subject, I do get the sense that this part was, uh, playing Ketu up a lot. Between easily slipping onboard, getting the Ledger piece, handily getting out, and bailing the rest of his team out of a jam, he was like a one-mon wrecking crew in this part. Which I feel like goes a bit against the lower power scale and heavily team-based stuff we've seen the whole fic. I dunno. Probably overthinking.

So, I expect Kline to be unable to escape, the Siglo Swellow to take critical damage, and Team Traveler forced into piracy or something for a shot at getting the whole Ledger and rescuing Kline (and probably Team Zephyr, too).

"And then she wouldn't let us listen in! She never does that!
I... think someone needs to tell this kid what the meaning of "talk alone" is.
"Don't try to play dumb, Illumise!" Darzin growled back. "I know who you lot really are and you're in no position to refuse me here!"
Their gallivanting is finally coming back to haunt them!
and a portrait of a Volbeat
Now… where are those sleeping quarters?
Ketu always has his priorities straight. zzzz.
"By the way, you should get some better security.
He has a point. Very cavaliere of Beatrix to leave it unattended.
The Kommo-o briefly noted the spent shards of the Petrify Orb and grumbled quietly about how he "didn't mean to throw that one" to himself
Sorge the penny pincher?
"Didn't anyone tell you that throwing things around was dangerous?" Alice taunted
Fobbie/Vergil don't write a smug sneavile challenge. (failed instantaneously)
taking the time to pull an eyelid down and stick out her tongue
Very mature.
their blows and missiles forward
Whoa, when did they get missiles?! PogChamp
You'll know where to aim when you see it!
Is he gonna aim for the horn? :V
[does not aim for the horn]
Nida looked on in astonishment as the wave swept the four down before it subsided
I think the power scaling is creeeeeeping up.
"I've been hiding from you for far too long, and I'll do whatever it takes to stop you or anyone else from using Pokémon like us as your tools
What a heartfelt moment this is... though I think it would've had more impact if we'd seen more of isolated/hiding Kline. ^^;
"Do you realize what you've done by revealing yourself like this?!"
"Well, none of us are wearing pants, so I know I'm not getting a 'public indecency' citation."

Venia Silente

[](int x){return x;}
This is a review part of the review trade that can help me keep my silverware freem from the Dark Lord, which is not exactly bad because I haven't continued these reviews in a while.

Ch. 68 more or less starts a new arc: the main party escapes one island, and heads off to a new location in search of adventure...

...but somewhere else, a new force of evil makes an appearance:

The gig economy late-stage capitalism of Uber Eats.

Hatteras: "...What, why would Marley order breakfast?"
Random Mightyena: "Picks me. She can literally eat bread at Gwenith's anytime she wants, since their offspring are in a romantic subplot."
Bunsen: *sighs* "Listen, I have my orders to be breakfast."
Hatteras: *blink* "Hang on, gimme that."
Hatteras: "..."
Hatteras: "These orders kinda sound like Darzin is sabotaging you."
Bunsen: "Nah that's ridiculous, anyway orders are orders."
Random Machomp: "Then again maybe Darzin wants to just not die?"
Random Mightyena: "Okay mr. Uber Eats, listen: this sounds like someone's making a fool out of you. What do you think, chief?"
Hatteras: "We were having a nice offscreen time, can't imagine why would anyone want to break that."
Lyn from three islands over: "I resent that comment!"
Bunsen: "Aaaargh just excuses. Shut up, mutt."
Random Mightyena: "Fine. Was just offering friendly advice, since the alternative is you start misbehaving here and end up as tribal sacrifice."
Bunsen: "Pffff is that a threat? I have a Company."
Hatteras: "We have a Protector."
Bunsen: "P-Protector? Nah, no one informed me of this, that's fake news!"
Random Machomp: "Dude we're 65 chapters in..."
Random Mightyena: "Listen, you better revice that attitude. If Charizard are dragons, you end up as Marley's breakfast, if not you end up as breakfast of a Protector instead."
Bunsen: "Errr.... there is a return policy on food orders I hope..., but you're still not going to scare me off with fake news."
Osmund: *arrives* "How do we do, fellow islanders?"
Bunsen: "Aha! An excuse! Troops! Arrest this Sceptile!"
Hatteras: "Nani!? On what grounds, interracial abuse against Archovy?"
Bunsen: *huffs* "Interrupting a food delivery. So I'm arresting him. Oh and your little dog too."
Random Migtyena: "Actually I'm a—"
Random Machomp: *pokes the Mightyena*: "shhhh, we get screentime!"

Sucks to be Bunsen if he doesn't believe there's a Protector responsible for the place, tbh. I guess the fun scene at the end of the arc will be seeing Marley and Pleo bickering over who gets to lunch Charizard meat. But in the meantime, he has an easy time moving in.

(Not that three ships don't help, but I do am somewhat impressed the Company wanted to risk an ill timing given either a. assuming the Protector birb happened to find their way back soon enough or b. the assuming that they should be spending themselves somewhere else)

Hey, not all is bad for Bunsen! At least now he can dangle the fact that he had an easier time getting in than Darzin in front of the latter o3o.

After that, we get to Lyn's party celebrating the capture of the Protector (they're so gonna get crushed later when they deliver). We get some conversation between Ketu and Elsberg that has a few points of interest.

Ketu: "Tell me, do you know who Betulo is?"
Elmer: "Tht's Administrator Elilan's Commander yes?"
Ketu: "The one and the same. We were supposed to get him as a Darzin replacement instead of Lyn, oh well."
The disrespect!

I see this chapter is making a sport of replacing Darzin, even if in purely narration terms o3o. I do wonder if he's going to be a bit more active on things, since it's easy to get replaced when you have little screentime.

Ketu: "How we go about our lives in this pond and wait for things to get better, while most of the planet is a barren wasteland?"
Good to know at least they know they live in a planet! It'd be interesting if we can eventually get a clue as to how large or small the Cradle is in terms of whatever remains of Third Rock Under The Sun. LOTR-style Fledglings World Map when

"And how much of those legends do you really believe?" Ketu questioned. "The same legends that say these 'gods' awaken fully matured and accustomed to their own powers?"

I take it Cradle mons, even the better informed ones, are not exactly informed about the mechanics of your setting where a Legendary's powers are at least partly determined by belief. Or at least, have no reason to believe that false belief works justs as well?

Which might be good, because we can hope from later on the Company might run into a nasty surprise from underestimating the respect a fledgling can get:
Kichiro, Priest of Pleo: "Wololoooooo aeooooooo ^_^"
Cabot, a nanny: "I like Pleo and consider him a friend! ^_^"
Marley, a mom with a healthy diet: "Pleo gave my daughter screentime ^_^"
Lyn: "Pleo is a guest in my ship! ^_^"
(narrator voice: No he isn't)
Cardino, an officer: "Some of my best employees crack difficult cases to help Pleo! ^_^"
Daraen, a soft kid: "I played games with Pleo once, too! ^_^"
Ander, a Suffering: "The good news is, somehow I'm not dead yet! ^_^"

And after that, we get a bit of sincerity between Ketu and Elsberg, and between Lyn and Elsberg. I got the feeling that left Elsberg on the think, considering Ketu basically informed him there's been a plan to sabotage Lyn for quite a while and Lyn seems to still be interested in paying Elsberg some pending respects.

I'll humour it, since Elsberg is one of my two candidates for taking Ketu down for good~.

At the ship, we get Pladur finally back on his feet and informing himself about the recent plot and pondering the next location they need to head off to for continuing the story.

Pladur: "I still wish I could've been there to see that other jerk snake Protector..."
Crom -frowns: "Eeeeeh, you didn't really miss out on much."
Pladur: "Still... would have been awesome to watch Pleo gobble it down."
Crom: "...We can dream."

Next island, Pioppo, is something that Pladur would prefer Crom misses out on, which is a point to consider re my earlier comments about screentime. I really liked it that the narration went on like A Vibe about how Pioppo is a place not to arrive to, a place to just like pretend it's not there, like any of a number of right-wing nut towns in the Southwest, and it would have gone on that for a few more lines but oooopsie, we're there!

Ye wanted plot, ye shall have plot. :p

But anyway, at least on this regard Crom is faithful!

Crom: "I won't be alone! There's Nida!"
Pladur: "Oh? Smooch yet?"
Crom: "<_< Errr, there's Pleo, too..."
Pladur: "But Nida, son. Romantic plot going on or not?"
Crom: "Dad! Knight's Ledger fetch quest!" *sighs* "We'll have help from Kiran too."
Pladur: *nods* "Kiran's operational support makes the quest 41% more likely to succeed."
Crom: *nods*
Pladur: "...and he can distract Pleo while you smooch Nida."
Crom: "...>_>"

It's good to see Pladur in high enough spirits to be wandring around the ship, talking to his son and wanting to protect him from the various dangers that come with onscreen time. I mean, he would know!

Ketu: "You rang? ^_^"

At least if Crom stays, Pladur won't have to be alone for his PTSD flashbacks.

"Don't worry dad, I'll be fine," the Druddigon insisted. "I'm not afraid of some ghosts!"

Yet another elsewhere, Hess's crew is still trying to find their way out of the wilderness of the seas from like, what, two chapters ago? :p Oh and into relevant screentime!

"Oh for crying out loud, do you expect me to have a map for every stray rock where there isn't a single civilized soul living on it?!" Hess snapped.
Now now, Hess, that's literally part of your job, or at least part of the stuff you should be delegating to someone.

Then again, connsidering the crew he's got, I'm not really sure that would have gone any better... My vote for sticking the team to a map admittedly goes to Valatos.

Hess: "Okay crew, we're finally getting out from wherever."
Crew Staravia: "Yeah but into some ruins. These definitively don't show in this map I *don't* have!"
Hess: *sighs*
Crew Vileplume: "So we don't know where we are?"
Kichiro: "When do we ever know where we are?"
Hess: "..."
Hess: "Come on people, be positive? How about 'any port in a storm'?!"
Wilhelm: "But captain this is a beach, you can't even get your sayings right."
Hess: "..."
Wilhelm: "...I'm set to be hung from the sky as a kite again?"
Rodion: "We do need to set up an observation post..."
Crew Staravia: "What, over the ruins? We're set up to get mobbed."
Hess: "Come on people where's your sense of adventure?"
Kichiro: "Lying in an alley three ports ago? ^_^"
Crew Seadra: "We don't even have good currents! The sea was fine back when we were offscreen."
Rodion: "I guess that's for Kichiro to answer." *points to Kichiro*
Kichiro: "Pleo's powers work in mysterious ways. I'm sure everything's fine! ^_^"
Crew Marowak: *rolls eyes* "Yeah right then those ruins are all fine and golden."
Hess: "Did I hear volunteers to go check the ruins?"
Crew Marowak: "No wait I-"
Wilhelm: *sighs* "I'll go get the rope..."

After some bickering, Hess finally puts on some power of ruling and assigns teams to some various dramatic ordeals. One of them... for Kichiro, a Priest of Pleo, to go get water.

...Hey, maybe if he's smart he can find a way out of this that doesn't put him at risk from being mobbed by the locals like everyone else!

-at a clearing, not *too* deep into the dense forest-
Kichiro: [looks left]
Kichiro: [looks right]
Kichiro: "Well then... time to do this."
Kichiro: [puts an empty bucket of water in the clearing]
Kichiro: "wololoooooo aeoooooo"
Kichiro: [kneels down and prays to Pleo Lord of Storms]
-a mini-storm stas with a raincloud specifically covering the bucket-
-two minutes later-
-bucket is full of water-
Kichiro: "All in a day's hard work."

All in all a generally good chapter, and it was nice to see some faces making progress. There was a small section at the end with Team Traveler splitting up to head off into obvious unknown dangers, and I wanted to comment on it but then I saqw this reaction:

Kiran: "Okay everyone we're gonna split up!"
Eltenios: "Yeah sure why not, that worked so well for us back there..."
Kiran: "Now now, the chance that something wrong happens is only of 50% ^_^"

Like, honestly Eltenios was deprived of good doggo screentime back at Bouyem when they did split up ignoring his (and Pleo's!) advice and I feel like by this point if I wanted I could ready a whole montage of aaaall the times the team has split up and it has bitten them up in the ass...

... and maybe I will, but not right now. It's the kind of thing that takes a good while to prepare.

Eltenios: "I'm still owed my Toph screentime!"
Guardia: "You silly, I'm the Toph in this group."

There's no winning for best imported doggo isn't there.

And that's it... for now.

Venia Silente

[](int x){return x;}
Best doggo and best horse have been seeing some good review activity these days, so here we are to continuet the thread.

Last time we left Hess and crew off to explore apparently uncharted lands, whereas Kiran was just out to set Team Traveller to forcibly explore well-charted defeat lands. He has a record and I'll get to that in due time.

The important thing right now is best doggo.

Kline: "I'm a doggo! ^_^"
Not you, I'm talking 24/7 doggos here.

Last time we saw the team, I left them right at the entrance of Pioppo. They set foot on the island which apparently is a bad place to be, and what they find in front of them is... a sandy beach that precedes a dense forest where mons can get mauled and, if I'm not mistaken, Kichiro is already getting lost into!

Dimitri, the Quest Giver: "Well everyone, welcome to Pioppo."
Pleo -looks around-: "Hmmm so, what kind of place is it?"
Dimitri: "It's like Tahiti. Lovely place. Let's start by heading to basecamp."
-everyone at base camp looks around-
Pleo: "Uh, this place gives me a bad vibe."
Dimitri: "How so? It's a nice place for vacations."
Kiran: "Are you sure? This doesn't look too... inhabited, ruins notwithstanding."
Dimitri: "Oh yeah you should start with exploring those."
-Dimitri hands out quests-
Dimitri: "Since my personnel had sudden air-quotes-tomachpains-end-air-quotes... I'll guess Team Traveller will have to once again save the day! ^_^"
Kiran: "So, what do you have for us?"

==== Quest info ====
[ ] Gather tracks of Cernum
[ ] (Find Kichiro)
[ ] Slay or Repel the Area Boss (???)
[ ] Survive

Party size: up to 4.
[s]Time limit: 50 min.

I think they should have started with loftier goals, like, you know, assembling a decent base camp and securing the accesses and a lookout point, since they do are expecting trouble with the locals be they dead, alive or undead, yes?

But hey, such boring tasks are left to the NPCs, yes?

Pleo: "Uuuuh good sir and or madam why does it say 'survive' here? o_o"
Dimitri: "O-oh, that's just a holdover, you don't just have to survive, you have to liiiive! In such a beattiful place. ^_^"
Pleo: "Eh..."
Kiran -reads more: "We seem to have a party limit here, and the forest is such a big ground so, "
Elty: "...Don't say it."
Nida: "¿?"
Pleo: "o_o"
Elty: "Don't DON'T SAY IT!"
Kiran: "What if...

...we split up?"

Yeahhhhhh no, with the relevant chapter title being "Ghost of a Chance", that doesn't look like a very good idea. And let's be fair, Kiran's record when working team splits is not very good.

Elty: "I say frick the party limit the timer limit too and we just go together for safety."
Nida: "I mean we do need to find TWO things, Cernum and the Ledger, so..."
Elty: "No, no, no. We don't split up!"
Guardia: "Seesh, what, are you scared?"
Elty: "No, but maybe YOU should be. Have you all forgotten what happened last time we split?"
Kiran: "What are the chances that happens again? ^_^"
Elty: "....rrrrrrrrrrrr <_<"

I mean, it's happened what, four or five times in the last 50 chapters that I remember since Elty is around, soooo... technically the chances are not too high but it's always Team Traveller who's suffering them.

I admittedly wouldn't be a stranger if best doggo retkinks the terms of his Community Service after this.

Kiran: "This will be great! Splitting means we can cover 50% more area!"
Pleo: -ruffles feathers - "I don't mind staying back."
Kiran: "But! We all need to go! We organize in two parties and stuff."
Dimitri: "Hmmm.... TWO parties you say..."
Kiran: "We can do that, right? o_o"
Elty: "N-no, hey..."
Nida: -recalls every horror movie from the 80s and 90s- "Eeeeh do we, like, *have* to split up?"
Crom: "Seconding, I always end up in the not-Nida team <_<"
Dimitri: "Splitting? Hmmm payment for two quests... Okay I don't see why not! ^_^ "
Elty: "Helloooo?"
Nida: "B-but in the movies- the human with the knife always—"
Kiran: "Nida this is a post-apocalyptic post-human condemned world, those movies would be 0% accurate here ^_^"
Ketu from elsewhere: "I wouldn't be so sure o3o"
Dimitri: "You just organize yourselves somehow."
Elty: "Have you forgotten what happened when we split ways for a tournament, too?????!!!!"

I haven't, but I can not argue against Nida and Guardia don't remember much since they... errrrr... weren't really around in full mind for the fights because of their sidequest.

And Pladur likely doesn't remember much either. At least I haven't heard of his PTSD in a while.

Dimitri: "Now, y'all go and enjoy this beautiful place while the crew rests from heroics."
Beatrix and the crew: "P A R T Y H A R D"
Pleo: "Eh... I feel like this place wants to kick me in the butt."
Dimitri: "Nonsense, now watch this promotional video!"
-the place:-

Pleo: "o_o Yeah no maybe we should get back to—"
-Dimitri has left the area-
Pleo: "....I'm beginning to feel like Elty here. >_>"

So, the protags have agreeded to, against THE BEST ADVICES, split up in sub-teams again, because there's absolutely no way that is going to end up wrong somehow.

We have a formation- well, I mean two, two formations, that Kiran has proposed so they're prime for disaster. I really like how they did the partitioning, too, with Pleo taking some initiative.

Crom: "I'm going inland with Kiran."
Nida: "I'm going inland too."
Pladur from elsewhere: "Yayyyy!!!"
Crom: "^_^"
Kiran: "Hold your horses this quest is likely to have 32% less smooching time than average."
Crom: "B-b-but my average time so far is zero percent already... o_o"

In a change from normal procedure, Elty decides to not stick to the inland group, where scouting skills would probably be more useful, which I'm sure it'll be important later. Instead, he sticks to the coastline exploration team.

Suocéverse Berecien: "Watch it, water too wet for your fur.... o3o"
Suocéverse Eltenios: "rrrrr...."

Other characters will point out how bad is not having the best doggo and best scout around. There is the argument made that his skills are not 100% put to use when half the area he has to smell is literally saline water. But he takes his choice and sticks with it, so it's definitively It's Personal™.

More importantly, he's instead joining Ander's team.

Yes! Ander gets to lead a team, and it's the team that doesn't have Pleo in it!

Ander: "Eh, having to lead a party is Suffering™."
Micromanaging the team bag and the AI for each NPC is an annoyance admittedly in more than a few exploration adventures. But hey! At least he's got some important screentime now, hopefully.

Dimitri: "Well now my ship needs me to party so I must go."
Nida: "Not so fast, you have been promoted to Temporary Protagonist."
Dimitri: "...Wha-"
Elty: "To be fair, this is your element." - points to the coast.
Dimitri: -scoffs- "Now why would I-?"
Ander: "Ooooh, I have scyhes!" - schwing schwing.
Dimitri: "...! I have those too!" - schwing schwing.
Ander and Dimitri: -schwing schwing-
Ander and Dimitri: "INSTANT TEAMMATES!!! ^_^"

Hey sorry, I needed an excuse and it was about time we had a bit of peacetime Ander Solidarity in this side of the Cradle (hey, I wonder if characters in-universe call it the Craple...). With that, team parity now solves itself nicely at the cost of only Guardia having lost her opportunity to choose.

And so, the two groups depart in the search of Kichiro Cernum. From now on, it all comes down to who dies first.

Speaking of Kichiro! Well everyone don't worry, he's doing fine.

Kichiro: "A nice day under the sun~♫"
-suddenly, ghostly hands-
Ghostly voices: "Joooooiiiin uuuuuuus"
Kichiro: "Gah! Who are you?"
-Ghostly voices materialize into some smoky creatures-
The ghosts: "Good day mister tooooooourist, would you spare fiiiiive minuuuuuutes to hear about the benediction of That Which Lurks in the Shadows? o3o"
Kichiro: "Uuuuh technically I'm busy. What's that again?"
The ghosts: "It's Thaaaaaaat Which Lurks Iiiiiiin the Shadowsssssss"
Kichiro: "Good name for a band."
The ghosts: "It's our religion, if you joooooooin uuuuuuus you can live for eeeeeeeeternity in the Spirit World o3o"
Kichiro: -overthinking it-
Kichiro: "Hmmm.... eternity eh?"
The ghosts: "Iiiiiiiin the spirit wooooooorld..."
Kichiro: -thinks to how long would Fledglings sequels have to last for that-
-(I'm still pro "Juvenals" if that is still the working name eventually being a thing, btw)-
Kichiro: "Hmmm I'll pass."
The ghosts: "B-b-but... we have cookiiiiiiiiiies."
Kichiro: "I'm already affiliated to the Church of Pleo, Lord of Storms. Sorry!"
Kichiro: -flies away.
The ghosts: "B-b-but our quooooota...."

Kichiro is lucky that he was not an easy grab, but once again this reminds of the importance of not ignoring your surroundings. Flying helps also, so that means Pleo should also be safe! ^_^

And while we're on the ghosts, it's interesting to note that their interaction starts quite exploratory here, and only later when larger groups show up does it amp up to "aggro by default" and to mon-on-mon crime. But we'll get to that!


Area 4 — Coastline

The first team we see in action... somewhat, is Ander's as they are exploring the coastline. They have a little conversation about how to spread out skills across teams when assigning tasks and splitting up. Guardia and Dimitri make good arguments and this puts Elty on the defensive when it's his turn.

You know who could have used this talk? Kiran, that's who.

The conversation eventually leads to Elty's less than welcoming reaction to this general locale of Pioppo, and Guardia starts digging harder than needed on that, so we get some good strong reactions from Elty.

Ander: "Eh, just leave Elty be weird. Everyone has a right to Suffering™. Or at least I hope so... or is that just me? o_o"
Elty: "Listen, I'm not being weird."
Guardia: "You are being... weirder."
Elty: "I just don't like being asked about stuff when we are on missions."
Guardia: "Since when are you serious about missions? Are you that riled up that Kiran split us into groups again?"
Elty: "It's not just Kiran. I'm really annoyed at team splitting!"
Guardia: -thinks back to the last four or so ambushes- "I guess I can understand that..."

Gee I wonder why.

Actually we don't need to wonder, we can examine some stellar moments of Elty being in the middle of a team split. After all, sounds like a losing streak has been building o3o.

[Sometime ca. Chapter 8. ]
Hess: "Okay everyone, we're going to split in groups to attack Tromba."
Elty: "I don't know, is that safe? Some of us might be caught and made prisoner."
Hess: "Fine, I guess you'll want be in the 'no screentime' party?"
Elty: "....*Fine* <_<"
Even if it didn't exactly go like that, well, guess who gets captured. ^_^

[Sometime ca. Chapter 17. ]
-Elty and Nida are hiding inside a crate-
Nida: "This is going to be awesome, Crom is in that other crate, we're in here, nothing is going to wrong like, ever, and we're getting Pleo back."
Elty: "All of us inside crates, in the same lot? You know if they search one and find Crom, they're going to beat the blood out of him *and* then we're going to check the other crates, right?"
Nida: "Hush, you're interrupting my fantasy. We'll return to Tromba as heroes and then Crom and I will marry! ^_^"
Elty: "We should have diversified our infiltration paths. Oh well, I hope your boy can take a beating. >_>"
Guess HOW does that one go!

I mean, honestly, Team Traveller has built up a career of splitting at the worst possible times and getting wrecked later, because, just like any school of cinema teaches, splitting in enemy territory is for losers. Or die-ers, in particular in horror movies.

Speaking of doing such a thing while in HEAVY, core enemy territory:

[Sometime ca. Chapter 55. ]
Kiran: "Okay so we split in two teams for the tournament, and while Crom's team wins the tournament, Nida's will be wasting time drawing aggro on the arena and doing sidequests somewhere else."
Elty: "Shouldn't we be either focusing on the tournament or running sabotage? Not splitting our efforts between two difficult tasks?"
Kiran: "That's why I send you, to soak up hurt while Crom's team advances the rounds. ^_^"
Elty: "Geee thanks..."
Nida: "Come on while we're gone doing time as undocumented workers without insurance, Crom has the tournament in the bag."
Crom and Pladur: "We're a phenomenal father and son team. What can possibly go wrong?"
Ketu: "You rang? o3o"
Elty: "...I bet Berecien is just resting on the VIP booth drinking a soda while *I* get mauled... <_<"
Statistically speaking, I'm sure much of these situations where the party once reunited splits up and gets wrecked is Kiran's responsibility, or perhaps an issue of not listening to the obvious concerns Pleo or Elty bring up.

Kiran: "My strategies are 14% viable! ^_^"
Pleo: "I don't know, something sounds too cromulent about this meetup in a cave..."
Uuuuh... So! Kiran has quite a record there. Just not the one he thinks he has, I feel. :p

And finally, because this was shortly ago enough and it could have been Elty's most stellar time... in a different AU:

[Ch. 66 and 67. ]
Elmer Potter: -bats a wand- "Stupefy! ^_^" -points wand-
Crom: "Aaaaah! @_@" -carts not even 5 minutes into the quest-

Elmer: "Alarte Ascendare! Wingardium LevioSAH! ^_^" -points wand-
Nida: "Aaaah! help help help I'm flying OVER LAVA!!!!"

Elmer: "Circumrota! ^_^" -points wand-
Elty: "Wheeee I'm a doggo! ^_^" -chases own tail.

Alice: "Guys we're the third team of this split and we're here to help!"
Elmer: "Revellio! Accio! ^_^" -points wand-
Alice: -compelled to obey- "Uuuh I brought items, which would have been nice for Ketu and Elmer to NOT find out about."
Elmer: "Thanks!" - grabs orbs to punish Team Traveller with later.

Elty: "This is definitively NOT our day >_>"
Ander: -already badly lying on the ground- "Sounds quite normal for me..."
Elmer: "Sectumsempra! ^_^" -points wand-
Ander: -gets several cuts across his body-
Ander: "See?" -shrugs.

Percy: "I'm gonna do a pro gamer move!"
Elmer: "Owo wat's this? Finestra! ^_^" -points wand-
Percy: -gets down from one (1) small cut- "OUCH! Hey what's that?"
Elmer: "Glass-shattering spell. Because you're a Glass Cannon o3o"

Elty: "This is not fair! We suck today!"
Canyne!Kline: "That's because you are a loser dog. I, on the other hand, am here to save the day!"
Elmer: "Nuh-nuh! Mutatio Skulla! ^_^" -points wand-
Kline: "What the-"
Kline: -grows one extra cell, thus becoming TWO Klines-
Pleo: "You fool what have you done!"
Kline #1 and Kline #A: -becomes FOUR Klines-
Kline #3 -to Elmer: "For Arceus's sake, you can't even use spells tactically."
Kline #4 -to Kiran: "Just because there's more of me I'm not gonna carry the wounded around. They suck. "
Kline #A: "Can we get moving now? These suckers don't even pay me."
Crom: "Oh no! The negativity is OFF the charts!"
Zelle: "Snerk... I guess the spell did not make it grow an extra neuron..."
Elty: "At this point I'm gonna approve of your dad's idea of snake for breakfast, Crom. >_>"
Elmer: "o_o Yeah no I can fix it, we don't need more Klines..."
Elmer: "Reparifarge! o_o" -points wand-
Four Klines: -become ONE Kline-
Unique!Kline: "Ugh... what happened?"
Elty: "You were about as useful as always, that's what!"
Pleo: "Couldn't have said it better. <_<"

Ketu: "You're a wizard Harry Ellsberg!"
Elmer: "I know! it's fun!"
Calidus: "Fighter beats Wizard!" -dives in.
Elmer: "Confundo! ^_^" -points wand-
Calidus: "Aaaaaah! What is going ooooo-" -plummets to the ground.
Ketu: -drinking a martini: "Aaaah, all in a day's hard work. Surely Lyn will reward me."

So, Elty has I'd say juuuust enough reasons to be testy. And I haven't even gotten to the IMPORTANT split up he had to go through in Special Episode: The Deepest Wounds, which I have still to get to review!

- The Suocéverse incarnations of Eltenios and Berecien watching Fledglings on TV cable -
Suocéverse Eltenios: "I'm so glad I'm on this side of the meta franchise fence..."
Suocéverse Berecien: "See? Told you fences were good for something!"
Not if we can get a crossover going, they won't o3o.

And hey as much as it was to Elty and the team's detriment that particular time they split up, it's a shame we'll be missing on awesome Ellsberg screentime for THIS chapter!

In exchange tho we are getting quite decent Ander screentime...

In any event since Elty is sticking to the coastline team now and not to the team that has just walked into the grasping, ghostly claws of the acolytes of That Which Lurks in the Shadows, everything's gonna go fine for him!

Elty: "So yeah if everyone just leave me be alone-"
Pieter, Albert and the party of pirates: "Ohai Elty! ^_^"
Elty: "<_<"

Sooo... about that Community Service Elty has to rethinp... :p

Betcha he would totally have preferred the depths of the forest right now :p

Did not recall that group at first and was quite surprised that this specifically happened. No rest for the wicked! And since Elty's position with the team has always been kind of hazy in that, hey, it's Community Service, it's fair that it can lead to moments of misinterpretation.

Of course, this leads into a fight against the small ragtag pirate crew, where Elty takes the side of shippably protecting Guardia.

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

"Eltenios?! Wat doe je nou?!" the Sealeo fumed. "You completely missed the lizard and hit me, you stupid mutt!"
Unless there is another Growlithe around there, no particular reason not to make Pieter's reaction more impersonal by saying "a Growlithe". We all know it's Elty, it's kind of the point.


Elty's fur raised and he looked back to see Guardia frantically darting around on the beach… chased around by the flopping form of the Sealeo
Lol the humilliation levels of this is insane. I can freely imagine this scene and the oh so awkward animation that would go with it... there's a fair chance Elty will never let Guardia live it down.

Speaking of I need a Sealeo flopping GIF animation pronto.

Curiously enough, Dimitri and Ander do win their side of the fight! I told you we were doing good Ander screentime. Team composition helped a bit and I'm surprised the Charmeleon in the enemy party could not do more against Ander, but then again it's a beach and Dimitri's also Water type.

Dimitri and Ander racking kills: "Best teammates! ^_^" -schwing schwing-
Elty and Guardia rubbing their wounds: "...Let us never speak of OUR performance ever again."

Meanwhile Pieter and the pirate party poopers pull off a disapparition act... perhaps unvoluntarily. It was the weird fiends that interacted earlier with Kichiro, blessed be his soul, most likely. Who knows, perhaps the tales are true? I mean, that thing going on back with Kichiro did give off enough of a scary vibe.

The worst thing is that Team Coastline *conveniently* missed it and thus we do too, so there's no choice than to add fuel to the folklore fire.

"We were just there. If there were really ghosts, we'd have noticed something," Dimitri insisted.

Yeah, I... I don't thing it works like that, Dimitri. Perhaps if Guardia was more in tune with the Alolan side of her species (or subspecies), she could have sensed some familiarity. But my understanding of the Cradle is that this part of the adventure is about a quarter of an hemisphere (the worst hemisphere, btw) removed from where that could have been.

Or from the Caribbean where some stuff like voodoo could at least have been expected. Who knows.

Elty, Guardia, and Ander let the matter drift from their minds as Dimitri moved along, not knowing that all the while, a violet presence with yellow, glowing eyes billowed from the treeline of the beach.
Dun dun duuuun, inb4 it's just a bunch of Haunters and stuff, they could have perfected their tricks for a good while, but hey you never know.


Area 9 — Forest Lowgrounds

Meanwhile Team Pleo are in the middle of exploring the interior of the forest, where absolutely nothing goes on. That's the nice thing about forests: all that noise is just normal wildlife going about, no need for ambushes and stuff.

It's so calm that Pleo has the time to examine every little bug, spider web, mining point ("peculiar shaped rock"), beetle, honey tree (this *is* Area 9 right?) or herbivore nest he comes across!

I liked seeing Pleo in a bit more loosened up scenario where he does not have to, like, directly mind if his life is in danger of Ketu or not. So it was nice to see him being a bit of a kid as he should be... a Fledgling if I would say o3o. If Dalvin was there, I know exactly what he would say to Pleo:

Dalvin: "Little bird, pick up all that stuff! As an exploration team, you WILL eventually find use for all that junk! ^_^"
Nida: "Not if *I* am the one who will have to carry the bag... >_>"

And hey since Pleo is distracted with his biology classes (are Team Traveller even providing him an education or what?):

Crom: "Nida! Pleo is distracted! We're finally alo-"
Nida: -is busy having a heart-to-heart with Kiran about team leadership-
Oh well. I still think the Kiss is something that has to happen! But it's good for Nida to have Approval from her teacher, considering the team really needs the high spirits they can get.

Kiran: "You took the initiative to try and get Pleo back from Lyn's ship, and all this time it's you who's helped lead the group one step ahead from the Company,"
I'm all up for a mood boost for Nida, but uuuh Kiran you are like 35% wrong about staying "one step ahead", and it's the kind of overestimation error that leads to bad decisions later. Such as team splitting.

Pleo meanwhile has the first encounter with that I presume is one of the locals.

Pleo: -pulls the Deerling's tail-
Crom: "Oh no..."
Pleo: "Oh? What's wrong? it's just an herbivore right? How bad can it be?"
They have been providing lil birb an education, right? Deer IRL are quite the menace... o_o

If anything, Crom is at least providing defense offense by jumping in and taking the fight from Pleo. And learning a new move in the process!

"G-Gah! You stupid hut freaks from the dungeon are only tough because you never fight by yourselves!" the Deerling stammered.
Except they don't come from the dungeon. Dun dun duuuuuun.

Remember how in the last reviews I said Hatteras was busy having not-plot in his figuratively hut out in the woods? Well, after a bit of exploration, Team Pleo even finds a literal one. One that, according to Kiran, is *not* haunted.

Kiran: "Like, really, what are the chances of that? ^_^"
Elty from the coastline: "I'll just stay here where my scene ALREADY happened! >_>"

They decide to go Inside (because it's Kiran, of course he's gonna lead the team inside where an ambush is more likely) and there they find a map. As well as evidence of recent inhabitation. Now, who can need a hut out in the woods here...?

Kiran: "KEY ITEM GET!"
Dun dun duuuuuun sorry, do-de-de-doooooo! ♫

With that and the lingering realization that you are not alone in the world, considering the stories about Blackmoon Town, they decide to head back, because the next sensible destination is the local Mystery Dungeon (as if haunted houses was not enough :p ).


Area 3 — other coastline

Who are somehow having a better time are none other than the team of Valatos! The Iron Fleet *did* made it this far (hay! they had to get screentime eventually! :p) and it seems that despite the dim chances there's anything useful for the team to find out right now, they are in good enough spirits.

(no, not *those* spirits...)

They are in so high spirits they're gonna have a little revolt of their own.

Alvise: "That's right! Because you ALL forgot who is actually the better doggo here!"
Nori and Valatos: "Yoo hooo! :D "
Elty and Kline need not apply, yeah :p

Alvise seems to have found enough annoyance and emotional footing that he declares himself the Top Zinogre on the rounds, altogether with Nori and Valatos attempting to take command of the current bunch of noobs and losers.

I checked, and yes, Zinogre does spawn in the Jungle map

Valatos: "Listen everyone, in the absence of Kichiro, may he rest in peace, we are going to be in charge around here."
Random Hoppip: "New management! That's nice."
Random Litten: "New? Those are just the rookies."
Nori: "Fam we are literally better at being rookies than you."
Random Staravia. "Better? Pfah. You are just losers, Captain Hess is surely coming up and I'm gonna hold my breath."
Alvise: "Hold my paw." - offers paw in friendly gesture.
Random Staravia: "Oh! Okay."
-holds paw-
-gets ZAP in response-
Alvise: "Let that serve as an EXAMPLE, everyone! My species does can eat chicken wing." -growls.
Oh so there's a chance that now it's Valatos' time to shine! Not to mention Alvise and Nori yeah but Valatos is the nominal boss of this subteam so it's time for them to put the noobs to work.

The fiend: "Not just yet~"
Oh well, it was nice while it lasted, Valatos. o3o

The team is attacked by a... cloudy apparition? Let's call it a fiend, imaginary or not. Certainly not a friend. And sure, it tries to be scary and all the usual stuff such as phasing throgh attacks aaaand...

...it means our more-experienced-but-still-sucky scene protags are in for quite the trouble.

Alvise: "We're going to need help!"
Valatos: "We have reinforcement. Now you noobs, it's time to-"
-turns to call the noobs-
-Everyone of them has just left-
Lol, the disrespect. It's sensible since they are attacked by an unidentiifable creature that at least seems to have immunity to Normal and Ground but hey.

Consequently, Team Valatos decides to turn tails and flee as well, towards the base camp just like everyone else.

Alvise: "Perhaps I should have stayed home and gone to school >_>"
Eh, depends on if they teach about ghosts, but at least they would teach him fighting.

And back to camp they go. Or, well, I mean, towards *their* base camp. Iron Fleet still busy with the placement of that one, likely, and that leaves some time for more plot to happen.


Base Camp

Team Pleo and Team Coastline now find each other and share their findings. Not very exhaustively since there's also not that much to report, but the important tidbits do get passed around:

[ ] Gather tracks of Cernum
[ ] (Find Kichiro)
[ ] Slay or Repel the Area Boss (???)
[*] Survive

Great work minna, wakarimasen! Uwu! Dattebayo!

A few other tidbits are passed down and NO ONE looks at Elty weird when it comes to the subject of having met his old pals. Conveniently everyone else speaks but Elty remains mum on the subject.

Right after, they share the intel on the hut in the woods and Kiran surmises that using the map to track the Mystery Dungeon is the most viable alternative. And... at least this once, he's not wrong.

See, maps have waypoints and stuff. But also, unless they were deliberately left there as a trap, they tend to include accurate information on the terrain such as places to avoid, places to go, or where to find water.

Kichiro: "...! Get me one of those!"

As such it's time to plan for the next attempt at the quest. Now with a map it should be easier, right? Easier enough that the six or so mons head out without even having a meal before (to be fair, most of them *can* hunt on-the-go).

So, let's start with such an easy second quest attempt:


Area 1 - Forest Treeline

So, we are a few steps in when the team wonders exactly what are they going to do once they do get to the Mystery Dungeon, since that is something they don't have a map for.

Wanna guess what does Kiran suggest?

Kiran: "So, we all know what that means..."
Elty: "Don't say it..."
Kiran: "We're going to split up. Again. ^_^"
Elty: "..."
Elty: "...<_<"
Elty: "...>_>"
Dimitri -leaning towards Ander: "I swear I can hear Eltenios' blood pressure surging."
Ander -leaning back: "He should really get that checked up. Perhaps take a vacation at a wide expanse of land. Agrarian and flat with lots of places to trot around, ideally."

Suocéverse Berecien and Eltenios: -currently loafing around filling themselves with berries-

Yeah this can continue to be a frustrating day for doggo.

Having to work the new paths needed to find the entrance to the Mystery Dungeon is important, yes. And I guess we'll have to see which team goes do this one.

Oh if only there was a way our protagonists could get an invite to the MD right away.

The fiend: "You rang? o3o"
Ketu from three islands over: "I sense a disturbance in the force. As if someone was trying to steal my contracted dishing-out-pain screentime."

The same apparition that previously attacked Team Valatos (and that if I got it right also tried to drag Kichiro in while in a more discombobulated form) now attacks in the midst of the extended Team Traveller. Team Traveller is quick to try and answer but just as before, to no effect.

Ander: "It's time for my mighty screentime! Dimitri let's gooo!"
-Ander readies to attack...-
The fiends: "loool we can phase out projectiles!"
-....with a scythe blade-
The fiends: "o_o Nope that's illegal brb!" -fades out-
Ander: "H-hey! That's not fair!"
Ander's attack doesn't work quite well if at all, and before anyone else can intervene with, I don't know, elemental projectiles? he's first knocked out and then disappeared!

(That's a nice party trick by the way)

Crom: "o_o That was a whole Scyther!"
Pleo: "I don't want to be ghost food!"
Nida: "What do we do!"
The fiends: "Would youuuuu consider joininggggggg our religion? We have cooooookies..."
Pleo: "Nope, not interested!"
Crom: "Yeah let's flee!"
The fiends: "....But the quooooooootaaaaa..."

Pleo is nabbed neext and the fiends have a proper use of some sort of stare-based status effect to render Pleo immobile. I wonder if this was the effect of a proper Move (capital, as in a known move in the games) or rather something like the Isukumi technique, "paralyzing terror", which uses chi / lifeforce / whatever to induce a form of paralysis on the victim.

Crom: "...I guess he does is food ghost up next o_o"

After that Nida attempts the rescue as well but, it's all for naught, the team gets attacked and down they go, rather fast I'd say. What's worse, Nida and Pleo have also been disappeared!

That certainly reduced their numbers...

Dimitri: "Ander my new friend, noooooo!!! :( "
Kiran: "Ow... "
Kiran: "Hey we're 80% less likely to need to split up into teams now @_@"
Elty: "Kiran! I'm not happy about THAT! >_>"

Dun dun duuun! :p

And that's that for now... who knows what will happen now that Pleo and Nida will have to fight for their undead lives in a card game at the Shadow Realm!


PMD Writer
"At All Costs," huh? Guess that means it's time for Kline to--

Oh, yup, there it is. :V

Yep! Kline finally get a chance to show what he can really do :V

I'm going to assume Kline's sudden appearance and rampage is why Team Traveler is able to get onto the ship with little issue? Since, y'know, Ketu was setting the harbor against them and, yeah, they're still under fire, but they get back onboard a lot easier than I would have thought given how things ended before.

That's correct. Kline knew they were in trouble, so used Thousand Arrows in order to strike the guards attacking them, cause chaos in the harbor, and destroy the wooden blockade preventing the Siglo Swellow from sailing away. Imagine the move landing in the harbor like an artillery strike, except a bit less lethal.

On that subject, I do get the sense that this part was, uh, playing Ketu up a lot. Between easily slipping onboard, getting the Ledger piece, handily getting out, and bailing the rest of his team out of a jam, he was like a one-mon wrecking crew in this part. Which I feel like goes a bit against the lower power scale and heavily team-based stuff we've seen the whole fic. I dunno. Probably overthinking.

We already talked about this one on Discord, but yeah Ketu didn't bail out his team at all. Aldrich and Zelle managed to turn things around by themselves. Ketu's arrival only made things worse because it meant Team Traveller and Team Zephyr had to fight yet another enemy.

He has a point. Very cavaliere of Beatrix to leave it unattended.

In her defense, the Ledger was hidden and they needed as many on deck as they could in case things would go wrong with Darzin.

Sorge the penny pincher?

Not quite. Originally Sorge wanted to ambush them with a Slumber Orb, but due to the guards searching his bag and him having to relocate and act in a hurry, he accidentally threw a Petrify Orb instead. Good thing for Team Traveller and Team Zephyr, since waking their teammates up would have been a lot harder than simply undoing petrification.

Fobbie/Vergil don't write a smug sneavile challenge. (failed instantaneously)

Why do you have to give such hard challenges?

Very mature.

Isn't she always?

Whoa, when did they get missiles?! PogChamp

They actually bought a few RPG-7s before breaking into the Vault! Rocket launchers are very common in Kecleon shops on Vollezee, didn't you know?

What a heartfelt moment this is... though I think it would've had more impact if we'd seen more of isolated/hiding Kline. ^^;

I'm sorry to hear this moment didn't have quite the impact you were hoping for. That said, the idea behind this moment was that it focused on Kline's decision to help out his friends, even if it meant permanently putting himself in more danger. It wasn't about the relationship between Kline and Micky, which is why we built up to this moment with things like that scene between Kline and Nerea on Tromba, as opposed to showing off Micky.

But as always, thanks for the review! Me and Fobbie will look forward to your next one. ^^

@Venia Silente:
This is a review part of the review trade that can help me keep my silverware freem from the Dark Lord, which is not exactly bad because I haven't continued these reviews in a while.

Sounds like the Dark Lord is doing a good job then if it's making you write more reviews, since they're always such a treat to read. ^^

I take it Cradle mons, even the better informed ones, are not exactly informed about the mechanics of your setting where a Legendary's powers are at least partly determined by belief. Or at least, have no reason to believe that false belief works justs as well?

That's right! Most Pokémon don't know that Legendaries will hatch as babies, let alone know how their powers work exactly. As for Ketu's faction though… we'll see!

Pladur: "Still... would have been awesome to watch Pleo gobble it down."
Crom: "...We can dream."

Not that type of fic, fam.

t's good to see Pladur in high enough spirits to be wandring around the ship, talking to his son and wanting to protect him from the various dangers that come with onscreen time. I mean, he would know!

Glad to hear you enjoyed that. Me and Fobbie really wanted to write a nice father and son moment with Pladur and Crom here. Not to mention that it shows that Pladur is slowly getting better.

Hess: "Okay crew, we're finally getting out from wherever."
Crew Staravia: "Yeah but into some ruins. These definitively don't show in this map I *don't* have!"
Hess: *sighs*
Crew Vileplume: "So we don't know where we are?"
Kichiro: "When do we ever know where we are?"
Hess: "..."
Hess: "Come on people, be positive? How about 'any port in a storm'?!"
Wilhelm: "But captain this is a beach, you can't even get your sayings right."
Hess: "..."
Wilhelm: "...I'm set to be hung from the sky as a kite again?"
Rodion: "We do need to set up an observation post..."
Crew Staravia: "What, over the ruins? We're set up to get mobbed."
Hess: "Come on people where's your sense of adventure?"
Kichiro: "Lying in an alley three ports ago? ^_^"
Crew Seadra: "We don't even have good currents! The sea was fine back when we were offscreen."
Rodion: "I guess that's for Kichiro to answer." *points to Kichiro*
Kichiro: "Pleo's powers work in mysterious ways. I'm sure everything's fine! ^_^"
Crew Marowak: *rolls eyes* "Yeah right then those ruins are all fine and golden."
Hess: "Did I hear volunteers to go check the ruins?"
Crew Marowak: "No wait I-"
Wilhelm: *sighs* "I'll go get the rope..."

Just wanted to say I love it when you do these little parodies. They're always so funny and make your reviews really unique! Me and Fobbie really enjoy reading them.

And let's be fair, Kiran's record when working team splits is not very good.

In Kiran's defense, it has only backfired once when they split up in Magmapool Town, and even that's debatable since David was a fake anyway and it allowed Pleo to meet up with Kline.

Kiran: "Nida this is a post-apocalyptic post-human condemned world, those movies would be 0% accurate here ^_^"
Ketu from elsewhere: "I wouldn't be so sure o3o"


[Sometime ca. Chapter 55. ]
Kiran: "Okay so we split in two teams for the tournament, and while Crom's team wins the tournament, Nida's will be wasting time drawing aggro on the arena and doing sidequests somewhere else."

Actually it wasn't Kiran who suggested this. Nida and the others started that themselves and they didn't meet up again with Kiran until after the tournament had already started.

Not if we can get a crossover going, they won't o3o.

I mean, we're down if you are :p

Unless there is another Growlithe around there, no particular reason not to make Pieter's reaction more impersonal by saying "a Growlithe". We all know it's Elty, it's kind of the point.

Yeah, good point honestly. We went back and changed this.

Lol the humilliation levels of this is insane. I can freely imagine this scene and the oh so awkward animation that would go with it... there's a fair chance Elty will never let Guardia live it down.

Yeah, that moment probably hurt Guardia's pride just a bit :V

Speaking of I need a Sealeo flopping GIF animation pronto.

Don't we all?

Curiously enough, Dimitri and Ander do win their side of the fight! I told you we were doing good Ander screentime. Team composition helped a bit and I'm surprised the Charmeleon in the enemy party could not do more against Ander, but then again it's a beach and Dimitri's also Water type.

Yeah, Dimitri made sure Alfred didn't get a chance to go after Ander.

They are in so high spirits they're gonna have a little revolt of their own.

Alvise: "That's right! Because you ALL forgot who is actually the better doggo here!"
Nori and Valatos: "Yoo hooo! :D "
Elty and Kline need not apply, yeah :p

Alvise seems to have found enough annoyance and emotional footing that he declares himself the Top Zinogre on the rounds, altogether with Nori and Valatos attempting to take command of the current bunch of noobs and losers.

I checked, and yes, Zinogre does spawn in the Jungle map

: "See? Told you all I'm the top dog of this fic! Even he agrees!"
: "Pfft, yeah sure!"
: "What's that supposed to mean?!"
: "Oh nothing."

Kiran: "So, we all know what that means..."
Elty: "Don't say it..."
Kiran: "We're going to split up. Again. ^_^"
Elty: "..."
Elty: "...<_<"
Elty: "...>_>"

To be fair, Kiran's plan involved splitting up and then reuniting at the end of each floor. Given that they'd be close enough to help each other while still being able to cover more ground quicker, I don't think this trope really applies here. Besides, they got ambushed this time while they were still together.

And that's that for now... who knows what will happen now that Pleo and Nida will have to fight for their undead lives in a card game at the Shadow Realm!

Guess you'll have to keep reading in order to find out :p

And while it took a bit to get ready, me and @Spiteful Murkrow are here with the final chapter of the Vollezee episode!

Before we get into things, there's some new artwork that we wanted to show you all. First off is this artwork of Kiran that I commissioned last month. Second is this lovely art piece of Cabot that Ambyssin commissioned for my birthday. Big thanks to him, it was a really nice surprise! ^^

With that out the way, let's see how this arc ends! Next chapter will be the beginning of a brand new episode.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

The normal hustle and bustle of the stretch of Vollezee's lagoon just outside of the southern exit of Canalhouse City's central canal came to a splashing halt. Its normal rhythms were upended as the Siglo Swellow barreled out into the open water, pushed along by currents from its escorts in the air and sea. Swimmers hurriedly ducked out of the way as the schooner clipped a few unfortunate watercraft in its path, with barks arising from the water as a few guards and incensed bystanders lobbed attacks after the fleeing ship. Everyone who was able had come to the ship's aid, even if a few needed a hasty rousing with Reviver Seeds.

On the stern, Team Traveller braced themselves as Crom looked off behind them, noticing the attacks from their pursuers growing sparser and more erratic. All the while, the tall houses and spires of Canalhouse City in sight began to shrink as they hit the open water. The Druddigon let his vision linger a moment as a moment of calm began to settle in amid the booms and shouts in the background, before he flopped down on the deck with a sigh of relief.

"Whew, for a second I didn't think we were going to make it," Crom said. He looked up, just in time to see Ander shoot an askew glance back at him, before the Scyther peered off at the distance with a visible grimace.

"Er… we didn't make it," Ander insisted. "Or at least, not yet."

Ander raised a scythe and motioned off ahead of the ship. There, past the lavender sails hanging from the mast, were the tall, red-brick sea walls that had been built on the barrier islands dividing Canalhouse City and its lagoon from the Cradle's high seas. Crom and his other teammates blanched a moment, as Elty spluttered and yelped out of alarm.

"Ch-Chyba żartujesz! How are we supposed to make it past that?!" the Growlithe exclaimed.

Nobody had a good answer to Elty's question. The walls were strong, and if they were anything like Tidemill City's, they were staffed with fierce guards with seafire at the ready. It had already taken a stroke of good fortune for them to slip away from such defenses last time… a thought that made their stomachs knot with unease and their minds fill with uncomfortable worries about whether they'd be able to escape an even tighter net around them.

"Fear not! You won't be facing those ramparts alone!" a voice squawked. "Trizano, the Valiant Knight Skarmory, is here to help!"

Elty and the others turned their heads, and much to their surprise, saw Trizano approaching along the deck. Crom blinked in astonishment at the Skarmory's appearance, as he stumbled over his words with a start.

"T-Trizano?! What are you doing here?!" the Druddigon cried. "I thought you still couldn't see!"

The Skarmory faltered briefly, before rustling his metallic feathers and shaking his head back.

"I can see shapes and foes right in front of me," Trizano replied. "Pokémon have stood and fought their ground with less. What sort of teammate would I be to let that stop me from a fight where all wings are needed on deck?"

Crom and his companions looked on as Trizano spread his wings and readied for battle alongside them. Something about the Skarmory's bravery was infectious, since with his eager determination, the lot suddenly felt less unprepared for the battle ahead of them.

"R-Right! We can't just give in here!" the Druddigon insisted. "If we all work together, I'm sure we can-!"

"There! Don't let them get away!"

Crom and his teammates turned their heads towards the water behind them as an awful sound rang out and scrawls of pinkish light suddenly zipped in overhead. Much to their alarm, they saw a purple-headed Slowking at the head of a party of guards trailing the ship. The air grew thick from attacks flying back and forth, when all of a sudden, a spray of attacks shot up from below the water, knocking back a Gorebyss and a Prinplup in lavender scarves. The eyes on the Slowking's head shell abruptly widened, when the form of a Dragalge with a red and blue belt about his body abruptly surfaced in front of him, dragonfire dancing around the tip of his snout.

"Uvidimsja, mudak!"

Viktor disgorged a Dragon Pulse square in the Slowking's face and sent him pinwheeling back in the water. The rest of the formation of guards froze briefly, as other Pokémon with the same-colored belts abruptly surfaced and formed a large wave in the water about them. The Dragalge and his allies rode the Surf forward, bringing it down on the guards and washing them away with sharp cries and yelps. The Siglo Swellow lurched from the wave's ripples, as its swimmers hastily clung to the sides of the ship to avoid being pushed away from it while most Pokémon on the deck crouched to avoid losing their footing.

As the ship evened out, Crom looked down, where the water was suddenly alive with Pokémon in blue and red belts converging in tight formation, with none other than Viktor and Nerea alongside them. The Dragalge of the pair shook his head, before shooting a sideways scowl up at the Druddigon and his companions.

"You airbreathers are really not making this easy, you know that?"

"Enough, Viktor. We always knew this was potentially going to be a difficult escape," Nerea insisted. "Just stay alert, since I doubt the Company wouldn't have some sort of trump card…"


Sharp blasts rang out, as small orbs zipped through the air. A couple deckhands were abruptly swallowed up in light and fell to the wood in what quickly became apparent to be Apricorns freshly shot out from cannons. Pleo and his companions turned as the deck descended into chaos, with some sailors scurrying for cover while others attempted to help free their trapped companions.

And then they saw it.

Off on the starboard side with cannons trained was a galleon in Company colors, coming straight at them. The sea and air about it were filled with accompanying fliers and swimmers, while there at its prow was none other than its Samurott captain, crouched and ready to spring forward.

"Th-That's Lyn!" Pleo yelped. "Did he know we were coming?!"

Lyn leapt forward and dove into the water, the cannons on the Argent Aviso's deck firing again as the Siglo Swellow's defenders hurriedly formed a wall of Protects to deflect the incoming projectiles. In the water, Nerea grimaced at the sight for a moment, before she turned to Viktor and motioned off at Lyn and his approaching underlings with a sharp cry.

"Viktor, we can't let him reach this ship!"

The Dragalge grunted in affirmation, before propping himself up over the water as he called out to his fellow clansmons.

"You heard her! Everyone, engage those square-necks!"

Viktor sliced forward in the water, followed by other Pokémon from the Khranitel Rod as they bellowed out battle cries and swam in to intercept Lyn's underlings. They spewed jets of water and various beams as the air ran thick with attacks flying about between both sides. Other members of the ocean clan hung closer to the hull, falling in line to aid the Siglo Swellow's escorts, when a deafening roar suddenly rang out from the other side of the ship.


The Siglo Swellow abruptly lurched as a plume of water erupted from the port side of the bow. Pleo and his companions turned their heads and at once felt the color drain out of their faces. There, rearing up with seawater cascading down his scales, was a Gyarados at the head of a party of Company fliers overhead and swimmers that had just surfaced from deeper in the lagoon's water. Startled shouts and cries went about the ship and its escorts as they quickly realized from the Gyarados' colors that that was none other than Administrator Zorn. The sea serpent flashed his fangs as he let out a loud, bloodcurdling growl.

"Going somewhere?!" the Gyarados snarled. "If you think that you can just scurry away from us like a bunch of Wimpod, you're sorely mistaken!"

No sooner than the moment Zorn finished his bellowing entrance did the Company Pokémon with him start to throw attacks at the Siglo Swellow. The sea and air escorts hastily fell back, frantically putting up their barriers in front of the hull just after a few pockmarks had been punched into it not far above the waterline.

From their place on the stern, Team Traveller felt the Siglo Swellow grind to a halt as it fought churning waters from all sides and no longer had the aid of friendly currents to push it forward. Off at the starboard side, Lyn knifed through the water at the head of a wedge-shaped formation, charging close enough to the ship for them to see the reds of his eyes.

At the last second, a sudden deluge of water slammed into the Samurott's formation, driving its ranks and its leader back. The Commissioner steadied himself and fought to keep his place in the water as he saw Nerea and a number of Pokémon from the Khranitel Rod pelting them with attacks. For a brief moment, Nerea turned her head back, waving hurriedly to Team Traveller on the stern.

"We'll hold them off!" the Manaphy cried. "Just help your crewmates clear a way forward for your ship!"

Droplets of water fell from the sky as low, darkened clouds formed over the Siglo Swellow. Back on the ship's port side, Team Traveller hurried off to make good on Nerea's urgings and ran down to the main deck and caught a glimpse of a few Pokémon in the water rearing up and swaying and twirling about rhythmically as rain began to pour from the sky. Much to their concern, the localized downpour seemed to make the Pokémon in the lagoon's water visibly more energetic. Not least of all the Gyarados Administrator among them, who gave a toothy sneer at the Pokémon aboard the ship.

"Let me show you just what you've gotten yourselves into!"

Water began to build up at the back of Zorn's throat, as the defenders on the deck cried out and hurriedly threw up an array of Protects. As soon as their barriers went up, the Gyarados disgorged a massive torrent of water that he swept from left to right along the length of the ship. The Hydro Pump came fierce and forceful, enough so that Team Traveller had to come and help steady a few defenders like an Unfezant and an Elgyem who almost lost their balance while holding their Protects from the sheer force of Zorn's attack.

The defenders' Protects held enough to save the masts from the Administrator's onslaught, but the torrent was still forceful enough to dislodge chunks of unprotected wood from the upper part of the ship. Just past the forward mast, a Simisage lost his footing with his barrier, leaving the jet of water to sail on and mow down an unfortunate Bergmite and Nosepass who both hit the deck in a daze. After his Hydro Pump ebbed away, Zorn slunk deeper into the water, leaving Pleo panting in frightened shock as he wondered to himself how they were even supposed to win this battle.

Were it a straight fight on land, they could maneuver around Zorn. But they were in the sea, in the Gyarados' native domain, and on a ship that could be crippled after enough well-placed attacks of that sort on the wrong places. The young Lugia wavered a moment when he heard the clatter of hooves against the deck's wood and looked to his right to see the Zebstrika from the former pirates approach the railing, flashing a determined grin as sparks danced on his hide.

"Ha! What a bunch of idiots!" the Zebstrika sneered. "This weather's perfect for lighting up swimmers like that Gyarados! If you all can keep his buddies busy, me and the other zappers on-deck can fry him!"

The port side of the Siglo Swellow suddenly came alive with a hail of attacks. Some, like a barrage of rocks from Dimitri, were aimed at the swimmers about Zorn, while others were trained at the fliers above him. The air grew thick with fliers breaking off to chase one another, prompting Pleo to beat out his wings to try and join them, only to be forced to dive for cover from an incoming spray of black orbs. He crouched there panting briefly, when a sharp cry rang out and a Murkrow spiraled out of the air and into the water from a spread-winged tackle from Kiran. Other shouts came from around Zorn, prompting Pleo to turn his attention towards the Gyarados when his eyes lit up in surprise. There, Zorn's defenders in the air and water nearby had been pushed out of the way by the crew and their allies in the water, leaving a clear line of sight with the Company Administrator.

Pleo looked back at the Zebstrika's position and saw a number of other Electric-Types had gathered about him. Judging from the sparks forming on their hides, it looked like they saw their opening too.

"Come and get it, you ugly fish!" the Zebstrika bellowed.

The Zebstrika shot out a wide spray of blue sparks, his position on the deck coming aglow in electric blues and yellows as the nearby Electric-Types threw in attacks of their own. Pleo's eyes lit up as he realized that he too would be able to help their efforts, and with their combined attacks, surely it'd be enough to put Zorn on the ropes.

Pleo breathed in as static began to dance on him, before batting his wingtips at Zorn as a thick, brilliant bolt shot out from between them. He watched it sail through the air, but halfway over to Zorn, it abruptly changed course much as if it'd hit a wall and struck an empty patch of water just beside the Gyarados.

"Huh?!" the Lugia squawked. "M-My Thunderbolt!"

Pleo's beak slackened as he watched the same thing happen with one attack after another from the Zebstrika's party. The electricity crackled in the water, but the Gyarados showed no signs of being any worse for wear, which was confirmed by him turning his head with a loud snarl. Zorn's gaze fell onto the Zebstrika, who stiffened up and went rigid as the other Electric-Type about him scattered. The Zebstrika remained fixed in place from sheer terror, pulling his head and tail in against his body as he felt his innards sicken with fright as the Gyarados loomed over him.


The Administrator lunged forward with his maw opened wide at the Zebstrika's head, and clamped down with an audible crunch. The Thunderbolt Pokémon's tail shot up as the Gyarados lifted the kicking and thrashing Electric-Type into the air by his neck. The nearby sailors froze and watched blankly as the Gyarados shook the former pirate back and forth in his mouth. The Company Administrator then bit down a second time, drawing a yelp from the Zebstrika in his jaws, followed by silence as the Electric-Type went limp.

Zorn threw the Zebstrika back to the deck, where he hit the planks with a loud thud and laid there with a weak, whimpering groan. No respite came after the Administrator's attack, as a hail of attacks zipped in and forced Pokémon all up and down the port side of the ship to hurriedly dive behind Protects and whatever cover they could find, including Pleo as he dove behind a set of crates with Crom panting frantically.

"I-I don't understand!" Pleo cried. "Wh-What just happened to all our attacks?!"

Crom turned his attention back to the water, where just past the railing, he could just barely spot the spiky, black form of a Pincurchin surfacing with static dancing on her spikes amid the waves. The Dragon-Type's mouth flopped open, and his eyes lit up in realization.

"A-Ah! It's that Pincurchin there!" the Druddigon cried. "She must be a Lightningrod 'mon!"

The Pincurchin noticed Crom pointing her out and swam away, hastily latching onto a passing dark blue Barraskewda that carried her off in a hurry. Crom spat up a gout of bluish dragonfire after the two, just missing after the fish spirited the Picurchin away. Pleo at once flew up in pursuit, as he called after the pair with a sharp shout.

"Hey! Get back here!"

Pleo built up light in his beak and readied a Weather Ball as the rain rolled off his plumes, only to notice the glowing orb felt damp and cold this time. He spat it up at the Pincurchin and Barraskewda, seeing it come out in a watery ball that sailed along for the two. The Barraskewda spotted the incoming orb at the last moment, diving below the water right as the Weather Ball slammed into the lagoon's surface with little more than a splash to show for its efforts.

Back on deck, Guardia fetched a Stun Seed and looked up to see Kiran flying after the Barraskewda and his passenger with a Slow Wand clasped firmly in his talons. In the water, Dimitri scythed his way through the water for the pair, only for the Pincurchin to shock him with a small bolt of electricity as he neared, breaking his momentum. Guardia readied her Stun Seed, but stopped mid-fling as she noticed the Barraskewda kept breaching and diving back under the surface. The Cubone watched as the fish weaved around one attack after the other, much to her slack-jawed frustration.

"Gah! How's anyone supposed to hit that Bachinuni when that Kamasujaw keeps tugging her around like-?!"

"A-Ack!" a Trumbeak cried. "We're getting boarded-!"

Guardia whirled back and saw Elty, Trizano, and Pladur looking on blankly as the Trumbeak crumpled to the deck. A quick glance over revealed the culprit: a Toxicroak pulling her fist back from a Poison Jab, having freshly boarded by clambering up a hooked rope from the starboard side. A few nearby sailors tried to run in and intercept the Toxicroak, only for a hail of rocks and a jet of water to sail in and drive them off as an orange-furred Lycanroc and a Crawdaunt made their way aboard. More Pokémon in Company scarves followed after, boarding and throwing the defenders on the starboard side into disarray. Trizano ducked out of the way of an incoming Shadow Ball, and after a moment to let his eyes focus, turned back and motioned at Guardia and the others to follow.

"Come on!" the Skarmory exclaimed. "It won't do any good worrying about the Pokémon in the water if we can't even hold our own main deck!"

Trizano pointed his wingtips ahead, Elty, Guardia, and Pladur following them over to see a Heracross and Dusclops in Company lavenders encroaching on them. The lot braced themselves and dug their feet in for battle. Trizano gave a glinting flash of his wings, before lunging for the Dusclops and knocking him back with a spread-wing tackle.

"Sbrigatevi! Before they dig themselves in!"

The others needed no further encouragement as they dove into the fray alongside their fellow sailors. In the water, Viktor and his fellow clansmons were hastily closing ranks around the Siglo Swellow, throwing up Protect barriers to block incoming attacks. The blows began to thin as more and more, various swimmers from Lyn's crew hurriedly broke formation and swam off. Viktor spat a few globs of poison after his withdrawing foes, when he noticed that something wasn't adding up:

The swimmers were turning tail too soon for the amount of fighting they'd put up. Since when were the crews of Company Commissioners this lily-livered?

"One shock of a lifetime, coming right up!"

Viktor turned his head and blanched after seeing a Tauros approaching in the water with an Electabuzz clinging to his back. The bull was swimming along, better than he'd have expected an airbreather with hooves to, and churning up the water into a growing wave as static began to dance on the Electabuzz's pelt.

It was then that the Dragalge realized that the pair were readying an electrified Surf. One that was aimed square at them.

"I don't think so!"

Nerea suddenly popped up in the water in front of the Tauros and Electabuzz and shot a pair of pink orbs at them from her feelers. The Company Pokémon recoiled briefly after getting struck, before the orbs re-emerged from their bodies and traded places. Nerea swam away from the two, just as the duo's eyes shot wide and the Electabuzz abruptly lost his balance and fell into the water. She looked back at the two as they flailed and thrashed about with panicked yelps.

As was to be expected after her Heart Swap. Its effects would last but a short time, but there was always something satisfying about seeing it humble hardened foes. These two goons being no exception.

"A-Ack! Wh-What happened to my hands?!" the Tauros cried.

"What happened to my hooves?!" the Electabuzz yelled. "And why can I see my own body-?!"

And a short time was all that everybody needed to deal with those two. An Ice Beam sailed in from the deck, followed by a hail of other attacks alongside it. The members of the Khranitel Rod joined in with jets and waves of crashing water, making the Tauros and Electabuzz disappear into the churning sea. For a moment, empty, bubbling water remained, before the two Company grunts floated back to the surface unconscious, leaving Nida up at the ship's railing to huff out a puff of icy breath.

"That oughta take care of those two," the Nidorina scoffed.

Any sense of victory was short-lived after an agonized scream rang out from further out in the water. There, Lyn could be seen drawing a seamitar back from a Golisopod who keeled over in the lagoon. Before the water could finish settling, the Samurott shoved the fainted Golisopod aside and stared down a lone Nerea, narrowing his eyes into a piercing glare.

"So you're the Blue Fairy I've heard so much about," he growled. "Somehow I was expecting a bit more from the 'mon who took advantage of my father's kindness and disgraced him."

In spite of Lyn's overpowering demeanor, Nerea remained defiant. She flared her feelers out, shooting a stubborn glare of her own at her much larger foe, even with his brandished blades drawn.

"Hrmph, you clearly haven't come to talk through your family problems," the Manaphy spat. "Though don't be mistaken, Samurott. I am a Protector. I haven't eluded your ilk for all these years by being a pushover!"

Lyn lunged forward with a bellowing roar, barrelling through the water with his blades drawn. Back on the Siglo Swellow, the port side of the ship rang out with yelps as Zorn spewed another Hydro Pump along the length of the deck, the watery jet picking through an increasingly hole-riddled array of Protects that sent various sailors tumbling off their feet with yelps. Among them was Crom, who rolled back along the ship's timbers and came to a stop on his side, weakly lifting his head up in a daze.


Crom struggled up to his feet, water dripping off his scales as his vision wobbled, when he looked up and saw that the localized rain above the ship was still coming down in buckets. All of that was from just a few Rain Dances? With this sort of weather helping their Water attacks, no wonder why Zorn's underlings were giving them such trouble! Vicente looked over the Rain Dancers in the water, as he seemed to have realized the same and turned over to Beatrix with a worried grimace.

"Captain, we've got to do something about this rain!" the Hitmontop cried. "Those Company 'mons are picking us apart in this weather!"

"Way ahead of you!" Beatrix cried.

Beatrix brought her tarsi together as something that looked like a ball of brilliant sunlight formed between them. She flew up and flung the orb up into the sky, where it burst in the air and parted the clouds above with overbearing sunlight.

Crom looked up in awe as the rain briefly let up, only for the clouds to come rolling back in along with heavy rain. He looked back out to the port side of the ship and blanched upon seeing a Dragonair and a Bruxish wrapping up the tail end of a Rain Dance. What hope did they have of getting rid of this rain when there were more Pokémon ready to use Rain Dance than there were Pokémon among their ranks who could do anything about it?

The Druddigon chanced to notice the Pincurchin surface again and zip by, still clinging to her Barraskewda partner. With her stunned in full view, this was their chance to pick her off!

"Ah! That Pincurchin's back!" he cried. "Let's try hitting her again!"

Crom ran up to the railing and spat up a Dragon Rage, the others nearby him joining in with their own attacks. Unfortunately for the group, the Barraskewda just kept moving out of the way time and time again. Crom grit his teeth in frustration. They were so close, and yet they still couldn't turn things around!

"Gah! We can't get a clean hit on her!"

Just then, the faint crack of breaking glass rang out, prompting Crom to turn towards Kiran just in time to see his Slow Wand splinter from overuse and silk webbing fly out from its tip. That time, the webbing caught up with the Barraskewda and the Pincurchin, clinging to their bodies as the Barraskewda flailed and tried to brush it off in the water.

Before the two could make any progress freeing themselves from the ensnaring silk, the water below them suddenly erupted in a plume as Dimitri cast a hail of rocks upwards, freshly torn the bottom of the lagoon. The pair shot back and flopped over in the water reeling in a daze. Sensing an opening, the Kabutops turned and waved with his scythe, calling up to the Pokémon on the Siglo Swellow's deck.

"They're down! Get them!"

Crom needed no further prompting for what to do next and immediately spat up a gout of blue dragonfire that struck the Pincurchin in the water. It was then followed by an Extrasensory from Pleo, a Poison Sting from Nida, and a veritable hail of other attacks and items from the deck. As the waters settled, Pleo could make out the Pincurchin and Barraskewda listing in the water, both unable to do much other than burble weakly and float limply in the sea.

"Ah! We got them!" Pleo cried. "We finally got-!"

The Lugia was cut off by a stray rock striking him from behind, where Elty, Guardia, Trizano, Pladur, and a number of sailors were still locked in fierce battle with Lyn's boarding party along the starboard side of the deck. A Graveler had since joined the Dusclops and Heracross, and hurled a final Rock Blast that sent Elty skidding back. The Growlithe fought to keep his balance, panting heavily as he looked to his teammates with a worried stammer.

"G-Gah! I don't know how much more of this we can take!" he barked.

"Pladur!" Trizano shouted. "We need to change the way we're fighting this battle, and fast!"

A sharp hiss rang out as the Heracross from Lyn's crew rounded on them, readying a charging thrust of his horn. Pladur flashed his claws and prepared to strike, when an Air Slash abruptly flew in and struck the Heracross in the head. The Bug-Type crumpled up and hit the deck with a sharp thud, as Pladur looked up to see Pat flying overhead weaving around beams and attacks zipping in.

The Fraxure's eyes lit up as a moment of realization came over him. Pat was one of the ship's fliers, who helped push the ship forward with air currents when it needed extra bursts of speed. There wasn't much the Unfezant could do about the ship right now, but…

"P-Pat! Can you give us a Tailwind to work with?" Pladur asked. "We need to stay on our feet against these guys!"

The Unfezant obliged with a nodding grunt, beating his wings and whipping up a stiff wind that ran at the defenders' backs, pushing their movements forward. Vicente was the first to take advantage of Pat's aid, throwing himself forward with a High Jump Kick that caught an orange Lycanroc in his flank. The Lycanroc screamed in pain as he was launched into the air from the blow, clipping the railing with a yelp before he pitched overboard. Trizano couldn't make out the sight clearly as his vision remained muddy beyond a little over a wingspan away from his body, but after hearing the sound of a loud splash from the water, he realized that with the right moves, Pat had given them everything they'd needed to turn things around on Lyn's boarding party.

"That's it!" the Skarmory cried. "Focus your attacks on whatever will knock them back the most. They can't attack us if they're overboard!"

Trizano brought his wings together and threw a churning Whirlwind forward, which swept up the Dusclops and sent him flying over the railing. A nearby Toxicroak froze briefly before Elty lobbed a whitish orb in front of her, which shattered and similarly flung her overboard with a yelp. There was a sharp cry, when the pair saw the Graveler stagger back cradling his face in the wake of a swat from Guardia's club. A bellowing roar followed, as Pladur charged in with his claws coming alight with dragonfire. The Fraxure lunged ahead, tackling the Rock-Type with a raking swipe of his claws that crunched against stony hide. His strike sent the Graveler's lurching and rolling back against the railing, the Rock-Type's eyes shooting wide with alarm as he pitched over it.


The Graveler's screams were silenced by the sound of his stony body hitting the water, followed by confused shouts and cries for help from the lagoon. Back on the Siglo Swellow's deck, Lyn's underlings had had their ranks thinned considerably by other sailors pushing them back in similar fashions. A Crobat among them hurriedly called out a retreat and flew off from the deck, prompting the others to follow suit and begin to clamber back down the ropes over the side. In the process, a few slipped and fell off the railing after being clipped by errant blows during their retreat.

Elty panted as the last of the square-necks on deck retreated, with the ship's timbers being littered with Pokémon lying slumped over in groaning heaps. A few sailors hurriedly went about to try to treat and rouse their wounded allies, while others like Natrix and Philips turned their attention to fainted Company goons such as a Heracross that was moaning incoherently. The Servine and Raichu grabbed the Heracross and brought him up to the railing, when his eyes suddenly flickered open and shrank to pins at the sight of the lagoon water below.

"N-No wait! What are you doin-?!"

The pair threw the Heracross from the ship and sent him tumbling head over heels until he fell into the sea with a loud plunk. His counterparts still on the deck met similar fates one by one in short order. Back in the water, Viktor turned his head around and noticed that Lyn's underlings were distracted from having to come to the aid of the flailing members of the repulsed boarding party, prompting him to let out a sharp cry to his nearby clansmons.

"This is our chance to push them back!" the Dragalge exclaimed. "Everyone, assume formation!"

Viktor and the nearby swimmers churned up the water into a roaring wave, bringing it down on the Company Pokémon along the Siglo Swellow's starboard side. A chorus of yelps and startled cries rang out, which grew more and more distant as the boarding party and their allied swimmers were washed away by the deluge, and even the Argent Aviso visibly drifted further back from it. After Viktor and the others cleared the waters along the schooner's starboard, her defenders hurried about to try and push the ship forward or go off to relieve the battle on the ship's port side. From the deck, Pleo let out a sigh of relief as the din of battle on that side of the ship seemed to drift further away, only for a pained shout to cut through the air.


There, further off in the water, Pleo and his companions watched as Nerea reeled from a slash from Lyn's seamitar. A few nearby Khranitel Rod Pokémon attempted to come to her aid, only for snarling Pokémon in lavender to cut them off. Nerea grimaced and panted, attempting to steel herself as the Samurott readied his blades and circled his wounded foe.

"You shouldn't expect any mercy from me," he growled. "After what happened to the last 'mon who took pity on you, I know better than to do that."

Lyn tightened his grasp on his blades and threw them back in the air for a downward slash. The Commissioner swung his left seamitar forward at the Manaphy, when a sudden flash of yellow light struck him and his body locked up from the hot, searing jolt of a Thunderbolt. The Samurott bellowed out of pain and reflexively jerked back, before turning towards the source of the attack. There, he spotted Pleo at the Siglo Swellow's railing, dripping purple and silver dye off his plumes from the rain and sticking his tongue out at him.

"Grr, why you-!"

Lyn spat up a watery pulse at Pleo's position, prompting the Lugia to leap out of the way with a startled squawk as it crashed against the railing. The Samurott felt a sharp pain in his back and tumbled forward in the water, whirling around to see dissipating green light from Nerea's nubby arms as she glared back with a sharp scoff.

"Hey! I didn't say we were done fighting!"

Nerea flung another Energy Ball at him, forcing Lyn to hurriedly parry it with a swipe from a seamitar. From the deck of the ship, Pleo darted back up to the railing and looked on as Lyn and Nerea resumed their battle, only to hastily jump aside as a drenched Butterfree plummeted to the deck just beside him.


The Butterfree hit the planks with a dull thud, laying there twitching and groaning, making Pleo grimace and turn his head in time to see Zorn pull his tail back still dripping water off of it. The young Lugia noticed that the Gyarados' other underlings in the water weren't close enough to shield him from any blows, prompting him to point ahead with a surprised cry of realization.

"Ah! Zorn's lackeys aren't around him!" the Lugia shouted. "This is our chance to attack!"

Kiran looked over from throwing an Air Slash at a Company Jumpluff, when sure enough, the Company Administrator seemed to be fully open to attack… for now. Without hesitating, the Swellow dove forward and clipped the Gyarados with a Wing Attack, followed by another hail of rocks from Dimitri, a Blast Seed from Guardia and a barrage of attacks from the defenders afterwards. Pleo watched as Zorn thrashed and snarled, the Lugia sucking in a sharp breath as he prepared to attack. It was then when he heard voices amid the din of battle, far clearer than he ought to have.

The voices began to swirl in his mind again: wishing that Kline and the others would be there to help them. To be back home. To be anywhere but here amidst this stormy maelstrom surrounded by snarling goons. Pleo didn't stop to try and figure out whose voices he was hearing. He knew full well from when this had last happened to him.

He was hearing his friends. His fellow allies from right here aboard the Siglo Swellow. These were their thoughts, their hopes, their cries for someone to help them. Pleo still didn't understand why it was that they brought out his powers, but he heard his companions' pleas for help. And as Tromba's- no their Protector, he'd churn the sea and skies to answer them.

Almost by reflex, Pleo focused and readied an Extrasensory as his feathers suddenly grew awash with a silvery white glow, shining through the purple dye dripping off his body. On the deck a short ways away, Ander reflexively cringed at the sight, looking up with a vacant, fearful stammer.


"I won't let you hurt my friends like this!"

Pleo's eyes came aglow with golden light and he opened his beak, spewing out the golden rings of an Extrasensory. The individual rings came out larger and so closely spaced together that his psychic barrage looked more like a Solar Beam than the attack he remembered using against Bunsen. The rings knifed through the water, Zorn diving below the surface just as the enhanced Extrasensory cut through the water and skies, various swimmers and fliers disappearing into its light as the beam carried on into the sea walls in the background. Pained screams and frightened shouts rang out as the darkened skies came alight with a golden glow, Ander flinching with a low, frightened whimper from Pleo's overwhelming assault.

As the Extrasensory cleared, Team Traveller's members looked out over the railing, where most of Zorn's underlings lay fainted or stunned in the water. Those who were still able to were swimming back hurriedly, opting to throw jets of water and beams from a safer distance that the ship's escorts were better able to deal with. A glance over at the sea walls revealed that Pleo's attack had affected them too. There, shapes of Pokémon could be seen scurrying for cover at its top, and the bellows and cauldrons used to keep it seafire had been knocked off their mountings, which made Natrix 's eyes light up in realization

"Ah! That attack messed up their seafire gear!" the Servine exclaimed.

"Then what are we waiting for?!" Philips cried. "Let's get going before they get it back togeth-!"

The Raichu never finished his words, as yelps and shouts of "Look out!" rang out from the water followed by a loud, dull thud. A sharp tremor ran through the ship's timbers and the Siglo Swellow suddenly lurched up from underneath, as much to everyone's alarm, it pitched heavily to starboard. A number of the deckhands lost their footing, some landing against the mast or the railing while others were sent tumbling screaming into the water. Team Traveller's members hurriedly tried to cling to whatever they could for support as the deck's incline grew increasingly vertical, when Elty lost his footing and rolled head over heels with a panicked yelp. The Growlithe hit the railing and bounced when he felt a small hand grab onto his pelt and looked up to see Guardia holding onto him for dear life.

"H-Hang in there, Eltenios!"

Elty looked down at the churning water and felt the color drain from his face, his heart pounding frantically in his chest. The ship then stopped tilting as the hull rocked back to the port side, the momentum of the settling ship throwing Elty and Guardia back onto the deck with a pair of yelps. The two laid stunned on the ship's timbers for a brief moment, when Elty's ears picked up the sounds of Pokémon crying for help from the water. The Growlithe looked over to see sailors thrashing and flailing desperately in the water, and felt a shiver run down his back as he watched a few, including Natrix and Philips, get swarmed by Pokémon in lavender scarves.

A deafening, bloodcurdling roar suddenly rang out. Elty pinned his ears back with a low whine, looking towards the port side of the ship just in time to see Zorn surfacing right beside it and snarling down at the deck.

"Did you really think you could get rid of me so easily?!"

For a moment, Team Traveller froze and paled at the sight of the looming Gyarados. After a moment to shake his head and calm his nerves, Pleo dug his heels in and shot back a defiant glare at the sea serpent.

"W-We've come this far by working together!" the Lugia cried. "Even if you're a tougher Administrator than Darzin, we can defeat you too!"

Pleo shot off a Thunderbolt at Zorn, his teammates joining in with their own attacks at the Gyarados Administrator. Zorn lurched back with a pained bellow as the blows zipped in and found their marks, when a sudden shock of blue and red flew at his head. A cutting gust of wind ran across Zorn's face, prompting the Gyarados to grit his teeth and turn to see a Swellow flying away from his head.

"Annoying little pest!"

Zorn cracked his maw open wide and lunged forward as ice began to wreath his razor-like teeth. Kiran saw him approaching fast and attempted to flee, only for Zorn's jaws to catch up with him and clamp down with an audible crunch.

An agonized scream rang out as Team Traveller looked on at Kiran's struggling form. The Gyarados shook the flailing Swellow in his mouth as the bird's strength ebbed away and his body went limp much to Pleo and his companions' horror.


Zorn wrenched his head and threw Kiran off to the side, sending him pinwheeling through the air before hitting the water a short distance away. The Gyarados briefly looked after Kiran as lavender-scarved Pokémon converged on the Swellow, before turning back to the ship. He sized up the Pokémon on deck, before narrowing his eyes with a low growl.

"Pathetic," he spat. "Let me show you the true might of an Administrator!"

The Gyarados widened his jaws as brilliant light began to build up at the back of his throat. Pladur's eyes suddenly shrank to pins, as the Fraxure stammered and raised a shaky set of claws at the Company Administrator.

"Th-That's Hyper Beam!" Pladur yelped. "We need to stop him! If he gets that off, we're as good as sunk!"

The Fraxure frantically spat up a Dragon Pulse at Zorn, the rest of Team Traveller joining in with various attacks of their own. Pleo flew ahead, lobbing a crackling Thunderbolt from between his wingtips that made Zorn lurch back in the water, but much to his horror, did nothing to dispel the light in the Gyarados's mouth.


Zorn disgorged a bright, white-hot beam that cut through the air and sliced into the deck with a loud blast as he began to sweep it sideways. Team Traveller scattered and dove for cover, Pleo attempting to do the same when the beam caught up with him. The Lugia reeled as in a flash, the entire right side of his body was engulfed in searing pain. The next thing he knew, he was shooting back in the air, catching glimpses of the Gyarados spewing his beam onto the deck in a sweeping motion before the young Protector hit the hard wood below with a wet thud.

Pleo's head spun, his vision growing muddy as loud screams and the crack of splintering wood rang out. After a while, the commotion died down beyond scattered shouts, as the Lugia cracked his eyes open with a low whine.


Pleo stumbled up and looked around to see the yards of the front mast hanging broken from it and visible holes burnt into parts of the sails. All around him, Pokémon lay strewn motionless about a deck that now had a large hole punched into it, the felled deckhands visibly burned and showing few signs of life beyond faint breathing or an occasional twitch. Other Pokémon were staggering up, a few like a Quilava who dribbled blood from fresh scrapes had their nerves fail them and limped off to try and hide below deck. Those that remained tried to stand their ground but visibly trembled with fright, as desperate cries filled the air.

"P-Protector! H-Help us!"

"Y-You did it once! You can do it again!

"J-Just do something! Please!

Pleo stared in shock at the hole in the deck and the mangled yards of the front mast. H-How could he do anything about that without his powers to help him? The sound of hoarse panting turned his attention back to Zorn, who was visibly winded from his attack, but still well enough to curl his maw into a mocking sneer.

"Hah! Did you think that I held that back out of the kindness of my heart? I merely waited until your defenses were weakened so I could blast your glorified pile of driftwood apart!" the Gyarados snarled. "Still think you're just going to sail away from me?"

The attacks from the water came in thicker that time, as Zorn's Hyper Beam gave the Company swimmers and fliers still well enough to fight the confidence to draw near once again. Those among the Siglo Swellow's escorts who were still able hastily threw up their Protects again, but with visible gaps in between them, it proved insufficient for the hail of blows that came in. Nida hastily jumped out of the way as a bolt of electricity zipped in right beside her and blackened the wood where she had just been standing, looking up panting to see Zorn's earlier vigor had returned to him as he coiled his body in the water.

"Hrmph. A cute show," the Gyarados remarked. "But this is the end of the line for you all."

Zorn began to ready a Hydro Pump in his jaws as the Siglo Swellow's crew looked on in horror. A few hurriedly tried to interrupt him with attacks, though others like Nida remained frozen in shock. The Nidorina pinned her ears back and flinched, bracing for the Administrator's inbound Hydro Pump when all of a sudden, a loud, distant rumble rang out. A wave about twice Nida's height suddenly rolled in from shore, striking Zorn and the other Pokémon in the water. Startled cries rang out as Zorn was jolted out of his aim and his Hydro Pump sailed harmlessly over the deck, the Gyarados whirling about to see giant columns of green light shooting up among Canalhouse City's rooftops.

"What on earth?" Zorn said.

Nida stared off at the dust and smoke curling up from the distance as the columns dissipated. Was that Kline? The Nidorina quickly looked at Zorn, who began to turn back towards the ship. Nida took advantage of the Gyarados' brief distraction and quickly dipped her paw into her bag. She grabbed onto a Stun Seed and lobbed it at the Gyarados, which broke against his hide with a hail of sparks as the Administrator let out a sharp grunt. After a few brief moments for her to realize that her Stun Seed had hit its mark, she turned and called out to her comrades.

"Quick!" Nida exclaimed. "Now's our chance to strike!"

Team Traveller's members dug in their feet and threw their attacks forward in a barrage at the Gyarados Administrator. Stony flechettes, cutting winds, an icy ray… all of it seemed to visibly wear Zorn down.

But at the same time, it also jolted his body back and freed him up from his petrification. Zorn moved back in the water, building up blinding light in his maw when he heard approaching wingbeats, seeing Pleo nearing visibly winded, with sparks dancing on his plumage and his face curled up in fierce defiance.

"Stop it! Leave my friends alone!"

The Lugia brought his wings together as a Thunderbolt shot out from between them. It wasn't any bigger than his last one, but this time, it struck Zorn square in his head. The Administrator seized up and bellowed in pain as yellow electricity danced around his body briefly, dissipating as the young Lugia flew past.

For a short moment, Pleo watched as Zorn visibly tottered in place. And then, the Gyarados listed and flopped over onto his side in the water with a large splash. As the water stilled, everyone, both from Zorn's underlings and the Siglo Swellow's crew, briefly stared on stunned at the defeated Administrator. The Siglo Swellow's defenders were the first to snap back to attention, as a Qwilfish by the hull piped up to her nearby compatriots.

"Hurry!" a Qwilfish cried. "Go for everyone that fell overboard!"

The Qwilfish was abruptly cut off by an Air Slash flying in from the Company's lines, sending her keeling over limply into the water as Zorn's snarling lackeys approached once again while throwing attacks ahead. Swimmers from the Siglo Swellow and the Khranitel Rod hurried in lobbing back attacks of their own, and after a brief, sharp skirmish, the attacks thinned as the harrying Company Pokémon were driven back.

Nida looked over at the railing as a few dripping Pokémon were pulled aboard from the lagoon, some like a Bayleef coughing up water and visibly shivering, while others like a Dwebble were dragged aboard unconscious. Things were still dicey, but with Zorn lying fainted in the water, surely they could pull through in this battle-

"A-Ah! They're lighting the seafire again!" Crom exclaimed.

Nida looked up following Crom gesturing off at the sea walls in alarm. There, one of the cauldrons had been lit aflame and Pokémon swarmed around a set of bellows they were hastily placing back into position. Viktor caught the sight as well, the Dragalge grimacing briefly, before looking up towards the deck with a stern frown.

"You need to go, now!" he barked. "We'll try and hold out until Kline can catch up with us!"

The Siglo Swellow's deckhands balked. They were just supposed to sail off? Right now? When they were still trying to dig their way out from the damage and disarray Zorn had left behind?

"But we have 'mons overboard-!" Beatrix started, only to be cut off with an ethereal glow from the water.

The Illumise and the others turned their heads to the starboard side of the ship, where they saw Nerea awash in a brilliant blue light. The Manaphy was swimming forward, ahead of the Khranitel Rod's swimmers as Lyn and his accompanying underlings froze, a few hurriedly casting Protects as the water around Nerea began to stir up. Beatrix stared entranced for a moment, before a sharp splash from the water turned her attention to Viktor, who slapped the water's surface with a fin and glared up impatiently.

"We'll do what we can for them, but this might be your last chance to leave without getting burned to a crisp!" the Dragalge insisted. "So hurry up and get out of here!"

Beatrix looked over at Pleo and saw that he was panting and struggling to stay on his feet, dripping dye off his plumes. She looked between the winded Protector, her haggard and frightened crewmates, and the seafire bellows off on the walls. The Illumise hesitated for a moment, before gritting her mandibles and letting out a sharp cry to her surrounding crew.

"Batten down the hatches and full speed ahead! We're setting sail!"

The sailors hurriedly went for the ship's rigging, the Siglo Swellow abruptly lurching from its sails billowing out and the efforts of its escorts. All the while, Nerea went under the water's surface and vanished from view as a towering wave quickly built up. Was that a Surf? The wall of water plowed ahead for Lyn and his underlings, cresting and breaking as a chorus of shouts and screams rang out along the Siglo Swellow's starboard side. On the deck, Crom watched from behind a damaged chunk of railing as Pokémon were thrown about by the wave like Substitutes and the bow of Lyn's ship itself visibly shot up at a precarious angle. The shouts in the water grew more distant as Lyn and his underlings, ship included, were pushed back in the lagoon.

Crom yelped as a Shadow Ball flew right past him, the dragon crouching and hugging the deck along with his teammates as attacks shot overhead from the port side. They looked up at the sea walls as the Protect users still standing on the deck hurriedly cast their barriers, pointing them overhead just as the guards up on the wall rained beams and missiles down on them. Crashes and the sound of splintering wood punctuated the air amid thick cries, and at any moment, Crom expected to see his vision fill with flames all around him…

But it never came.

The Siglo Swellow limped along through the water, making it past the red-brick seawalls while attacks continued to fly in at the ship's stern as Crom's heart pounded in his chest. After what felt like a small eternity, the attacks began to grow increasingly sporadic, infrequent enough for the young Druddigon to warily poke his head up. He almost immediately regretted it, as he saw a party of swimmers in Company lavenders behind them.


The guards threw a spray of jets and beams at the ship, making the Siglo Swellow's crew brace for the worst. A few got up to hurl attacks back from behind the cover of the Protects on deck, while others helped push the damaged ship forward with their currents.


Much to Crom and the others' surprise, the attacks and shouts from the Pokémon never thickened and the guards in the water didn't continue to give chase. Barring some covering attacks, the groups of swimmers stayed near the entrance of the sea walls, with no ships in Company sails to be seen anywhere nearby. Crom slumped to the deck in exhaustion, looking around as the crew members warily made their way over to tend to the wounded still lying strewn about, a few visibly quivering and trembling from their ordeal.

A quick glance back at the shrinking sea walls revealed thin wisps of dust and smoke curling up from the direction of Canalhouse City, as Crom looked on blankly. Everything that Team Zephyr and Nerea and the Khranitel Rod had done for them, it had been so that way they could escape. Except there was a long, lingering question that gnawed at the dragon's mind before he looked over to Beatrix uneasily.

What would happen to Kiran and the others? To everyone still fighting behind the sea walls?

"Th-They'll make it, right?" he asked.

The Illumise captain gave no answer for a long while, as she stared off at Vollezee Island slowly shrinking off into the distance. The Bug-Type hung her head and gave a glum, uneasy shake in reply.

"I don't know," Beatrix sighed. "But we need to make the most of things."

Crom wasn't sure how to respond. From the long faces he could see on his teammates as they neared, it was evident they were similarly at a loss about what to do. Pleo cast a glance off at the damaged sails on the front mast, before turning to his companions with a deflated murmur.

"… Where do we even go now?" the Lugia muttered.

Crom looked back towards Vollezee's sea walls, as smoke curled up behind them along with rainclouds and flashes of light from the still-raging battle on the other end. The Druddigon felt his eyes mist up as he turned out towards the open sea, letting his head hang as his words came out in a faltering croak.

"… A-Anywhere but here."

(Continued in next post)
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Half an hour later, the deck of the Argent Aviso was in disarray from battle. The ship's wood had been pockmarked here and there with holes and fresh battle scars, and a few of the cannons had been damaged beyond use from attacks that had slipped through. The medbay had been overflowed as wounded Pokémon in lavender scarves were laid out for treatment on deck and in the water, among them being Administrator Zorn himself, who was wincing from a Sitrus Berry being applied to a blackened electrical burn on a patch of his scales.

Lyn heard growls and jeers coming from the spar deck and turned to see a sorry procession of roughly thirty Pokémon being drug along bound in ropes, silk bindings, and netting as more able Pokémon from his crew harried them. Most of them were still dripping seawater, some had fake Company lavenders on, while others who were more obviously adapted to aquatic lives had blue and red belts instead. Lyn bared his teeth and narrowed his eyes down at the lot. These thirty or so Pokémon were the ones who hadn't slipped away with that blasted schooner and that ocean clan who'd stuck their noses into things. He would've hoped to have the lot of them bound and gagged here alongside Lugia to finally put an end to this whole saga, but yet again, they'd found a way to slip his grasp. To say nothing of Manaphy, as well.

Lyn made his way down as the captives were shoved in front of him. A Relicanth and a Golisopod, a Servine and a Raichu… the lot of them looked haggard and some visibly squirmed and flinched at his appearance. The Samurott walked over and sized up his prisoners, when his eyes fell upon a sopping Swellow from among their number. Even with his flight feathers freshly cut and Company lavenders on, he still recognized it to be none other than that 'Kiran' from Lugia's companions.


Kiran sucked in a sharp breath and braced himself as Lyn approached. The Samurott drew his right seamitar from his scabbard and leveled it under the Swellow's throat, the motion drawing a startled squawk and forcing the bird to turn his head up.

"You're one of the Guardian's little friends," Lyn harrumphed. "What did you think you were going to accomplish by coming here?"

Kiran breathed in and out tensely, his eyes drifting down to the point of Lyn's blade at his throat. After a moment's hesitation, he spoke up, trying but not wholly able to fight back an audibly unnerved tone in his voice.

"I came to find a way to keep him safe," Kiran replied. "It's my duty to him along with all of my other pupils."

Lyn narrowed his eyes and pressed the tip of his seamitar firmly in between Kiran's plumage. The Samurott watched his Swellow captive squirm briefly, some of his nearby companions flinching and looking away, expecting the worst. Satisfied he'd sufficiently cowed the lot, Lyn spoke up again and let out a dismissive scoff.

"Well, you're not in much of a position to do that now, are you?" he retorted. "Given the charges that you're facing, I'd strongly encourage you to focus more on keeping yourself safe."

Lyn leaned his head in, close enough for Kiran to feel the Water-Type's breath on him. After lingering a moment to let the Swellow waver and watch him pale in fright, the otter let out a low growl before speaking up.

"Give me a lead to work with, and I'll see to it that you'll return to your island while you're still a spring Torchic."

Kiran seemed to blanch for a moment, only much to Lyn's surprise, a fire seemed to light up in the Swellow's eyes. The Flying-Type glared back and answered with an angry and defiant huff.

"Do you really think that you can just bully anyone into doing your bidding?" Kiran snapped. "As if I'd help the likes of you! Let alone against my own pupils!"

Lyn twitched his whiskers and tightened the grip on his seamitar, when he noticed the same determination in Kiran's eyes start to appear in the others' nearby. In a Servine's, in a Raichu's, and in the eyes of the rest of the Pokémon in impersonated Company garb. The Water-Types from the ocean clan they'd drug aboard similarly seemed to have been infected by the Swellow's defiance, not least among them a Kingdra who flopped against the netting binding him down with a sharp scowl.

"Go swim into a sea vent, air-breather!" Kuda spat. "I'd rather air-drown than get my fins involved in that!"

"Yeah, we're not going to help you capture our Protector!" Natrix cried.

"And he'll stop you!" Philips added. "We know he will!"

"Shut up!"

The bound Pokémon flinched as they heard Lyn raise his voice into a roaring bellow and the thunk of a sharp object embedding itself into the deck's wood. After opening their eyes, they quickly noticed Lyn's seamitar wedged into the deck just by Kiran's left wing. The Samurott gave a dark, overpowering glare at the lot and grit his teeth with an audible snarl.

"Hrmph, I see I'm wasting my time," he said. "You all can try your luck with that defiant attitude in a place more suited for treasonous scum like you: Nagrobek."

Lyn watched as Kiran's and the others' eyes shrank to pins as soon as the words left his mouth. Perhaps that had made his would-be rebels more aware of the gravity of their situation. While the shock of their pronounced fate still lingered, Lyn yanked his seamitar out of the deck and turned over to a Crobat with an absent-minded motion of his blade at his captives.

"Kane, get them back to shore and processed," the Samurott ordered. "Perhaps the Guardian can be made to care about their plight, but I don't have any further use for them right now."

The Crobat gave a low grunt in reply before calling out a "you heard him" to the other sailors nearby. One after the other, Lyn's underlings drug off their prisoners for the brig below deck and for nets hung from the side of the ship, flailing and protesting all the while. As their cries faded into the background, Lyn heard the water churn along the starboard side of his ship, looking over to see Zorn swimming up to him. The Gyarados briefly glanced off at the tendrils of smoke curling up from Canalhouse City, before letting out a growling sigh.

"Ugh, what a disaster," Zorn muttered. "Has there been any report on what on earth happened onshore with that earthquake and those green lights earlier?"

Lyn looked up in the distance and saw a Fearow making his way for his ship. That was Maurier coming back from his assignment to check up on what had happened earlier in the city. Surely just the information Administrator Zorn would be looking for at the moment.

"We should be getting a report just now, actually."

The Fearow banked and flew down, coming to a stop on the railing nearby and saluting with a wing. Lyn sheathed his seamitar and drew forward on all fours, giving an impatient tilt of his head at his scout.

"Maurier, what did you find out there?"

Maurier ruffled his feathers and fidgeted a moment, as he spoke up and seemed to be making a conscious effort to project a confident tone in spite of lingering hints of unease in his voice.

"Er… it's still not fully clear what happened, but the lights were from a running battle in the city between Team Sentinel and this big… snake thing," the Fearow explained. "It's not really clear what it was, but word going around says it was a Protector named 'Zygarde'."

Lyn and Zorn both stiffened up. 'Zygarde'? The very one that Sicula claimed had appeared on Tromba? What on earth had happened there? And more importantly…

"Where is this 'Zygarde' now?" Zorn pressed.

Maurier hemmed and hawed briefly, before continuing his report.

"Well… he made a bit of a mess in the city and then just abruptly vanished," the Flying-Type said. "The other team you dispatched is still combing for details, but if you need more information, maybe it'd make sense to talk with Ketu or Ellsberg."

"Ketu or Ellsberg?" Lyn asked. "Why? What happened with them?"

"I mean, I didn't see them," the Fearow answered. "But they were apparently present with Team Sentinel and saw everything that happened."

Lyn stiffened up as his mouth flopped open at Maurier's report. Ellsberg was off with Team Sentinel during all of this? But why? Was there some sort of assignment the lot had received that he didn't know about?

The Samurott faltered a moment, before nodding back at the bird. He could get to the bottom of that later, sometime when his paws weren't as full.

"Thank you, Maurier. That'll be all for now."

Maurier saluted, before beating his wings and flying off. After the Fearow drifted away, Zorn turned back towards the unsettled city at the other end of the lagoon, shaking his head with a low grumble.

"I can tell already that the next Board meeting's going to be quite something," the Gyarados said. "Though I don't understand how on earth we have this little of a lead about where the Guardian of the Seas would go to."

Lyn turned to the Administrator and cocked a brow puzzledly.

"… We actually have a lead at all?" the Samurott asked. "What is it?"

"Just that schooner was last sighted headed westward. Straight for Imperial waters if its course was anything to go by."

Lyn paused, before he gave a knowing smile. It admittedly wasn't much of a lead, but after the arrangement he'd made on behalf of the Board with the Iron Fleet and Orleigh's Pirate Council… it was enough of one to still turn to his advantage.

"Actually… I think I can work with that," Lyn replied. "We did have that business with the pirates lined up, but I'd like a chance to petition the Board for a few last-minute preparations that I'd need before setting off."

Zorn blinked and gave a puzzled tilt of his head. The Samurott always had a cocky streak, but he wouldn't have this sort of confidence without some reason for it. So then, it beggared the question…

"Just what sort of preparations are you talking about?" the sea serpent questioned.

Lyn turned and peered off at Vollezee's sea walls. After a moment studying the passage out of it and the cerulean seas in the distance, he shook his head and gave a terse grunt in reply.

"Force. And a lot of it."

Author's Notes:

- Uvidimsja, mudak! (Увидимся, мудак!) - Russian: "See you (later), аsshole!" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
- Bachinuni (バチンウニ) - Japanese: "Pincurchin" (Official Romanization)
- Kamasujaw (カマスジョー) - Japanese: "Barraskewda" (Official Romanization)
- Sbrigatevi! - Italian: "Hurry (up)!" (interjection, addressed to multiple people)


Active Member
Chapter 87

One theme that I really love in this story is how cultures diverge and converge. I was going to list all the examples of this in the story, but I realized me trying to do that and perfectly explain it all was making me put off writing the review. Instead, I’ll just say that the hint you gave here on how it will develop in the future is interesting. To be clear, I mean Team Taxonomy presentation on how various myths have their origins with the humans. To me, Team Taxonomy’s main purpose in the story is to act like a sign post or smoking gun to the reader. When they openly talk about the divergence of myths, the reader is tipped off to have the divergence of other cultural elements in mind. Since they are now attributing the origins of myths to humans, the implications is that some aspect(s) of Cradle society also have their origins with humans. There is one huge divide that I reasoned was due to humans way back when I read some of the earliest chapters, so it would be interesting to see if it turns out to be true. The last time I made a big prediction I was completely off mark though, so I’ll keep my theories to myself for now.

The weakest part of this chapter was the reintroduction of Darzin. The problem with this part is that his character is basically non-existent. You could have anyone else be spying on Team Traveler and almost nothing would be different. The only part that would have to change is Darzin remembering the Tromba myth of Lugia “losing his heart” and changing colors, but this one bit of characterization you gave him in this scene works against you. If a character is knowledgeable about the local traditions of Tromba that even some of the local residents are not familiar with, the implication is that the character deeply respects and cares for those locals. A great example of this is an Ampharos the gang meet underwater very early in their journey (I forget his name) who was able to identify Pleo as a protector by sight. However, Darzin has previously been characterized as uncaring toward the locals of Tromba to such an extent that a full scale rebellion was waged against the Company. Reintroducing Darzin in this way pushes the plot forward, but fails does not develop his character in a meaningful way.

I think, and this is just a suggestion that you are free to ignore, that a better option is to have Darzin misidentify Nida as her mother, the Cazadragones herself. You have already established that Nida has an uncanny resemblance to her, so the mistake would be reasonable enough to make. More importantly, it would allow you to show a side of Darzin that you haven’t gotten to yet. Pretty much however he react to seeing ‘Marley’ will inform the readers of Darzin’s view on the rebellion. Personally, I think the best response to see would be stone-cold fear. I mean Darzin gets a passing glace at Nida, misidentifies her, and then books it out of there in pure terror, never even realizing he made a mistake. Then whatever plan he cooks up will be to catch Marley and not Nida with Pleo for back-up. I just want to reiterate that my intention is more so you can keep things like this (making sure that plot developments always happen with characterization) in mind for the future chapters, rather than demanding that you edit past chapters to make them better.

P.S. Is ‘I Want to be Your Bird’ a reference to ‘I Want to be Your Canary’, a play from Final Fantasy IX? If so, then the fact Sophie was looking for it implies some pretty interesting stuff is going to happen.

P.P.S. Do you know what nerd-snipping is? Well the line, "No scratches… no cracks… no discolorations… why it's like it suddenly fell from the sky brand-new!" lead me down a rabbit hole of complicated material science that I will spare you. I can confidently say that unlike glass, which can remain stable for millenia, plastic will degrade after only a few decades. This is because the melting point of glass is in the thousands of degrees while the melting point of plastic is in the hundreds (true for F, C, or K). This has absolutely no baring on the story in any way, shape, or form. I just wanted someone to know I spent hours reading technical articles in trying to figure out if a plastic artifact could really be that well preserved, and the answer is no.


Winter can't come soon enough
That went... better than I was expecting it to for the heroes. Which makes me think I underestimated how many chapters the fic has left. [nervous laugh]

I guess ships in this setting are remarkably fortified because I would have expected a Hyper Beam to sink it but somehow it's still floating after that attack and manages to get away. And with Kiran as the only captive (as far as characters we actually have been following, anyway). Technically the team's mission wasn't accomplished because they just swapped out one MacGuffin piece for the other. Of course, there's always the possibility that things with Kline did not go terribly well and an offscreen capture happened, but I think he's somehow able to get a potshot in at Zorn? Either that was his parting gift before he disassembled and his squad made a hasty retreat somehow... or they were pinned down so badly that all Kline could do before surrendering was give Team Traveler enough of an opening to make their getaway with the hope that they'll somehow be able to circle back for him at some point.

If I had to guess, perhaps this board meeting Lyn mumbles about at the end will be where we see the results? Because I imagine Elilan's feet will get put to the fire and either he'll just be trying to lie and misdirect things... or he has exactly what he needs to finally put the squeeze on the rest of the board. That's my take, at least, because it feels like this late into the fic we really need to see a major status quo shift with the Company to sell a rising threat level. Since this was there home base that was just escaped from. Isn't really much else that's going to outrank that in terms of threat level. XD

"I can see shapes and foes right in front of me," Trizano replied.
Nearsightedness, my beloved.

"Did he know we were coming?!"
If you have to ask, you already know the answer.

The Hydro Pump came fierce and forceful, enough so that Team Traveller had to come and help steady a few defenders
Not Lance Enough/10.

The Pincurchin noticed Crom pointing her out and swam away, hastily latching onto a passing dark blue Barraskewda that carried her off in a hurry
Jesus, just what's the range on Lightning Rod supposed to be?

"Gah! We can't get a clean hit on her!"
Have you tried calling her a butt face? Petty insults have worked quite well in this fic. :V

Pleo's eyes came aglow with golden light and he opened his beak

"W-We've come this far by working together!"
Ah, yes, the Power of Friendship™

"Th-That's Hyper Beam!"
100% Lance approved battle! no but seriously just how durable are these ships?!


Active Member
Chapter 88

My favorite part of this chapter is easily the ending fight scene for one line alone:
Without a moment's hesitation, Darzin righted himself and tore after the Noivern. If he could catch that bat off guard with a feint like that, then surely he could turn this battle around, right?
That one line reinforces Darzin's characterization so perfectly, reflecting everything that motivates him and his character flaw that keep holding him back. Darzin is so desperate to win back is former position of glory, that he latches onto any and every faint hope that passes by. He consistently makes plans because he sees how they could lead to his return to power, but never even considers how these actions could backfire. Being a turncoat for the Empire could lead to Darzin being instilled in a high ranking position, so he never considered how Nagant clearly does not desire his partnership and would betray him as soon as a better deal comes along. Sending Bunsen to capture Tromba could lead to a massively confusing mess where Darzin could show up and capture Pleo himself, so he never considered how much more resourceful Team Traveler would be if the successfully kicked out Bunsen and managed to regroup on a friendly island with plentiful supplies. Closing the distance on an opponent and going for a close range attack could lead to him defeating this Noivern, so he never considered that this ambush could involve more than one opponent. This is the type of subtle characterization that I criticized you for messing up in Chapter 87.

As for what I disliked... nothing was really big enough for me to comment on. That isn't to say that this chapter is the perfect in every way, the absolute pinicle of creative endevors. Just that the things I disliked could end up being redeemed in latter chapters, or something I dislike but I know other readers enjoy. For example, twice in the last two chapters you referenced Final Fantasy IX and Ambyssin's Path of Valor, which I found annoying since they are references that don't add anything to the story. If a later chapter does something interesting with those works [e.g. during Team Travel's escape from the island they accidentally interrupt the a performance of I Want to Be Your Bird by the cast of Path of Valor and they have to act their way off stage], then these earlier references would have gone from being annoying distractions to absolutely hilarious foreshadowing. Alternatively, it is completely valid for you to ignore my opinion. There are many other readers who like references like those, so either they are I would be upset by their inclusion/exclusion. No work of art can please everybody, so me complaining about everything that even slightly annoys me isn't going to help you write a better story.

Venia Silente

[](int x){return x;}
This is part of the review trade to rescue the silverware I need for Xmas, so let's a go! (Also I haven't been reviewing Fledglings in a while)

For Chapter 70 (a reviewing milestone!) we start at the encampment and with a dire situation as the Combined Team just lost half their members to the Shadow Realm and are now back to, well, One Team!

Kiran: "T-that was the ghosts!"
Kelly: "Oh those old wives' tales?"
Elty: "The ones that KIDNAPPED OUR BIRB, you mean!"
Vicente: "S-so wait, those things are real???"
Beatrix: "And they took te Protector?"
-everyone in the crew hushes-
Random Sliggoo: "Uuuh Captain, is it too early yet to claim my three months of paid vacation time?"
Random Dwebble: "Seconding!"
Kelly: "Thirding, honestly."
Beatrix: "We give our crews paid vacation time?"
Random Raichu: "If you losers want to get sent to the Shadow Realm that's like, a you problem."
-Raichu tries to get away with his bag-

Honestly, I can understand them at this point. I mean, *I* want paid vacation time!

Kiran's team get to the decision that the best thing to do is to just go back out there with their GPSes on to hand the responsibility of retrieving them to Kelly.

Kiran: "So we leave our GPS up and running so that nothing bad can happen?"
Dimitri: "My brain's full of cutting edge ideas today, see."
Kelly: "Oh, you mean like how the first team had their GOS on, too?
Dimitri: "la la la la I'm not hearing, I have a plan~"

I mean, it's not a bad idea, until things go more wrong.

The important thing is that everyone gets along and rescues Crom before Pladur realizes there's ANYTHING wrong.

Pladur -from the ship: "S'up guys! How's everything going?" Pladur: [waves a hand]

Oh and the others too. Let's rescue the others.

So with that plan, Kiran and the others head back to the forest, to try and find an entrance to the Shadow Realm or something.

So, how is everyone doing at the Shadow Realm anyway?

"Ander, wake up!"
At least they seem to be alive. Frankly it's been years since I last watched Yu-Gi-Oh (let alone the very first seasons) so I don't recall what the exact mechanics of the Shadow Realm were like, so I'm gonna assume it's just something that is like, both‑alive‑and‑dead at the same time like the Book of Omens in the Thundercats 2011 remake and that way everyone can be happy.

Ketu -from 3 islands over: "So, does this technically mean I win? They *are* dead, right?"
Eeeeeeeh... they are also alive, tho.

Ketu: "I can fix that! ^_^" -schwing schwing.
No! bad cat! This is not your episode (so far).

Anyway, someone wakes Ander up and when he comes back to his senses he finds out none other than his best friend and most likable person ever: Pleo!

Ander: "AAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!"
Pleo -tilts head: "Huh? I'm a v good birb."
Ander: "Uuuh listen, I just woke up from thinking I was dead, or worse, food. Only to find a demon right in front of my face of the kind that makes me wish I was dead. Now excuse me while I have three tachycardias. >_>"
Four heart attacks later, Ander relaxs a little and discovers the Shadow Realm looks more or less like a prison cell. I wouldn't be able to tell at a first glance but it does have general Mayincatec Temple vibes.

Nida: "Not to worry everyone, we are specially equipped for this."
Crom: "No we're not, no badges... >_>"
Nida -looks around: "No team bag either. I guess this is one of those one-room plot flags where we just have to wait."
????: "Yeah we were trying that already."

They face right, they find that next cell over they are not alone! The Charmeleon and Sealeo team from before are prisoners of the Shadow Realm as well, as expected.

"Hmph, it wouldn't have happened if Eltenios hadn't turned traitor,” the Sealeo growled.
Now now now, Elty is a very good doggo with a very good coverup! I'm p sure Hess, the Captain, is pretty okay with this!

A group of Pokémon then shows up, spearheaded by an Aggron.

Noibat: "At last! Captain! We have a report to give about treason in the ranks!"
Nida: "Rich of you to speak ill when Elty's not here to defend himself!"
Charmeleon: "Like pirates need legal defense— oh wait..."
????!Aggron: "...'Captain'? Nice to see someone acknowledges their situation down here."

Yet this Aggron is *not* Hess. I mean... not every Aggron in the Cradle has to be Hess, right? hmmm.... now what would that be like...

The new Aggron introduces themself as Malik Roteck, here to introduce the prisoners to the Shadow Realm!

...starting with Pleo's team.

Pleo: "Noooo! I'm too young to die! Literally!" ;_;
Nida: "Ack! I really don't like the idea of eternity!"
Crom: "This sucks, I guess I won't even get death-by-snu-snu... >_>"
Nida: "CROM!!! NOT THE TIME!!! <_<"
Ander: -shrugs, lights up a cigar, is used to Being a Marked already-

The four prisoners are dragged before a Dusknoir, who is introduced as Duke Valter Darth Vader and who, unlike the other Ghost mons around, doesn't have crosshair pupils. Speaking of, I'm somewhat surprised at everyone here having crosshair pupils, how good if any is even peripheral vision with those?

In any event, Darth Vader makes a grand total of, like,


veiled threat at our protagonist captured alliance of rebels.

Darth Valter: "I'm about to ruin this Alliance's whole career."
—somewhere in a remote desertic island—
—a random Grovyle is seen prancing about—
?????: "I can Bullet Seed Rattatas from 60 m away!"

(No, really, I'm almost expecting a Grovyle hero to show up all of a sudden. Plus, it'd be a nice Explorers ref!)

Darth Valter seems to realize this rebel alliance is special, and decided to shortcircuit the whole plot by bringing them to the "patron", presumably Palpatine, directly!

Ander at once recoiled with a startled yelp as the youngsters with him stared mesmerized. The creature’s shape was the spitting image of David,
omg Are we about to take the whole crapquels idea of giving Palpatine clon—ooooh wait wait wait!

It's a Xerneas!

(...I guess that explains the crosshair pupils?)

Cernum: "It's a-me!” he cheered. “Mario Palpatine Cernun, the Voice of Life!"


—somewhere in a multiverse far, far away—
—A Hydreigon female can be seen feasting on some lots of food, a smaller, male Kommo-o accompanying her—
Girŋ·neryá (Kommo-o) -spits his drink: "This is heresy!"
[turns to Erish, who is happily munching on a dead Deerling or two]
Girŋ·neryá: "Beloved, that food three multiverses over dares use your name."
[Eriš·keryá just stares back at him while still eating, tilts her head]
Girng: "No, no I did not hear that, beloved. I meant your other name."
[Erish gulps down some food, flicks her tongue, then reaches for something to drink]
Girng: "...They should be able to pronounce it, I think? Hmmmm..."
[Erish finisher her drink and dives her head into her meal to continue eating]
Girng -sighs: "Fine, I guess it *could* just be a coincidence." — rubs his temple.
Girng: "...Maybe we should ask Gamañel that, beloved."
[Erish frowns and stares at Girng with three whole extra hungry looks]
Girng -laughs nervously, raises a paw: "Waiter? Another one please..."

The Voice of Life (1) is busy enough to care about such fickle issues as trademark law, so the Voice of Life (a) is safe. Tho, we should be asking perhaps, is it even the *real* Voice of Life (a)?

Crom: "Uh, I mean, it looks like a Protector but then again, so did the last one."
Nida -thinks for a moment: "Guys check the eyes!"
Pleo: "Oh! Good idea"
-everyone looks at Darth Xerneas' eyes which are ×_× pupils rather than ·_· pupils-
Pleo: "It is really you!"
Ander: "You know, the whole cross eyes thing is kinda creepy..."

Apparently Cernun is not very keen on letting anyone ever leave the island. I'd say Ander is right on the mark about the creepiness thing. I wonder if this marks the crosshairs-eyes mons as either Naruto-style thralls, or Pokémon that have been captured and forced to stay.

"Many of the inhabitants here are Ghost-Types,” Darth Valter elaborated. “Because of that, we are able to combine our powers to trick any outsiders into believing this island is haunted to leave us alone."
Says the one mon in all of this who doesn't have crosshairs-eyes. Kinda sus.

Still, it leads to our rebel alliance trying to make their argument, to which neither Cernun nor Darth Valter are heeding any much. Which would be bad because how much plot can we expect to happen if our protags get stuck here?

Hatteras back at home: "Finally, my own mini-series! ^_^"

Oh well.

(Also, it seems I wasn't *that* far off when I commented about the ghosts wanting to fill up their recruitment quotas... o_o)

In anyway, perhaps they could have tried some powers of persuassion, but unfortunately Ander snaps. Totally understandable on his part and the more since Kline also exists *and* this new Protector happens to be unreasonable. So, our protags are going to be delivered back to their cells for their trouble, unless someone shows up who can hold the high ground.


Trizano: "Hello there"

An hero of sorts does show up! We have now Trizando on the scene and he makes the more proper argument that excuse me, Pleo is one of the protags. This allows Pleo to inform his fellow Protector about the current plot going on and of the fact that they are here basically by Kline's suggestion.

Speaking of Kline...

Darth Valter: "If you consider that snake an ally, you might want to reconsider."
Pleo: "Uh? So he's not only bad to me?"
Darth Valter -shakes head, points to some badly terraformed place.
Darth Valter: "Observe. He's actually a known ecoterrorist!"
Cernum: "He was a jerk to us and to our living place."
Crom: "Leave it to Kline to ruin everything. As usual. >_>"

So with that, Cernum leaves it extra clear that they're not letting the protags leave, let alone with the Ledger.

Darth Valter: “This village will have new members to tend to, and it can't afford to sustain idle hands that add nothing back to it."

Eh, what are you going to do if they lazy about? Kick them out? (hehehe...)

Still, I'm gonna say Darth Valter is still hella sus.

Anyway, there was a scene I skipped so far of locality, which is the one of the GLORIOUS DAY when Lyn hands over the Protector of Tromba, and thus can restore his family0s name. And of course, everything goes peachy!

Lyn: -incoherent seethe-
Nagant -raises a cup o'rum: "First time?"

One interesting thing here was watching the relatively bad blood between the various Board members at play. Inler and Farn are the best, even tho I'm also feeling Farn's responses ar a bit sus (but not Darth Valter levels of sus). And it's always fun watching the bad blood between Inler and Elilan in particular.

"Director, you can’t be serious. Do you think that Ditto got himself captured in an Apricorn for his own amusement?” Elilan demanded.

From the left side of the table, Elilan shot up out of his seat, fuming and seething back at the Poison-Type.

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

In the background, Elilan pounded the table and buried his face in an open paw growling under his breath[...]

There's certainly no lost love there and that helps a lot for the mood during the scene, and it has the added effect of makig Farn's vote the more valuable since he has to try and more visibly differentiate from the bickering going on in the room.

(But I'm still feeling Farn's vote is somewhat sus)

One of the funniest parts of the scene, definitively, was the guards outside having to come in and scrape the Ditto off the wall. I was half-expecting them to end up pouring the Ditto into a bottle.

Farn -looking at the pasta Ditto: "...You know, splattered like that, the thing looks quite defenseless."
Elilan: "We could stretch him and squeeze him as much as we want, to get him to tell us what he knows, like a toy."
Farn -raises an eyebrow: "Hmmm sure, like a gooey plaything. That'd be fun, play-squeeze, do-talk... let's call it 'play-do'."
Elilan -snickers: "Who to leave this 'toy' to, though? Why, wouldn't you want it for your grandkits, Inler?"
Inler -taps claws on the table: "Nah that's fine, you can keep it, Elilan."
Elilan -blinks: "H-huh? You don't want a free gift for your grandkits?"
Inler -looks the Zoroark down, gives him a sly smile: "They already have toys at home."
—the toys at home—
Nidoran♀#1 -squeezing a Elilan Zoroark plush: "Poison Sting! POISON JAB!" ^_^

And the selling hook at the end of the scene:

Lyn’s teeth clenched as his eyes hardened into a glare, storming along angrily as his mind grew ever-consumed by one desire:

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

Let's strike a deal: Lyn tasks Elmer with ending Ketu, and Lyn Inler hands Elilan to Lyn to finish off. See? That way, everyone is happy!

—Cabot is sheepishly making an argument to Nagant in favour of Pleo—
Cabot, to Nagant: "But, are we the baddies?" ;_;


Anyway, a quite entertaining chapter so far and while it's a shame it's not time for the Shadow Realm games as of yet, I trust Kiran and team will be able to rescue the others by trusting Kiran's statistics the Heart of the Cards, and that Cabot will also find enough heart with his team so that they make the switch sides to Pleo.

I mean, it's worked for Kichiro so far! :p
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