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Fledglings

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

  1. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    To be honest, I'm surprised they didn't try to get rid of Lyn sooner because of how often he's failed his missions to catch Pleo now... Lol.

    Assuming Pleo's ever actually caught... :p I kind of imagine them actually capturing Pleo for an unexpectedly long period of time -- not long, really, but long enough to have the Empire and the Company to gather in one place to fight over him, and then Team Traveller just triumphs in the end somehow.

    Pokemon politics are complicated, man. But yeah, I did want to say that I enjoy seeing the Company's and the Empire's POVs in all this, since obviously there's a ton that Team Traveller doesn't know much about in terms of what's going on, and so the other POVs help to understand the bigger picture of the plot.

    I read this as "surely you don't mean for all of us to get along"... and I was like, "um, yes, you should probably get along."

    I liked this dialogue quite a bit. It's awesomely sassy.

    When it comes to Ely and home, yes, yes he would. But I don't blame Guardia for not knowing that.

    I thought it was a bit convenient, too. It seems there's a lot of convenient and completely unexpected things happening, which isn't exactly unusual for these characters, but at least that for once nothing crazy bad is happening to them, so that's good.

    Her and her obsession with her bone reminds me of a dog, and it's kind of amusing.

    At any rate, there's not too much I have to say about this chapter. Things are calm-ish... for the moment. It sounds like a lot of focus will be put on the Company and Empire for a little bit, which is fine with me, since it can give some of the other characters a chance to shine. I'm also interested to see if Elty's finally going to try to leave the group to return home, because this chapter was hinting heavily at that plotpoint.
     
  2. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    I'm glad that I could keep you hooked. As for where Elty's going, I think that should become clearer over the next few chapters.

    I will leave that to be answered by future chapters, though I will say that radically different viewpoints do bring some measure of inherent conflict to them.

    You really ought to, it's a fun ride, and it actually was surprisingly fun to see the canonical mainline deal with a similarly aquatic region.

    That's alright with me. I'll be looking forward to your feedback whenever you're ready to give it.

    Something something "too many questions that would be raised". Though in his defense, the failures on Kenobi and Mengir were triggered thanks to peers within the Company undermining him.

    Careful what you wish for. o3o;

    Politics, regardless of whether it's between humans, or fantastic sapient animals, tends to make for strange bedfellows.

    Things actually will wind up being a little different from what you expected, though hopefully it's in a good way. As for Elty, all shall be revealed over the course of this Episode.

    Anyhow, it's the end of the first week of March, and while it was a bit of a crunch, I managed to get everything collected and together for publishing tonight. Special thanks for this chapter goes to Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net, with additional thanks to the readers and reviewers who have been leaving feedback to help tighten up the ship up to make Fledglings a better story.

    And without further ado, let's pick up off of that cliffhanger from last time.

    [​IMG]

    "Eh?! This entire town is a pirates' den!"

    As Nida's squeaks lingered in the air, the Nidoran looked back at her teammates, and saw that Pleo and Guardia's faces were etched with the same blank, helpless expression that she had when the realization of everything had set in. They had left that death-trap of a dungeon, only to stumble across a haunt of thieves instead of the restful shelter they had expected. Their last stint with such a hive in Andaku was already bad enough... would they be able to deal with an entire town like that horrid port district?

    The Nidoran stared ahead blankly for a moment, realizing that she and her team were on their last legs, and they would be in far worse shape to fend off an ambush. Then there was only one seemingly rational thing to do...

    "We need to get out of here," Nida muttered. "There's no way that we'd be able to-"

    The Nidoran chanced to move her eyes over towards Elty, and saw that the Fire-type wore an excited grin. A wave of shock crested onto Nida, which Pleo and Guardia quickly picked up on and similarly drew their attention to their canine teammate. The Growlithe's expression quickly melted away into nervous unease after finding himself in the crosshairs of piercing glares.

    "Er… why are you looking at me like that?" he gulped.

    "You knew about this?!" Nida exclaimed.

    "Now h-hold on," Elty stammered, starting to backpedal nervously. "Let's talk this-! Ack!"

    The dog was cut off by a tackle from the team's Nidoran leader, sending him tumbling to the ground. Elty yelped as he felt a sharp pinch of his left ear, and stumbled along as the blue rabbit dragged him along into a bush. After the town slipped from sight under the cover of a layer of undergrowth, the Fire-Type felt the grip on his ear release, and wrenched his head away with a vigorous shake and a paw at his now-throbbing ear.

    "Agh! Yeesh!" he snapped. "What is your problem?!"

    "What is our problem?!" Nida hissed. "You were going to lead us into a town full of pirates! What in your right mind made you think that that was okay?!"

    "Because this is where all my friends are?" the Growlithe harrumphed. "Honestly, I held up my end of the deal and kept you in one piece this far. Now I'm back. Why shouldn't I head off?"

    "S-So you're just going to leave us?!" Pleo cried. "We don't know anything about this place!"

    The answer Elty expected to give was "Of course I am," but his words were caught in his throat. While it was true that he wanted nothing more than to finally return home after this giant mess he'd gotten himself into, he found at least some small part of him doubtful. When he imagined leaving his team in the dust here, he felt... bad. Even if his new companions grated on his nerves sometimes, could he really do that to them?

    "It's- It's not like you can't find some other way back in town," he began begrudgingly. "You could join a crew, and-"

    The Growlithe trailed off, seeing that his suggestion was drawing nothing other than angry glares and scowls. The Fire-Type cleared his throat, hoping to try and change the subject, only for Guardia to stomp over with her claws balled up into fists.

    "I oughta replace my club with one of your bones right here and now!" she snarled. Elty saw no reason to dismiss Guardia's threat as empty or exaggerated. Growling, he hopped back, lowering himself into a battle-ready stance.

    "Well excuse me if I'm trying to give you tips!" Elty spat. "If you're going to be like that I'll take my bag back and head off and we can pretend that we never met each other!"

    Nida's eyes narrowed, the Nidoran gritting her teeth and twisting her face into a challenging scowl.

    "No."

    "Say what?" the Fire-Type demanded. The dog crept forward and lunged for the bag, only to spring and pounce on air as Nida hopped back and yank the satchel safely away.

    "This bag is staying with us," the Nidoran snapped. "If you want it so bad, you can suck it up and stay on the team until we're home."

    "But- But I've had that since I got my first scarf!" Elty yelped. "You- You can't just walk off with that like it's some cheap trinket!"

    "I can do it as easily as you can leave us behind right here," the Poison-Type hissed. "If you want to try and fight us for it, I'll remind you that we've beaten the tar out of you just fine in the past. So what's it going to be, Elty?"

    Elty paused and poked his head out of the bush to look at the town in the distance, before turning his attention back to the singed bag on Nida's shoulder. The Growlithe's expression drooped even further, before he finally offered up a response.

    "… I'll stay?"

    "Could you say that again?" Nida asked. "I didn't hear you."

    "Grr… I'll stay," the Growlithe spat. "For now."

    "Great. Then let's hurry up and get out of here," Nida grumbled. "Pleo, is your wing feeling any better?"

    The Lugia looked down at his bandaged wing, giving a skeptical tilt of his head. It had been a few days… perhaps it had healed by now? In response, Pleo gave an experimental beat of his wings, only to wince harshly and draw his wing back with a pained whimper.

    "A-Ack!"

    "It's alright! It's alright!" Nida reassured. "We can think of some other way-!"

    "How, spike ball?" Guardia demanded. "Even if I had a club right now, if we tried to swim off this island, we'd be easy pickings for any 'mon out in the water who wanted us."

    Nida's ears drooped and her expression started to sink at the ex-feral's words. As much as she hated to admit it, the Cubone had raised a good point. Cyanea and Katyusha were both creatures of the sea and both were looking for them. Lyn and his entire crew moved aboard the sea on their ship, and so did the pirates in the port below. If Pleo could still fly, they had some chance of outmaneuvering them, but trying to outrun them on the sea surface…?

    It was an impossible task, one that Elty was all too aware of as a smug grin began to creep over his muzzle. After all, if escape right now wasn't a feasible option...

    "Looks like we're going into town after all," he crowed.

    Nida, Guardia and Pleo shared an apprehensive glance at one another. To spend the night in a den of thieves was almost as bad as roughing it in a dungeon! It was far from an ideal solution, about as far from ideal as Nida could think of, but... did they really have a choice?

    "Fine, we'll look for a hostel to lie low in," Nida growled. "But the bag is still staying with me, and don't you forget that!"

    "Hrmph, whatever."

    Elty and his teammates traded lingering glares with one another. After a pause, the Nidoran set off down the path, followed by the rest of Team Traveller as they began the descent into the foreboding stony town below.



    Elsewhere in Rosequartz Town, Rodion led Hess and the rest of the Iron Fleet along a back alley, ending a five minute-long trek from the docks in front of a skeletal, half-completed building with a thatched roof. It was an unsatisfying structure, located on an unsatisfying plot of land that was unsatisfyingly far from the docks to be convenient, and not nearly mountainous enough to truly make its owner feel at home.

    "Well, we're back," the Floatzel said.

    But even so, it was still the home of the Iron Fleet. The First Mate pushed the door open, leading a batch of more impatient pirates into a rounded space lined with still-scaffolded walls. There were mats spread out for the crew to sleep on one end, a central area lined with tables next to a small rock garden, and steps down to a padlocked - if ever-bare - basement that was guarded by a dutiful Watchog.

    "Omigosh! We have a base?!" a Hoppip with a still-fresh Iron Fleet scarf exclaimed, giddily flitting to and fro. "Just look at this place! There's card tables, and a rock garden, and-!"

    "Oh for crying out loud, it's not that great!" Hess spat. "It's still under construction!"

    The Aggron buried his head into an open claw, giving it a bitter shake. In normal times, a return to the Iron Fleet's perennially half-completed base would have been welcoming, but after the recent series of debacles, the half-finished walls and unmanned construction scaffolding were cold comfort to the Steel-Type's conviction that fame and fortune were just over the horizon.

    "Urgh... I need a drink," he muttered. At once, the eyes of his underlings lit up, and excited chatter floated about the space under the high thatched roof.

    "Alright! Now you're speaking my language!" a Litten cheered.

    "Just the thing we needed to come back from after a hard mission like that!" a Cherrim added.

    Hand-in-hand with a firm brow pinch from their Aggron captain. A damaged ship, an incomplete base, and underlings who cared more about their next swig of rum than actually maintaining their public image. Just the thing he needed to really drive home the feelings of complete and utter incompetence he'd felt as of late...

    "Urgh… Claire, get a keg from the vault," Hess groaned, gesturing towards a crude bar fashioned from wooden planks. "I'll be at my usual spot."

    There, a waiting yellow-feathered bird with puffy plumes at her wingtips gave a firm salute and headed off to the padlock on the basement door. Hess turned and shuffled off in search of his seat as the Oricorio carried on, followed by some more impatient underlings in their search for a keg of rum. Elsewhere, other pirates had taken seats under the thatched roof, whiling away their time with idle chatter and card games with each other.

    The Aggron carried along for his favorite seat perched right beside the rock garden, only for Valatos to swoop in with a buzzing blur settle down right on his seat. Hess' blood boiled, and the Aggron stomped along, ready to paste the Yanmega into the wall for stealing his spot. The Steel-Type neared, only for the bug's Manectric friend to come and claim the seat beside him, followed shortly thereafter by his Marowak partner.

    Hess froze, his yearning for his seat having ebbed away when he realized that the only way to get it would be to fight through that bone-headed monster with them, a fight that past run-ins with his kind indicated would only end in a good deal of excruciating agony. The Aggron moved along, his tail pulled tight against his legs, much to the smirking delight of a passing Ledian.

    "Looks like I picked a real winner, didn't I?" Kichiro asked smugly. Hess glared and growled back at the Ledian, before coming to a stop at another table in a more secluded corner. The Aggron slumped onto one of the stump-stools and pinched his brow with a deflated sigh, only to feel a shorter creature pawing at his shoulder.

    "Mind if I take a seat, Captain?"

    Hess looked down, and saw that beside him, his Floatzel First Mate was waiting. A hint of concern seemed to flicker over the mustelid's face, which prompted Hess to accept his partner's request.

    "Go ahead, Rodion," the Steel-Type sighed.

    "Why the long face? I mean, we've had some obvious… difficulties in the past few weeks with ship damage and an unwanted run-in or two, but the crew's the most motivated I've seen in years!" the Floatzel reassured. "Sure, we left in rougher shape than we ought to have, but our raid on Tromba still got us one of our biggest hauls to date, and we even got to have the last laugh over that crew that gave us the slip in Andaku!"

    "Rodion, I came out of Andaku in debt and didn't even get to use my share of the loot on anything for myself," Hess grumbled back. "We're still operating at a net loss of deck hands, and that thing that Kichiro stuck me with doesn't make things any better!"

    Hess hung his head and pinched his brow with a claw, giving a grumbling sigh as his mind turned to ever more negative assessments of his current situation.

    "There's not a whole lot of ways that things could be worse right now," the Aggron grunted.

    "Oi!" a voice from the front called. "Is Hess here?"

    "Huh?"

    The Aggron looked back at the door to the Iron Fleet's hangout, where a Conkeldurr was waiting. The creature carried a stern, serious expression, much as a bouncer or a loan shark would.

    "I've got a summons from the Council for him," the Fighting-Type said. "They say they need to see him in person."

    Hess froze. The Council wanted him? The four head pirates who dictated the workings of Rosequartz Town? Among the locals, a summons before the Council was sometimes a sign of great fortune, meaning that they had found favor with a particularly promising captain and wished to reward or start up a collaboration.

    The other reason was that the Council wished to punish a captain that had fallen afoul of them. There were any number of fates that could befall such an unlucky soul, many of which Hess had heard of in whispers and dreadful rumors. And the Aggron knew all too well which of the two reasons the council most likely had for calling him.

    "Ulp…" he squeaked. "Me and my big mouth."



    "Hup!"

    Out on the path leading to Mengir's shrine, the four Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow had been following the trail up deeper and deeper into the woods. Along the way, Crom had been gliding between trees, coming to a perch on their sturdier branches much as he had just a few moments ago. The Druddigon leapt and sailed back down towards the ground, giving a cheery beat of his wings and attracting a scolding chirp from his Swellow team captain.

    "Tsk. You ought to be more mindful of your surroundings, Crom," Kiran admonished. "You're 100% more likely to disturb someone's home by clambering up stuff willy-nilly like that."

    "Eh? But I haven't seen a mailbox in the last fifteen minutes!" the little Druddigon mentioned. "I don't think any Pokémon from town live here."

    The elder Pokémon looked around their surroundings and blinked. Now that Crom had mentioned it, it had been a while since they saw a mailbox, the telltale marker of a town-dweller living in the fringes. Was there something that was special about the path that they were travelling?

    "That's strange," Ander murmured. "There's usually still places claimed this far out back home…"

    "Maybe it has something to do with the Protector the town has?" Pladur mulled.

    "Hrm?" Kiran chirped. "What makes you say that, Pladur?"

    "Well, back home, our Protector is a sea god, and our town's main square is right by the sea," the Fraxure answered. "Here, the square is inland. Maybe whatever the local Protector is influenced the way they built their town?"

    Ander paused his steady stride to prod at a bit of something on the trail, scowling slightly at whatever was at the tip of his blade. The others gathered around to inspect his find, only to stumble back in shock as they were able to see it: a smooth, brightly-colored fragment of some small shell.

    "A-Ander, that's an Apricorn shell!" Pladur cried. "Cuidado!"

    "Hrmph. I would think there's some more down-to-earth explanations for where Pokémon live around here," the mantis countered, before flicking away the nut fragment. "It's a stormy island, and Pokémon obviously bring apricorns through here."

    "But these Pokémon have had years to change their surroundings… Perhaps the real answer is something in between?" Kiran insisted. "That said, if the Protector did play a role in all of this, I wonder what it's like if the Pokémon settled away from the sea, but also not too far inland."

    "Not anything good if even common Pokémon don't want to get too close if you ask me," Ander muttered under his breath.

    "Oh, I think I see something!" Crom cried.

    Rounding the crest of a hill, a structure finally came into view of the Siglo Swellow's crew. However, the sorry sight before them hardly seemed like it could be the shrine they'd been instructed to find. Barely any of the ruin seemed recognizable as a shrine; it was more like a pile of painted rubble. As the four neared the site, the only signs of a Protector they could find were bits and pieces of some carving depicting some antlered creature. An altar in the middle of a rotting wooden pavilion nearby seemed to have been a spot for Pokemon to leave offerings for the local ferals, but the offering altar was totally caked in dust and mold, like it hadn't seen any donations in years!

    "Is… this it?" he murmured.

    "It is in the spot that Hertsog told us…" Kiran answered.

    "B-But this place is a ruin!" Crom exclaimed. "Why would any town let their shrine get like this?"

    "Ah..." Pladur and Ander traded a blank stare, totally befuddled by the state of this island's shrine. Neither one had ever seen a Protector's shrine in such a sorry state of disrepair - not ever, in their entire journey! Just what could possibly have been the cause of this shrine's ruin?

    Shhk-Shhk-Shhk

    "… What was that?" Ander murmured.

    Flitting out of the trees nearby came a pack of Beautifly and a Dustox, looking to be in fairly poor shape. They flew in erratic, off-kilter patterns, and their chitinous bodies were scuffed-up and dirty.

    "Huh?"

    "Oh, it's just a bunch of fera-" Kiran began, only to be cut off by a slicing gust of wind.

    "ACK!"

    "Wh-What are you doing?!" Pladur exclaimed.

    Pladur watched as the Dustox in the group beat her wings and her eyes began to glow. The Dragon-Type felt a force pull on him, yelping as he felt his body leaving the ground for empty air. . The Fraxure desperately flailed as the moth telekinetically drug him into the air , and spat up a blue column of fiery light into the bug's face. The Dustox screeched and let go of her Confusion, sending Pladur flopping back to the ground as both sides assumed battle positions and watched each other closely.

    "Grr… what are we doing?" a Dustox spat. "You have some nerve showing your face anywhere near these parts this late, Inkfoot!"

    "B-But we're trying to fix the shrine here," Crom insisted. "We're not threatening you at all!"

    "Why would you defilers care about this svetilishte?" the ringleader Beautifly hissed. "You stole our god's egg from us!"

    The four Bug-Types began to encroach on the Druddigon and his companions, only to be hastily cut off by a buffet of slashes, slicing winds, and gouts of dragonfire. The four insects hastily fell back, and with their confidence of an easy victory shattered and their mind turning back to their lingering wounds, decided to take flight.

    "A-Ack!" the lighter-colored Beautifly squealed. "Retreat! Retreat!"

    The four Pokemon breathed a sigh of relief as their aggressors flew off, leaving them in relative peace for the time being. As silence settled back into place, one question nagged at Pladur's mind...

    "... What just happened?" he asked.

    "'Defilers'? Stealing a god's egg?" Kiran murmured. "What on earth were they going on about?"

    Ander cast a wary glance back at the ruined shrine. The Scyther paused and mulled, looking back after the direction the four ferals fled in before giving a shake of his head.

    "I think I'm starting to understand why this place is abandoned," the mantis muttered.

    "But- But not everyone in Fensedge could have been involved in something like that!" Crom exclaimed. "Maybe the ferals just need something to remind them of that?"

    Pladur paused and looked warily at his surroundings. Mengir clearly was a place that was very different from Tromba if its townsfolk and the local ferals' behavior were anything to go by. Even if they knew the place better, just what would they be able to give as a reminder that the town hadn't been able to for who knows how long?

    Though… perhaps there was one thing that they could try.

    "Well... I suppose repairing that ánima would be a good start," the Fraxure said.

    "Come on, let's hurry up and figure out everything we'll need to do before it gets too dark," Kiran insisted. "This is going to be a longer mission than I thought."

    The four took a final look around the site around to size up the work to be done, keenly watching the lowering sun in the sky and being mindful of presences from the nearby forest. It would be a stretch to get done, but they should be able to get the shrine repaired before Hertsog left, and the Pokémon here on Mengir would surely appreciate having their god's monument restored…

    Or so they hoped.



    "Eh?! Didn't we already pass by that drawing a little earlier?"

    Pleo gestured at a crude scrawl of a Nidoking in a Company scarf flailing furiously at similarly crude ships around him. The scrawl was accompanied by sloppy runes that were illegible to the young Protector and to his Cubone teammate, but drew some stunned blinking from his Nidoran counterpart. It had been half an hour since they entered Rosequartz Town, and Elty had been tasked to help the group find a hostel. They had passed Juice Bars, gambling halls, and some buildings with red lanterns that were strangely shuttered up in the middle of the day, but all the while they had not found a single hostel.

    "Elty, you said there was a hostel around here!" Nida growled.

    "There is, alright!" the Growlithe huffed back. "Just get off my case!"

    "So why is it taking so long?!" Guardia hissed.

    "Because this part of town is a maze of alleys, and I don't have a scent of someone who's gone ahead to track?" Elty spat. "Excuse me if I don't remember every single nook and cranny around here-!"

    "I saw Captain Sibich hanging out at our old place earlier today chatting up the kids there."

    Team Traveller's members stopped in their tracks as the sound of a low voice floated through the air. The four looked around them, when suddenly, from further down the alley, another voice spoke up.

    "The Day Care full of Marked kids?" a clucking voice asked back. "He's not recruiting there, is he?"

    "Huh?" Pleo murmured. The young Lugia ruffled his feathers uncomfortably, before creeping along in the alleyway, his teammates following along closely behind.

    "Well, I mean he has a stake in the place," the lower voice said. "So why not?"

    "Because that's super creepy of him?" the bird's voice retorted. "Most of those kids are little ankle biters who are still chewing on crayons."

    "Hey, I'm sure whatever he's up to there isn't that bad," a third and raspy voice offered. "He gave us our first jobs when we were younger right? And we turned out fine."

    Nida froze and pricked her ears up. As she processed the raspy, reptilian voice in her mind, she realized more and more that she had heard it before. Wasn't this…?

    "Wait, that voice…" Nida murmured. "That's-"

    Nida tensed up as a Scraggy rounded the corner suddenly. The lizard bumped into her, knocking the both of them backwards with a start. His scarf had changed from the striped blue design with the red arrow on it into a black cloth with a gold, frond-like design, but the Marked comet on his head told all. Following the Scraggy was a Combusken and a Grotle, all three of them sporting the five-tailed comet of the Marked on their heads and going wide-eyed out of shock at the sight of her seabird companion.

    "Ack!"

    "A-AAAAAAH!" the Scraggy shrieked. "Y-You again!"

    "A-Again?! Wh-What do you mean again, Eric?!" the Grotle whimpered. "Y-You mean you weren't high on Lansat back in Andaku?!"

    "You're- You're-"

    The Combusken looked around frantically, searching for something that she could use against the white-feathered fiend before her. Her eyes found nothing to set alight, nor anything to throw down onto the beast…

    Except, she saw that the Cubone with it was without a club and undefended. Impulsively, the Fire-Type threw a claw on the Ground-Type and drug her up by the scruff of her neck with a yelp.

    "You're coming with me, lizard!" the Combusken shouted.

    "A-Ack! Guardia!" Pleo cried.

    "Let her go!" Nida demanded.

    "Sela?!" the Scraggy exclaimed. "What are you doing?!"

    The Combusken, evidently Sela, blinked incredulously, half disbelieving that her desperate gambit that the white bird saw some value in the Cubone had paid off. The Fire-Type's eyes narrowed, realizing that she now held an effective shield to keep the demon at bay. Her confidence returning to her, the chicken held a claw up to the neck of her flailing captive, the Ground-Type's struggles stilling in blind, wide-eyed terror.

    "Getting us out of here!" she answered.

    "A-Aah…"

    "Not one step further, demon!" the Fire-Type demanded. "Or your friend here gets it!"

    "But- But I'm not a demon!" Pleo cried. "I'm not evil!"

    "Yeah, sure you are," Sela snorted. "And I'm just giving your friend a playful hug here!"

    "Sela, don't taunt it!" the Grotle pleaded. As her captors continued arguing, the Cubone looked desperately at her teammates, shivering and rigid with shock at her mortal predicament.

    "G-Guys…?"

    "Just let the bonehead go!" Elty barked. "We don't want to fight you!"

    "As if! Let me tell you what's gonna happen!" the Combusken snapped. "The three of us are gonna back up and get out of here alongside your little friend here. If we're far enough and you don't follow us, maybe we'll let her go-"

    Sela was interrupted by a minty-green claw digging into her shoulder. She flinched visibly, her muscles tensing at the forceful prick of the claws' points under her plumes.

    "W-what the-?!"

    "This seems far enough, don't you agree?"

    The three brigands gulped and looked up behind, where there was the looming, glaring form of a Flygon, the creature's tail swishing impatiently. The Dragon-Type growled lowly and bared his fangs, squeezing Sela's shoulder with his claws.

    "Let me tell you what's going to happen," the Flygon snarled. "You're going to let the Cubone go, or you blotch-heads are gonna have bigger worries than your 'demon' there."

    The Combusken and her companion's eyes widened and their bodies froze, leaving the three appearing not unlike Deerling about to be struck by a Flash Cannon. The Fire-Type moved her beak weakly, struggling to form a coherent response.

    "We- We..."

    The Combusken's mind blanked as she stared ahead at the snarling Dragon-Type, not noticing her grip slackening and Guardia wrenching herself free and running behind her teammates for cover. The Flygon leaned in on the petrified bird, flashing his fangs in the Fighting-Type's face.

    "I think you three should get out of here," the dragon growled. "Anois."

    The Grotle and Scraggy instinctively turned and bolted down a nearby alley, the Dark-Type realizing halfway down that Sela still had not come, prompting him to rush back and tug at the arm of his still-petrified partner.

    "Sela, come on!"

    The Combusken stumbled back and hastily lurched to her feet, fleeing with the Scraggy as fast as their legs could carry them. The Flygon watched intently as the last of the brigands slipped away, before he shook his head and turned his attention back to the four panting and shaken members of Team Traveller.

    "Are you alright?" the antlion asked.

    "Chigau yo! A yajū was about to cut my throat just a few seconds ago!" Guardia fumed. "Of course I'm not alright!"

    "Er… we could be doing a bit better, yeah," Elty admitted.

    "What are you all doing in this part of town anyways?" the Flygon pressed.

    "Well… we haven't really found our footing in this town and were kinda looking for a place to stay the night," Nida admitted.

    The Flygon cocked his head slightly, eyes turned to the sky, deep in thought. After his moment's consideration, he shrugged and opened her arms in a welcoming gesture.

    "Then follow me," the bug-dragon said. "I might be able to help with that."

    The four youngsters looked hesitantly among one another, wondering if it really safe to trust a stranger in this town of all places? After a pause, Nida decided to step forward, motivating Pleo, then Guardia, and finally Elty as the Dragon-Type bade them to follow. With the need for rest weighing heavily on their mind and the timely save the Flygon had made, their suspicions gave way to thanks and cautious anticipation as they followed their newfound guide down the warrens of Rosequartz Town.



    Back in Braveshoal Town, the waters surrounding the settlement's web of air tunnels teemed with life. Sea Pokémon of all shapes and sizes flitted about between reefs and stony sunken buildings. A few of the creatures stopped at flooded storefronts set up specifically to cater to them, including a shop lined with metalware stored in a small air pocket in an attic with a space to smith to protect them from rust. There, a Slowbro slipped a pair of glinting metal lumps through the seawater across the counter, to a waiting Clawitzer.

    "Here you go," the Slowbro said. "Two badges, as ordered."

    The shrimp snatched up the metal baubles, giving each a careful inspection and feel with her mouthparts. The badges were freshly-made, to the point where the metal was still warm to the touch. Barring the obligatory misshapen part here or there, there were no defects, nor impurities. Though one glaring flaw still stood out to the crustacean...

    "I was hoping for more," the Clawitzer sighed. "But it'll have to do."

    "Eh?" the proprietor asked. "Got a big team for your next mission?"

    A dark shadow passed overhead, prompting the Howitzer Pokémon to look up and see the hull of a frigate with the accompanying form of escorts in the water drift by overhead. Her cue that while not ideal, the pair of badges would have to do.

    "Something like that, yes," Nagant answered.

    The Clawitzer snatched up the badges and hid them underneath her scarf before swimming up, leaving the rapidly-fading reef town below her as she breached the surface. The Howitzer Pokémon surfaced in the middle of a group of her ship's sea escorts, and without missing a beat, leveled her claw and shot a pulsing burst of water at the tip of her Vasilek's center mast.

    Splash!

    The ball exploded into a deluge of water, drawing yelps and whines from the crew aboard. Along with the rude disruption of their calm, Nagant's Water Pulse served to draw the attention of the entire crew, as a sea of eyes on the ship, the water, and in the air focused themselves on her.

    "I'm back," the shrimp grunted. "Jun, is everything prepared for the ship?"

    "Aye," the Beedrill first mate buzzed back from aboard the ship. "All the armaments have been stocked, Captain."

    "Good," the crustacean captain harrumphed. "Then let's hurry and cut to the chase."

    One by one, the members of the crew gathered to listen to their captain, along the ship's rails, and around the shrimp in the water. A few grumbles over the sudden drenching floated around, only to be silenced with a hard tap against the hull from their captain's big claw.

    "Alright, listen up everyone," Nagant barked. "We're about to sail off to what might be the most important mission any of you have seen in your Indigos, so pay attention and don't make me repeat myself."

    The Clawitzer swam away from the hull, gave a hard look at her gathered audience, and buoyed herself upright in the water, taking the opportunity to clear her throat before speaking.

    "As you all know, the Protector we've been chasing was sighted going into the Crystal Mangroves," she said. "I wasn't able to get badges for everyone, but there is still plenty of stuff to be done."

    Nagant shook her head and turned her body to face Cyanea and Katyusha, gesturing at the pair with her large claw.

    "Cyanea. Katyusha. Since you two were so… 'eager' to go on this mission, you two will be the ones to go into the dungeon after the Lugia," the shrimp snapped. "You'll be coordinating with Schuster so that we can set up an ambush that will catch them."

    "Oh, so like a Monster House!" a Vespiquen exclaimed. "But without the ferals!"

    "… Something like that," Nagant said, rolling her eyes. "As for the rest of you, if you're not on standby to head into the dungeon, I want you either out in the sea, in the Subway routes looking for those kids, or on the ship to keep an eye out for trouble!"

    The Clawitzer gave a dismissive wave of her claw before shifting her gaze back to her Tentacruel and Sharpedo underlings from the corner of her eye, giving a grumbling huff.

    "And it goes without saying that this is not the time for any stunts for personal glory," the shrimp chittered. "If we're going to get that bird, we're all going to have to work together and do the parts we're assigned. Are we all clear?"

    The Tentacruel's bell deflated a bit, the jellyfish blowing annoyed, grumbling bubbles under the surface before reluctantly acknowledging her captain's order.

    "Da, Captain…"

    "I can't hear all of you!" Nagant repeated. "Are we all clear?"

    A chorus of affirmations came at the Howitzer Pokémon's insistence. Satisfied that her orders had been heard by her crew, the wizened shrimp swam out in front of the Vasilek's bow, and gestured up to the deck .

    "Good, take the ship hard to starboard," the Clawitzer barked. "We're getting out of here."

    The crew quickly flew into a hurry, unmooring the Vasilek as her escorts in sky and sea whipped up currents to speed it along for one of the atoll's exits. All the while, Nagant swam at the front, keenly casting her gaze over the horizon, eager to finally snatch her ticket to rebuilding the lost world of her youth.



    (Continued in next post.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
  3. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Deep within Rosequartz Town, Hess had been led along by the Conkeldurr messenger into the seaside manor formerly used by Rosequartz's nobles. The gable-roofed chalet was made of stone, its walls covered in painted scrawls and obvious patchwork from past punitive raids on the town. In spite of its battered and diminished appearance, the place still managed to carry an imposing air, weighing down on Hess as he uneasily drew his head and tail close to his body.

    The pair made their way through a set of hardwood doors, through an entrance room, and down a hallway. Hess and his guide passed a series of doorways, some barred, others opened to reveal disused rooms that had been picked clean, perhaps once-proud studies or salons. There, the Conkeldurr took the Steel-Type into a darkened chamber, where under an overhead skylight was a table next to a pool surrounded by a motley collection of seats including a stump-stool, a cushion, and a wooden throne. Seated on the respective places were a Primarina, a Tyrantrum, a Cofagrigus, and a Bisharp, all waiting and chattering in indistinct, impatient-sounding voices.

    "Break a leg out there," Fighting-Type said. "Or considering your audience, maybe don't."

    Slam!

    As the heavy doors slammed behind him, Hess gulped and inched along. The chamber had been designed as a gathering place in the past, with its high ceiling and a pool connected to the sea evidencing its intent to be accessible to guests of any sort. The four members of the Council had since put the room's layout to good use, gathering around a round table with maps and modest trophies of their exploits lining the walls.

    There was Ingela, the cold-tempered and cold-hearted siren of a Primarina who had grown her mate's fleet after his abrupt passing into a scourge above and beneath the waves. On the cushion was Captain Sibich, the Cofagrigus captain who was connected to a good deal of the Marked in port. His reasons for doing so had always remained an enigma, and those from outside his crew who pried too deeply into the matter had a knack for meeting untimely ends. Tarquin of the Strongjaw Gang- the newest member of the Council- was also there. Although the Tyrantrum was by far the least experienced member of the Council, the stories surrounding him painted a picture of a Pokémon who was was every bit as cutthroat as in his days as a Commander for the Company.

    "Ahem."

    And of course, the Bisharp ringleader, Captain Dirk. The sole holdover from the Council from Rosequartz's glory days under the dread Captain Beatrice. Since her demise, he had fought his way up through cunning and ruthlessness, now the proud proprietor of a fleet of five ships and the first among his peers from Orleigh's current leadership.

    With every trudging step forward, uncomfortable thoughts of his own mortality swirled in his mind. If the Council was displeased with him, they could easily pack him into an Apricorn to send him into the Wastes... Or they could trip the rumored trapdoor under their floor that - depending on the teller - supposedly held an inescapable oubliette to starve in, a cistern of water to drown in, or more Apricorns... Or perhaps they might get more direct and reduce him to a stain on the chamber floor, and use his armor as ship cladding...

    "You can stop stalling," Sibich said. "We just had a couple questions that we needed you to answer."

    "S-So I'm not in trouble?" Hess stammered.

    "You will be if you don't hurry up!" Tarquin growled.

    "Gih!"

    The Aggron hastily darted over to the seated Pokémon and greeted the gathered council. After giving the Steel-Type a nod back, the Bisharp from the group stood and sized up his trembling guest.

    "So… we heard that you came into port with some mast trouble after paying a visit to Tromba," the Dark-Type began.

    "Er… well, I did, Captain Dirk," Hess answered. "But that was almost three weeks ago."

    "Yes, I know that," the bladed creature replied, glaring sharply. "But some other developments have come up since then, and we wanted to hear from you about what happened."

    "Developments?"

    "Well, there's the rumor of a god appearing in Boisocéan. The Marked have been trading stories of their own, of a demon prowling the docks in Kenobi…" the Cofagrigus responded, idly whirling one of his right hands. "You know, little things."

    "All stories which seem to point to the arrival of a Protector," Ingela added. "If there is indeed one that has just awoken, it provides our haven the opportunity of a lifetime if we can make cause with it."

    "So..." Dirk pressed. "What happened out there, Hess?"

    "Well, we'd pulled into Tromba after doing a little scouting. My ship's sea escorts sent the local harbor dorks swimming off easily enough, and we landed right in the main square," the Aggron started. "Everything was going just great until that strange bird showed up."

    "Tell us about this bird," Tarquin said. "What did it look like?"

    "Well, it looked kinda like an overgrown Wingull," the Steel-Type answered. "With a big long neck and tail, blue plates and a crest… Came up to about my belly or so."

    The four Pokémon of the council turned and traded skeptical looks with each other. An "overgrown Wingull" that was about the size of a pushover like a Mothim was hardly the description of a mighty Protector...

    "Well, that's certainly a… different Pokémon," Sibich muttered. "And how did you run into this 'overgrown Wingull' in the first place?"

    "I was heading down one of the paths into the interior trying to get my claws on this local shrine bell I heard about, and ran into him with a bunch of kids and some Nidorina," Hess explained. "I handled the kids just fine, and I had the Nidorina on the ropes, but then that bird suddenly started glowing and it threw me into the air-"

    "Stop."

    "E-Eh?!" the Aggron exclaimed. "But I wasn't finished!"

    "I've heard enough to know when I'm being fed a blatant cover for someone's screwups," Dirk snarled. "And here I thought that this might have actually been something important."

    The Steel-Type began to stammer, looking around nervously. Sure, his story might sound a little absurd, but it was true! If the Council called him out here to talk about it, they had to understand that!

    "B-But that's really what happened-!" Hess began, only to be cut off by a chorus of snarls.

    "Oi, you heard the mon," Tarquin snapped. "Take a hike!"

    "You would be wise not to test our patience, Aggron," Ingela growled. "Take a hint, and get out with all your limbs attached while you can."

    "Y-Yeek!"

    The Aggron turned and bolted for the doors in a blind panic. A loud crash rang out, followed by a yelp and pained whine as Hess nursed his toe claws from stubbing them into the door frame. The creature stumbled out of the doorway, and hastily took off, leaving the darkened chamber to return back to an uneasy, unimpressed silence.

    "Unbelievable," the Bisharp grumbled. "Next time, bring some actual proof behind your claims, Sibich."

    "Very well, Dirk," the Ghost-Type answered, giving an exasperated sigh. "Though with all due respect, there are some things that you just have to go with your gut about."

    The chamber started to clear out of its occupants, Dirk making his way for the door as Ingela shuffled from the pool's edge and slipped under the surface. Sibich too rose up, and started to float over for the exit, only to hear a growling voice call after him.

    "Hey, Sibich," Tarquin said. "You didn't really believe that metal-headed screwup, did you?"

    "I do, yes," the Cofagrigus replied. "Because if there's one thing that I've learned about this world in my career, it's that there's usually more than meets the eye."

    "But Tromba's Protector waking up and turning out to just be some kid? That Pokémon's supposed to be able to shake the heavens and earth like all the other high gods," the Tyrantrum scoffed. "I spent years on that island and that take sounds fishy even to me. What are the odds that story's real?"




    Meanwhile, back in Rosequartz Town, Team Traveller followed their impromptu Flygon guide down a back alleyway, passing stony buildings flecked with grimy shops and similar unseemly customers. The Dragon-Type led the four into a small plaza overshadowed by an apple tree in the center. Behind the tree, there was a wide, low-slung building with two levels and an entrance fortified with sturdy doors and reinforced shutters over windows with crude planters dangling outside.

    "Is this what you were looking for?" the Flygon asked. The bug-dragon opened a push-door and bade his accompanying guests enter, the youngsters blinking to adjust to the dimmer light inside.

    As their vision began to adjust, the four Pokémon looked around and saw that the antlion had led them into a room with tables lined with cushioned stools and a pawful of benches hewn from rough wood along the wall. In one corner was a desk with some papers strewn about it, and the back wall was a wide entrance to a courtyard surrounded by wings of the building. By chance, the team noticed some stray straw on the floor, which made them instantly perk up in realization.

    "Ah!" Pleo cried. "This is a hostel!"

    "Nieważne, I could've found it eventually," Elty grumbled.

    "Thank you so much for taking us here, Flygon," Nida said. "I don't know what we would have done earlier without you."

    "You flatter me, and the name is Rasp. My family and I run this little joint," the antlion replied. "My dad helps fill my vacancies by picking up Pokémon crawling the dungeon and pointing them to this hostel if they need a place to spend the night."

    Hold on- did he say his family owned this hostel? Which would mean that...

    "You brought us here just so that way you could get money from us?" Guardia asked skeptically.

    "Well, we do have a business to run. And you seemed rather tired of trying to find one on your own," Rasp answered with a chuckle. "Call it a symbiotic relationship."

    "Well, whatever it is, it's good enough for me," Elty sighed. "I'm beat."

    "I've got a little spare time," the Dragon-Type said. "Come along and I'll show you around a bit."

    The Flygon ushered the youngsters along, taking them down a windowed hallway ringing the courtyard on the first floor as the group passed doors that had been shuttered. Claimed accommodations, perhaps?

    "So are you looking for a place on the mats in the common quarters or a room?" the Flygon asked.

    The four passed a room with the door slightly ajar, revealing an open, furnitureless room filled with mats spread on the ground…

    THWACK!

    …and the sight of a Gligar sailing across the doorway and into a wall with a yelp, an irked Bagon pawing at the ground and a displeased Snover following shortly after.

    "That's what you get for trying to cheat! Don't think I didn't see that Fire energy you snuck in!"

    As the three Pokémon continued their heated argument with each other, Nida, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia blinked and noticed that their three potential roommates seemed to be rough in looks and temperament. The youngsters looked at each other, then back at their prospective roommates for the night, before finally turning to the waiting Flygon.

    "... A room."

    "Excellent choice," the proprietor answered.

    Rasp carried on, prompting Team Traveller to follow after him, eager to put distance between themselves and the common room's occupants. The group began to set down a hallway lined with papered windows, Guardia casting wary glances at her surroundings all the while.

    "What is wrong with this town anyways?" the Cubone huffed. "You're supposed to be attacked less often inside a town, aren't you?"

    "It comes with the territory unfortunately," Rasp said, shaking his head. "Rosequartz Town is pirate territory and while pirates are good business, they bring a lot of unsavoriness with them."

    "Why don't 'mons like you do anything about it?" Nida asked.

    "Who would we get help from?" the Dragon-Type replied. "Neither the Company nor the Empire can take this place for themselves without tripping off a border war, and half the town doesn't want them back anyways."

    Pleo, Nida, and Guardia jolted upright out of surprise at Rasp's response. Company rule was undoubtedly a harsh burden, and if Nerea was right, the Empire was little better... but even so, wasn't living with pirates who were constantly prowling the town worse than that?

    "They don't even want their help? But why not?" Pleo exclaimed. "These pirates are a bunch of meanies!"

    "Maybe so, but they generally leave the locals alone," Rasp explained. "Since the Empire and the Company split, honest trade here has ground to a halt."

    Nida folded her ears back and gave a dubious twitch of her whiskers. Was Rasp just making excuses here? Seahive Square and Braveshoal were both towns that weren't controlled by the Company, and neither of them had turned out anything like this.

    "Can't you make gummis like Boisocean though?" the Nidoran pressed.

    "It's a bit of a different island," he explained. "It's not nearly as easy to get lots of food in and out, so for the town in general, this is the best option we have."

    "But you don't seem like the kind of Pokémon who'd just be okay with this..." Pleo said.

    "I'm not, which is why I try to do my part to help Pokémon like you kids out," Rasp responded. "But as things stand, there's not much Rosequartz can do until the Company and the Empire sort themselves out."

    The Flygon turned from his passage across the courtyard and flitted over to a door, pushing it open to reveal a stone staircase. Rasp gestured to Team Traveller to follow him, leading the group up a hallway overlooking the courtyard and to a simple wooden door that was parted, opening into a dimly-lit room.

    "Well, this is it," the Flygon said. "Nothing too fancy, but the best you'll get around these parts for 400 Poké a night."

    Rasp propped the crude shutter over the window open, letting the evening light filter in and better illuminate the room. The space had four straw beds, with blankets spread out over them, evidently for cold nights. The furniture was spartan, much as the hostel in Fensedge, consisting entirely of a low table with cushions for seats and a set of drawers that had been pushed up against the side wall.

    "How long will you be around here?"

    "Just tonight, hopefully," Nida muttered. "The sooner we can move onto Sormus, the better."

    The rest of Team Traveller tensed up as soon as the words left their teammate's mouth, realizing the potential repercussions of letting their plans slip in a place like this. Then again... this Rasp 'mon seemed nice enough and he really didn't seem like the type to get them into any trouble for a passing remark like that. Before they knew it, the four youngsters once again began to relax somewhat at this realization, reassured by the Dragon-Type’s seeming failure to make much of Nida’s slip-up.

    "Completely understandable," the innkeeper offered. "In the interim, make yourself at home and enjoy the full moon tonight."

    Guardia fidgeted uneasily at Rasp's mention of the moon, taking a small step back from the group. Her teammates, eager to finally get some rest, failed to notice their partner's reaction as they continued chattering with the Flygon innkeeper.

    "Thank you, Rasp," Nida replied, giving a thankful bow.

    "Well, since we're here, we might as well figure out who's getting what bed tonight," Elty grunted.

    "I call the high bed," Guardia said.

    Pleo, Elty, and Nida turned their eyes and followed the Cubone's claw as she pointed off… at the top of the dresser by the wall.

    "Uh... Guardia?" Nida murmured. "That isn't a bed."

    "We have those cushions by the table and they'll fit nicely on top," Guardia fumed. "It's soft and you can lay on it can't you? How am I supposed to gather lore about how well you can sleep on it without trying it out?"

    The Cubone's insistence drew eye rolls and groans from Elty and Nida. Even Rasp found the Ground-Type's thought process to be strange, as he turned to look down to his Nidoran guest for clarification.

    "She's a recent recruit of yours, isn't she?" the Flygon asked.

    "That obvious, huh?" Nida sighed.

    "Whelp, suit yourself," Rasp answered. "If you four are hungry, we'll be having dinner for our customers in a few minutes in the dining hall downstairs."

    Rrr

    The four youngsters looked down at their bellies as a chorus of faint growls filled the room. It had been a while since they last ate, and being able to eat something more than the spare berries and Apples they had purchased with Dimitri sounded awfully tempting right now.

    "Uh... that sounds pretty good, actually," Elty said.

    With that, Team Traveller set off, following after their Dragon-Type guide back out into the hallway as their yearnings for food and rest bubbled up. They could sweat the details of getting to Sormus later, after their stomachs were full and fed.




    Nights in Braveshoal were always darker than above the sea's surface, the familiar comforts of the moon and stars dimmed by the volume of water in between. In their stead, the Pokémon that passed through Braveshoal made a point of gathering the glowing algae in the sea into bottles and jars, forming crude lanterns that served to fleck the reef and its stony monoliths with bluish light.

    As on land, nights generally ebbed to a slower pace, as the diurnal residents began to shutter their shops and the local night owls came out to take their place and keep the town functioning in their absence. At a square in the web of air tunnels that crisscrossed the town, a Samurott and a Jellicent were closing a well-built stone bank down for the night. As the otter helped throw netting over the entrance and windows to seal up the store, the Ghost-Type floated over, eyeing his companion dubiously.

    "Eh? You're still working, Sevan?" the Jellicent proprietor asked. "But your shift ended half an hour ago!"

    "I don't like seeing work go unfinished," the Samurott answered.

    "I think that I can handle the rest," the Ghost-Type insisted. "Go and take the evening off, the night-watchmons will be here shortly anyways."

    "Hmm… right," Sevan replied. "I'll see you in the morning, then."

    Sevan put down the netting in his paw and crossed the square. The Samurott set off down the cramped and winding back alleys he usually did after work, the sound and smell of food cooking from cheap eateries pricking his ears and nose all the while.

    "Hello, brother…"

    The Formidable Pokémon froze and instinctively grabbed at the handle of one of his seamitars when he paused. Sevan realized that the voice was familiar for good reason, and if not necessarily friendly, it was not hostile. The culprit soon became clear, as a familiar looking Samurott donning a white scarf with a blue sun stepped out and gave a welcoming bow.

    "Let's talk someplace quieter," Lyn said. "I had a few questions for you that I needed to get to the bottom of."

    The younger Samurott motioned with his paw for Sevan to follow. After giving a glance around, the mercenary followed his brother down an alley and into a small clearing around a support tower festooned with bubbleweed, the older otter giving an agitated twitch of his whiskers.

    "What is it that you need?" Sevan demanded.

    "Have you seen a strange seabird around town lately?" the Commissioner prodded. One resembling an overgrown Wingull with a long neck?"

    "I have," the older Samurott answered. "Why?"

    "Good," Lyn grunted. "I'm here because my superiors want them brought in, and you're going to help me."

    The Commissioner's insistence was met with a long face and a skeptical brow raise from his elder brother. Sevan hardened his eyes into a fierce glare, and turned his head away with a derisive snort.

    "Right," Sevan snorted. "I'm going to help the organization that ruined our father after he spent his life faithfully serving them. Get real, Lyn."

    "He ruined us, Sevan. If he hadn't been a bleeding heart and just done his mission all those years ago, we wouldn't have fallen into penury," Lyn spat back. "All those nights going to bed hungry, having to constantly move from one den to the next looking for some dead-end job... none of that would have happened. And if you had just owned up to that years ago, you wouldn't be here bouncing from job to job as a sellsword for your next pittance."

    "Lyn, if you came all the way out here to Braveshoal just to lecture me, then I'd be better off moving along," Sevan growled. "It's been a long day of work and I haven't had dinner yet."

    "I didn't, actually," his brother insisted. Lyn stuck his paw into a satchel made of netting on his back, pulling out a stack of wanted posters printed on stiffened cloth. There on them were the unmistakeable forms of that group of children with the white bird from the day before.

    "This is why you're going to help me find that bird and his friends," he explained. His brother grabbed the posters, browsing them, before squeezing them into crumpled lump with a sour look.

    "Yeah, I'm not buying it," Sevan snapped, turning to leave. "Go find someone else to do your dirty work with those kids, Lyn."

    "There's nothing to buy, Sevan," Lyn retorted. "That bird and his friends are dangerous, and the sooner they're taken off the seas, the better."

    "So you're telling me that a group of pups are strong enough to menace the Company's warships?" Sevan scoffed. "I knew that the Company bent the truth from time to time, but this is just ridiculous."

    "Because they're not alone, Sevan," the Commissioner insisted.

    Lyn fished out another pair of posters and pushed them into his brother's face. On them were the forms of a Nidorina and a Hydreigon, the two evidently being extremely dangerous pirates from their descriptions.

    "It's the company they keep that's the problem," Lyn explained. "If we can grab the weaker ones, we can use them as bait to capture the real villains."

    The skeptical expression on Sevan's face didn't inspire Lyn's confidence in his argument. He would need something more convincing it seemed. Maybe if he had a stake in the matter, he'd feel different?

    "Look, who's the current client that you're working for?" Lyn asked.

    "Bunge's Bank," Sevan answered. "I'm sure you saw the building while waiting for me."

    "If you let those kids just go off, what's keeping them from telling their buddies about what they saw at Bunge's place, huh?" the Commissioner pressed. "They surely saw all the ways to get in and out of this town while they were here."

    "… They seemed fairly lost for scouts when I ran into them," the mercenary snorted.

    "Do you think you're the only Pokémon that made that mistake when dealing with them?"

    "Well... but, I- ergh..." Sevan faltered, failing to find a counterpoint to his brother's question. His gaze fell to the ground for a moment, the older Samurott contemplating the situation for a bit before finally looking back up at Lyn and giving his begrudging answer.

    "… Fine. I'll help you," Sevan sighed. "For a price."

    "How much?" Lyn asked. "And Poké, or-"

    "Keep your Company money, Lyn!" the brother Samurott snapped. "The price that I want is what you're going to do with those kids after you find them."

    "And just what would that be?" Lyn demanded.

    "I want you to go easy on those kids once you get them," Sevan said. "I doubt they fully understand what they're into, and you know as well as I do what it's like to suffer because of someone else's actions."

    Lyn scowled and tensed his paws against the sand on the seafloor. The Water-Type paused and stared at his sibling, carefully mulling over his next words. Finally, he sighed and shook his head.

    "Fine. I promise that I won't punish them for what their companions did," Lyn replied. "I'm a bigger 'mon than that."

    Sevan sighed, feeling a twinge of pre-emptive regret for what he was about to say. Even if he could hold Lyn to his word, gambling with the wellbeing of his own employer felt wrong to him. Despite that, he'd already given his promise to his brother... Begrudgingly, he finally offered what information he could spare.

    "They went to Sormus with a local guide," Sevan answered. "It sounded like they were planning on heading deep into imperial waters."

    "Hmph, thanks for the heads-up," the Commissioner grunted. "Anything else?"

    "This isn't who you have to be, Lyn," Sevan said.

    Lyn's eyes narrowed, staring harshly over at his brother. Sevan met his gaze, tensing up slightly under his withering glare.

    "I could say the same to you, but I honor your decisions," Lyn snapped. "I expect you to do the same."

    Sevan hung his head, heaving a resigned sigh. His brother hadn't been like this in bygone, more innocent days, but... was it really so foolish to hope to see a bit of his brighter former self in him? Whatever the case, if such a personality change would ever happen, it seemed now wasn't the time.

    "So be it," Sevan muttered. "Good luck with your mission, Lyn."

    "The same to you, I wish you the best," Lyn replied. "Who knows, maybe we'll meet again after things settle down."

    The Commissioner leapt up and cut through the wall, seawater washing over his body and into a freshly punched hole. The otter climbed in the water and began swimming for the surface, a knowing smile creeping over his muzzle all the while. With the Lugia and his friends’ element of secrecy spent, the Protector, and his promotion to Administrator were finally within grasp again.

    "You won't escape me this time, Guardian."




    Author's Notes:

    - (¡)Cuidado! - Spanish: "Be careful!" / "Watch out!"
    - svetilishte (свeтилищe) - Bulgarian: "sanctuary" (location) (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - Anois - Irish: "Now"
    - Chigau yo! (違うよ!) - Japanese: "No!" (emphatic) (Hepburn Romanization)
    - Nieważne - Polish: "Whatever"
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2019
  4. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    I understand Elty's desire to go home, but I'm not sure how he expected the team to react once they'd found out. Was he hoping to just run off without them noticing? Did he think they'd just not look for him if he ran? I do enjoy his reluctance to leave in the end, though. You can tell he still has a soft spot for Team Traveler.

    Heh, I like this line. I did think that, overall, Guardia's dialogue stood out a lot more in this chapter, so nicely done!

    On one hand, I really like Nida's assertive dialogue and her take-no-**** attitude. On the other hand, I was surprised there nowhere else did she contemplate Elty leaving. The idea just seemed to disappear after this scene and wasn't brought up at all even when they were going to the hostel with Rasp.

    I forget Elty's exact position in this town. Can't he protect them, or does he not know enough people/safe places well enough to guarantee their safety for one night?

    I think that if they weren't entirely clear, then they probably should've left it alone. Their actions seem more insensitive than anything, even if it is unintentional and well meaning. I mean, this is the area's god we're talking about, and tampering with the shrine could be considered desecration on their part.

    Anddd Team Traveler has realized even more that not everyone is trustworthy... yet here, they still have to trust the flygon because of the desperate situation they're in. :(

    Like this little bit of worldbuilding here. It makes sense that water dwellers would be accommodated.

    Is this a reference to Pokeballs? I’m not entirely sure. XD

    Every time I read this description now, I’m going to envision Chibipika’s drawing of Pleo I saw on Tumblr. XD

    Okay, Guardia, whatever you say. Her dialogue is unique here, to say the least, but I enjoyed it. XD

    This scene provided much needed development for Lyn. I had a hunch that him and Sevan would meet up at some point to talk about Pleo, and I’m glad that they did. The tension between them was well written, as is the new depth into Lyn’s character. He doesn’t seem as cutthroat or heartless to me anymore.
     
  5. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    I might need to go back and make it a bit more obvious, but I think he most likely expected them to be more concerned with getting home and moving on, with a good dash of intellectual dishonesty and denial to back those expectations up.

    Ah, well I'm glad that she's cutting a more distinct profile. ^^

    In their defense, they did just get an assist from being violently accosted. Though I think I understand where you're coming from here.

    He's a common grunt. All of the normal "safe and friendly" places he knows of in town are the ones that Team Traveller would most likely fight tooth and nail not to go to. o3o;

    Hrm... I would have thought that being contracted by Hertsog to fix the place up would have put them into the clear, though will make it a point to try and make it a bit clearer that they're not treading around unwanted (or at least not by the town).

    Any port works in a storm.

    Yup, one of the side effects to having a world that's a "7.8 - Too Much Water" in terms of topography.

    It is. It's been a while since it was explained directly, but Apricorns essentially function as natural Pokéballs in-setting.

    Well what can I say? Chibi-Pika did a good job. ^^

    To be fair, different life circumstances make for different "logical solutions", but glad you liked it.

    Well "as cutthroat or heartless" is kinda a low bar to cross, but am glad to hear that. While Lyn's role in the story requires him to be a rather unpleasant character, I felt that an important part of making him feel like a more complete character would be to touch on how he came to be that sort of Pokémon.

    Today's episode is on the shorter side, and while it took a couple days longer than I'd have hoped, I'm here with the next installment. Special thanks for help on this chapter goes to Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net, with further thanks to the readers and reviewers who peck at this thing.

    I'm currently targeting the release of the next chapter for early to mid-April, with the chapter after that coming at the end of the month. As always, please enjoy today's installment, and feel free to leave feedback and criticisms as you see fit.

    And without further ado...

    [​IMG]

    On Orleigh, Team Traveller slumbered away in a quiet guestroom in Rasp's hostel, the only audible sound being the faint snoring of the room's inhabitants. Everyone was sound asleep - save for Elty, who stirred slightly as a beam of moonlight hit his face through the shutter over the room's window. He blinked himself awake blearily, jolting upright with a start.

    "Kurczę!" the Growlithe grunted. "I fell asleep!"

    The little dog padded over to where Nida was sleeping, stepping carefully across the hostel floor. With every tense step, he dreaded the possibility that he'd stumble and wake up the rest of his companions. Elty shook those thoughts from his head; he couldn't let such thoughts distract him from his objective.

    "I'm getting my bag back one way or another, spike ball," he muttered. After tiptoeing across the room for what felt like an eternity, he finally reached Nida's sleeping form. There, loosely hanging from her shoulders was his bag, the last thing he needed before moving on and leaving Team Traveller to be Rasp's problem. He lowered a paw down to the strap of his bag, pulling it away with as much precision he could muster, and-

    Uwaaah…

    "Ack!"

    A sudden cry in the distance snapped Elty out of his focus, causing him to flinch and yank the bag back far harder than he'd intended. Nida and Pleo both stirred, prompting the Growlithe to give up on the bag and dive back into his bed, pretending to snore as the others were roused from their slumber.

    "Nrgh… Nida?" Pleo groaned. "What's that?"

    "… Eh?" the Nidoran yawned back.

    Uwaaah…

    "… I think it's someone crying," Nida murmured. Pleo's eyes snapped fully open from their prior sleepy squint, the young Protector jolting upright and looking around uneasily as an expression of startled concern settled across his face.

    "Huh?!" he exclaimed. "But then we should go and help!"

    "Gah… right now?" Elty grumbled, rousing himself with forced lethargy. "Listen to how distant that cry sounds!"

    Uwaaah…

    "I may be familiar with this place, but I'm not going around looking for some stranger at this hour!" he snapped.

    Pleo and Nida looked at each other hesitantly before grudgingly sinking back into their bedding. Their own run-in with the Marked from earlier was proof enough that Rosequartz Town was already dangerous by day... so whatever they thought about Elty's outburst on the outskirts, perhaps it was better to defer to his judgment here.

    "I guess…" the little Protector murmured.

    "... Let's just go back to bed," Nida sighed.

    "Yeah, bonehead had the right idea," Elty grunted. "I haven't heard her all this time, so she must be out like a rock on her little drawer."

    Nida and Pleo watched as Elty flopped back down in his bedding, curling up against the straw under his body. The two looked back at their own bedding and uneasily settled in as the echoing wails continued outside, prompting Pleo to look in the direction of the shutters.

    "I wonder why that Pokémon is crying…" Pleo muttered.

    "… No te preocupes, Pleo," Nida insisted, giving an exasperated shake of her head. "I don't think it's something we can really help with."

    Nida nestled deeper into her bedding, pulling her bed's blanket around her sensitive ears in a vain attempt to muffle the mysterious crying. She groaned, coming to the sinking realization that her blanket barely helped a thing.

    "Urgh… I hope that Crom's getting better sleep than we are right now."



    Back on Mengir's olivine-green beaches, work on repairing the Siglo Swellow had continued through the night. Pladur roused Crom awake that morning, leading his child through the ship's passages and onto the deck where they passed numerous Pokemon hard at work. The young Druddigon saw for himself several crewmates dropping off coins into a collection box as others labored on various repairs and odd jobs around the ship. One recently-finished job could be seen through a freshly patched hole in the hull, where Kiran and Ander had been waiting for them, examining the new timbers.

    "One down, three to go," the Fraxure sighed.

    "Well, at least there's been some progress on getting the ship back in order," Ander buzzed.

    "Hopefully the payout from our work at the shrine helps close the gap, 4000 Poké ought to buy that pitch the ship needs… right?," Crom asked.

    "If I remember prices back home, that should be 30% more than we'd need, but it's handy to keep a margin for error," Kiran said. "Speaking of which, have you got the receipt for our supplies, Pladur?"

    "Yup, lumber, nails, roofing, and the delivery fee for bringing it up to the shrine," Pladur answered, proudly displaying a paper slip laden with sloppy runes. "Right here."

    "Then let's get moving," the Swellow replied. "The sooner we get started, the more progress we'll be able to make before sundown."

    With their team prepared and their materials accounted for, the four Pokemon set off for the path to the shrine they'd covered the previous day. However, before they could get more than a few paces into their walk, a Servine's voice shouted out from behind them, stopping them in their tracks.

    "Hey, Pladur! Wait up!"

    "Huh?"

    Pladur paused and turned on his heels in the greenish sand. There behind him were Natrix and Philips darting up as quickly as their bandaged forms would allow, the Servine of the duo clutching tightly to a cream envelope in his nubby claws.

    "A Skarmory brought this letter by earlier," Natrix said, handing over the envelope. "He said it was for you."

    "Eh? Pat sent someone else to bring the mail in?" the Fraxure wondered, drawing a shake of his Raichu counterpart's head.

    "No, he's someone unrelated," Philips responded. "Though he was insistent that you read it right away."

    The two turned their heads as a scolding cry came from back in the direction of the ship. The pair muttered a few hurried and apologetic farewells before heading back off to the Siglo Swellow to continue repairing the stricken vessel, leaving Pladur behind to blink and stare down at the letter in his claws.

    "Er… thanks?"

    "What's it say, Dad?" Crom asked.

    "Well, let's see," the elder Fraxure muttered, tearing open the letter with a single claw. He squinted at the shoddy print of the message, taking a moment to make sense of the Torchic-scratch handwriting before reading it aloud to his companions:

    "'I want to help your project, meet me at the fork in the path to the shrine at mid-morning,'" Pladur murmured.

    "Eh? But we didn't ask anyone for help," Crom insisted. "And it doesn't look like Hertsog's handwriting."

    The quartet looked to one another, unanimously sharing a skeptical expression. What a strange letter to receive out of the blue, and unsolicited at that...

    "... Esto no me gusta," Ander muttered. "What if it's a trap?"

    "Eh? But if the Company knew what we were up to, why wouldn't they come and bust us right now?" Crom asked. "It's not like we can just sail off right now."

    "Let's see who wrote this," Kiran said. "It's on the way, and more help certainly couldn't hurt…"

    Pladur moved a claw over his chin in contemplation before looking back at the letter. After a moment's pause, he stuffed the message back into his bag and turned to Kiran with a nod. The die was cast, and the four headed off down the beach, wondering just who and what would be waiting for them en route to the shrine this time.



    The echoing cries around Rasp's hostel carried on deep into the night before finally abating, allowing Team Traveller to finally slip off into slumber.

    "Nrgh…"

    One which was rudely interrupted by the sun's rays poking through gaps in the shutters a few hours later. Nida stumbled to her feet, and propped open the window to let light in. The flowers in the planter had been damaged by something weighty pressing down on them overnight, perhaps a stray feral resting on it. Before the Nidoran could sniff and investigate the cause, she heard her teammates stir deeper within the chamber and turned to shuffle to them with a drowsy yawn. The Poison-Type lurched back and joined her sleepy companions at the door, setting off on a laggardly journey that took them down the hallway, downstairs, and into the lobby of the hostel.

    "Blurgh..." Nida groaned. "What a night."

    "So tired…" Pleo yawned. His drowsiness similarly spread to Guardia, who strangely enough had reddish eyes with dark circles underneath.

    "You all had trouble sleeping too?" she asked.

    "Eh? You couldn't sleep last night?" Elty exclaimed. "But you were quieter than a sleeping Abra during all that crying last night."

    The Cubone grew suddenly silent at the Growlithe's words and shifted uncomfortably. Nida and Pleo looked at each other as the lizard seemed to pause for thought, only for the Ground-Type to shake her head and clear her throat to reply.

    "… I was hoping that things would just move on a bit quicker, that's all," the Cubone answered.

    Nida, Pleo, and Elty gave puzzled stares at their Ground-Type companion. Before the matter could be pressed, the bone lizard continued on, seemingly overeager to keep a topic of conversation going.

    "Anyway," Guardia said, hastily changing the topic. "Now we're up, what should we do?"

    Nida turned and looked at the light filtering in through the window's shutters, where some unseen Pokémon were having an indistinct conversation of some matter dealing with 'booty'. The Nidoran shook her head and raised her barbs out of disgust. The sooner they all got to Sormus and found Dimitri, the better! Though there was one complicating factor to their journey…

    "Pleo," she murmured. "How´s your wing doing?"

    Pleo eyed his busted wing dubiously, feeling his faith in his ability to fly diminish by the second. It couldn't hurt to try, though... right? Carefully, he exercised his wing, rolling it around back and forth to make sure it didn't hurt only at a certain angle. To his delight, he realized that no matter how he twisted his arm, it didn't seem to hurt one bit!

    "I- I think it's better!" he cried.

    The young Lugia hastily pulled the bandages off of his wings with his beak, leaving ribbons of cloth in his wake as he hopped forward with his neck lowered to build up speed. He gave a few more beats of his wings, relishing in the feeling of wind beneath his wounded wing, and gave one last push off the ground...

    "Ow, owowow!"

    …only for a sudden cramp in his injured wing to throw him off-balance as he clutched it to his body, flopping facefirst into the floor with a defeated groan.

    "Ow..."

    "Not that much better, it seems," Elty sighed.

    "It looks like it's coming along, though," Nida murmured. "If we had a way to speed it up a bit, I think he'd be able to take us to Sormus and Blackmoon just fine."

    "Eh?! We can't just fly off without replacing my bone! I've already had enough close shaves since I lost it!" Guardia protested. "We don't even know where Blackmoon is beyond being in 'Imperial Territory', how do we know that there won't be danger waiting for us on the way?"

    Nida paused and blinked at her teammate's protests, giving an uncomfortable shake of her barbs as the Nidoran realized that they were a little light on supplies and leads for how to get to the 'Blackmoon Village' Nerea told them about.

    "Er… point. And we don't have Dimitri to ask right now about the place…" she admitted. "Maybe we could talk with someone about how to get there?"

    "In this town?" Guardia scoffed. "Just who are we supposed to trust?"

    "What about Rasp?" Pleo offered. "He seemed nice enough… Why don't we ask him?"

    "Oh? Ask me what?"

    The Nidoran looked over her shoulder and saw that Rasp had come down one of the hallways, waiting expectantly behind her. The little spike ball reared up on her hind legs and gave an uneasy twitch of her whiskers, before shaking her head, reassuring herself with all the help he'd already given the team, surely Rasp of all Pokémon would be safe to trust with such a question…

    "Well... I was wondering what you could tell us about Blackmoon Village," Nida began.

    "Eh? Blackmoon Village?" the innkeeper replied. "That place was destroyed years ago."

    "Huh?" Pleo chirped. "What happened to it?"

    "There are a lot of conflicting stories about what exactly happened," the Flygon answered. "The Empire claims it was a pirate crew who did it, but a lot of folks around here say the Empire burned down the village themselves after they tried to break away."

    The Cubone stared stunned at the Flygon for a moment. A group of scarf-wearers that would destroy one of their own settlements for not following their leaders? Even the Company had not engaged in such behavior! Or at least, none that Tetsuzui and the others from the colony had ever heard of…

    "That's… awful," Guardia murmured.

    "What makes you ask anyways?" Rasp asked.

    "Eh... you see we were supposed to head there with our friend after meeting up," Nida responded. "But he didn't really tell us where it was or even what island it was on before we got separated."

    "I know it's on Pioppo Island, and as for getting there… you can still find it on maps easily enough, though I can't imagine why you would want to," the antlion said. "The place is supposed to be cursed."

    Team Traveller's eyes widened with a start, and Nida and Elty's fur stood on end. Had they heard Rasp right? If so, what did he mean by…

    "…Cursed?"

    "Yeah, Pokémon that get too close tend to get driven off by the island," the Dragon-Type explained. "And it's said that those who pry too deeply into the island never come back."

    The four youngsters gulped and began to flush pale at the description of the island. With such a frightening-sounding island like that, it was no wonder that even a Protector like Nerea would have trouble reaching the place! But… if she already struggled so much, would they really have that much more of a chance?

    "... Anyway, if you insist on going there, you could try to ask Laurens," the Flygon suggested. "He led a crew from here out to the island some years ago, and got deeper in than anyone else around these parts."

    "Gwark?!" Pleo exclaimed. "You're telling us to meet with a pirate?!"

    "Ex-pirate," Rasp insisted. "He currently owns a charm shop at the town market. It's on the east side of town and built along the creek that goes through there. That old alligator hasn't stolen from anyone in years… that I know of."

    Nida frowned and bunched up uneasily. First a cursed island, and now having to ask a former pirate for directions? On the other hand, as intimidating as the matter sounded, Nerea was insistent that the part of the Knights' Ledger was in Blackmoon Village… or at least whatever was left of it. And if whatever was in there was important enough to keep the Company and the Empire in line…

    "I think we can work with-" she began, only to be interrupted by a Cubone voice.

    "But what about my bone?"

    "Didn't we need to buy any supplies, Nida?" Pleo added.

    "If you need to do a little reprovisioning, there are all sorts of traders in the market district," Rasp offered. "It's a bit of a shifty place, though everything you're looking for should be there, even a scavver where you can replace your friend's bone."

    Nida looked to Rasp and bowed her head low in appreciation, breathing a quiet thanks to the stars that her team managed to run into the Flygon.

    "Thanks for the tip," Nida said. "We'll be sure to stop by."

    Nida hopped ahead, pausing at the door frame as her teammates shuffled along following her heels. After they had caught up with her, Team Traveller headed out the door and into the morning light, venturing deeper down the warrens of Rosequartz Town in search of their guide at the market.



    "Ugh… how on earth did this happen?"

    Back in Bluewhorl Town, Pyry's words floated around Mirlia's bar. The stools and tables were mostly vacant during the early morning hours, with the visible exception of a table claimed by a sour-faced Gabite, Trapinch, and Quilava, with the bar's Sableye help taking a nearby seat to join them. The four had finally won some much-earned rest from their Community Service, which was used in their customary way in the wooden-floored Juice Bar by taking swigs of drink from simple clay cups.

    "Things were finally looking up for climbing the ranks," the Gabite moaned. "Yet, here I am stuck on some backwater island, drowning my sorrows in cheap berry juice in between shifts at a hut kneading dough with some lippy brat."

    "Oi, you're not the one digging ditches and holes all day!" Pekka interjected. "And every time I just make it in my normal way, my boss complains that it's too big and a safety hazard!"

    "And those little terrors at the Day Care keep sticking me with their barbs," the Quilava at the table added. "I went through three Pecha Berries just to make it through yesterday!"

    Pyry and Pekka traded blank, speechless stares at the Fire-Type, and the Sableye toppled back out of his chair. The Darkness Pokémon picked himself off the ground and gave a shake of his head, glad that he had been fortunate enough not to get the stoat's assignment on that fateful night.

    "Yeah, I think you win, Kenny," the passing Ghost-Type sighed. "I can't say mopping up around here for that overgrown kangaroo and her kid really compares…"

    "You know, I can hear you, Orlov."

    The four froze and looked back at the counter, where they saw a Kangaskhan and her child looking up with a scowl in between cleaning cups. The Ghost-Type blanched and fumbled with his clay cup, before hastily attempting to change the subject.

    "Er… weren't you out buying more berries for the rush tonight?" the Ghost-Type asked.

    "Yes, we were," Mirlia growled. "We got them and now we're back to work."

    "Why are you all still bellyaching anyways?" Minia retorted. "I heard you bragging about getting your bread put on Gwenith's main display earlier, Gabite! And your Trapinch friend was talking about getting extra apples from Mildrew just yesterday!"

    The four ex-pirates traded looks with each other, before Pyry gave a stubborn harrumph back at the Normal-Type.

    "Because it's the spirit of the matter that counts!" the Dragon-Type insisted.

    The Kangaskhan and her child buried their faces into open paws, shaking their heads at the former pirates' stubbornness. How had they managed to last so long prior to their capture with attitudes like that?

    "I can see your captain didn't bring you aboard for your smarts…" the little Kangaskhan sighed.

    "Actually, now that she mentions it. What has the old boss been up to?" Pekka asked. "I haven't heard anything since we got stuck here."

    As soon as the Trapinch stopped speaking, the sound of beating wings and a commotion outside rang out. The occupants of the bar turned their attention to the open windows, where they saw that an Unfezant with a brown courier bag had landed, prompting a small crowd of villagers to gather around him.

    "Eh?! Pat?!" a Rhyhorn cried.

    "What took you so long?" a Pinsir from the guards demanded "The entire town's been worried about the lack of word from your ship!"

    "The Iron Fleet ambushed us off of Mengir," the Unfezant began. "And-"

    "WHAT?!"

    The exclamation quickly gave way to an indecipherable stream of confused and anxious questions to the Flying-Type. Mirlia and Minia left their posts to hear the Unfezant outside, leaving behind their ex-pirate patrons to peer out the window and sink in their seats.

    "Uhm… on second thought, getting stuck by those Nidoran doesn't sound so bad right now," Kenny gulped.

    "Yeah, I should get back to cleaning up around here," Orlov added. "Preferably in a backroom."

    The Quilava and Sableye quickly darted away from the table and slipped into the backroom of the Juice Bar to avoid the crowd outside. Pyry and Pekka decided that it was perhaps best to similarly return to their work, hastily gulping down the remainder of their drinks before sliding off their stump-seats. Pekka left his place more reluctantly, hopping to the floor with a sighing shake of his large head-maw.

    "Urgh… wonder if anyone else is having a bad day like us?"



    Crom and his companions steadily made their way up the path from Fensedge Village leading towards the shrine. As they hiked, they noticed the sun began to climb higher into the sky and the shadows on the ground grew steadily smaller. The four carried along past the same fields and groves of trees as the day before, casting anticipatory glances here and there, only for their expectations to go unfulfilled.

    "Shouldn't we have run into that help by now?" Ander asked. "We've gone halfway up the trail already!"

    "Maybe it was just a prank," Kiran muttered.

    "Eh? But it seemed too earnest," Crom murmured. "Maybe we just passed up the-"

    The leaves of a nearby tree rustled, and a green, sleek-looking reptilian Pokemon hung upside down from the branch overhead. She flipped forward and dropped down, landing in a crouched position as the Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow stumbled back in a start. The gecko rose up, dusting her scales off and cocking her head slightly at the four Pokemon before her who seemed frozen in shock, jaws agape.

    "Oh, so you're the Pokémon working on the shrine," the Grovyle said, before giving a blinking pause.

    The Grass-Type's audience traded quiet, surprised glances with one another, prompting a glimmer of doubt to surface in the lizard's eyes. She cleared her throat and gave a sheepish rub of the back of her head.

    "Er, you are the Pokemon who came to work on the shrine, right?"

    "Uh… that's right," Pladur said. "But who are you?"

    The Grovyle cocked her head further to the side, befuddledly holding her chin in an open claw.

    "Eh? What are you talking about? I'm Salvini," she replied. "Why, someone sent me a letter saying that Hertsog asked you for help and needed a few extra claws to pitch in."

    The Wood Gecko Pokémon held out a small scrap of paper, upon which was scrawled a short message to a 'mon by the name of 'Salvini'.

    "Dear Salvini, I heard your friend Hertsog wanted to handle something before he left," Kiran said, reading from the scrawl. "I can't make it, but got a few friends to help you out. Please meet them at the fork in the path up to the shrine at midmorning and help them with their current mission."

    "Eh?! But we got a letter from a Skarmory saying that someone would help us with the shrine!" Crom cried, fishing out the group's letter from Pladur's bag. "... Except, we never got a chance to meet the Pokémon that sent it."

    A Skarmory? The Grass-Type paused and looked blankly at the Druddigon's letter. Now that the two letters were up side by side, it was evident the two had the same handwriting, and the same style of dictation. The gecko paused with a knowing look, as a weak smile began to creep up over her snout.

    "... I might have an idea," Salvini said.

    "You do?" Pladur asked. "Who is it?"

    "A friend of mine, he doesn't stick around places for too long," she answered, brushing off the matter with a wave of her claw. "Anyhow, you still needed that extra set of claws to help you?"

    "We'd love it, actually."

    Kiran gave a bat of his wings bidding the Grovyle to follow. After a short rebalancing of the satchel on her shoulders, the gecko set off, the newly enlarged group following along for the shrine in the distance. In the midst of the new atmosphere of camaraderie, an uncomfortable nagging doubt continued to weigh down on Crom as he climbed a new trunk to glide from.

    "I hope that this will be enough to get all that work done…"



    After following Rasp's directions and following the creek that sliced through Rosequartz Town, Team Traveller came to a bustling warren of stony shops and stalls punctuated by the occasional building in the shape of a Pokémon head. The settlement's status as a pirate haunt was evident from the shops in the market.

    There was the berry stand manned by a Comfey that openly hung Lansat Berries along with the expected Oran and Sitrus. Further along, there was another shop tended to by a Trumbeak with harpoons mounted on the wall and with wooden tubes poking out of the backroom. Even the shipping supply store was disproportionately sized for the settlement, no doubt due to the large amount of ships in port. Although the market straddling the creek was undeniably lively, a thick aura of peril and menace hung in the air, prompting Guardia to occasionally shoot a wary glance over her shoulder.

    "Are you supposed to feel like you're being watched around here?" Guardia murmured. The Ground-Type's apprehension was echoed by the young Protector in the group, who ruffled his feathers uncomfortably.

    "Wait, you do too?" he asked. "This town reminds me of that one place in Aisle Town… except bigger and uglier."

    "So then it won't be so bad now that you know what to expect," Elty snorted. "Just look around, watch your back, keep your 'nipper's discounts' to stores that won't miss the stock."

    "'Nipper's discount'?" Pleo chirped.

    "Nip something quickly enough from a shop and you'll get it for free," the Growlithe explained. "Simple, really."

    "Hold on, what's the difference between that and stealing-?" the Cubone insisted, only to be interrupted by an irritated thump of one of Nida's hindlegs against the ground.

    "Enough already, let's just go find Laurens," she sighed. "I think that I can see the charm shop that Rasp told us about."

    The Nidoran gestured ahead at a wooded storefront set into a squat stone building with a crude sign depicting a crystal shard with sloppy runes underneath. A row of pendants dangled from the eave and charms made of various gem and glass fragments were carefully arrayed on the counter, a Feraligatr proprietor occasionally leaning over the edge to attempt to badger passersby to browse his wares.

    The four youngsters made their way over as Laurens tried and failed to sway a Crabominable's interest in purchasing a protective charm, leaving Team Traveller to sit and wait expectantly. After a moment groaning an exasperated sigh, the Water-Type looked down, and quickly sprouted a toothy smile.

    "Hoy, aren't you a bit young to be shopping around for protective amulets such as these?" the Feraligatr asked. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you."


    "Protective amulet?" Pleo asked. "You mean like this lucky rock I'm wearing?"

    Pleo fished under his scarf with a beak and displayed his King's Rock necklace. The reptile sized up the white bird's bauble, before giving a bemused chuckle at the comparison.

    "Heh, I suppose you could think of it like that," the proprietor explained. "Well in the olden days, Pokémon would go up to the local shrine to this island's Protector, the Queen of Jewels, to wish for fortune and protection."

    "Eh? Used to?" Guardia asked. "What happened to it?"

    "It kept getting wrecked whenever the Company or Empire came by, and the place supposedly had these big crystals that weren't easy to replace," Elty said. "Eventually the Pokémon around here got tired of trying to repair it over and over again."

    "Which is where shops like mine come in. They not be as fancy as the old decorations from the shrine, but my wares are made of the same dungeon crystals mons would wish on," Laurens chortled. "Did any of them in particular catch your eye? They might fun-sized, but they'll bring you the same luck!"

    "Actually, we were hoping you knew some lore about a place called 'Pioppo Island'," Guardia said. "A friend of ours told us that you knew stuff about it you could share with us."

    "Well, I do, but I can't just go around chattering willy-nilly," the alligator shopkeep answered. "Time is money, after all."

    The Feraligatr's insistence drew a quartet of groans, prompting Nida and her companions to shake their heads. Even in a pirates' den, merchants truly were one and the same with each other.

    "Uh… You wouldn’t happen to have practical stuff behind that counter like a bone, would you?" Guardia asked. "I… kinda need that a bit more than any of these crystals."

    "No,” the Feraligatr snapped. “What you see is what you get."

    "Then what's the cheapest thing you have?" the Poison-Type sighed.

    "The small crystal there for 200 Poké," gesturing at a twine pendant with a small, pinkish crystal at the far end of the counter.

    The team rolled their eyes as Nida slid a few coins over the counter. The Feraligatr took the glinting metal pieces and pushed them into a coin-box before passing over the amulet in return.

    "Pleasure doing business with you," Laurens grunted.

    "We did our part," Guardia huffed. "Now, what can you tell us about when you went to Pioppo?"

    "It was six years ago, back when I captained my old ship. I'd really started getting into the swing of this 'civilization' thing after the Company kicked me out of my old sea den in Vollezee and was hitting my stride as the captain of the Wraaknemer," the Water-Type said. "We were in the business of plundering back then, and we needed an easy score after a rougher job in Imperial waters, so rooting around a ruined town for salvage seemed right up our alley."

    With the exception of a visibly unfazed Elty, the Pokémon of Team Traveller shifted uncomfortably at the towering reptile's account of his past. The Company kicking ferals out of their homes certainly didn't sound like a pleasant business, though then again, Laurens' cavalier demeanor in bringing up his career as a brigand wasn't much more reassuring. Even so, Nida reasoned that they would do well to leave no stone unturned with their lead.

    "So you saw Blackmoon Village there?" she asked.

    "What was left of it, yeah," the shopkeeper replied. "The place was completely burned down by the Imps and didn't have all that much left in it aside from a few coins and cheap baubles."

    "Doesn't sound like anything worth sticking around for," Elty grumbled. "So why didn't you just leave after that?"

    "I was, though a few of my 'mons were telling me they were seeing signs of life. Ashes from recent campfires, a small shack here or there in the woods, one of them even found a berry field," Laurens explained. "We cleaned out what we came across, and I sent out some scouts to try and go deeper to see what they could find."

    "And what did they find?" Guardia prodded.

    "Beats me, they never came back," the Water-Type replied. "After that, we spent the night camping out in Blackmoon Village's ruins and that's when the wraiths came."

    Nida and Elty's fur stood on end, the two pulling their ears back out of reflex at the Feraligatr's ominous sounding words. She wasn't terribly sure she wanted to know the answer, but Nida pressed on, curious as to just what were these...

    "Wraiths?" the Nidoran murmured.

    "Big, purple cloudy spirits who nearly scared us to death. They chased us back onto our ship threatening to drag us off to the Spirit World," the ex-pirate answered. "We took off and never looked back on that blasted rock."

    "And those Pokémon that got left behind?" Pleo asked.

    "Those wraiths made good on their threat, I assume," Laurens said, shaking his head. "For obvious reasons, we didn't bother going back to find out for sure."

    A shiver went down the backs of the four Pokémon as unpleasant mental images of being dragged away screaming by billowing clouds flickered in their mind. No wonder why no one had managed to find the part of the Knights' Ledger there! But… if Nerea was sure it was there, there surely had to be a way around them…

    "But we're supposed to go to that island," Nida insisted. "How are we supposed to get anything done if there's a bunch of evil spirits floating around?"

    "Wait, you're going there?" the Feraligatr pressed, raising a brow skeptically.

    "Don't ask," Elty sighed. "It's something that they set their mind to and I couldn't talk them out of it, so I don't think you'll have much luck either."

    "… Perhaps if we impressed them with the teachings of the dead they would be more accepting?" the Cubone offered.

    The Feraligatr gave a flummoxed stare at the bone lizard, with even her teammates seeming to be at a loss for the Ground-Type's logic.

    "Not sure what sort of 'teachings' you're going on about, but if you're serious about this… I'd try finding out if those shacks are still around and who lives in them," Laurens offered. "I can't say if they'd be friendly or not, but if they're still around, they'd certainly know how to get past those wraiths."

    "How do we find them?" the Ground-Type pressed.

    "Like so."

    Laurens slid over a simple map that depicted a mountainous island with a dense forest in the middle. On a bluff near the eastern coast, a few lines depicting the paths of a town had been drawn, along with a few red crossmarks just beyond the town's fringes.

    "When we were around, we saw a few empty huts with fresh bedding spread out on the floor nearby as we got closer," the shopkeeper said. "If the shacks aren't deserted, then you'll likely see something similar."

    "Right. I think we can work with that," Nida answered. "Thanks for the tip."

    The Nidoran hastily doodled a rough copy of Laurens' map onto a sheet of paper from deep in her bag, before she and her partners gave a hasty farewell to the Feraligatr and ventured out into the market. As the charm shop and its crystalline baubles faded into the commotion of the market, Elty gave a dubious frown and pawed at the Poison-Type.

    "Was that really enough information to move around in a place like that?" he asked.

    "I mean, we have a map now, and before this we had nothing," Nida replied. "That's a pretty big step up."

    "I personally think we could have gotten more lore out of him," Guardia grumbled. "What about you, Pleo?"

    Guardia waited for a response, only to be answered by the din of the market behind her. The Cubone turned and went wide-eyed after seeing that Pleo was gone. Nida and Elty similarly looked unsettled, trying to catch a glimpse for any sign of their teammate.

    "Pleo?" she asked.

    "Hey!"

    Nida pricked her ears and turned to see Pleo waddling triumphantly down the lane, his beak filled with what appeared to be a brown, sugary-smelling bun. The young Protector set his treat on the ground before craning his head up to his teammates.

    "So, we're shopping for supplies before we go now?" he chirped. The little Lugia craned his neck down to give an exploratory peck at the malasada, tearing little hunks off and gulping them down, blissfully unaware of the dubious looks his teammates were trading one another as they tried to puzzle out how their companion had stumbled across his treat.

    "Um… Pleo?" Nida asked. "Where did you get that?"

    "There was a shop with these sweet bread thingies down one of the alleys they called a 'mah-lah-sah-dah'. I used a 'nipper's discount' to get it and it worked fine," Pleo cheered, before turning back to continue pecking at his pastry. "The only thing that I'm a little confused about is why it's free. Since doesn't a 'discount' just make a price lower but not get rid of it completely?"

    The Nidoran turned and glared at Elty. Of all the things that stupid mutt had to teach Pleo, it just had to be how to shoplift.

    "This is your fault!" Nida hissed.

    "My fault?!" Elty spat, arching his back irritatedly. "He's the one that took the damn malasada!"

    "Hóigh tú!"

    Nida whirled and saw a visibly livid Slurpuff storming up the path, with a small group of thuggish characters following after the Fairy-Type. The Poison-Type was under no delusions as to why they had come, prompting her to hastily tug at Pleo's wing with a squeak.

    "Come on, let's get going!" the Nidoran cried.

    Pleo hopped up with a startled squawk, hastily abandoning his pilfered pastry as he and his companions bolted through the market. The four tore ahead, not stopping for the yelps or angry shouts of disrupted shoppers as they eagerly took flight from the wrath of a merchant unwillingly parted from his wares.



    "See anything?"

    Deep inside the Crystal Mangroves, the forms of a Tentacruel and a Sharpedo floated about root-lined walls of the dungeon. The two looked here and there amidst a watery maze with seawater overhead flowing off into a void; but all the while, their search had been crucially absent of any leads towards their target.

    "Just the same old scenery and ferals as the last floor," Katyusha said. "I don't see any sign of the bird anywhere."

    "Ugh…" Cyanea groaned. "This just isn't our day."

    "Well, we've at least narrowed things down to one conclusion," the shark offered "That Lugia and his friends didn't fall in anywhere close to the midpoint of this dungeon."

    "We shouldn't even be looking for him right now!" the Tentacruel hissed. "We found him once already, and if it wasn't for the help of that lousy crab, he'd be on the ship and en route to Tidemill right now!"

    The Sharpedo rolled her eyes and gave an unamused scowl. Between the dungeon and Cyanea's attitude, this search for the Protector was turning out to be more tiring than she had anticipated.

    "Yeah, yeah, whatever-"

    "Any luck?"

    The shark clamped her mouth shut as a voice sounded from somewhere nearby. Squinting into the distance, she scanned the waters around her, searching for the source of the noise, but nothing made itself readily apparent.

    "Who said that?" Cyanea murmured.

    The jellyfish bobbed uneasily along with her partner, as the sound of murmuring filtered along with the flowing water. The two swam along quietly towards the voices as they began to hear the hazy sound of arguing. Finally, a small group of sea dwellers sporting blue belts with a red central dot design came into view. A Dewgong and a Whiscash grumbled impatiently as a Kingdra bickered on with a Kabutops, who seemed awfully familiar to the Tentacruel and her partner.

    "Ah!" Katyusha whispered. "It's that crab from earlier!"

    "Then he must be after what we're looking for," Cyanea growled. "Let's see if he's found any leads we haven't."

    Cyanea and Katyusha hastily dove behind a nearby stone wall, peeking out from their cover just far enough to keep an eye on the targets of their eavesdropping. From this nearer location, the sound of the argument seemed a bit clearer, the pair finally able to understand most of their words properly.

    "I'm telling you," a Dewgong insisted. "If they're still in this dungeon, they're not below the midpoint anymore!"

    "But could they be waiting for us in a stable zone?" Dimitri asked. "Or what if they were moving and we missed them?"

    "We already checked everywhere on this floor!" a Whiscash huffed. "And we did it on the last floor, and the floor before last!"

    "If you'd just done your job in the first place, we wouldn't be in this mess, Dimitri!" Kuda snapped.

    Dimitri and Kuda withdrew and shot hardened glares at each other. As the pair locked themselves into an uneasy standoff, a sighing voice filled the minds of the nearby Pokémon.

    "… Looks like it's time to head back."

    "Huh?!" Dimitri cried. "What do you mean, Gersch?"

    "I mean that all of the other teams are turning up nothing too, including the ones above the midpoint," the teleporter's voice chimed.

    "So in other words, the kids aren't in this dungeon anymore and we've all been wasting our time," Kuda huffed.

    Dimitri's Dewgong and Whiscash partners traded concerned murmurs as the crab rubbed his scythes together nervously. The crustacean turned back to his Kingdra partner, waving his arms as he stammered out in protest.

    "We- We must be overlooking something!" the Kabutops insisted. "There has to be someplace that we didn't get to-"

    "Dimitri, just give it a rest. We'll tell the Ataman about this and try to figure out what our options are."

    Dimitri opened his mouth to protest further, but he fell silent, mulling over the teleporter's words. After a moment's pause, his gaze fell to the floor as he begrudgingly conceded his point.

    "I mean…" he murmured. "If we're really sure they're not here…"

    "Ugh, just hurry up and get us out of here, Gersch," Kuda growled.

    Right as the Kingdra finished speaking, a blip of light illuminated the dungeon floor, revealing a waiting Cloyster. Tired and frustrated, the four Pokémon from the Khranitel Rod swam over and joined appendages to form a circle. Just after closing the ring, the mollusk teleported the whole group out of the dungeon. From their hiding place, Katyusha and Cyanea slipped out, and traded each other blank looks.

    "Eh? The bird's not in here?" Katyusha murmured.

    "That's what I heard too," Cyanea answered. "Come on, let's get going."

    "Huh?"

    "You heard 'em, the sea god's not here and those kocevniki outnumber us," the Tentacruel insisted. "We're better off going back to the ship and tipping off the Captain."

    "Right."

    The Tentacruel moved a tentacle towards her scarf, and after running it along the metal badge affixed to it, she clung down on it and began to speak.

    "Schuster? Come and get us out of here," she said. "We've just stumbled across something big."



    Author's Notes:

    - Esto no me gusta - Spanish: "I don't like this"
    - Wraaknemer - Dutch: "Avenger", lit. "Revenge Taker".
    - Hóigh tú! - Irish: "Hey you!"
    - kocevniki (кочeвники) - Russian: "nomads" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
  6. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Well it took me three months but I have read the entirety of Fledglings! (Technically I haven't read 46 yet, but I have a few other fics I need to catch up on first.) You've certainly put a ton of time and effort into this massive undertaking of a fic. I'll start with some of the positives, what got me invested in the story and kept my attention:


    Worldbuilding

    It's obvious that the worldbuilding is the reason this fic exists. And it shows. Immense care and detail is poured into every aspect of how this world functions. From incorporating the game mechanics of the Mystery Dungeon series in a believable, realistic way, to exploring how Pokemon navigate their diverse, massively multispecies societies, to actually addressing how, in a world without humans, we still have evidence of human tech and artificial Pokemon everywhere. And that's to say nothing of the lore.

    Also the time spent with the wild Cubone colony did a great job at showing the much-needed perspective of the ferals and how their lives and cultures are every bit as complex as the town Pokemon. That was always an aspect of the games that felt weird, and it would have been all too easy to skirt around it, but the fic instead approaches it head-on. I like Guardia's occasional remarks on the weirdness of town Pokemon life, because it's easy for the reader to fall into the trap of thinking that town Pokemon are "better" just because their lifestyle is more human. A nice detail was the fact that town Pokemon and wild Pokemon share a religious connection, what with them both visiting the same shrines to pay respects to the same Protectors of old, and how the tradition of leaving offerings for those guardians had evolved into one of sharing gifts with their neighbors in the wild.

    I like how every time we're introduced to a new setting in the fic, you're able to instantly make it feel alive. Within minutes of the characters showing up, the place already feels like it has history, culture, social life, entertainment, everything.

    That said, your descriptions, while evocative, sometimes get clogged up with too many sub-phrases that are identical in structure. i.e. "There was a [thing] with X with X of X." This happened noticeably less frequently as the fic progressed, but it still happens occasionally. I know you're excited to show all the details of these settings you've created (and I like reading 'em! The unique settings are a big part of the worldbuilding's appeal, after all), but take care to vary the sentence structure and cut down a few of the overly long preposition chains.

    Oh, and I know some people thought it was weird, but I really like the usage of the regional dialects represented by the various different real-world languages. All Pokemon might understand the core of Pokespeech, but it makes perfect sense that there'd be regional idioms and phrases that might get lost in translation. I mean, just compare American English to British to Australian.


    Characters

    You have a huge cast of colorful and interesting characters that carry the fic nicely. Pleo is, of course, the standout, being likable and endearing in his naivety, but all of them are quirky and interesting in their own right. I like how even the "random NPC"-type mons feel like they have lives and values, even if they're not in the story long and don't affect the plot much. And all the antagonists have goals and wants and needs and have had moments where they show their vulnerabilities. I love that we've gotten to see more of the perspective of the Marked, and if their version of the Cradle's history is the accurate one, that means that this fic contains several of my Favorite Things (conflicts between human and legendary are my jam.)

    That said, I do really want to see Team Traveller "level up" more often (I mean that more figuratively than literally, of course.) I'm a huge fan of stories where the protags are Level 0 and facing an opponent that is like, Level 100 compared to them. However, you still need to make it feel like they're progressing in their own right, so that their adventures really matter. Although Pleo did learn Dragon Rush recently which is neat! Hopefully he'll get the chance to use it on something that isn't fairy-type, lol.


    Now for some of the things that I feel weakened the fic or could perhaps be handled more effectively:

    Narrative Flow

    You have a tendency to scene break way more often than I think is necessary. I have to admit, there were a few times I was super invested in the danger facing Team Traveler and then read the phrase "Back at the Siglo Swellow" and stopped reading for a few days. Ironically, this was reversed during the pirate raid on their ship--once the narration cut away from them, I was like "no wait, go back... D:" I'm not gonna go so far as to say each chapter should stick to one set of characters, but be careful not to break tension unnecessarily, especially when cutting to a scene that doesn't move the plot. It's a bit like having a filler episode immediately after a cliffhanger.

    And I feel bad cause like...I like Crom, Kiran, and all the others! It'd be a shame to never get any time with them. But I also feel like I could have done without half of their scenes. I'd like to see more relevance to their adventures other than...just following the tracks of Team Traveller. At this rate, Team Traveller could make it home to Tromba before them and the Siglo Swellow's voyage could have accomplished nothing of value. :<


    Coincidences

    So, you've done a great job of setting up a vast and colorful world set on the high seas, but frequently I find myself thinking... "it's a small world after all." Characters are constantly in the right place at the right time, perfectly positioned to run into other characters or overhear important information. I mean, I understand having characters eavesdrop can be important to moving the plot along. And there are times it works, like when Nagant's crew goes to all the trouble to infiltrate the Admin meeting. Or when the Company found out Team Traveler was in Boisocean because they had agents stationed there, gathering info. But then there are other times, like when Darzin was gearing up to leave, I instantly knew that the only reason the narration had switched to him was because he was going to conveniently encounter something to pull him back into the story. The part where Ellsburg saw Pleo's feather five minutes after they got to Mengir was probably the most over the top example.

    Now...you do get some points for one thing--the never-ending chain of coincidences usually hurts our protagonists rather than helps them. That's far more forgivable from a narrative perspective. Just be really careful about having characters encounter the exact thing they needed to see at that moment when they weren't actively looking for it. It makes it feel like half the fic wouldn't have happened if mons were better about keeping their conversations private.


    Regarding Eltenios

    I really like Elty, which I why I think there's a weird dissonance going on between him and Team Traveller. Like, I totally get their hostility toward them. He did raid their hometown after all. They have every right to still be sore about that. But then they get super offended by the idea of him leaving and not being loyal to them and it's like...is he your prisoner or your partner? He can't be both. And they haven't been treating him like a partner at all, so it's weird for them to be miffed that he isn't treating them like one either. Now if they'd made numerous attempts to clear the bad blood and he shot them down every time and acted like a turd about it, then yeah. But usually it's just...him making some casual reference to his pirate life and immediately getting shouted at. Which would be fine if he were just their prisoner and nothing more. But they act like he's not. And it was amusing when Nida was like "lol no I'm not saying that long-*** name," but insisting that no one else can call him by his real name feels a bit dehumanizing...er, depokemonizing?

    I kind of want to see a fight where they end up protecting each other not just because it's in the group's best interest. Like if Nida/Pleo had escaped from some scrap with the Company, but then went back for Elty even if they didn't need to. Then I think they'd have the right to expect the same from him. And I think you're leading towards this, what with Elty finally sharing his plans to leave. I just don't want to see him warm up to them without them giving him good reason to, you know?


    I think that's everything! I hope my review didn't feel too disparaging. I certainly wouldn't have read 45 chapters if I didn't find the fic to be engaging. ;) I'm very interested in seeing where things go from here and I wish you the best of luck!

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
  7. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Guilty as charged. This fic more or less got its origins as a worldbuilding exercise back in the day, and as a proof-of-concept of an Ocean Punk PMD story.

    Yeah, and it's actually a perspective I might deal with a bit more in the future. Part of dealing with a PMD-esque world is figuring out how Pokémon who haven't bought into the world of colorful Pokémon-headed buildings and Rescue Teams operate and brush up with that less primal world. After all, it would be just a little dry if "ferals" only existed to annoy our favorite Rescue Teams by chasing them around dungeon floors.

    And I'm glad to hear that it comes off as feeling alive. Worldbuilding is one of those things that can be tricky to incorporate into a story, since you can build things to nigh-infinite levels of detail, but in the end, it needs to interweave and reinforce your narrative. I'm glad that it sounds like I'm striking a decent balance so far.

    Aha. I will be sure to keep a keener eye out for keeping my descriptive structures more varied.

    Well, I figured that TPCI went through all the trouble of coming up for at least 6-7 names for the same things in-franchise, so that it would make sense to make worlds where some of those localization names could be used and brushed up against each other.

    After all, you can't say that there isn't a yarn to be made from the blank look someone would give after hearing a purple bat being called an "eF-eM". o3o

    And I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying those characters. After all, a story's characters are in large part its soul, and fleshed-out characters can do wonders for keeping simple yarns compelling, while even complex narratives can become drab and tough to follow if they don't have the right characters breathing life into them.

    Hrm... I would have thought that the movepools gradually expanding would have been some indication that the team isn't totally static. I'll have to play around with some options to make their growth a bit more obvious, since while there are some very obvious events down the road, it will still be a while before we cross those bridges.

    Hrm... I think that I can see what you're talking about there with regard to breaking tension, and I'll make a note to try and avoid creating too many more moments like those.

    Hrm, that's unfortunate, since while the Siglo Swellow narrative came off a bit lower-boil than I intended, it is there for a reason, which will hopefully become apparent in the relatively near future in-story.

    Hrm... Well, I hope that those coincidences have toned down a bit since Mengir, since that's a bit of an issue I've been aware of and struggling with narrative-wise. Finding the right balance between a "believable turn of fate" and "contrived coincidence" can get a bit tricky, though I'll make an effort to be a bit more careful about it in future chapters. If you have any pointers you would like to share, I would be more than welcome to hear them out.

    Hrm... I think that that's most likely an issue of there being a conflict between what I intended to communicate and how things wound up coming off. As his first night in Boisocéan demonstrated, Elty has been intended to be a bit passive-aggressive with his teammates, with them by and large returning the favor. Now, things have wound up getting a bit closer with time, but neither side is quite "there" in terms of being allied with each other beyond convenience. Or at least not that they'd care to admit.

    All in due time. That sort of moment is coming, though there are a few more rocks for their relationship to hit before it comes.

    Nah, I feel that it's important to be candid in reviews. After all, issues in a story can't be resolved if they're never pointed out in the first place. For that, I thank you for your feedback, and hope that the future chapters are just as engaging as the ones that you've gotten through so far.

    So it's just a little past the first week of April, but I've got that new chapter put together and ready for showtime. My special thanks for helping to make this chapter a reality goes out to Virgil134, solovino, and sugoitsu from ff.net, along with all the readers and reviewers who have been giving feedback to find issues that persisted past release. I am hoping to have the next chapter ready by mid-April, with the last chapter of this Episode rolling out sometime around the first week of May. So yeah, changes of scenery inbound in the relatively new future.

    But before then, we have a yarn to be taken to a more proper conclusion locally, so let's jump back into the fray back in Orleigh:

    [​IMG]

    Things had not gone as smoothly as Ellsberg had hoped since his meeting with Elilan. Thanks to having to switch the Nektar Weide's sails with ones carrying decoy patterns and Ketu's sudden bout of stubborn hostility, the sloop was slow to leave port from Mengir. That delay in turn forced a grueling overnight run powered by a constant current from the escorts, the exertion and long hours grinding the crew down as the hours whiled by with the passing waves. When the sun dawned on the now white and blue-sailed ship, it was finally slipping into Otvaga's lagoon, the sight of the atoll's low-lying islets came as a relief to a yawning and increasingly restless crew. Among them was a familiar Mothim in a Second-Rank scarf, watching intently from a perch on the bow's railing as the ring of islands passed by.

    "Slow us down and take us into a circuit!" Ellsberg buzzed. "We'll wait for the Captain here!"

    At the Bug-Type's command, the crew hastily began pulling up the sails as the escorts whipped up a decelerating headwind. Before long, the Nektar Weide was left slowly drifting along, tracing the shore of Otvaga's islets in a laggard circuit. A frown crossed Ellsberg's face as he scanned the horizon for any sign of Lyn amongst the wild, overgrown islands of the atoll and their surrounding waters.

    "Come on, Lyn…" Ellsberg growled. "Where are you?"

    "Tch, don't get your wings in a twist, Elmer," Ketu scoffed from beside the front mast, looking up from an idle pick at his claws. "He'll show up on his own timing."

    The Mothim shot a sour frown at the Weavile, unpleased with having to tolerate being called "Elmer" for the umpteenth time in front of the crew on his own ship since they'd left Mengir. The moth's frustrations were quickly distracted by the sound of churning water coming from behind him, followed immediately afterwards by startled shouts from the sea. The Bug-Type reflexively whirled around to sea, just in time to see a blue form with a horned helmet riding a cresting wave heading straight for him.

    SPLOOSH!

    Ellsberg tumbled onto the deck as the water washed over him, sending the Bug-Type flopping over in a sopping pile against the mast. The moth glanced up and saw Lyn before him shaking some excess water off his pelt; prompting Ketu to pace over and give a dismissive shrug of his shoulders.

    "See what I mean?"

    "You're late, Ellsberg."

    "We- We had some troubles at the dock in Mengir," the stunned Mothim coughed. "Things went smoother with your contact, I hope?"

    "It did," Lyn answered. "He informed me that the Guardian's making his way for Sormus Island along with a local guide."

    "Huh?" Ellsberg asked. "Was there anything else-?"

    The Bug-Type was cut off as the Commissioner thrust out one paw, motioning to silence him.

    "That's not relevant right now, Ellsberg," Lyn scolded. "We don't have any time to waste, and I say we move on for Sormus immediately."

    Some uneasy murmurs floated about the ship, surprised at Lyn's adamance to leave so soon after they had just arrived at Otvaga. There were surely supplies to be gathered, and some of the crew cast longing eyes at Otvaga's sandy beaches... only for a loud, belligerent roar to snap the lot back to attention.

    "You heard me! Draw up the battle preparations and get this hulk moving!" the Samurott bellowed. "I wanted to be out and at Sormus yesterday!"

    The crew jolted upright with a start before hastily breaking for tasks about the ship, letting the sails down and pulling the anchor up with uncharacteristic vigor in the wake of their superior's ill mood. One of the few Pokémon to not be swept up by the hurried business was Ketu, who gave a skeptical tilt of his head back at the Nektar Weide's new captain.

    "Battle preparations?" the Weavile asked. "I understand the urge to light a fire under Elmer's butt here, but aren't you jumping the gun a bit, Captain?"

    Ellsberg buzzed indignantly, shooting a burning glare at Ketu as he muttered under his breath about the nerve of that weasel to demean him so. The moth flitted up aggressively, only to be cut off with an impatient stomp and growl coming from Lyn's direction.

    "We've had the Protector elude us three times already because we weren't prepared," Lyn spat. "I'm not letting that happen again if I can help it."

    The Samurott paused before giving an irritated twitch of his whiskers at the lack of a response. Much to the Water-Type's annoyance, Ellsberg continued flitting in place and Ketu still whiled away his time leaning against the ship's railing. The mustelid's face wrinkled with a deep scowl, muttering unimpressed gripes about the pair's lack of contributions to the Nektar Weide's departure.

    "As for you two, stop standing around and go get this ship moving," he barked.

    "Aye!" Ellsberg said, the Mothim's salute quickly followed up by an unenthusiastic huff from his Weavile colleague.

    "Yeah, yeah, let's just get this boat going."

    The two watched as Lyn turned and left before parting ways, Ellsberg flitting off for the stern as his thoughts began to settle back down into his work aboard the ship. The Bug-Type flew over, and perched on the rigging of the rear mast to begin to inspect it…

    "Yeah, Elmer! Make yourself useful like the rest of us!"

    …only to tense up as he heard the sound of squawking laughter from behind. The Mothim whirled around angrily, just in time to see a snickering Fearow and Swanna flying off. From the corner of his eye, Ellsberg saw Ketu watching, a smug smirk creeping over his face at the entire episode.

    "What can I say?" the Weavile said smugly. "It's a catchy name, Elmer."

    The Mothim huffed angrily and for a moment entertained thoughts about knocking the miserable peons out of the air and into the sea with a timely Psychic. Rationalizing that a fight would surely not help Lyn's temper, the Bug-Type decided to leave the matter be and flew off grumbling. The sooner the Sea Guardian hurried up and fell into his tarsi, the sooner the days of being called 'Elmer' could end.



    For a few harrowing minutes, Team Traveller ducked down alleyways and between stalls, trying in vain to shake off their Slurpuff pursuer. The group's lucky break finally came when the four came across a wall in an alleyway that they hopped across, Elty requiring a few tries more than the others to finally cross it. Winded, the team staggered to a small pile of crates in the alley where the four flopped down and paused to catch their breaths.

    "Did- Did we lose that Slurpuff?" Pleo gasped.

    "Yeah," Nida panted. "I think so."

    The four eased up to their feet, still drawing labored and tired breaths. Guardia pulled her helmet tighter to her snout, giving an irked grunt about their current state of affairs.

    "Ugh… well this is just great. We've gotten chased across that entire market and we didn't even get to stop by a single shop," the Cubone fumed. "How are we supposed to get a replacement bone for me now?"

    "Jedną rzecz na raz!" Elty scolded. "Let's start by looking around here, maybe we'll find someplace to grab some supplies."

    "Actually paying this time, I hope," Nida grumbled.

    The Nidoran rounded the corner and came across a lane filled with shops that were half-shuttered, a few others similarly closing down as chatter of 'food' and 'lunch' floated through the air. As the four carried along, they watched as the street slowly emptied of customers, shifting for other lanes with more edible wares to peruse.

    The lone exception, and the only place that seemed to carry anything passing as food was a long shop made of stone with a battered slate-tiled roof. The sliver-like structure opened out to the lane through a narrow dingy storefront riddled with slabs of ruddy matter on the counter and hanging from hooks on roof's rafters. There at the counter, a displeased-looking Purugly carried on with a heated, hissing exchange with the Doublade proprietor.

    "Hey! You can't expect me to pay 200 Poké for this!" the Purugly cried. "As ucht déithe, it's not even properly dried yet!"

    "What you see is what you get," the Doublade behind the counter shot back. "So are you going to take it or leave it?"

    "... I'm going to a different shop," the cat spat.

    The Purugly wrinkled her nose and turned, stomping away in a huff as Team Traveller watched.
    They glanced over at the shop she had stormed away from, sizing up the contents of the storefront. There, mixed in with the pieces of meat were shells, colorful birds’ feathers, and much to Guardia's delight, a few strong, hefty-looking bones.

    "Ah! That shop carries bones!" Guardia exclaimed, drawing some hesitant looks from her Nidoran and Lugia teammates as they sized up the uncouth proprietor.


    "... I guess we could check it out a bit," Nida murmured.

    Guardia darted ahead towards the scavver's shop, followed reluctantly by the rest of her team. The Doublade behind the counter scowled down at the young ones dismissively as they approached.

    "Hm?" the Ghost-Type asked. "What do you kids want?"

    "That leg-bone over there on the left would make a perfect club," Guardia said, pointing at a tapered bone near the edge of the counter. "What do you want for it?"

    "That'll be 300 Poké," the Sword Pokémon replied.

    Nida began to fish around in her pack for the money, only to be paused as she was assaulted by the rancid odor of decaying meat. Elty and Guardia seemed to smell it too, judging by how their noses wrinkled in disgust.

    "Oi, aren't you scavvers supposed to try and hide your spoiled stuff?" Elty barked. "You'll scare off your customers with stuff like this!"

    "Eh, I'm not worried about it," the Doublade shrugged. "This shop's gotten by just fine doing things my way all these years, and I don't see a need to change things up."

    "Huh?" Pleo chirped. "What do you mea-?"

    "Don't sweat it Pleo," Nida sighed. "Let's just pay and get out of here before I gag."

    She dropped the coins on the counter and left, motioning for the rest of her team to follow as she prayed for some pleasant smell to overtake the stench that clung to her nostrils. The four ducked into an alley running along the windowless length of the shop, the vile smells of the scavver's putrid storefront fading away as fresh air came in, along with some lingering uncertainties.

    "Was there something wrong with that shop we went to?" the little Protector asked. "It seemed… different."

    "How on earth do you town 'mons get suckered into giving away money for that?" Guardia grumbled. "My colony wouldn't touch that stuff even if you gave it to them!"

    "Beats me," Elty grunted. "Why, if I didn't know better, I'd have thought they dug their stock out from a garbage heap behind a real scavver's shop."

    "Still, isn't it a little weird that a cajero would care so little about what he's selling?" Nida murmured. "Especially since that Purugly did say there were other shops in town like this…"

    "You know, this isn't exactly what I had in mind when you said we'd get a job for the Torrent Tsars."

    The four paused and looked around for the source of the voice. After seeing nothing but stony walls around them, Guardia chanced to notice a barred basement window up ahead, where the sound of grumbling could be heard. One by one, the members of Team Traveller crept over, where they saw a vaguely familiar-looking group consisting of a Zangoose, a Flareon, and a Banette seated around a crude table, playing a game of cards with flowery designs on them.

    "You should be happy 'mons are hiring us at all after all the crews you've gotten us kicked from,"the Flareon huffed.

    "Well hey look at the bright side," the Banette offered. "At least our job is as simple as pushing around Pokémon like that yappy Sentret down there."

    "Fair enough," the Zangoose admitted, giving a bemused sneer. "That little loudmouth wasn't talking so high and mighty after I gagged his mouth shut!"

    Nida's eyes widened at the mention of a 'yappy Sentret.' One logical part of her brain told her it could be anyone, but the phrase brought to mind one Sentret in particular: one with a penchant for showing up time and time again in unexpected places. Her conscience simply wouldn't let her write this off - if it really was Scout, she'd never be able to live with having left him behind… probably. The Sentret could be annoying at times.

    Her mind was made up when she noticed a nearby back-room, conspicuously unguarded and wide open with opportunity to rescue the pirates' captive.

    "Let's go in," Nida whispered. "I think that Scout's in there."

    "Whoa! You can't just sneak into there! There's guards inside!" Elty protested. "And you don't even know if that's not some random Sentret!"

    "But it could also be Scout!" Pleo squawked. "Either way, we have to help whoever's down there!"

    Guardia and Elty looked at each other uneasily, only for the matter to be decided for them by Nida marching on ahead. The other Pokémon of Team Traveller followed in, and discovered that strangely enough for what they heard of scavver's shops, the backroom was large, open, and dusty from disuse.

    Perhaps the reason why the Doublade went out of his way to have such terrible goods was to keep Pokémon from wanting to hang around the shop in the first place. After all, judging from the room and its emptiness, it seemed as if its role as a scavver's shop was a complete afterthought! At the far left of the room, the team spotted a stairwell where the pirates' voices filtered up from.

    One by one, the group followed Nida's lead and crept down the stairs. There at the bottom they saw the three brigands from earlier distracted with cards in a side room, along with an unguarded hallway lined with doorless rooms. Nida motioned for them to follow, prompting the youngsters to inch along the hall.

    They passed one room, and then another, discovering spaces that were empty barring boxes and some scattered rope. All the while, the stale, musky scent of various Pokémon lingered in the air... were all these places used to keep captives?

    The group came to the fourth room, where after poking their heads inside, Team Traveller came face-to-face with a bound and gagged Sentret, who true to Nida and Pleo's suspicions was none other than…

    "Scout!"

    "Mrrph!" the Sentret answered.

    "Hang on," Nida whispered. "Let's get that gag off of you."

    The Poison-Type moved her paw over the knotted cloth and tugged it down. As Scout started to spit up fabric fibers, Guardia gave a puzzled shake of her head at the Sentret.

    "What are you doing here?" she questioned.

    "And for that matter, what did you do here?" Elty demanded. "If whoever grabbed you went through all the trouble of chaining you up instead of using rope, they must want you for something big."

    "Yeah, so after we met in Otvaga, I wound up getting back onto the circuit to deliver Hariti's next letter," Scout explained. "And that involved hitching a ride with a Lapras out here in Rosequartz Town."

    "Oh? But we didn't see any Pokémon that looked related to Hariti at this shop…" Pleo murmured.

    "I know that. I got snatched by those swirl-scarfed hoodlums as soon as I hit the docks," the Sentret snapped. "They thought I was a courier for some rival crew of theirs, and nothing I said convinced those block-heads otherwise."

    "Uhm… are you sure it was what you said and not how you said it?" Elty sighed.

    "It doesn't matter!" Nida insisted. "Let's just get you out of here and get going."

    The Nidoran hurriedly shook a quill loose from her back and grabbed it from the floor, carefully working it into the crude padlock on the chains keeping Scout shackled to the floor. After a few tense moments of Nida blindly feeling around the lock, she finally felt the barb brush up against the pin and started to push against it.

    "Ah!" she cried. "Got it-!"

    "Hey! What do you brats think you're doing?!"

    She was interrupted by a voice calling from the doorway, a shiver running up her spine as she spotted its source: the Zangoose pirate she oversaw from the basement window, backed by his Flareon and Banette companions.

    "Great save by the way, spike ball," Scout grumbled.

    The four youngsters looked around as the pirates closed in on them, finding that the room had only been built with a single doorway, which the Zangoose and his buddies were currently blocking. After being backed into a crate, Elty looked up, and saw that they carried up to a basement window that had a visibly rotted bamboo bar. It was a squeeze and there was no guarantee the bar would give, but with every other exit to them blocked off, there was only one thing to do.

    "Run!"

    Elty bolted for the crates, hastily bounding up them and squeezing through the basement window. After briefly struggling with the rotted bar, the dog broke it with a crack and forced his body through the newly formed aperture. His teammates followed after, though before they could reach the top, they dove off with a yelp as a plume of fire swallowed up the crates, quickly reducing them to a collapsing pile of cinders and charred timbers.

    "End of the road, punks," Scian growled.

    "Yeah, maybe we'll keep you down here to keep your courier friend company!" Cerny added.

    "Take this!"

    The pirates' jeering was cut off by a sharp cry and the sight of a Cubone jumping at them with her club ready for an downward smash. Reflexively, Scian stepped forward and parried the Ground-Type´s blow with one of his claws, knocking her back and sending her tumbling back along the floor.

    "Agh!"

    "Hah, take that you stupid liz- Oof!"

    The Zangoose yelped after feeling a sharp kick to his gut, stumbling back from its Nidoran culprit after she swiftly followed it up with a second blow. As the Normal-Type steadied his footing, Nida's ears perked up at the sound of a ghostly screech, whirling her head just in time to see Cerny running at her with his claws trailed by a shadowy aura.

    "Here, lemme give you something to remember me by, Nidoran!"

    Nida's barbs fanned out in a panic at the sight of the Ghost-Type diving at her. The Poison-Type attempted to turn and bolt, only for her legs to go wobbly and unresponsive from petrified shock.

    "A-Aah!"

    "Stay sti-!"

    A loud whoosh followed by a hard smack and a pained shriek rang out. Nida looked up just in time to see Cerny sailing off headlong into a wall as Pleo skidded to a stop, trailing fiery blue light. The bird chirped surprisedly at the light and its sudden dissipation, only to be cut off by an aggressive yowl.

    "Game over, you lousy gull!"

    The Lugia whirled his head and went wide-eyed as he saw Scian lunge for him with his claws ready for a slash. The bird hastily hopped back, but too late to avoid a painful scrape from the Zangoose's sharp claws. The Cat Ferret Pokémon raised his other claw for a strike, only to see his foe turn and hastily bolt away.

    "Hey, get ba- Agh!"

    The Normal-Type ducked just in time for a plume of fire to pass by, prompting the creature to hastily roll on the ground to put out some stray embers that had singed his pelt. The cat shook his head, and glared furiously at the source of the fire, where a sheepish-looking Flareon stared back at him.

    "Er… you kinda need to stay out of the way, Scian," the Fire-Type said.

    "I need to stay out of the way?!" the Zangoose fumed. "Maybe you should learn how to aim, you-!"

    "Oi you stupid clods, the room is on fire right now!"

    At Scout's exclamation, both Team Traveller and their foes looked up to see that orange flames had spread over the boxes and clutter in the room. The pirates looked up and went wide-eyed as they saw that tendrils of flame had spread to the rafters and begun to char them black.

    "Gah!" Scian yelped. "Quick! Grab the rodent and let's-"

    Nida grabbed a Blast Seed from her bag and wasted no time lobbing it right into the roaring flames. A deafening explosion rocked the room, chased by a wave of heat from the combined power of the flames and the seed and the crash of rafters and dust falling into the room. As the pirates struggled to regain their bearings amid the cloud of disturbed dust and smoke, Nida saw her opportunity for an escape and motioned to her teammates to follow her out.

    "Now!"

    The three ran out the doorway, tearing through the now smoke-filled hallway and up the stairs coughing and gagging. The trio wheezed and panted for air at the steps, limping along for the door, just as the Doublade from the counter floated in from a door separating the backroom from the front.

    "Hey!" the Ghost-Type shouted. "What are you-?!"

    Guardia didn't wait for the Doublade to finish, instead slamming the door behind her and following the rest of the team forward. After putting a good distance between themselves and Scout's captors, they found an alleyway shaded by canvas awnings that looked to be a safe resting place. They gathered there, each Pokemon run ragged and gasping for breath as the smell of dust, smoke, and exertion swirled in the air around them.

    "I- I think we lost them," Nida stammered.

    "Wait…" Pleo said. "Did Scout get out? And where's Elty?"

    Each member of the team looked around, as if expecting the two to simply have rejoined them while no one was looking. Indeed, the Sentret and Growlithe were nowhere to be found. Guardia hummed, one paw on her chin; she couldn't remember seeing where Scout had gotten to, but she did recall seeing Elty scamper out of the basement window in the chaos earlier.

    "He must be off on his right now," the Cubone murmured. "He managed to get out before that Booster torched those boxes we were climbing on."

    "So, then all we have to do is meet up with him again, right?" Pleo answered.

    The young Lugia waited expectantly for an answer from the pair, only for Guardia and Nida to remain silent and shift their glances away uncomfortably. Pleo began to pull his wings up against his body, the young Protector growing increasingly uneasy at his partners' lack of reassurance.

    "… Right?"

    "... Let's head back to the hostel. We can get the rest of our stuff and try to help Scout again before leaving the island tomorrow if things have settled down enough," Nida said, shaking her head. "If he didn't leave us after all this time over this bag, Elty will surely be back later tonight."

    The Poison-Type sighed and led her teammates along to retrace their route back to the hostel. All the while a nagging sense of unease tugged at the three as one question kept coming back to mind over and over again:

    Elty was adamant that he wanted to return back to his crew, but he wouldn't just leave them like this so suddenly…

    Would he?



    After a long day of searching for Team Traveller in the Crystal Mangroves, the Pokémon of the Khranitel Rod had finally returned to the clan's claimed grounds on Braveshoal's outskirts. The creatures were visibly tired and worn-down from the long search, with audibly dispirited grumbles from a day coming back empty-finned drifting along the currents in the water.

    "Urgh… what a day," Dimitri groaned. "I feel like I'm about to faint."

    "You're in no position to be complaining," an accompanying Kingdra scoffed. "It's your fault we had to spend the day searching to begin with!"

    "Wha- My fault?! How is this my fault?!" the Kabutops spluttered. Kuda huffed and gave a glaring scowl at his counterpart, loosening his tongue to give a verbal lashing.

    "If you had just listened to Ataman Viktor and stayed away from that blasted island's waters-"

    "Enough!"

    Dimitri and Kuda turned, seeing the form of a Dragalge glowering at them. After a tense silence, the Poison-Type moved on, swimming up to take his place above the seabed in the midst of a growing throng of Pokémon from the Khranitel Rod.

    "Everyone listen up," he grunted. "I've got a lot to say and not a whole lot of time to say it."

    The gathered sea Pokémon abruptly quieted at their Ataman's barked order, leaving the assembly punctuated only by the quiet churning of the sea and the sound of Viktor clearing his throat to continue speaking.

    "Today, we found out that the Protector and his companions aren't in the Crystal Mangroves or any of the tunnels around it," the Dragalge began. "There's a few possibilities that could have happened, but all of them point to those kids having gone onto Orleigh."

    The Ataman's words drew gasps and a torrent of loud concern from the gathered Pokémon. The god they had encountered was stranded all alone in a pirate haven? Just how much worse could this situation get?

    "Naturally, this means that we're going to have to pay a visit to the place," the seahorse continued. "I will be talking through mission planning with some scouting teams, but I expect the rest of you to prepare for your parts in the matter."

    A chorus of startled murmurs and wide-eyed stares followed the Dragalge's statement. Was Ataman Viktor seriously insinuating that they should try and attack Orleigh? Surely he of all Pokémon had to know that wouldn't end well.

    "I know that this is a more dangerous mission than normal, and I don't ask this lightly of you as your Ataman," Viktor said. "But the future of the waters we swim in could hinge upon what happens out in Orleigh in the next day, and I expect all of us to stick together and fight to make sure that our future wins out."

    The gathered Pokémon bobbed and traded hesitant looks with each other. When he put it that way, it was harder to disagree... but even so, it was hard to work up confidence when even by Viktor's admission the mission was a long shot.

    "That is all," he concluded. "Get whatever you need together tonight, we swim in the morning."

    A long pause hung in the water among the gathered creatures before one after the other, Pokémon from the crowd began to scatter and rummage through bags of netting or hiding places in the reef for supplies for their coming trial. Kuda too turned and began to swim off, only to pause when he felt movement in the water behind him and noticed Dimitri following him.

    "Look, Kuda," the Kabutops began. "About earlier-"

    "Enough," the Kingdra huffed. "I still don't like this, but I know when to table an argument."

    The seahorse turned away and prepared to swim off, only to be stopped by Dimitri raising his voice once again.

    "I'll have your back out there, Kuda," the Kabutops offered.

    The Kingdra turned his head and after a brief pause, gave a nod of his head before continuing on. Content with his comrade's quiet rapprochement, the Kabutops parted ways to grab supplies of his own and prepare for what would surely be the most important mission of his life.



    Back out at sea the search for Team Traveller continued, with Pokémon from the Vasilek prowling the sea and the nearby Subway tunnels in search for the Protector and his compatriots. On the deck, the Clawitzer captain had taken a break from searching, the sound of rummaging coming through an open cabin door before she exited carrying along a cup and a glass bottle sloshing with clear fluid.

    "Ugh… I'm getting too old for this," she grunted. The shrimp poured the contents of the bottle out into the cup and took a swig. As the Howitzer Pokémon began to indulge herself in some much-desired refreshments, her first mate flitted by with a skeptical shake of his head.

    "Uhm… Captain?" the Beedrill buzzed. "Isn't it a bit early to be drinking?"

    "I've been looking through kelp forests and reefs for the last four hours, Jun," the crustacean hissed. "A little vodka won't be the end of the world."

    "No, but it might be the end of the crew's…" her first mate murmured under his breath. Much to Jun's chagrin, Nagant proved to have a stronger sense of hearing than he assumed, as his comments were quickly answered by an agitated wave of her claws.

    "A little flexibility would do you good, Jun," Nagant said as she sucked in a swig of the clear fluid. "Rules are made to be bent every now and then…"

    "Captain! Captain!"

    The pair turned and saw that Cyanea and Katyusha had swum back up against the side of the ship. They were back rather soon from the Crystal Mangroves, but whether that was a good or a bad omen remained to be seen.

    "Does that also extend to those two?" Jun asked, drawing a grumbling roll of his captain's eyes.

    "I'm not dignifying that with a response," she huffed, before training her attention on the duo in the water below.

    "Back so soon?" Nagant asked. "What did you find out there?"

    "Erm… about that…" Katyusha began. "Well, the Protector is kinda not in the dungeon."

    "Katyusha! Give her the context!" Cyanea hissed before trying to reframe the Sharpedo's words to her superior.

    "We found that out after we ran into that Kabutops from earlier again!"

    The Clawitzer dropped her cup, splashing the remains of her drink on the deck. The shrimp carefully balanced herself on her tail, and peered down at the pair with a stern and impatient gaze.

    "And what exactly did you hear?" Nagant prodded.

    "Well, he was there with some other Pokémon from his rod, and they were calling off the search for the Lugia," the Tentacruel explained. "They apparently figured out that he'd managed to get out of the dungeon."

    "Ah!" Jun buzzed. "Then they must have made it to Rosequartz by now!"

    "Yeah. When we chased them into the Crystal Mangroves, their guide had most of their stuff," the Sharpedo added. "A bunch of kids like them would run into trouble fast out in the wilderness without someone to hide behind, or at least some more supplies."

    Nagant moved her little claw to her mouth deep in thought. Whether or not the Protector and his compatriots knew about Orleigh's nature, what she had heard of them hardly seemed to indicate that they were accustomed to roughing it in the wilds. In that case, all routes seemed to lead to Rosequartz Town…

    And to the assumption that they would be encountered by many other Pokémon while there.

    "… Then we should assume that we'll need to extract them," Nagant grunted. "And that the local pirates have figured out his true nature and started making moves to keep the Protector and his companions for themselves."

    "An extraction?" Cyanea asked. "But there's other Pokémon actively hunting for that Protector! We'd have a day at most to get a feel for the town!"

    "It would be a difficult operation for a small team, Captain," Jun murmured.

    "I'm aware of that," the Clawitzer rebutted. "Which is why we're going to have to engage in some gunboat diplomacy."

    Cyanea's eyes widened and her Sharpedo partner's jaw dropped. Even Jun was taken aback with a startled buzz as Katyusha stammered and tried to articulate a response.

    "Captain Nugget, that's insane!" Katyusha exclaimed. "We're a single frigate and that's Orleigh!"

    The captain reflexively glared at the sound of her name being butchered yet again. After a tense pause, the crustacean harrumphed and decided to let the matter slide... for now.

    "I didn't say we were going to be doing it alone!" Nagant hissed. "We'll have to rely on some outside assistance."

    "From whom?" her first mate pressed. "We'd never be able to get reinforcements from the Admiralty in a day, let alone the means to hire mercenaries for that sort of raid."

    The Clawitzer turned to a map pinned on the wall in the cabin where her drink had come from, prompting her to hurry and pull it down to spread it on the deck before her audience. Her eyes darted over the illustrated paper, before settling on a patch of sea with the forms of jellyfish and sunken ships on it, the cartographer's representation of Spirit Trench. The Water-Type paused, before a devious look started to glimmer over her eyes.

    "Don't be so sure about that, Jun."



    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2017
  8. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Back on Orleigh, the form of an orange dog paced down the tight alleys and lanes of Rosequartz Town. Far from his teammates' worries, the Growlithe hurried along, tracing his way down the warren of alleyways for the half-finished Aggron head that marked the Iron Fleet's hideout. With the scaffolding poking out in the distance in between lanes, the Fire-Type began to wag his tail expectantly, newfound vigor coming into each and every step.

    "Almost there," he said to himself. "Almost-"

    "Well, well, well… What do we have here?"

    Elty's fur bristled on end as he recognized the chittering voice from Kenobi. The dog turned to run, only for Valatos to dart out in front of him from above, the Yanmega's Marowak and Manectric teammates quickly closing in from behind with low snarls.

    "Ack!" the Growlithe yelped. "What are you doing here?!"

    "We could ask the same of you, mutt," Nori growled. "After everything that you and your dweeb friends have put us through, you've got some nerve to show your face around us!"

    The Fire-Type began to backpedal and noticed that the three weren't wearing the Company scarves he was expecting. Instead, they were golden, with a silver, spiky teardrop shape on them… the scarves of the Iron Fleet!

    "Why are you wearing those scarves?" Elty stammered. "You're supposed to be stuck in some dead-end job with the Company!"

    "We had to make a sudden career change thanks to you," Alvise snarled. "And we never did get the chance to properly thank you for it."

    Elty gulped at the mention of a "proper thanks" and pulled his ears and tail tight against his body. The dog desperately looked for a route to slip away, but every escape was blocked by the Yanmega and his companions pressing in ever tighter on him.

    "I see you've realized what's going to happen, too," Valatos sneered. "We're going to have veel plezier with you, Growlithe. Lots and lots of-"

    "Eltenios?! Is that you?!"

    The four looked behind the Yanmega to see a surprised-looking Ledian and a flummoxed Hoppip in golden scarves. After a brief moment of stunned silence, the beetle shook his head before giving an annoyed glare at the Growlithe ringed by the new recruits.

    "Ah! Kichiro!" Elty cried, the dog's yelp drawing an annoyed huff from the Ledian.

    "It's Keiichiro," the Bug-Type snapped. "And where have you been?!"

    The Yanmega flitted quietly, casting confused glances back and forth between the Fire-Type, and his new teammate who seemed… familiar with him?!

    "Eh?!" Valatos spluttered. "Wait a minute, you know this fleabag?!"

    "That's because we're from the same crew, geniuses!" Elty huffed

    Valatos and his companions looked at their cornered prey, and then back at their Ledian teammate. They could overpower the Bug-Type and his Hoppip comrade to get their revenge on the mutt… But if they got thrown out from a bottom-feeding crew like the Iron Fleet, just where would they go afterwards? The three furrowed their brows and glared back at Elty before backing off, deciding to relent for now.

    "This isn't over, brat," Nori growled.

    The trio sulkingly backed away, letting their captive walk free and towards an irked Ledian. The Bug-Type's companion, delighted to see a new face, was quick to offer cheery commentary.

    "Wow!" the Hoppip exclaimed. "There's new recruits for our crew everywhere!"

    "Shut up Wilhelm, nobody asked you," the Ledian buzzed annoyedly.

    "… You had trouble filling spots again, didn't you?" Elty sighed.

    "Oi, you didn't help by standing up the crew back at Andaku!" the Bug-Type fumed. "What on earth were you doing there?"

    "… It's a long story," the dog grunted. "I'll explain when we get back to the hideout."

    The Ledian gave a skeptical glance before shrugging the matter off with both sets of shoulders and led his returned teammate ahead, Valatos and his friends following right after. The Bug-Type carried on down a side lane, leading Elty through the door into Hess' half-built base. The Aggron captain was there at the front, chattering with Rodion about a recent visit to the Council. Their chatter didn't continue for long, as the room went quiet and all eyes fell upon the Growlithe as soon as he stepped through the doorway.

    "Eh?! You're back!" a Cherrim exclaimed, only to trail off blankly. "… Wait, who is this again?"

    "It's one of the ship-burners we lost on Tromba," a Litten whispered.

    "Eh?" Hess rumbled. "How'd you manage to get all the way back here on your own?"

    "Well…"

    The Growlithe quickly launched into his tale about what he had experienced since being stranded in Tromba. Of the first night being assigned to 'Community Service' and his time as Team Traveller's punching bag-turned-teammate that drew surprised murmuring after the culprit of the storm turned out to be none other than a fabled sea god.

    From there, the Fire-Type continued on with Lyn's arrival and how fate and perhaps divine interference roped him into a narrow escape to Boisocéan. He then moved on to telling them of their time at the treehut-laden isle before being forced to take flight to Kenobi, the turn of events serving to draw an irked buzz from Valatos as memories of the first time he crossed paths with that mutt and his friends were stirred up.

    "Oh, so that's how you all already knew each other," Kichiro said.

    "Well, frosty introduction aside, your story sounds exactly like why I signed up!" Wilhelm burbled, drawing a skeptical frown and muttering under the Ledian's breath.

    "Someone never learned to be careful with what he wished for."

    Elty's mention of his time in Kenobi drew some sour glares from Valatos and his friends. It was a special indignity to have to listen to that tubby mutt talk about how he and his runty friends had upended their gig on that island. Though since he was talking about it in the first place, it begged a question...

    "Hrmph," the Yanmega hissed. "So where's your friends now then?"

    "Eh, I had to split tracks with them earlier today," Elty said, waving a paw.

    The room suddenly went deathly silent, as the gathered pirates stared at the Growlithe storyteller. A few surprised looks went around, others apprehensive. If Eltenios hadn't misspoken, then that meant...

    "Wait, so you're telling me that that 'Lugia' thing from Tromba is here?" Hess asked. "How come you split up only now?"

    "His spike ball friend is holding my bag hostage," the Growlithe grumbled. "It's why I didn't ditch them earlier."

    "Oh, you mean that thing that you've had since you joined our crew?" the Aggron prodded.

    "Yeah," Elty sighed. "I still need to figure out how to get that back…"

    "Oh, don't worry about that," the Steel-Type replied, giving a reassuring wave of his claws. "I'm sure we can work something out."

    "Wait, really?" the dog asked.

    "Of course!" the captain insisted. "This is the Iron Fleet, after all we look out for our own!"

    "Uh…" a Noibat murmured. "But what about all the 'mons that we left behi-"

    THWAM

    The Flying-Type's chatter was swiftly replaced with a heavy blow and a yelp as Hess slammed the bat out of the air with a downward punch. The hapless creature plummeted to the ground with a loud thump, and sprawled out on the floor dazed and groaning. The Aggron cleared his throat and gave a wag of his tail, trying his hardest to sweep the Noibat's undue frankness back under the rug.

    "So… what do you say?" Hess offered. "Needed a helping hand there?"

    "I'll take it," Elty answered. "It'll let me hit the ground running joining up with the crew again."

    "Enough about the bag already," a Pawniard snapped. "Keep going on with the story."

    The Growlithe opened his mouth to continue, only to notice that the shadows from the window had grown long and the sky outside had turned a dim orange color. The Fire-Type paused for a moment, wondering if it was proper to leave Team Traveller to take care of themselves. Bag aside, this was a rough town…

    Though then again, they'd handled themselves just fine back on Kenobi. And he knew from experience that the spike ball and bonehead could give some mean hits...

    "Eh…" Elty whispered to himself. "One night won't hurt that much."

    "We're waiting..."

    "Aherm… right," the Growlithe said. "So as I was saying…"

    The Growlithe continued with his story, the rapt attention from his old peers serving to make him more and more at ease inside the half-built base. The dog carried on with his tale, covering mishap and misadventure as he told of the team's stint in Otvaga and their meeting with Nerea. As the sun began to set and the skies darkened, his concerns about Team Traveller's well-being similarly ebbed away.

    Life had been a whirlwind since that fateful day in Tromba; but in that moment, everything seemed to melt away as the Fire-Type once again began to feel at home.



    Back on Mengir, the day quickly whiled away under the glare of the withering sun. Crom and Pladur passed the hours fitting planks together and driving Iron Thorns in to fasten them in place. Kiran and Salvini spent their time flying and carrying up rafters and wooden shingles for the shrine's structures, where they slowly began to assemble them into something vaguely resembling roofing. Ander too was kept busy, spending his time hacking and sawing wood with his blades, if careful to avoid straying too close to the shrine or its shadow.

    In spite of all this, the same gnawing sense that something was amiss with the shrine's site was never far away. While laying the foundation, Pladur chanced to notice the Apricorn fields in the distance, manned by Pokémon toiling away in between the rows of bushes. Even Salvini didn't seem to have much of a defense for the fields, brusquely dismissing it as how Administrator Zorn ran things and beyond her ability to question.

    "Wait!"

    "Huh?!" Pladur cried. "What's wrong?!"

    But more pertinently to the five's efforts, they had discovered one of the beams holding up the shrine's unfinished roof was noticeably thicker at the top than at the bottom....

    "We put in the support beam upside down!" Kiran exclaimed.

    "We already nailed it in," Ander sighed. "If we take it out, we're going to have to also take out everything that's been built on top of it."

    The group looked at the beam, and blanched as the enormity of Ander's words began to sink in. They had already fallen behind just getting to where they were with the shrine. If they had to redo the entire roof, they'd have better odds of finding a Red Gyarados than finishing in time to collect their reward from Hertsog!

    "Ugh… figures that the last thing that I wanted to do for this town would also be something I couldn't finish," Salvini mumbled.

    "Huh?" Crom asked. "What do you mean by that?"

    "I mean that I'm getting reassigned after tomorrow night," the Grovyle explained. "There's no way we'd be able to finish this just between the five of us by then!"

    "… I'm sure that we can work something out, Salvini-" Kiran began, only to be interrupted by an abrupt question.

    "But why are you getting reassigned?"

    An uneasy silence followed, as Crom quickly became aware that all eyes in the group had shifted to him after his outburst. The young Druddigon batted his wings uncomfortably, before deciding to try asking again less emphatically.

    "Did something happen?" he questioned.

    "… Nothing that you need to worry about," the Grass-Type muttered.

    "Eh? But why not?" the Druddigon pressed. The nettle lizard turned with an expectant gaze to the Wood Gecko, only for her to rebuff him with a defensive cross of her arms.

    "Why do you care so much about some stranger's problems?" she huffed. “It’s rude to nose around in others’ lives unasked, you know.”

    "Because you seem like a nice Pokémon and I want to know what's wrong…” Crom trailed off.

    Why was Salvini being this evasive…? What could she have gotten involved with that would make her so unwilling to talk...? The thought crossed the young dragon's mind that the two had both received messages from a common stranger earlier that morning. So then...

    "Did it have something to do with the Pokémon that wrote our letters?" the Druddigon asked. "He was a Skarmory, right?"

    The Grovyle stomped her foot and reflexively fanned out her arm blades, making Crom jump back with a yelp. Wh-What was wrong? Why'd she get mad all of a sudden?

    "I said it’s nothing you need to worry about, Druddigon!" she fumed. "I’ve already gotten enough headaches thinking about birds to last a lifetime, so either lay off, or leave like that Skarmory and that overgrown Wingull!"

    Crom and his companions went slack-jawed at the gecko's explanation. There was only one Pokémon that that 'overgrown Wingull' could be, prompting a torrent of exclamations to break the stunned silence.

    "Wh-What?!" Kiran squawked.

    "You saw Pleo and helped him get away?!" Crom exclaimed.

    "Where did he go?!" Pladur cried. "He had to have told you something, right?"

    The Grovyle froze, her yellow eyes widened and startled as she realized that she'd spoken too much. If these strangers felt like it, they had all they needed to dredge up the Company tribunal that had almost ended her, without the benefit of a superior to vouch for her innocence.

    Then again, they too seemed to have something to hide. But after everything that had already happened, it was hard to think of anything to say that wouldn't potentially make things worse…

    With one exception.

    "I- I've already said too much as is," she muttered.

    "Look," Ander began. "If you would be able to tell us-"

    "No. I've already messed up my life enough by doing things without thinking them through," Salvini hissed. "I don't need to do it again with you!"

    Salvini and the others stared down each other, each waiting for the other to yield. Much to Crom's dismay, the gecko's scowl remained as firm and entrenched as ever... Was there really no way to convince her to tell where Pleo went?

    "Is- Is there really nothing you can tell us?" the Druddigon pleaded.

    "I'm sorry. I've already paid a lot for what I did," she answered. "I can't risk letting that sacrifice be for nothing."

    A tense silence hung in the air as Salvini and the Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow stared at each other, only for a sudden flare of light to sweep over their eyes. The group turned off towards the horizon, where they saw that the sun had begun to set, turning the sky a dull orange. It wouldn't be long before it slipped over the horizon and the visibility started dropping, a dangerous situation given how aggressive the local ferals had shown themselves to be just yesterday.

    "It's getting dark," Ander murmured. "We'd probably do better to call it a day here and come back tomorrow."

    "That's right. Those ferals will be back before long," Pladur gulped. "I don't think we'd be able to get much done having to constantly fight off ambushes."

    "I mean... I don't know how much I'll get done," Salvini said. "But I won't give up on this shrine while I'm still here."

    The five uneasily started to pack up the supplies and tools around the worksite, eager to beat the sunset. All the while, Crom still felt a nagging dissatisfaction with how things had gone, prompting the young Dragon-Type to sidle over to Salvini to try and appeal for her help one last time.

    "Salvini, can you-" Crom stuttered. "Please... at least think about telling us where Pleo went later?"

    "... I will," she hesitantly answered.

    The group set off shambling down the path for Fensedge, weighed down by the exertions of a long day of work, along with a sense of looming dread. Every time Crom and his companions looked back in the direction of the shrine's hilltop, they saw the incomplete bones of their work. If they weren't able to finish tomorrow, they wouldn't be paid by Hertsog, and the Siglo Swellow would be stuck in port for at least another a few days, perhaps longer. But… with everything that was left to be done, how on earth could they overcome this obstacle?



    Back on Orleigh, evening gave way to night, but even after the full moon reached its zenith in the sky, Elty still had not returned back to Rasp's hostel. The Growlithe's absence started to weigh on the remaining members of Team Traveller, prompting them to ask Rasp for help keeping an eye out for the dog around the market district, just in case he had not been as fortunate as they presumed.

    The three ate dinner at the hostel's dining hall and retired to their room, the unease over Elty's absence compounded by the discovery that the team's coin purse was running low yet again. And so it was that the three opted to retire for the night under the glow of the full moon.

    Uwaaah…

    Or, at least, they had been trying to for several hours. Every time the group finally fell asleep, they were startled awake by the sound of mournful crying from outside. Pleo stirred drowsily in his straw bedding, looking over at his Nidoran teammate at the other side of the window.

    "Nrgh… Again?" Pleo yawned. "I thought that the crying stopped earlier!"

    "It did," Nida groaned. "But I don't know why it's back, or how Guardia can sleep through this. I haven't heard a peep from her tonight!"

    The young Protector shifted tiredly against his bedding, trying in vain to sleep in spite of the crying. It had been a second night with the same voice crying off in the distance, the voice they hadn't gone to help last night…

    Was it crying because it was alone? That would surely be a tough thing to bear alone in this town... Though... Elty was probably all alone himself. Was he also going through something like this?

    "... Do you think that maybe someone else here has been going through a hard time too?" the little Lugia murmured.

    "I don't know what that crying Pokémon is going through," the Nidoran sighed back. "But we're the ones having a hard time thanks to it right now."

    "Actually… I was talking about Elty."

    Pleo looked around, his glances doing nothing to dispel the sense that the room felt noticeably emptier than the night before. Elty's bedding was still empty and unclaimed, and Guardia's spot from the dresser still sounded as silent as ever. The young Lugia pulled his head against his neck uncomfortably, giving an uneasy glance over to his Nidoran partner.

    "Are we doing the right thing just trying to sleep, Nida?" Pleo insisted. "What if Elty's hurt? Or worse?"

    "He's not that helpless, Pleo," Nida countered. "And as long as I've got his bag, he won't be going too far…"

    "Are you sure about that, Nida?"

    Nida thought and twitched her whiskers uneasily. On one level, Orleigh's alleyways weren't that safe given their run-in with the Marked pirates yesterday. On the other hand, if they went out to search for Elty, they'd be doing so knowing even less about their surroundings than he did... and with how they had entered town, would he even want them to find him?

    "Yes. Let's just try and get some rest," she sighed. "We need you rested up if you're going to be able to fly us to Sormus tomorrow."

    Nida settled back into her straw bedding, watching as Pleo preened a few feathers before he too settled down for rest. The Nidoran closed her eyes, only for the crying outside to stifle her attempts to drift off into slumber. After some turning this way and that way, the Poison-Type cracked her eyes open and looked up at the full moon in the sky.

    Even in this safe harbor on this pirate-infested den, it seemed that proper sleep was ever elusive. Hopefully Pleo's wing would be better tomorrow, so that Orleigh and its sordid environment would soon be able to be left to slip into the realm of unwelcome memories.



    Author's Notes:

    - Jedną rzecz na raz! - Polish: "One thing at a time!"
    - As ucht déithe - Irish: "For the gods' sake".
    - cajero - Spanish (Southern Cone): "shopkeeper, cashier"
    - Booster (ブースター) - Japanese: "Flareon" (Official Romanization)
    - veel plezier - Dutch: "lots of fun"
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2017
  9. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    At first I thought the logo for this arc was a footprint, but no! It's the Iron Fleet's crest!

    Pffft, I dunno what the others are on about, this seems perfectly logical to me. xD
    Pleo using a nipper's discount is the most adorable thing ever.
    Ogod Ketu is obnoxious. Like...I'm no fan of Ellsburg, but maaaan, Ketu needs some karma to catch up with him.
    Lol, my first thought when I read this was that this shop has gotta just be a front...except why would you even need a front in a pirate town? xD
    Alright, I gotta call Crom out for metagaming here. :p Yes, we know that Salvini's reassignment is a punishment for a dramatic incident, but he doesn't know that. So it reads like he has this sort of sixth-sense where he can detect that this offhand comment is really super important and absolutely needs elaboration. It really doesn't seem like there'd be any reason to suspect that she's hiding something unless he's a mind-reader. :p Maybe if she'd let slip something subtle about her reassignment being a negative one as opposed to just...transferring to another department or any number of potential innocent explanations.


    I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what befalls them on Pioppo Island! Sounds like it'll be pretty interesting. So until next time~

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
  10. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Ding ding ding. We have a winner.

    Well, under a certain set of assumptions, it certainly is logical. o3o

    Well hey, every proper "Wingull" has a suitably sticky beak.

    All in due time, my good sir.

    Something something, no honor among thieves. Infighting over spoils is a problem pirates and other ne'er-do-wells have faced through the ages.

    Hrm... Will have to see what I can do to have her let something slip that more clearly gives an undertone of it being a punishment.

    It admittedly will be a little bit before we get to Pioppo, though hopefully you find the journey as fun as the ultimate destination.

    Speaking of journeys, I'm back with a fresh update, which should tide things over until around early march. My special thanks for helping make this chapter a reality goes to Virgil134, VeniaSilente, and sugoitsu from ff.net along with the readers and reviewers who help me stay on the ball for helping to make this story the best that it can be.

    And with that, let's pick up where we left off last time:

    [​IMG]

    Crom and his companions plodded up the path leading to the shrine, their glum and trepid mood from yesterday's rough progress hung in the air like a cloud as they beheld the half-repaired shrine before them. At least the supplies they'd left had gone undisturbed overnight, the lumber and Iron Thorns unmoved from the places they left from the prior evening.

    "Er… where do we start?" Pladur asked.

    "I suppose we could redo that support pillar," Ander buzzed. "But I'm not sure how we'll manage to get the roofing done in time… or the painting for that matter."

    "… We're not going to finish, are we?" Crom murmured.

    Kiran paused and went silent, struggling to try and think of something to say back, only to fail to come up with any candid reassurance. The Swellow ruffled his feathers uncomfortably and shook his head, deciding that perhaps the best that could be done was to simply speak his mind.

    "Let's try at least, alright?" the Flying-Type offered. "I can't say how this will turn out, but let's do our best, and keep up hope that we'll make things work out."

    "I guess so…"

    "Hey!"

    The group turned to the source of the voice, where they saw Salvini rushing up the path towards them. She covered the ground between them with impressive speed, only stopping to catch her breath once she'd caught up with the others.

    "Sorry I'm late," the Grovyle said. "I got held up by some last-minute packing on the way up."

    "It's alright," Ander sighed. "You haven't missed much yet."

    "Oh?" an inquiring voice asked from the shrine's entrance. "But it seems that you've made a decent amount of progress."

    The group turned to the entrance of the shrine, where a certain Mienshao waved over at them from behind the unfinished pavilion, ambling over as he passively sized up their progress on the shrine thus far.

    "Hertsog!"

    "Sorry I couldn't make it yesterday," the Mienshao apologized. "But since it's the last day, I decided to set things aside to try and make it count."

    "It's alright," Pladur answered. "If it wasn't for Salvini here, I don't think we'd have gotten as far as we could have."

    "Salvini?" the weasel wondered.

    Hertsog turned and blinked, startling somewhat at the Wood Gecko's presence behind his hired help.

    "What are you doing here?" he asked. "I thought you said you were too busy."

    "Er… well…" she began. "A friend let me know that you were busy specifically with trying to fix this place up, and-"

    Salvini stopped mid-sentence as a familiar Leafeon and Ariados emerged from around the bend of the path, scanning the scene for the whiskered face of their former superior.

    "Hertsog?" the Leafeon called out. "Are you there?"

    "Yeah, we got your letter," the Ariados added. "Why didn't you tell us that this was what you were up to the first time? We'd have helped-"

    Payak abruptly froze in place as the rest of the gathering came into view, along with the form of a familiar gecko standing among them. The sight similarly did not elude Phyllis, who like her spider partner, uncomfortably shifted her glance away from the group.

    "Oh… you managed to get everyone together again," Phyllis murmured.

    "Who are the new Pokémon anyways?" Payak questioned. The Ariados shifted his gaze and noticed Ander working at his woodpile, eliciting an uneasy shake of the Bug-Type's abdomen.

    "And what's that Scyther doing here?"

    "They're some help that I hired. But you'll help, won't you?" Hertsog asked. "With all the work that I see that needs to be done, I'm not sure we could finish without a couple extra paws."

    The pair paused and looked at each other uneasily, unsure what to make about the unexpected Pokémon present. After a moment to visibly mull the matter, the pair turned back to the Mienshao, ready to announce their decisions…

    "… Yeah, I guess I'm in," the spider chittered.

    "I wasn't really sure what I could do to help," Phyllis mumbled, "But if you already have another Marked here…"

    "Then let's get to work," Kiran chirped. "It sounds like we don't have any time to lose here."

    The Swellow and his partners set off at once for the worksite, uncovering the supplies to begin their day's work. The newcomer Leafeon and Ariados similarly joined in, though for one reason or another seemed to keep their distance from Salvini… Ah, there'd be time to ask about it later, Kiran reasoned.

    For now, there was a shrine to be rebuilt.



    "He's still not back?"

    Pleo's words hung in the air as Team Traveller shambled out of their room and into the hallway leading downstairs. The three Pokémon carried on tiredly, yawning and squinting against the morning sunlight coming through the windows as they made their way for the hostel's lobby. It was a brand new day, and in spite of their hopes, their missing teammate still hadn't returned.

    "Maybe something really did happen to him out there..." Guardia murmured.

    "But what are we supposed to do?" Pleo asked. "We can't wait here forever for him!"

    The little Lugia hopped off a short flight of steps and soared down ahead into the lobby. The white bird pulled his wings in and started to sleepily preen his feathers when he looked up and noticed Guardia and Nida staring at him slack-jawed.

    "Pleo, you just flew!" Guardia exclaimed.

    "Did it hurt at all?" Nida added.

    Pleo's eyes went wide as the realization dawned on him: he really did just take off, and barely felt a thing! The Lugia gave a surprised, disbelieving beat of his wing, moving it back and forth a few times.

    "I mean, it's still a little sore, but I didn't notice it," Pleo murmured. "Does… this mean it's better now?"

    "If it's not, it's really close. And that means that we can get off this island and move on to Sormus-" Nida began, only to be cut off by the sound of a sharp hiss from behind.

    "Oi, careful about flying around inside! These furnishings aren't easy to replace!"

    The three flinched at the sound of the chittering scold and turned as heavy footsteps stomped up. There, looking over them was none other than the hostel's visibly unamused Flygon proprietor.

    "Oh, er… sorry about that," Pleo yawned. "We'll be more careful next time."

    "I guess it's alright," the Flygon sighed, giving a shake of his head. "But isn't it a bit late in the morning for you to be yawning like that?"

    "We were kept up by a crying Pokémon last night," Nida explained. "By the time we finally fell asleep it was the early morning."

    "And Elty still hasn't come back…" Pleo muttered. "You would still be able to help us find him, right?"

    "I would," Rasp responded. "But I have to drop off a replacement mat for my father first."

    "Oh... well, fair enough, I guess," the Lugia muttered, heaving a heavy sigh. Even though Rasp had been so helpful so far, it was a shame that he wasn't able to look out for their lost teammate.

    "Sorry if it's not all that helpful," the antlion murmured. "But I've already lost a bit of time unlocking this place and doing the morning rounds. Around these parts, you have to look out for your own first."

    "I guess that's understandable," Nida sighed.

    "If he's still not back after I'm done, I'll take you around to look for him," Rasp reassured. "But until then, hang in tight, okay?"

    Rasp nodded to the young Pokemon and left, his father's mat under one arm. Nida and her friends watched him shuffle into the crowd outside, standing around for a moment unsure of where to go from there.

    "There you all are!"

    Pleo, Nida, and Guardia jolted upright and turned around at the sound of the familiar yipping voice. There behind them was none other than their missing Growlithe teammate, prancing along full of morning vigor… seemingly none the worse for wear and without a hint of unease over being absent overnight.

    "Elty?!"

    "So…?" the Growlithe began. "What did I miss?"

    "Eh?! Where have you been?!" Guardia demanded. "We just told Rasp that you were still missing!"

    "I had to lay low after some Torrent Tsars spotted me leaving that 'scavver shop'," Elty answered. "By the time I got back, it was the middle of the night and you locked the room up."

    "Wait, but then why didn't Rasp see you earlier?" Nida asked. "He would have told us if he knew you were around."

    The Growlithe blinked, seemingly lost at his teammate's question. After a shake of his head, Elty folded his ears back, and gave a sheepish smile.

    "Er… I wound up sleeping in a broom closet," the little dog insisted. "You know, someplace quiet to crash?"

    "Eh? But Rasp just came by saying that he unlocked the hostel this morning," Pleo murmured. "How did you get in before then?"

    Elty visibly paused, deep in uneasy thought. After having an answer come to mind, he gave a dismissive wave of his paw and disarming wag of his tail.

    "Uh… Well, I didn't start in the closet," he explained. "I dozed off in a box in front of the door when I couldn't find a way in. Rasp must've moved it indoors while I was sleeping."

    Nida and Guardia traded dubious glances with one another, and even Pleo seemed to find the Fire-Type's tale a bit hard to swallow. He'd found a box to doze off in right in front of the inn and Rasp brought it in without noticing his extra weight or snoring? There was surely something that he wasn't telling them...

    "Anyhow, while I was out, I think that I found a lead for Blackmoon Village that you might find handy," the Growlithe offered.

    "Oh?" Pleo chirped. "What was it?"

    "One of the shopkeepers near the docks said that she knew a thing or two about it," he offered. "She said that she'd be open to telling about the place if we came during her break."

    "Oh?" Guardia asked, eyeing Elty dubiously. "Care to give a little more detail there?"

    "Eh… It's hard to put in words, but I'll lead the way," the dog insisted. "I'm the one who knows the way around this town, after all."

    Nida, Pleo, and Guardia stared hesitantly at Elty. His story obviously sounded fishy... On the other hand, this was the port he called home, and he'd come back for them when he could have just run off. All the more to think that they were making making much ado out of nothing here.

    "Alright, lead the way," Nida sighed.

    The Growlithe obliged with unusual enthusiasm, bounding out the door and beckoning for the others to follow. The others tagged along into the morning sun, eager to meet this shopkeeper to find a lead to Pioppo Island. The now-reunited group carried on following the heels of their canine guide, none the wiser that he once again led them along with a knowing smirk.



    At the hillside shrine overlooking Fensedge Village, the repairs went by smoother than Crom could have imagined coming up the path. The process of Pladur and Hertsog replacing the upside-down support beam flew by quickly, leaving Kiran and Payak to work on the roofing and free the pair to help Salvini right and reassemble the toppled monoliths. Phyllis, unable to fully be swayed from her aversion to the site was kept busy providing support splitting shingles for the roof. At the same time, her Scyther counterpart took a reprieve to slip a pair of canvas sheathes over his blades. The Bug-Type stopped to dab some charcoal dust on them before sketching some shapes onto paper which the others surmised to be cutting patterns.

    After a few hours of work, the shrine's buildings began to slowly take form, serving to lift Crom's spirits as he helped to ferry batches of shingles and Iron Thorns to and fro. His latest delivery took him over to the side of a small pavilion taking shape near the path where his team captain swooped down in order to carry them back up.

    "Heh, I think it's actually starting to look like a shrine now!" the young Druddigon exclaimed.

    "Well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves, Crom," the Swellow chided. "These roofs still needs to be finished."

    "Er… right."

    "I think I can handle the rest here," Kiran chirped. "Maybe see if the others need an extra set of claws to help."

    Crom nodded and wandered off to check on his coworkers. Up near the roof of the larger pavilion which needed the beam transplant, he found Phyllis and Payak working together. The former sticking tiles onto a strand of Payak's web on the ground so that he could pull them up to the roof. Currently, the Ariados looked a little disgruntled as he inspected a curved tile which didn't seem to fit onto that section of the roof at all.

    "Eh? Phyllis?" the Bug-Type murmured. "You keep sending me tiles that don't fit for this roof."

    "Izvinyavaĭ, it's just really hard to judge what you need from down here," the Leafeon said.

    "... Look, I know you feel… different about this place than most Pokémon," the Ariados began. "But your help would really come in handy up here. I can't exactly cut these tiles up if they don't fit, you know."

    Payak looked down and saw Salvini approaching under his rooftop perch. The Grovyle paused and looked up uneasily, placing a claw tentatively on one of the pillars and weighing whether or not to head up.

    "Hey, Payak… did you need-?"

    "... Nevermind, I'll figure something out on my own," the Ariados chittered.

    Salvini glanced up at her former teammate, a pleading look in her eyes. It found no purchase with Payak however, who pretended to busy himself adjusting some roof tiles. The Grovyle sighed and let the matter rest, wandering off to make herself useful elsewhere, prompting Crom to turn back puzzledly to the rooftop spider.

    "Eh?" Crom asked. "How come you didn't let Salvini help you?"

    "Er… I don't think that she'd work well with us, young one," Phyllis answered, shaking her head.

    "Huh? But why not?" the Druddigon murmured. "You need another Pokémon to help, don't you?"

    "We had a falling out over her deciding to put her feelings before work, and it wound up coming back to bite us all," Payak harrumphed. "I just can't work with 'mons like that."

    "But- But she always tries to help out other Pokémon, though," Crom insisted.

    The two Pokemon eyed one another warily, glancing back at the young Druddigon with a hint of skepticism etched across their faces. Neither one said anything though, instead allowing Crom to continue his explanation.

    "I mean, she does seem like the type who might get into more than she bargained for in the process..." the Dragon-Type began. "But from what I've seen of her, she just seems like she's trying to brighten others' days."

    The three looked at each other uneasily for a moment, before the Druddigon shuffled along. Crom looked over his shoulder and saw that Payak and Phyllis both seemed to be deep in thought, as if visibly wavering on a hard decision.

    "Well, I can't say he was really wrong there," Phyllis murmured. "She always was one to try and help out, even if it meant crossing a line."

    "If she'd only known where to draw the line," Payak sighed. "Then we'd all be doing our rounds right now and we wouldn't be having this conversation."

    "... But, then would she really still be Salvini?"

    The Ariados paused and mulled the matter over, before turning and calling out just loud enough for Crom to hear in the distance:

    "... Salvini?" he asked. "Were you still up for helping out with those tiles?"

    In the meantime, Crom continued along, heading over to the shrine's now-righted stone menhir to pick up a new bucket of paint when he heard footsteps pattering up behind him.

    "Hey! Kiran let you go already?" Pladur asked.

    "Oh, I was actually looking for some more work to do," the young Druddigon said. "Is there anything else we need to assemble?"

    "Nothing here," his father replied. "Why, this shrine's been put together enough that we ought to start painting it!"

    "Oh? What's this place supposed to look like?" Crom wondered.

    Pladur opened his mouth to respond, but failed to find an answer as he stared blankly at the shrine and realized he didn't actually have any clue beyond Hertsog's sketches as to what the shrine looked like. While the Fighting-Type certainly had a decent command of perspective, there was not a clue as to what colors filled in the parts of the shrine scribbled out by the charcoal streaks.

    "Er… now that you mention it…" Pladur murmured.

    As he scanned the area for some guidance on the matter, he caught sight of Hertsog passing nearby. He held up a claw to stop him and ask for some advice.

    "Hertsog!" the Fraxure cried. "Do you know how this place is supposed to be painted?"

    "Well… the roofs were deep royal blue, and I remember the railings were grayish white," the weasel answered. "And there was a mural of our Protector on the rear walls."

    "Oh?" Crom asked. "What did it look like?"

    Hertsog frowned and held his paw to his chin. The mustelid thought, and thought, before giving an uneasy twitch of his whiskers. No matter how hard he racked his brain, he simply couldn't think of an answer to the Druddigon's question. Gah! If only he had better documented the shrine as it once was!

    "Erm…"

    "Check in my bag, Hertsog!" Salvini's voice called.

    "Oh?"

    The weasel followed Salvini's claw along to a small bag that had been set beside one of the menhirs. There, he slipped his fur-sleeved paws in and opened it to see a stack of papers blackened with charcoal. The Mienshao pulled them out and began to peruse them, quickly realizing that they were all scenes depicting the great stag that was Protector of their island.

    "Ah! That's right! They looked like these rubbings!" Hertsog exclaimed. "… Except, it's missing the colors for it."

    "Er…" Pladur murmured. "I don't know how we could solve that-"

    "Like so."

    The Scyther held out his blades before the Fighting-Type, holding a few scraps of paper between them with his flats. Hertsog gave a curious twitch of his whiskers before taking them and looking through them. There, on them were the forms of a great blue-and-black stag with many-hued horns... Ah! This was it! These were the colors the Protector had been painted in so many years ago!

    "These ought to give you an idea of what to work with," Ander offered.

    "Huh?" Kiran asked. "But where did you get these, Ander?"

    "... I remembered seeing some drawings from long ago," the mantis answered. "It's no big deal."

    The Swellow paused, looking down at the sketches still incredulous at Ander's change of heart. The Flying-Type slowly stuffed away the drawings, before clearing his throat, fishing for something to say back.

    "... Thank you," the bird answered.

    The Bug-Type gave a dismissive wave of his blade and shuffled off to go and help Phyllis with her task of splitting shingles. From there, Hertsog and Pladur headed off with the drawings to go and prepare paint for the emergent shrine as Crom and Kiran occasionally gave glances at the Marked Scyther wondering what had swayed him so...

    And wondering how it would be best to give them their thanks later.



    Back in Rosequartz Town, Elty's guidance led the team deep into the settlement's warrens. The four passed alleys and shifty-looking lanes before reaching a place where the whiff of seawater reached their noses. They were evidently close to the harbor, near enough that the masts of the ships in harbor peeked over the nearby rooftops. The Fire-Type led his teammates along into a courtyard behind a cluster of sleepy shops, Guardia casting a wary glance at her surroundings as she paced deeper in.

    "So... how did you meet this Pokémon again?" she asked.

    "Yeah, didn't you say you had to lay low the whole time?" Nida pressed.

    "I heard about her from the 'mons that hid me," Elty answered. "They told me she'd be here and that this was the best time to try and talk with her."

    "Huh?" Pleo wondered. "But who told you?"

    "A not-so little bird told him," a low, rumbling voice answered.

    Nida and Pleo froze and felt their blood run cold at the voice. Just then, a flurry of activity broke out as one after the other, Pokémon in golden scarves emerged from alleys and behind boxes, casting predatory sneers. Guardia too blanched as she saw that intermingled among the faces were those of a familiar Yanmega, Marowak, and Manectric. With a tremor along the ground, the owner of the low voice soon made himself known as the hulking form of none other than Hess. The captain of the Iron Fleet stepped forward with a growl, staring down his newly encircled victims.

    "It's been a long time, brats," the Aggron sneered.

    At once, Nida, Guardia, and Pleo realized what Elty had been hiding from them. He was waiting to lead them into this ambush! Filled with rage and disgust, Nida whirled to the Fire-Type, baring her teeth and seething.

    "Elty, you betrayed us?!" the Nidoran shouted. "Why would you do this?!"

    Some puzzled stares went about the gathered pirates, mixed with stifled snickering. Among them was a bemused-looking Ledian, who gave a teasing look at his Growlithe counterpart.

    "Wait, Elty?" Kichiro snickered. "That's what they've been calling you?"

    The Fire-Type folded his ears back and snorted out a few cinders with an annoyed huff. That spike ball just had to leave something behind after they parted ways, didn't she? The dog shook his head, turning his attention back to the glaring Nidoran.

    "Look, this is my place and I told you I was leaving once I got my bag back," the dog growled. "So fork it over peacefully, and then you're free to-"

    "Spend a nice long stay with us as hostages," Hess added.

    At once, Elty's eyes widened and his fur stood up out of surprise. That- That wasn't why he led Team Traveller here at all! What was Hess doing?

    "H-Huh?" the Fire-Type protested. "But I thought we were just getting my bag back."

    "I'm getting something back for all the grief their stupid hick town has caused me," the Aggron growled. "Some ransom money sounds like a good consolation!"

    "Ransom money?" Pleo gulped.

    The Steel-Type gave a heavy stomp against the ground, prompting Team Traveller's hearts to race as a low snarl from the pirate captain filled the air.

    "As for you three, I'd suggest you know when you're beat," Hess growled. "Even that little bone-headed monster of yours can't help you in a fight with my entire crew!"

    A few of Hess' cronies chuckled nervously, no doubt remembering their recent abortive raid on Bluewhorl. Although their captain was menacing, no one could quite forget the sight of the Aggron being blown clear across the island by none other than the seabird he was currently trying to intimidate. Hess glanced at the uneasy-looking crew, his menacing visage quickly slipping into a nervous one as he too remembered Pleo's power. He quickly shook the expression away; his crew would never let him live it down if he backed down now. With some effort, he pulled his face back into a mean snarl and rallied his crew.

    "H-Hey, what's with that attitude!" he chided. "It won't be that hard to teach these brats a lesson!"

    Hess gritted his teeth and stomped the ground again, thrusting his face towards Pleo's. The young Lugia flinched and shrank away, but even after asserting his dominance, Hess had trouble shaking the nervous undertone from his voice.

    "G-Go ahead, try me!"

    Pleo brought his wings together with a startled squawk, prompting the Aggron to flinch and reflexively stumbled back at the gust. After realizing that his feet were still firmly rooted to the ground and the attack left little more than a dull breeze, the Steel-Type blinked before turning back to Team Traveller with a predatory smirk creeping over his maw.

    "I was right? I mean- I was right!" he crowed. "Hah! You really don't know how to control your own power!"

    Some derisive laughs went around the gathered gold-scarves. Maybe they couldn't handle this 'Protector' back on Tromba, but they could certainly handle him now. Pleo, Nida, and Guardia inched back uncomfortably as the pirates began to close in with battle stances, not least including their Aggron taunter ahead giving a few explorative taps against the ground to sense out underground stones.

    "Well, unfortunately for you," the Steel-Type sneered. "We do!"

    Hess crouched and readied himself for a stomping leap, prompting Nida, Pleo, and Guardia to flinch and brace themselves for the Aggron's incoming blow. Elty watched as the Steel-Type leapt up and reflexively tackled the other members of Team Traveller back, sending them stumbling back as a mass of stones ripped out of the earth and sailed overhead. The Rock Slide carried on, sailing across the gathering trailing a plume of dust and dirt. The oncoming mass of earth prompted Pokémon to hastily scurry out of the way in a panic, before it collided directly into a hapless Voltorb.

    "Augh!"

    Nida thrashed against the feeling of a heavier body pinning hers down, reflexively kicking at the furry presence and flinging it off of her. As Elty tumbled back with a yelp, the Poison-Type saw that amidst the dusty confusion, there was an open path for the street outside, prompting her to reflexively cry out to draw her teammates' attention.

    "Run!"

    Team Traveller bolted for the exit under the cover of the nascent dust cloud as attack after attack flew in their direction. With each assault, the dust cloud grew larger and thicker until it enveloped the entire courtyard in a confusing mass of shouts, coughing, and pained yowls. Sensing that his underlings were now hitting each other more than their targets, Hess stomped the ground, hastily bellowing out for order.

    "Gah! Cease fire! Cease fire!" the Aggron shouted.

    The Steel-Type coughed as the dust swirled and settled out of the air, revealing a cohort of battered and confused pirates... with the three blue-scarfed brats nowhere to be seen.

    "Wh-What?!" Hess exclaimed. "How did-?!"

    As some confused looks filtered around, Elty felt something grab him by the nape of his neck and lift him off the ground. The Fire-Type reflexively flailed, before coming face-to-face with a seething Ledian.

    "What did you do, Elty?!" Kichiro hissed.

    The Growlithe pawed at the spot where Nida kicked him, scowling at the indignity of being lifted off the ground and having his name knowingly botched. Sensing that he needed to clear the air quickly, Elty quickly shot back at the Ledian's insinuations.

    "I jumped the gun, alright?" the Growlithe huffed back defensively. "Why are you giving me the third degree? That rabbit just kicked m-"

    "Oi!" Rodion exclaimed. "They're making a break for it!"

    "Huh?!" Hess looked up, catching sight of Pleo beating his wings for takeoff. With Nida and Guardia hanging on tight, he finally managed to lift off the ground… but his flight was short-lived, as a sudden crosswind blew him off-course, sending him spiraling down again.

    "After them!" he bellowed.

    The Aggron stormed off, his underlings swarming after him as Nida, Pleo, and Guardia desperately ran past the courtyard's entrance. The Steel-Type charged after them, and after seeing an approaching cross-street, he reflexively went wide-eyed as he saw the three attempt to sneak off.

    "Hold it right there!"

    The Iron Armor Pokémon leapt up and landed on the ground with a forward slide, sending forth a hail of stones that zipped along. The stony barrage narrowly missed the youngsters overhead, carrying on into the street with a series of loud crashes followed by startled outcries.

    "ARGH! My leg!"

    "My shop! My poor shop!"

    "C-Cad sa diabhal?! Wh-What was that?!"

    "Hurry!" Hess shouted. "Don't let that Protector get away!"

    At once, a pregnant silence settled over the crowd, incredulous blinks going around both shopkeeper and pirate alike. The gathered Pokémon turned their heads to follow the fleeing Lugia and his companions, then to the Iron Fleet, and then to each other. Going wide-eyed at his realization that he'd spoken too much, Hess stammered, desperately trying to concoct an explanation to put the cat back in the bag.

    "E-Erm," the Aggron stammered. "What I meant to say was-"

    "Wait that overgrown Wingull is a Protector?!"

    "So those sea yarns the Iron Fleet were telling are real?!"

    "Let's go get him!"

    Much to Hess' dismay the nearby brigands and even a few shopkeepers took off running, some after his targets, others off to other parts of town to gather reinforcements. The Aggron grimaced, throwing a claw over his face with a groaning whine.

    "Argh! Why does this always happen to me?!"

    Hess gave an annoyed shake of his head before charging off, his underlings following suit in their pursuit of the Protector and his companions. At the back, a lonely Growlithe hesitated on a now-empty street.

    This... wasn't how he thought things would go. He was finally back where he belonged, but for whatever reason seeing Team Traveller chased around like this didn't sit well with him.

    "Oi, mutt! Schiet op! Get moving!"

    Elty looked up and saw Valatos gesturing impatiently for him to follow. The dog shook his head and dashed along afterwards. A good run always helped him settle his mind, and who knew? Maybe he could use it to make things go as planned after all.



    Two knots away from the unfolding chaos in Rosequartz, a school of marine Pokémon in blue bands with red dots cut through the water. The clan of sea nomads climbed upwards, breaching the surface and bobbing along the waves as Orleigh's green hills became visible in the distance.

    "We're getting close," a Relicanth reported. "I can see the masts from the ships in port!"

    "Then get ready to take your positions," the leader Dragalge instructed. "Sea team will create the diversion at the harbor, and the land team needs to make the most of our time to check the spots we talked about."

    "That's your cue, Dimitri," Kuda grunted. "You're ready for it this time?"

    "I'm ready- Huh?"

    As the Kabutops whirled his head to respond to his Kingdra teammate, he blanched at the sight of what laid in the distance beyond. There, off in the rapidly approaching distance was a frigate with indigo sails barreling straight towards them followed by what looked to be a veritable of pink and blue shapes on the horizon. A volley of jets of water and shadowy gusts of wind sailed off from ahead as the hazy, incoherent sound of shouting rang out, which made Viktor's eyes widen as he realized the pink and blue forms were a sea of Frillish and Jellicent.

    "Vniz!"

    The nomads hastily broke ranks as the ship barreled on ahead, Dimitri and Kuda diving down just in time to dodge the frigate's hull passing overhead. The Kabutops watched as the ship's accompanying swimmers zipped by, and looked up just in time to see aSharpedo and Tentacruel zip by. The ship and its cohorts passed, leaving a wake of churning, turbulent water. The Kabutops stared blankly for a moment, before popping up to the surface along with his teammate spluttering out of startled shock.

    "Those- Those were the same Imperials from earlier!" Dimitri cried.

    "How did they beat us to the punch?!" Kuda exclaimed.

    Dimitri froze as the frigate sailed on for Rosequartz, his eyes widening as a sinking realization dawned on him. The Imps who ambushed him just pas Spirit Trench must have gone back and told their superior! If they didn't do something quick, they'd get Pleo before the rod could, and take him to a far more impossible place to rescue him from than Orleigh!

    "We need to hurry," the Kabutops muttered. "If the Imperials are in on this too, we don't have much time to work with."

    "You don't have to tell me!" Kuda snapped. "Get a move on-!"

    "Hey! What are you doing?!" a roaring voice demanded.

    The pair spotted Viktor glaring at them intensely, turned away from the frigate and motioning for them to follow.

    "Huh?!" Dimitri exclaimed.

    "I said get down!" Viktor shouted "Our plans didn't account for a bunch of Pokémon from Spirit Trench stirring the pot!"

    "But Ataman," Kuda protested. "This is our only-!"

    The seahorse was cut off by a shadowy, cutting gust of wind slicing across his side, prompting the seahorse to thrash in the water with a startled yelp. Dimitri turned in the direction of the attack, seeing that a number of the shapes were breaking off from the horde, revealing themselves to be Jellicent preparing a fresh salvo of spectral attacks.

    "Now!" Viktor snapped.

    The three hastily dove under as a hail of shadowy beams and gusts passed overhead, slicing through the water as a number of the spectral jellyfish broke off in pursuit of them. As Dimitri weaved around jets of water and ghostly attacks, he was bothered all the while by how thoroughly the rod's plans had unravelled and how the situation had gone out of his claws.

    "I just hope the kids will make it through alright…"



    Author's Notes:

    - Izvinyavaĭ (Извинявай) - Bulgarian: "Sorry" (informal) (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - Cad sa diabhal - Irish: "What the hell", "What on earth". lit. "What the devil"
    - Schiet op! - Dutch: "Hurry up!"
    - Vniz! (Вниз!) - Russian: "Get down!" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2017
  11. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    It still hasn't been officially revealed, but my gut feeling tells me it's Guardia crying... Her eyes are puffy in the next scene and whatnot, but she's also heard crying after she gets her bone back. I wonder if she just wants to go back home (if that really is her crying).

    Lmao, why are you shaking your head, Nida? Sounds like an amusing conversation.

    I enjoyed this bit of dialogue. XD I know exactly what little terrors the quilava's talking about, and the pecha berry mention is an added bonus since berries are rarely ever used in fics ever.

    Heh, I wondering about the skarmory and why he wasn't here as well. But in hindsight, this is totally the kind of trick I'd expect a character like that to pull.

    I see Elty hasn't quite learned his lesson... This kind of trouble landed him with Team Traveler in the first place. ;)

    Interesting idea for a shop. This guy probably gets a ton of business. He also probably gets targeted by the thieves a lot. :p

    I'm surprised Guardia didn't ask about buying a replacement bone here. I mean, this doesn't sound like the type of shop there'd be bones at, but I'd expect her to at least ask.

    I lol'd. Elty's a terrible influence. XD Pleo would never do anything awful on purpose. I am surprised, though, that no one really explains to him why the 'discount' was wrong at any point after this, since they ended up getting chased and whatnot as a result.

    Sorry, Ellsberg, but this dialogue was great. I'm waiting to see if he'll retaliate against everyone for mocking him, though. He seems to be getting angrier and angrier, so I expect he'll snap soon.

    I know Nida and co. would never leave Scout behind, but I'm sure nothing good will come of Scout being around... :p He seems like a character that just attracts trouble all the time.

    Inventive locksmithing idea, this. I'm surprised Nida thought of it on the fly, to be honest. XD Where'd she learn this little trick at?

    Big enough even for Pleo to get through?

    With Nida and co. you mean? I guess this sounds nitpicky of me, but I'd suggest adding he's got some friends with him. A lot of conversations in the past have made a point of saying how Pleo's got some friends with him and they shouldn't be underestimated, after all.

    I haven't even seen these characters together much but I really loved this conversation. It felt really bittersweet and poignant. Nicely done.

    Nugget might be my favorite version of the butchered name yet.

    Oh, dear... This doesn't bode well for Team Traveler, does it? And now that I'm caught up, I'm not surprised to see that Elty tricked Team Traveler to get his bag back. What I was happy to see was that he felt guilty for setting them up with people who plan to hurt Team Traveler. I was kind of worried at first since we've met Hess before and know what he's capable of, but nope, Elty's got a soft spot for his teammates after all.

    Amusing homage to G/S/C's red gyarados. :p
     
  12. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    You're actually on the right track, but a little off on the details.

    Well, there's two possible things they could be talking about there, neither of which I'd think she'd find terribly tasteful.

    It's a shame, really, since it's a decently prominent part of both the mainline and PMD series games.

    Yup. Trizano is not bowing out of the story that easily.

    Some lessons take a while to sink in.

    Shoplifters perhaps, though I'd probably think twice about taking on an 8-foot tall lizard with a mouth full of sharp teeth and a history of violence. Seems like an easy way to get horribly maimed.

    Wound up editing such a moment in.

    On purpose, yes. As for the explanation, I wound up going back to add one into Ch. 48.

    If it does, it won't be for a while. Until then, he'll have to find other ways of letting out his frustrations.

    Well, that's kinda his thing. :p

    A little dog taught it to her a few dozen chapters ago

    With a little crouching and squeezing perhaps, though I doubt they thought that through when confronted by surprise pirates.

    Done.

    Glad you liked it. Though I figured they needed a moment together doing something other than backbiting.

    It's also the preferred butchering. o3o

    You'll be seeing the fallout of that in today's chapter.

    Well, I'm never one to pass up a good nod to the canon here and there. That was one that seemed to roll particularly well off the tongue.

    Well, things took a little longer than I anticipated to get out the door, but I'm finally here and ready to close out the current episode. Today's chapter is on the shorter side of things again, though should hopefully have a decent helping of action to it. Special thanks for this chapter goes to Virgil134, Venia Silente, and sugoitsu from ff.net, along with the readers and reviewers who help to keep me on the straight and narrow for making this fic more focused and polished. The current goal is to publish the next chapter and start of the next episode by the end of May, so hang tight, and don't get too lonely without me.

    And now, let's pick up from last time's cliffhanger in the following post:
     
  13. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    [​IMG]

    "Well, I didn't think we'd make it at first… but what do you think, Hertsog?"

    The Mienshao took a step back and followed Pladur's claw along in the air, scanning over the newly-finished shrine. A small smirk crossed his face, growing into a wider and wider grin as he took the scene in. The more he looked about the pavilions and the righted standing stones, the more details he recalled from the stories of the past.

    "It looks just like the stories that my grandparents used to tell me," Hertsog said to the group.

    "To be fair, we can't take all the credit," Kiran admitted. "If it weren't for your friends' extra help, we'd have never managed to close the gap before you sailed off."

    Salvini, Phyllis, and Payak traded smiles and shifted bashfully at the stranger's compliment. It wasn't that big of a deal, was it?

    "It was just a matter of helping out a friend, that's all," Payak insisted.

    Before Kiran had the chance to reaffirm his compliment, a rustling in the bushes drew everyone's attention, halting the conversation at once. The group fell silent and eased into battle-ready stances, all eyes locked on the shaking shrubs.

    "Brace yourselves," Ander whispered.


    As they feared, out from the shrubbery came the same seething trio of Beautifly and Dustox that had ambushed the team just the other day. The Dustox in the group scowled and opened her mouth to speak, but a half-formed threat died in her throat as she caught sight of the refinished shrine. She and her swarmmates exchanged suspicious glances amongst themselves, prompting the quartet's Beautifly leader to flit forward to question the workers.

    "… What sort of game are you all trying to play here?" the Bug-Type demanded.

    "Yeah," the Dustox added. "Why would you fix up our god's shrine after everything that's happened?"

    "Because we don't all think what happened was good like you seem to believe," Hertsog answered. "And I wanted to do something to give back for those Pokémon before I left this island."

    A lull fell over the angry Bug-Types, and each of them took the time to flit up to the shrine and eye its details closely. They murmured amongst themselves for a moment before a Beautifly with tattered wings broke away from the pack to address the other Pokemon.

    "Well, it's certainly more than we expected," the butterfly grunted. "... You can count on others hearing about this soon enough."

    The Beautifly leader evidently had nothing to add to his companion's assessment, instead giving a terse nod and leading his group back into the depths of the greenery. The Dustox lingered for just a moment, glancing back at the shrine before being called back by an annoyed buzz from her leader. The stragglers too disappeared into the trees, and then the shrine was quiet once more.

    "… What did they mean by that?" Crom murmured.

    "I think it was a thanks," his Swellow mentor answered. "Even if they're not fully ready to let all of the past go just yet, they seemed happy to see this place in proper shape again."

    Clink clink clink

    The four Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow turned and saw their Mienshao client approach them, playfully tossing a small bag up and down: the unmistakable chime of jostling coins coming from within. For a second, the group stared and blinked uneasily at the Fighting-Type, unsure what he was up to.

    "Huh?" Pladur asked.

    "Well, it would be wrong of me not to pay you," Hertsog chuckled. "I'm a bit short on time, so I figured now is as good as any."

    Pladur and his teammates each offered a modest shrug and an appreciative bow of their head at the weasel, before recoiling slightly one after the other as direct sunlight hit their eyes. A moment of dazzled silence later, their vision adjusted, and the group noted the sun's burnt orange color, and the way it moved toward the horizon... Eh?! It was almost sundown already! Most shops on the island would be closing around now, and the Siglo Swellow was still missing critical supplies for its repair!

    "Ack!" Pladur cried. "And we have to get that pitch still!"

    "Come on, if we hurry, we can still make it to the shops!" Ander buzzed.

    Kiran, Pladur, and Ander hustled towards the market district, hoping that they'd make it there before closing time. Crom himself lingered a moment, before turning back to Salvini and her friends, bowing his head low in gratitude.

    "Thanks again for this job," the Druddigon said. "You have no idea how badly we needed this to fix up our ship."

    "Nyama zashto, young one," Hertsog said. "Really, we should be thanking you for all the good your repairs have done on our end."

    "Huh?" Thanking him? But wasn't it a bit too soon to tell if the shrine's repairs would do any good? The Druddigon gave a puzzled tilt of his head at the Fighting-Type, before murmuring back an answer.

    "If you say so..."

    The Dragon-Type glanced behind him, noticing that the forms of his companions were rapidly fading into the distance; his cue to hurry along and catch up with them.

    "Uh, anyway… I should probably get going too," the Cave Pokémon said, before giving a cheery wave to the four Pokémon and turning for the path. "Goodbye, everyone!"

    Hertsog and the others watched as Crom stumbled after his teammates in a hurry. Once he had left, they simply stood around, an idle silence coming over the group as they pondered their next move. Payak was the first to speak up, taking the opportunity to break the ice with Salvini.

    "Hey, Salvini?" Payak asked.

    "Hrm?"

    "Thanks for the help today," the Ariados said.

    "Yeah," Phyllis added. "It was just like old times…"

    "Well, it wasn't completely like old times," Salvini chuckled. "I never knew you were that good with roofing, Payak."

    Hertsog beamed at the sight of his former subordinates smoothing things over at long last, and looked ahead to the path down the hill. The Mienshao happened to catch glimpses of Crom and his teammates making their way down the path. The weasel smiled down on the four strangers, hoping on a slim chance that one of them might look back to him and receive it.

    "And thanks to you all, too," the Fighting-Type murmured. "May your travels take you safely to where you need to be."



    Unbeknownst to Crom and his companions, Team Traveller had had a fitful day some hours ago when the sun still stood high in the sky. Back on Orleigh, the three stormed through a narrow alleyway, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake as they scrambled out of the path of various beam attacks directed their way from behind. The group rounded one corner after the other and pushed their legs to go as fast as they could carry themselves, the attacks finally seemed to dwindle in frequency, and fall further off their mark as they zipped by. Although they certainly couldn't afford to stop moving, this slight reprieve at least inspired a bit of hope despite their bleak circumstances.

    "I think we're losing them!" Nida panted. "Quick, over-!"

    The Nidoran's words were cut off with a yelp as a jet of water zipped overhead. The three youngsters looked back, where much to their horror, they saw a Floatzel in a golden scarf charging ahead, leading a large pack of peers from the Iron Fleet.

    "There they are!" Rodion shouted.

    The three Pokémon turned and bolted as beams, projectiles, and the occasional seed sailed past, a sharp gust of wind brushing Pleo with a yelp. Nida attempted to shift her bag forward to fish out an orb, only to fumble over and over again to retrieve anything from it as their pursuers closed in.

    "Gah! They just keep coming!" Nida squeaked.

    "We need to shake them for a bit!" Guardia cried. "Look for cover! Someplace like-"

    A short way into the distance, Guardia spotted a storefront which currently sat vacant, save for some small, worthless-looking trinkets on display at the front of it. With its decently tall wooden walls, it would have to suffice for a hiding spot.

    "Like right there!" the Cubone exclaimed, pointing at the stall. "That way!"

    Although he was a little slow on his feet, Pleo had a head-start and so wound up being the first to reach the group's designated hiding spot. With a little difficulty, he pulled himself over the wooden wall of the stall, and leaned back over it to offer a helping wing to the others. Without a word, the three hunkered down with bated breath as the sounds of the jeering pirates came closer and closer.

    As they grew nearer, the sound of the pirates' footsteps added to the chaotic uproar, but their hiding spot was left miraculously undisturbed. After what felt like an eternity, the footsteps and the shouting once again faded into the distance, and each of the young Pokémon let out a relieved sigh.

    "We can't rest here too long," Nida urged. "We've got to get out of here, and fast. On the count of three, we'll make a break for it. Ready?"

    "Ready," her companions agreed.

    "Alright. One, two... THREE!"

    Nida led the charge this time, shoving open the back door of the stall and breaking into a sprint away from where they'd heard the pirates storm off to. Pleo and Guardia followed close behind her, into a disorganised mess of alleyways between some nearby buildings. The trio looked up, following the direction of the island's inland mountains as a compass through narrow and winding alleyways, not daring a moment to slacken their pace.

    "Gah!"

    Pleo squawked in pain as a searing sensation struck his breast, making him beat his wings out as he lost his balance and stumbled forward. He hit the ground and felt Nida and Guardia strike his wings before similarly tumbling to the ground. The bird writhed against the embers singing his plumes, as a jeering voice reached his ears.

    "Hah! Nice shot, Kai!"

    As Pleo struggled up to his feet, the young Lugia looked up to see the Zangoose from the day before. The white cat began to extend his claws for battle, a smug sneer forming on his face.

    "Hey, you twerps didn't think that I just forgot about yesterday, did you?" Scian sneered. "And here I thought that everyone was just getting worked up over some random stranger!"

    The Normal-Type crouched low as a wicked grin spread over his face, one claw reeled back ready to strike with a lunging slash.

    "Nowhere to run now, dailtíní-"

    Nida hastily threw her paws into the satchel over her shoulder and after feeling them connect with a glassy surface, she instinctively latched onto it and flung it. For a fleeting moment, she watched as the glassy, silk-filled sphere sailed on, striking her Zangoose attacker on his shoulder.

    Crack

    The Orb shattered, disgorging a flurry of silvery strands that enveloped Scian and his teammates with startled cries. The silken explosion simmered down, revealing the three pirates to be covered in a layer of sticky, cumbersome threads.

    "Agh! Why do they have a Slow Orb here?!" the Banette screeched, struggling at a layer of silk gumming up his arms.

    "Gah! It got in my fur!" the Flareon whined.

    The three quickly turned and ran as their attackers struggled with their silken bindings, flying down the alleyway and upending a few errant barrels along the way. Nida beckoned for the team to turn right up ahead at a narrow crossroads, leading them around a blind corner-

    "A-Aah!"

    And directly into a waiting group of black-scarved Pokémon consisting of a Mareanie, a Furfrou, and a Marked Quilladin.

    "Well, well, well… What do we have here?" the Mareanie sneered.

    "Hey!" the Furfrou chided. "Get 'em, and then taunt them-"

    "A-Ah- AAAAAAAAH!"

    The two Pokémon whirled and turned just in time to see their Marked Quilladin partner run off in a blind panic. The pair's jaws dropped as they ran after, attempting to talk some sense into the Grass-Type.

    "Oi! Chuck!" the Mareanie shouted. "Get back here!"

    "Yeah!" the Furfrou barked. "You're our point 'mon!"

    In the pirates' confusion, Team Traveller found an opening to slip away and took it without hesitation. The small crowds of passersby and the line of shops around the street proved an enticing option to bog down their pursuers, and so Nida led the way once again, ducking her head low as she and her companions charged across the street. She was interrupted, however, by a stabbing pain as a spray of greenish needles sank into her flank, forcing the Poison-Type to sluggishly pull herself up with a pained groan.

    "I got her! They're over here by the crossroads!" a Cacturne shouted, before being joined by its Meowstic counterpart .

    "Get them!"

    The pair shot out a hail of leafy needles and a glowing ray, the latter striking Guardia with a yelp. Pleo and Nida hastily retaliated with a glowing orb and a poisonous spike, catching their ambushers and forcing them back. The three hastily turned and bolted, just in time as more orange-scarved Pokémon poured in shouting pursuit. Pleo quickly dragged his friends along, hastily throwing them one by one onto his back and flapping his wings as he desperately tried to get airborne.

    "Stop right there!"

    Pleo looked up and went wide-eyed just in time to see a shadowy, violet orb careening for his face. The blob struck him, launching him backwards and sending him and his passengers tumbling on the ground. The bird sprawled out stunned and dazed for a moment, looking to up to see that he had been ringed by a large group of pirates. The brigands came in every conceivable shape and form, sporting a mix of blue, orange, and black scarves. There were old faces such as Scian and his buddies who had caught up - giving sneering laughs at the group - along with others that were completely new to the team. As the bird and his companions looked around for an escape, their attention was captured by the ghostly voice speaking up once again.

    "You should quit while you're ahead, Protector."

    "Hu-Huh?!" Pleo squawked.

    Pleo, Nida, and Guardia looked up just in time to see the crowd of pirates part as the ghostly voice rang out. There, floating up to them was the form of a Cofagrigus with his four arms extended, a toothy smile spreading under the Ghost-Type's headdress.

    "You're weakened and surrounded," the Cofagrigus glowered. "If I felt like it, I alone could make short work of you right here and now."

    A sudden chill came over Pleo and his companions, the three Pokémon shrinking away from the intimidating Ghost-type with shivers down their spines. It was true they'd dealt with seemingly hopeless odds before... but every time, their odds seemed to plummet lower and lower. This was one bad situation they'd gotten into, and their chances of escape now seemed slim-to-none.

    "But I, Captain Sibich of the Shadow Brigade, am a reasonable Pokémon. Everyone here understands just what an asset you'd be to our little haven after you've learned how to use your power," the Ghost-Type offered. "So come along now, and don't make a fuss."

    The Cofagrigus bobbed slowly through the air towards the three Pokémon, one spectral hand extended towards each and the fourth crossed over his lower body as if preparing to bow. The context of their situation aside, his demeanor was further betrayed by the unblinking glare of his bright, crimson eyes, along with the way each of his arms swayed and twisted erratically, as if he would reach out and snatch one of them at any moment.

    Pleo blanched and started to feel wobbly, unsure what to do. He heard a voice wishing that something could be done about "that Sibich" and "those pirates", and another, and another. The Protector couldn't see them... but if he didn't know better, he'd have thought these were watching townsfolk. Then perhaps it was best to stand up, and not go easily along with whatever this ghoul had in mind for him...

    "... No."

    "What?" Sibich stopped his approach, and his expression faltered somewhat, his sawtoothed grin upturned into something more resembling an incredulous smirk.

    "Are you blind?" the Ghost-Type demanded. "You're not in any position to be refusing me- Huh?"

    The Cofagrigus' expression slipped into one of pure shock as a searingly bright ball of light suddenly came into being where his target had stood moments before. The markings on Pleo's back shone a brilliant silver, and the young Protector glowered up at the pirate captain, all his previous fright now boiled away by the radiant light and energy coursing through him.

    The voices were now a loud chorus, of unspoken wants, curses, and resentments at the occupying brigands. Each further outcry melting away more of the young Lugia's fear, and further emboldening him to do something, anything in defiance to protect his friends.

    "Nida!"

    "Shield your eyes!"

    As Pleo drew in a sharp breath and began to beat his wings, Nida's eyes widened at the sound of the familiar chittering voice and the sight of two figures peering over the edge of a nearby roof. The unmistakable kite-shaped wings and minty green color of the Pokémon along with an accompanying small, white-winged partner told Nida that they were none other than Rasp and... Bech?! What were they doing here?! With Pleo right here, the two were just in time to get caught in his attack!

    "Pleo," she began. "Wai-"

    "NO!"

    The Lugia brought his wings together, whipping up a roaring gale that pinned Nida and Guardia back into a wall. As the two Pokémon struggled to keep their eyes open, the crash of crumbling buildings, the dull thuds of bodies striking hard surfaces, and the screams of Pokémon filled the air. As the winds died down, the sounds of shouts and panicked retreats reached the pair's ears as they took in their surroundings, pallid and breathing shallowly.

    The two saw Pleo looking around blankly as if he had seen a ghost. The square and the surrounding blocks had been completely obliterated, the shops reduced to little more than heaps of stone and broken wood. The duo saw one of Sibich's arms slowly pull itself under a pile of rubble; Scian and his buddies lying in an unconscious heap a short distance away. All around the square, the unmoving, weakly breathing forms of Pokémon were strewn about like discarded dolls, as the smell of dust and the faint stench of filth lingered in the air.

    And, in the midst of it all, weakly rising up over a layer of stone and tile was the battered form of Rasp, limping along in a daze.

    "Nrgh... Dad…? Are you alright?"

    The Flygon was in horrid shape, covered in scrapes, and with his right wing bent back oozing yellowish fluid along a long streak. The Dragon-Type bent down and scooped up the weakly moving form of his Ribombee father in his claws, before chancing to spot Pleo standing ahead of him. The antlion's eyes widened, and he began to backpedal unnervedly.

    "N-No, back! S-Stay back!"

    The stricken Flygon continued a few paces before he turned and bolted. Rasp charged down the shattered lane as fast as his legs would allow, cradling the injured Ribombee in his arms and leaving Pleo behind with the destruction he had wrought.

    The raucous square had quieted dramatically, the only company for the young Lugia as he stared ahead being a chorus of faint breathing and groans of pain from scattered Pokémon he could barely distinguish from the rubble. His beak tightened into a grimace, and his heart sank as Rasp's reaction kept persisting in his mind. He… He was scared of him…

    The young Lugia stared ahead in shock until he felt a tug against his wing feathers. There, behind him were Nida and Guardia, the pair both tired-looking from their ordeal and with worry etched deeply into their faces.

    "Pleo, it's alright," Nida murmured. "We're alright now."

    "Yeah, you did what you had to," Guardia offered.

    Nida and Guardia froze as the ghastly sound of shrieking Pokemon reached them, accompanied by a chorus of thundering explosions. Turning towards the harbor, they saw its source: a massive ship with indigo sails had pulled in and was being pursued by a sea of furious-looking blue and pink jellyfish Pokemon. They bombarded the harbor with frightening efficiency, casting spectral blobs of deep violet energy into the town's mass of buildings and leaving destruction in their wake. Worse still, the jelliyfish seemed to be working their way inland, on track to level the entire town!

    "We need to get out of here," Nida gulped.

    The Nidoran and Cubone started to head off, only to see that Pleo was unmoved, still staring blankly off into space. The two went over and tugged at the Lugia's wings, anxiously trying to snap him back to his present reality.

    "Isogu, kamome!" Guardia yelled. "We need to get out of here!"

    The Lugia looked up as the ghostly jellyfish started to approach and took off running. His passengers hastily clambered aboard as the bird began to beat his wings to try to take flight, only for his beats to come absent-mindedly and burdened as he continued to be haunted by the events in the square.

    Rasp and Bech were two Pokémon that had helped him the most on this horrid island. But in his eagerness to protect his teammates, he'd hurt them and driven them away… with the powers that were supposed to protect others.

    A jet of briny water sailed ahead, slicking some stones sticking out of the path, which made the young Protector slip and pitch forward with a squawk, sending his teammates tumbling along the ground.

    The white bird hastily tried to right himself, only to feel a painful sting on his tail and shriek in pain. Pleo struggled against the slimy presence clutching his tail, only to feel the grip loosen after a series of shouts from Nida and Guardia, followed by splatting blows and a pained hiss bidding the three to continue fleeing.

    Wasn't what had happened there exactly what Ander and Margi were afraid of? Could they really have been right about what it meant to be a Protector…?

    He blindly charged forward down an alleyway littered with rubble, the running footsteps of his two partners reaching his earholes from behind. Their breaths came short and ragged, as the sound of ghostly wails and shouts rang out at their backs.

    "Spike ball, they're still coming!" Guardia cried.

    "I know that!" Nida squeaked. "Just keep running!"

    The Nidoran lead her teammates down a cross-exit and charged past a pile of disturbed barrels before glimpsing a pair of pink and blue shapes floating into the lane ahead. Nida dug her feet in, sending the Poison-Type into a skidding stop with her teammates. The three looked up, where much to their horror, the pursuing Jellicent had cut them off, with the female preparing a foamy burst from her bell.

    "Time to pay for disturbing our waters!" the blue Jellicent hissed.

    "Eat Brin-!" the pink Jellicent shouted.

    Before the female Jellicent could attack, a blue orb sliced through the air and struck the jellyfish in its bell, sending it flying into a wall with an unceremonious splat. The other Jellicent whirled around, only to be similarly picked off. After a stunned moment on the ground, the pair hastily phased through a wall, eager to escape as Team Traveller turned and looked in the direction of the Water Pulses.

    "Huh?!"

    The three saw a Clawitzer perched on a battered eave, staring them down with a piercing glare. Nagant pulled her claw back, still dripping water from her most recent salvo. The crustacean shook her head and trained her gaze, before starting to speak in a low voice.

    "Forty years. Forty years I've been waiting for this moment. Through the end of Conntow, through the Company's sedition and treason, through watching everything I grew up in burn to the ground," the shrimp murmured. "All of that ends now through you, Lugia, the catalyst who will undo all of this. But first I shall tell you the tragic tale of my family's fate after the Great Collapse. It all started ages ago… No, you know what, screw it!"

    The Clawitzer gave an impatient hiss and brought her big claw down, training it on the white bird in front of her. Pleo and his friends yelped, realizing that the sea bug bore a scarf pattern like the Sharpedo and Tentacruel who ambushed them at Spirit Trench and was preparing to attack them.

    "I've waited long enough dealing with those ferals and those kocevniki offshore," she hissed. "There will be plenty of time to tell you after I've captured you!"

    Scowling, Nagant readied her shot as Team Traveller turned and attempted to flee, steadying her aim further with her smaller claw. The small orb of water building within Nagant's open pincer was all the encouragement Team Traveller needed to get somewhere- anywhere but here.

    "Out of my way, you overgrown bug!"

    Nagant whirled towards the sound, just in time to be caught up by a spray of flying rocks. The shrimp went sailing and tumbled back in the dirt, righting herself with an angry hiss and coming face to face with an Aggron at the head of a large gang of golden-scarved Pokémon.

    "That's my prize," Hess growled. "And there's no way I'm letting some hag who couldn't stand and fight me last time take him away!"

    "Grr! We'll see how tough you talk when you don't have the advantage of numbers!" Nagant snapped. "Sailors!"

    At the Water-Type's prompting, a large cohort of Pokémon in indigo scarves emerged from the other end of the lane. The air filled with growls between the two sides, and both parties hastily braced themselves for battle when a chittering cry went forth.

    "Attack!" the Clawitzer shouted.

    The shrimp shot forth a pressurized pulse of water as her Aggron foe sent forth a barrage of rocks, leading their respective underlings into opposing charges. Nida, Pleo, and Guardia ran ahead as their surroundings devolved into an indigo and golden-scarfed melee, ducking as a hail of needle-like spikes zipped overhead, drawing a startled squawk from the young Protector.

    "A-Ack!"

    "Come on, this way!" Nida cried.

    Nida bounded ahead, leading her teammates for an uphill alleyway, only to hear the sound of rending earth. The Nidoran yelped and hopped back as the form of an Aggron digging into the ground with all fours slid past the group, kicking up a spray of dirt and pebbles. The Steel-Type panted, and hastily threw himself onto his feet, trading glares with his Clawitzer opponent a short ways away flicking away some water off her large claw.

    "You just don't know when to quit, do you?" the shrimp seethed.

    "Heh… you hit harder than I gave you credit for, bug. You're just forgetting one thing," the Steel-Type growled. "Land is my domai- Huh?"

    Hess paused as he noticed movement from the corner of his eye. The Aggron turned his head, prompting the Clawitzer to follow suit where they saw the Lugia and his companions slowly inching away towards an alley in an attempt to slip away from their battle.

    "Uh-oh," Pleo gulped.

    "Hah!" the captain Aggron sneered. "Just where I needed you- Agh!"

    The pirate captain was cut off by a forceful, chitinous blow across his face, sending the Steel-Type stumbling back. Hess desperately tried to run to maintain his footing, only to charge headlong into a window, bringing the wall and a good portion of a slate roof down on his head. Back out in the lane, Nagant shook her big claw as she watched Hess uselessly twitch his rump and tail to try and squirm free, turning her attention back to Pleo and his increasingly pallid-looking friends.

    "Time to call it quits, kid- Ah!"

    Nagant hopped up with a start as she felt a burning pain on her shoulder, prompting her to look side to side for the attack's culprit.

    "Hey, brzydula," a yipping voice jeered. "You're not getting out of this fight so easily!"

    The Water-Type whirled around to see a Growlithe sticking his tongue out at her. The shrimp readied her claw to attack, only to hear wingbeats and see that Team Traveller was taking advantage of her distraction to escape.

    "Gah!" the Clawitzer hissed. "Get back here you little brats-!"

    The Clawitzer's shout was interrupted by the return of the burning pain, this time at the back of her head. The elder shrimp seethed, as Elty's voice quickly reached her ears once more.

    "Come on," the Fire-Type demanded. "Hit me with your best shot, Imp!"

    Team Traveller ran ahead, the sound of a shout and a splash reaching their ears, and then another. Against all odds, Elty's jeers continued on, evidence of his so far successful dodges of Nagant's Water Pulses.

    "Hah! You're gonna have to try a little harder than tha-AAAGH!"

    A loud, yelping shriek filled the air, followed by the sound of a body sailing along and hitting the ground with a wet thud. Pleo and his companions froze in their tracks, the long-necked bird looking back to discover that much to his horror, Elty was lying drenched in the square, limp and unmoving.

    "Elty!"

    The three turned wide-eyed, staring at Nagant as she perched on her tail, huffing out of exasperation with the Fire-Type, his swift defeat doing nothing to mollify her sour mood.

    "Ngah… Grr…"

    The shrimp turned to try and find Team Traveller, worn down by her distraction from the Growlithe and the chaos of battle, only to cry out as a wave of rocks flung her into a side street. Their owner, an Aggron with a windowframe stuck around his neck stomped back out, giving an irate roar to announce his presence.

    "I'm not done yet, you old crone!"

    Pleo and his companions watched as Hess stormed on after the Clawitzer, though unbeknownst to the Steel-Type, his underlings were retreating further and further away, leaving the square filled with groaning and fainted Pokémon. Much to their astonishment, they saw a Drifblim float out of the sky and scoop up a fainted Floatzel, the same fate befalling a Hoppip, and then a Pawniard. The three grimaced, realizing that the Imperials must have decided to carry off the pirates to take them prisoner. Thankfully the indigo scarved Pokémon hadn't noticed them, but in Guardia's mind it was not something to be taken for granted, prompting her to try and hurry Pleo along to safety.

    "Pleo, come on," she grunted. "We need to go before those two focus on us again!"

    Team Traveller looked back, seeing a Pidgeotto swooping out of the sky towards Elty. Much to Pleo's alarm, the bird latched onto the Growlithe with his talons, making a few awkward attempts to carry his weighty capture off. Nida shook her head, beginning to turn away, only for Pleo to bolt for the scene running as fast as his legs allowed.

    "Pleo?!" Nida squeaked. "What are you-?!"

    The Lugia ran along, flapping his wings to build up momentum. As a surge of determination came across the Protector, he vaulted up and a fiery blue light began to cloak his plumes as he charged towards the bird ahead of him.

    "Hah," the Pidgeotto sneered. "Your bounty will be a nice bonus for me, mutt-"

    "Let him go!"

    Pleo slammed into the osprey, sending him plummeting back to earth. The bird and his captive tumbled along the ground, the Imperial giving a startled squawk as he began to rise to his feet. Before the Normal-Type could react, a spike caught his neck and a heavy blow broke over his head, sending him flopping to the ground out cold.

    "What are you thinking?!" Nida exclaimed.

    "I'm not leaving him like that!" Pleo squawked.

    "Nrgh…"

    Team Traveller looked down at Elty, just in time to see the stricken Growlithe groan and twitch his legs feebly. For a moment, neither Nida nor Guardia were sure what to feel about the Fire-Type's plight. As soon as it came, the feelings of uncertainty subsided, and Guardia hardened her eyes into a scowl back at the young Protector.

    "Why shouldn't we?!" the Cubone demanded. Nida for her part looked similarly unmoved, giving an impatient huff before launching into a tirade.


    "Pleo, he betrayed us to his old buddies!"

    "But they'll send him to the Wastes if we don't help him!" the young Protector insisted. "Elty is still our friend... right?"

    Pleo gave a pleasing look at his teammates, only to be met with firm glares. Neither of the two seemed willing to budge, until the sound of a crash in the background prompted Nida to growl and fold her ears back.

    "Do whatever you want," Nida huffed. "I'm not stopping you."

    "Let's just hurry up and get out of here!" Guardia cried.

    The team scrambled forward, Pleo scooping up Elty and hastily nestling him up on his back as the others hopped on in turn. With a running start, Pleo was able to take flight at last, Nida and Guardia clinging to his plumage for dear life. Guardia whimpered in fear as they gained height, Rosequartz Town slowly growing farther and farther away. The two other members of Team Traveller who remained conscious merely thanked their lucky stars that they were finally able to leave this nightmare behind them...



    About half an hour after their hurried departure from the shrine, Pladur, Crom, Kiran, and Ander waved farewell to a delighted Whimsicott shopkeeper as he closed up his store for the night, the proud owner of a newly-refilled lockbox and the Siglo Swellow's batch of bounty notices for their stop. For their part, too, the Siglo Swellow's sailors were just as happy with their end of the bargain as they lugged barrels of hull-sealing pitch down the seaside hills and towards the green-sanded beach where the damaged vessel had been pulled ashore.

    "Do you think that we bought too much pitch for the ship?" Crom wondered

    "Nah, if we have any left over, we'll just keep it below deck," Pladur reassured. "You can never go wrong with some extra supplies."

    "Let's take things one step at a time," Kiran chided. "We still need to get this pitch back to the ship first- Huh?"

    Kiran paused as the sound of movement from behind reached his earholes, motioning for his teammates to stop. The four Pokemon glanced over and realized that they had attracted company. Behind them were a raggedy Turtonator and Charjabug, looking exhausted but in a strangely pleasant mood.

    "Er… can we help you?" Ander asked.

    "Oh, we weren't here to ask for anything," the Charjabug said. "We just wanted to say thanks."

    "You wanted to thank us...?" Crom questioned.

    "Yeah, for the work you've been doing on that place up the hill," the Turtonator added. "It means a lot to us 'mons in the fields to have something other than that broken-down ruin looming down on us all the time."

    Puzzled glances floated around the four sailors, gradually giving way to smiles that began to creep over their faces. So their work hadn't gone unnoticed after all...

    "Oh. Well, you're quite welcome!" Kiran chirped, puffing out his chest proudly. "Having the watchful presence of a local shrine's always handy for a good 50% boost to morale!"

    The pair looked around and shuffled their feet awkwardly, unsure of what to do next. After deciding that they had nothing else to say, the pair turned and began to pace off before bidding farewell.

    "Well, that's all," the Turtonator grunted. "I'm sure you've got plenty to do, so we won't keep you any longer. Safe travels out there."

    He and his Charjabug companion took their leave, wandering back off into the distance as Crom paused in thought, watching after the two strangers.

    "Maybe that shrine will do some good around these parts after all," the Druddigon murmured.

    "Hrm..."

    Although they'd done good work on the shrine, every fiber of Ander's being had at first revolted against its restoration. Working to restore an altar to those demons just felt... wrong. On the other scythe, it had made a good deal of Pokémon quite happy. Misguided souls, surely, but didn't they too need a reprieve from the world's troubles sometime?

    "I suppose if it really lifts Pokémon's spirits around here that much…" Ander mulled.

    "I told you, it was the fourth dock that we needed to be at."

    "Oh come on, you were confused too! That sloppy 'five' totally looked like a 'four'!"

    The group's attention was drawn by the sounds of chatter nearby. In their direction came Salvini, Payak and Phyllis, chatting with one another in obviously high spirits. In addition, at the front of their formation walked the familiar, long-sleeved figure of...

    "Hertsog!"

    "Eh?" the Fighting-Type murmured. "What are you all doing here?"

    "Yeah, we thought that you all got out of dodge already," Payak added.

    "Getting those supplies took a bit longer than we thought we would," Kiran explained, giving a tired ruffle of his feathers. "But what are you all doing here?"

    "Our reassignments," Salvini said. "I'm getting posted to Canalhouse City with Hertsog."

    Phyllis and Payak jumped up with a start at the gecko's words. The lizard trailed off, wondering just what had she said that was so surprising, before her Leafeon partner answered the matter with a question:

    "Huh? Salvini, why didn't you tell me that you were also working there?" Phyllis protested. "You grew up there! I'd have spent a lot less time worrying about how I'd ever find anything if I'd known."

    "Huh?!" Payak exclaimed. "But Canalhouse City is my posting!"

    Confused, the three Pokemon glanced at one another, finding on each other's faces only a befuddled expression matching their own. After a moment, something clicked to Salvini, and she looked over to Hertsog incredulously as a smile began to spread over his muzzle.

    "... I might have pulled a few strings on the way out of my position as Captain of the Guard," the Mienshao chuckled. "After all, you all do seem to perform best together, so…"

    The Mienshao's explanation drew cheery exclamations, as the four Company Pokémon continued on in warm and congenial tones with one another. Crom and his companions traded satisfied glances, happy to see that in spite of all their troubles, that even Salvini and her friends would be left in higher spirits from their shared work.

    "So wait, were you the one who sent those letters too, Hertsog?" Phyllis asked. "I mean, I didn't think it was you at first from the writing, but..."

    Hertsog twitched his whiskers and tilted his head puzzledly at the Leafeon's question. The Fighting-Type blinked a bit, before giving a thorough shake of his head.

    "No, I haven't the faintest clue," the weasel said, shaking his head. "All I had to work with were the footprints and scratches in front of my abode. From their appearance, it looked like the Pokémon had sharp talons, probably some manner of courier or mail carrier."

    Ding ding

    "Anyhow, that's our cue to take our leave," Hertsog murmured. "Thanks again, all of you. You've helped me to leave this town in better shape."

    One by one - with a nod and a mumbled farewell - each Pokemon filed away. Hertsog led the way, followed closely by Payak, and then Phyllis. However, as Salvini turned to leave, Crom stopped her, checking his surroundings to ensure the others were out of earshot before addressing her.

    "Salvini. About that… 'Bird'," Crom began. "You wouldn't happen to-?"

    "I'm not telling you where he went if that's what you're asking," she interrupted.

    Crom grimaced; although he'd somewhat expected an answer like that, it didn't make Salvini's words any easier to hear. He nodded slowly, leaving his gaze firmly affixed on the ground before her voice called his attention again.

    "... He left town with a wounded wing," the Grovyle explained. "Whether or not you truly do have his and his friends' best interests at heart, if you've got a decent map, you should already know where he's gone based off that."

    A further chime from the ship's bell rang out, and some calls went up from the dock. It was evidently already time to start boarding, and with not a moment to lose.

    "Anyhow, I should get going myself," the Wood Gecko said. "May our paths cross again."

    The Grass-Type carried on, leaving behind the Pokémon of the Siglo Swellow to scratch their heads over her words. Crom's jaw clenched tightly in annoyance, the young dragon shaking his head as he tried to decipher Salvini's somewhat cryptic hint.

    "What did she mean by all of that?" Crom murmured.

    "Yeah, we just know that Pleo flew off," Pladur mulled. "But how's that supposed to help us know what island he flew off to?"

    "Eh? But didn't she say he was hurt when he left?" Ander asked. "How could he have made it all the way to another island?"

    The group mulled in puzzlement over Salvini's words. If Pleo left with a hurt wing, just where could he have gone? Why, he wouldn't have been able to get off the island at all without a ship or another Pokémon to help! A silence followed, only to be broken by a startled chirp as sudden realization dawned on Kiran.

    "Ah! I think I know where he went!" Kiran exclaimed. "Come on!"

    In a flash of bluster and flapping wings, the Swellow soared ahead, leaving his teammates to hurry after him and wonder just what Kiran had so emphatically figured out.



    With their hefty load of pitch delivered, the crew of the Siglo Swellow was free to finally complete the ship's repairs. As the call of "all hands on deck" was sounded, some crewmembers were relieved the repairs was finally over with, while others dreaded the workload ahead of them. Nonetheless, sooner or later even the most reluctant Pokemon had gotten to work, and by nightfall the Siglo Swellow was sea-worthy once again.

    After a quick double-checking of the ship's hull, the crew gathered to shove the ship out onto the water, just in time for Pat to return from Tromba. While they pushed the mighty vessel into the sea, the Unfezant offered the workers a recap on the recent goings-on of their home island, to the delight of some and the ire of others who wondered aloud what had taken him so long. Once the ship was finally out and bobbing in the waves, Beatrix called everyone back aboard, brandishing a map which she spread on the deck of the ship for all to see.

    "Eh? Captain Beatrix?" Philips asked. "Why'd you get us all together for charting a course?"

    "Yeah," Natrix murmured. "You usually come up with these just fine on your own."

    "It's because I felt that this was important enough for all of us to hear," the Illumise captain answered, before turning to Kiran and his peers with a buzz. "Kiran? Why don't you and your team walk us through your rationale?"

    "Well… when we were doing our job in town, we met a Grovyle from the guards named Salvini who helped us out," the Swellow began. "While we were working she let it slip that she helped Pleo and the kids get away after they got caught here."

    Some startled cries broke out at the mention of the Grovyle. Why hadn't Kiran told them of her earlier? And why wasn't she here with them?

    "En serio?!" a Golduck exclaimed. "Then we should talk with her right away!"

    "It's not so simple," Ander buzzed. "She's currently on a ship for Vollezee, and she wouldn't tell us anything more even if she were still here."

    "That said, she said that Pleo left with a hurt wing and that if we took a look at a map, things would become clear," Kiran murmured. "And I think I know what she meant."

    The Swellow stuck out a wing and gestured at a small island to the far east labeled 'Mengir' on it. The Flying-Type then moved his wingtip along with drawings of currents and winds to the northwest, up to a picture of an atoll with bubbles in the water.

    "Otvaga's the closest island to here that isn't run by the Company," the Flying-Type explained. "So for a place to run away to, it's perfect."

    "On top of that, the main place he would turn to if he couldn't fly all the way to the next island would be the Subway," Pladur added. "And Otvaga is the nearest hub they would have reached through it."

    Amongst the crew an unusually optimistic murmur broke out, flecked here and there with whisperings of "hey, that makes sense!" and "are we finally gonna catch up with them?" abounded as a small wave of excitement washed over the ship.

    "So if we got to Otvaga, we'd be able to find them," the Hitmontop First Mate mulled. "Or at worst figure out where they went next."

    "Right. In that case, I think that we're ready," Beatrix grunted. "Tell the swimmers to keep a team of divers posted. We'll follow the Subway route up there."

    Beatrix turned back to her crew, her eyes glimmering with fierce determination. The Bug-Type flitted up and gave an impatient beat of her wings before barking out to the gathered Pokémon.

    "You heard me!" the Illumise buzzed. "Let's get this ship moving already!"

    At their captain's order, a chorus of ayes floated around the gathered Pokémon who set off preparing the sails and raising the anchor. The ship lurched forward and began to turn for a northwesterly course. As the waves passed by and the Siglo Swellow began to pick up speed, the crew began settling into a routine, including a young Druddigon who had clambered up the rigging. There, as Crom watched the waves pass by at sea, his thoughts turned to his teammates and finally being able to reunite with them again.

    "Nida, Pleo, Elty... hang in for us a little longer," the young Druddigon pleaded. "We're almost there."



    Author's Notes:

    - Nyama zashto (Няма защо) - Bulgarian: "You're Welcome" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
    - dailtíní - Irish: "brats"
    - Isogu (急ぐ) - Japanese: "Hurry up" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - brzydula - Polish: "ugly woman", "hag"
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  14. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    So Elty finally betrayed his team! Well, I say “betrayed” (and Nida said it as well) but honestly they’d never given him half a reason not to, so I was honestly looking forward to it. :p Except Hess had to go and up the ante. While Elty just wanting to gtfo with his bag seemed perfectly reasonable, Hess’s intention to beatdown and imprison the others was waaay more than the former had bargained for. This works out pretty nicely with his character—while Elty has no motivation to be nice to them, he also doesn’t want to hurt them.

    And then good lord that chase through Rosequartz. Ok first of all, that was easily the best action scene in the whole fic. Second, props for not splitting it into smaller scenes. Every single time we think they’re home free, another threat shows up out of the blue, but since all the threats were well established beforehand, none of them felt like they came out of nowhere. Not to mention that bit when Pleo goes Avatar State and actually hurts Pokémon who were friendly to him (and in a real, meaningful way, not just “scrapes” like the majority of the wounds in the fic thus far.)

    And then Pleo being the one to go back for Elty makes perfect sense because thus far he’s the only one who had attempted to extend a wing in friendship.

    So yeah, excellent chapter all around.

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
  15. GastlyMan

    GastlyMan Ghost Type Trainer

    I'm loving how the story's been progressing! Pleo taking care of Elty even despite his betrayal was especially heartwarming to read. Although, I wonder what will happen when Elty wakes up and finds out that he's still with Team Traveller. :D

    I wonder if his character will change further in the future. I guess I just like how he wanted to take his stuff and run, but he didn't actually wish any harm on the others. Great characterization there. Of course, I'm hoping that he'll slowly start shifting towards truly caring for them. But we'll see.

    I've also been enjoying Crom's side plot. We get to see a bit more of Salvini and her friends, and it was nice to have their little subplot resolved. :3 And if my memory doesn't fail me...Two Marked helping restore a Protector's tower? That's pretty cool. Along a similar tangent, Hertsog's become really likable the last few chapters. Nice job with that!

    And I agree with the other reviewer who is speculating that it might be Guardia crying at night. I mean, it does make sense, what with Cubone's Pokedex entries and so forth, and the fact that Guardia always seems to be so quiet while Nida and Pleo are talking.

    Oh, and I sure hope that Pleo isn't too shaken by his accidental injury of Rust and his father. Accidentally hurting good people while trying to defend your friends...I can see that coming back to haunt him. :c

    Anyway, this has been an excellent couple of chapters! Excited for the next one.
     
  16. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Aw, but the local residents seemed a bit more grateful than I expected them to be. Crom doesn't give himself enough credit sometimes. I was surprised to see the residents come to the Siglo Swellow crew later, too, and thank them formally. You did a good job portraying how awkward and different that was for them - they're very clearly not used to nice things, sadly, and I was glad the Siglo Swellow was able to help them out even just a little.

    Heh, so that's how a slow orb would work, huh? Makes sense. Even though a flareon like the one here could probably just burn the silk away, it still slows 'em down for a short while.

    Heh, I like this guy's dialogue. It's an entertaining mix of cocky, sassy, and laidback.

    Ouch. I didn't expect that to happen. I got the sense that Pleo's powers have been easier to summon on demand lately, but there's still the fact that Pleo seems easily influenced - as in, all it took for Pleo to strike everyone were some whispers about how the pokemon in front of him weren't to be trusted. It's sad to see him like this, to see him know he hurt someone who helped him when it could've been avoided. I can't imagine how this will effect what he does with his powers from now on, but I'm looking forward to finding out in the next chapter.
     
  17. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hello, everyone. So it's just a little late at this point, but I've put together some additional trivia to mark crossing the 25,000 view milestone:

    How did you come up with Orleigh?

    From the very early days, Orleigh was intended to be a town that served as a pirate haunt. The logistics of the island needing to be located in a place where it could still prey on shipping while being unfeasible to root out wound up informing its location within a buffer zone between the Company and the Empire.

    The island's features owe a good deal of their existence to Macalania Woods from Final Fantasy X, which informed both the structure of the crystal-studded forest, and helped to more quickly narrow down the island into having a disproportionate amount of Fairy-Types to play into the more mystical atmosphere, including its implied protector, Diancie. The name owes its origins to a corruption of "Orre", which in turn influenced the choice of local tongue to be a Gaelic language, Irish eventually being settled on as the tongue of choice thanks to Irish mythology being particularly steeped in fairies and Ireland having a history of piracy in medieval history.

    How did you come up with Rosequartz Town?

    Rosequartz Town is a town that was envisioned as a formerly sleepy and parochial town that had transformed into a Port Royal-esque haunt through becoming a hub for piracy. The local architecture is strongly influenced by the gray, stone architecture associated with Ireland and Scotland, if adapted to non-human sensibilities and transplanted into a more densely wooded setting.

    Rosequartz Town ultimately owes its origins as a nod to Agate Town, the two being named after separate varieties of quartz, and having a similar appearance to Diancie, who was chosen to be the island's protector. Other names that were floated but ultimately left on the cutting room floor for the town was the unimaginative working name of "Fairy Town."

    How did you come up with the concept of the Pirate Council?

    The Pirate Council was envisioned as a leadership structure where the strongest and most imposing captains of Orleigh's pirates dominated the overall workings of the town via consensus and brute force, rotating out through retirement and succumbing to the dangers of pirate life. During the planning stages, the Pirate Council's size fluctuated between 3 and 5 members, before ultimately settling on the current band of four.

    Dirk and Ingela both owe their names to historical pirates, the former being designed as a leader figure for the Council, while Ingela was conceived as an "ice maiden" archetype out for revenge in the vein of Jeanne de Clisson. Tarquin as a returning figure was envisioned as a former subordinate to Darzin and a foil to Hess, owing his name to King Tarquin of Rome, a name that has been associated with tyranny thanks to cultural osmosis from the Roman Republic. Sibich owes his name to a treacherous advisor from Germanic mythology, which was chosen to accentuate his intended role as a "manipulator" character.

    How did you come up with Hess?

    Hess owes his origins to a composite of a minor seafaring Aggron character from Tangent's past writing, along with a recurring truck nemesis to a recurring Skarmory show-within-a-show character. Those influences served to provide a suitable basis for making a villain who could be both bumblingly incompetent as well as a credible danger as the situation dictated, which also influenced some character details for Hess such as his past hostile encounters with Trizano and with Marowak. As for the name, in keeping in line with half of his composite, it owes its origins to a manufacturer of toy trucks.

    How did you come up with the Iron Fleet?

    The Iron Fleet from its outset was envisioned as a bottom-feeding crew of flunkies, which was intended as a warm-up hostile encounter for Pleo that grew in plot prominence as the process of writing went on. The Iron Fleet fundamentally reflects the outsized aspirations and ambitions of its captain, coloring its characteristics such as the use of flashy gold-and-silver colors, as well as the steely iron-themed title.

    A few of the more prominent faces from the crew had their own histories behind how they were developed. Kichiro, or as he insists, Keiichiro, was developed as a character from his initial throwaway appearance as the Iron Fleet's signaler in Episode 3 to be a snarker who got his deal of misfortune from his crew. That in turn influenced his choice of name, a Japanese name meaning "good luck" that was chosen primary for irony value.

    Rodion as a character similarly was expanded from a throwaway appearance in Episode 3, and was developed into Hess' First Mate. As Rodion took shape, he was developed to be a "straight man" character who would help keep his boss in line and his plans from blowing up overly disastrously, coming into his own in Auld Lang Syne. Rodion's name as well as a rejected beta name of 'Rodya' owes its origin as a nod to Crime and Punishment's protagonist, Rodion Raskolinov, though his choice of crime is a bit different from the novel character's and as of yet he has not received his punishment.

    How did you come up with Pyry and Pekka?

    Pyry and Pekka owe their origins to an antagonistic Garchomp and Flygon duo that appears in Umbramatic's writings from time to time, if brought down the threat level a few notches and played more for laughs than their original incarnations. Pyry's name was chosen as a mix of irony and "things a Gible and its evolutions would fear", leading to the choice to pick a Finnish name meaning "snowstorm". Pekka's name is a Finnish version for "Peter", which was chosen due to its meaning of "rock", a nod to some meta surrounding his inspiration character.

    How did you come up with Rasp and Bech?

    Rasp and Bech were designed to fill the role of a pair of good samaritans from Orleigh whose lives could be upended through Team Traveller's arrival, being designed to be the catalyst to help send the team into a crisis of cohesiveness and confidence.

    Bech owes his origins due to being a convenient means to depict a Secret Bazaar in-story, being designed as a direct analogue of Shedinja from PMD: Explorers of Sky. His Flygon progeny, Rasp, was chosen for deliberate irony as the dramatically larger Dragon-Type son to a Fairy-Type while still being theoretically viable through egg groups, and serving as the in-town presence for the duo. Bech's name was one of those uncommon instances where the name clicked at first sight, whereas Rasp went through a number of beta names including Flann and Odhrán.

    How did you come up with the Merchantry?

    The Merchantry owes its origins to being an expression of the constant of Kecleon-staffed shops in PMD's games, which in turn served as a vehicle for providing a justification for the existence of Poké as a trader's currency backed up by the outfit in question by giving the Merchantry strong, transnational influence and reach. From early on, it was decided that the Merchantry would be less Kecleon-centric than in-game, with the core of the company controlled by a dynasty of our favorite chameleons, but local presences being reliant on partners of other species (ergo the presence of Pokémon such as Alphonse in Boisocéan).

    If the Merchantry Logo as depicted in Swinging the Lamp's header reminded you of anything, there's a good reason for that. It's the same sigil found on the rugs of Kecleon shops in in-game dungeons.

    How did you come up with Calino?

    Calino was developed as an aloof and somewhat insensitive shopkeep who could fill the role of a local vendor in a sleepy town like Bluewhorl Town. From early on, his personality was envisioned to be such that could plausibly self-inflict getting stuck in a dead-end position as a demotion, the circumstances around which were finally realized in Swinging the Lamp. Calino's name owes its origins to an offhand suggestion by Venia Silente during the drafting phases of the first chapter from a chance encounter with a store sign during a commute.

    Were There Any Story Changes That Happened While Writing Fledglings?

    Quite a bit, actually, as Fledglings' plot has wound up undergoing some substantial shifts from initial plans since the day the first chapter was published. Some of the more significant changes that have occurred in the plot planning since that day have included:

    - Crom originally was not going to leave Bluewhorl and would have effectively been absent from plot after Episode 4
    - Lyn was originally going to storm Seahive Square and cause a minor case of massive property damage
    - Trizano was originally not going to enter the plot until the second half of the story
    - In early drafts, there was going to be a feral Flechinder that aided the team on Mengir
    - Nagant originally was not going to be introduced until the Orleigh episodes
    - Hess originally would not have reappeared in the plot until Orleigh
    - Otvaga was initially intended to happen two episodes after the team reached Sormus
    - Berecien was originally envisioned as an Iron Fleet member, and was slated to appear in place of Kichiro in Chapter 26

    While the core of the plot of Fledglings has by and large remained constant, those changes do add up, and have since helped to season the story with some of its more memorable moments so far. A testament to the importance of being flexible with planning as a writer.

    Well, he has been adamant about a pirate's life being for him, so he wasn't about to just pass up the opportunity that easily. But yeah, as our favorite Growlithe has fast discovered, this whole "exit stage left so things go back to normal" thing isn't quite as black-and-white as he first thought it'd be.

    Well, I'm glad that you liked it. And as the point in the story where the team goes through a crisis of confidence and teamwork, it just felt logical that Pleo's abilities going not-as-planned would be a part of that.

    Something something "still has more childish innocence", but glad you enjoyed it.

    You'll actually be finding out the answer to that question in this update.

    All in due time, but as an author, I'm not letting Elty exit the plot that easily.

    Am glad to hear that, and I felt showing that a number of Pokémon within the Company's ranks are just 'mons trying to make their way through life and juggle the contradictions of an unsettled world was an important viewpoint to display.

    Well, you won't have to wait too long to get an answer there. It should come up within the next couple of chapters.

    Well, adversity does build character. But yes, that misfire's going to be sticking with him for a bit.

    And I'll be looking forward to the review. ^^

    Yeah, beyond the obvious of giving closure to Salvini's plot thread, I felt that it was important to show that Crom and the Siglo Swellow have been doing their part to help leave their world slightly better off, even just by degrees.

    Yup, it's been a while, but I figured that it was as good a time as any for that depiction to return from the early fic.

    Well, Sibich does have a certain degree of smug relaxedness to him, so glad to hear that that came through.

    Well, in the life of any youngster, there are bound to be growing pains. It's just that the growing pains for a Lugia are a few notches up on the "cataclysmic" scale than normal. But yeah, those after-effects are intended to be a bit of a lingering thing over the course of the next arc or two.

    And here we are, the end of one month, and the beginning of a brand-new arc in our favorite atypical rescue team's journey. I owe my special thanks for helping to make this chapter a reality to Virgil134, Tangent128, and Venia Silente. As always, I'm flattered and deeply grateful for the reads and feedback that I've gotten on this story, and hope that these next few chapters will prove to be as engaging a read as the ones you've seen so far in this story.

    And without further ado, let's kick the next episode off:
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
  18. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    [​IMG]

    A few hours after Pleo's fateful escape, things had uneasily settled down in Orleigh and its surrounding waters. Nagant had withdrawn with her frigate - minus a small number of sailors who were unaccounted for - and the last few Jellicent were driven back into the sea from whence they came. The town was left battered by the storm of jellyfish and enemy fire, a few stray plumes of smoke curling up visible from the far side of the island. There, the groaning members of the Khranitel Rod surfaced, battered and covered in welts from their hostile encounter with Spirit Trench's residents.

    "Argh… no one mentioned there'd be a swarm of meduzy!" a Whiscash whined.

    "I think that my welts have welts…" a Dewgong groaned, rubbing a flipper at his side.

    A nearby Lumineon looked around at her compatriots, and after sensing that there were too few faces, turned nervously to the leader Dragalge.

    "Ataman, is everyone here?" the fish asked.

    The seahorse looked back as a Golisopod leading a Luvdisc and a Shellder swam up, the Poison-Type counting with his fins before giving a satisfied shake of his head.

    "They are now," Viktor grunted.

    "Urgh… how did this happen?" Dimitri sighed. "We didn't even make it to shore, let alone find the kids."

    "That frigate that pulled into port must have baited those ferals into following after them to attack the town," a Relicanth murmured.

    "Grr… we should have stuck it out and gone in," Kuda growled.

    "For what? To get overrun by jellyfish and captured by pirates? Get real, Kuda," Viktor snapped. "Besides, the deti might not even be on the island right now."

    "Huh?!" the Whiscash exclaimed, the catfish's protestations joined in by a similarly incredulous outcry from the Dewgong.

    "Ataman, what do you mean?!"

    "Don't you think the timing of that frigate was just a little too coincidental?" the Poison-Type asked. "We already know that the Empire is aware of this Protector. Why would one of their frigates shows up on the island where we knew he was if not to try and spirit him away?"

    A pause hung over the gathered Pokémon, as reluctant voices began to murmur. They were swimming themselves ragged as is, and it was hard to argue the Dragalge's point… but where was Viktor going with this?

    "If we want to find those deti, our best bet is to track down that frigate," Viktor explained. "We split up into groups of four and search the currents around Orleigh the ship might have taken."

    The gathered sea nomads floated and bobbed in stunned silence for a moment, as a grudging realization came about that they didn't have many other options for getting Team Traveller back. One after the other, Pokémon began to affirm their Ataman's orders, some enthusiastically, others with audible hesitance.

    "Nikolai, Sergei," the seahorse instructed. "You two take some teams and stay here to watch the island in case something happens."

    "Understood Ataman," the Whiscash grunted back, the Golisopod in their midst respectively also giving a nod. Some scattered well-wishes and impatient calls for actions floated around in an ever-growing din, only to be silenced by the Dragalge leader batting a fin against the water's surface.

    "Alright, let's get moving then," Viktor said. "We don't have much time."

    The gathered sea Pokémon quickly went their separate ways, hastily splitting into teams of four per their Ataman's command. Viktor led the bulk of his underlings off into the deep blue, hoping that they would be able to find Team Traveller before their ever-increasing foes did.



    "A-Are we there yet...?"

    Nida flicked her ears, unable to shake the sense that she'd been in this situation before. She was once again on Pleo's back, high above the sea and headed off for an island she knew only from the map she glimpsed at in snatches inside her bag. Like last time, Guardia was cowering at the rear, poking at her with her bone. That said, there were also things that were noticeably different. Elty was sprawled out unconscious on Pleo's back, held in place by the Nidoran. On top of it all, there would surely still be many more hours of travel left to go before they saw land again.

    "Guardia, does it look like we're anywhere near land right now?" Nida snapped.

    "But-But I can't take this anymore!" the Ground-Type whimpered. "Cubone aren't supposed to be a step away from falling and getting dashed to pieces like this!"

    "Ugh... I told you not to look down," the Nidoran sighed.

    "H-How am I supposed to do that when Pleo's constantly lurching and falling?!" the bone lizard demanded.

    "But that's how flying works..." Pleo murmured.

    The seabird lurched again after catching some turbulence, drawing a frightened squeal from the Cubone as she clung to Pleo's back wide-eyed and white-knuckled. As Pleo straightened out, the Ground-Type caught a glimpse of waves breaking against an object in the distance, her eyes lighting up as she realized it was a stony outcropping.

    "Look!" Guardia cried. "There's land there! Let's stop there for a bit!"

    "We're in the middle of the ocean," Nida protested. "It's safer to keep going until-"

    Pleo abruptly jolted again, drawing a shriek from his Cubone passenger as she screwed her eyes shut and dug her claws in for dear life.

    "A-Aaah!"

    "Sorry! Sorry!" the Lugia squawked. "It's just that my wings are getting tired faster than I thought they would!"

    "Nrgh…"

    Nida felt the presence under her forepaws budge, prompting her to look down and see that Elty was starting to stir. The Nidoran looked off at the rocks below, and back down to the re-awakening Growlithe, before sighing exasperatedly.

    "Ugh... fine. Take us down, Pleo," Nida muttered. "We could use a chance to patch ourselves up anyways."

    Pleo nodded uneasily and began a slow, spiraling descent down to the rocks, coming to a running stop on the surface. Guardia toppled off, gagging as she climbed back up to her feet. Her Lugia and Nidoran teammates noticed that the bone lizard looked an unhealthy greenish color, and vomited over the side, prompting the two to recoil from disgust.

    How had they ever gotten to this point? They were supposed to be looking for the Knights' Ledger, but here they'd gotten sidetracked with one misfortune after another. The pair heard shifting and moaning, and looked back in time to see Elty begin to stir and open his eyes.

    "Agh…" the Growlithe groaned. "I feel like I just got hit by a-"

    The little dog paused and jumped in a start as he noticed his surroundings were completely different from what he had expected. Instead of waking in the Iron Fleet's familiar hideout or even one of Rosequartz's streets, he found himself laying on a bunch of rocks with water all around him. As the sound of the sea's waves filled the air, the Fire-Type looked around in a panic, hoping to see some sight of Rosequartz Town. But alas, no matter where he looked, Elty saw nothing but the vast ocean and his former teammates.

    "H-Huh?! Where am I?!" Elty yelped. "Spike ball?! Why are you still-?!"

    The Growlithe caught himself. The spike ball, the mewa, they were all supposed to have fled! So then... they dragged him along?! Why?!

    "What did you do?!" he cried. "Why am I in the middle of the sea right now?!"

    "This wasn't my idea," Nida hissed. "Ask Pleo if you want an explanation so badly."

    The Growlithe scowled and whirled his head to face the young Lugia to his left. The young Legendary hopped back, startled at the Fire-Type's venomous demeanor and fumbled with his words before starting to explain to Elty his recollection of their escape.

    "You got hurt back in that big fight with that mean crab," the young Lugia explained. "So we helped you get away-"

    "You call dragging me out into the middle of the sea help?!" the Fire-Type fumed. "What is wrong with you?!"

    A woozy moan filled the air as Guardia lurched back from the rocks' edge, rubbing away some spittle from the edge of her mouth. The bone lizard shook her head and gave an exhausted look at her Fire-Type teammate.

    "Ungh… can you save your earful for another time, Gardie? I'm not feeling so good-" the Cubone groaned, only to be cut off by a fiery growl.

    "I save your hides from those Imps, and you stupid clods repay me by kidnapping me?!"

    Nida and Guardia's expressions quickly hardened into angry glares. After leading them straight into a pirate ambush, this mutt had the gall to insinuate they were the bad 'mons for saving him from certain doom?

    "Saving? That's what you're calling trying to get us captured by your thug buddies?" Nida scoffed.

    "Gardie, you're really not in any position to complain here," Guardia snapped, shooting a piercing glare at the visibly irate dog.

    "Those Imp Pokémon were going to capture you!" Pleo cried. "And if they had gotten you, who know what would've-"

    "Then you should have let me take my chances!" Elty shouted. "I don't need you to help me!"

    The young Lugia froze, stunned and shaken by the Fire-Type's rant as his eyes started to mist up. Nida similarly failed to anticipate Elty's outburst, stirring up a much angrier response from her end as she fanned her barbs out and narrowed her red eyes into a deep glare.

    "You ungrateful canalla!" Nida seethed. "We ought to have just left you and flown off earlier!"

    "Yeah, well whose fault is it that didn't happen, huh?!"

    A loud smack rang out followed by a yelp, making Pleo and Guardia flinch. The two looked, just in time to see a visibly seething Nida pull a leg back to her side. Elty was a little ways away, pawing at his jaw as he got up growling ugly-sounding words under his breath.

    "Fine, have it your way!" Elty spat. "See if I help you the next time that shrimp takes a shot at you! Or help you when that Samurott comes to cut you down to size!"

    Pleo's eyes began to water as each word from Elty and Nida's feud cut deeper and deeper at him. They- They really hated each other that much? After everything that they'd gone through together?

    "S-Stop… please…" Pleo begged.

    A loud thump rang out against the stone, piercing the air as an exasperated, raspy cry rang out:

    "All of you, just quiet down!"

    One by one, Pleo, Nida, and Elty turned to see a visibly frustrated Cubone staring at them, pulling the knob of her club up from the stone she slammed it down against. The Ground-Type gave a stern glare, before shaking her head and sighing.

    "Look, back home, when the bones of a colony found themselves unable to work together, they'd split up into two colonies and each went their separate way," she sighed. "If Gardie here really wants to be a thieving thug so badly, then we're all better off just letting it happen."

    "Hrmph, someone's finally talking sense-" the Growlithe huffed, only to be interrupted by a silencing swat from the Cubone before she continued.

    "As I was saying... Right now, we're in the middle of the ocean and are in no position to do that," Guardia said. "So let's get to Sormus first, and then we'll part ways."

    Pleo looked back and forth at Nida and Elty, as the two scowled, before giving grudging nods of agreement. The young Lugia batted his wings out of alarm, could they really have thought that Guardia's suggestion was the right thing to do?

    "Nida?" Pleo asked. "We're not really gonna-?"

    Nida harrumphed and shook her head, motioning with her paw for silence. The Nidoran sprouted a frown for a moment, before clearing her throat to speak.

    "Let's just get to Sormus already," the Poison-Type said. "All I want to do is get back home, and if Elty doesn't want to come, I'm not forcing him."

    "Hrmph," Elty grunted. "Fine by me."

    One by one, Nida, Elty, and Guardia clambered aboard Pleo, their mount standing silent and adrift. Everything felt like it was falling apart… He couldn't bring forth his powers when they were needed or keep them from hurting other Pokémon like Bech and Rasp, and even his friends were coming apart at the seams... Why was everything going wrong? Was he that bad of a Protector?

    "Pleo? Aren't you going to fly?"

    The Lugia heard Nida's words brush past his earholes, prompting him to ruffle his feathers uncomfortably. The young Legendary set off, reluctantly beating his wings as he leapt up, and continued his course for Sormus with joyless and heavy wingbeats.



    Out on the high seas northwest of Mengir, the Siglo Swellow carried on in its journey for Otvaga. The crew was kept particularly busy, both by keeping the ship moving at a healthy pace, and from preparing the ship's colors for Otvaga's waters to draw less attention.

    Back in Mengir, the crew had purchased spare sails to replace those stolen by the Iron Fleet, a suitable canvas for the ship's normal colors to accommodate ports that would surely be unwelcoming to Company sails. The swap had built up quite an appetite among the sailors, which kept Crom and Pladur's claws full with cooking. After going through a flurry of orders during the meal rush, the two finally were able to emerge onto the deck to share some of the fruits of their labor together, perching on a small stack of crates shaded by the ship's rear mast.

    "How far are we from this 'Otvaga' place anyways?" Crom asked.

    "Not far, I think," his father reassured. "I'm pretty sure that after this next buoy, there's only two more left before we reach the place."

    "Eh?" the Druddigon wondered. "But when would that be?"

    "Oi! Captain!" a squawking voice cried. "The next buoy's up ahead!"

    Crom blinked incredulously, as a smile began to spread over Pladur's face. The axe-headed dragon gave a bemused shake of his head, chuckling at their coincidental timing.

    "Sounds like right now-" the Fraxure began, only to be cut off by a further cry from the Doduo lookout.

    "And there's a bunch of 'mons on it!"

    The pair looked up with a start at the bird's squawk, just in time to see their crewmates gathering around the railing. The dragon father and son set aside their gummis and made their way over to peer out at the sea. There off in the distance, a large group of Pokémon clustered themselves at the base of a whitish-gray buoy.

    The thought flickered over Crom's mind that perhaps they might be ferals, or even pirates. A closer examination however, revealed that the creatures seemed too tired and disorganized to be preparing an ambush. On top of that, their scarves were not matching; hardly an intimidating appearance for would-be brigands.

    "Take us over there and ready the anchor!" Beatrix ordered.

    With a shifting of the Hitmontop First Mate's weight against the tiller, the Siglo Swellow steered towards the buoy, a splash soon following as the anchor was dropped to slow the ship. The schooner coasted along, and came to a stop beside the buoy, a haggard group consisting of a pink Gastrodon, a Stufful, and a Ferroseed coming into view. The motley cohort looked up at the twin-masted ship, trading apprehensive, unsettled looks with one another.

    "Er… hello?" the pink Gastrodon gulped.

    "Hoy!" the Hitmontop called. "Aren't you taking on a bit many passengers for a swimmer?"

    "Uh... well we were just passing through you see…" the Stufful began.

    "Oh, to where?" Beatrix asked. "If it's anywhere near Otvaga we could give you a ride."

    The three Pokémon inched back, bracing themselves as if expecting an impending attack. The three strangers traded furtive glances with each other, before uneasily turning their attention back to the ship's deck.

    "I'm not sure if it´s that a good idea…" the Gastrodon stammered.

    "Yeah," the Ferroseed added. "We really should ge-"

    "Oh for crying out loud, stop being so nervous already!" a squeaking voice snapped. "These bumpkins couldn't push you around even if they wanted to!"

    The crew collectively blinked and did a double take at the voice, turning their attention to the Gastrodon where a small, furry creature with a ringed tail and annoyed scowl emerged from behind. Hold on a minute! The voice, the scarf, the ever-present dripping sarcasm...

    "Scout?!"

    "Eh?!" the Ferroseed cried. "You know each other?"

    "We know each other, yes," Kiran sighed, tucking his head under a wing. Scout frowned upon seeing the crew's reaction, giving an impatient stamp of his feet and swish of his tail before scoffing and continuing on.

    "Oh so now you decided to play the cavalry," the Sentret fumed. "You could have done it before we had to swim out of Orleigh!"

    "Wait, Orleigh?" Natrix demanded. "What were you doing there of all places?"

    "I went to drop off one of Hariti's letters there," Scout explained. "In retrospect, I should have just hired a courier."

    "Because you were tired after such a long journey?" Crom asked.

    "No, you clod!" the brown-furred rodent snapped. "Because I spent half a week tied up in a basement by pirates!"

    The gathered crew of the Siglo Swellow blinked and an awkward silence filled the air, before the Stufful from the other group cleared his throat to add his own commentary.

    "Er… yeah," the little bear said. "That's kinda why we're all here."

    "Come on aboard," Beatrix offered. "We can talk this over while we patch you all up."

    The three strangers paused and mulled the matter over, before turning back and each shaking their heads at the offer.

    "Thanks but no thanks," the Ferroseed answered. "We've already tested our luck enough as-is."

    "Yeah, based off these buoys, it looks like we drifted off course," the Gastrodon grunted. "And the sooner we get to Otvaga, the better."

    "I think I'll stick here. I need a new ship anyways," Scout said. "Besides… I think that the others might wanna hear more about what went down."

    The Gastrodon gave a short thanks before gathering up the other two Pokémon, the mollusk slowly swimming off ahead of the bow. The crew threw a rope over the side, allowing Scout to clamber up to the deck, where a quickly-growing crowd gathered around plying the Sentret with questions.

    "So what happened out there?" Philips asked.

    "Yeah," Natrix added. "I doubt that those pirates just let you walk out of Rosequartz, so how'd you do it?"

    "Like I said, I went to Orleigh to deliver a letter. But I got mistaken by some pirate courier and got thrown in a basement," Scout answered. "About a day afterwards, Kiran's twerps came by and tried to break me out."

    A startled Swellow's squawk filled the air. Scout turned his attention to Kiran to see that the bird had puffed out his feathers from surprise, appearing as if he'd seen a ghost.

    "They what?!" the Flying-Type exclaimed.

    "Eh? What's with that reaction?" the Sentret demanded. "They've been island-hopping for almost two weeks by now."

    "But then where are they?!" Crom cried. "They helped you get away, didn't they?"

    "I said that they tried to break me out. They got chased off by the guards!" the Sentret huffed. "I got away the day after, after the guards went off chasing some 'god' and the town got trashed by a swarm of ferals. The kids were too busy flying off the other way for me to try and escape with them."

    A series of puzzled grunts and exclamations filled the air, the gathered Pokémon being collectively taken aback by the Sentret's testimony. Pladur shook his head and darted up to Scout, half-disbelieving the rodent's words.

    "Wait, you saw them again after you escaped?" the Fraxure asked.

    "Yeah, I saw them flying away from town as I escaped," Scout responded.

    "Eh? But, do you know where they flew off to?" Ander pressed, only to be met with a shrug from the ferret.

    "Beats me, I just saw them flying out of town. I don't even know if they made it off the island," he replied. "For all I know, they hid in the wilderness on the other side."

    "But what are we supposed to do if he's around a place like that?" Crom murmured, only to be answered with a firm, buzzing voice.

    "We go there and evaluate our options," Beatrix said.

    A chorus of startled outcries followed the Illumise's words. Beatrix wanted them to go to Orleigh?

    "Eh?!" Philips squeaked. "Captain Beatrix?!"

    "You can't seriously be suggesting that we sail up to una cueva de ladrones!" Pat demanded.

    "I'm suggesting that we don't have any leads as to where the kids went right now," Beatrix insisted. "And the sooner we get more information, the sooner we can figure out how to act on it."

    "But we wouldn't last in a fight against that many pirates!" Natrix protested. "For crying out loud, the only thing we have to work with other than our own fighting skills is a Lyle Gun!"

    "Like I said, we're going there to get more information," the captain insisted. "We'll stay a healthy distance from the island and try to pick up what we can from there."

    Some uneasy "erm"s and "ah"s floated around the gathered sailors, along with a scattered protest here or there about a sudden stomachache. The Illumise shook her head and motioned for silence, before continuing to speak.

    "If anyone else has an idea of where they'd be, now's the time to raise it,," the firefly demanded. "Otherwise we'll be making a choice right here and now whether to turn tail or keep going after our Protector."

    An uneasy pause settled over the gathered Pokémon. None of them wanted to get anywhere near Orleigh, but even so, there really wasn't any lead that was better than the one that Scout gave them.

    "… Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Let's move on," the Hitmontop First Mate ordered. "Though I want you lookouts to remain vigilant for any potential blind spots!"

    There was a brief pause before 'ayes' began to circulate among the crew, as one by one the Pokémon returned to their stations. A few were enthusiastic, while others betrayed obvious hesitance and nervousness. Orleigh was undoubtedly treacherous waters to deal with, and the less said about their odds in a direct fight with pirates there, the better. Even so, fortune favored the bold, and with their Protector likely holed up in that den of thieves, they'd surely never get him back by timidly avoiding the place.

    And so it was that the Siglo Swellow changed its course and set off, sailing for murky waters with an ever-thickening cloud of tension filling the air.



    Back in Rosequartz, the Iron Fleet's base had come off relatively lightly from the calamity that befell the town. Yes, there were a few fresh holes punched into the wall, and the rear scaffolding had collapsed, but the half-finished structure was largely intact…

    "Argh… my… everything."

    Though the same could not be said for its occupants. In a corner, a wounded Noibat and Staravia staggered over to a table where Kichiro sat grumbling under his breath - their other comrades being in similarly haggard shape. Even the crew's Aggron captain wasn't exempt, as Hess lumbered in panting, staring ahead in a catatonic silence as water dripped off fresh chinks in his armor.

    "How on earth did this happen?"

    "Could be worse," the Staravia said. "We could've gotten captured like Rodion and those other guys did."

    Hess went silent at the fliers' chatter and trudged over to his stool by the indoor rock garden. The Aggron plopped down onto the seat and buried his face in his claws.

    The encounter with the Clawitzer had been a total debacle. Her underlings had carried off a number of pirates from town, for what everyone presumed to be bounty money or simply to make an example of some of their ranks. The losses included a good chunk of his crew, the most painful of which was Rodion. He himself had only been saved by virtue of his sheer weight, though with his First Mate gone, he'd be hard-pressed to keep the crew in line without Rodion's knack for heading off brewing troubles.

    The Steel-Type hung his head and groaned, trying to think of some way that his crew could bounce back from this calamity. He didn't get a chance to think for long, as he heard a loud buzz and felt a weight on the back of his head. The Aggron pirate blinked and looked up just in time to see a Yanmega perched on his metal head, the Bug-Type flitting off and hovering in front of him, full of vigor and cheer.

    "Hey, look on the bright side," Valatos reassured. "We made it to raid another day. All the time you need to get some fresh blood, plot your revenge, and-"

    "I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT RIGHT NOW!" the Aggron bellowed.

    The dragonfly hastily flitted away and retreated to a different table occupied by his companions, where they traded uneasy glances with one another. Hess sighed and buried his face in his arms on the table, prompting the fliers to give unamused stares at him and murmur in the background.

    "This wouldn't have happened if Rodion planned the ambush," the Noibat muttered.

    "As would have any number of past screw-ups," Kichiro hissed.

    "Yeah, well, it's kinda late for that now," the Staravia growled.

    Hess drooped and looked away to try and ignore his lackeys' stares, only to stop and realize that looking weak in a time of crisis surely wouldn't make anything better. The Aggron shook his head, gritted his teeth and steeled his eyes into a serious scowl, readying himself to face his underlings once more. The Steel-Type turned back, full of forced enthusiasm and vigor... only for a loud bang to ring out from the doorway.

    "Hess!"

    The Aggron jumped at the sound of a harsh, familiar voice from the door. Hess turned around reluctantly, where he saw the Conkeldurr messenger from earlier at the door, sporting fresh welts and a glaring scowl over his face.

    "Hrmph, seems like you're quite popular these days," the Conkeldurr said. "The Council sent for you again."

    Hess blanched at the mention of the Council and buried his head in his claws. There was no way that they could be pleased with the state of the town right now, but surely they'd understand and not turn him into ship cladding... right?

    ... oh who was he kidding?

    "Ugh… drown me."



    Pleo's journey continued on as the sun made its course across the sky. Every now and then he'd spot a group of Pokémon passing below him, or a ship off in the distance; but even so, the journey felt far quieter than he had expected. His friends hadn't talked to each other since they left the rocks, or said much of anything for that matter… Maybe it would be best to try and break the ice to get them talking with each other again?

    "The sky's really pretty today, don't you think?" Pleo chirped. "What do you think those clouds on the horizon look like?"

    "Like clouds?" Nida grunted.

    "Hrmph," Elty huffed. "How should I know?"

    "I-I'm not opening my eyes right now," Guardia whimpered.

    The Lugia blinked and fumbled with his words a little. That topic hadn't gone as planned… Perhaps he should try striking up a conversation with Elty? Nida did say he was 'lippy', so he'd want to talk more, wouldn't he…?

    "Uh… Elty! You've been to Sormus before, right?" the young Protector asked. "Did they have 'mah-lah-sah-dah' there too?"

    "Does it look like I'd have gone there to find malasada?" the dog snapped.

    Pleo looked back in time to see Nida glaring at Elty, the Fire-Type reciprocating in kind as Guardia continued to latch onto his back cowering. The young Lugia faltered and turned back ahead drooping, his spirits lowered by even his attempts to stir up small talk failing on the team.

    "I guess not…" the bird admitted. "It's just… I thought there would be something to talk about…"

    A sudden gust of wind rocked the Lugia, prompting his passengers to latch onto him for safety, and Guardia to open her eyes in a panic.

    "A-AAH!"

    For a brief moment, the Ground-Type looked down, and began to feel faint, prompting her to jerk her head back up to try and stave off vertigo. Off in the distance, she saw the clouds part, revealing a cluster of dunes punctuated by stony hills on the horizon, and a white-sailed ship carrying along in the water a little ways in front of it..

    "Ah! There's land!" the Cubone exclaimed. "Just past that white ship there!"

    "Hrmph," the Growlithe snorted. "About time."

    "Come on Pleo," Nida sighed. "Let's just get there and get this over with."

    The young Legendary carried on with a sigh, flapping his wings and driving forward towards the land. Pleo charted a course to keep his distance from the ship, only for an easterly crosswind to blow him closer towards it. As the seabird struggled to right his course, he was able to better notice the ship's details. It was a large, two-masted craft, with white sails sporting blue sun designs. Most curiously, there were a large number of Pokémon on the deck, who suddenly seemed to burst into activity.

    "Huh?" Pleo murmured. "What are all those Pokémon doing down-"

    Fwish!

    A large, pressurized jet of water sailed overhead, prompting Pleo to drop in the air, and the four members of Team Traveller to cry out in a startled panic.

    "AAAAAAAAAH!"

    "Wh-What was that?!" Guardia squealed.

    "The ship just attacked us, bonehead!" Elty yipped.

    "But why would it do tha-?!" Pleo squawked.

    The four looked down at the deck of the ship, where amidst the sea of activity, one figure in particular stood out. To their horror, next to the railing was none other than the form of a Samurott with blade in paw, his neck bedecked in a lavender scarf.

    "Lyn!"



    THWAM!

    Lyn pounded a paw against the Nektar Weide's railing, growling irritatedly at his missed shot, panting from exertion from having just spat up a Hydro Cannon into the air. As the Samurott seethed with a free paw tightly wrapped around a seamitar, Ketu looked on from a small distance, turning his head up with a sigh from picking at his claws.

    "I told you that that that bird was slippery-" the Weavile began, only to be cut off with a bellowing roar.

    "Enough! All of you, I want your fire on that bird now!"

    The deck hands gave a hasty salute and one after the other began disgorging attacks up into the sky. Lyn watched as the young Protector turned tail and weaved around the flurry of beams and projectiles. A cry went up from the Crobat captain of the fliers as they attempted to give chase, only to be thwarted by a strong crosswind from the east blowing them back towards the ship. None the more amused, the Samurott twitched his whiskers and sheathed his blade with a growl, dropping to all fours in order to give pursuit.

    "Ugh. Do I have to do everything myself?" Lyn fumed.

    The otter clambered up onto the railing, readying himself to vault over into the water. As he planted his hind legs, a startled buzz and the sound of flustered wingbeats approached from behind as Ellsberg rushed over waving for attention.

    "Lyn?!" the Mothim exclaimed. "What are you doing?!"

    "I'll pursue them from the water!" the Water-Type barked. "You just keep the ship moving as fast as you can and keep firing!"

    Ellsberg tried to reach out to Lyn in protest, only for the Samurott captain to leap off the railing and dive into the sea before he could get even close. The otter straightened out in the water into a torpedo-like shape, tearing through the water and returning to the surface. There, directly ahead of him, was his prize's flailing form. All that was left was to pitch him out of the sky, and scoop him up. A task he was all-too-ready for.

    "This ends here," Lyn growled.

    The Samurott's mouth began to grow frigid as cold air built up within the back of his throat. The otter spat up the contents, coming out as an icy beam that sailed high up into the sky, directly at the white bird's body.



    "Look out!"

    Just after the sound of Nida's petrified squeak, Pleo felt a freezing burst zip by his wingtips. The young Lugia jerked up in a panic, drawing cries from his passengers as they clung to their startled mount during his erratic flight.

    "H-how did Lyn find us?!" Pleo squawked. "I thought the Company didn't we know we were in these waters!"

    "I don't know Pleo, but just keep flying!" Nida pleaded. "We'll worry about that once we've landed!"

    On cue, a gout of fire sailed past, prompting the Lugia to move to the left. As soon as Pleo backed away, a crackling bolt of electricity shot by his wings on the right, prompting him to lurch back. As Guardia clung to Pleo for dear life, the world underneath flew by in incoherent glimpses. In the midst of her frightened vertigo, the Cubone could clearly see the world below changing from the deep blue of the sea's water to the friendlier appearance of golden sand, a sign that they'd crossed over land.

    "Yatta! Yat-!" the Ground-Type cried, only to be cut off by a startled whine from Elty.

    "Agh! Incoming!"

    Nida and Guardia whirled in the direction of their Growlithe teammate as a torrential jet of water surged up from underneath. The Fire-Type spat up a column of embers at the water in a panic, followed by a barb flicked from his Nidoran companion. The attacks sailed on into the Hydro Cannon, only for the torrent to sweep them away and slam into Pleo from below.

    For a fleeting moment, the three felt Pleo rise in the air - the water rolling off his plumes like droplets off of wax paper - only for him to go limp and dive into an uncontrolled spiral.

    "AAAAAAAAH!"

    The Lugia fell further and further, the sandy ground beneath growing visibly closer by the second. All the while, his passengers desperately tugged at his feathers and body with their paws and mouths, pleading with their mount to come back to his senses.

    "Pull up! Pull up!" Guardia squealed. The Ground-Type tugged desperately at the falling Protector, the bird weakly stirring to her claw pinches.

    "Ngah…"


    The young Protector cracked his eyes open, where he fuzzily saw shapes on the ground fast approaching. The bird weakly fought against the air with his wings, trying to level his body out only to feel a heavy blow and sand scraping against his stomach. Pleo pitched forward, before tumbling head over heels, the world going black as his teammates' screams faded into the darkness.



    "Pleo?"

    "Come on, get up."

    Pleo felt the sun beating down on him along with a repeated prodding along his side… was that Guardia? He began to move his wings weakly, feeling sand in his feathers, and a throbbing pain from his belly. The Lugia raised his head, his vision running muddy as he cracked his eyes open to the harsh glare of a desert in the late afternoon.

    "Nrgh…"

    "Oi, he's moving!" a yipping, canine voice cried.

    "Don't just stand there!" a squeaking voice exclaimed. "Help him up!"

    The young Protector felt his body get lifted up, and tottered as his eyes adjusted to the bright light. He began to see that he was at the foot of a large, sandy mound. Behind him, a trail of disturbed sand and feathers marking where he had crashed and tumbled along. Pleo looked seeing similar dunes around him, a few stony hills in the distance, and his three teammates looking battered and waiting anxiously ahead of him.

    "Are you alright, Pleo?" Nida asked. The bird blinked a few times, before staggering up woozily to face his teammate.

    "I… I think so," he answered weakly. Guardia went over to her teammate and examined his body, brushing her claws over the Lugia's plumes. An explorative pat and a subsequent wince from Pleo quickly revealed a deepening bruise under his belly's feathers, prompting her to cast a glance at a satchel that had been set aside on a rock.

    "Hang on," the Cubone reassured. "I'll see if we have something to heal him with."

    "Ugh… well this was a great way to arrive in Sormus," Elty groaned.


    Nida lowered her ears and shook out her spines, shooting an annoyed glare at the Growlithe. They'd just crashed into the middle of some gods-forsaken sand pit and his first instinct was to complain about them?


    "Really, Elty?" the Nidoran hissed. "Can't you wait until after we're out of the woods before whining about being around us?"

    The dog's mood quickly soured at the allegation, prompting him to growl and bare his teeth at his rabbit accuser. Was she seriously assuming the worst of him now when they'd just tumbled into the middle of a desert?

    "Well excuse me if 'crashing into a sand dune' isn't my idea of a good time!" the Fire-Type snapped. "I didn't ask for you to make me cross paths with that Samurott again!"

    The pair's bickering went on a ways, before Guardia threw down the remains of the Oran Berry she was pressing against Pleo's stomach and stamped the sandy ground irkedly.

    "Both of you, shut up!" Guardia growled. "I'm in the middle of something here!"

    The Cubone's interruption did little to settle the mood, as the three broke out into a heated argument. Pleo drooped and looked away, when he chanced to spot a moving shape slip in the air past the crest of the sand dune. The young Lugia warily trudged up and squinted, where off in the distance was the white-sailed ship they'd encountered at sea with what seemed to be large groups leaving it from sea and air...

    And much to his horror, coming through the surf and onto Sormus' desert beaches was none other than its Samurott captain, blade drawn and ready for battle.

    "A-Aah! Lyn's already coming for us!" he cried.

    Nida, Elty, and Guardia went silent and scampered up the dune to see for themselves. One after the other, the three went wide-eyed and flushed pale. There wouldn't be much time before Lyn made his way inland, but just what could they do in a situation like this?!

    "We need to get out of here," Nida said.

    "How?" Guardia demanded. "We don't know this island at all, and there's no visible cover we can hide under!"

    "Actually…" Elty murmured. "Don't be so sure about that."

    The Growlithe raised a paw, gesturing off inland into the distance. There, looming high into the sky was a tall column of fog, a surefire marker of a Mystery Dungeon. Even so, the Fire-Type's discovery failed to bring any ease to Nida or Guardia's eyes, the pair shooting suspicious glares at their teammate.

    "Why on earth should we trust you now?" the Nidoran huffed.

    "Yeah, where does this Mystery Dungeon lead to?" the Cubone growled.

    "But we need somewhere to hide!" Pleo exclaimed. "There's nothing here for us!"

    "Look, I'm going there if you're coming or not," Elty huffed. "If you want to chance it with Lyn and his cronies, be my guest!"

    The Growlithe took off, running as fast for the fog in the distance as his pudgy frame would allow. Pleo beat his wings out with a start, and began to run after the dog, calling out after him.

    "Elty! Wait!" Pleo squawked. "Hold on for us!"

    Nida and Guardia blinked incredulously at the entire episode, watching their teammates' forms grow increasingly distant before they grudgingly turned to face one another.

    "This was not the sort of lore I wanted to gather from here," Guardia groaned. "But it doesn't look like we've got much of a choice."

    "… Bueno," Nida grumbled. "Let's just get out of here."

    The two ran after the white bird slipping off in the distance, hobbling a bit from their rough landing. This… wasn't how things were supposed to go. With how much more chaotic their arrival was, could they even assume Dimitri would've made it to Sormus to show them to their next destination? Either way, it was a priority that would have to wait, as they wouldn't be going anywhere fast if Lyn caught up to them.



    Author's Notes:

    - meduzy (мeду́зы) - Russian: "jellyfish" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - una cueva de ladrones - Spanish: "a den of thieves", lit. "a cave of thieves"
    - Yatta! (やった!) - Japanese: "I/We did it!" (Hepburn Romanization)
    - Bueno - Spanish: "Good", used in this context as "Fine"
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
  19. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Alright, new arc!

    And yep, Elty’s reaction to being grabbed by Pleo is pretty much exactly what I was expecting. :p I can’t really fault anyone for reacting the way they did in that moment, although I was particularly fond of Guardia getting fed up with everyone’s crap. :p

    Guessing this originally read “the Samurott” and you forgot to remove the “the.”

    Pleo needs to stop flying so low! Flying can outspeed swimming any day of the week, but only with altitude! It makes it easier to avoid being shot down too. But then I reread that bit and he was on his way down to check out the island, so I can't scold him too much. Plus, he had three passengers and that kind of restricts mobility a little. Poor little guy can’t catch a break. :<

    Aaaaand it’s time for another dungeon! At least this time they’ve had a bit of a rest so they’re not totally running on fumes like they were with the last one. This is, admittedly, the next in a long line of arcs that begin with them fleeing from an island, having no choice but to enter a dungeon to escape capture, and then making their way out and lying low in town for a while before having to flee yet again. The pattern is a tad repetitive, so I’m hoping that this arc will shake things up a bit with some unexpected developments.

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
  20. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Eff yeah, finally caught up again. 8D This story just keeps getting better and better. I'm legitimately in awe of how well you keep track of so many characters and so many storylines. It never feels like a pileup, and it never feels like we're being sidebarred away from the real story. It's all one great big rich cohesive picture and I love it.

    I'm especially liking the fact that now the Empire's well and truly on-stage. Partly because I've been curious about that faction for a while, and partly because omg Nagant. VERY happy that she's become such a major player in all this. Badass old ladies rock. (And I loved her little Undyne moment a chapter back. :D For real, I had Spear of Justice playing in my head for the remainder of the chapter. And then some.)

    Hopefully I'll be able to keep tabs on this a little better from here on out. I'm well and truly hooked. :D

    Oh, and one more thing. Your scyther dude apparently sells shoes on the side. :B
     

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