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Fledglings

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

  1. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    (Con’t from previous post…)

    Episode 7
    33: For once, it doesn’t look like Lyn immediately gets a good read on Travelers’ whereabouts. Which is a nice change of pace. Although, it’s extremely short-lived, b/c Ellsberg is already on Mengir. They have the absolute worst luck. And almost immediately, it looks like you’re taking clear efforts to balance out who’s taking the spotlight, it seems. Of course Pleo gets a new development with what I can only assume is a nod to The Power of One because why the heck not. But then we have Guardia’s massive fear of flying, Elty’s bitterer than usual attitude (which would feel a bit more heartfelt if the pirate stuff wasn’t shoved aside last episode) and the very unexpected return of Nida’s fear of Skarmories.

    Ooooh, sick burn!

    On the one hand, I’m not sure how going back to Tromba factors into things at the moment. But on the other hand…
    My, this is an unexpected development! I’m just wondering why now of all times was the point to casually drop this in?

    Okay, lot of different perspectives in this chapter, here. So we finally get to meet Darzin after all this time and he’s bickering with another admin like they were siblings. Very fitting introduction, given that he’s been built up as a loser as far as the Company’s concerned. But, is this the set up for an administrator confrontation that I’ve been waiting for?

    34: Welp, Zorn leaves way more of an impression than Darzin… and even Farn for that matter. Shame we haven’t actually gotten to see them interact with the protags and we’re 34 chapters in!

    Wait, does this mean the Company has a Legendary already? Oh God it’s like the British getting control of Davy Jones in the Pirates movies…

    Zorn’s certainly got a more competent plan than Lyn already. If this is the turning point where the villainous threat is upgraded, count me in. Adding onto that, this island’s guard appears far more loyal and, well, organized than Tromba’s and the allusions are that the ferals here are not messing around. Not much to say about Crom’s scene. In some respects, his travels are now reminding me of a good guys’ variation of Bowser’s scenes from Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. They’re constantly a step behind Team Traveler and having some occasional hijinx ensue while that happens. As for the good guys, looks like they’re able to pick up on clues to drawing out Pleo’s power pretty quickly. Which is… good I guess. In the sense that I thought there was going to be no progress in that regard.

    35:
    Even in the PMD world, weather forecasters can’t be trusted. Also I’m amazed we’ve made it this far and not a single, “THAR’S A STORM A-BREWIN’!” to be found.

    And, like in last episode, it seems Crom and company are catching up with some of the key characters from this locale. It… kind of reads like a retread of what happened to them in Seahive. But at least there’s a bit more background on the Company to not make it feel like complete filler. Meanwhile, there’s the tease of a potentially massive Company clash b/c it looks like Lyn’s due to crash Zorn’s party.

    … Okay, now I don’t feel bad about those earlier Avatar references. So the Company is totally not the equivalent of the Fire Nation here, right? Aha… ha…

    Mengir continues to give me the creeps here. And not spooky creeps, either. A field of Apricorns in this context just straight up makes me nervous. I am glad to see some of the more routine dungeon crawling skipped this time around to get to the meatier stuff, though (consisting of blowing Pleo up, apparently). Then we have a cut back to, uh, Trizano. Which I’m guessing indicates he’s going to get caught up in all this Company-driven insanity.

    36: Oh god, okay, the start here made my heart race a bit. My biggest fear is death (far above everything else) so reading even the basic descriptions made me react like Pleo. But, it appears to tie in with the protector for Mengir, Xerneas (with possibly a Tree of Life nod or two?). And ferals appear and it looks like things are going exactly the way Zorn wants them to. I don’t blame the ferals for being so untrustworthy, though you would think Guardia could try to do something to get through to them. And okay, this chapter finally makes it evident that Crom is playing a much bigger role this episode, even if it’s all attempting to catch up to Team Traveler. As for the battle itself, pretty standard feral Pokémon fare. But I noticed Elty seemed to get a new move here. And I kid you not I was about to note how strange it was we’d gotten this far with no one on Team Traveler seeming having picked up any new moves. I think it’s part of why the feral Pokémon battles can feel rather repetitive, especially compared to Company encounters, is because the moves they’re using have all been the same. But hopefully that’s starting to change. At least there’s the reappearance of Pleo’s storm powers to drive off the bug horde. I also like how this immediately follows up on the chapter’s introductory scene. Even the narration gets frantic to verbalize Pleo’s mind racing to conclusions.

    Even though I do currently feel like the scenes with the Siglo Swellow crew are slowing things down a bit, I do like this parallel here. Just as Company forces are coalescing (or working against each other) we have lesser, pirate-related baddies coalescing. It speaks to the rising threat level, and does get me excited for what could happen.

    37: As I expected, the Company guards are quite efficient and their personalities shine through. With Phyllis’ objections (being Marked), Salvini’s hesitancy, and Briggs outright not caring and wanting to clip Pleo’s wings before finally acquiescing to avoid making any sort of scene. And it looks like the Siglo Swellow crew is finally running into some actual conflict to boot thanks to Hess. Actually, this time around I think I like the back and forth between the Siglo Swellow’s tense situation and Trivano scheming behind-the-scenes to get Team Traveler to safety. I think he brought up the Subway, and after hearing it name-dropped a few times, I was wondering if/when it would pop up. The Hess situation is dealt with pretty quickly, showing off that he and Valatos’ trio are leaning heavily into comic relief villain territory. Zagging back to Mengir, Trivano is able to get to Salvini. And there’s the casual reveal she’s Osmund’s brother, which I had an inkling of suspicion about. Still, it’s a solid explanation of her motives that isn’t too far-fetched. Then there’s Nagant’s reappearance, which I swear is the Imperials entry into things. But with all the Company cronies running around, she does manage to stand out, because I can’t get a solid read on her or her motives. And ending things off on a cliffhanger, though I feel like it’d have more punch if it were Zorn and not Darzin.

    38: And, yup, as expect Darzin is done and dusted rather humiliatingly, it seems. Good to see Nida having to swallow her fears a bit for the sake of helping the team escape. The storm definitely adds a measure of tension and again drags up that mystery with songs apparently powering him up. And, with all the jumping around there’s been these past two chapters, I do like there’s a bit of a unifying thread to them: sympathizers within the Company. Namely Salvini and Kellner. I get you wanted to make that a focal point of the episode, so I just wanted to say it felt very effective. Otherwise, all this jumping back and forth would have thrown me off a bit. And… uh… oh… that’s it, apparently. Trivano and Dimitri help set them on the road to this Subway and we get a tease of the Iron Fleet becoming a recurring menace for the Siglo Swellow. But that does it for this installment.

    Overall: the secondary characters stole the show with this one. Honestly I didn’t think I’d see the feral tribe get topped, but somehow the Company guards, both on Mengir and Kenobi. The Company could really use some more down-to-earth characters to contrast the administrators who don’t have a sympathetic bone in their bodies at the moment. And it was nice to see the Siglo Swellow crew encounter some honest to goodness trouble after their earlier scenes felt like either comical filler or just sort of recapping previous areas and reminding me that, “Hey, remember these other characters exist.” However, there is a bit of an issue that I feel like the Siglo Swellow crew brings at this point. It seems like there’s a bit of difficulty, at least in my opinion, balancing the two groups. It gives you quite a cast to work with, and as a result it feels like several of the characters are just kind of there show off their personality quirks. This is especially prevalent with, say, Kiran or Paldur, as Crom and Ander seem to get more hints of any sort of development.

    At the same time, it felt like a bit of anti-climax. Here I was expecting to see a significant conflict with, say, the likes of Briggs and/or Zorn. What I got was Darzin making him a fool of himself. Maybe this was a purposeful bait-and-switch? In which case, you got me good! In any case, this feels like a children’s TV adventure series at this point. Which is really cool! Especially with all the lore and distinctive locations. Still, I can’t help but be surprised with how far we’ve gotten into the fic and it feels like the biggest action cues were the escapes from Lyn’s ship and Seahive. I think it’s probably my wires getting tangled. I’m reading this expecting it to have traditional boss battles, but that’s not the angle you’re going for. And I think it’s this episode that finally made me realize that. Whoops!

    Episode 7 & Special 2
    39: I like this opening with the Imperials. It made me draw some comparisons between Nagant and Lyn. Like how they’re both seeking to bounce back in their organizations following family screw ups. But there are some key differences, like Nagant’s preference for keeping a low profile compared to Lyn’s blustery, aggressive approach. And immediately, it already seems like we’re in for something very different with this Subway. There’s even an airplane wreckage to boot. The fallout with the Company on Mengir did not take the direction I expected, either. I can’t tell whether I find Zorn’s response cunning, bone-headed, or somewhere in between. But there are ripples sent through the ranks and the consequences for Salvini and company feel like they have some pretty hefty weight behind them this time around. The Station also proves an interesting setting too. Really incorporating the undersea ruin elements pretty well. Though the attitude of the water-types took me by surprise. My gut tells me they’re recurring characters for this episode. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have bothered with names, right?

    Ah, well I guess this explains the scenes with Hatteras back on Tromba from last episode. Though, the fact that it was basically at the beginning of the episode admittedly made me forget about it until it just got brought back up. At the very least, Alexandria serves to dredge up a sense of homesickness effectively. That homesickness is also dredged up a bit with the letters, but that’s quickly shoved aside for a cliffhanger with Hess. Maybe he’s finally graduating from loser villainy status?

    40: Now here’s an exciting way to start off a chapter. Plenty of crewmembers get to share the spotlight, we’ve got some unique ship combat elements like the harpoon, and the Iron Fleet’s actually coming off as rather menacing compared to their past appearances. Although Valatos and his friends still seem to fall firmly into goofball territory and even Hess is annoyed with them. Gotta love it when villains argue. It did end in a stalemate of sorts, which while not all that satisfying, did offer an interesting moment between Crom and Ander.

    I HAVE EXCITEMENT!

    I also see that the Imperials are not quite as… high-strung as the Company. Not sure if that’s universal, but I again like the contrast. All in all, there a lot of perspective shifts so far, and it makes me think that this episode is serving less to advance things for Team Traveler, and more to advance all the other factions in the story.

    41: Braveshoal Town’s pretty nifty, right off the bat. An undersea city that also accommodates land-dwelling Pokémon. And with Alcon and Sevan it’s funny having Pleo point out the lookalike nature of Pokémon of the same species. Of course, Sevan is Lyn’s brother. This is apparently the family matters episode. The chapter also teases me with the prospect of Team Traveller facing with Imperial grunts. But that’s quickly shoved aside for what I believe is much more tense: the Board’s in town and the Siglo Swellow dropped in on them. I was just expecting a baddie meeting, but the luckless crew dropped in on them. I’m not quite sure I buy into the “If we have hope, we’ll be fine,” rhetoric given the way the odds are stacked up. But that’s probably the point. Especially since Pleo’s already flown the coop. But that turns out to be a bit of teasing too (gah, you’re too good at teasing me and leaving me wanting to see what happens) because it’s back to Team Traveler discovering an undersea guild (and Scout’s once-an-episode cameo). Sure enough, my guess that Dimitri’s team would be recurring was proven right, and it looks like they’re the ticket to the Blue Fairy. I’m personally of the opinion that you could have stitched this and the other scene in Braveshoal together, while having the Siglo Swellow scene lead into the Board’s appearance and it would’ve flowed a bit nicer. I get the way you did is more TV series-like, though. I like that the Director’s a Nidoking. Seems fitting in some way with a Nidoran(F) protag, I suppose.

    42: Starting off with a non-sequitur here. It’s nice to check in on the family, but after the previous chapter’s dramatic end with the Director’s appearance it comes off a bit flat to me. With the next scene, I am curious why, in a town that’s suddenly crawling with Company higher-ups, no one seems to recognize Imperials scarves. I know they steal Company ones right away, but you’d think if the two factions are enemies they’d be intimately familiar with each other. But, eh, enough about that. Board meeting time. And it’s just as angry as I imagined it.

    I must say, considering this point comes up rather frequently, it sure would be nice to actually know what happened to make Darzin look like such an imbecile. Just taking board members’ words doesn’t really do it justice. Unless you’re setting us up for Darzin to backstab the Company… which you go right ahead and do next chapter.

    This chapter also reveals the Blue Fairy and, at last, we finally come face to face with another Protector! And with it comes more details about the world of Anyilla that I had felt so starved for since the beginning. The Company having come out from under the Empire is definitely a cool twist. And having them vying for control is, I guess, some sort of analogue to trading companies trying to outmaneuver the Crown? I don’t remember my colonial history well, so I’m not sure what the comparisons are. Nevertheless, collecting Protectors to become the sole ruling power in Anyilla, while not the most original bit, at least gives me reasoning for the baddies’ actions that I’ve been looking for. And the surprises keep coming. Team Traveler might not really be able to return to Tromba safely. Manaphy’s the Protector of the Company’s home island! And could that have been Lyn’s relative who rescued her? Nerea provides them a sense of direction with a possible solution to their quarry. It looks like this simple quest to go home is expanding, which excites me a lot.

    The continuing board meeting sees some nice scheming from Inler. Almost Giovanni-esque, which is great given his species. And it ends off with a tease at Team Traveler’s first potential conflict with Imperials (who I forgot about with all the events of this chapter).

    43:
    Actually it’s been awhile since Elty even tried anything remotely criminal. You’re going soft, buddy, admit it!

    Darzin decides to start turning on the Company; it seemed pretty obvious. I didn’t guess that the Imperials would be the route through which he’d do that, so congrats on the twist.

    Similarly, the battle with Cyanea and Katyusha was a very different fare, thanks to the added element of being underwater. In some ways, it reminded me of a shark cage (the Sharpedo probably doesn’t help in that regard, ha ha). Crom’s scene is again treading that homesickness feeling and leaves me with a sense of deja vu, but he also has his moment of determination where he offers to do a mission. If only they weren’t on Mengir; they’re screwed. In the end, the chapter ends on rather tepid notes, but gives us some cliffhangers (namely the Mystery Dungeon, Elty’s familiarity with it, and Ellsberg getting accosted by Elilan).

    Overall: This episode had a lot of things going on all at once. There were a lot of abrupt jumps between different factions. Personally, I think with all the transitions it might’ve made the episode read easier to put similar ones together. I’m guessing you broke things up for the sake of variety, but I found myself constantly having to go back and double-check my notes here to remember who was who and what they were supposed to be doing. It does give off a TV series feel, which I think is what you’re going for. I’m not saying that this was bad. Actually, I quite enjoyed all the things going on. A lot of tension and what seems like build-up toward an escalating threat. And Team Traveler has a much more definitive sense of direction, finally. I’m still not a fan of their lack of progression in the moves department, but it seems like this is setting them up to take that step at last. And there were a lot of new things brought to the table by this episode.

    SC 2: So, this is setting itself up as a far cry from the other SC. Not a cute, family-focused story, but one of dashing escapades and apparently focused on some of the secondary characters. If I’m not mistaken this ties into what Nerea mentioned in Episode 8 about a way to deal with the Company. Evidently, this is quite the flashback, since Crom’s sister apparently hasn’t hatched yet. And it’s tying into what I think is the Mystery Dungeon Team Traveller just ended up in.

    And we finally have an obligatory Absol disaster sense joke. We’re done here, folks! *ba-dum-tsssh*

    I must say I do like that Tarquin comes off as a much more competent Hess, just from what I see here, anyway. At least, until Beatrix tricks him with some clever wordplay. But that proves short-lived because in comes Lyn. And boy is it great to see him actually fight again. A fun action-filled scene facing off with Tarquin. This chapter even gives a glimpse into an Imperial city, I believe. And it describes how Calino ended up in Tromba. Looks like Beatrix’s trick actually had quite a bit of blowback.

    Episode 9
    44: I appreciate that we start off immediately with what the last episode ended with. That’s what I was getting at when I said too much jumping around could make it tough for me to follow at points. And I have to say that all this infighting among the Company is piquing my curiosity, although at this point there really hasn’t been any genuine sabotage yet so much as forging alliances and making backroom deals. Just like a modern-day corporation, am I right? Ha ha ha…

    Oh hey look, a new move for Pleo. It’s about time! I think that’s Dragon Rush I’m seeing?

    It also looks like we haven’t seen the last of Dimitri, Viktor, and their rod, unlike some of the other location-specific characters. Nagant’s crew is also getting a much larger presence, from what it looks like. Are you finally weaving a lot of these elements together?

    Okay, this made me laugh. Of all the mechanics from the games to bring in, this one just strikes me as the most… bizarre. (or should I say bazaar? :p )

    Again, the scene with Crom just dredges up this immense feeling of deja vu. This has to be intentional, because Crom retraces Team Traveller’s steps. The biggest difference being Ander’s presence and what he brings to the table. He’s arguably been getting more opportunities for growth than Crom is. I also see the Alola ‘mons are coming out in full force (well, into the background anyway).

    I figured this as soon as Elty started acting happy. Now the only question is if there’s legitimate focus on the pirates this time around…

    45: Yes, Elty. Make those threats to leave the team! I mean, it’s a little weird given how every episode since leaving Mossaile didn’t really have him complaining about the team’s company, so much as snarking at them. So it feels like sudden character re-railment. But I’ll take it! Pirate town means, of course, the reappearance of Hess. Because with the Company and Imperials getting steadily more serious someone has to take up the comic relief role, right? Another Crom scene brings with is, well, another retreading of the Mengir Protector’s fate and the island’s ferals. There’s some more pirate-y flashbacks and some more Marked to lead to the introduction of who I’m guessing is one of our location-specific secondary characters this time around.

    Chose to just pick this tidbit out to once again highlight how I like the stark contrast between the team-oriented mindset of the Imperials and the Company, where it seems like everyone’s out to stab each other in the back.

    Next scene is a tease that now suddenly this Pirate Council (which makes me think of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) is going to become a sudden, new major factor against Team Traveler. Cripes, how many villains are we juggling here?

    No love lost between these two, I see. But hey, that’s the point! It does make Lyn seem like less of a heartless monster who’s “all business.” Though the talk of his counterparts trying to backstab him already make me leery about what the future holds for him.

    46: Mysterious crying is mysterious, apparently. And boy is it clear that Elty’s trying to mutiny. Again… good. It’s tension that needed to be addressed in the team. Oh, and while it’s kind of treated as a minor tidbit, I do like Guardia’s frantic desire to get a replacement bone. Like Elty’s attitude, it’s good because it spreads out the focus and character development across the team. This chapter even gives us something slightly different for the Siglo Swellow crew. Salvini being helpful rather than conflictingly loyal to the Company.

    One, this is adorable. It’s been a really long time since we’ve had one of Pleo’s cute moments and I genuinely missed these parts of the early story. Also, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks Malasadas fit perfectly into a PMD world. I mean, the games have donuts, so why not?

    47: Lyn’s making plans and Ellsberg sinks into Hess levels of Butt Monkeydom. At this point, I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but it’s honestly felt like a very long time since Lyn has even had direct contact with Team Traveller. Like, such a long stretch. It makes me see why Administrator Elilan doesn’t trust him. Guy’s holding one hell of a grudge.

    Silly narrator, it’s only funny when the characters hang lampshades on things like that! It’s just a joke please don’t kill me.

    Also, I gotta admit, as much of a pair of hardasses as Kuda and Viktor were last episode, they’re clearly committed to ensure Pleo’s safety. It’s cool to see and it reminds me of the dynamics of the feral tribe back in the Mystery Dungeon near Mossaile. Speaking of cool, YES! Elty ditches Team Traveller for his old crew. As you probably saw, I was a bit miffed that subplot got shoved aside back at Mossaile. And I will admit that bringing it back up now after previously teasing it lessens the impact for me personally. But it’s better late than never. The Siglo Swellow crew finally get their lead on Pleo. Seriously, it seemed like the were stuck on Mengir way longer than other destinations. I know they needed repairs, but, yeah, there was way too much deja vu with these.

    48: So, this would be another instance where I think the scene jumping back forth ends up crossing my wires and that things might flow better if Team Traveller’s and the Siglo Swellow crew’s scenes were lumped together to be two separate, cohesive tidbits. Anyway, nice guy Crom is trying to patch things up between Salvini and her former friends, with mixed results. But, again, it seems like Ander’s getting a bit of spotlight. I can’t tell if his views are changing or if he’s just going through some motions so things can be done and dusted.

    Uh… because he hates you and he always hated you? Although most of his snark to this point was just feeling annoyed and impatient. So, yeah, it feels like his characterization suddenly got rerailed so that someone other than Pleo could get the spotlight for Team Traveller. Although, from what it looks like his betrayal’s gonna be short-lived. Too bad Hess manages to rile up the entire town in the process. I guess the pirates are escalating into another villainous faction after all. At least until the Imperials show up which makes me ready for a smorgasbord of chaos.

    49: And the Siglo Swellow again helps out some island-dwellers. But that’s ultimately irrelevant here. Smorgasboard ho! Lots of crazy things happening here. Pirates besieging Team Traveller. Pleo somehow drawing up his power to deal with Sibich but getting civilians caught up in the process. Marking the first time he really did use his powers to bring harm. And that would be totally and completely dramatic if then we didn’t have ferals clawing out of the woodwork and Nagant’s crew to top it all off.

    This… this is an Undertale reference, isn’t it? I’ve never actually played the game but I’ve had enough friends quoting the game’s lines. Actually, I think she gets more and more like that fishy character while fighting Hess. That “N’gaah” thing is one of her lines too, ain’t it?

    Pleo tries to right his wrong by going back for Elty. I mean, you’d think after he’d already encountered people who acted nice to him only to betray him (*cough*Salvini*cough*) he would not be that foolish to keep calling Elty his friend.

    Hooray! Friendship! The only reason I can think for all of this is that it acts as a counter to Team Traveller’s current status, with Elty trying to ditch his “friends.” At this point, it doesn’t really feel like the Siglo Swellow’s crew is any closer to finding Team Traveller. In fact, they’re technically further behind now. They were only one island behind, and now they’re two. So, Crom’s line at the end suggesting he’s getting hopeful seems a bit backwards. If anything, it should be worry as to how his friends are holding up.

    Overall: Let me start my saying that you were juggling a lot of different factions and sets of characters with this episode. Arguably even more than the last episode. On the one hand, I’m struggling to keep track of who’s who at this point and names are starting to blend together. But on the other hand, the main characters in these factions continue to stand out and present starkly enough from one another for me to draw all this nifty comparisons and contrasts. You continue to make me interested in each set of characters and, in turn, I find myself looking forward to seeing how these different subplots are going to resolve themselves. I’m also wondering, of course, if they’re going to get satisfying resolutions because, again, this is quite a lot you’re juggling and I don’t really know how far into things we are at this point.

    Two parts stuck out to me in this chapter: first off, that Pleo wasn’t the Team Traveler member getting some development. Guardia got some nice attention with her lack of a weapon and some apparent difficult emotions (I think she’s the night-crier). And Elty finally had a bit more of a central role after a similar plot thread ended up going nowhere in an earlier episode. I’ll admit that because that happened, his “betrayal” didn’t quite have the oomph that I think you were going for. That, and Nida’s relative lack of a reaction to it. There were a couple of protesting lines, but overall I didn’t feel like we really got anyone’s opinions on the matter because of the hullabaloo that immediately followed it. Which brings me to the other part: the ending chase through Rosequartz. To your credit, you gave all of the factions glimpses of the spotlight and in that regard it was very nice to see. It was, I think, the most high-octane scene since Team Traveller fled Lyn’s ship. At the same time, it came off as a bit rushed in some regards. It felt like the whole episode was building up to the pirates and Imperials colliding, and then you added the ferals into the mix. I was expecting something that would end up spanning a couple of chapters. But, again, in the end everyone got some time in the sun and there was a clean resolution. So it was still a lot of fun while it lasted. ^^

    Episode 10
    50: Hooray, arguments! Now this is more like what I was expecting of the team dynamics to be for the last several episodes. It’s so good to finally see it. Also, Mr. Plot ConvenienceScout is back to help the Siglo crew skip over Otvaga altogether. More hooray! They’re actually making progress on Team Traveller. Or, rather, they’re back to the status quo when this crazy journey started. Also, triple hooray! Team Traveller is finally confronting Lyn again. This is apparently my “chapter of things I was greatly hoping to pop up.” And I’m equally glad to see the mistrust of Elty spill over into the Sormus crash. It feels like previous arguments with Team Traveller in the story were always done and dusted within a single chapter or so.

    51: Okay, so unlike the last time Team Traveller dealt with Lyn, they’re not able to just skirt him by hiding in the Mystery Dungeon. Thank goodness. And this dungeon crawl immediately starts off more contentious than the others, which is a really nice way to break things up. I’m ambivalent on the Tromba non-sequitur. It’s a funny little slapstick bit reminiscent of the early episodes, but reads like filler. The same could be said of the pirate scenes, but at least that does the job of establishing Hess as the “main” for the pirate faction, which is now thoroughly embedded into the conflict after sporadic appearances.

    Ah yes, the classic “don’t come on my side” shtick. With Pleo being the “Can’t we all get along?” guy. It’s really heartbreaking to see him so sad. ;~;

    Aaaaaah, are we gonna get Lyn vs. Nagant? Don’t tease me like that; I can’t handle that stress. And that last scene. I’m kind of sad that the argument stuff appears to be working toward a swift resolution. But I’m willing to overlook it because it fleshes out Guardia and Elty and even offers up a connection point between them that isn’t Elty getting thwacked by Guardia’s bone.

    52:
    Okay, the random Kecleon shop got a laugh out of me. Complete with inflated prices. I see game mechanics continued to get sprinkled in, though they’re not as frequent as in the early episodes. And while I want to call you out because there’s no way Team Traveler’s getting away with stealing from the Kecleon Shop (and if so, how have they not obliterated their enemies yet), I’ll overlook it because d’awww look Elty and Pleo actually like each other. <3

    Pppfffbbgttt… wow. To think Ketu could so easily outwit Nagant like that. Now I see why he’s working with Elilan. Nagant just lost a few badassery points in my eyes. But Team Traveller scooped them up. It’s nice to see them cooperating and they actually manage to hold their ground against the Company grunts. Actually, this legitimately feels like the first time in awhile where Team Traveller battled successfully. There had been an endless string of defeats and near-misses from them stretching pretty much all the way back to when they got Guardia.

    Okay, good. I’d have gotten suspicious if there wasn’t any skullduggery going on with the pirates, of all characters.

    The teamwork continues as Team Traveller skirts the Company and the Siglo Swellow crew end up in a misunderstanding with Viktor’s Rod

    53: It’s been awhile since the last feral fight (or a Monster House?). Anywhere, there are a few subtleties to the initial strategizing that I like. First being the use of Pleo to skirt all the sand, but also the part where it’s Guardia (who has the fear of flying) suggesting it.

    And the award for best incredibly lame pun of the fic goes to Elty! :p

    Again, the usage of teamwork really shows here. Nida and Elty play of each other’s tendencies for mixed-range combat, switch between their basic projectiles and their direct attacks. While Guardia riding Pleo like a mount is fun to see. By contrast, the hippos seem disorganized and confused and… more like Team Traveler was in the past. The only thing missing now is some new moves for the team. And it looks the Siglo Swellow crew are now actually making legit progress toward Team Traveller. It’s just so satisfying to see things finally coming together for them after all that meandering. And after, like, 25-ish chapters since Nagant’s debut we’re also finally meeting some of the Empire’s royalty. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised given how long it took Director Inler to show up. But still… they continue this trend of the Emprie being generally more cooperative with one another when compared to the Company. Also, I like Volcaronas and Blazikens so I may just be biased. And with the pirate scene, Hess tries to show off some competency. I’m gotta go out on a limb and say that maybe, just maybe, either Sibich is up to something odd or he was deliberately trying to bait the Iron Fleet but Hess didn’t go for it.

    54: Aulis reminds me of Clay for some reason. Probably all the mining stuff.

    I swear this is another Undertale reference because my friends always kept saying “determination” when talking about that game. I should really play it…

    Oh, well dang this escalated quickly. I didn’t expect Lyn to actually storm an Imperial town guns blazing. But, whelp, there he is. Sadly, my dreams of Imperials vs. Company are dashed once again as Lyn decides to make an exit. And I’m quite surprised that it’s Nagant who comes away with the Pleo prize, just when it looked like this episode had set up Lyn to be the main threat once again. Nice little twist. And oh, wow, the Siglo Swellow made up ground very quickly. Which I’m fine with. If this means we’re gonna see these two groups finally unite, count me in. Speaking of unexpected, even the Iron Fleet is here. Hoo boy, are we heading for a ship-heavy battle royale with cheese? I’ll take twenty please!

    Episode so far: I think this is a big improvement over the last episode. Again, you’re bouncing between a lot of different factions, but everyone’s having their time in the sun and, more importantly, they’re not just there to comment about what’s going on. Team Traveler got a much needed shake up in its group dynamics, which was helped by more action in this episode compared to the last several. Definitely my favorite episode so far and I’m hoping the climax proves just as good!

    So, yeah, that's it. I don't know if you read all this. I won't blame you if you don't. Long story short, I've enjoyed this a lot. I commend the time and energy you've put into this. Over 50 chapters in a 2+ year epic that's humming right along. I see why this is the 2-time PMD fic of the year around here (and probably the favorite for this year too, ha ha). I look forward to seeing how things unfold from here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018
  2. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Dang, looks like we got everyone converging on one point, or about to be. I wonder if this means Team Traveler is about to finally wind up in the right hands. Not that they're guaranteed to stay there if so, of course. Again, this is about to turn into one heck of a party, and everyone's inviting themselves.

    There's bound to be a fight, I'd imagine. I wonder if there'll be any casualties.
     
  3. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    You know, I think I finally managed to pin down why I’m not quite so fond of the Siglo Swellow scenes. It’s because the entire Siglo Swellow subplot so far has read a bit like a mystery. Gathering clues, seeing strange occurrences and trying to piece them together. However, since this is a split-POV fic there can’t be any mystery. It creates a distinct feeling that all the characters know they’re in a story. The moment anything mildly odd or out-of-the-ordinary crops up, they immediately latch onto it like they have to know more, and it feels a bit like the author putting up a sign saying “there’s something else going on here!” even though the reader already knows what.

    In fact, all the NPC characters do it too. Perhaps the best example of this is just how frequently characters start their dialogue with “Eh?” It’s all the time. xD; And usually over the most mundane of things too. Like the Stunfisk receptionist being so fazed by the fact that Aulis was only booking rooms for the kids and not himself. That’s not really all that weird, and we readers already know the reason why he’s doing it, so why bother calling attention to it? Or how about Pladur stopping to question why the kids’ group has a Cubone. Is that really necessary? It’s already been proven that this group is the one they’re looking for, and there’s any number of reasons they could have picked up another mon. Or how about Crom asking Dimitri to repeat a conversation he already had with the kids, to give the reader information Aulis already gave us in the very same chapter?

    To give an example of this done right—the convo between the Swellow crew and Aulis. A Tyranitar making a huge angry fuss is something the crew would have a reason to notice right away, without the feeling that they’re being weirdly nosy about something that has nothing to do with them unless they already knew it was important. And the follow-up infodump is fairly quick and on-point, without too many detours. A good scene overall.

    So yeah, I’d recommend paying attention to how often you’re having characters question things, because it comes up a lot and tends to unnecessarily pad most conversations. I think that might be part of the reason why all the recent chapters have felt so incredibly long. Half the dialogue is just characters questioning things that they have no reason to be curious about unless they already know it’s important, and then getting told things the reader already knows. Trimming these convos down a bit will go a long way toward streamlining future chapters, imo.

    Anyway, enough criticism, onto the events themselves! Things are rapidly coming to a head! The fight between Team Traveller and the Imperial grunts was just plain brutal, and really highlighted just how outclassed they are, even after all this time. And we finally got to see the beginnings of the Company and the Imperials fighting each other over the same prize. But there’s so much more to come there—a conflict between Nagant and Lyn is on the way, I just know it. And that’s the sort of thing that gets me wanting to read more. An all-out clash between the Company, the Imperials, the Swellow crew and the Marauder crew?! Sign me up!

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

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Hi everyone, it’s taken me a bit longer than anticipated to pull everything together but this chapter is finally here… or more accurately one last day out from being here. To start with, there was one minor disclaimer that I wanted to make about this upcoming chapter, since I feel that a few things have gotten telegraphed the wrong way.

    Namely, you’re absolutely right that there’s a storm a-brewing between the three factions. That said, it won’t be until this arc has fully run its course that the storm comes aboard. So do look forward to that, and to the journey that things will take to get there.


    To be fair on Lyn, his failures are in part due to internal sabotage, while Hess’ are due more to simply having an incompetent crew. As for Nagant, while she has the fewest handicaps for now, her current situation is in part luck, which ebbs and flows like the waves.

    I think that you’ll be satisfied where things wind up, even though there’s still quite a bit more to this story after this arc winds down.

    So your review was… thorough to say the least, and had a lot of feedback that I was grateful to hear. That said, in the interest of keeping things manageable, I will keep my public response focused more on your opening portion and the portion relevant to the last chapter, with a few highlights in between

    To answer the quoted part in question, I’m glad to hear that the worldbuilding struck your fancy, since this fic actually did originate from a worldbuilding exercise in its earliest stages, and wound up evolving into a story after a realization that it made a good setting that was fairly easy to compartmentalize into stories of different lengths. I’ve actually put a lot of thought into how things work in setting, to the point where it’s sometimes a balancing act between showing off things that I want and making sure that the narrative is taut and coherent.

    Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re finding the personalities so animated. While I do cut corners occasionally and veer into archetypes and reuse from past stints, it’s just plain fun to put an organic personality into a world and set them loose.

    To be fair, the current plans are for the odds to start leveling out starting as of this chapter, but I’m glad that so far you’ve found it believable enough not to interfere with your enjoyment of the story.

    Ah, well it’s a catchy song. As for the ATLA vibes, they do say to write what you know. As for the other vibes, I’m glad to hear that, since it means that I’m doing my job decently at carving out a distinct identity as a narrative beyond my inspirations.

    Part of the intent of this coming episode is to help accelerate that process a bit with believable in-story cover, so I’m hoping that those odds seem a bit less impossible as things go on.

    While early expectations are a little hard to dislodge, I’d like to plead my case that Fledglings here is actually meant in a metaphorical sense as well. As Team Traveller is a fledgling team just cutting their teeth on things and dealing with youths in a coming-of-age story. As for the Marked stories, all shall be revealed in due time.

    Hrm. I personally didn’t feel the name tagging was that much of an issue, though I’ll try to keep better tabs on it in the future to see if it feels confusing. As for the scene jumping, it’s a writing flaw that I’m aware of in some earlier chapters, and hopefully I’ve been doing a better job at keeping that in line as of late.

    Well, I’m glad to hear that, since Episode 4 was always intended to be the one where the fledglings finally got booted from the nest. Though you are on-target for the central premise of the quest, in true PMD fashion “going home” is the root objective, though there will be many hoops to jump through before that can happen.

    In retrospect, there were definitely some parts of Episode 5 that were not tied in as smoothly into the broader narrative, but I’m glad that you enjoyed the subplot and general narrative of the episode.

    To be fair, as you may have noticed in Episode 6, emeras are around, but yes, as a world that has a distinct tie to the mainline in history, it only felt natural that elements of the mainline such as Mega Evolution stones would be present. And glad to hear that you enjoyed the special, I actually had a lot of fun writing it out.

    While I think I can understand what you’re getting at for a “mushed-together” feeling, the delivery you found underwhelming was in part due to a difference in priorities. For my end, the meta purpose of Episode 6 was always to establish that Elty wasn’t fully on board as a teammate and get Guardia recruited into the fold, so the final product didn’t change all that much from initial plans for the Episode. Hopefully Episode 9 delivered a bit better on the whole “fight with pirates” angle you were expected.


    While you hit the nail on the head for the Company having more infighting than some other factions, you actually misread Lyn and Zorn’s interactions with each other. The two are on the same page with regard to Pleo, though the latter at the time was starting to get impatient with the former’s lack of results. To your point about a ‘bait-and-switch’, in retrospect, Mengir was the episode in which things probably could have been a bit more actionized towards the end. Though the meta angles of showing that Company Pokémon have depth beyond universally being unlikable thugs and of jolting the team out of a “onto the next island” by means of realizing that they couldn’t go on were kinda critical to this chapter. I hope that in spite of your misgivings about it, that you still found the episode enjoyable.


    Well, I hope that things were still enjoyable despite all the jumps. Part of the meta purpose behind this episode is to help try and trim down on the amount of narrative jumping. What I mean by that should hopefully become apparent within a couple chapters.

    Well, when you have a Pokémon whose gimmick is sensing oncoming doom, the jokes just write themselves. I’m glad that you liked how things turned out, since going for a different feeling was a major goal for that special chapter. As for that Imperial city, you’ll be seeing a lot more of it over the next few chapters.

    We’re actually at about the midpoint right now in the current chapter, which is part of the reason why it’s structured as it is in terms of bringing lots of threads together at once. As for the pirate climax, I’m glad to hear that you liked the action in it, though hope you still found it enjoyable even if it seemed a little rushed to you.


    I’m glad to hear that the past episode hit so many right notes for you, though as the preamble mentioned, the climax has already come and gone for Chapter 10. Although that battle royale between the various villain camps is coming down the road, there’s still a little bit of journey left to that destination.

    Well, based off of the last I’ve checked of my narrative progress, it will still be awhile before things finally wrap up properly, but I hope that the rest of the journey is just as gripping for you.

    Hrm, I’ll have to be more careful about making the questioning feel less like padding. Though for the Siglo Swellow’s case in particular, there has been a reason for things to be strung out for so long, which should be readily apparent within the next couple chapters.

    As for the pace, I am aware that things have slowed down a bit as of late. Part of that is simply having more work to juggle both with the story and in life away from the keyboard. That said, things have cleared up a bit for me, with my next chapter currently targeting a release within 3 weeks. The actual chapter is currently undergoing a few last-minute touch-ups, and will be published by the end of day tomorrow.

    In the interim, for those of you who want to whet your whistle for stories in the Cradle, I’d encourage paying a visit to Virgil134’s Casting Off if you haven’t already.
     
  5. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    And here we are. It's been a long month and a half, but it's finally time to pick up where we left off on for Team Traveller's journey. I'd like to extend my special thanks to Virgil134, Tangent134, solovino, and sugoitsu from ff.net, all of whom provided crucial support that helped to get this chapter to become a reality. And with that, let's get things started by checking back up on our favorite rookie team:

    [​IMG]

    The hours after Team Traveller's defeat at Sormus went by in a darkened, unconscious blur, bereft of even the light of dreams. When Pleo finally stirred, he awoke to a dim glow shining through his heavy eyelids, the sight of rafters above evidencing that he'd been brought into some manner of dark room. He stirred against a hard surface, gritting his beak as a renewed pain wracked his whole body out to the tip of his wings.

    "Ow…"

    The Lugia sat up with a start, still bleary-eyed from his slumber, as he realized that his aches had come about because of that battle that they'd lost earlier. So... just where had he and his friends wound up this time?

    "Huh?!"

    Pleo's vision began to clear, and he noticed in the dim light that he had found himself sprawled out on a wooden floor that rocked and creaked slightly… much like the one back on Lyn's ship. The Lugia looked ahead uneasily, and to his alarm, noticed a wall of metal bars ahead of him. Pleo tried to stand at once, only to find that his legs and wings had each been bound together with rope. Worse still, his wingtips abruptly ended at a sudden edge consistent with them having been cut while asleep. The Protector craned his head around the room frantically, a quick glance revealing his friends, still unconscious, and bound up in a similar fashion.

    "A-Ah!" the Lugia squawked. "Nida, Elty, Guardia! Wake up!"

    The young seabird thrashed against his bindings, craning his neck out and nudging at his Nidoran teammate. The nudging and ruckus drew stirs from the other two Pokémon, who tiredly shifted their bodies.

    "Nrgh… no tan fuerte," Nida muttered.


    "Gah…" Guardia groaned. "Where's my bone?"

    "Couldn't this wait for just a min-" Elty began, only to be cut off by a gruff snort from ahead.

    "Oh, so now you get up."

    The three's eyes shot open at the sound of a horse's snorts, as one by one they began to notice Pleo's findings. Given their surroundings, they were below deck on a ship, in a brig given the amount of expense that had been sunk into fortifying the metal bars. The group looked ahead towards the source of the voice, where they saw a Ponyta, a Cranidos, and a Sandslash peering at them from the other side of the cell wall.

    "For a while, I thought you were going to be out all the way until Tidemill!" the Fire-Type exclaimed.

    "What's Tidemill and why are you taking us there?" Nida demanded.

    An incredulous look splashed over the Ponyta and his cohorts' faces, the three staring blankly at the young Poison-Type. The Sandslash of the group shook his head before giving a dismissive scoff at Nida's question.

    "You're joking, right?" Niilo huffed, crossing his arms. "Even Pokémon that live under rocks know what Tidemill City is!"

    "Well, I've been living under a rock until recently and I don't have the foggiest clue," Guardia snapped. "So start talking."

    The three Imperials shifted back with stunned looks, staring at their captives as if they'd suddenly grown second heads. Cabot shook his head in surprise, the Cranidos finally spluttering out a coherent if still disbelieving response.

    "It's the Imperial Capital!" Cabot cried. "You and your friend are being brought there because he's the 'mon that can finally reunite the Empire."

    The Cranidos' words distracted Pleo from an attempt at nudging an itchy patch of feathers with his beak, prompting him to crane his head up from his preening and blink confusedly.

    "Reunite?" Pleo murmured. "You mean like helping them make up after a fight?"

    The seabird's question drew frowning glances from their three captors. Clearly this lot had been living under a bigger rock than they'd all thought.

    "He's going to need a bit more debriefing than I expected," Berecien sighed.

    "Oi, I don't know what you're trying to pull, Ponyta," Elty growled. "But the only reuniting that's happening once I get out of here is my teeth with your butt."

    Berecien briefly flicked his ears in flustered confusion, only for it to sink in that the dog had threatened him. Eager to snuff the lippy mutt's enthusiasm, the Ponyta snorted, glaring back through the bars.

    "Keep talking like that, and I'll reunite my hooves with your face right here and now-!"

    "Enough!"

    The source of the noise was none other than the scowling form of their Clawitzer captain. She came hopping down the hall towards them, glaring furiously at her subordinates. After a moment of startled surprise at the crustacean's abrupt appearance, the three Imperial underlings hastily composed themselves to more properly greet their captain.

    "Ah! Captain!" Niilo exclaimed. "What are you doing down here?"

    "Oh, just listening to you all get into childish arguments with the plenniki," Nagant retorted. "So are you going to keep at it, or get out of my way as I check up on things?"

    The three Pokémon gulped and backed away, leaving Nagant to hop over to the bars as Pleo looked up, the Protector at once exuding desperation and deep frustration as he fought with his bindings.

    "Why are you doing this to me?" Pleo demanded. "If you need help with this 'reuniting' thing, you didn't have to cut my wingtips and tie us up like this!"

    "It's not as simple as you think, Protector. There will be plenty of time to explain the matter when you're in safe harbors," the shrimp harrumphed. "Until then, just sit tight, and don't struggle too much against the ropes. They scrape."

    "Whatever you think you're gonna have us do, you can forget it!" Guardia spat. "We're not working with you, and there's no way you can make us!"

    Nagant appeared completely unmoved by the Cubone's protests, her only immediate response being an idle twitching of her barbels and a glowering scowl.

    "… Good luck with that," the Clawitzer scoffed. "Get some rest whenever you decide to come to your senses, it'll still be a while before we're in port."

    Nagant rapped against the cell's bars with her big claw, prompting Berecien and the others to draw up to it and resume their guarding. The elderly shrimp hopped off, Guardia struggling against her bindings shouting after her all the while.

    "Oi, you can't just ignore us!" the Cubone shouted. "We've gotten through worse spots in the past, and you won't get the better of us now! We're getting out of here!"



    "Well, you're finally off the ship. Was this what you were expecting?"

    Nagant's words reverberated under a sky whose colors were beginning their transition from the day's blue to a sunburnt orange, the sun drifting visibly further to the west all the while. The Vasilek had pulled into a dock facility amidst a group of slender islands crammed with buildings of all shapes and sizes, the stone docks littered with crates and Pokémon in indigo scarves. It was a night and day difference compared to the open sea, but for Guardia, the most important thing had failed to change as she and her teammates were dragged down a wooden gangplank.

    "We're still tied up here!" the Cubone protested.

    "I'll take that as a 'no'," Nagant harrumphed. "Good."

    Nagant glanced over to a crate with its top popped off a short ways away and gestured towards it to some indigo-scarved Pokemon who stood idly by on the wayside.

    "Get the Protector in there and over to the palace," the crustacean barked. "The last thing that any of us need is for a public scene while transporting."

    A Bewear nodded back and lumbered over, scooping Pleo up in his strong arms and bringing him to the crate. The Lugia squawked and flailed against the bear's grasp as he was shoved into the container, desperately trying to break free.

    "No, stop!" Pleo cried. "Let me go! Let me-!"

    Pleo heard a crack and felt an object strike his head. A mist enveloped him, making him cough as the substance brushed against his throat and nostrils.

    "Ngah…"

    The Lugia weakly flapped a wing in front of him, trying to clear the air of the sedating haze, but it was already too late. The bird tottered in a last-ditch effort to remain standing, only to feel his eyes droop and slump against the box, sleeping soundly as soon as his head hit the floor.

    "Pleo!" Nida cried.

    "Come on, get up!" Elty pleaded. His Cubone teammate trained her ire towards the yajū in indigo scarves, struggling against her bonds and glaring with all her might.

    "Let him go!"

    The Bewear hastily slid a cover over the crate, and put it on a cart, and called out to the waiting Aurorus ahead. The Ice-Type carried along, tugging the cart off away from the docks as Team Traveller's members protested and pled with their captors to stop.

    "Stop!" Nida cried. "You don't know what you're doing-!"

    Nagant glared at the Nidoran as a small group of Pokémon in indigo scarves started approaching the uncooperative youngsters. As the underlings approached, the Clawitzer held up a claw and motioned for a stop.

    "… I'll handle them myself," she muttered, drawing nervous gulps from her trio of captives.

    "H-Handle us?" Elty stammered.

    The shrimp began to hop over, her large claw leveled square at the remaining members of Team Traveller. Fearing the worst, a wave of panic sank into the three Pokémon, prompting them to frantically bite and thrash at their bindings. Nida and Guardia's blood ran cold as they heard Elty yelp, the dog being lifted by his bindings by the Clawitzer.

    Snip

    The ropes in between Nagant's claws gave way, sending the Growlithe flopping down, panting and wide-eyed amid a mass of severed cords. The Water-Type made her way over and repeated the same process with Nida and Guardia, leaving the three to uneasily rise to their feet and huddle together. The youngsters rubbed at their sore and chafed limbs, the lot puzzledly eyeing their captor, wondering to themselves what she hoped to accomplish by untying them.

    "You're free to leave," the Clawitzer said. "The Empire doesn't have anything against a bunch of lost deti like you."

    "Eh?!" Guardia exclaimed. "You can't just dump us out in the middle of nowhere like this!"

    "You're right," the shrimp replied. "Blythe!"

    Nagant's call was answered by a Pidgeotto flying over, unceremoniously dumping a tattered bag and a Cubone's club onto the cobbles in front of Team Traveller. The Flying-Type glared a bit at Elty, before flying off with a harrumph, leaving the three behind with his superior as she clicked her claws impatiently.

    "Now hurry up and get out of here before I have you arrested for trespassing," Nagant growled. "This is a naval facility, not a beach."

    "B-But you took Pleo from us!" Nida shouted. "How can you just turn around and tell us to get lost like this!"

    The shrimp stared back in an unmoved silence, and after a little while Nagant clicked her claws and carefully began to speak up.

    "You're from Tromba, aren't you, Nidoran?" the Water-Type asked. "You of all people should know what a scourge the Company has been. That Protector's help is the key to finally putting an end to them and their perfidy."

    "That's what you call kicking us to the pier like this?!" Elty snapped.

    "… You'll understand why this had to happen someday," Nagant grunted. "In the interim, take advantage of the slack you've been given and go home."

    "Aren't you going to at least offer to let us see Pleo first?" Nida insisted. "We're his friends and he's all alone here."

    Nagant started to respond, only to pause after hearing movement. The shrimp shifted her gaze over, and spotting Berecien, Cabot, and Niilo watching. The three underlings traded stares with their superior for a moment, the uneasy pause spurring Nagant to turn her attention back to her audience.

    "I'm sure that you two will meet again someday," the Clawitzer answered. "Perhaps sooner than you think."

    The Water-Type pivoted on her tail, turning to Cabot and his companions. Nagant's gaze quickly settled on the Ponyta of the group, followed by a sharp chittering order.

    "Berecien!"

    The Ponyta paused and looked up at the sound of his captain's voice. The Fire-Type looked up, giving a puzzled flick of his ears at the Clawitzer.

    "Hrm?" the Fire-Type asked.

    "I want you to-"

    Nagant trailed off as she noticed Elty hunched down against the ground growling at Berecien, his eyes locked into a fierce glare. The Ponyta's demeanor similarly had taken a belligerent turn, as the fiery horse pawed at the ground and snorted challengingly back at his tubby interloper.

    "… Follow after the cart with Niilo and Cabot," she hastily finished. "I'll have someone else show these whelps out."

    "Hrmph," Berecien answered. "On it."

    The Ponyta and his Cranidos and Sandslash companions turned to follow after the Aurorus' cart, their presence being swiftly replaced by a irritated-looking Lickitung and Parasect who sidled up to flank Team Traveller's remaining members.

    "If you have some time before looking for a transport home, I'd encourage you to enjoy the sights here in the city," Nagant offered. "Most visitors don't have nearly as much freedom as you to look around."

    "Alright, tourists," the Lickitung barked. "Time to get going."

    The two guards brusquely shoved Team Traveller along, marching them past crates and shabby warehouses to a stone gate facing a collection of ramshackle shacks and multileveled buildings. As the three crossed the boundary, they were shoved past the gate with a yelp and tumbled onto the ground. The youngsters uneasily propped themselves up, turning back to see the passage to the naval docks blocked off by the glaring Parasect and Lickitung.

    "And don't get any ideas about trying to break back in!" the Parasect hissed.

    The pair slammed the gates shut, leaving Team Traveller to stare ahead blankly at the strong doors ahead as the enormity of their current situation sank in. They were now strangers in an island they barely knew anything about… their friend currently being brought to gods-knew-where right now.

    "… What do we do now?" Guardia murmured.

    Nida stared blankly ahead at the closed gate, failing to find words or even ideas that seemed adequate to start tackling their current mess. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't think of any way that the three of them could get Pleo back. On one side was a whole Empire with ships and forts and legions of Pokémon... On theirs, a Nidoran, a Growlithe, and a Cubone, with precious little else beyond their tattered and half-emptied bag to work with...

    "Ni… Ni idea."



    As Team Traveller despaired outside the naval docks, at the other end of the city, the form of a brigantine with white sails with blue sun designs pulled up against the docks. At its railing was its Samurott captain, clenching a seamitar in his paw as he scowled out at the sea of shacks and buildings piled onto canal-lined strips of land further inland. Had he only had his Argent Aviso, his chase would've ended hours ago just offshore of Sormus. Unfortunately, along with his lower rank, the hull of Ellsberg's Nektar Weide had been built for lower speeds, which quickly frustrated any attempts at keeping pace with the Imperial frigate. His crew had picked up on his unsettled demeanor, and murmured among themselves as the mustelid turned back to face them with an exasperated grunt.

    "Listen up everyone. This is it, the bird is here," Lyn barked. "But this isn't some romp through some hick island like last time. We're in Tidemill City, the biggest city on this side of Anyilla and the Pyroar's den of the Empire. As such, we're going to need eyes on the ground before we can even think of making a move here."

    The otter looked around for a suitable Pokémon to entrust with the task. His instinct was to handle the matter himself, but there was no telling whether or not the Clawitzer had been informed by a late-arriving escort of the disturbances he'd caused in Copperband. So then, it made sense to pick out someone who could be trusted to be reasonably competent and maneuver easily through the canals and tight streets of Tidemill's sprawl. Someone like...

    "Ellsberg, you have a mind for administrivia, and cities have no shortage of that," the Samurott said, gesturing with a seamitar. "I want you out there to scout what's waiting for us."

    "Wh-What?!" Ellsberg exclaimed. "Why on earth would you need me for that?!"

    "Because we're in the Empire's capital, Ellsberg," the Water-Type snapped. "This mission is important and I need someone I know I can trust, and your rank makes you better for it than a random grunt."

    "But-!"

    "Chop chop Elmer," a Weavile's voice sneered. "Time for you to get to work."

    Lyn watched and narrowed his eyes as Ketu slid off a barrel and grinned smugly at the startled Mothim. Now was not the time for this sort of petty bickering. Perhaps it was time Ketu was reminded of that.

    "And you are accompanying him," the Samurott added.

    The Weavile paused and blinked at his captain's words, taken aback by the sudden demand.

    "I what...?"

    "You've clearly been running out of meaningful tasks lately, so I think that this is just what you need to put your skills to use," Lyn insisted. "Besides, Ellsberg will need backup if he gets into a tight pinch."

    Ketu frowned back sourly at the Samurott. Scouting with Ellsberg of all Pokémon was right up there with cleaning the ship's heads on things he'd rather take a beating over than do. Even so, he couldn't afford to blow his cover over something like this... so for now at least, it made most sense to play along.

    "Ugh, fine," the Weavile groaned. "Come on Elmer, we're going!"

    Ketu shook his head and clambered down the gangplank, his assigned Mothim partner fluttering after him. The two reached the end of the docks where they sized up their surroundings, seeing that the city district they'd entered had been built on strips of land separated by canals. The buildings were a crowded collection of wooden shacks and stone buildings with clay tiles, most having three or four floors with some towering above with twice as many.

    Much as things were in Canalhouse, the ground level was the life of the district, with Pokémon swimming through the canals and passing crowded ground-level shopfronts hawking trinkets and snacks to Pokémon of innumerable shapes and sizes. Along the way, a few of the more characteristic places of the settlement stood out. There was a building with a Greninja head over the entrance with barred courtyard windows crowded with gawking sailors. A cursory glance revealing the place to be a dojo built around a sea-filled courtyard with a wooden battlefield built on it, the sounds of a Horsea and Venonat sparring with each other ringing out from within.

    A little further on, the pair passed a building with a Beartic being fawned over by a large crowd of admirers, the large signboards behind the Freezing Pokémon revealing him to be the main star of a overwrought play depicting action and romance on the high seas. The pair's course eventually took them past a blocky stone building emblazoned with the Merchantry's red-and-gold logo, with a suspiciously large amount of Kecleon milling about. Ellsberg's patience started to wear thin, grumbling to himself about why he hadn't insisted to Administrator Elilan that he'd work alone…

    "Ugh," the Mothim complained. "Of all the 'mons to be stuck with as a partner, it just had to be you."

    Ketu turned back to face the Bug-Type, giving an unamused glare all the while. After everything the little interloper has put him through, he was complaining about being stuck together?

    "Trust me, I hate this way more than you do," Ketu growled. "Let's just hurry up and get to the district wall."

    "What?"

    "Tch... are you this out of it, Buzzy?" the Weavile scoffed. "Any reasonably sized settlement has a visitor's district to keep out the riff-raff, like Andaku in-"

    "I know that!" Ellsberg fumed. "But why are we going there?"

    The pair carried on down a lane which led to a dead end cut off by a solid stone wall. The blocks were weathered, with posters and scrawls splashed over their lower portions. Noticing the top seemed unguarded, Ketu quickly scanned his surroundings before bracing his feet against the ground.

    "To hop it, obviously."

    The Weavile jumped up and planted his feet against the wall, springing to and fro between the wall and the side of a nearby building until he reached the wall's ledge. Ellsberg buzzed startledly, flying up just as the Dark-Type had reached the top.

    "What are you doing?!" the Mothim cried. "Get down before someone sees you!"

    Ketu rolled his eyes at the Mothim's protests and vaulted himself over, much to Ellsberg's alarm. The Bug-Type waved frantically and called after the Weavile, who gave an exasperated growl from the other side.

    "So we can stay stuck in the one district we know doesn't have a frigate at the docks?" the weasel countered.

    The Mothim paused, flitting in place a moment as he stared back blankly. This all felt like such a risky idea, though when Ketu put it that way, it was hard to really argue his point. The Weavile evidently had picked up on his conclusions, giving an impatient shake of his head.

    "So are you just going to sit there and flap around, or are you coming?" the Dark-Type asked.

    "Alright, alright!" Ellsberg replied. "Just be careful..."

    Ketu waited, watching as his partner fluttered over the wall and joined him in the alleyway. The pair gave a quick glance around their surroundings, before weighing it safe to press on, continuing their progress deeper into Tidemill's sprawl in search for leads for the frigate and the Protector within.



    Unbeknownst to the Pokémon on the Nektar Weide, in the harbor directly adjacent, the Siglo Swellow had similarly moored against the docks. The crew was hard at work finishing the last steps of tying the ship down and folding up the sails when Crom and his companions made their way down the gangplank. All the while, the young Druddigon stared in awe at the sea of buildings all around him, peering out onto the kaleidoscope of shops, homes, and monuments and the Pokémon who shuffled to and from them.

    "It's so… big," he murmured.

    "Heh heh, well that's Tidemill City for you," Pladur chuckled. "I've heard that there's actually bigger cities out there in the Cradle, but this is about as big as you'll get around here."

    "You mean to say now it's the biggest," Ander corrected. "It certainly wasn't in my grandfather's day."

    "It wasn't?" Crom asked. "But then what was it? And what happened to it?"

    Pladur clicked his tongue, mulling over the best way to present his answer to his son. Faltering somewhat, he threw an uncertain glance to Kiran, who fluffed out his feathers uncomfortably and stepped forward to answer.

    "It was Middleguard City out on Conntow," Kiran explained. "When the great Great Calamity happened, Middleguard was swept up with the rest of the island."

    The Druddigon gawped out at the surrounding city, wondering what Middleguard must have been like to have been even larger... and what could have laid such a place low. He heard about the great island of Conntow and how it was destroyed when he was younger, but he had never given it much thought. No one seemed to be able to agree on what had caused the Great Calamity, simply that it had come in the blink of an eye and left naught behind on Conntow but ruins and dead stone. The dragon sank deep in thought only for a loud buzz from behind to snap him back to attention.

    "Hoy! Still standing around?" Beatrix called out. "You didn't forget what you all were supposed to do already, did you?"

    "Nope," Dimitri said, an air of confidence in his voice. "We're finding that frigate, and then trying to pick up Pleo's tracks from there."

    "Yeah, we'll get moving now," Pladur sheepishly answered. "Come on, let's move!"

    Crom and his companions paced down the dock, peering around at the sea of masts and sails around them. With so many ships around them… where would they even start looking for the frigate from Sormus?

    "So… I take it we should start by looking around the docks?" Crom asked.

    "I don't think so," Kiran countered with a shake of his head, gesturing with a wingtip to the harbor before them. "Take a look at their sails."

    The five turned and looked around the ships in the harbor. All around the docks, there was not a single ship with the indigo sails of the frigate that they spotted on the route out from Sormus.

    "Didn't we see the frigate leave port with dark bluish sails?" the Swellow asked. "I don't see anything like that here."

    "Then we'll just have to check the docks in another part of Tidemill, then," Ander sighed.

    "Uhm… there might be a problem with that," Pladur murmured, pulling a claw up to his mouth. Sensing his father's unease, Crom blinked and tilted his head at the Fraxure. What would be the problem just going to other parts of the city?

    "Huh?" Crom asked. "Why?"

    "Well, in bigger ports, all Pokémon have to pass through a visitor's district," the Fraxure explained. "We were able to get past it in Kenobi since we were flying Company colors… but we don't have anything like that here."

    "But there has to be some way that Pokémon can get further in," Kiran murmured. "If everything with the outside world had to be done here, wouldn't this district be much bigger?"

    The group paused and mulled at the Swellow's words. From the monuments and towers in the distance, the city itself definitely did go on a ways… Perhaps it would be big enough that they could just sneak in? Though then again, sneaking in would be a major risk… and would they really be prepared to handle themselves if anything went wrong? To top it off, starting off on the wrong foot with the locals was surely a hurdle they didn't need while they were still looking for Team Traveller... Maybe it was best to see what they already knew about the place first.

    "Hrm… haven't you been here before, Pladur?" Ander insisted. "Is there anything of the sort we can do?"

    "Well, when I was here last time, I was told that you needed a good reason and proof of it to get through," the Fraxure said. "I suppose it's just a matter of telling the guards something that sounds convincing enough for us to go in."

    "Oh, es facíl!" Kiran chirped, gesturing at a tall, stony wall in the distance with a waiting Venomoth idling before it. "I've already got just the reason to get us past here!"

    Crom blinked incredulously at his mentor's insistence. It did seem a little over-easy, but Kiran was experienced at crawling Mystery Dungeons, so perhaps it wasn't unexpected this would be his first stint in port? The dragon and his companions shrugged before following their teammate along, coming to a stop at the barrier's gate where Kiran batted out a wing in a friendly wave.

    "Excuse me, ma'am," the Swellow said. "We're visiting sailors who've run into a touch of ship trouble and needed to consult a specialist. Could you let us through to find one to come and look at our ship?"

    The Flying-Type ruffled his feathers expectantly, only to be met by the Poison-Type with a frown and firm shake of her head.

    "No, all ship repairs have to be done at the site of berthing, or at a designated drydock," the guard answered. "Nobody gets past this barrier without the proper clearance."

    The five sailors stared blankly as the Venomoth continued fluttering in place, giving an unamused stare at the strangers. The group waited awkwardly, and after realizing that the moth wasn't going to let them through, turned and carried down the street grudgingly. When he was confident they were out of earshot, Kiran gave a bothered ruffle of his feathers. Getting a ship specialist ought to have been a surefire excuse! So what were they they to do?

    "... This is going to be harder than I thought," the bird murmured, before feeling a tug at his wing by his Druddigon student.

    "Let's... take some time to think this one through."



    Out in the waters north of Giotto, the Mistral Marauder continued on course southwest, proudly flying its pilfered white sails. As the crew guided the ship along with the wind and waves, some idle deckhands leaned out to peer ahead at the sight of great plumes of white smoke and tall buildings stretching over the horizon. Even someone who'd never been to Tidemill personally would recognize it by those landmarks, so the more experienced sailors among them knew with certainty that the schooner they'd followed all this time would be docking soon. As the curious deckhands peered out at the city, Rodion swam his way to the side of the ship, clambering back onto the Mistral Marauder from a rope ladder. Upon reaching the ship's deck, the Sea Weasel shook himself dry, and began drifting to and from crewmembers to inspect their work.

    "Remember, we get the bird first, and then we can worry about loot," Rodion barked. "This is a big city and we can't go picking fights right off the bat!"

    A little off to the side, a small clique consisting of a Yanmega, a Manetric, and a Marowak loitered against the railing, watching the Floatzel first mate going around giving out orders. After being suitably confident that the Water-Type could neither see nor hear him, Valatos gave an annoyed scowl at the yapping mustelid and buzzed irkedly.

    "Pah!" Valatos hissed. "Just how new does he think we all are?"

    "Wait, wait," a Hoppip's voice insisted. "But what if the bird is with the loot?"

    Valatos and Nori blinked and looked ahead to see Wilhelm obliviously flitting in front of Rodion, the Sea Weasel Pokémon burying his head in his paws at the Grass-Type's inane questioning. The pair traded askew glances with one another, with crewmates like that...

    "I dunno," Nori murmured. "That sounded pretty new to me, Valatos."

    The Yanmega frowned and turned his head out back towards land. They were passing a defensive wall made of stone now, the tops manned by stern-looking Pokémon. By chance, he spotted a large cauldron with a pair of bellows installed by them, a Magmar lazing next to it and watching ships go by. It was most likely a batch of seafire, the tool of choice for cities such as Tidemill to burn up unwanted vessels that tried to slip past its watch. The dragonfly watched as the sprawl and canals of Tidemill came into view, the sea of shacks flecked with the city's namesake tide mills and windmills further in the distance.

    "Mrph, I think I can handle myself just fine," the Bug-Type snorted. "I've dealt with the bustle and flow of a big city."

    "Egh… it's too crowded for my taste," Nori murmured. "Needs more quiet places. But at least we'd have a leg up, right? Isn't this Alvise's old colony?"

    The Marowak turned towards his Manectric partner, only to see that the Manectric's fur was standing even more on end than usual, with his claws dug into the deck's wood, and his teeth locked into a grimace. Hardly the sort of reaction he had expected.

    "Uh… Alvise? What's with that look?" the Ground-Type asked. "I'd have thought you'd-"

    "We agreed we weren't going back anywhere near here, you lunkhead!" Alvise snapped.

    "Whuh? You've got family here!" Nori insisted. "It's not like you've got any enemies here, right?"

    The Marowak was met with a withering glare from his teammates. Er... now that he thought about it, Alvise did go out of his way to mark up Giotto on the maps they got as a place to be avoided. And he did vaguely remember the wolf mentioning something about his circumstances for leaving being less-than-ideal in the past...

    "… Oh right."

    "Oi! If you're on the docking teams, get a move on and get us tied down!" a rumbling voice bellowed. "Everyone else can either show up to the stern or kiss their share of the next raid goodbye!"

    Each member of the crew dutifully shuffled toward the waiting Aggron in a flood of motion, joined shortly thereafter by Valatos and his companions, who lingered toward the back of the amassed crowd.

    "Eh? Already?" a Wimpod murmured.

    "Yeah, why's he want a meeting now?" a Miltank scoffed. "What's there even to do?"

    The ship was quieted abruptly as a hard stomp rattled the deck and everyone on it. At the epicenter of the quake stood Hess, leering at his silenced subordinates. After waiting a moment like a stern schoolteacher to be sure the silence would continue, he gave an indignant snort at the interruption and cleared his throat to address his crew once more.

    "Alright, you know the drill," the Aggron barked. "We're at a new island, so that means we're picking a scout to tip us off."

    "Eh?! But that's a huge city!" a Staravia exclaimed. "How would any of us go undetected in that?!"

    "It's a risk we'll have to take, like with everything else. So… any volunteers?"

    Chirp chirp chirp

    Hess blinked and hardened his face into an increasingly sour scowl as his request was answered only by the sound of a Kricketot chirping. The Steel-Type glared over at the source of the noise, where 'Chirpy' was obliviously chittering away to himself.

    "Psst, Chirpy, he's asking for volunteers…" a Pawniard whispered.

    The Bug-Type's antennae froze to motionlessness as he hastily silenced himself, leaving Hess to rest his scowling face in one palm, seething. Couldn't his crew ever show a little initiative on their own?

    "Fine," the Iron Fleet's captain growled. "If no one volunteers, I'll just have to pick someone."

    The Aggron began to pace around, eyeing his underlings closely (with the visible exception of Nori) as he passed them. Gulps and nervous glances filtered around as the Steel-Type would linger over one pirate before moving on to the next. Hess' course took him to Kichiro where he paused noticeably and glared down, the Ledian becoming increasingly unnerved at his superior's apparent choice.

    "I pick…" the Iron Armor Pokémon began, only to be interrupted by a gulping buzz.

    "Uh, Captain," the beetle began. "Maybe we could talk this ov-"

    "The Marowak," Hess finished. "He's the scout for this island."

    Kichiro raised his voice in reflexive protest, only to trail off as he noticed Nori going wide-eyed by the railing. Was he hearing things right? Hess didn't want him to be the scout?

    "Wait, really?" the Ledian asked. "Well, I can't really argue with-"

    "Na- Nani itterunda?! You walked away from me!" Nori cried. "Why on earth would you pick me as the scout?!"

    The Aggron turned to face the indignant Marowak and after noticing that he seemed a bit riled up, the Steel-Type stammered. He hastily tried to come up with an excuse that would sound suitably convincing, lest his crew pick up on his obvious unease.

    "Because… uh…" Hess began, fumbling for his words. "You're strong headed, and… imposing. Yeah, let's go with that. Anyhow, enjoy your scouting!"

    "But I'm not a flier and I can't run that fast!" the Marowak protested. "How could I do anything for scouting that Valatos couldn't? He's the fastest flier on your crew!"

    "Hey, kop dicht, bonehead! And I wouldn't be that great of a scout since I'm not that familiar with this place!" the Yanmega hissed. "At least Alvise knows his way around here!"

    Sparks began to dance on the Manectric's pelt and his muzzle opened to show bared, gritted fangs. Valatos knew he had problems here in Giotto and how much he tried to avoid coming back, and here he was forcing him into harm's way to save his own hide?!

    "You miserable bao!" Alvise snapped. "So now you're going to throw me under the ship to dodge scouting!? Nori got picked, so let him go!"

    The conversation between the three quickly devolved into a heated whirlwind of arguments and conflicting accusations, the group adopting increasingly aggressive stances. From the side, Hess threw a claw over his face, letting out an aggravated sigh at how much of a headache he could've saved if only he'd just stuck Kichiro back on deck-swabbing duty back in Kenobi.

    "… I should've waited until we were back in Orleigh to look for more deck claws," the Steel-Type grumbled.

    Hess lifted his foot and brought it down onto the deck, jolting the ship and making it lurch underfoot. Nori and Alvise struggled to keep their balance as Valatos flitted up instinctively, the three's attention turning reluctantly towards the Aggron captain as the deck settled.

    "I'll make things easier and settle your little spat," Hess growled. "You're all on scouting duty! Now get moving!"

    The three Pokémon grimaced at the Steel-Type's announcement, Alvise in particular flying into a stuttering panic as the wolf began to whine in protest.

    "B-B-But I can't go ashore!" the Manectric protested. "Not here!"

    "And why not?" Hess growled. Alvise gulped as he watched the towering Aggron glaring down at him, desperately fishing around in his mind for a suitable excuse, until he finally settled on...

    "I… er… uh… have a stomachache!" the Electric-Type insisted. "Kinda took it hard from all the Jellicent stings back in port, and- AUGH!"

    The Manectric's words were cut off by a hail of sopping rocks, throwing the three clear over the railing and sending them tumbling through the air.. The trio hit the dock with a thud, groaning and shuffling their aching bodies back up, just in time to catch Hess leaning over the railing and shaking his fist in their direction.

    "And don't come back until you have a lead!" the Aggron snapped.

    The three moaned dazedly form their heap on the docks, pulling themselves up one after the other. Nori got up, dusting his scales off as he glowered up at the passing ship over his shoulder.

    "Gah…" the Marowak groaned. "We didn't even get a chance to change our scarves…"

    "I think he likes you, Nori," Valatos grumbled.

    "Yeah, great going dragging me back here thanks to your mess!" Alvise growled. The Manectric's protests were met by a harrumph from his Marowak partner, the bone lizard slinging his club over his shoulder before giving an impatient glare.

    "Well, are we going to just sit here and wait for the guards to cart us off, or are you actually going to help us get around, Alvise?" the Marowak demanded.

    "… Ugh, fine," the Manectric sighed, turning his face towards a dingy alleyway up ahead. "Come on, this way. I know a few places we can lie low before we look around."

    The wolf shuffled off, followed by his teammates as they lurked in the shadows of the canal-straddling alleys. All the while Alvise grumbled under his breath, eager to find enough of a lead to return back to the relative safety of the ship.



    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
  6. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    After their abrupt departure from the naval docks, Nida and the remaining members of Team Traveller wandered the streets in the western neighborhoods of Tidemill. All the while, the three grudgingly came to the conclusion that there was not much that they could do other than to try to scrape together a little money and find a way back to Bluewhorl and hope that Hatteras and the others would be able to help find a solution. During the trek, the surroundings were akin to an alien planet, with towering monumental halls and pillars looming over buildings that would've reached halfway up the bluff to the guild back on Tromba. The streets were as crowded as Bluewhorl's on its the biggest market days, and stretched on as far as the eyes could see, with even the rooftops teeming with activity from Flying-Types who had settled on rented-out eaves with nests built on them. Even the local Kecleon shop was a world away from Calino's shack, the "shop" (if it could be called that) turning out to be a multi-storied stone building draped in red and gold banners that proudly advertised itself as "one of five locations".

    Even so, there were also features that this overcrowded space shared with more humble towns. There were still mailboxes in front of buildings, there were still taverns that hawked drinks along with cheap and filling gummis with the same sorts of motley customers. A little further on, the three also discovered that there were also guilds in this place, as a stone building with bands of Pokémon with glinting badges on their scarves indicated. Elty paused at the sight of the guild, observing the crowded message board set out in front and the Steelix head decoration over the main entrance… only to see that his teammates were continuing on away from it.

    "Spike ball, that was a guild…" Elty said. "Didn't you say that we needed a job to get back to Tromba?"

    The Growlithe waited expectantly for an answer, only to be met with a shake from the Nidoran's head.

    "Would there be anything left at this hour?" Nida countered. "With how much the missions for a Normal Rank team would pay, we'd be better off trying to help out a shopkeeper or something for a couple days."

    "So then just how are we supposed to find one of those shopkeepers?" Guardia asked.

    "Keep your eyes peeled," the Poison-Type answered. "Shops usually put up a sign of some sort saying that they're looking for help."

    "And just what would that look like?" Guardia demanded.

    Nida paused and blinked at her teammate's question. It… was a sign that would say 'Help Wanted' or something like that? Though then again, Guardia - like Pleo - never did get the hang of reading runes yet… So how was she able to show what one would look like without an example?

    "Uh… erm…"

    The Nidoran looked around her surroundings where she chanced to notice a small, dingy shop next to an alleyway with some papers hung up on the outside. The Poison-Type squinted at the wall, where the headline of one of the papers caught her notice with big runes that spelled out 'Help Wanted', just as shops back home did when they needed a helping hand for the season.

    "Oh, like that one!" Nida exclaimed. "That's exactly one of the signs that we're looking for!"

    Elty looked at the store and frowned, sniffing skeptically in its direction. From a glance, it was hard to guess just what the shop sold. The sign outside the entrance carried a bell on it, with runes were faded to the point of illegibility, and there didn't seem much of anything for wares on the outside.

    "… That little abandoned-looking mordownia?" Elty scoffed. "Would they even have a job for us? That listing looks ancient!"

    "Only one way to find out…" the Nidoran murmured.

    Nida paced over and pulled the notice off the wall, the paper evidently searching for some Pokémon to help transport crates for a few days. Challenging for their size, but it shouldn't be impossible. The rabbit shook her head, leading her teammates into the store past its ajar door where she called out into it.

    "Hello?" Nida asked. "We're here to talk about your help-?"

    The Nidoran's words trailed off as she noticed that the floor of the store was completely barren. Indeed, were it not for the dusty notice boards hung on the walls and the idling Gothitelle sitting behind a crude counter at the end, one could be forgiven for thinking that Elty was right about the store being abandoned… but what did this place even do?

    "Eh?! This poster said you were looking for someone to move crates!" the Poison-Type squeaked. "Just how are you supposed to do that here?!"

    The Gothitelle looked up with an incredulous blink. After a pause as the degree to which the youngsters before her were fish out of water sank in, the Psychic-Type sighed and shook her head in annoyance.

    "You did read the shop sign before coming in, right?" the Gothitelle asked. "This is the Tidemill West Trouble Center. That job listing is for a client of ours."

    "Trouble… Center?" Guardia asked.

    "Tch, you all really are just fresh off the boat," the Psychic-Type scoffed. "But it's a place where Pokémon can leave all their requests that are outside of the scope of the local guilds. Laundry, construction work, and that crate moving job you've got in your paws."

    Nida's eyes lit up at once at the clerk's explanation. This was just the breakthrough that they all needed to solve their money issues!

    "That's perfect!" Nida exclaimed. "These are exactly the jobs we need!"

    "Whoa there, buster," the Gothitelle insisted. "This isn't a guild where we matchmake you to a job. It's up to our clients to decide whether or not you fit the bill."

    "Even so, there's a lot of jobs here…" Guardia said, eyeing the crowded bulletin boards all around the room. "Just how hard could finding one be?"



    A few hours later, the sun had slipped over the horizon entirely and the moon had begun climbing into the sky, leaving the streets below to bathe in the light of the stars and the glow of lanterns hung up in the windows of nearby buildings. The door of the Trouble Center opened, as Team Traveller trudged back in tiredly. All this time, they'd gone from shop to shop in the city and had nothing but sore legs and feet to show for it.

    "Just how hard could finding one be, huh?" Elty grumbled.

    "Grr… don't get started on this, Gardie," Guardia glowered.

    "There has to be something here we can do…" Nida murmured.

    "Well, what about this this circle-stick one over there?" the Cubone offered. "What's it say?"

    The Nidoran looked up and followed the end of Guardia's club to a poster with a magnifying glass. The Poison-Type glanced over the listing, poring over its summary only to stop and blink puzzledly.

    "… Detective's assistant?" Nida asked.

    The rabbit's words drew an unimpressed frown from her Growlithe teammate. If they couldn't land something simple like pushing jobs around, what hope did they have of getting something less straightforward like this?

    "Really?" the Growlithe sighed. "That's the job we're pinning our hopes on?"

    "Well, what's a detective do?" Guardia pressed.

    "Uh… I'm pretty sure that they just look around for things to help the guards with ne'er-do-wells," Nida answered. "Or at least that's what the guards at home said they did."

    "That doesn't sound like anything that we can't do," the Cubone insisted. "Where's it say to meet the Pokémon who put this up?"

    Elty and Nida looked down towards the bottom of the paper on the board. At once, a curious line of glyphs noting the client's location caught their attention, drawing puzzled blinks from the duo.

    "… Backroom?"

    "That would be over here."

    The three looked up and turned to the side, where a door had been left ajar leading to a room at the back of the Trouble Center. There inside was a waiting Pikachu with a low-slung hat fashioned of brown fabric, giving an expectant gaze at Team Traveller in between nibbles at an Oran Berry. The youngsters blinked at the sight of the waiting rodent... Was this the client?

    "Wait, you work out of the Trouble Center?" Guardia asked.

    "I am today. The name's Detective Cardino," the Pikachu insisted. "Normally, I'd insist on getting a colleague from the City Guard or at least someone a bit… older. But I'm kinda in a rush for my current case. Why don't you step into my office, and we'll talk things over a bit?"

    Nida, Elty and Guardia exchanged glances, still somewhat incredulous at their client's choice of meeting place. It was hard to complain given how conveniently it worked out for the trio, but an uneasy air lingered nonetheless as they nervously padded into the room and the Pikachu slid the door shut behind them. Something about this felt a little too convenient, but even so, perhaps it would make sense to figure out why the rodent needed help from some random strangers.

    "So… what's this assistant thing need us to do?" Nida asked.

    "Well, sharp senses, obviously," the Electric-Type murmured. "A good paw at simple forensics… You know, basic stuff."

    "Forensics?" Guardia murmured.

    "You know, finding traces of Pokémon that have been in the area?" Cardino replied. "Tracking?"

    Each of the young explorers' eyes lit up at the Pikachu's explanation. Tracking down missing Pokemon? Why, that was practically what they'd been doing in the Mystery Dungeons all this time! Although their success had been mixed before, it would surely be easier without the shifting walls of a Mystery Dungeon conspiring against their progress!

    "That's easy!" the three exclaimed.

    The Pikachu stammered, taken aback by the enthusiasm of the young Pokémon before him. Either they were much more experienced than they looked, or they had gravely misunderstood the job he asked of them.

    "Now- Now hold on here, pal!" Cardino rebutted. "I don't know where you're getting your past experience from, but it's not that straightforward in my line of work!"

    "Eh?" Elty asked, raising an ear. "But it sounds like your luck's been just as bad as ours lately."

    "Yeah, and you could always apprentice us in the the lore that you know," Guardia added.

    "And don't you only need temporary assistants in the first place?" Nida insisted. "It can't hurt, can it?"

    The Pikachu paused and frowned, unsatisfied with the meager reassurance the younger Pokémon offered. Despite his skepticism, though, he found himself short on time and hard-pressed for any immediate replacement... and, if their claims were to be believed, they could handle themselves in environments of a rougher sort.

    "… Well, alright then," the rodent murmured. "But you should probably get to meet the defendants before you agree to this."

    "Oh?" Guardia asked. "I suppose it couldn't hurt. Lead the way."

    "Well, it's a little late for that, pal," Cardino chuckled, tilting his hat with his paw. "That said, I can at least show you where you'll be meeting with the defendants before you hit the hay. Come along, and we'll meet you there tomorrow."

    He hopped down and shoved the door open, bidding the young ones to follow him out. Together, they walked toward the rapidly-darkening city as the sun set behind them.



    Unlike smaller settlements such as Bluewhorl Town and Seahive Square, the visitor's district and the other portions of Tidemill were less affected by the rhythms of the night. The day's visitors were replaced by night owls coming out for the evening, continuing on the day's trade and intermixing the beginnings of a vibrant nightlife anchored around taverns and theaters. Although just around the corner, the alley that Valatos and his companions lurked in was a far cry from the hubbub of the main streets: dark, dimly-lit, and seemingly devoid of life. The Marowak in particular seemed to be particularly moody at their circumstances, casting longing glances at the taverns they passed. At the same time, the solitude had done little to take the edge off of his Manectric teammate, who continued nervously darting his eyes around at his surroundings.

    "Can we hurry up and get out of here, already?" Alvise whined.

    The wolf's complaining drew scowls from his teammates, Valatos giving an irked buzz at his partner's incessant complaining.

    "Well, help us find a lead already, you simpering mutt!"

    "Yeah!" Nori spat. "We've been wandering these back alleys for hours now!"

    "Let's see you come up with something that doesn't get us all caught!" Alvise growled.

    "Hrmph!" the Marowak harrumphed. "Maybe I wi- Huh?"

    The three stopped and stared as they watched a group consisting of a Fraxure, a Kabutops, a Swellow, and a Scyther approach a checkpoint at the district wall down the street where a Quagsire and Ivysaur in indigo scarves waited. The group carried a crate along and stopped before the pair of guards to chat them up, only to be turned around with annoyed scowls. The sailors faltered, before turning and sulkily making their way back up the street, the form of a young Druddigon slipping out from behind them. Valatos, Nori, and Alvise stood stunned for a moment at the party as they passed, any doubts of their identity being thoroughly dashed once they caught sight of their white scarves decked with waterspout patterns.

    "Them again?" Alvise whispered. "What are they doing here?!"

    The dragonfly stared blankly at the Manectric, before throwing a tarsal over his face, buzzing in exasperation. After all this time, how could the mutt not know what the brat and his friends would be doing here?

    "Alvise, we followed their ship…"

    "Yeah, but that doesn't mean that out of everyone from their crew we would specifically encounter them!" the wolf countered.

    Nori gritted his teeth, his claws pressing into the surface of his club as he gripped his club with crushing force. All the while, his eyes maintained a laser-focused glare on the Druddigon and his companions as they passed by.

    "Grr… well, I think it's time we properly welcomed them here," he growled.

    The bone lizard stomped ahead and shoved aside a small pile of discarded barrels with a loud crash, drawing slack-jawed stares from his teammates. He was going to attack them right in the middle of a city street?!

    "What are you doing, you lunkhead?!" Valatos hissed.

    "Giving those punks a lesson from the school of hard knocks!" the Marowak spat.

    "No, you stupid dweeb," Alvise snapped. "You'll get us caught!"

    "I'm the dweeb?!" Nori fumed "You're the one who's afraid of his own shadow out here!".

    The outburst did little to soothe the unsettled wolf, who snarled back, sparks beginning to dance on his pelt.

    "Why don't you tell that to my face, you stupid lizard!" the Electric-Type growled.

    Nori growled back, gritting his teeth and swinging his club out ready for battle.

    "Maybe I will!"

    "Both of you, shut up!" Valatos shouted. "You're going to get us-"

    "Hey you!"

    Valatos and his companions felt their blood run cold and looked back out to the street to see a glaring Araquanid and a Herdier in Imperial indigos glaring at them and making their way over. The three turned to flee down the alleyway, only for a woosh to fill the air as a Decidueye swooped down from an eave, and drew a feathery arrow and readied it to fire, bringing the lot to a skidding stop.

    "A-Agh!"

    The three whirled around, searching desperately for an escape, only to see that their left and right were both blocked by the walls of looming apartments. The three became light-headed and froze out of fear as the guards approached, the Decidueye keeping his arrow drawn all the while as he paced up to Nori…

    … and shoved him back with a beat of his wing.

    "This is a public street, not a battlefield!" the owl hissed. "Keep your little spats someplace where they won't trash someone's livelihoods!"

    "H-Huh?" Valatos gulped.

    "Are you deaf?" the Decidueye demanded. "I'm telling you to knock it off here!"

    Valatos stared for a moment, incredulous that the owl was choosing to chew him out over getting aggressive over all things. Eager not to let fortune slip through his tarsi, the Yanmega flicked his wings and gave an impatient buzz back.

    "Alright, alright, I get it! Nothing we can't settle in private!" Valatos insisted. "Can we go now?"

    "… Hrmph, fine," the Grass-Type grumbled. "But I'll be watching you."

    The Decidueye moved out of the trio's way, prompting them to rush ahead and out onto a busy street. The pirates looked back, watching stunned as the guards followed after them before nonchalantly turning and slipping off into the crowd. They… just let them go? But what would compel them to do that? Unless...

    "They- They didn't notice our scarves!" Nori exclaimed. "They must not know about our crew here!"

    The Marowak gave a relieved wag of his tail, his enthusiasm failing to rub off on his teammates. Valatos slipped his front tarsi over his head as he realized just why the guards wouldn't recognize their pattern... the Iron Fleet were a bunch of no names here!

    "That's not making this any less humiliating, Nori…"

    "Look, can we just get back into the shadows already?" Alvise barked. "This really isn't the place to-"

    "Oi, we're seen as nobodies here!" the Yanmega snapped. "And as long as that's the case, we'd best exploit it!"

    "Yeah, and that thing going on with your family had to have settled down by now, right?" Nori insisted.

    The Marowak's words came as cold comfort to Alvise, the Manectric scanning his surroundings uneasily, and thickening the air with tense, nervous sparks.

    "Look, let's just figure out what those twerps are doing and get out of here, okay?" the Electric-Type demanded. "Standing around like this is just asking for trouble."

    "Uh… now that you mention it…" Nori murmured. "Where'd they go anyways?"

    Nori and Alvise looked around their surroundings, scanning the passing Pokémon for any sign of the party from the Siglo Swellow. By chance, Nori happened to catch a glimpse of a Druddigon's crest and darted forward with his club drawn, only to skid to a stop after seeing the Druddigon was far too large and the scarf had the wrong pattern and color relative to the twerp.

    Valatos, growing frustrated with the lack of progress, flitted up onto an overlooking signpost and perched atop it. From his perch, he managed to catch a glimpse of a Kabutops in the crowd, his gaze taking him to the sailors from earlier as they began pacing back towards the sea. Satisfied with his findings, the dragonfly flitted down, and buzzed for attention beside his companions.

    "They're headed back for the docks,' the Bug-Type said. "Let's tail 'em and keep an eye on what they're up to. They couldn't have come here unless it somehow related to that overgrown Wingull."

    Nori and Alvise looked at each other, before grunting and pushing off. The three carefully following after the tracks of their old foes amid the crowd. Vengeance was a dish that was best served cold, and there'd be plenty of time to work that out after figuring out whatever they were up to on Giotto.



    Author's Notes:

    - no tan fuerte - Spanish: "keep it down", lit. "don't be loud"
    - plenniki (плeнники) - Russian: "prisoners" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - Ni idea - Spanish: "(I have) No idea"
    - es facíl! - Spanish: "it's/that's easy!"
    - Nani itterunda?! (何言ってるんだ?!) - Japanese: "What are you saying?! / What are you talking about?!" (Hepburn romanization)
    - bao - Venetian: "bug"
    - mordownia - Polish: "dive", "dump". lit: "murder-hole"
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2017
  7. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Well, looks like they've ended up in the brig. I did get a kick out of everyone's reactions, especially's Guarida's "literally living under a rock" bit. That and the snappy tidbit that followed from the narrator about the same thing. But that does an immediate 180 when Nagant appears. Am I to understand she actually did what Lyn only threatened to do and clipped Pleo's wings. Dang, that's pretty rough.

    Guardia's getting really meta today.

    Unlike Lyn, who comes across as rather ruthless personally, but has a bit of an incompetent staff at his command, the initial scene in the capital paints Nagant it a bit of a well-intentioned extremist sort of light. I mean, we already know she knocked the heroes out and made them stowaways. But she's technically letting them all go and tries to make it seem like they want to put Pleo to a noble use. On top of that, her troops seem much more disciplined in contrast to Lyn's. Heck, even the random city guards seem more on top of things, what with not budging for Kiran's trick.

    And what better way to illustrate that than to cut to Lyn. You would really think at this point he'd aim to send Pokémon that could work well together, which Ketu and Ellsberg are not. But I guess he's short on resources. Their bickering plays pretty nicely off each other. Ellsberg's prim and proper conduct does not fit with Ketu's more underhanded methods (being a dark-type and all).

    I should point out that it's very interesting how everyone seems to have a slightly different take on this schism that led to Middleguard falling and the Company rising in power. All these different skewed perspectives makes me generally curious as to what really did happen. Kind of like the Marked's take on Protectors. Not really sure who to trust here.

    Also, it's very unusual to see three different factions basically acting in unison here. All of them sending scouting parties with the same intentions in mind, but different levels of sincerity. Especially with the pirates' since we've got this comical trio pulling scouting duty. That ending scene almost seems like a Three Stooges type of thing with all the misfortune this trio keeps seeming to find. It appears Alvise might be getting a bit of a plot thread introduced, which isn't something I was really expecting for this episode. I'm assuming it'll be like a C-plot or something.

    Lastly, wow, Tidemill has a Trouble Center? Tell me that's not a reference to Rogueport in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. I won't believe you. And that leads immediately into a Detective Pikachu. Okay, that's definitely not something I was expecting. So, there's a whole bunch of pieces in play for something crazy with this episode. But, for the time being, it looks like everyone's doing some investigating. I'd better bring my cravat and logic for this next chapter. I'll show myself out.
     
  8. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Yeah, for better or a lot lot worse, the old shrimp doesn’t mess around.

    Wouldn’t you after a run of luck like that? o3o

    To be fair on Lyn, he’s hailing from an environment with a lot more blatant intrigue going on behind the scenes, and he didn’t have sea escorts who outright attempted to hide their discovery of Pleo for a shot at glory hounding. And to be fair on Kiran, it was a bit of a lame trick. o3o;

    To be fair on him, I think that most captains would expect their second-in-commands to either work well enough to get their job done or else to take a long walk off a short pier. While he probably ought to concede the obvious, pride and stubbornness have a way of forcing suboptimal decisions.

    All in due time, though I will say that everyone has elements of the truth, but misses the mark in varying ways.

    That’s basically correct, yeah. It will get set up a bit more in the next chapter and get more fully developed later in this arc.

    You’re actually more or less on-mark for all of those references, that said there won’t be quite as much Logic Chess in the next few chapters as your initial impressions made you think.

    As you may have gathered, things took a little longer than 3 weeks to tie everything together, but in light of the holidays and some chaos earlier this week with lost belongings and dying laptop batteries, I’m happy to report that I was able to at least get something out the door in November. The next chapter is currently targeting a pre-Christmas release date, the slower pace being due to a mixture of more work to be done on it than normal and holidays interfering more with normal scheduling.

    Special thanks for this chapter goes to Virgil134, Tangent128, solovino, and sugoitsu from ff.net, along with the feedback and support of this story’s readers and reviewers. And now, to return back to our scheduled programming:

    [​IMG]

    Nagant’s travels from the docks took longer than normal on the night of her return. As opposed to the direct course through the canals she would normally take from the docks to her quarters in the Royal Citadel, the evening was consumed by a meandering course helping to guide the crate and the Protector within along back alleys and emptier streets to elude attention. Eventually, the Aurorus, the cart, and their defending entourage made their way to a tall stone gate, where guards dutifully watched the entrances on land and those cut into the network of canals that spilled over the wall. The Clawitzer hopped into one of the canals, waiting to be waved through by a watching Lumineon and Kingler. She swam under the wall and waited for her more terrestrial counterparts to come through their gate before continuing on into the Citadel.

    The Citadel, much like the one that graced Conntow in days of old, was effectively a town built unto itself. Queen Aleria’s palace was its anchor, a grand affair with its parapets and balconies for her to take to the air, and its surroundings were crowded by the quarters of nobles along with vanities such as gardens and libraries. Radiating outwards from the palace and nobles’ abodes at the center were quarters belonging to servants and guards, as well as those of *Pokémon such as Nagant from the nobility whose prestige had waned with the ages. The Aurorus and the rest of the crate’s escorts carried on to a service entrance, where the crate was unloaded onto a push cart, and hoisted up a pull elevator that took it up to the third floor of the palace, where a small party of guards headed by a Chesnaught bade them to follow down a candlelit hallway towards a set of large doors at the end.

    Nagant made her way forward with her entourage, keenly eyeing the decor on the walls. It had been lined with portraits and statues of royals from ages past. There was Aquila the Great, the Staraptor founder of Anyilla’s ruling dynasty. There was King Oriel the Unifier, who had stitched the Empire back together after the royal family split into feuding wings whose squabbles brought ruin to its ports. There was King Gavin the Wise, who had chartered the Company to guard the Empire’s metals and act as a means to lift the best and brightest commonfolk to the ranks of the nobility… not that he’d think much of his creation now.

    The shrimp made her way up to the door, where right beside it was a portrait of Queen Aleria’s father, King Alexander and of her aunt, Queen Erna. King Alexander and Aleria were the sole members of the reigning family to escape the Great Calamity. The shrimp paused in front of the portrait, her thoughts turning towards the royals depicted within.

    Whether by a stroke of fortune or the cruelty of fate, Aleria’s egg had an accident at Alexander’s manor on Giotto that had cracked her eggshell early and kept it from heading to Conntow with the rest of the then-Prince’s family for his sister’s jubilee that year. By missing the anniversary of Erna’s reign, Aleria had been spared from the maelstrom, a fate which Nagant’s own family failed to share. In life, King Alexander had done everything possible to try and rebuild the world he knew for his child, but like many things in Anyilla since that awful day, the most that could be managed was a mere shadow of the times gone by.

    Creeeak

    The Clawitzer pushed the door open to find that the throne room before them was mostly barren, barring a small body of guards by the throne, a sleepy-looking Archeops on the ground, and an Altaria resting on an overlooking eave. The Archeops yawned, and flapped up to paw at the wing of the dozing Altaria. Upon the ancient bird’s prodding, the cloudy bluebird perked up, and gave a trilling admonishment.

    "Captain Nugget!” the Altaria chirped. “This is a throne room, not a loading dock!"

    Nagant’s frowned and twitched her barbels irkedly at the mention of ‘Captain Nugget’, clenching her claws tight to restrain herself as the Altaria queen fluttered down. The Humming Pokémon hopped over to her throne perch and waited for the Archeops to follow suit before turning back to Nagant, skeptically eyeing the ratty crate that had been brought in her chamber.

    “If you have supplies to leave for the palace, there’s a service entrance for that!” Aleria cried. “I don’t need it brought straight to my throne room!”

    "I can assure you, if this were mere supplies, I wouldn't have troubled you, your majesty,” the Clawitzer insisted. “This is the Protector that I sent word about."

    "… The Protector is that crate there?" the Altaria asked.

    The cloud-bird's failure to recognize the obvious elicited wide-eyed stares from the audience, followed by a wave of paws and claws being thrown over faces.

    "… Captain, would you kindly open the crate for her majesty to see?" the Archeops sighed.

    "Gladly, Chancellor Osborn,” Nagant chittered. “Bommel!"

    The Clawitzer’s cry prompted a Bewear to grunt and approach the crate, forcing his paws under the lid and tugging it up with a smooth motion to reveal its contents for Nagant to gesture at with her claw. Much to the Aleria and Osborn’s astonishment, slumbering within the crate was a long-necked bird of a species that neither of the two had ever seen, bearing silvery-white feathers, a blue crest and back plates.

    "That's the Protector, your majesty," Nagant explained.

    "Oh, how lovely! I never knew that a Protector could be such a cutie!” Aleria chirped. “They're always so big and imposing in myth."

    The onlooking Pokémon murmured as they saw the creature in the box begin to stir, his silvery-white feathers rippling as his head bobbed up in a confused daze.

    "Gwuh?"

    The young Protector blinked, trying to clear the sleep from his eyes to make out his dimly-lit surroundings. Every bit of him ached, and he felt himself yearn for just a few more hours of sleep. Still bleary-eyed, he rolled his shoulders and spread his wings wide, giving them a few beats to get his blood flowing like he always did in the morning.

    "Nida?” the Lugia murmured. “Are you still there?"

    As his eyes finally adjusted to the lighting, Pleo suddenly jumped back with a start. Far from the sunset-filled sky he’d expected to see, he’d woken up in an airy, candlelit room. Nagant was still lurking near him, but the room was filled with strangers he didn’t recognize, including an Altaria and an Archeops peering curiously at him from the front. The seabird whirled around in a panic, hopping out of the crate flapping his wings instinctively to find he was still grounded, the million questions swirling in his mind only managing to surface the two most pressing of all:

    “H-Huh?! Where am I?! Where's everyone?!”

    "You're in her highness' presence, young one," a staticy voice explained.

    Pleo looked behind just as the creak of a door rang out, spotting a Magnezone in an indigo scarf and a Kecleon in a red-and-gold cravat entering the chamber. The pair seemed serious-faced, and somewhat disheveled, as if suddenly drug in from other work. Perhaps conscious of his appearance, the chameleon gave a bow in front of the Altaria, dusting his scales off as they flushed a deep, businesslike green.

    “Ah, Admiral Coil, Treasurer Walpole,” the Archeops greeted. “We’ve been waiting for you.”

    "Sorry for the wait, we were held up by a Snorlax dozing on the road," the Kecleon apologized.

    "Eh? Where's Thalez?” Aleria asked. “He's also a candidate for prime minister alongside you two."

    "Uhm, your highness…” Osborn sighed. “About this whole ‘making a bard a prime minister candidate’-"

    “B-But where are my friends?!” Pleo squawked. “What did you do with them?!”

    "They're making their way back to their old lives,” Nagant answered. “Just as they ought to."

    The Lugia’s beak started to quiver, his eyes watering as he thought about his missing companions. They… They were gone? But they needed him to come back! So did everyone on Tromba! He remembered hearing them before, their voices playing out even now as they begged and pleaded with the fates to let him return…

    The young Protector felt a rush flow through him, the air near his tail and back beginning to brighten up and his wingtips flushing with a silvery glow as startled looks flashed over the surrounding Pokémon.

    "But- But they-” the Lugia sniffled. “And I-"

    "Will get to see them again!” a Cranidos’ voice hastily insisted. “Isn't that right, Captain?"

    The gathered Pokemon turned their attention to a Cranidos towards the rear of the chamber who flustered at the sudden attention and shrank back slightly as the glow from Pleo’s feathers faded. After a moment's pause, he steeled himself and righted his posture, clearing his throat dismissively. Wide-eyed, his Sandslash partner jabbed him in the side with the flat of a claw.

    "Cabot, what are you doing?" Niilo whispered.

    "I mean, you did say that the Protector would get to see his friends one day,” Cabot insisted, ignoring his Sandslash teammate. “Isn't that right, Captain?"

    The Clawitzer scowled at the Cranidos, and flicked her gaze to Pleo. With a twitch of her whiskers, she mused that perhaps she should've brought someone from her crew who asked fewer questions.. That said, perhaps calming their captive's nerves with an answer wouldn't be such a bad idea...

    "… I suppose that I did say that, yes,” Nagant sighed. “If they followed my suggestions, they're probably enjoying themselves in the city right now."

    "So… if the Protector got all of his learning and preparation out of the way,” Cabot continued. “Wouldn't that be a good time for that to happen?"

    "Cabot,” Berecien hissed under his breath. “You're not supposed to be giving suggestions right in front of-"

    "I think it sounds lovely!” Aleria cheered. “What about you, Protector?"

    Pleo blinked and shifted uneasily at the Altaria's prodding. The fluffy bird genuinely seemed like she wanted to make him feel welcome, but… he was all alone, and his friends were off in the middle of some island he knew nothing about…

    "But I want to see them no- ow!"

    The Lugia winced and reflexively folded his wings back, limping as he felt a pain shoot through his hip. The young bird craned his head down, nosing carefully at the sore joint with his beak as he felt a deep bruise under his feathers. Osborn, mindful of the little Protector’s shabby state, shook his head, before appealing to the creature’s evident fatigue.

    "It would do you well to get some rest tonight, at least,” the Archeops said. “And perhaps you'd come to appreciate your new home here."

    "B-But my home's in Bluewhorl…" Pleo murmured. The seabird’s protest drew a shake of Walpole’s head, the Kecleon sighing at the evident hurdles that would need to be resolved for this creature to truly become the Protector of the Empire. The lizard thought back upon his experiences within the Merchantry of dealing with more intractable clients in the past, before raising his claw to float a proposal.

    "If I may, but might I suggest something to help build the bond between Protector and protected?” Walpole offered. “Perhaps the thing needed to truly make Lugia feel at home here would be something to show him just how much he means to the denizens of the Empire."

    "Oh, so like a tournament!" the Queen chirped.

    "Er,” the Kecleon began. “Actually I was going to propose a-"

    "That's a wonderful idea! Osborn! See to it that the word is distributed at once and the stadium is booked for the next week!” the Altaria trilled. “We’ll start the tournament tomorrow! Only the finest festival in honor of our new Protector!"

    The Archeops Chancellor gave a flat frown back at the Altaria’s prattling, only to ruffle his feathers and grudgingly nod his head back at his liege. It would be a long night’s work to cobble together a tournament in less than a day… Though given Aleria’s penchant for pagentry, he supposed it was easier than any of the alternatives the Altaria could have thought of.

    "As you wish, Your Majesty. Though be aware we will need to get... creative with where we get our entrants from,” the Archeops sighed. “As for Treasurer Walpole and Admiral Coil, I believe that it is safe enough for you two to retire for the evening. It looks like this matter is done."

    "That's fine,” the Magnezone buzzed back. “I had some other matters to attend to anyways regarding the raid on Polderfield Town earlier today."

    The admiral’s nonchalant mention of a raid on Polderfield instantly made Cabot’s eyes widen, and the Cranidos jumped back with a start.

    “R-Raid on Polderfield?!” he cried. “What happened?!”

    “It’s more accurately an attempted raid,” the Magnezone corrected. “I was given intel saying that they’d be coming around these parts in search of some rumored treasure, so I set a trap for them at the docks on the shoreline. Beyond some pier repairs and a few damaged tulip fields, there was nothing really there to note.”

    Cabot blinked slowly, the admiral’s explanation seeming to calm him down, but even so a lingering unease clung in the air about him at the mention of his hometown going through such a scare.

    “I… suppose that it worked out then,” the little dinosaur murmured, as Walpole gave a shake of his head.

    "I see that Coil here has his magnets full with his own matters. As for me, I need to get back to my bookkeeping at the Treasury," the Kecleon replied. “I’ve been running a bit behind thanks to my colleagues from the Merchantry have been coming to me more than I’d like to seek guidance.”

    The pair shuffled off back down the hallway, the grand doors creaking open as the two Pokémon slipped out into darkened hallways further beyond. As the Altaria queen spoke names aloud to herself for the title of her new tournament, her advisor noticed the young seabird in the room restlessly pecking around, prompting him to frown and turn back to face his liege.

    "Before I retire for the night, shouldn't you choose out someone to mentor the Protector?" Osborn asked.

    "Eh?” Aleria murmured. “What do you mean?"

    "Someone will have to instruct the Protector in the history and ways of the Empire,” the Fossil Pokémon explained. “He can't protect it well if he doesn't know the first thing about it."

    The Altaria paused, and moved a cloudy wingtip against her chin deep in thought at her advisor's prodding. She supposed it would be a bit much for a fledgling Protector to be able to defend an entire Empire at the flick of a feather.

    "I guess that's a point…” the Altaria admitted. “You wouldn't happen to know anyone of the sort, would you, Captain Nugget?"

    Nagant frowned a moment at the butchery of her name, before scanning the room, with her left claw to her chin in thought. A tutor, a tutor... her gaze fell on Cabot, and it occurred to her that he might be a good choice, despite his inexperience. After all, he'd already proven capable of soothing the seabird's nerves easily enough. Perhaps the Protector would be better to start off with the guidance of an amateur.

    "Cabot,” the shrimp ordered. “You and your friends will carry out the queen's task."

    The Cranidos sprang back out of surprise, the Rock-Type stammering to himself as he tried to process his captain’s order. She wanted him to tutor the Protector?!

    "H-Huh?!"

    "Heh heh!” Niilo cheered. “I could get used to living large for a while!"

    "Don't get any ideas, this job doesn’t need mercenary riff-raff in order to be done,” Nagant growled. “I'm only suggesting this because you all have the most familiarity with the Protector from my crew, and Cabot managed to calm him earlier. This is a mission, and I expect you to act the part."

    Niilo’s enthusiasm hastily deflated at the realization that this ‘tutoring’ was going to involve more work than he expected. The Sandslash’s teammates similarly seemed to have trouble getting excited about the task, after all, they had been training for conquering the high seas, not stacks of books!

    "With all due respect, Captain,” Berecien retorted. “But just how much are we supposed to be able to teach him?"

    “Yeah!” Cabot protested. “We’re sailors, not tutors!”

    "Er…” Pleo murmured. “What do those funny squiggles over there say?"

    The gathered Pokémon turned and looked as the Lugia gestured at a hung tapestry, there on it was a depiction of a sunrise at sea with ‘for her majesty’ embroidered at the bottom in gold thread… A moment of wordless befuddlement settled over the group, as it sunk in as to just how much this young Protector had yet to learn.

    "Well, 'reading' would be a good place to start," Nagant sighed.

    Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo traded looks with one another before looking at Queen Aleria. The three noticed the Altaria eyeing them expectantly, evidently having made up her mind as to what she expected of them, prompting the trio reluctantly agree to go along with the plan.

    “I… uh… suppose we could always start from the basics?” Cabot said.

    "We'll do it,” the Ponyta snorted. “But where do we even go from here?"

    "Osborn will show you the way," Aleria said. “Just try and make yourselves comfortable, and let us know if you need anything.”

    The three shuffled off along with the Archeops Chancellor, making their way for the door as Nagant turned back to the rest of her underlings who accompanied her and shot them a stern look.

    "The rest of you, head back to the ship and take that crate with you,” she ordered. “I've got a few matters to tend here."

    The room quickly cleared out of Pokémon, leaving behind Queen Aleria and Nagant with the royal guards. The Clawitzer captain twiched her barbels in anticipation, keenly eyeing the cloud-bird as she cleared her throat to speak.

    "I suppose this is about the matter of your reward," Aleria murmured.

    "It would certainly be appreciated, your majesty," Nagant replied.

    "Well, no worries,” the Altaria chirped. “I made sure to prepare only the finest compensation for such a task!"

    The Clawitzer’s eyes lit up and twitched her barbels expectantly as she watched the Altaria slip her beak under her fluffy feathers and fish out some paper articles. The Water-Type raised her claw to accept, only to realize the papers were adorned with a Rotom’s silhouette with runes reading ‘Thalez’s Electric Opera’ and ‘Admit One’ underneath. The shrimp’s mood visibly soured, this wasn’t anything to do with her noble title! Why, these were-!

    "… Theater… tickets?" the Clawitzer seethed.

    "Well, Osborn said that I couldn't just restore your title at the beat of a wing,” the Altaria insisted. “Something about having to find an appropriate domain for you now that most of my family's realm now in the wings of ruffians. But it's better to give you something to leave the room with for now, isn't it?"

    Nagant paused and eased her scowl at the Altaria’s response. The throne never had fully regained its power even after the Empire wrested itself free of Company usurpers. With the vile libels that the Company had transmitted to the peasantry about what had happened with Queen Erna at the time of the Great Calamity, Queen Aleria’s parents found it impossible to reassert the rule by decree their family enjoyed in prior times of crisis without stirring the embers of revolt. Perhaps the best route was to simply bide her time. After all, such patience had already delivered this Empire a Protector...

    "… I suppose that I can't argue with that,” the shrimp admitted. “Thank you, your highness."

    "Well, just look at it this way,” the bird offered. “Everything will be cleared up, and I’m sure after he gets the basics figured out, that Protector will surely help you get back your family's domain on Conntow!"

    "… I think that it's a bit premature to start getting complacent, your highness," Nagant answered.

    "What do you mean?"

    "There was quite a storm brewing around the Protector when I brought him here,” the Water-Type said. “I don't think we can assume that it's let up just yet."



    The following morning, Team Traveller woke up bright and early from a night spent on some free mats spread on a flat rooftop overlooking an inner courtyard filled with dingy water. They had been roused at the crack of dawn by Cardino, and been led along to a four story, tiled building with arched windows that was teeming with Pokémon in indigo scarves. The group made their way through a lobby full of loitering guards, and then through a central courtyard to a wing of the building that had been built with peepholes in lieu of windows. The four came to a barred door of the wing, where they were waved along by some gruff-looking guards, and led down a series of darkened corridors. On each side, the passages lined by small cells with metal bars where various creatures peered out, the stench of musk and unwashed bodies hanging thick in the air along with an overpowering feeling of unease among the three youngsters.

    “What is this place…?” Guardia murmured.

    "It's like those cells back home where Osmund would keep drunks till they sobered up,” Nida muttered to herself. “Except there's so many of them."

    "Psst! Hey kid!”

    Nida’s barbs fanned out and the Nidoran went wide-eyed. The Poison-Type whirled around, where she saw a Politoed poking an arm beyond the bars of his cell.

    “Wanna help a ‘mon with a little delivery?" the frog said.

    Nida did not allow herself a second to entertain the Politoed's offer, opting instead to duck away from the amphibian's outstretched arm and bound down the hallway. The Poison-Type charged ahead as fast as her legs could carry her, not daring to stop until she caught up with Cardino further down the cell block.

    "Gah!” she squeaked. “And these ‘mons are plenty sober!"

    "That's holding cells for you, pal," the Detective Pikachu sighed. “Pokémon are held here until they can be given a sentence by the court and punted off to places to pay their debts to society."

    Nida and Guardia took in their dreary surroundings and shrank back, each firmly aware of the dangerous-looking eyes casting glances in their direction. Elty too, appeared unnerved, his ears and tail clamped firmly against his body with a nervous whine escaping his mouth every so often. Unlike his peers, he seemed to be at relative ease around the characters in the background, though constantly gazed up at the ceiling, as if expecting it to cave in at any moment.

    "… Elty?” Nida asked. “Is something wrong?"

    "Let's just finish up what we need to get done and get out of here,” Elty sighed. “This sort of place is a bit too familiar for me, and not in a good way."

    "Oh, so the guardians of your hut-dwellers do have some flashes of competence every now and then," Guardia chided.

    The Growlithe gave a sour frown back at the Cubone, before giving a dismissive snort. Was this really the time for banter? Besides, she’d missed the point he was trying to make entirely...

    "It's not like that, bone-head,” the Fire-Type growled. “This is something that goes beyond-"

    "Not to cut this aherm… Interesting conversation short,” Nida interrupted, waving a paw to motion for silence. “But why are we here anyways, Cardino? I thought you wanted us just to help you look around for some pawprints or something."

    "Yesterday, there was an attempted pirate raid on Polderfield Town, one of the fringe settlements here on Giotto,” the detective explained. “Admiral Coil from the navy was leading his ship out at the time, so his crew was around to shoot out the hull from under the attackers."

    "Ow! Stop pulling!” a barking voice yelped. “I'm going! I'm going!"

    Nida, Elty, and Guardia turned to see a Furfrou and Mareanie in black scarves getting dragged along by a a Bastiodon and Glalie guard. Hadn’t those two attacked them on the way out of Rosequartz Town? The three watched as the pair were marched off by the guards, before turning uneasily back to Cardino, wondering just what he needed them to do with these ne’er-do-wells...

    "So you need us to pick up evidence about them raiding?” Nida prodded. “Or…?"

    "No, most of the cases were fairly open and shut,” Cardino replied. “Kinda hard to explain away loot on your person, and a lot of the pirates opted for plea deals in return for lesser sentences…"

    The Pikachu trailed off before shaking his head, evidently not fully at ease with the matter himself. After all, Team Traveller’s necessity was thanks to there being loose ends, which the Electric-Type dutifully explained to his hired help.

    "No, I'm in charge of gathering evidence for the last few cases. For the ones that aren't just a simple matter of throwing a labor sentence and calling it a day,” Cardino explained. “That's why I wanted you to meet the defendants you'll be covering before you accepted this job."

    So this case wasn't a 'simple matter,' then? Team Traveller exchanged uneasy glances as an air of dread came over them, the group's minds set wandering with the possibilities of an abnormally-criminal... criminal. Just what sort of heinous act would they have to be defending here?

    "Who are the defendants?” Guardia asked. “And what exactly did they do?"

    "I'm telling you, we didn't do it!"

    Nida’s ears perked up at the sound of the voice of a Scraggy. It was the same that she’d heard when being ambushed in Kenobi. And again when Guardia had been taken hostage in Orleigh… Could it be…?

    “Wait,” Nida murmured. “I know that-”

    The Nidoran and her companions looked ahead to see a door left ajar, and made their way up to push it open. Inside, they found a simple, dimly-lit room with a wooden counter. On one end was a Fletchinder and Misdreavus who looked up as if having just been interrupted in a task… On the other, were the forms of a Scraggy, Combusken, and Grotle in black scarves chained to the other end of the counter, all of whom were taken aback with startled surprise.

    You again!”

    The Pikachu detective blinked incredulously as the pirates and his newfound assistants stared dumbfounded at each other. 'Again'? Then did that mean…

    "Wait, you all have met before?" Cardino asked.

    Team Traveller grimaced, their sour faces broadcasting their full, unabashed displeasure with these 'acquaintances' of theirs. Nida shook her head and threw a paw over her face, before grudgingly answering the Pikachu's query.

    "We have a bit of a history, yes," Nida groaned.

    "You wouldn't happen to have a lead in our case as part of that, would you?" the Misdreavus asked.

    "Probably not unless if you want to look for more stuff to charge them with,” Elty muttered. “Who are you two anyways?"

    "I'm Nico and this is my assistant, Rita,” the Fletchinder explained. “We're the defense attorneys for this case here, and we asked Cardino here if he could help give us a hand."

    "Naturally, as someone who's part of the city guard, it wouldn't do me good to come off as taking sides,” the Electric-Type said. “So having you three as my assistants would work out perfectly."

    The Pikachu shook his head and gave a tired sigh to the Fletchinder. The rodent’s expression carried an air of flummoxed resignation, as if the robin had opted to charge a windmill for the umpteenth time.

    "That said, I'm not sure why you keep picking these hopeless cases, Nico,” Cardino sighed. “I mean, they were booked on charges of egg-napping, and barring that evidence adding a major swerve, it’s hard to see how you’d exonerate these ‘mons."

    "We're not confessing that and there's no way you can prove it!" Sela snapped.

    "Well, there has to be something deeper to the truth if they were willing to pass up a plea deal and risk a death sentence," the Misdreavus answered. “Taking cases that let us pursue the truth is our specialty.”

    The pirates froze at the Misdreavus' words, and as the meaning of the statement set in the shocked silence gave way to open panic. Each of them shuddered with a wide-eyed, horrified expression etched onto their faces, and the Grotle among them seemed to blanch especially pale as he pawed frantically at his Combusken teammate

    "H-Huh?! Sela!” the Grotle squeaked. “You said they were just gonna keep us locked up for a decade or something like that!"

    Team Traveller seemed just as stunned as the pirates, albeit with a decidedly more disgusted mood as they glared incredulously through the bars at the imprisoned. Desperate though they may have been to raise money for their fare home, sticking up for any Pokémon who stole unborn hatchlings away from their families was a line none of them were willing to even think about crossing.

    "Yeah, no. I'm out," Nida hissed.

    "Hrmph. I'm not lifting a claw to help you egg-thieves,” Guardia growled. “Lie down in the nest you made for yourself."

    "I mean, a ‘mon’s gotta make a living, but they don’t have to make it that way. If you'd just nabbed some Poké or something…" Elty murmured, shaking his head. Noses upturned, the trio wheeled around for the door, but were stopped in their tracks as the jailed Pokemon cried out uproariously, pleading with their claws outstretched.

    "H-Hey wait!” Sela pleaded. “Don't go!"

    "Please!” Eric begged. “We really didn't steal those eggs!"

    "We'll die if we don’t get our names cleared!” Hanuna whined.

    Guardia paused, her partners carrying on a way before turning back and seeing the Cubone still planted in her position. The Ground-Type scowled, deep in thought, seemingly mulling between a pair of conflicting options, only to suddenly tighten the grip on her club.

    "… Then you must prove yourselves," Guardia demanded.

    "Okay! Okay!” Sela insisted. “We're open to trying stuff out! What's it that you-"

    The Combusken was cut off by the sound of a woosh, the chicken looking up just in time to see a bone flying directly into her face.

    "ARGH!"

    "Oi!” a Lurantis in the background snapped. “No foreign objects in the prisoner's quarters!"

    Each of the other Pokemon in the room, goggled at Guardia in stunned silence at the spontaneous assault. What had gotten into her?!

    "Ack!” Rita cried. “What's the big idea attacking our clients?!"

    "It's not an attack. It's a judgement by the dead!” Guardia insisted. “And while they find you to be appalling wastes of flesh on par with sea scum… they don't think that you're guilty of this."

    The bone lizard threw a claw up and caught the bone as it whirled back at her. Guardia felt the momentum of her club tug her back, coming to an uneasy, stunned stop as she realized that she finally executed a proper Bonemerang. The Cubone let her enthusiasm ebb away a little before slinging the bone over her shoulder and turning her attention back to Sela as the Combusken continued to nurse her head.

    "And more importantly, I needed that," the Cubone added.

    Nida and Elty traded shifting glances with one another before rolling their eyes. That… was suspiciously detailed for a 'ruling from the dead'…"

    "… She made that up on the spot, didn't she?" Nida sighed.

    "You don't honestly believe her ‘judgment of the dead’ mumbo-jumbo, do you?" Elty whispered back.

    "I heard that,” Guardia growled. “But seriously, even an unguided rube like you can surely see that things aren't adding up here."

    "Yeah, we've done some stuff before as pirates, but we'd never steal eggs!" Eric insisted.

    "I don't even have the paws to steal 'em with!" Hanuna cried.

    The pirates’ insistence made Nida fold her ears back dubiously, unsure whether or not she still could trust the lot. She turned her head, and noticed that her Growlithe teammate appeared far more satisfied with their insistence. Was it simply shared experience? Or what was she missing here?

    "I think I'm with the bonehead here. I mean, these guys are from Sibich's crew, and he's no slouch,” Elty explained. “If they couldn't even properly take a hostage, I can't see him trusting them to steal eggs."

    As she massaged the sore spot left by Guardia's Bonemerang, the Combusken glared at the Growlithe through her parted claws, clicking her tongue in displeasure at the shoddy defense he'd offered.

    "Thanks for the defense, mutt," Sela growled.

    Elty rolled his eyes at the Combusken. Leave it to her to find displeasure while he and his team were in the middle of bailing them out! What kind of ingrate would find the time to whine in such dire straits?

    "You're welcome."

    Nida furrowed her brow and flared her ears. After all the grief that this Scraggy and his friends had given her and her teammates, they had no leg to stand on for asking for their help! Though… with them all alone and facing a terrible fate like this, was it really right to just walk away? And what would they do to raise the money for a fare home when this was the only lead they’d found so far?

    "… I guess it would make sense to give them the benefit of the doubt… for now,” the Nidoran admitted. “So what is it that you need us to do anyways, Cardino?"

    "I need you to help me get back some misplaced evidence from Polderfield,” the Pikachu answered. “Some cuco from the department had it shipped to the wrong part of town."

    "Oh? Where did it go?” Nida asked. “And why do you need our help there?"



    The following morning in the visitor’s district, the crowds had yet to appear as the local streets started to get into the swing of their daily rhythms. The shops began to open, yawning Pokémon stretched themselves at windows and doorways, and the general rhythm became more lively by the minute. Despite that, the guards at the gates seemed to be slower to liven up than their surroundings, a watching Herdier yawning audibly only for its Araquanid colleague to nudge him for attention, pointing off at a party clustered around a visibly young Druddigon carried along in a sling made from a ratty sail.

    “Ngaaah…”

    The two looked at each other as the young dragon and his companions made their way over, before turning their attention back to the party. Something was obviously wrong with the younger Pokémon, but why were they expecting them to be able to do anything about it?

    “Eh?” the Herdier asked. “What’s with you?”

    “Can’t move… Legs jelly…” Crom groaned. “Life flashing before eyes…”

    “You have to let us through!” Kiran cried. “He needs medical assistance!”

    The guards traded frowning glances with each other, only for the Araquanid to turn back to the sailors and point off behind the group with a foreleg.

    “You mean like assistance that would be given by the building right there?” the spider asked.

    Pladur and his companions followed the Araquanid’s leg over to a three-story building on a corner teeming with Chanseys and adorned with red banners with white semi-circles. Uh… how had they missed that one when coming up with this cover? But for now, they needed to come up with something to persuade the guards...

    “Er… we need different assistance!” Pladur insisted, drawing skeptical frowns from the guards at the gate.

    “Yeah?” the Herdier demanded. “And just what are you suffering from that we shouldn’t invoke quarantine protocols over to keep you out of the city?”

    The five Pokémon grimaced, fumbling for an excuse to give back to the guard dog. Eventually, the Druddigon among them shifted and spoke up uneasily from his sling with the best explanation he could muster.

    “Uh… er… a stomachache?”

    The Herdier and Araquanid rolled their eyes as a Venomoth flitted up from behind. At the sight of Crom and his companions, the moth gave an irritated buzz and flitted up to her counterparts at the gateway.

    “Hey, is that those five again? What are they claiming this time?” the Venomoth demanded. “That they need to listen to someone’s dying wish?”

    “... Why didn’t we think of that again?” Ander whispered.

    Much to Ander's chagrin, the Venomoth guard frowned after his hushed comments. The comments had failed to elude her hearing, and given her dismissive eye roll at the part's return, had similarly failed to impress her.

    “Look, I get that you four want in, but you don’t have the right permits,” the Venomoth scoffed. “It’ll be a snowy day in summer before you get past us!”

    “Hoy! There’s a new decree from the crown!” a squawking voice cried.

    Crom and the guards looked back to see a drowsy Noctowl in an indigo scarf and a glinting badge fly into a nearby plaza burdened with papers. The badge caught the attention of some nearby Pokémon, which prompted them to look up from their matters and listen to the owl, much to Kiran’s puzzlement.

    “Huh?” the Swellow chirped. “Just what’s going on here?”

    “It looks like there’s some sort of announcement,” the Venomoth guard murmured. “That’s unmistakably the badge of a Royal Messenger… Though I didn’t think anything noteworthy happened last night...”

    The guards and the Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow watched as a small crowd started to form around the Noctowl, the messenger clearing his throat before unfurling a rolled-up sheet of paper to read off of it.

    “By order of her highness, a week-long tournament will start this afternoon in Vecioferàle Arena for her public’s amusement,” the Noctowl proclaimed. “To herald the Empire’s awakening of a new Protector!”

    The messenger's proclamation drew excited murmuring from the gathered Pokémon. Some posters were distributed, filtering their way around the crowd. Eventually, one turned up in the young Druddigon's claws, revealing the somewhat misshapen silhouette of a white bird with a long neck and blue plates with runes proclaiming a weeklong 'Silver Wing Cup'… Why, this Pokémon on the poster was none other than-!

    “Wait a minute!” Crom exclaimed. “That’s Pleo!”

    “Entrance is open to anyone, both denizen and outsider may enter for this joyous festival!” the messenger proclaimed. “So come one, and come all, and prove your strength in this grand festival for our new Guardian of the Seas.”

    As the ruckus from the crowd settled enough for the sound of an individual's voice to carry over the area's ambient noise, Crom and his companions turned back to the stonewalling guards, wearing wide, mischievous grins.

    “So… I believe that the tournament’s open for everyone to enter?” Dimitri asked.

    The Venomoth narrowed her eyes exasperatedly as the Herdier and Araquanid put paws over their faces in frustration. The messenger had said entrance was open to anybody, but even so...

    “Ugh… signup is inside the district,” the Venomoth growled. “Once you get that squared away, then we’ll let you through.”

    The guard's demands drew a tired glare from Crom and each of his companions before the sailors turned away and started setting off back into the district. They all knew that the guards were only doing their job, but even after all this, they couldn't just let them through already?

    “Are they actively coming up with more things to stall us?” Ander sighed.

    “No matter, at least we were able to find out where Pleo is,” Kiran chirped. “Once we can get through, we can try to find him and bring him back home!”

    The Swellow beat his wings and took to the air, prompting his colleagues to follow off after him towards the messenger and the crowd forming around him. Unbeknownst to the five, from a nearby alleyway, Valatos, Alvise, and Nori watched, listening as the Noctowl hastily flagged down a few guards to help him enroll contestants into the tournament and spread posters on some nearby walls.

    “A tournament in honor of that bird, huh?” Nori murmured.

    “Guess we know who’s got him right now,” Alvise grumbled. “But how are we supposed to get him back from the Empire?

    “... Let’s bring it up with the Captain,” Valatos buzzed. “He’d be bound to have something in mind, right?”

    The Yanmega watched as the Druddigon and his companions melted into the crowd, a Trubbish going by to put up posters depicting a long-necked seabird in the street outside. After watching the Poison-Type pass and seeing their foes nowhere to be found, the Bug-Type pulled one of the posters off the wall with his mouth, and slunk back into the alleyway with his teammates, quietly making their way back for the docks.



    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
  9. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    "Eh?! What is this place?!"

    Nida, Guardia, and Elty gawped up across the canal in front of them, there on the other side was a massive, round building built of stone and layered with arches that sat next to a stone tower that stretched up to a pavillion, much like Hatteras’ lighthouse at home but taller and less rounded. At the front was a large plaza, filled with Pokémon of various shapes and sizes talking with each other underneath banners bearing a wave-shaped swoosh that proudly proclaimed the name of the building...

    “‘Arena Veijofaro’…?” Nida murmured. “Er… or, ‘Old Lighthouse Arena’?”

    "Well, you can certainly read the runes that way, but everyone here calls it ‘Vecioferàle Arena’,” Cardino explained. “Before Tidemill’s expansion under King Alexander, this used to be the coastline and that tower the lighthouse for the harbor. Nowadays, it’s the great battlefield at the heart of Tidemill where Pokémon prove themselves on the field in front of the the whole empire."

    "Yeah, but why are we here?” Guardia demanded. “You said that we were looking for evidence that got misplaced."

    "This is where my evidence got shipped,” the Pikachu insisted. “Don't ask me how the ‘mons in the evidence department managed to mix up the captain’s diary with provisions for arena security."

    Nida, Elty, and Guardia blinked curiously at the Electric-Type’s answer. Mixing up evidence with provisions? How on earth would a ‘mon manage to do that?

    "Isn't that just a little weird?" Nida prodded.

    "Beats me, pal. These sort of things just happen,” Cardino sighed. “I tried getting in earlier myself, but couldn't find it in the public areas or the lost and found, so if it's still here, it's in the normally off-limits places."

    "And we're supposed to find this diary how?" Elty asked.

    Cardino stammered, grasping for a satisfactory answer but coming up short. The Pikachu racked his brain for ideas, mumbling half-formed thoughts aloud as he worked himself through the thought process.

    "Uh… well, you'd need to be doing something that would let you get full access to the stadium…” the Pikachu began. “Something like…"

    Cardino’s eye turned towards a batch of posters on a nearby wall with the form of a white, long-necked bird on it. It was for a ‘Silver Wing Cup’, which would admit teams of up to six Pokémon for entry in a three-on-three elimination-based tournament… Hey wait a moment!

    "Ah, that’s it! Like entering a tournament for yourselves!” the Electric-Type insisted. “Shouldn't be an issue for a few up-and-comers like you, right?"

    Nida, Elty, and Guardia crowded around the poster and gawked at the poster. Was that… Pleo?! The ink of the poster had been smudged and put on in an obvious hurry, but the form was unmistakably his. The three looked over at the stadium, the notion of ‘entering a tournament’ seeming to be child’s play compared to trying to grab Pleo out of those naval docks… only to notice a team of a Blastoise, a Gallade, and a Goodra with glinting rescue badges pawing at a copy of their same poster… with numerous teams in the plaza looking every bit as strong and imposing as they did.

    “But that’s crazy!” Nida exclaimed. “You can’t expect us to just go in and win a tournament on the fly with half a team like that!”

    "Yeah, and even if we did, how's that supposed to help us find your evidence?" Guardia added.

    "Because you only have to hang in there until the evidence is found,” Cardino countered. “Whatever you do after that, whether taking a dive, or just not showing up onto the field is on you."

    The three collectively breathed a sigh of relief, looking at one another and finding further reassurance in the fact that their comrades seemed to feel the same way.

    "Oh, well when you put it that way, that doesn't sound too impossible," Guardia murmured.

    "Yeah, we'll go sign up now,” Elty added. “That evidence isn't going to be any easier to find by waiting around."

    "That's the spirit!” the Electric-Type cheered. “Bring whatever you’ve found to the courthouse next to the station in a few hours for the trial, and we'll go from there. Sound good?"

    "I think we can work with that,” Nida nodded. “Good luck with the rest of the investigation!"

    The three waved and shuffled off into a growing line at the entrance of the stadium marked by a banner noting it was for signups. Unbeknownst to the three, a Weavile and a tired-looking Mothim lurked from a nearby alleyway. There, the Dark-Type leaned against a wall, looked at one of the tournament posters in his claw as the Bug-Type of the pair kept a watchful gaze on Team Traveller’s forms in the queue.

    "Those grubs again?” Ellsberg hissed. “What are they doing here and where's the Protector?"

    "Try looking around before you ask any stupid questions," Ketu grumbled.

    The Weavile turned his claw out towards the Bug-Type, revealing the poster with the information about the Silver Wing Cup. Ellsberg gaped wide-eyed at the paper, before slowly and grudgingly shaking his head at the implications.

    "So, the Empire does have him right now…” the Mothim murmured. “But just where would we look next to find out where they're keeping him? We were up all night sneaking around those naval docks and found nothing but crates and some inebriated sailors!"

    "We won't have to. According to this poster, they're going to be bringing him out in front of the whole city,” the Weavile countered. “All we have to do is prepare and wait."

    The Weavile shook his head before rolling up the poster in his claws and stuffing it into a satchel slung over his shoulder. The Dark-Type turned, motioning impatiently with his claws for Ellsberg to follow.

    "Let's go,” the Dark-Type grunted. “We've found out enough for Lyn to come up with a plan for us to be able to steal that bird out from under him anyways."

    The Weavile slipped off, darting down the alleyway as Ellsberg looked after him with an unamused frown before giving a sleepy buzz and fluttering off after him. They’d certainly found their lead, so hopefully it would satisfy Lyn enough to justify resting his wings for a while.



    “Can you guys hurry it up already?! We’re almost at the ship!”

    Alvise’s voice carried on down the tight confines of an alleyway in the Visitors’ District, where Valatos and his companions had nearly reached the Mistral Marauder. Alvise led the group, springing out from the shadows and sprinting towards the Mistral Marauder in sight, leaving Nori and Valatos in the dust to follow along with an agitated sigh. The Manectric stamped the ground as he glanced back at his lagging teammates, impatient to finally put this trip behind them already.

    "Well that certainly lit a fire under your tail,” Valatos buzzed. “You're zipping along almost as fast as me… Almost."

    “Grr…” the Manectric snarled. "Listen up, you lousy bug-"

    "Oi! Who goes there!"

    The three paused and looked around their surroundings before glancing up at the ship’s deck. There at the railing was a Pawniard peering down at them, his blades readied as if to deal with an intruder… They hadn’t been gone that long, had they?

    "It's us!” Nori snapped. “We found a lead out in town, let us up already!"

    The pirates on the ship traded glances with one another before lowering the gangplank, allowing their crewmates to climb back aboard. When Valatos and his friends reached the deck, they found themselves surrounded by the ship's crew, all eyes on them expectantly. On one side came Hess, slowly shoving his way through the crowd while giving a generous berth to the Marowak who stood among them.

    "Well, what did you find out there?" the Aggron demanded.

    "Well, to start with, the Imps have that bird…" Valatos began.

    Grimaces spread around as an audible collective gulp went about the gathered Pokémon and Hess' face began to flush pale. If the Imps had the Protector, that meant that he was behind an entire city's worth of guards… far too many for a crew his size to try and push around directly.

    "I- That's-” Hess stammered. “Do you have anything more specific than that?"

    "Yeah,” Valatos continued. “They're holding a tournament in his honor and planning on bringing him out in front of the city for the closing ceremony with the winner."

    Hess' head rose and his eyes lit up slightly at the mention of the closing ceremony, and his mood began to recover in time with his ponderings on this new information. With the Protector out there in the open, why... as long as they could somehow get in there, they could just snatch the Protector right off the stage! ...More or less. But, they'd overcome higher barriers in the past and still managed to get along well enough, right?

    "So… he'll be there for the taking, then?" the Aggron prodded.

    "I mean, he'll have to go on a stage, I'd presume,” Alvise explained. “So-"

    "Then it's settled,” the Steel-Type grunted. “We're entering that tournament!"

    The steel lizard’s declaration at once set off a wave of chatter among the gathered pirates. Some - such as a Charmeleon flashing his claws - seemed eager to welcome the challenge of a tournament, while others - such as a Noibat shrinking behind a barrel - seemed to be far more skeptical of the idea of entering a tournament being able to help their goal. Nori for his part seemed to relish the idea of watching his teammates battle: this was just the sort of occasion he needed to unwind after such a tense reconnaissance mission!

    "Heh heh… so we're gonna see you out in the ring, huh?" the Marowak chuckled. “Sugoi! We’ll be looking forward to watching you crush a few sods!”

    "No, we're going to see you in the ring, Nori ,” Hess growled, pointing at the Marowak. “You three will be taking the lead for our team."

    Alvise's eyes widened at the Aggron's order. He'd already tempted fate enough lurking around Tidemill, and here he was going to stick him back in it for a week's worth of fighting?!

    "Wh-What?!” Alvise yelped. “But we just spent an entire day crawling that lousy city, and you want us to go back?!"

    "Yeah, and you're the toughest mon on the crew,” Nori added. “Why aren't you taking part of the tournament?"

    Both the battle-ready and battle-skeptical factions of the crew seemed to find the Ground-Type’s argument convincing, drawing a chorus of “that’s right” and drawing murmurs as to why their captain seemed so eager to get involved in a tournament he didn’t want to fight in himself. Hess grimaced at his crew’s chatter, as he’d already assigned the three to battle, and now they wanted him to go along. Gah… keeping that Nori away on land was supposed to get that bonehead to make a mistake and get trapped, by the Travellers above he did not want to be stuck around that little monster! But if he refused to fight here… or if he took Nori off the team to fight himself after just assigning him... how could either of those not obviously look weak to his underlings?

    "I… er…” the Aggron stammered. “Th-That's because…"

    "Because a captain helps keep the ship together," a Floatzel’s voice finished.

    The crowd's attention was drawn to their ship’s first mate, who scowled defiantly back at the crew. The Sea Weasel Pokémon's bold statement drew incredulous murmurs of skepticism and derision from the gathered crowd. Hess, of all Pokemon, keeping the crew together? Just how badly had that Clawitzer thrown him around earlier?

    "Come again, Rodion?" the Miltank medic demanded

    "Yeah, looks to me like the Captain there is just trying to weasel out of a fight," Kichiro scoffed.

    “Grr…”

    Kichiro stilled his mandibles at the sound of a low, gravelly growl, looking up to see the Aggron captain glaring down at him. The hulking lizard was clearly offended and took a more belligerent tone at the accusation… Perhaps a little too belligerent to be natural.

    "I'm not trying to weasel out of any-" the Steel-Type began, only to quiet at the sight of a raised paw from his first mate.

    "Easy, Hess,” the otter insisted. “I wasn't done explaining."

    Rodion's expression softened somewhat, and the sea weasel paced around the deck, throwing a warm glance to some of his fellow pirates with a disarming smile plastered on his face.

    "Look, that shrimp and her crew are obviously in town and would recognize him and anyone they captured last time. On top of that, we've obviously… had some rougher luck than normal lately, and it'll be a snowy day in Sormus before we get back anyone who gets stuck here,” Rodion said. “In light of that, do you want to risk the possibility that you'd be stuck trying to sail out of port without the toughest 'mon among us thanks to some ankle-biter in the Imp navy recognizing him? Or hedge your bets a little?"

    Uncertain hemming and hawing drifted from the crowd as the implications of being left without their captain began to sink in. Hardheaded klutz though he was, Hess was still the toughest 'mon on the entire crew. Getting stuck in a scrap without him there to back them up left their odds of success... remote, to say the least. That in mind, the crew suddenly clamored much less to throw Hess himself into the arena.

    "Whelp, couldn't have said it better myself, and looks like the crew's spoken,” the metal-headed lizard sneered. “You three are out there taking the lead."

    "With what?” Valatos demanded. “We don't even have a full team between us right now!"

    The Aggron put a claw to his mouth, realizing that regardless if his plot to be rid of the Marowak worked or not, he did need to take the team to enter seriously. He glanced over at the Charmeleon from earlier, who was still fired up and pawing at the deck ready to go, an obvious enough choice. Hess’ glance then turned to his escorts in the water, his eyes settling on a Sealeo among them who was chattering with a Vileplume on the railing. Actually… that seemed like a rounded enough team to work with.

    "… Alfred, Pieter, and Minhwa,” Hess grunted. “You all are joining these three. Rodion will give you all scarves for cover before joining the tournament, so make the most of it and stay sharp out there."

    The Captain's order was met by an eager 'aye' from the Charmeleon, followed by a less-enthusiastic echo from the Sealeo, and finally a grudging grunt from the Vileplume. At once, the Sealeo swam up onto the pier the Mistral Marauder had moored at, as the Charmeleon and Vileplume began making their way for the gangplank where Rodion scampered up with a few white scarves with waterspout patterns ready in his paw. Regardless of their feelings about the matter, the team was clearly ready to accept their disguises and set off… with three very visible exceptions including a Manectric who had pulled his tail between his legs.

    "B-But Captain, you don't understand,” Alvise whined. “If I get run into out there-"

    "Oi! Move it, you whiny dweebs!" the Charmeleon snapped.

    "Yeah, you don't see us trying to get out of the Captain's orders!" the Vileplume growled.

    Before Alvise could do anything in protest, he felt a sharp shove at his rump, turning back to see Alfred and Minwha glaring at him. The wolf dug his paws into the deck, only to wind up fighting a losing battle at keeping himself from being unceremoniously pushed down the gangplank. After trading grudging looks with one another, Valatos and Nori followed after their flailing friend, prompting Hess to breathe out a sigh of relief, before making his way to the railing and cupping a claw to call out the stern, shared sentiments of the crew.

    "Don't mess this up!"



    As Hess’ less-than-willing tournament entrants departed the Mistral Marauder in its disguising white-and-blue sails, off at the other end, a brigantine flying white sails with blue sun patterns hummed with activity. Under the shade of its sails, the crew of the Nektar Weide busied themselves carrying aboard supplies as others tended to ship maintenance, including a bandaged Grumpig and Krokorok who pawed lazily at the deck with damp rags next to a bucket full of sudsy water.

    SPLASH!

    The pair’s rhythm was interrupted by a panicked jump up as a pressurized burst of water struck the bucket, flinging its soapy contents across the deck and depositing the bucket onto the Grumpig’s head with a yelp. The pair looked back uneasily towards the source of the water, only to see the growling form of their Samurott captain staring down at them.

    “Stop slacking off!” Lyn snarled. “I want you two scrubbing this deck until it's clean enough for me to eat off of it!”

    The Samurott’s bellowing elicited a pair of squeaks from the unfortunate deck-scrubbers, who hastily set the bucket back on the deck before hunching down and beginning to scrub with visibly affected enthusiasm. Up above, the Crobat leader of the aerial escorts stirred from the racket, sleepily spreading his wings and turning to some of his nearby subordinates perched on the rigging.

    "Nrgh… when's that debriefing starting?” the Crobat groaned. “It's too late in the day for this…"

    "Beats me, boss,” a nearby Fearow sighed. “I haven't seen so much as a feather of those two-"

    "Hoy!"

    The crew’s attention turned towards the dock, where Ellsberg flitted up onto the deck and settled on a railing stretching himself tiredly. Behind him, the sound of footsteps rang out as Ketu climbed the gangplank back up to the ship, fidgeting with a rolled-up paper from his shoulder bag to an impatient frown from Lyn.

    "It took you that long to find anything in this district?” the Samurott demanded. “I'd have been better off just telling the crew to go out and mingle!"

    "Actually, we did you one better,” Ketu countered. “We snuck past the barrier into the rest of the city."

    "In my defense, Lyn,” Ellsberg sighed. “I told him that-"

    “Enough. Risks are acceptable when the payoff merits them,” the Water-Type interrupted, holding up a paw for silence. The otter shifted his weight and shook his head, staring intently at the pair of Second-Ranks before him.

    “So what exactly did you two discover?"

    The Weavile rolled his eyes and took the poster in his claws, giving a swift motion down to unfurl it in front of Lyn and the watching crew. The Dark-Type paused for a moment for the initial surprise at the drawing of their target to sink in, before speaking up.

    "That the Imps definitely have got the bird,” Ketu explained. “They're holding a tournament in honor of some ’new Protector’ that they ’awakened’. Last I checked the only one that looked anything like the picture on here was ours."

    "We also ran into the Guardian's little friends at the local stadium-" Ellsberg began, only to be cut off with a stomp and a growl from his Samurott listener.

    "And you let them go why?” the Water-Type demanded. “They would be our best lead back to-"

    "I hadn't finished, Lyn,” the Mothim insisted. “They were without the Protector and doing some odd job for a local Pikachu. It's safe to say that they don't have any way of getting to Lugia themselves."

    Lyn shot a sour frown at the Mothim's explanation. He should've known better than to expect that those Tromban whelps would get lucky with escaping a ship with their Protector a second time.

    "And of course the simple solution had to not be an option…” Lyn sighed. “No matter, we still have another route open. If the Imperials are letting the winner of this tournament just waltz up to the Protector, we’ll be fielding a team to enter it."

    "Tch,” Ketu scoffed. “Someone's eager to get back into act-"

    "I won't be going, Ketu,” the Samurott growled. “As loath as I am to give my blades rest, someone else will have to head our team. Specifically you."

    Ketu furrowed his brow before giving a surprised tilt of his head back at the Samurott. Him? Since when had Lyn ever made a point of making him do his dirty work on land?

    “What?” the Weavile demanded. “You’re not exactly a pushover here. Why don’t you just enter the tournament yourself alongside some other grunts?”

    "Because my cover was just compromised yesterday,” Lyn snapped. “If you have enough time to sit back while a rogue Second-Rank tries to slice me up in the middle of a peasant uprising, sleep through the Protector escaping, and sunbathe on my deck, I think that it's nigh time that you had a chance to prove yourself again."

    "Just what are you batting at here?" Ketu demanded.

    The Weavile’s ears perked up at the sound of a seamitar embedding itself into the deck with a resounding thunk. He glanced indignantly up at its owner, who seemed visibly irate at his back-talk, the recently-vacated throwing paw now balled into a white-knuckled fist.

    "I'm saying I will need to look for another Pokémon to fill the duties of first mate if you can't demonstrate to me that you're the best 'mon for the job," the Samurott seethed. “I would encourage you to think twice about pushing back against me on this matter.”

    Ketu paused and grimaced at the Samurott’s ultimatum. His work for Administrator Elilan required him to have the sort of latitude he presently enjoyed on Lyn’s crew. The Zoroark certainly wouldn’t help him realize his own goals if he couldn’t deliver the Protector. If it had come out that he’d botched his cover through flippant and completely avoidable behavior, life would become... unenviable, to say the least. As such, it was perhaps best to tend to his wounded pride another time and try and wait for Lyn’s patience to recover a bit before returning to his relaxed status quo.

    "In order to help you, I'll allow you to take anything that you feel you need in order to prove yourself," Lyn offered. “Sound reasonable?”

    "Hrmph, fine."

    "Yeah, break a leg out there, featherhead!” a Mothim’s jeering buzz rang out. “Or maybe two!"

    The Weavile hissed back at the taunting Mothim, baring his teeth threateningly. After his initial reaction, the first mate's demeanor eased a bit, his naked aggression transforming into a face of smug, retributive realization.

    "You know what? I know the first thing that I need,” Ketu insisted. “I need Elmer's bum with me in that ring, pronto."

    Ellsberg flitted up with a flustered start at the Weavile's demand. That slacker couldn't just drag him along into this, he was the one who'd fallen afoul of the captain!"

    "E-Eh?!” the Mothim cried. “How do you get off trying to drag me into this, you weasel!"

    The Weavile stuck his tongue out at the Mothim, relishing his discomfort, much to Lyn's visible displeasure. The Samurott threw a paw over his face, muttering under his breath about whether Ketu appreciated just how thin his patience with him had worn down.

    "I take it back,” Lyn sighed. “Since you're picking your team based off of spite over tactical utility, I'll give you the tools that you'll need to prove yourself…"

    Ketu shot back a sour frown, rolling his eyes at his captain's meddlesome interference. Even so, he knew better than to challenge Lyn at this point in time. The Dark-Type folded his ears back and relented as the Samurott looked around the crew for suitable teammates, his eyes settling on a dozing Crobat dangling from the rigging.

    "Kane!"

    "Nrk!” the Crobat cried, beating his wings out with a start. “Wha-? Huh?"

    "Get up and sleep later,” Lyn barked. “I want you to accompany Ketu in the tournament."

    "… What tournament?"

    "… Ask Ketu for details,” the otter harrumphed. “I'm not going to waste my breath on this."

    The Captain then turned his attention to the crowd of subordinates, where he started looking around for suitable Pokémon to field. After a few false starts, his gaze settled on a Tauros and Electabuzz chatting with each other. The infiltrators he’d assigned to Tromba on the first day… who evidently didn’t have anything better to do right now.

    "Fintan, Tarmo,” the Samurott snapped. “You're on the team as well."

    "Huh?” the Tauros cried, pulling his head up with a start. The bull looked around puzzledly for a moment, before noticing his captain giving an expectant scowl, which prompted the creature to over-hastily agree.

    “Er… right we can handle it!"

    "Yeah, you can count on us to light up the field!" the Electabuzz added.

    Lyn groaned under his breath at the Electric-Type's pun, bidding the two to come along before turning his attention back to his crew. The Samurott looked around keenly, playing around with possibilities in his mind that would give Ketu's team the best odds of victory, which led him to settle his gaze on a Crawdaunt loitering in the harbor water, and an orange Lycanroc on all fours pawing impatiently at the planks of the deck.

    "Cray, Rudolf,” the Water-Type insisted. “You two are also on the team."

    "Aye, captain," the Crawdaunt answered.

    "Shouldn't be anything we haven't seen before from sparring," the Lycanroc added.

    The freshly-established team crowded around the glowering Weavile, shifting impatiently and glancing at the gangplank ready to leave the ship and start scouting out their battleground. Lyn glared down at his first mate, silently daring him to challenge his orders now of all times.

    "And there you go, Ketu. One team that should be more than sufficient for you to win or else get through enough of the tournament to nab that bird,” Lyn grunted. “Do be aware that I'll be tracking your progress."

    A palpable tension hung in the air following Lyn's order. Both captain and first mate traded glares with one another, before the Weavile shook his head with a disgusted sigh.

    "Wouldn't want it any other way," the Dark-Type growled.

    Ketu and his new teammates took their leave down the gangplank, melting into the crowds massed in the streets in no time at all. As Lyn watched his first mate disappear into the mess of Pokémon, he looked up as Ellsberg flitted up to him with a puzzled look, waving one arm to catch his attention.

    "Are we seriously hinging the hope of our entire mission on that red-headed slacker?" the Mothim buzzed.

    "Hardly. He'll have accomplished his mission as long as he can determine how to get to the Protector while he's still in the running,” the otter explained. “If he wins, he'll speed things up for us, but as long as he finds out where the bird is, we can still pull this mission off. All that's needed for now is to give him a little motivation to take things seriously until then."

    Clearing his throat, the Samurott's mouth turned down into a scowl as he shot Ellsberg a pointed glare.

    "I would encourage you not to get too comfortable yourself, Ellsberg,” the mustelid chided. “I value loyalty from Pokémon like Ketu as much as anyone else, but I have a limited appetite for ‘mons wasting my time."

    Ellsberg blanched and flitted back uneasily. Working for Elilan or not, Lyn was certainly not a 'mon to be trifled with, as his dealings with Ketu illustrated. Perhaps it was best to try and make himself look busy here.

    "Er… right,” the Bug-Type gulped. “I'm sure there's some work to be done right now…"

    The Mothim turned and flitted off, opting to track inventory below the deck and away from Lyn’s prying eyes. Back above, Lyn prowled over to the railing, leaning over it as he looked off into the street where Ketu and his assigned teammates had slipped off, a small smirk settling over his muzzle.

    "I'm a fan of bold plays as much as the next Pokémon, but sometimes you just have to know when to stop sitting on your cards," he said. “Let’s see how this one unfolds.”



    The innards of the Vecioferàle Arena proved to be as cavernous and disorienting as any Mystery Dungeon for Team Traveller. The stadium’s ground level had been raised relative to the canals and streets, with a layered ring of stands built around a central, sunken battlefield that contained trapdoors for Pokémon and stage obstacles to be moved around, and curious apertures that looked as if they were meant to move water onto the battlefield itself. The three’s initial instinct had been to check the various stands that hawked food and goods to spectators in the hallways, only to come up with dead ends again and again.

    After some pointers from a few local guards, their attention shifted to the lower levels of the stadium. The lower portions of the stadium were a catacomb of chambers that served as storage areas that kept the arena’s logistics in order, and more importantly housed the complex’s lost and found and mailroom. Their search took them past chambers and prowling guards, including a Zweilous that spent much of his time dawdling in front of a ratty poster. A few false starts later, Team Traveller came to their current location of a chute with pull lid, Nida and Guardia waiting impatiently as Elty rooted through the chute before the Cubone gave a rap with her bone against its wooden flat.

    "Do you see anything in there?" Guardia asked. The Cubone’s question was answered by a shake of the Growlithe’s rump, as its owner flailed to plant his feet against the wall and pull the rest of his body out of the chute, eventually poking his head out with a small collection of envelopes stuck in his fur.

    "Just a bunch of letters,” Elty called back. “What's a stadium need all of these for anyways?"

    "Well, I'm stumped,” Nida sighed. “That diary wasn't in the lockers, it wasn't in any of the rooms we could get to, and it's not in these mail chutes… Just where haven't we looked by now?"

    Nida’s teammates mulled their thoughts at the Nidoran’s question. It did seem strange that supplies for a stadium wouldn’t be anywhere where one would expect to find them. Could they have been thrown out? If so, that could potentially take them anywhere in Tidemill... Perhaps it was better to make sure they weren’t missing anything first?

    "Maybe we should try retracing our steps?” Guardia suggested. “It could be tucked away in some corner we overlooked."

    Elty shook the envelopes loose and dropped down to the floor, rejoining his teammates as they made their way down the hallway and began to look in the alcoves and corners. They found a stray copper coin, some dust bunnies, some shed feathers and hair, but no sign of anything that looked remotely like a diary. Elty shook his head, turning to check down another corridor, where saw the Zweilous guard in front of the poster looking around warily before slipping off.

    "Eh?” the Growlithe asked. “The guard was still at that poster all this time?"

    "So?” Guardia demanded. “What's wrong with watching the hallway from there?"

    "Yeah, but wouldn't he have moved around or something?” Elty pressed “Why stay at that one specific spot?"

    "… I think that you're overanalyzing things," Nida sighed.

    "Maybe so, but you hut dwellers are a peculiar lot,” Guardia countered. “If nothing else, it would be worth inspecting for lore to relay about the habits of your guardians."

    The three made their way over to the poster, and Nida pawed at it, discovering that the bottom was loose. The Nidoran blinked, before peering at it from underneath and noticing that there was a conspicuous lump sticking out in the middle.

    "Huh?” Nida murmured. “There's something behind here."

    "I told you,” Elty snorted. “Now come on, let's hurry up and make a tower to see what's there."

    The Growlithe darted over to the wall, beckoning his teammates to follow after him. One by one, Guardia, and then Nida clambered onto the Fire-Type, forming a rough tower between the three resting on each other’s shoulders topped by the blue Nidoran. Nida moved her paw to the bottom edge of the poster and pulled it up, revealing a crude wooden nub embedded in the wall.

    “Eh?” Guardia asked. “What’s that thing doing in the wall?”

    “I don’t know,” Nida answered. “But it looks like it can move.”

    The Poison-Type pawed at the nub and found it to be loose and jiggle to the touch. Without thinking, she pushed down on it, only for the nub to suddenly jerk down, and the sound of a faint click to reach the three’s ears.

    "Hu- Agh!"

    Before the Nidoran or her teammates could react, the wall the three were leaning against swung inwards, sending the trio pitching forward and tumbling down a darkened set of wooden stairs with a yelp. After pinwheeling down a flight, the three came into a tumbling stop into a pile on a stony floor, bunched up against a wooden obstacle that had been left at the bottom.

    "Gah, my tail…" Elty whined.

    "Urgh…” Guardia groaned. “Are these contraptions normally built by you hut-dwellers?"

    The three pulled themselves up and off of each other as light from the opened section of wall filtered down dimly. The three waited a moment for their eyes to adjust to the light, revealing the obstacle at the bottom of the stairs to be a crate, with a partially melted candle left in a clay lantern with a wooden holder on top of it.

    "Eh? There's a świeca here,” Elty murmured. “Let's see what we're dealing with.”

    The Growlithe jumped and pulled himself up to the top of the crate and nosed at the lantern, breathing a few sparks into it. The gout of fire lit up the room with a flash, before settling down into a dimmer glow as the candle’s fire simmered down. The dog grabbed the holder with his mouth and carefully clambered down, revealing the room to be a small chamber riddled with wooden crates with a few tables and a closed door at the other end.

    "Qué es este lugar?” Nida asked. “And why's it smell like hay?"

    "Well, whatever it is, someone didn't want it to be discovered," Guardia said.

    "Right,” Elty replied. “All the more reason to expect that we'd find that diary down here."

    Flummoxed, Nida and Guardia glanced at one another, and then back to Elty in unison. What kind of leap in logic was that? Had he conked his head on the way down or what? All that they could see here were just a bunch of crates!

    "Come again?" Guardia asked.

    "We've been looking across an entire stadium and neither us nor Cardino could find Sibich's diary,” Elty explained. “If it was just sent here by accident, one of the guards would've found it and told someone about it."

    The Growlithe shook his head, before lowering his snout back to the ground. The dog inhaled deeply, sniffing at the crates and finding them to be the source of the suspicious hay smell.

    "No, this smells like it was done on purpose,” he continued. “If that diary's not already been burnt-up already, wouldn't it be reasonable to think that it'd be hidden in some place no one was expecting?"

    "Someplace… no one was expecting…" Nida murmured.

    Well it was certainly hard for anywhere else they’d been in the arena so far to top this little chamber as an unexpected place. Could the diary really have been hidden here? The three began to root through the crates, finding them to be empty beyond some hay lining inside, and curiously, flakes of eggshells. The process continued on until Nida chanced to find a small wooden bin beside a crude table filled with spoiled papers. Inside, the Nidoran nosed around and felt something heavy and block-like inside pulling it out and finding it to be a book. Nida blinked and cracked it open, only to find that it was filled with page after page of runes filled with jumbled-up nonsense. The Poison-Type frowned, and was about to throw the tome of gibberish aside, only for a surprised yelp to ring out.

    "Ack! What are you doing, spike ball?!” Elty yelped. “That's it! That's the diary!"

    "Huh?"

    Elty hurried over with the lantern, the light revealing a hand-shaped design on the book’s cover, the same that had been on Eric and his friends’ scarves back in the detention center. Nida looked down dumbfounded at the cover, before looking back at the Growlithe, stammering incredulously at his claim.

    "But it can't be his diary!” Nida insisted. “It's full of nonsense writing!"

    "Technically, isn't all of your rune writing-?" Guardia began, only to be cut off by a hasty hiss from her Poison-Type teammate.

    "You know what I meant!"

    Nida cracked the diary open and slid the book in front of her Growlithe teammate who peered down to read it. Sure enough, the writing did sound like nonsense when read aloud… but it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d run into writing like this. He’d heard of pirates from the Council sending messages harboring secrets where the runes would be switched with the ones next to them… The Growlithe frowned and lowered his ears at the gibberish-riddled diary. A code would certainly explain what was happening here, but how were they supposed to figure out the proper order how to switch them back?

    "Bah, it's written in some sort of code!” he growled. “Some sort of evidence this was!"

    Elty angrily kicked the leg of the nearby table, causing it to shudder and shower the floor full of papers. Nida and Guardia bristled out of alarm at the spilled papers, shooting glares at their Fire-Type teammate.

    "Gah! Elty!"

    "I didn't do it!" the Growlithe exclaimed.

    "Come on,” Guardia snapped. “Let's just put them back before someone notices."

    The three hastily began collecting the spilled papers, throwing them haphazardly back onto the table. As Elty finished shoving a mouthful of papers back onto the table, he watched as Guardia threw a stack of her own onto the table, with a curious repeating rune listed on it.

    "… Eggs?" Elty murmured.

    "Eh?” Guardia asked. “What are you talking about?"

    "Your paper there,” the dog insisted. “It has it on there over and over again."

    The Cubone showed the paper off in her claws, revealing it to be entries from a ledger. On each line was a name, followed by a number, the rune for “eggs”, and some notes to the side about things such as “condition” and “species”.

    "Head Chargers, Mud Marauders, Shadow Brigade…” he muttered. “Hold on a second, these are all crews that were into egg theft!"

    The three paused as a dawning realization crept up on them. The logs here were for records of stolen eggs that were being passed onto pirates. If Sibich’s diary was here with these, then whatever was in it was important enough for the thieves to want to keep hidden, so then...

    "It must've been that Cofagrigus who really stole those eggs!” Nida exclaimed. “Why else would whoever came down here go through so much trouble?"

    Guardia stuffed the diary into the team's bag on Nida’s shoulder along with some other shifty-looking papers handed to her by Elty. As she looked on, waiting for the Growlithe to scan over the rest of the papers strewn about the desk, the sound of footsteps echoing down the stairwell brought each of them to a complete halt, and the sound of the Zweilous guard's voice filtered down into the chamber.

    “Hah!” the growling voice cried. “I knew that slipping off to get Thalez's autograph would be worth- Huh?!"

    Team Traveller hastily hopped into one of the crates and dove under the hay as footsteps raced down the steps, a Zweilous coming into view. The dragon’s heads sniffed at the air, and after noticing the scent of fresh intruders, looked around in alarm, upending papers and furniture in search of the trespassers. Team Traveller froze and held their breaths as the Dragon-Type poked its heads into the box, nosing at the hay underneath.

    "All contestants, please make your way to the battlefield,” a disembodied voice proclaimed. “We will be commencing with the opening ceremony in five minutes."

    The guard paused and took a good whiff of the box, only detecting the scent of hay. The Zweilous looked around his surroundings uneasily, before eyeing the door. Someone had obviously been here, but if he wasn’t there at the opening ceremony, it would be be bound to raise questions… Then perhaps the best thing to do would be to try and cut losses for now.

    "They must be gone already,” the Zweilous muttered. “I'll clear this place out after the cerimònia. They couldn't have gotten that much in just a few minutes…"

    The door at the top of the stairs slammed shut with a loud thud, followed by a long silence. One by one, the members of Team Traveller poked their heads above the hay, gasping for air and sighing loudly out of relief.

    "That was too close," Nida panted.

    "Uh, wasn't that voice earlier just saying that we needed to go to the arena right now?" Guardia insisted.

    "Are you kidding?” Elty snapped. “That lizard said he'd be coming back to clear this place out. Whatever we don't get is gone for good!"

    "Yeah, but if we get kicked out of the tournament, our ability to find anything else is gone for good," Nida countered.

    The three paused, looking around indecisively. Five minutes was not enough time to meaningfully scour the room for evidence… but if the Pokémon that used it had already been clumsy enough with it once, who was to say that trying to hold out at the stadium wouldn't provide other opportunities to search for clues?

    "As a gentle reminder, attendance to the opening ceremony is mandatory," the telepath’s voice announced. “Any teams that do not show up will have been presumed to have forfeited and removed from the running.”

    "… Grab anything that looks like it might be useful,” Nida said. “We need to get out of here."

    The team shoveled as many useful-looking papers as they could off of the table into their bag, and darted for the doorway. Having taken the lead, Elty cracked the door open and peered out carefully, ensuring they wouldn't be seen. At his go-ahead, the three of them darted out into the hallway, breaking into a full sprint as fast as their legs could carry them in the direction of the battlefield.



    Author's Notes:

    - cuco - Venetian: "fool"
    - Vecioferàle Arena - Venetian: "Old Lighthouse Arena". Irregular, conventional rendering in language would be “Arena Vecioferàle”
    - Arena Veijofaro - Spanish: "Old Lighthouse Arena"
    - Sugoi! (凄い! / すごい!) - Japanese: “Great!” (Hepburn Romanization)
    - świeca - Polish: "candle"
    - Qué es este lugar? - Spanish: "What is this place?"
    - cerimònia - Venetian: "ceremony"
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
  10. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    So, standing in contrast to what felt like the rather imposing introduction of the Company's leader (and the subsequent board meeting that followed), Aleria's opening scene is much more low-key. You've got the typical regal palace descriptors here. And Altaria's definitely a regal Pokémon, though I must say I wasn't expecting the Empire to be helmed by flying-types. Especially since water-based transport has been the whole foundation for this world. Not that I'm complaining. I like Altaria's, and it again offers an interesting counter toward the Nidoking at the Company's helm (spacing on the name, too many characters to keep track of). And well, the royal court is certainly a bit more welcoming at the sight of Pleo than anything the Company every threw together for him. Makes you wonder how they gave the okay for Nagant to capture him like that? Oh, wait, she kind of decided to do that on her own, didn't she?

    I'm not surprised Cabot's team got assigned to Pleo. It's like they're the Empire equivalent of Team Traveler, here. Young Lugia getting trained by other young'uns. On the other hand, wow... Aleria seems like a bit of an airhead. No puns intended.

    Meanwhile, I swear the Ace Attorney fan in me is just seeing stuff where it doesn't need to be, but those defense attorneys just brought that game right up to mind. Of course, there's another case of "it's a small world" with who Team Traveler ends up encountering. It's like they can't go one location without running into someone from their crazy excursion. I did like the investigation tidbits, including the bit with the hidden stowaway and the whole "where you'd least expect it" portion. I think I may have missed something as to exactly what Sibich could possibly be up to with egg stealing in the Empire's capital. Either that, or he's just a far better pirate than I realized. Not sure, to be honest.

    As for Crom and company, looks like they've slipped back into the comic relief shoe. Though, at least they serve to introduce what I will speculate is either the event where Pleo's going to get freed, or a portion of this arc. All the major parties (save the Empire, but they're kinda running the show) are entering, which suggests they're on some sort of collision course. But given several of these groups have gone to underhanded lengths before, I'm suspecting foul play's going to show up. Especially with the pirates and Lyn's crew (and don't think I didn't spot Dusk Lycanroc there, buster). I can't see there being a big string of battles, so I'm leaning toward Pleo getting broken out/busting out/something going wrong during the tournament.
     
  11. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Chapter 55:

    Oh nooo, they clipped Pleo's wings. Poor dude...

    I legitimately snickered at the crickets gag, meanwhile. :B

    Chapter 56:

    Oh gosh. The queen is a very, very silly creature, isn't she. Which doesn't necessarily mean she's harmless, but still. Such a goofy birdie. I think I like her.

    When I was made to picture a glalie dragging/carrying someone, this was the image that immediately came to mind, and that's kind of adorable. Though I'm sure that mareanie and furfrou didn't think so. :p
     
  12. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    To be fair on the Empire, for all her disarming appearances, Aleria is just a little more aloof than what is properly healthy for a monarchial ruler. Some of the knock-on effects of that will become apparent over the course of the episode, and later on in the story.

    No, the airhead is deliberate.

    Nope, you're not seeing things. As you probably will have noticed by time your read this chapter, there's a fair deal of open influence from Ace Attorney this episode. Originally, the core conflict of the chapter was built around a "case" in-setting, and even in modified form it continues to color things a lot plot-wise.

    All in due time, though there is only so long that everyone can stay in their own worlds when they're sharing a city together.

    I'm glad you continue to find Chirpy's 'commentary' to be a good laugh. ^^

    They probably did not, no. And yeah, Aleria is probably just a little more airheaded than what's good for her realm. o3o;

    And while it came a bit late thanks to being hit harder by the holiday rush than I anticipated, I've gotten the last update of the year together in time to bid 2017 adieu. Amidst the hectic rush, I was pleasantly surprised by Virgil134 and Chibi Pika to find a doodle of a certain old sea bug in my Christmas stocking, so once again, thanks to you two for the pic.

    Special thanks for helping with this chapter goes to Virgil134, Tangent128, and sugoitsu from ff.net . Thanks again to all the readers and reviewers who've helped to contribute to this story thread over the past year, and hopefully 2018 will be just as fun of a ride for you all. The next release is currently targeting a 3-week release, though if I slip by a few days to a week, don't mind me, I'll just be putting out some fires in the background.

    And with that, onto our scheduled programming:

    [​IMG]

    As Team Traveller prowled Tidemill's arena for Cardino's evidence, things had settled down back at the Mistral Marauder. On the deck and the nearby docks, sailors from the moored ship whiled away time gawking at their surroundings and busying themselves with small games of cards and chance. Their counterparts among the sea escorts similarly passed their time amongst themselves with gossip and resting under the pier's pilings, taking advantage of their unexpected downtime.

    In the midst of the languid atmosphere, Rodion made his way about the ship's deck, taking stock of the condition of the timbers and rigging as he always did after pulling into a port. The mustelid looked up from the last mast, finding nothing disagreeable from his check and turned to make his way to his Aggron superior who watched the cityscape from the ship's bow, a palpable sense of contentment hanging around him.

    "Oh? You sure seem to be in a good mood, Hess," the Floatzel murmured.

    "Heh, what can I say?" the Aggron captain answered back. "I'm feeling good about our odds at that tournament! Looks like we might have a shot at getting that bird after all."

    "Eh? I thought you tended to be more confident about the stuff you did in person," Rodion wondered, moving a paw along his chin. "Is there something about that team you picked that I'm missing?"

    "It's an open tournament," Hess scoffed. "Everyone knows those tournaments are full of common rookie dweebs trying to make a name for themselves. A few tougher-than-normal 'mons from our crew ought to mop the floor with them!"

    The Aggron gave a contented grin and moved his tail along the deck, only to notice that something had caught Rodion's attention. The Sea Weasel's eyes widened out of surprise, prompting the Floatzel to twitch his whiskers uneasily.

    "Er… you mean the 'mons that are coming up the gangplank right now?" the otter asked, pointing behind his metal-headed superior.

    "Wait, what-"

    Hess turned around to follow Rodion's line of sight, and the grin slipped off his face as quickly as it had come at the sight that greeted him. There before him were that blasted Marowak and his assigned teammates, waddling up the gangplank with their heads hung firmly downwards in shame, shuffling sheepishly under his shocked gaze.

    "Ack! Why are you here?!" he cried. "You're supposed to be fighting in the tournament!"

    "Uh… yeah, about that…" Alvise began. "We kinda had an issue while signing up."

    "They said someone from our crew already entered and wouldn't let us join!" Nori exclaimed.

    "We tried to… persuade them into letting us in anyways with some coin," Valatos explained. "But they told us to take a hike."

    Hess glared at his subordinates, before eyeing their scarves more closely, and glancing up at the 'borrowed' sails the Mistral Marauder had been flying... and groaned as he put two and two together. Those sails had been taking from that Tromban ship, so if "someone from their crew" had already joined up, it couldn't have been anyone but those blasted bumpkins they ran into at Kenobi!

    "Of course," Hess grumbled. "Those Tromban hicks must also be in the tournament right now."

    Rodion clicked his tongue in frustration and paused, thinking over the team's plight. After a moment's thought, he shot a skeptical frown at the party as a realization came over him.

    "Wait a minute," Rodion demanded. "If they're in there, why didn't you just add a dot or something to distinguish your scarves?"

    Valatos' mandibles hung open, grasping for an explanation and failing to find one as the Charmeleon, Sealeo, and Vileplume among his teammates shot frowning scowls at him. He trailed off awkwardly, leaving a pointed silence to hang over the ship's deck.

    "… Uh…"

    "That's what I tried to tell them!" the Vileplume sighed, throwing a hand over her face.

    The whole ship rocked forward as Hess stomped the timbers underfoot, sending some nearby pirates sprawling to the deck with a yelp as they lost their footing. As the ship settled, the Yanmega and his companions winced as they looked up and met the gaze of the livid Aggron, who snarled and bared his fangs as he glared down at them.

    "So fix your scarves and get back in line already!" the Steel-Type snapped.

    Valatos and his fellow contestants hastily squeaked back an affirmation before bolting back down the gangplank. The Aggron captain stared blankly after the party as they slipped back into the bustle of Tidemill's streets, before turning and groping at a chest with his claw. The Steel-Type fished out a clay flask and brought it shakily to his mouth, taking a deep, anxious swig of the calming rum within before dropping it to the side with a defeated frown.

    "Urgh… what did we just get ourselves into?"



    Up in the higher tiers of the Vecioferàle Arena, Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo led Pleo down an arcing hallway lined with open-air windows on one end and doors on the other. Every so often there would be the occasional entrance opposite of the windows blocked off by folding paper screens and strong guards letting naught through them but the sound and shadows of Pokémon inside. The three led the young Protector past a pair of guards and into a darkened room with tables and cushioned seats set out, columned walls, and flecks of light peeking through along the floor from three sides from behind heavy curtains, which prompted the seabird to crane his neck around uneasily.

    "Where did you take me?"

    "It's the opening ceremony for your tournament," Cabot explained. "Queen Aleria wanted you out there so you could better see the Pokémon that need you as their Protector."

    "Yeah, and you won't be seeing anything fast from the air with your flight feathers the way they are," Niilo added. "So might as well let us show you arou- Ow!"

    The Sandslash yelped as a hard hoof stomped onto his foot, and nursed his injured toes before shooting the Ponyta a dirty glare from his spot on the ground.

    "Shut it, najemnik!" Berecien snapped. "Anyhow… we wanted to show you something."

    The Ponyta nosed with his snout at a curtain drawn over a set of wide windows, letting light from outside filtered in along with a great murmur. The young Protector blinked curiously and waddled over, peering through the slit Berecien opened to see that outside was a great circle-shaped courtyard filled with Pokémon of all shapes and sizes watching from terraced stands. At the center, small groups of Pokémon had gathered on a field, all expectantly looking up and seemingly in wait...

    "There's a lot of Pokémon in the Empire who have been waiting a long time for this moment," the fire horse explained. "For something bigger than them to take their side."

    "Yeah, and they're all here to greet you!" Cabot cheered. "To make you feel welcome in your new home!"

    "I… guess…"

    Pleo looked out over the grand arena and its throngs, the rapt attention providing cold comfort to his own loneliness and yearnings for home. Unbeknownst to the young Protector, at that time, his teammates darted onto the field and took in their surroundings. The Vecioferàle Arena was a grand space consisting of a circular pit ringed with stone stands that went up in tiers up to a canvas ring about the edge that provided stage. On the field, the contours of a battlefield had been sketched out on sandy ground, along with impressions of trapdoors and signs of movement of heavy objects. Curiously, there also seemed to be portholes in the pit's walls just below the first rows of seats, the apertures sporting fresh water stains on them. Elty looked back at his teammates and saw that the pair were gobsmacked at the sheer scale of the battlefield and its surroundings.

    "I take it you haven't seen anything quite this big before, huh?" the Growlithe murmured.

    "Obviously not!" Nida exclaimed. "This arena has more 'mons in it than our entire town!"

    "I didn't know it was possible for your colony grounds to get this populated…" Guardia murmured.

    Nida looked around and saw that the teams were composed of Pokémon of every conceivable shape and size… including the Gallade, Blastoise, and Goodra they'd spotted at the signups. The three were far from the only obviously tough competitors on the field, as all throughout the gathering, taller and stronger competitors blocked out the sun with their shadows, hardly a positive omen for fighting against them.

    "Yeesh," the Nidoran muttered. "If our first fight is against them, maybe we should just forfeit."

    "Pah," Guardia scoffed. "Why would you be so swift to turn tail?"

    "Because we have our evidence and we don't have any chance of actually being allowed to go and see Pleo?" Elty retorted, rolling his eyes.

    "But there's lore to be gathered!" Guardia insisted. "Strategies to learn, histories of your warriors, and-"

    "All contestants, your attention please," the announcer's voice said. "The Silver Wing Cup is about to begin! Please give a warm welcome to our host, the one, the only..."

    Team Traveller looked up to see a Rotom flitting out of an announcer's pavillion built into one of the upper stands, the glint of a badge shining against his crackling body. The Ghost-Type zipped around over the stands, the spectators filling the air with raucous cheers as he passed overhead.

    "Good afternoon, beauties and gentlebeauties!" the Rotom crackled. "It's me, Thalez! The master of sound and soul who's ringing in the first ever Silver Wing Cup!"

    Nida, Guardia, and Elty furrowed their brows skeptically at the ruddy ghost zipping above the stands. For such a small Pokémon, the Rotom certainly had an outsized personality... and ego to boot from the sound of it.

    "They really managed to get some characters out for this thing, huh?" Elty sighed.

    "I can already tell it's going to be a great show!" Thalez cheered. "Everyone give a big hand for our wonderful contestants!"

    The crowd erupted into cheers and applause for the gathered fighters in the arena pit, the assorted Pokémon basking in the attention for a moment. As the lot was collectively distracted, a small party consisting of Pokémon in white scarves that had hastily been retouched to have blue triangle designs slipped in at the edges, panting from a hasty rush into the stadium, with a particular Yanmega, Manectric, and Marowak at the head of the group.

    "Gah…" Valatos buzzed. "Lousy paper pushers are such a pain to deal with even here."

    "Well, at least we made it, right?" Alvise sighed.

    "Yeah, it's fighting!" Nori snorted. "This oughta be a piece of cake!"

    "And for all you novices out there, there's only one rule," Thalez explained. "Fight and win… or you die!"

    Valatos and his teammates froze in shock at the Rotom's announcement. They hadn't signed up for a fight to the death, right? Since when was that a part of things?!

    "Wh-Wha-?!"

    "Tournament-wise!" the Ghost-Type cheered. "Don't worry, my dear contestants! The only things getting buried on this battlefield are losers' dreams!."

    The Rotom's exclamation drew laughs and chortles from the nearby contestants, which made Alvise turn up his snout and snort out of annoyance.

    "Pah… Thalez's still doing his old bait and switch routine, I see," the Manectric grumbled.

    "And for the lucky winners out there in the field, we've got quite the haul for you! We've got a silver cup, a title…"

    The Rotom zipped by a box high up in the stands that had been covered by indigo drapes. As he passed, the curtains parted to reveal the form of a long-necked bird with silver feathers, who shrank uneasily back as he felt the presence of thousands of eyes turning to him intently.

    "And an audience with the first-ever Protector of Anyilla! Lugia, Guardian of the Seas!"

    The stadium broke into a deafening cheer as the gathered spectators eagerly roared out their approval of their new Protector. From below on the arena floor, amidst the gleeful awe of their fellow competitors, Team Traveller stared up in slack-jawed surprise.

    "Wait!" Nida cried. "That's the prize?!"

    "Rev up those wishes, beauties and gentlebeauties," the Rotom said. "I know that I'd have trouble settling on what I'd want from that plucky little bird!"

    The Pokémon in the stadium went wild with raucous cheers as spectators and contestants alike traded wild fantasies of what they'd do were they the lucky victor. Even so, a few more sober faces lingered on, including that of a Weavile among the contestants giving an unimpressed harrumph and folding his arms over each other.

    "Hrmph. I see that they didn't feel any hesitation cutting his feathers," Ketu grumbled. "Shame, he looks like he wouldn't need much of a push to convince him to take off right now."

    "Well, it's nothing that we can't handle over a few fights, right?" an orange-furred Lycanroc next to him asked.

    "Maybe…" the Weavile muttered. "But I'm keeping my eyes open for a way to cut to the chase and cut him loose."

    "So let's get this show rolling, folks! Real action! Real drama! Real bloodshed! Which the authorities will remind is to be avoided per rules of the Imperial Battle League but hey who cares?!" Thalez cried. "Go and give us a finale that'll drive this crowd wild!"

    The stadium filled with a cheering roar as the contestants waved back and began to filter out of the arena pit. As the crowd of fighters visibly thinned, the party from the Siglo Swellow remained visibly fixed in their spot, staring up at the box where Pleo had revealed himself as the curtains were lowered and the Protector slipped from view.

    "So he really is out there…" the Druddigon murmured. As the young Dragon-Type found himself dumbstruck over the discovery, Ander's mood had taken a far more agitated turn, the Scyther shaking his head anxiously back and forth.

    "Irresponsible. It's all completely irresponsible," the Bug-Type piped. "Trotting around that- that thing around like it's some toy."

    The Scyther's visible unsettledness drew an audible pause from his teammates, unsure of how to respond. After a short, awkward lull, Dimitri cleared his throat, hoping to shift the team's focus back to their present options at hand.

    "Where do we even start on this?" the Kabutops asked. "I honestly don't know how we slice the whole 'getting Pleo' part right now."

    The group fell silent as they mulled over the situation, thinking about how best to retrieve Pleo. Winning the tournament outright was a longshot, to say the least, but the odds of trying to steal him away from such a crowded, well-guarded area didn't seem much better. The five Pokémon found themselves blanking out, and after a while Kiran ruffled his feathers uncomfortably and spoke up.

    "… Let's try and think this through in a quieter place," the Swellow offered.

    The five turned and began to trudge off for the exit, passing by various Pokémon on the way over. Unbeknownst to the young Druddigon and his companions, at the same time, a Nidoran was passing by with her Growlithe and Cubone teammates. The rabbit and her companions were similarly not paying attention to the passing Pokémon until the Poison-Type chanced to catch the sight of a red crest high up from the corner of her eye. The blue rabbit blinked and caught herself, before looking back into the sea of Pokémon, her lack of progress catching the attention of her teammates.

    "Something the matter, Nidoran?" Guardia asked.

    "It's just, for a moment, I thought I saw…"

    "Hey! It's this way!" a chirping voice cried.

    The three looked and for a fleeting moment saw the forms of a familiar Swellow and Kabutops in the crowd in white scarves. The three blinked, and began to follow after, when much to Nida's astonishment, there at the mouth of the exit, she saw the form of a shorter Druddigon heading inside… Wasn't that-?!

    "Crom?!"



    The five Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow followed the rest of the teams into the maze of corridors and chambers that formed the arena's underlevels. The group hung back as the teams disappeared off into different chambers and waiting rooms, before looking around and slipping down an emptied back corridor. The five went down a ways, and after growing suitably convinced they were not being overheard, began to talk amongst themselves about their next course of action.

    "Er… so what do we do now?" Pladur murmured.

    "We fight and win the tournament?" Dimitri replied. The crab's question drew a nervous squirm out of the Fraxure, prompting him to look around his surroundings with visible unease.

    "Yeah, but we're one team out of… I don't even know how many teams were out there," the Dragon-Type muttered. "A-And a lot of them seemed really tough. There was that Gallade with the Goodra and the Blastoise... the team with the Slaking... and that one with the Metagross…"

    Pladur's doubts quickly rubbed off onto his teammates, making Crom, Ander, and even Dimitri blanch a bit at how daunting their odds looked at the moment. Even so, the Swellow among their number seemed to retain some semblance of optimism, as the bird fanned out a wing and patted his Druddigon pupil's shoulder.

    "It's nothing that can't be resolved with a little bit of planning ahead," Kiran reassured.

    "But… do we really know anything about the other Pokémon?" Crom asked. "How would we even know what to expect?"

    A sinking feeling fell over the company as they realized they were more than likely hopelessly outmatched in a tournament full of career fighters who no doubt made a living fighting in tournaments just like this. To turn the tide as underdogs in one battle was possible, if challenging...

    But how could they possibly pull it off enough times to win an entire tournament against foes whose strategies they had no foreknowledge of? And with just the five of them to support one another?

    The situation came over the sailors in a rush, and it was enough to make anyone feel small in the face of an intimidating foe, to say nothing of the fate of Pleo and the entire island of Tromba hanging in the balance on top of it.

    "Crom!"

    A familiar, squeaky voice brought the group to attention. Crom felt a wave of nostalgia wash over him as he heard it, harkening back to the simpler times before this whole mess began. The Dragon-Type shook himself and realized that it was none other than the voice that always came to greet him when he arrived from his family's bakery in the mornings...

    "Wait a minute!" the Druddigon cried "That's-!"

    The dragon whirled around towards the calling voice, and his eyes went wide. It really was Nida, in the flesh! The little Poison-type ran towards him with wide, expectant eyes as she called his name again. Following her was that Growlithe pirate they'd roped into their team all that time ago on Tromba, as well as another Pokémon Crom had never met before. The Cubone seemed somewhat confused as her friends rushed off ahead of her, but she hurried after them all the same.

    "Nida!"

    The Nidoran and Druddigon darted ahead of their still-stunned groups, the young Poison-Type leaping into her Druddigon companion's arms as he lifted and twirled around with her. The Dragon-Type pulled the young pincushion close and gave an enthusiastic, nuzzling squeeze, little droplets forming at the edges of their eyes as their reunion sunk in and their teammates neared.

    "I've missed you so much…" the Dragon-Type sniffled.

    "Yeah…" Nida answered. "Same here-"

    "Eh?! Just who are these majū?"

    All eyes in the gathering turned at the sound of a raspy voice, settling down on a puzzled-looking Cubone. Ander and Pladur in particular seemed to be surprised at the bone lizard's appearance; was this the extra Pokémon Aulis had been talking about back in Copperband Village?

    "Wait, you never told me you had a Cubone pupil, Kiran," Ander murmured.

    "Er… I don't," the Swellow explained, before hopping over to the bone-helmeted lizard.

    "Who are you, little one?"

    "I'm Shugodeshi, lorekeeper-in-training of the Dungeon Colony," the Ground-Type answered. "My teammates here call me 'Guardia'."

    "Bonehead also works," Elty replied. The Growlithe opened his mouth to continue, only to be promptly cut off by a conk of the Cubone's club against his head.

    "Ow!"

    Nida sighed as her teammates traded glares with one another, and noticed that a faint, flustered chagrin had crept up on Crom and his companions. The Nidoran waved her paws, hoping to smooth over the less-than-ideal impression.

    "We recruited her in Kenobi when we explored the Mystery Dungeon there," Nida explained. "Sorry if she was a bit of a surprise, Kiran."

    "Oh hardly," the Swellow chortled. "With you recruiting a fresh member on your own, you've shown 100% more initiative than any of my past classes!"

    Guardia wagged her tail a bit at the Swellow's greeting. Even though the stranger did seem to be a little more numbers-oriented than she'd have expected of a team leader, he didn't seem particularly dangerous. The others with him seemed to have their initial reservations give way after the Flying-Type's greeting and the sight of the bone lizard's more amiable demeanor, prompting them to come up and introduce themselves to their new teammate.

    "Ah, well it's nice to meet you Guardia!" Crom greeted. "I'm Crom! And the Swellow is my team captain, Kiran."

    "Pleased to meet you," the Flying-Type said.

    "And I'm his father, Pladur," the Fraxure in the group offered. Sensing that he was the only one left out, Ander shifted uneasily before tapping his scythes together and warily speaking up.

    "And I'm Ander…" he offered. "I do business with their family. I guess."

    "Well, I don't know about the other three. But I do know about you, Crom," the Cubone replied. "The others kept talking about you when we first met."

    The bone lizard's explanation drew a nonplussed flap of the young dragon's wings, along with a similarly flustered-looking fold of Nida's ears back along her head. Finding herself to be the center of a bit more attention than she anticipated, the Poison-Type tilted her head, and gave an awkward smile back to her Dragon-Type counterpart.

    "… We missed you just a bit," Nida sheepishly answered, before pausing and blinking out of realization.

    "Wait a minute, Dimitri," she murmured. "How did you get sucked into all of this? The last time we saw you was when those Imperials collapsed the Subway!"

    "The rod ran into their ship while looking for you. When the Ataman was practically begging me to help look above-water for you, I couldn't say no to that sort of opportunity!" Dimitri chortled, before giving a curious tap of his scythes.

    "But what about you all? What have you been doing here?" he asked. "When we tracked you down to Sormus, we had heard you were dragged off by the Empire!"

    "We were," Elty explained. "But they dumped us to the curb after they got Pleo and dragged him away."

    "We were hoping to go home and ask Hatteras what we should do…" Nida murmured. "But when we found Pleo was right here… Well..."

    "We found out he's out of our reach, obviously," Guardia sighed. "It's a shame we can't just fight our way to him…"

    Crom and his companions looked down at the Cubone, deep in thought. If they were to try to fight their way through to Pleo, their only hope would be to do so through the tournament fair and square. But with odds as daunting as they were, just how could either of them hope to discover enough about their opponents going into their matches to get an idea of their weaknesses… It's not as if they could just pool their strength together for every fight!

    That said… was there really anything to stop them from doing it outside each one? The sailors' eyes lit up as they realized that they'd been looking for help to find out enough about their opponents to stay a step ahead of them while still setting aside time to train and prepare. All this time, the solution was standing right in front of them!

    "Wait, what's that look for?" Guardia demanded.

    "Actually… Maybe we do have a way of doing that after all," Kiran murmured.

    "Huh?" Nida asked. "What do you have in mind?"



    Back at the box where Pleo had been housed, as the tournament had gone on, the mood remained electrified even in the lulls between matches as Berecien, Cabot, and Niilo traded excited talk amongst themselves over the results of the prior matches. The three prattled on amongst themselves, occasionally glancing out to watch the process of the field being cleared out for its next match, as was always done prior to matches to smooth out damage to the field and to try and set the rough theme for the battlefield's next match. The process of setting up for the incoming match was nearing its tail end, with Pokémon on the field moving the last few stones into place to help make the battlefield a craggy facsimile of a mountainous clearing.

    Even so, there was one conspicuous exception to the shared excitement in the box, as Pleo huddled to himself in a corner. Indeed, much to their astonishment, even during the entire afternoon full of battles so far, the young Lugia with them had shown little appetite to do much other than to rest by the columns of the box and poke his head past the nearby curtains and over the balcony every now and then. Berecien, Niilo, and Cabot hoped that perhaps the thrill of battle would soothe his spirits, and decided to give the Protector space for the time being.

    As the three droned on, the Lugia looked back out onto the field, where he saw that the workers had cleared the battlefield and the teams for the next battle began to take their places. At the far end was a party consisting of a Cubone, a Growlithe, a Nidoran…

    Eh?! Why those were none other than his own teammates!

    "Ah! They came back!" he chirped. "Hey! I'm up here!"

    The young Protector sprang to his feet and moved in front of the window, waving out at the field eagerly. He heard the roar of the stadium and continued waving his wing out at his friends in the distance… Only for them to keep looking ahead, and the three youngsters to look around puzzledly at the suddenly energized stands as a sinking realization dawned on the seabird.

    "Oh… they didn't notice me…"

    Indeed, as Pleo's enthusiasm ebbed away and the Lugia drooped his head, Team Traveller continued to look around at their surroundings in the arena pit. All the while, the three tried to make sense of the sudden spurt of excitement as thoughts fresh off of a session trading stories and tips with Crom and his teammates lingered in their minds.

    "Eh? What's with this crowd?" Elty murmured. "I feel like we just missed something here…"

    "Hrmph, worry about that later," his Cubone teammate countered, pointing her bone off into the distance. "Our foes are coming out to challenge us right now."

    Nida and Elty followed the tip of the Guardia's club off down the length of the field, where sure enough, the forms of three Pokémon with rescue badges sidled into the arena pit. At the front was a dark violet-blue Gligar hopping and scurrying along the ground, followed closely by… a magenta Monferno and a white Vulpix? Why, if they didn't know any better, they'd think the fox was an Ice-Type!

    When Kiran had come back with his findings about the team earlier, he hadn't mentioned at all that their opponents would be such head-turners… He hadn't miss anything else in the process of scouting out their opponents, had he?

    "And representing the Tidemill North Guild on the left is Team Anomaly! The flashiest up-and-comers you'll see in the tournament today!" Thalez's voice crackled. "On the other side… three random kids from Company waters! 'Team Wanderer' or something like that."

    Right on cue, the crowd of spectators began to boo and hiss at the young adventurers. No matter where Team Traveller looked in the crowd, all they saw were Pokémon jeering them down, seeming all to wish defeat on them right out of the gate.

    "Whelp, looks like the crowd's made up its mind over who to root for!" the Rotom chimed. "Can't say I don't feel for them!"

    The three Pokémon wilted at their less-than-hospitable reception from the feisty locals. Couldn't they just root for their favorites like normal Pokémon?

    "Was that introduction really necessary?" Elty grumbled.

    "Tsk," Guardia scoffed. "They certainly favor their colony's home team…"

    "Hrmph, we'll make it through this," Nida grunted. "We just need to win this match, and then we'll alternate with Crom and the others to get sneak peeks at how our next foes will fight!"

    Derisive laughter rang out from across the battlefield, and Nida turned to see the Gligar and his team smirking at them dismissively.

    "Hate to burst your bubble, but there won't be another match for ya!" the flying scorpion jeered.

    "Yeah, that next round's got our names written all over it!" the white Vulpix added.

    "Grr… We'll see about tha-" Guardia growled, readying her club only for Thalez's voice to once again fill the arena.

    "Aaand they're already getting into it, folks. Let's not disappoint our fighters and get their match rolling! To your places!"

    The two teams took their places at opposing sides of the battlefield, planting their feet and readying themselves to spring into combat. The Rotom announcer positioned himself over his announcer's booth, floating as a growing ball of static built between his arms and the stands began to pulse with excitement. The Ghost-Type raised his arms up, prompting the stands to break into a countdown in a united voice.

    Three…

    Two...

    One...

    Boom!

    GO!

    At the sound of Thalez' thunderclap, Team Traveller sprang up and bolted down the battlefield for their opponents. Nida and Elty trained their attention for the Vulpix and Monferno respectively as Guardia charged on ahead for the Gligar, bringing her club into motion for a swing as the bug-like creature planted his feet and crouched.

    "Hah!" Guardia sneered. "You'll never get anywhere just standing there like tha-"

    "Hup!"

    Guardia swung her club with all her might at the flier, only for the Gligar sprang into the air in a flash. The Cubone stumbled as her club cleaved through the air, finding purchase on nothing solid in its path, and only barely readjusted her balance in time to avoid falling over entirely. She glanced up at the scorpion incredulously, just as he dove back to the earth, smoothing his landing by catching the wind beneath his membranous wings and gliding gently down.

    "N-Nani?!" the bone lizard exclaimed. "You can do tha-?! Ack!"

    Guardia tumbled as she felt a frigid blow come from behind. She hastily righted herself and brushed some ice off her back spikes, seeing that much to her astonishment, the Vulpix really could spit ice instead of fire! The Cubone hastily dove out of the way as a blast of powdery snow came at her, the Ground-Type's plight prompting Nida to hastily run after the fox in pursuit with her legs tensed for a pair of kicks…

    "Not so fast, cunìcio!"

    Only to feel a crushing divebomb from the Gligar that sent her tumbling head over heels. A sharp yelp from the background quickly evidenced that Elty had fared little better, the Puppy Pokémon sailing facefirst into the battlefield after having been kicked into the air by his Monferno opponent. Under withering fire from all ends, the three members of Team Traveller hastily retreated for their end of the battlefield, grouping back together as their foes gave chase behind them much to the audience's roaring delight.

    "And a strong opening by Team Anomaly!" Thalez cheered. "Will Team Wanderer, manage to get their act together? Or is this the end of their short career here at the Silver Wing Cup?"

    "Gah! That Gliger was standing around like that to lure us into a trap!" Guardia fumed.

    "Trap or not, this is gonna be a short fight if we can't take care of him!" Elty growled.

    "How are we supposed to do that when he keeps weaving out of the way!" the bone lizard protested.

    Nida bounded towards the Gligar, spikes fanning out as she lobbed poisonous needles up into the air, but found her attempts thwarted again and again as the scorpion zig-zagged out of the path of each attack. The Nidoran dove out of the way of an incoming air-blade and countered it with a poisoned spike, only to gawk as the pin sailed clear past its target and landed harmlessly on the ground of the battlefield.

    "Gah!" Gritting her teeth in frustration, Nida glared up at the blasted bug, cursing his evasive abilities. It seemed downright impossible to hit him as long as he was in the air with how he was dodging every attack aimed his way in some errant direction! There was no way they could win this fight like this! …Unless… he could be led into an attack?

    "That's it! We'll just have to control where he flies!" Nida grunted. "Cover me and take a shot when he's coming into range!"

    Nida lowered her head and charged ahead for the Gligar, fanning her spikes out as she ran forward. The Poison-Type twitched her hide, flicking a spike into the air at the scorpion only for the Ground-Type to weave left of it. The Nidoran's assault quickly caught the attention of the white Vulpix, prompting him to alert his Monferno teammate and dart after the Nidoran.

    "Oi, heads up, Snowy!"

    Before the Vulpix could turn to see the source of the voice, he was cut off by a stinging rain of embers and soot blowing into his face. His Monferno teammate skidded to a stop at the sight of the Growlithe culprit behind the attack, pivoting and readying a lunge. Before the ape could carry on, she was cut off by Guardia charging on ahead, forcing the monkey to leap back as the Cubone forcefully swung her club out at the Fire-Type.

    "Agh! He got soot in my eyes and fur!" the Vulpix yelped.

    "Gardie!" Guardia snapped. "How much longer do we have to keep this up?!"

    "Huh?" the Monferno asked, blinking. "Keep what up?"

    The Monferno turned and saw that from her position there was a clear line of sight to her Gligar partner and the Nidoran pursuing him. The Fire-Type turned back and saw that a smirk had spread over her Growlithe opponent's face, before he took off in a sprint, prompting her to go wide-eyed out of realization and dash after him.

    "Oh no you don't-!" the Monferno shrieked, only to be cut off with a raspy shout.

    "Outta my way!"

    The monkey reeled after feeling a heavy blow against the side of her head, sending her pinwheeling as Guardia came to a skidding stop in the dirt of the battlefield. The Ground-Type whirled and turned to run after her Growlithe teammate, the fire dog continuing on in his charge towards the Gligar as fire began to dance on his pelt. The Puppy Pokémon leapt and brought his legs over his head in a fiery wheel, somersaulting straight into the scorpion as he desperately tried to pull up higher into the air.

    "AGH!"

    Elty's blow sent the Gligar shooting up into the air, pinwheeling uncontrollably as he plummeted back down to earth with a loud thud. Team Traveller's three members waited a tense moment, only to see the Ground-Type starting to get back up visibly tottering, prompting Nida to flare her ears in realization that their opponent's strength was fading fast.

    "This is it!" the Nidoran cried. "Make your hits count here!"

    The team descended upon the Gligar with kicks and blows as Elty bit down on his wing. The scorpion screeched and thrashed under the blows, desperately flailing to get free as his movements grew increasingly labored and fatigued. With her foe pinned at her feet, Guardia growled and raised her club over her head, only to be knocked onto her stomach with a yelp by an icy jab from behind.

    "Hang in there, chief!" the Vulpix shouted. "We're coming!"

    The Monferno and Vulpix charged ahead, the latter limping somewhat as the battle wore on him. Elty met their rush head-on, fire erupting from his pelt as he somersaulted directly into the Vulpix. A piercing shriek rang through the arena as the Ice-type flopped backwards, faceplanting into a limp heap on the ground. The Growlithe shook off the impact of the blow, giving a contented huff as he studied his handiwork.

    "One down, two to-"

    Elty was swiftly broken out of his reverie by a fist curled tight around the nape of his neck, yanking him off the ground forcefully. He yelped and thrashed about, turning around in his aggressor's grasp and coming face-to-glaring-face with a Monferno, her fist already reeled back for a heavy punch.

    The Growlithe flinched and screwed his eyes shut, bracing for impact, but his eyes snapped back open as the primate gave a shout and dropped him. Elty tumbled to the ground, craning his neck up to see the ape doubled over in pain clutching her stomach, and Guardia reeling back to deliver a forceful uppercut. The dog turned and fell back, just in time to see the Gligar take flight as a Poison Sting from Nida sank into his left membrane.

    "Gnrk! I'm not done yet, Nidoran!" the Gligar hissed. "Better hope that-"

    Before the scorpion could finish his threat, he watched as Nida turned and bolted for the direction of his Monferno teammate. The Gligar narrowed his eyes and seethed, diving after the little pincushion as he chittered under his breath.

    "Hey! Get back here!"

    The Gligar dove after the blue rabbit in pursuit, only to begin to feel woozy and disoriented as soon as the air billowed out under his wings. The scorpion grimaced and poked his head down to inspect the membrane of his left wing, where he found a spike lodged in it, still dribbling purple poison. He looked ahead just in time to see his Monferno teammate send his Cubone foe tumbling back with a punch under her chin, only to be caught by a tackle from the Nidoran immediately afterwards. The scorpion grimaced as his companion fell to the ground and failed to pick herself up, grudgingly realizing that the spike ball's desperate run-around on the battlefield had been far less desperate and reactive than he'd thought.

    "… Well played…"

    The congratulations came out slurred and trailed off as its speaker lurched forward, depleted of his strength. The scorpion went limp and tumbled out of the air, hitting the stadium floor with a dull thud and a small cloud of dust. A stunned silence filled the air of the stadium, dragging on for seconds that felt like eternities before the quiet was broken by the sound of a loud thunderclap.

    "Aaand I don't know how they managed it, but Team Wanderer pulls in for the win!" Thalez exclaimed. "Give it up for our winners, folks!"

    Some scattered, wary clapping and cheers rose from the crowd, seemingly unsure whether or not it was appropriate. After a few bolder and braver souls took the plunge into a full applause, others joined in, until the whole arena was alive with an enthusiastic roar. For a moment, time seemed to stand still for Team Traveller, the lot glowing with pride as the whole world seemed to share in their hard-won victory.

    "Heh… we did it," Guardia wheezed. "All five of us!"

    Nida and Elty bit their tongues as they watched Guardia lurch and totter, leaning against her club for support. The two traded uneasy looks with each other, wondering if perhaps they'd pushed themselves a little too hard out on the field in the past match.

    "Just how hard did they manage to hit her?" Elty murmured.

    Nida looked back in the direction of their opponents, where a Comfey, a Blissey, and a white Meowstic in the familiar red scarves of healers scooped up the felled Pokémon and loaded them onto slings to carry off. As the party departed, Nida saw the Gligar crack his eyes open, before smiling weakly with a wave. If he could start recovering so quickly from the blows he'd taken… surely Guardia's wounds wouldn't be so much harder to surmount?

    "Nothing that we can't manage, I think," Nida reassured. "We'll just have to make an extra stop to patch ourselves up before meeting up with Cardino and-"

    The Nidoran trailed off as she noticed the sun was much lower and further to the west than she thought it'd be. Why, it looked like it was just an hour or so before sunset, and they still needed to get to the courtroom to bring their evidence to Cardino!

    "Ack! It's late in the afternoon already!" she squeaked. "We need to get going!"

    "But what about bonehead's double vision here?" Elty insisted.

    "We'll fix it on the way!"

    The three hurried off, pulling Guardia along by the arm as they slipped back into the underlevels of the arena. They'd survived their first battle in the ring well enough, so with any luck, fortune would smile on them again in court…

    Hopefully.



    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  13. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    As Team Traveller slipped off the field, Pleo continued to hover around the column of his stadium box, his mood having failed to improve after his hopes of catching his teammates' eyes were so thoroughly thwarted. From the side, Cabot and his companions noticed that their charge continued to appear downcast, and after some conversation amongst themselves, the Cranidos stepped forward and tapped his claws uneasily as he tried to strike up a conversation with the white bird.

    "So... uh... how are you liking the tournament so far, Protector?" Cabot asked. "Those Pokémon were your friends right? They did pretty good out there!"

    "But they didn't notice me…"

    The Lugia's head drooped further, prompting him to tuck it under a wing to hide it away much to Cabot's dismay. After seeing their companion's failure to shift the young Protector's mood, Berecien and Niilo followed along, the two thinking of ways of their own to try and lighten the mood.

    "I'm sure that won't be the last time you see them," Berecien reassured. "After all, you do have a role serving as the Protector of Anyilla and it's only logical that you'd run into them every now and then."

    "And the stadium's not quite your neighborhood juice bar," Niilo added. "It wouldn't have been too hard for them to not notice you with that battle going on and all the excitement in the stands."

    "But I didn't have that problem at all when they were with me…" Pleo muttered.

    An awkward silence came over the group, prompting Cabot and his companions to kick at the ground sheepishly. Try as they might, none of the three were able to think of anything that might cheer up the young Lugia, and so they remained quiet as Thalez's voice filled the silence.

    "And next up we've got… ‘Team Hailstorm’ and ‘Team Blue Sun’? Really? Who was responsible for booking two merchant teams from out east against each other?" the Rotom scoffed. "Bah, whatever, feel free to get some refreshments, folks. You're probably not missing much."

    Thalez's announcement failed to register in the young Lugia's mind, much less among his caretakers as they struggled to find anything to try and lift the seabird's spirits. One after the other, the three tried to make small talk to cheer up the young Protector, only to find themselves fumbling for words until the sound of a heavy hop reached their ears.

    "So how are things going with the Protector?" a chittering voice asked.

    The gathered Pokémon turned to see Nagant approaching, Pleo hopping back with an audible squawk. For their part, Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo didn't seem calmed themselves by the wizened crustacean's presence, as the Cranidos among them hastily began to speak to the Water-Type.

    "Eh? Captain Nugget?" Cabot wondered. "What are you doing here?"

    The shrimp reflexively shifted her claw in Cabot's direction, before noticing Pleo's frightened demeanor, prompting her to ease back. Even if the Cranidos ought to have known better by now, it was a bit crowded to be shooting Water Pulses around wildly...

    "It's Nagant, Cabot," the Clawitzer hissed. "Please do be mindful of that."

    Pleo watched as the Cranidos gulped and backpedaled away from the wizened shrimp, which prompted him to similarly shrink back. The crab had already hurt him, cut his feathers, and kept him tied up for hours in a darkened ship… From the way she dealt with her dinosaur underling, it didn't look like she would treat him any nicer now. B-But why did she still want to bother him? Hadn't she already gotten whatever she wanted?

    "Wh-Why are you here?" Pleo stammered.

    "Because the Queen insisted that I check up on your caretakers," Nagant answered. "There's plenty of other places I'd rather be right now than this stadium stuck with that obnoxious Rotom."

    "When do I get to leave, though?" the young Lugia pressed. "I want to go home."

    "You are home," the Water-Type retorted. "And it's a bit soon for the Empire to be talking about building visiting residences in islands that aren't under its control yet."

    The full meaning of the Clawitzer´s words about Tromba returning to Imperial control eluded the young Protector, though perhaps that was for the better. From their vantage point, Niilo and his companions could see that the shrimp's attempt at comfort failed to do anything at all other than making Pleo feel even more downcast about his circumstances.

    "Er… not that I'm getting paid for saying this, but I don't really think that helped, Captain," Niilo sighed. "Maybe distract him with something?"

    "That's your job, Niilo!" Nagant snapped. "Besides, what would I even have as an offhand distraction?"

    Almost as if in answer, a loud roar came from the audience in the stands. Nagant initially shrugged the matter off, supposing it to merely be a more exciting moment in the tournament, only for Thalez's voice to suddenly fill the stadium.

    "And the crowd goes wild after a stunning down from Team Blue Sun's captain!" the announcer crackled. "Guess there is something worth watching from Company waters after all!"

    "Eh? That was sure a change in attitude," Nagant murmured. "Wonder who's out there-?"

    The Clawitzer turned to the field just in time to see a familiar-looking Weavile shift his glance to the corner of his eye, and spring up away from a fainted Vanillish as an Abomasnow charged at him. The Dark-Type quickly weaved out of the way as the Vanillish's teammate swiped at him with a crushing arm thrust, the Grass-Type's Hammer Arm carrying on into the floor of the arena with a loud crash. The sound of a piercing wind rang out, followed by a bellow as the Abomasnow was knocked back by an Air Slash from a strafing Crobat, prompting the Weavile to spring up and bring down the side of his claw in a chop at the Abomasnow's head, which made him stagger back, and topple forward unconscious to the crowd's roaring approval.

    "And he does it again with an assist from his teammate!" the Rotom cheered. "Talk about your diamonds in the rough!"

    The Weavile perched beside the sprawled-out Abomasnow, giving waves to the audience as the cheering continued. Even within Pleo's box, the audience's enthusiasm had rubbed off on the Pokémon present, with the visible exception of Nagant who scowled at the Dark-Type on the field, twitching her barbels in recollection.

    "Heh. Not a bad choice of distraction there," Niilo said. "Take it you're impressed with the weasel, too."

    "… Somewhat," she answered.

    Cabot looked on curiously as the Clawitzer glowered down at the battlefield, studying the victorious team's Weavile intently. He'd never noticed her having much interest in these sport-battles in the past; the Dark-Type did look a little familiar, but there couldn't have been anything too strange about him… right?

    "Is something the matter, captain...?" Cabot asked.

    "... Probably not," the Clawitzer grunted. "I just need to check up on something."

    Nagant hopped from her place by the balcony and made for the door, catching the attention of the three other sailors and drawing puzzled tilts of their heads. Berecien opened his mouth to inquire as to her destination, but she pre-empted him before he could get a word in.

    "I'll be back in a bit," the shrimp insisted. "Just stick to your duty."

    Cabot and his companions traded looks with one another, but opted not to interfere with the Clawitzer's as she began to leave the viewing box. The pistol shrimp set off, hopping along the hallway deep in thought. It was far too implausible for that same Weavile to suddenly be here after running into her at Sormus. How could he have reasonably gone from joking about being a spy nearby the Protector's location at the time, to suddenly showing up at said Protector's public debut without something nefarious afoot?

    So who was that Weavile? And more importantly...

    "Why is he really here?"



    Team Traveller's mad dash across town took them to a stone, columned building set in front of a plaza with a statue of weighing scales set up before it. The three found themselves staggering up a set of marbled steps, running through a tall-ceilinged lobby and up a flight of steps at the end to a sunlit hall lined with doors before coming to a panting stop. Near one of the doors was the familiar face of Cardino - their Detective Pikachu employer - who judging from his impatient flicking of his ears had been waiting for them for a good while by now.

    "Where have you all been?" Cardino demanded. "The Defense has been stalling for an hour!"

    "Sorry," Nida sighed. "We kinda got held up getting the evidence."

    The Pikachu paused to size up his assistants. Numerous scuffs and bruises on their bodies told a tale of a tough fight, meaning that they must have taken on a round before finding their evidence...

    "I see you weren't able to find it before your first match," Cardino murmured. "Well, no matter. Here. Just take these and start chewing when you get inside, the Defense staked its case on a cross-examination of whatever you found."

    The Electric-Type's reaction drew blank looks from his assistants, though the expression of the Cubone was blankest off all. What exactly did the hut-dweller rat just say?

    "A what now-?"

    Cardino hastily fished out some Oran Berries from a shoulder bag and thrust them into Team Traveller's paws. The youngsters started to speak up, only to find themselves pushed through the door into a large chamber with two rows of seats at opposite ends behind tables. To the right was Nico and Rita, and over to the left was the form of a Serperior batting his tail impatiently against the floor. The sound of a throat clearing directed their gazes upward, prompting them to see a Slowking peering down from a raised bench overlooking the room.

    "Er… hi?" Elty asked.

    "Oh, it appears that the Defense's witness is finally in court," the Slowking murmured. "Be noted that making an old Pokémon wait like this doesn't help your odds of getting a favorable verdict out of me."

    Nico and Rita grimaced at the Slowking's disappointed grumbling. The Fletchinder of the pair ruffled his feathers at the judge's poor first impressions. Showing up late to court was not the way to start a life-or-death case like this...

    "Erk… Yes, your Honor," the robin gulped. "I'm sure that they have a perfectly good explanation for this…"

    "Gah hah hah! I see the Defense's inexperience is showing," the Serperior sneered. "Well no matter, all the more opportunity for Akin the Rookie Killer to cut your lucky streak back down to size!"

    "We got held up at the stadium," Elty explained. "It was a bit confusing to get here in a hurry."

    "Oh! The one that Thalez's announcing for?" Rita asked. "Did you manage to get an autograph?"

    "Aherm!" the Slowking chided. "In the interests of moving this along in time for everyone to have an opportunity to get an autograph, we should really move onto the cross-examination now."

    The three members of Team Traveller looked up from their berries, juices still staining their muzzles. There was an awkward silence as the trio grew increasingly aware that they were being stared at, evidently in expectation that they'd say something back...

    "Cross… examination?" Nida murmured.

    "I ask you to give testimony, I review your statements and point out if there's any inconsistencies with the case?" Nico answered. "You know? Basic legal proceedings?"

    "Eh? That sounds so convoluted!" Guardia protested. "Just throw a bone at the three and get the trial over with!"

    Guardia's exclamation was met by the sound of exasperated groaning, a quick look revealing that Nico had buried his face in a wing, shaking his head.

    "That's… not how law works here…" the Fletchinder sighed, before murmuring under his breath. "What rock did Cardino turn over to get these guys?"

    "The Prosecution suggests that the Defense save the court this farce and send in the clowns already," Akin scoffed.

    "Wait, didn't we win a case by doing that once?" the Rita whispered to herself, before clearing her throat to speak up. "But anyhow, you just need to talk about something we want to know. You had a question, right Nico?"

    "That's right. The Defense maintains that the evidence recovered by Detective Cardino's assistants will prove the innocence of our clients!" the Fletchinder insisted. "So the Defense requests that the witnesses testify about what they recovered and how they found it!"

    The robin's exclamation drew a disdainful hiss from the Serperior prosecutor from the other end of the room. The Slowking at the judge's bench didn't seem much more enthused with the matter, and shot a skeptical frown back at Nico's desk.

    "… This had better be worth the wait, Defense," the Judge grumbled. "Witnesses, please give your full account of the process of recovering the evidence."

    "Uhh... well, Cardino hired us to go into the stadium to look for evidence that had been shipped there by accident," Nida began. "So we entered the tournament to get in."

    "We looked around high and low, but couldn't find anything until we noticed a guard standing for a long time in front of a random poster," Elty chimed in.

    "He snuck off, and we checked the area, where there was a switch to a secret entrance," Guardia added.

    "At the bottom, we found a hidden room full of papers and crates with straw in it and a tunnel that went off to someplace we didn't check," Nida continued. "It looked like it had been used to move stuff around."

    "Hold it!" Nico demanded.

    The Nidoran sprang upright, flailing a moment to keep her balance at the sound of the robin's loud chirp. The Poison-Type looked over and saw that the attorney had extended a wing out, pointing intently at her with its tip.

    "So that's where you found the missing evidence?" the Fletchinder asked.

    "That's right!" the Nidoran exclaimed. "It's this journal here!"

    Nida pawed at Sibich's journal on the podium and held it up before the court. At once, a cacophony of murmurs broke out among the audience, and the Slowking craned his neck towards the tome to get a better look.

    "Well, what's it say?" the Judge asked.

    "Er... we weren't able to figure it out. It looks like it's written in some sort of code," Elty explained. "But that's a sign that whoever wrote this had to be someone high-up and not just a bunch of random pirates, right?"

    "Objection!"

    A loud smack rang through the room as Akin slapped his tail against his desk and gave an impatient hiss. The Grass-Type giving a dismissive wave, before shooting an annoyed look across the room back at Nico and his party.

    "Anyone can make a coded message!" the Serperior scoffed. "Why back when I was in schooling, I'd use to pass messages to my sweetheart in law classes…"

    "So we almost had little Akins crawling around…?" the robin murmured, trying his hardest to fight back a visible grimace. "Truly a horrifying thought."

    The Serperior coiled behind his desk, giving a flick of his tongue. The Grass-Type's demeanor seemed strangely unmoved by Nico's barely disguised snark, the serpent shooting a smug grin across the room.

    "If this is really the best you can do, you really ought to give up now, attorney," the Grass-Type chided. "You've proved absolutely nothing about your clients' innocence."

    "But we just demonstrated-" the Fletchinder began.

    "The possibility that someone else made the diary. I know you're fond of such things," Akin corrected. "But who's to say that it can't just as easily belong to your clients? Or for that matter, that it can't just be some throwaway book for testing pens out?"

    "... Agh..."

    The audience began to clamor as Nico fumbled with his words, obviously having resorted to weak bluffs and wild leaps of logic to defend his clients. From their place at the docket, Eric, Sela and Hanuna deflated as they realized the gravity of this miserable turn of events.

    "We're so dead," Hanuna gulped.

    "I told you that we should've been our own attorney!" Sela snapped.

    "H-Hey! Spike lump!" Eric pleaded. "I-Isn't there anything else at all you can say?!"

    Nida paused, grasping for a defense to blurt out, only to quickly discover that everything she could think of wouldn't work and accomplished little other than stumbling over her own thoughts again and again. There really didn't seem to be anything to prove the pirates' innocence from where she stood... but perhaps she could still cast doubt on the accusations, at least?

    If there are no more objections," the Slowking Judge said. "I think I'm ready to hand down a verdict-"

    "Hold it!" Nida squeaked.

    All commotion stopped in the courtroom, replaced by an air of expectation as Nida found every eye in the room trained right on her. The Nidoran shrank back under the attention of the courtroom, but cleared her throat and hastily continued her objection nonetheless.

    "Uh… well, we did find some other stuff in the room along with the diary," the Nidoran explained. "We couldn't bring most of it, but we have at least one thing with us that I think doesn't seem like it fits with this case right now."

    "Eh?" Rita asked. "And what's that?"

    "We found this shipping list here."

    The Nidoran pawed through her satchel and pulled out a folded-up sheet of paper, giving it to Guardia to pass over to Nico. The Ground-Type made her way over and slipped the paper over, prompting the Fletchinder attorney to unfurl it, and his eyes to light up as he scanned its contents.

    "Witness, please add that statement to your testimony," the robin instructed.

    "Uh… okay... We also found this shipping list with the diary," Nida began. "There's a bunch of names and numbers for eggs with it."

    Slam!

    "OBJECTION!"

    All eyes turned to Nico as he pulled his wings up and pointed at the witness podium. The Fire-Type waved his feathers dramatically, before turning his gaze to his opposing prosecutor."

    "You were saying earlier that I didn't have any proof of my clients' innocence, Prosecutor Akin?" Nico said. "Well, I present to you this shipping list!"

    The Fletchinder snapped up the list in his beak, proudly unfurling it before the crowd of onlookers in the courtroom. Some confused murmurs went about when from his place at the Prosecutor's table, Akin eyed the paper, before giving an irritated hiss back.

    "How is that supposed to prove anything?" the serpent demanded.

    "You'll notice that this list is filled with the names of different crews. Why, the one for the crew my defendants are from even shows up for multiple dates," the Fletchinder explained. "Would a pirate crew trust three easily overpowered flunkies with a job like that?"

    "That was so not necessary…" Eric growled.

    "Oi, Eric," Sela snapped. "Don't undermine our case!"

    "It does seem a little implausible to believe…" the Judge murmured.

    "But the three just as easily could have been proxies!" Akin exclaimed. "And there's no proving that without either establishing what's in that diary or who wrote up the shipping list!"

    The Judge groaned as he pounded his gavel for order. The Slowking sighed as he regarded one party and then the other with a muttering grimace, evidently not finding either end of the debate wholly conclusive.

    "It doesn't seem like we have enough information either way to hand down a verdict," the Slowking said. "And I have a divorce proceeding to tend to in five minutes."

    "Oh, isn't that the case with the Zangoose and Seviper?" Rita asked.

    "Yes. It's an… excited case, to say the least," the Slowking sighed. "But anyhow, I'll leave the Prosecution and the Defense be until tomorrow to deliver more information about the owners of the shipping list and diary."

    Whap!

    The Psychic-Type brought his gavel down one last time in dismissal of the trial, and as soon as its pound rang out, a relieved audience began to flow out of the room. Team Traveller shuffled outside after the crowd had cleared while Nico and his assistant packed up their belongings, and they too breathed a sigh of relief once they were out of the courtroom. They'd managed to avoid a crisis in their first trial… somehow.

    "Gah… that should've been open and shut!" Guardia fumed. "They were obviously innocent! We even saw so!"

    "Getting smacked with a bone isn't admissible evidence in most places, just saying," Elty sighed.

    "Even so, just how are we supposed to get a lead on this diary and shipping list in a day?" Nida asked.

    "Hey."

    Team Traveller turned to see Cardino approaching them from the courtroom's door. The Pikachu's ears twitched inquisitively, their owner seeming visibly curious about some matter... involving them?

    "You mentioned that there was a secret room in the stadium, right?" Cardino asked. "Mind showing me around there?"

    "Eh?" Guardia asked. "Aren't you not able to get in there because of the tournament?"

    "Not anymore. It's a crime scene, pal," the Pikachu corrected. "And one that might be able to determine how tomorrow's trial plays out."

    "I guess that makes sense," Nida said. "Though are you sure that we won't get in trouble for this?"

    "Nah, not any more than usual from my end," the detective insisted, his nonchalance drawing skeptical frowns from his assistants.

    "Not sure if that was really reassuring…" Guardia murmured.

    "Well, we don't have any other leads right now," Nida said. "Come on, let's check it out."

    Cardino paused a minute as the three youngsters bounded out of the courtroom. The Electric-Type gave a skeptical tilt of his head before following along after his assistants. After such a tumultuous trial, surely there wouldn't be anything that could surprise them from a simple checkup...



    Back at the Vecioferàle Arena, the tournament had continued on in a cycle of battles, the audience again roaring in approval as the current set of teams engaged each other in pitched combat. In the midst of the raucous cheers and shouts, a Weavile snuck up along the stands, keeping a keen eye on the Protector's box. For a fleeting second, the young Legendary poked his head out, leading Ketu to follow it, and to notice an entrance several tiers below just to the right. The Dark-Type set off, slipping into the hallway and coming across a stairwell, where he began slipping up the flights of stairs. He went up a first flight, then a second, a third...

    "What are you doing here?"

    The Weavile tensed up and flashed his claws, whirling around to see the Clawitzer from offshore Sormus standing on her tail behind him. The weasel shifted his glance from the corner of his eyes for a moment down the hallway, before looking back with an annoyed frown.

    "I was out getting a stretch after my round to see the scenery," the Dark-Type scoffed. "Why? Something the matter?"

    "You seem just a bit unnaturally interested in the stadium when there's an entire city outside of it," Nagant said.

    Ketu flicked his feathers back and answered back with a shrug. The weasel watched a moment as the crustacean visibly fumed, before throwing a mischievous smirk at the Clawitzer captain.

    "You know, if you want an autograph, you can just ask nicely," the Dark-Type teased.

    The Weavile's remark was answered by a large chitinous claw being leveled at his face. The Dark-Type raised a brow skeptically before looking over to see its owner seething and wound up in an aggressive posture.

    "I want an explanation, and you can keep your back-sass to yourself!" the Clawitzer hissed. "You were at Sormus just the other day. Why are you here and in the tournament?"

    "My route just happened to take me here and entering the tournament sounded like a fun way to unwind during my crew's downtime," the Weavile insisted. "Nothing unusual."

    Nagant clicked her mandibles and sneered at him incredulously. 'Nothing unusual'? That was a bald-faced lie if she'd ever heard one!

    "Oh yeah, what are the odds of that?"

    "And a daring forward slash by the Druddigon from the Siglo Swanna!" Thalez's voice crackled. "That little tyke's got some fire in him!"

    Nagant and Ketu turned at the sound of the Rotom announcer, looking out onto the field just in time to see a young Druddigon spring back from a Delcatty's swipe with her tail. The pair watched as the young Dragon-Type weaved around the Double Slap, and rushed the Normal-Type, tackling her to the ground to a rousing cheer from the audience.

    As the roar of the audience reverberated from the audience, Nagant watched with her mandibles slackened. That Druddigon was none other than the youngling she'd run into all the way back in Kenobi! He was here too?! The Water-Type's disbelief was quickly detected by the Weavile with her, who turned and gave a smug smirk back at her.

    "Better than you think, Clawitzer," he answered. "It's not that big of a world anymore."

    Ketu's explanation drew an irritated hiss back from the Clawitzer. Even if the whole known world fit into a common sea now, there was no way she could believe that the black furball or the Druddigon on the field had just shown up here by happenstance. But dragging his feathered behind in without some pretext would accomplish little more than a scolding for being hot-headed and acting on lack of evidence… Was there any way at all to make him slip up?

    "Hmph, whatever. But let me ask you something else," Nagant demanded. "Back in Sormus you mentioned that you were just the acting captain. What species is the ship's normal captain?"

    The Weavile paused and tilted his head puzzledly at the question, which prompted Nagant to click her claws impatiently. The Water-Type spoke up to press further, only for the weasel cut her off with a dismissive shrug.

    "That would be a Mothim by the name of 'Captain Elmer'," he answered. "I don't believe that either of you two have met before, so feel free to believe me or not."

    Nagant blinked at the response, she was certain that the weasel would've said something that would have wound up pointing to Commissioner Lyn. Perhaps he wouldn't have been so clumsy to outright say his name, but still… Something. Even so, this 'Elmer' felt vaguely familiar, though she couldn't pin down why…

    Bah! A hunch was far from the evidence she needed! So for now, she supposed she had no choice but to relent here.

    "… That's fair enough," she grunted. "You shouldn't be keeping your captain waiting for too long. He'll put you out of a job."

    "Oh trust me," Ketu replied. "I know my boundaries when it comes to my captain-"

    "Another thing," the shrimp added.

    "Hrm?"

    Nagant glowered harshly at the Weavile, and gestured from her eyes with her little claw before pointing forcefully to his.

    "I'll be watching you."

    The Clawitzer made her way back for Pleo's chamber as Ketu watched before turning back into the stadium. The shrimp was certainly an imposing obstacle in the way of retrieving the Protector and just as formidable a pursuer should they actually nab him back. Perhaps she was just a bit too much trouble to be left alone without having to… conveniently make her disappear. Much as he'd done to displace Lyn's old Absol First Mate.

    … But then again, going with that route would have its own set of headaches. She was definitely more experienced in battle than Lyn's old First Mate ever was, and there certainly wouldn't be any higher-ranking allies to easily sweep matters under the rug here in Imperial territory were the Clawitzer to abruptly leave the stage. The Weavile shook his head and made his way down the stairs, deciding that his best odds of retrieving the Protector lay in not forcing a confrontation with the shrimp…

    For now, anyways.



    Cardino followed Team Traveller through Tidemill's canal-side streets, and back to the lower levels of the Vecioferàle Arena. His assistants led him down one winding hallway after another, until they neared a familiar poster down one such hall, prompting Elty to gesture ahead with one paw.

    "That's it over there," the Growlithe grunted, pointing at the poster.

    "Eh? But this looks like just another poster," Cardino replied. "And nobody's guarding it."

    "Must be our lucky day, then," Nida murmured. "Because when I do this…"

    Cardino looked on with mild amusement as first Elty, then Guardia, and finally Nida formed a tower by climbing atop one another's shoulders. Although it was a sight to behold, it wasn't one totally unfamiliar to him; he'd heard now and again of rescue teams forming such towers while exploring dungeons. He watched as the Nidoran pawed around beneath the poster until the group heard the audible pressing of a switch. Team Traveller dismounted their tower as the section of wall bearing the poster swiveled wide open ahead of them and revealed the staircase leading down into the darkness below.

    "It opens like a charm," the Poison-Type said. Cardino blinked incredulously for a moment, waving a paw in the newly-opened passage to confirm to himself that it was not an illusion, before mumbling in thought.

    "… Huh," the Pikachu remarked. "Talk about hiding in plain sight."

    The group made their way down the stairs deeper into the darkened chamber. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, the team felt around for the crate where the lantern had been, only to find naught but stone flooring. Team Traveller groped around in the dark, before a sudden, electrifying flash of light rang out and lit up the room. The three flinched and looked back to see Cardino had created a ball of lightning on the tip of his tail that lit up the room… and revealed it to be completely barren.

    "Eh?!" Guardia exclaimed. "They cleaned it out already?!"

    "I mean they have had several hours by now," Elty countered. "Wouldn't you also clean it out?"

    Cardino's nose wrinkled as he sniffed at the ground, recoiling slightly at the strong scent of wood and hay. Could this scent have been left by whoever it was his assistants had seen earlier?

    "Well, they must not have covered their tracks too well," Cardino murmured. "I can smell something was here. Let's try to see if they missed anything-"

    The Pikachu cut himself off as the sound of footsteps down the stairwell froze the Electric-type in alarm, ears and tail held straight warily. Team Traveller glanced about the room, trying to make out the intruders, but the telltale drone of buzzing wings answered the question first.

    "They went this way!" a chittering voice barked.

    Team Traveller froze and went wide-eyed at the sound of the voice, recognizing it to be a Yanmega's. An uncomfortably familiar Yanmega…

    "W-Wait a minute," Elty stammered. "That's-!"

    Team Traveller watched as Cardino looked up in alarm, the three starting to whirl around, only to be summarily knocked off their feet by a cutting gust of wind.

    "AGH!"

    The three heard Cardino shout after them and staggered up as the detective darted over, grimacing as they looked up and saw none other than Alvise, Nori, and Valatos making their way down the stairs, grinning maliciously all the while.

    "Surprise, runts!" the Yanmega buzzed. "We decided to rope you into a pre-match warmup! First exercise, doing a jig on your spines!"

    "Yeah, you didn't think that we were just gonna let you prance around here and show your ugly mugs without doing something about it," Nori growled "Did you?"

    "Wait a minute, why are you here?" Elty demanded. "You're supposed to still be with the Iron Fleet!"

    "Details," Alvise scoffed. "All that matters is that we're here in the same tournament, and you're here in whatever this weird room is, with us."

    "So why wait for a matchup?" Valatos asked. "We'll have some fun with you. Right here and now."

    The three brigands fanned out at the base of the stairs, settling into aggressive postures as they crept nearer and nearer to Team Traveller. The three youngsters backpedaled uneasily, only for Cardino to step out in front and wave his paws for a stop.

    "Hold it!" the Pikachu exclaimed. "I'm Detective Cardino with the City Guard! These three are my assistants! You can't just go taking a swing at them!"

    For a moment, there was an audible silence as Valatos, Nori, and Alvise traded looks with one another, before turning back to the Pikachu with dismissive snorts.

    "Pah, and just why are we supposed to care about that, rodent?" Nori sneered.

    "Yeah, I don't care if you're royalty, little rat," Valatos hissed. "Get out of our way, or get beaten with them."

    Cardino blinked and twitched his nose uneasily at the stranger's pointed rebuffal. Team Traveller tensed up, watching as the Electric-Type licked a paw and slicked the fur on his head back, before continuing on with the glowering pirates in front of him.

    "Hey, let's not get hasty here!" the Pikachu began. "I'm sure that whatever little argument's going on between you all's something we can settle with a little-"

    Team Traveller screwed their eyes shut as the room suddenly flashed a blinding white from the ball of lightning on the rodent's tail. The Electric-Type threw it at the feet of the intruders with a yelp, Nida, Elty, and Guardia cracking their eyes open to see Valatos and his companions groping around in a blinded daze as Cardino hopped back.

    "Alright!" the Pikachu cried. "Time to book it!"

    At the Pikachu's prompting, the three youngsters took off running down the tunnel at the end of the room, slipping down a dark, stony passage as the sounds of angry buzzing carried on from behind them.

    "Grr! You're gonna regret that dirty trick, you little runts!" the dragonfly hissed. "Kom terug hier!"

    The four carried on as their eyes began to adjust to the darkness, revealing a dank stone tunnel that was occasionally lit by dim lanterns filled with glowmoss well past its prime. All the while, the sounds of shouting and footfalls rang out behind them, drawing closer and closer as the group charged on ahead.

    "Friends of yours?" Cardino asked.

    "What do you think?!" Elty snapped.

    The group spotted light ahead at the tunnel and dashed ahead, the stone walls melting away into a winding maze of stacks of crates. Cardino and his assistants darted out, weaving from one crate to the other and found themselves on an enclosed dock, looking around wildly until they spotted the sight of an open, watery canal up ahead and a wooden catwalk wrapping around the stadium to the side.

    "Ah! There!" the Nidoran cried. "We can take that exit out of-!"

    "Going somewhere?!"

    Team Traveller hit the floor as a flying bone shot out in front of them, the Bonemerang arcing around and clipping Cardino in the head with a yelp before returning to a crate beside them, where Nori stepped out into the open. The trio hastily pulled up their Pikachu ally and turned to run, only to see Valatos and Alvise come up from behind, and encircle them with visible satisfaction.

    "I believe we had a little catching up to do from last time," the wolf sneered. "Hope you like seeing stars, twerps-"

    "Hey!" a low, rumbling voice barked. "Someone's here!"

    "Give it a rest already," a hissing voice groaned back. "We've been searching for the punks edging into our turf and come up with nothing but footprints."

    "No, let's check it out," a hound-like voice ordered. "I think Carlo's onto something."

    Both Team Traveller and their foes looked around puzzledly for the source of the voice, noticing that Alvise's fur was standing up even more than normal, and his face had flushed pale. The group's collective attention turned to see a Swampert and a Salazzle in black scarves each with a red lightning bolt making their way for them, flanking a larger and visibly stunned Manectric in the same garb who Alvise visibly recoiled from.

    "Gih!"

    "Wha-?!" the other Manectric spluttered, "Alvise?!"

    "Alvise?" the Swampert asked. "Wait, isn't that your brother, Luca?"

    For a moment, the different Pokémon traded incredulous stares with one another as Luca's gaze hardened into a fierce glare at the smaller Manectric. Alvise for his part was particularly attuned to his brother's mood, prompting him to trade nervous looks with his teammates before whirling around in a stammering panic.

    "Yeah, forget this!" the Manectric whined. "I'm outta here!"

    "Eh?!" the Yanmega demanded. "But who the he- Hey!"

    Valatos and Nori winced as Alvise bolted away from the scene towards the arena. They glanced at the shifty strangers they'd met and opted to follow suit after their comrade. The Manectric among the team of strangers grit his teeth as sparks danced angrily along his hide, and the Electric-type dashed forward after them to give chase.

    "Don't let that furbrain get away!" Luca shouted.

    The Yanmega and Marowak hastily caught up to their fleeing companion, Nori looking over his shoulder and crying out for the group to duck. The three dove to the ground, going wide-eyed as some attacks zipped overhead, and a glance back revealing the three strangers were in hot pursuit after them.

    "Gah!" Nori cried. "Get off our tail already!"

    The Marowak brought his club overhead and slammed it into a wooden support beam on the side of the tunnel with visible vigor. A resounding crack rang out as the beam broke and the walls sagged, much to the three strangers' alarm, prompting them to dive out of the way in opposing directions as the roof caved in with a plume of dust. As the dust settled, the trio saw that the mouth of the tunnel had been filled almost to the top with bricks and rubble, the sound of Valatos and his companions retreating reaching the three's ears. At once, Luca launched himself onto the rubble, trying to kick away enough of it to create a passage while his Swampert companion threw aside a few rocks… and his Salazzle companion rolled her eyes and threw a claw over her face.

    "Well, that was quite the reunion," the Salazzle sighed.

    "Understatement much there, Giusy?" the Swampert retorted.

    Team Traveller blinked incredulously as the three strangers got up from the rubble pile. The Manectric evidently was Alvise's brother, but as the group watched the Electric-Type growl out of frustration, one mystery kept swirling in their minds... what on earth had gone on between those two?

    "Grr… lousy deadbeat thinks he can just waltz in here and show his mug like nothing happened?" Luca growled. "Well, he's got another-"

    "So… this might be a bit of a bad time, but I need to pay a visit to the Don."

    The Manectric and his companions blinked, before glancing down to see Cardino waiting for them. Scowls split their faces, the lot of them making no effort to hide their displeasure with the rat's intrusion.

    "Yeah, and just who are you supposed to be?" Luca demanded.

    "I'm Cardino, Detective with the City Guard," the Pikachu answered. "And I'm going to need the Don to answer a few questions from me."

    The three strangers looked at one another for a moment, before dissolving into open, derisive laughter in unison at the detective's attempted ultimatum. Team Traveller backpedaled nervously at this. The strangers being so open about their contempt for Cardino surely didn't bode well for them, presently in the role of his assistants...

    "What are you gonna do?" the Swampert sneered. "Arrest him?"

    "Yeah," the Salazzle added. "The guards haven't been able to prove any charges in ages!"

    "That might change. We found an egg-trafficking den just here in the stadium, and last I checked, this was the Saéta Family's territory. Your territory," the Electric Mouse Pokemon countered. "As such, I can't really say if he's in the clear over it or not."

    All joviality left the strangers at Cardino's words, and the lot of them glowered and growled at the party. The Manectric among them paused in thought before shaking his head with a scoff, clearly none too pleased with the tone the little rat had chosen to take with him.

    "Oh, you can get an audience," Luca growled. "I can't guarantee you can leave afterwards, though."

    Team Traveller blanched and traded uneasy looks with one another at the Manectric's comment. Going along anywhere with these Pokémon just seemed like it was begging for trouble… On the other hand, the fates of Eric, Sela, and Hanuna were hanging in the balance, and it did seem unlikely they'd find any other leads this good…

    "I accept," the Pikachu said. "Though I need to run it by my-"

    "We'll come too," Nida answered.

    "Yeah," Guardia added. "It's safer if we stick together."

    The Manectric paced forward and loomed over the gathered Pokémon, the Electric-Type lingering a bit before lowering his snout to their level with a low growl and piercing scowl.

    "Looks like it's your lucky day then," Luca grunted. "Let's go."

    The three shifty characters quickly surrounded the other group, jostling them along down the catwalk into the crowded streets of Tidemill. All the while, Team Traveller kept a nervous eye on their surroundings, hoping to the Travellers above that they hadn't just made a terrible mistake.



    Author's Notes:

    - najemnik - Polish: "mercenary"
    - cunìcio - Venetian: "rabbit"
    - Gliger (グライガー) - Japanese: "Gligar" (Official Romanization)
    - Kom terug hier! - Dutch: "Get back here!"
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2018
  14. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Jeez, the pirates just continue to muck up their attempts to be threatening in any capacity. Made all the better by Hess tempting fate at the start of that scene. You pretty much knew something was bound to go wrong, but that was surprisingly quick (and silly).

    Let's move onto the tournament proper, I guess? There's certainly a sense of scale to the descriptors of the stadium and I got a chuckle out of Elty suggesting they try to forfeit. And then...

    This is another Undertale reference, isn't it? I haven't played the game, but I remember seeing something during AGDQ17 about a Robot David Bowie who's rather... over-the-top and super show business-y. I swear some of these lines are from there, but I've only seen a speedrun and so I really can't say for certain. Still, it's pretty fitting for a Rotom, I suppose, since they're supposed to be a pretty trollish species. At least, it's more entertaining than the Rotom Dex. I will never stop being salty about that. <.<

    And, at last! Reunion time! I'm very glad this happened sooner, rather than later. Because, yes, the stadium was super big and lots was happening. But if that opening ceremony had somehow managed to go by and the tournament really started without these two parties finding each other, I'd have definitely called foul there. And yay for continuity in Guardia recognizing Crom!

    For Team Traveler's battle, at least initially it goes badly. Which makes sense. I'm not saying Pleo was carrying the team or anything but– nah, forget it, he was the offense, defense, and special teams. And, predictably, without him things don't go over all that well for Team Traveler at first. They need to try and apply a little finesse, which is something I feel like we haven't seen in quite awhile, since their previous battles were against foes they were hopelessly outmatched against, or there were other, mitigating factors that didn't make them the only targets.

    Somewhere across Ultra Space, Lillie is throwing a fit right now. Alternatively, Sneasel is that you?

    Wouldn't be a tournament if there wasn't a "snarky commentator tells folks to skip a match," joke. ^^;

    I see Nagant discovers Ketu, which leads me to, again, suspect something bad's about to happen. Except then we cut to court and...

    Okay, yeah, I think it's time to boot up an Ace Attorney soundtrack...

    That Slowking is very clearly channeling affable ol' Udgey here. And why Akin is, of all prosecutors, Winston Payne (and 3-1 Payne, to be precise) is quite baffling. We're in the Empire, where's my stuffy Edgeworth/Von Karma or pious Lucario-Sahdmadhi, dang it? Now, with Team Traveler testifying all at one, we seem to be channeling the mob cross examination of the Layton crossover (and DGS, but us Westerners are never getting that one). And, by god, we have the classic "all is lost, judge is about to go Guilty but it's a witness to the rescue moment" that's mandatory for every AA case. What am I reading right now? Don't get me wrong, it's hilarious. But it's so out of left field for me (and so very game-ish) that I can understand if other readers might be a little put off by the whole routine. Especially if they're more invested in all the tournament stuff.

    Get outta here, Cardino. I'll only accept, well, a Gumshoos stealing Detective Gumshoes' lines. You're, like, Bruce Goodman-tier at best. :V

    Yes, Nagant, you take that sleazy Weavile down a peg or three!

    When the characters are aware of how ridiculous it is that they keep running into each other. :p

    You mean to tell me a disaster-sensing Pokémon couldn't even sense it's own impending betrayal? <.<;

    And then we have things ending off with... the mafia? Well, here I thought this would be a straightforward arc, despite the number of factions in it. But I was dead wrong. And I'm going to need to look back at this review before the next chapter because, wow, that's a lot to keep track of.
     
  15. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Ayy, time to finally catch up here.

    I'd never considered that flying-types could have their wings clipped like real birds. The lack of reaction from Pleo in chapter 55 was surprising to me at first, but it makes sense. His focus is more on trying to get back to his friends and his real home. Not only does him not being able to fly emphasize just how powerless he is, but it gives the whole situation a sense of hopelessness that is overall portrayed pretty well in these chapters. The scenes where Berecien, Niilo, and Cabot try to cheer him up are sweet in an awkward "we know this isn't going to work, but we're gonna try anyway" way. Cabot being able to cheer up Pleo once in chapter 56 is surprising, and I do wonder if he'll end up switching to Team Traveller's side at some point in the future. As it stands, right now their attempts to cheer up ol' Pleo are failing because it feels more like a chore and so what they say is a lot less heartfelt, I think. Then again, they're kinda super restricted and not able to give Pleo anything besides what he wants, so... it's not entirely their fault, I guess.

    Okay, kind of got to rambling there. Basically, I feel for Pleo's plight in many ways, and I'm glad at least the trio assigned to him isn't downright cruel like some of the other 'mons he's run into.

    I think I mentioned before that Guardia's character was kind of lacking compared to the rest of Team Traveller, but I saw a lot of development in these chapters. Her lorekeeper practices come into play a lot more, and I enjoyed seeing them, particularly when she just wants to declare Eric and co. innocent or guilty by throwing clubs at their heads. XD On a related note, her finally being able to meet the rest of the crew in chapter 57 was great, too. Kiran kinda praising Nida for recruiting a new team member was sweet; I really do think Nida's proved herself to be capable of a leader type position over the course of the story. And really, I'm glad they're all finally reunited; they went through a lot to get to this point. The only puzzle piece missing now is Pleo, and... once that happens, I don't know. It feels to me like the story is coming to a close soon. Everything feels like it's coming to a head at this point. I may be wrong, but they've all been on a long, tough journey and I'd be super happy to see them home safe and sound ahd happy. ;_;

    Also, the Ace Attorney-esque scenes... Spot on. I smiled so hard reading though. XD In general that whole subplot is interesting as you delve into not only the law enforcement system some more, but also how they deal with actually prosecuting criminal 'mons.

    Till next time!
     
  16. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    I was short on characters this time, so some quotes had to be condensed. If you see '[...]' in yours, you know why.

    To be fair on Hess, underappreciated threats have a tendency to be the most damaging. But yes, the Iron Fleet have a just few too many self-owns at the moment to really pull off selling a sense of formidableness.

    Thalez did take a number of cues from Mettaton, yes. That said, I’m pretty sure that Thalez is less likely to cause grievous bodily harm by hanging around, even if he’s probably in the same tier of overwroughtness.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, though that reunion’s not done just yet. They’re still missing one long-necked seagull from the team.

    To be fair, suddenly losing any member of a team forces some degree of transitioning going on. That said, I hope you found the eventual resolution to be suitably organic.

    I will say that Virgil134 and I were reading Guiding Light around that time and he thought it was a decent chance to make a nod, so… o3o

    I’m pretty sure that I’ve told you this, but you’ve hit the nail on the head for most of those. That said, Sahdmadhi would totes be a Jangmo-o line Pokémon. After all, they’ve both got that ‘long head adornment’ thing going on, and his family catchphrase isn’t exactly ‘a jackal never yields’. ^^;

    Nah, Pikachu’s the canonical detective Pokémon didn’t you know? :p

    To be fair, you have to trust someone in order to be betrayed. And I don’t think I can say with a straight face that Lyn’s old first mate ever trusted Ketu.

    As for not seeing the unfortunate turn of events with Ketu, we only know that Absol can sense impending disasters. Context-important details like ‘specific sites’, ‘specific timing’, and ‘specific events’ strike me as easy to get lost in the wind when usually ‘a meteor’s coming’ suffices.

    To be fair, the threads do wind up intersecting quite a bit, but yes. There’s quite the web of intrigue going on in this arc.

    Yeah, “taking someone away from their friends and the world they’ve known” is generally a hard nut to crack for cheering people up.

    Yes, he’s certainly hit a bit of a lucky hand, all things considered.

    Things are coming to a head as this arc’s intended to be a major watershed in the overall plot, though there’s still a ways to go in this story barring a drastic rewrite.

    I’m glad that you enjoyed it, and I’ll be looking forward to your impressions on the next installments.

    And it took a while to get together, but the next installment is finally here. Thanks to a short month and busy meta, I will only be targeting one update for the month of February, which should be the third-to-last installment of the broader arc. Special thanks goes to Virgil134 and sugoitsu from ff.net for helping to provide support that helped get this chapter out the door, as well as to the readers and reviewers who continue to tag along for this story’s wild ride.

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

    [​IMG]

    As the afternoon sun began its drift westward in the sky, Team Traveller carried on along Tidemill's winding streets along with their… most unusual black-scarved escorts. Along the whole walk away from the arena, Luca and his cronies flanked them with a keen eye, seemingly ready to come to blows at a moment's notice. Even more disconcertingly, whenever the group would carry down a street, a frigid aura would settle over the area, as other Pokémon would interrupt their goings-on to give the black-scarved passersby a wide berth.

    Eventually, the Manectric guide and his companions took the group to a shaded street that had its entrance partly blocked off by crates with a Machoke and Raticate in black scarves standing guard. The pair eyed the newcomers suspiciously, only for Luca to wave them through, and bring them in to a back lane completely devoid of other Pokémon, the Machoke and Raticate glaring after them all the while.

    "So Cardino, who are these guys exactly?" Nida whispered.

    "Yeah, I don't really like the looks they're giving us," Elty murmured. "And the streets around here are deserted."

    "They're associates of Saéta, the biggest crime lord in the city," the Pikachu answered. "These parts around central Tidemill are their main turf, and they're just a little touchy about-"

    "Oi! Tourist! Save your explanations for someone who cares!"

    The surrounding shaded street and its canal shimmered and vanished into a darkened space. Nida, Elty, and Guardia looked around in hasty glances about the dimly-lit space, their eyes adjusting to see they were inside a warehouse with a lattice of crude wooden balconies and offices. On the wall ahead, there was a balcony patrolled by a dark taupe-furred fox with a thick mane billowing from his head, the creature visibly glowering down at his startled 'guests'.

    "A-Ah! The huts and street just vanished!" Guardia cried. "And there's that black furry yajū over there!"

    "That would be Savio," the Swampert ahead grunted. "He handles our… cover to keep unwanted guests from poking their heads in."

    "Or finding their way out," the Salazzle snarled.

    Nida gulped at the lizard's enunciation, trying to not think too hard at what became of the Pokémon that failed to find their way out. Was coming here with Cardino really the best idea? Though given how they'd been fooled into thinking they were in a street all this time, was turning back even an option right now?

    "Up the stairs and to your right," Luca instructed. "You'd better have a good reason for this meeting. The Don has less patience than me for wastes of his time."

    The Manectric gestured off to the wooden flight of stairs leading up to a catwalk along the edge of the warehouse. At the end of the stairwell loomed an imposing-looking door, cracked slightly ajar to let in glimmers of light from the other end. The three ruffians marched their unwelcome guests along, shoving them along the remainder of the catwalk and through the opened door. To Team Traveller's surprise, in contrast to the shabby appearance of the rest of the warehouse, the room was remarkably well-furnished and draped with light curtains.

    On one far side of the room was a set of shuttered windows, offering a glimpse of the domes and parapets of Tidemill City's center, along with a view of the ships sailing to and from the harbor. On the other wall hung portraits of various Pokemon; The sun's rays shone through the curtains of the room just enough to see that many of the pictures featured similar-looking, steely-eyed Manectric in black scarves. Finally, in the middle of the room and closer to the entryway, was a dark wooden table surrounded by silken cushions, with a wizened Manectric sitting comfortably before noticing his guests. He rose, and his muzzle turned downwards into a hard frown.

    "Ah, you're back earlier than I expected, Luca," the elder Manectric murmured. "These are the little parasites that have been operating on our territory?"

    The elder wolf's hostility caused Team Traveller to grimace. Elty in particular seemed noticeably unnerved, the Growlithe's fur standing on end as he yelped in their defense at the accusation.

    "N-Now hold on here!" Elty stammered. "That's not-!"

    Before he could finish, the Fire-Type was cut off with a sharp bite at his shoulder, drawing a pained yelp. The Puppy Pokémon shrank back, lowering his ears and pulling his tail between his legs as the Manectric beside him spat up a few stray hairs with a growl.

    "Quiet," Luca snapped, before turning to his elder counterpart. "They're associates with this rat here. Thinks he's some sorta hotshot detective."

    "I am a detective," the Pikachu corrected. "The name's Cardino, and this is a team that I contracted to help me out with my current case. We're here since we had a few questions for you about it."

    A tense silence hung over the room as Don Saéta glowered down at Cardino, one brow raised skeptically. The elderly Manectric trained a withering glare on the unflappable detective for a while, before shifting his gaze to his son's companions.

    "… Carlo. Giusy. Take five at the door," the elderly wolf instructed. "I'd like to hear what my son and his guests have to say."

    The Swampert and Salazzle nodded and withdrew to the doorway, though they didn't leave the room. Instead, the two settled themselves at opposing sides of the exit, keeping a keen eye on their superior as he neared, and on the three youngsters as well.

    "Hrmph, you are here to do something other than trying to tie me to some trouble an associate got into, right?" Saéta demanded. "The City Guard haven't been able to any time they tried in the past, and they sent more than a rat and some pups fresh out of a guild for that."

    "That's entirely dependent on where the facts of my case lead," Cardino answered, shooting a determined glare back. "I came to ask you about it since I thought you might know a thing or two about it."

    "Oh?" the Manectric scoffed. "And just what would that be?"

    "Earlier this afternoon, my associates discovered an egg-smuggling operation in the tunnels underneath the Vecioferàle Arena," the Pikachu explained. "The City Guard already know that your 'mons operate around there, so that begs the question… Who was there and why were they on your turf?"

    THUNK

    The elderly Manectric slammed a paw down on the floor, forcefully enough to kick up a small swirl of dust underfoot. A low, dangerous growl rumbled from his throat, and he glared down at the lot of them, sparks dancing angrily off of his pelt.

    "I'm not sure what your guests are trying to imply here, Luca," the elderly Electric-Type snapped. "But I don't think that I like it."

    "Our organization doesn't do theft, much less egg theft. We stick to reselling from free traders and selling protective services," the younger Manectric growled. "If you don't want an abrupt swim in the canal outside the window, I'd suggest that you not bring that up again."

    "But we know what we saw in there!" Guardia insisted. "If it's your territory and you didn't do it, then who would?"

    "Some common mànega that doesn't know their place," Luca answered. "Every now and then, the Guard breaks one up for crossing a bridge too far and another band of chuckleheads comes along to fill their role."

    "That's what I'd assigned Luca here to do," Saéta explained. "To find out who's been encroaching on our turf so we could… retire them."

    A cloud of unease fell over the room as Cardino and his assistants shifted uncomfortably. Given the Manectric's enunciation and their treatment so far, having a career ended by him and his lackeys didn't sound like the sort of experience anyone would look forward to… or live to talk about afterwards. That said, something wasn't adding up here. If Saéta and his pals were so slippery to the guards...

    "Eh? But then why has it taken so long for you to handle this?" Nida demanded. "I thought you said that the Guards didn't have anything to get you in trouble with."

    "Because as much as I'd like to make some goons sleep with the fishes, we'd need to make sure that settling this business wouldn't fall afoul of the Coordinator."

    The elder Manectric's words at once drew some hushed chatter from the doorway, the Swampert underling trading a blank glance with his Salazzle counterpart.

    "Never did get why that was supposed to be threatening," Carlo whispered. "I sleep with the fishes every night."

    "It's idiomatic, you dunce," Giusy countered.

    "Wait," Elty murmured. "The… Coordinator?"

    A dismissive scoff came from across the table. Team Traveller looked back to meet Saéta's eyes as he shook out his mane, before idly sliding a paw onto the desk before him.

    "I suppose that some prim and proper types like you wouldn't know, but he's the main fixer for our line of work here in Tidemill," the elder wolf sighed. "Whether you're a street gang, a free trader, or a proper organization like us, if you plan on staying in business for any length of time, you've got to go through him."

    "Eh? But Cardino said that you were the biggest crime lord here in Tidemill," Guardia said. "You mean there's someone even bigger?"

    "Please, 'crime' is so rude. But no, if we didn't get our more… sensitive operations cleared with the Coordinator and send him a cut every month, the guards would've made up a lead to bust pàre here and we'd have gotten turfed out years ago," Luca explained. "It happens to anyone who either stays in the business too long without going through the Coordinator... or else causes too much trouble for him to smooth over."

    "Eh? But according to the logs we found, the egg thieves have been operating for quite a while," Cardino insisted. "Just what we've found would point to them being active for at least over a year, if not more."

    A long, pregnant silence hung in the air. After shooting the others a cold, hard glare, the elderly Manectric spoke up, his response carrying with it an audible venom.

    "We haven't been dealing with this turf issue for more than a couple weeks," the Don murmured. "There's no way a common pack of street thugs could pull off an operation like that."

    "Sounds to me like this gang's a bunch of fall guys to be hung out to dry later," Luca added. "They wouldn't be the first one to be burned through either if this has really been going on for more than a year."

    The Don paused a moment, before furrowing his brow in realization. Any Pokémon in their business had to maintain some relationships to stay viable... Unless the 'mon with all the fall guys wasn't playing on their same level, who would be none other than...

    "The only 'mon who could make so many enemies in this town so quickly while still staying in business would be the Coordinator himself," Saéta said. "Anyone else would've either gotten bumped off, or run out of partners ages ago."

    Team Traveller murmured uneasily among themselves. On one level, given Saéta's lead, they knew exactly the sort of Pokémon they'd be looking for... But without any inkling to an identity or even a species, just how were they to narrow things down in a giant city like Tidemill?

    "Okay, and just where are we supposed to find this Coordinator?" Cardino demanded. "This 'fixer' of yours doesn't sound like he'd be operating out of some hole in the wall."

    "Start by looking in your own ranks, Detective," the elder Manectric sneered.

    Saéta's words hung in the air with a stunned quiet. After a spluttering moment to put things together, an awful thought crossed Cardino's mind. Could the wolf really have meant…

    "Wait. You mean he's in the guards?!" the Pikachu exclaimed.

    "Congratulations for realizing what everyone in the underworld's known for years," Luca sighed. "Now hurry up and get out."

    "Huh?!" Nida squeaked. "But we just-"

    "Rrrr…"

    The Nidoran flinched at the sound of a low growl, looking up to see Luca glaring at her with bared fangs, sparks dancing on his pelt. Whatever questions that the spike lump or her friends had, it was evident they weren't going to get an answer to them right now.

    "Question time's over," the younger Manectric snapped. "Get out before we change our minds."

    Team Traveller and their detective companion hastily ducked out of the office, coming out to see that the catwalk outside now opened to the outside of a building at late dusk overlooking a winding alleyway. The four traded uneasy looks with one another. This had to be the work of that Zoroark from earlier... but by the same token, it didn't make sense to try and tease out an exit beyond the 'alley' they were provided.

    The four carried on, making their way down the winding and deserted alley until they reached a noticeably-brighter archway guarded by the Machoke and Raticate from earlier. The group stepped through it, only to hear a loud slam behind them, turning back only to find that the sky above was still bright with the orange-ish hue of the early evening. The four looked behind them to see the arch they'd passed through had been replaced with a barred gateway behind the glaring guards, giving looks that all but screamed their impatience to be rid of the group.

    "… Hope we didn't forget anything back there," Elty muttered. "I'm not sure if I could find our track back through that."

    "Well, at least we got a lead for where to look next," Nida sighed. "So… we'd just need to start by checking the guards?"

    "But there's tons of guards in this city!" Guardia protested. "How are we supposed to narrow down which one's this 'Coordinator'?"

    Cardino shook his head, before casting his gaze out to the harbor. There, just inland from the sea along a canal, sat the squared-off headquarters of the City Guard. If they had to try and smoke out a bad apple from the ranks, there was only one reasonable way to go about it.

    "Simple," the Pikachu said. "We start from the top."

    The four of them set off on their journey back to the headquarters of the Guard. A thick tension hung over the air around the group as their minds drifted to the possibilities; just what kind of sordid matter would they uncover here...?



    "Come on…" Elty muttered. "There's gotta be something here."

    After their visit to Don Saéta's compound, Team Traveller and Cardino had made their way back to the Guards' Headquarters, their search taking them into the dimly lit inner rooms where personnel files were kept. The four rooted around, skimming through one packet of aged and dusty papers by the faint light of glow-moss for any hints as to what Pokémon among the guards could be the Coordinator. Amidst all their effort, so far they'd accomplished nothing other than to create a small pile of loose records on the floor, making Nida, Elty, and Guardia increasingly antsy about their lack of progress.

    "Cardino, we've been looking through these records for hours now and we still haven´t found anything," Nida sighed. "Are you sure we're going about this the right way?"

    "Yes. If the Coordinator is indeed someone highly ranked among the guards, there has to be a clue here in these records!" the Detective Pikachu insisted. "An unexplained absence, a suspicious numbers of sick days, anything that looks shifty or strange…"

    "But we haven't found anything!" Guardia exclaimed. "So does this mean the Coordinator is not in the guards?"

    "We shouldn't jump to conclusions like that so soon before searching everything thoroughly," the Electric-Type countered. "Like... aha!"

    Cardino's eyes lit up as he yanked a paper folder from a box, proudly spreading it out on the ground and beckoning his assistants to come and inspect it. The three members of Team Traveller darted over, coming to see their employer excitedly pointing at some runes under a chart laid out in even square rows.

    "Here we go! One of the Sergeants was apparently gone for a full month!" he cried. "That's something that stands out!"

    "… The writing in the margins says 'parental leave'," Elty said.

    The Pikachu blinked, squinting back at the scrawling in question. He stared blankly at it before reeling back, ears lowered and one paw behind his head accompanied by a sheepish grin.

    "Er… that would actually be a good reason, yes," Cardino chuckled. "Should've noticed that there was only one absence! Heh heh…"

    The detective's announcement drew an audible chorus of groans as Nida, Elty, and Guardia each slid paws over their faces in exasperation. Did they even have anything to show for their efforts right now?

    "Bah… so we learned nothing at all from this search!" Guardia grumbled.

    "Well, the Coordinator's obviously good at covering his tracks," Nida murmured. "So it'd have to be someone with a lot of power in order to do that…"

    "Oh yeah, that's totally gonna get a 'Not Guilty' verdict," Elty sighed. "We need to have someone to point our paws to! Not some hazy 'mon of mystery'!"

    Cardino flicked his ears uneasily before rubbing his chin in thought. The records room was probably their best bet for a lead... but after all this time spent cooped up in here, maybe it was worth switching up their tactics a bit.

    "Maybe we need to try tackling this from a different angle," the rodent mulled. "Come on, let's step outside and get some air."

    The Pikachu bade his assistants to follow him out of the records room, leading them past a drowsy Hoothoot at the front desk and out into the hallway. The four walked down a few flights of stairs to the central courtyard of the headquarters of the City Guard, pausing for a moment under the sun to breathe in the fresh air from the sea, only for their peace to suddenly be interrupted by the abrupt sound of a barking order.

    "Hey you, hurry up!" a trio of squawking voices snapped. "You've got rocks to be lugging and a busted-up wall with your name all over it!"

    "Alright! Alright!"

    The four Pokémon paused and did a double-take to their left, where they noticed a Furfrou in an bright orange scarf getting dragged along by a scowling Lurantis and Dodrio. As the pair and their moody companion passed along, Guardia blinked realizing that the Furfrou seemed just a little too familiar.

    "Eh?" the Cubone asked. "Didn't we just see that Trimmien the other day in a different scarf?"

    "Hrmph. Means that he's already been sentenced to a punishment," Elty said. "It's unlikely we'll be seeing him around this compound again."

    "And your wall would be fixed faster if you lazy bums did the work yourself!" the Furfrou snapped.

    "… Never say never," Nida sighed. "Especially with that attitude."

    Cardino paused to watch the guards escort the Furfrou away. The Electric-Type moved a paw thoughtfully to his chin, when he suddenly perked up, his eyes alight with a sudden realization.

    "Wait a minute… the big shots from that ship!" the Pikachu exclaimed. "One of them had to have met the Coordinator to set up that trade!"

    "Yeah, but how do we know that any of them are still here?" Nida demanded.

    The rodent paused to paw at his chin in thought a moment to mull his options. To talk with the any of Sibich's leading underlings, he'd need to go through the guards that worked around the prison. But he never did get a chance to memorize their daily beats, and they always seemed to be loath to talk while on the job… why, he'd have to go and flag one down in person off-duty to get an idea of what was going on!

    Tromp tromp tromp

    The Pikachu looked up at the sound of heavy footfalls, looking to see a Bastiodon in guard's attire passing down the hall with a small rucksack of food. Hold on a minute, he'd seen this 'mon before! He was pushing that Furfrou from earlier around just yesterday!

    "Only one way to find out…" Cardino murmured. "Hey, Bastiodon!"

    The Steel-Type paused and blinked a moment, before giving a curious glance back. The dinosaur shook his head and carefully turned around in the corridor, lowering his head with a quizzical tilt to address his rodent inquirer.

    "Hrm?"

    "Are any of the high-value prisoners from that captured ship still imprisoned here?" the Electric-Type asked. "The first mate? A escort captain, maybe?"

    "As far as I know, all of those 'mons have been already sentenced except for the captain," the Bastiodon answered. "Can't imagine why with the plea deal he took, though."

    "Plea deal?" Guardia asked. "What's going to happen to him?"

    "Six months of trash collection," the dinosaur explained. "With a sentence like that, they might as well have let him walk out the detention center on the first day!"

    Nida, Elty, and Guardia blinked and traded blank looks with one another at the Bastiodon's reply. Cardino similarly wrinkled his nose in skepticism; what sort of pirate captain got sentenced for anything for six months? The only plausible explanation was that someone had interfered in Sibich's sentencing, but just who could the Coordinator have been in the guards to have that sort of power?

    "… How long did you say the Captain would still be in here again?" Cardino asked.

    "Pretty sure his sentencing's tomorrow," the Bastiodon mulled. "Why?"

    "My associates and I have some questions for him."

    "Well, you know where the visitor's room is," the guard replied. "Make your way over there, and I'll have him brought out to chat up."

    The four bade farewell to the Bastiodon and made their way across the courtyard. The guards at the doorway let them through into the detention center, after which Cardino and his assistants retraced their steps through the facility's corridors in the direction of the interrogation room. The journey there was quite familiar; just as before, the cell block remained dimly lit, the same fetid smell hung in the air, and the same metal bars divided the hall's cells from the main walkway... but something was different, this time. The cells were sparsely-populated compared to before, and everyone left seemed to be bear the patterns of the Marked. Their journey concluded as the four reached their destination of the interrogation room and sat waiting, the idle time allowing them to mull over this revelation. How could it be that every Pokemon remaining was Marked? There had certainly been more Marked than normal in the cells the other day, but surely a few of the remaining prisoners ought to have been unmarked, right?

    They considered the situation of the Marked as a thoughtful silence hung over the room, broken only by a loud clank from outside the door on the opposite side of the room. The door swung open, and the form of a Cofagrigus made itself apparent. He floated into the room, and the gathered Pokemon made note of his unusual bindings, dotted with attached bells that jingled after every movement. The Ghost-type glowered across the interrogation table as the guards secured him further, sliding his arms into metallic shackles and attaching some sounding bells around the lot. Satisfied with their work, the guards nodded at the Pokemon across the table and moved to clear out of the room, slamming the door behind them and leaving a solitary Pinsir on watch. Sibich rolled his eyes at the indignity of his treatment, before turning his attention to the youngsters before him.

    "Ah, the Guardian's friends," the Ghost-Type sneered. "I didn't expect to see you here."

    Nida, Elty, and Guardia reflexively gulped and tensed up at the sight of the Cofagrigus as he radiated an aura of outward hostility. Cardino puzzled at the spectacle for a moment, before turning back to the Ghost-Type prisoner with a dismissive shake of his head.

    "I see you all have met before," Cardino grunted. "But let's skip the pleasantries and get down to business: we've got some questions for you."

    "And just what would those be?" Sibich demanded.

    "What was your crew doing trying to get those eggs, and what do you know about the Coordinator?"

    The Cofagrigus scoffed at the Pikachu's question, flashing his teeth menacingly from across the table.

    "I have no idea what you're talking about or who this 'Coordinator' is. As for the eggs, I merely instructed my crew to grab the most valuable things they could find," the Ghost-Type answered. "Some of them obviously interpreted it in a much more unseemly way than I intended. If I knew about it, I can assure you, they'd have walked the plank ages ago."

    Elty narrowed his eyes and growled back at Sibich. Was he even trying to be convincing here?

    "What kind of lame excuse is that?" the Growlithe snorted. "Even the captain on my old crew knew what was going on with the Pokémon under his command, so how's one of the captains of the Council supposed to be that oblivious?"

    The Cofagrigus slipped his arms further through his shackles, bringing his inky black hands together to tent his fingers, shifting his gaze to the Fire-Type.

    "As you know, I deal a bit more extensively with Marked in my crews," Sibich explained. "I'd thought their more insular tendencies could be worked around given past experience; clearly, I was wrong."

    The Ghost-Type's mouth curled into the faintest of smiles, the Cofagrigus sinking down low to the floor as he trained a taunting gaze on his interrogators.

    "That's why the court accepted my offer of a plea deal for helping to find the real bad eggs in my crew," the wraith sneered. "Really, you should talk more to some of the Marked. When I heard of all the... interesting affairs they were up to, I was shocked that the court even extended them plea deals instead of banishing the lot!"

    "And that's why all of them are still in detention?" the Pikachu prodded.

    "Of course. The courts in the Empire prefer to process the more serious offenders towards the end," Sibich replied. "It's a shame the Marked in my crew would choose to dabble in such affairs, but it's not like they could count on the judge's sympathy either way."

    "Then why were Eric, Sela, and Hanuna so adamant that they didn't steal the eggs?" Nida demanded. "We've found evidence they could be telling the truth, too."

    A smug grin split the Cofagrigus' face. His four arms came together, tenting the fingers on each set of hands innocuously. He played with his fingers for a moment, letting Nida's allegation hang in the air awhile before responding.

    "Ah, but you've established a possibility, not a proof. My crew understands that we stand together, or fall divided. And those Pokémon you brought up have chosen to fall," Sibich retorted. "Even if they did get found innocent, I'm sure one of their more clear-headed peers wouldn't see it that way and want to... rectify the situation."

    "So basically, you're threatening 'mons like them to stay in line or pay the price," Elty growled.

    "My, those are some serious allegations, pup," the Cofagrigus scoffed. "Do you have any proof of such claims?"

    In unison, Team Traveller glared across the table at the Ghost-Type. Here they had the real culprit backed against the wall, and he was just bragging to them that they couldn't prove a thing! But... was that really the case, they wondered? Surely, of all things, their prized evidence from the previous trial ought to get some kind of reaction from him...

    "How's this for proof, then?" Cardino snapped.

    Sibich was answered by a loud thud, looking to see that the Pikachu had thrown a tome with the hand-shaped sigil of the Shadow Brigade onto the table. The wraith reflexively reached for the book, only to find his bindings keeping the diary just out of his reach. The Cofagrigus had a fierce flash of frustration cross his eyes, before turning his attention back across the table with an irritated scowl.

    "It is, yes," Sibich replied. "And what of it?"

    "Then why don't you help decode it for us?" Cardino asked. "If you're really looking to help flush out the 'bad eggs' in your crew, your diary should be able to help while backing up your story, right?"

    The Ghost-Type paused, a dangerous look flashing across his eyes. He scowled fiercely, a low hiss emanating from within him.

    "I have a right to my own privacy," the Cofagrigus snapped. "Though good luck finding anything of note from it. As I'm sure you've already discovered, it's not easy reading without knowing how to interpret it properly."

    "But you-" Nida began. Before the Nidoran could finish, Sibich raised a hand for silence and held it up to the gathered Pokémon.'

    "I'm done talking here," the wraith growled. "I've got a sentencing tomorrow to attend, and I don't need you giving me even more stress over it."

    The door swung open as the guards returned to the room, undoing the Cofagrigus' shackles and marching him off as he looked back with a taunting glance. As the door slammed back shut, Cardino pounded a paw against the table and buried his head in his other paw, his cheeks flashing sparks. The mood among his assistants was little improved, the lot still glaring after the door where the Ghost-Type exited.

    "Grr... we oughta get that fiend at the other end of a Honebūmeran!" Guardia growled. "I just know the dead would find him guilty in a heartbeat!"

    "Well they don't allow that in court, so what do we do now?" Elty sighed. "We still don't have anything to work with to make the case that Eric and his friends are being set up."

    "... Maybe we overlooked something," Cardino murmured.

    "Huh?!" Nida exclaimed. "What do you mean?!"

    "Sibich was very confident we wouldn't find the decoder," the Pikachu explained. "The evidence room's a giant mess, so it could very well be hidden among other evidence the guards have already collected and we wouldn't know any better about it."

    "Egh… I suppose we don't have many leads," Guardia admitted. "But I'm not confident about our odds here."

    "It's worth a shot, isn't it?" the Electric-Type asked. "Come on, let's go take a look."

    Cardino got to his feet and began walking for the door, prompting Team Traveller to fish the journal off the table and follow grudgingly. All the while, Nida kept a vacant stare on her face, dreading what was sure to be a long night trying to find any lead at all for decrypting Sibich's diary.



    "Alright, how about this one Protector?"

    Berecien nosed at a page of a book with large, bold runes scattered about it under the silvery glow of moonlight. The Ponyta had enthusiastically taken the lead after Queen Aleria had assigned him and his companions to be tutors, which had inspired him to the palace's library in order to start with a simple primer.

    Unfortunately for the Fire-Type and his companions, their progress had been… lacking, to say the least. Almost immediately into the lecture, Berecien discovered that the young Protector knew naught but a handful of runes, scrapping the original plans for literature. Mathematics all but put him (and Niilo as well) to sleep just with simple exercises, even after Cabot took over the lecturing. Their current attempt at basic vocabulary was also going far from swimmingly, no matter who attempted to take the lead. Time and time again, Berecien and his companions would nose or paw at a rune on the pages of 'The Imperial Lexicon', just as he did with the jagged squiggle he currently was on. Much as the last times, the seabird stared blankly at it for a moment, before turning unsurely to the Ponyta.

    "Uh… 'Snake' ?" Pleo replied, only to be answered by a trio of exasperated groans.

    "No, it's 'Thunder'" the Ponyta sighed. "See? Doesn't it look kinda like a thunderbolt when you squint at it?"

    "I… guess?" the Lugia answered.

    "Well... at least it's going better than when we tried to teach him to write…" Niilo sighed. "But maybe we should try moving on to another subject for now?"

    "But how's he supposed to study anything without being able to read?" Berecien protested. "He can't do math without it, he can't do literature…"

    Cabot audibly mulled a bit as he turned his eyes about the library. There were certainly plenty of books to work with here, but none of their subjects would be worth anything if the Protector couldn't read them. Plus with all of the older tomes around, and the old paintings and sculptures, would they really hold up to the stresses of a younger student?

    Wait a minute… why not use the paintings and sculptures themselves to make a lesson around them? It would be a little tricky since he'd never gotten the hang of all the fine details on his own, but...

    "What about history?" Cabot offered. "I think we've got enough stuff to do a simple primer on the Empire's history here."

    The seabird craned his head up, giving a blank blinking stare. What… exactly did the Cranidos want him to do here, and what was...?

    "… 'The Empire's history'? Why is that important?"

    "Because it'll help you as our new Protector to learn about things that have happened in the past," Niilo explained. "In our case, how the Empire came to be through King Aquila's endeavors."

    "King… Who?"

    "Look over there," Cabot said, moving his claw up to a large portrait of a Staraptor with a crown, spreading his wings with a leftward gaze.

    "That's King Aquila," the Cranidos explained. "The legendary hero and first King of all Anyilla."

    "Eh? But why was he made king?" Pleo asked.

    "Because of his exploits as a hero who brought peace between the Marked and other Pokémon here in Anyilla," Berecien explained. "It all started when he was discovered from a metal cocoon that fell from the sky above, a dazed Starly who remembered naught but his name…"

    The Ponyta carried on with a peculiar tale about the Starly drifting from village to village and becoming renowned for strength and wisdom after joining the company of a Chespin that he formed a Rescue Team with. The rest of the tale went by in an increasingly hazy blur as Pleo settled against the ground struggling to keep his eyes open. He looked around, and while looking at the bookshelves, noticed a faint spark of electricity, following them to see a large, metal saucer of a Pokémon with an indigo scarf float cautiously out from behind it.

    "Huh? Wasn't that that flying... saucer thingy from last night?" Pleo murmured.

    "Eh?"

    Cabot and his companions turned to the shelves where Pleo gestured off to, only to notice the Magnezone and jolted up with a surprise. Why, this was none other than the famed...

    "Admiral Coil?" Cabot murmured. "What are you doing here at this hour?"

    Startled, the Magnezone bobbed upwards, his magnets twirling out of surprise. After a tense pause, the Electric-Type returned to his normal level and stilled his magnetic limbs, recomposing himself as he tilted his body downwards to better face his questioners.

    "Ah, I was just coming by to grab a book before sleep," the Magnezone answered. "You're the Pokémon assigned to tutor the Protector, I presume. Smooth progress, I trust?"

    The Magnet Area Pokémon's question was met by tired, unamused looks back. Cabot and Berecien struggled to find the right words to describe their trials to the admiral, only for Niilo to beat them to the punch with his normal, blunt phrasing.

    "I'm pretty sure that I'm not getting paid enough in my contract to do this," the pangolin sighed.

    The Sandslash's explanation was met by a swat from a fiery tail, followed by a glare from his Ponyta teammate. Berecien turned his attention back to the Magnezone, giving a shake of his head and hasty clearing of his throat.

    "What he meant to say is that we're working through a few unexpected complications," the Fire-Type corrected. "But I'm sure that things will be fine, Admiral. The Protector just needs a chance to warm up."

    Ah... well I'll just clear the way for you then," Coil said. "Good luck with your efforts."

    The Magnezone began to turn and float off, drifting away from Pleo and his three tutors. Before he could slip off entirely, a loud voice called out from behind.

    "Wait!"

    Coil looked back and saw Cabot having darted up behind him. The Cranidos tapped his claws together, fumbling with his tongue as he tried to speak up to the Electric-Type.

    "I… just wanted to say, thank you," the Cranidos said. "For coming to my hometown's help earlier."

    The Magnezone bobbed and spun his magnets at the dinosaur's thanks. After a moment's quiet, the admiral floated down to the Cranidos' eye level, before giving a smiling answer back.

    "It was nothing," the Electric-Type replied. "I was merely doing what needed to be done for the sake of Her Majesty's realm."

    Cabot nodded, before starting to make his way back to the group, grateful that Admiral Coil had waited on him before leaving. As the Magnezone slipped away out of earshot, the Cranidos returned to the table, just in time to see Berecien drop his forced smile and turn his attention back to Niilo with a fierce glare.

    "Mind your tongue around your superiors next time, sand rat," Berecien snorted. "You're lucky the Admiral didn't have you discharged on the spot right then and there."

    "Meh, he seemed pretty chill with it to me," Niilo scoffed. "Besides, we've got teaching to get back to-"

    "Yaaaaaaah"

    The Sandslash and his companions blinked at the sight of Pleo opening his beak with a loud yawn, trying to shake himself awake with uneasy beats of his wings. Niilo looked at the drowsy seabird, and then up at the sky, noticing that the moon had already slipped past its midpoint, with Time Lord's Traveller already well to the east of it, a sign as clear as day that it was just past midnight.

    "Err... now that he mentions it, it is getting a little late," the Ground-Type murmured.

    "I suppose it's as good a time as any to call it a night…" Cabot yawned. "I'll lead him over to his chambers."

    "Right, we'll catch up again tomorrow," Berecien said.

    The Ponyta and Sandslash set off, slipping off into the library as Cabot beckoned Pleo to follow him. The young Protector followed after his Cranidos guide, only to deliberately slow his pace before ducking off into a row of bookshelves along the wall. The young Protector made his way along the shelves, wondering to himself what caught that saucer Pokémon's eyes around here. Each of the bookshelves were packed with dusty tomes with labels he couldn't read, and there didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary... By chance, the Protector opted to look upward, where he noticed a tapestry above him.

    It was of a village burning with blotched Pokémon fighting with a Staraptor and other Pokémon in indigo scarves. A little further down was another, depicting the Staraptor at the center of a group of Pokémon sternly looking at each other at a desk full of papers, the left side filled with Pokémon with blotches on their heads that had a visible reluctance about them. From there, there was a picture of the Staraptor with a Starly perched on a branch overlooking a town with a castle built on seaside bluffs, followed by one with the Staraptor and a Staravia flying at sea with ships following after them.

    "Huh? Was that the next king?" Pleo murmured to himself.

    The young Lugia carried on, moving onto a portrait of two Staraptor, one visibly aged and the other young and lively. The next one showed the young Staraptor full of sorrow, standing before a glinting statue of the elder hawk with him nowhere to be seen. From there, the paintings seemed to grow more somber in color and tone. There was one with the seas churning showing the Staraptor fighting with a Milotic, one showing ships and Pokémon fighting at sea, and another depicting the blotched Pokémon being chased into a mountain full of fog.

    Pleo paused and ruffled his feathers uncomfortably, having an uneasy feeling about the contents of the paintings and decided that perhaps it was better to turn his attention to the books on the shelf. He stopped in front of a book with a silvery-white binding and a paper jutting out the top, opening it and leafing through its pages only to discover...

    "Aw... there's no pictures."

    The young Lugia took the book with his beak and began to slide it back, when an envelope with a design depicting a five-pointed star made of leaves fell out onto the ground. The seabird blinked incredulously, before setting the book aside and eying the paper container curiously.

    "Huh?"

    Pleo craned his neck down at the envelope, nosing it open with his beak to see a paper filled with colored runes in a strange, squarish chart. The Lugia blinked a moment at the strange letter, before looking back at the envelope as a dawning realization came upon him.

    "Wait a minute," Pleo murmured. "We used one of these to send my feather back to Tromba!"

    It really was one of those paper carrier thingies! And if it had been able to get a feather out to let his friends know he was okay back then... maybe he could do it again here! Maybe he'd even get a response again! ... Assuming he figured out a way to get his companions the envelope in the first place. But it seemed as good of a shot as any to try and hear from his friends once more, which prompted the bird to shake some feathers loose and scoop up the envelope with his beak.

    "Protector?"

    The young Lugia jumped up with a start and whirled around, hearing the sound of approaching footsteps. Not seeing anywhere to dispose of the envelope to find it later, the seabird hastily stuffed a beakful of feathers into the envelope and dabbed a little saliva on the edge and sealed it, stuffing it under his wings just as Cabot rounded the corner with a sleepy shake of his head.

    "You shouldn't wander off like that," the Cranidos sighed. "It's a big world full of mean 'mons who would want to hurt you."

    "But I wanted to look at the books!" Pleo protested, beating his wings out for emphasis. The Lugia's insistence drew a sigh and shake of the Fossil Pokémon's head, before opting to motion for the seabird to follow him and not give him too hard of a time over wandering off. Just what sort of trouble could he have gotten into just a few bookshelves away?

    "Alright… I'll get one to read to you tonight, okay?" the Rock-Type insisted. "But it's time for you to get some rest. Tomorrow's a big day."

    Cabot began to pace off, prompting the Lugia to look around before truding off after the Cranidos. As he followed along, Pleo shifted his wing over the envelope he discovered, pinning it tight against his body as he waddled onward. The young Lugia made his way out of the library, his thoughts drifting towards what he could say to his friends as the dinosaur led him off deeper through the darkened palace.



    (Continued in next post)
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
  17. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    "Well... this is it."

    Cabot motioned ahead from the doorway, pointing out a well-furnished room lit by the warm light of an oil lamp. In it, there was a set of furniture with a well-stocked bookshelf, a low table with seat-cushions, and a storage chest. The centerpiece of the set was a canopied bed made of rich, dark wood, with silken curtains framing a window that stared out into a collection of lights from the skies above and the lanterns from the rest of Tidemill below. In front of the bed, a small hoard of toys and amusements had been spread out in anticipation of the Protector's arrival, including a collection of Substitutes, some toy ships, a small pile of wooden blocks, and a silver looking-glass. The Cranidos smiled, giving a proud wag of his tail before turning back to the young Lugia full of enthusiastic cheer.

    "I know it wasn't ready yet your first night since you came kind of unexpectedly," the dinosaur said. "But this is where you'll be sleeping for a while."

    "I see…"

    Cabot pointed around the room with a smile, giving a contented nod of his head, only to notice that things were uncomfortably quiet. The Cranidos looked back and discovered that much to his dismay, Pleo seemed wholly uninterested in the room, giving a lethargic, unhappy peck at his wing feathers. Hasty to try and liven the mood, the Rock-Type waved his paws, and tried to draw the young Protector's attention back to his surroundings.

    "I mean it's not all bad, it's a nicer room than mine and there's tons of fun stuff here!" Cabot offered. "Maybe you could play pretend with those Substitute Dolls over there, and I think these model ships can float if you wanted to bring them to swim in a fountain or something…"

    The Cranidos trailed off as he noticed that his young charge was still staring off into space, seemingly unfazed by any of the toys in the room. The little Protector evidently wasn't much in the mood to play, but there had to be something that would lift his spirits...

    "Uh… er… there's even some books on the shelf you might like once you learn how to read," the dinosaur offered. "Since you're not there yet, I can read one for you before you go to sleep."

    "But... where do I sleep?" Pleo asked.

    "Oh? Right there of course," Cabot answered.

    The Cranidos pointed off at the large, silken mattress on the bed. On it, the bedding was adorned with silk cloth spread over it and smaller cushions set on the edges underneath a curtained canopy. The dinosaur watched as the young Lugia blinked confusedly, before the seabird turned back to him with a puzzled tilt of his head.

    "But there's no straw."

    The Lugia's answer made Cabot splutter in confusion and consternation. He'd expected the Protector to be over the moon after seeing the sumptuous bed, not to treat it as if there was something wrong with it!

    "But- But this is how really important and powerful Pokémon sleep!" the Cranidos exclaimed. "This is an improvement over those straw clumps you've been sleeping on!"

    "But it doesn't look like any bed I've ever seen!" the young Protector squawked back.

    "Just try it?" Cabot pleaded. "I promise that it'll feel better than any straw bed you've slept on so far."

    Pleo looked at the bed and then at Cabot before warily waddling up to it and climbing onto the mattress. The young Protector settled atop it, and after finding it surprisingly soft and comfortable, settled in, curiously poking his body under the sheets as Cabot walked over.

    "See?" the Rock-Type asked. "Perfect place to listen to a bedtime story, isn't it?"

    The young seabird gave a wag of his tail and chirped contently as he sank into the bedding. Relieved, Cabot breathed out a thankful sigh, his own tail beginning to move back and forth from the happier turn of events.

    "Alright," Cabot murmured. "Now let's see if there's anything good on that shelf…"

    The Cranidos got up and began to thumb through the books on the shelf, quickly realizing that they were all written in mind for young Pokémon. The Rock-Type leafed through titles such as The Three Little Trial-Goers and Brave Prince Goldenrod only to suddenly hear a voice from behind.

    "… It's 'Cabot,' right?"

    Cabot stopped his claws abruptly and blinked a moment out of surprise at hearing his name, starting to look over his shoulder.

    "Huh?"

    The Cranidos turned back and saw the Protector sitting up, craning his head high to look after him with a curious tilt of his head.

    "Your name, it's 'Cabot,' isn't it?" Pleo asked. "That was what your friends were calling you."

    "That's right, has a good ring to it, don't you think?" the Fossil Pokémon chuckled. "Why do you ask?"

    "Well…" Pleo murmured. "I was wondering if you could give a message to my friends."

    The young Lugia batted his wings, shaking loose an envelope with a leaf sigil onto the the bed. At once, his Cranidos caretaker jumped up with a start, darting over to the bed in a flustered rush.

    "E-Eh?! Where'd you get that?!" Cabot stammered. "We didn't give you any envelopes!"

    "I found it in the library and I was thinking that maybe it would help send a message to my friends. To tell them that I'm okay?" the young Lugia explained. "You'd help with that, wouldn't you?"

    The dinosaur hemmed and hawed at the Lugia's request, keenly noting that the envelope bore the stationery of a high-ranking member of the Empire. Had the Protector snuck off and taken it for himself while he wasn't looking? If so, he couldn't just let him send off a letter in that envelope! If he wrote something incendiary on it, Nagant would have his hide over that!

    "I- I mean, you already are visible at the stadium every day…" Cabot began. "And I really shouldn't be-"

    "Pleeease?"

    Cabot looked up and saw Pleo craning his head down, his eyes glistening and his lower beak quivering. The Cranidos blinked and paused uneasily a moment. This certainly was something that could get him into trouble… But when the Protector had trouble recognizing anything beyond a small clawful of runes, wouldn't it be more likely he just wanted to send something like a drawing?

    "I'll try and slip it into their fan mail," the dinosaur offered, as he lowered a claw over the envelope. "But you need to promise to keep quiet about this, okay?"

    "Alright," Pleo replied. "But there was one more thing that I wanted…"

    The Cranidos blinked, before looking up puzzledly at the young Lugia. He hadn't snuck off with a second envelope, had he?

    "Hrm?"

    "Did you pick a story yet?" the bird asked.

    "Yeah, I think I'll tell you about the tale of The Summoner's Journey," the Rock-Type offered. "Doesn't that sound fun, Protector?"

    "Eh? But my name's Pleo," Pleo insisted.

    The young bird's insistence made Cabot blink out of surprise for a moment, the dinosaur pausing as a small smile spread over his face.

    "Right. But I'm sure you'll like it, Pleo," the Cranidos insisted. "I picked this one out since there were lots of pictures, which I'm sure you'll love."

    "Oh!" the bird cried. "Can you show me, Cabot?"

    "Of course!" the little dinosaur cheered.

    The Cranidos clambered atop the bed and sat next to Pleo, cracking open the book to begin reading passages of a fairy tale about a spiral-like land where the Spirit World interacted more regularly with the world of the living. All the while, Pleo sank into his bedding, his eyelids growing heavy as Cabot's tale continued on as a faint homliness settled upon him. Even if Cabot wasn't Nida, Pleo realized that he hadn't felt as at peace since the night he and his teammates entered Copperband, wondering if they were doing alright themselves.



    Before either of them knew it, Team Traveller and their peers from the Siglo Swellow found themselves back at the lower ring of the stands of the Vecioferàle Arena on the following morning. In contrast to Crom and his teammates' focused and ready demeanor, Nida and her companions spent the entire morning in a shambolic state. The three had spent most of the night scouring the Guards' Headquarters for any lead at all before finally returning to the Siglo Swellow to sleep for the night. There in the stands, the effects from the lack of rest were made evident by a loud yawn from the Nidoran captain, which drew concerned glances from her Druddigon teammate.

    "You feeling okay, Nida?" Crom murmured. "You guys seem so tired even though we all went to bed at the same time at the ship."

    "Well, we did spend the entire evening searching for evidence only to come up empty handed…" the Nidoran sighed.

    "I'm sure you'll find something, Nida," Kiran offered. "From what you've told me, it sounds like that captain wasn't expecting to be caught and had to improvise. If he really is trying to set up his subordinates, he's bound to have slipped up and left some proof behind."

    "Yeah, that's great," Elty grumbled. "But how do we find it in the next hour and a half without forfeiting our next match?"

    Nida opened her mouth to answer, only for a loud electric crackle to make her spring back with a start.

    "Good morning beauties and gentlebeauties!" Thalez greeted. "Hope you got some rest last night since this festival of mayhem's got no breaks on it!"

    The Nidoran looked up just in time to see Thalez zip by, circling in the air around the stands much to the crowd's cheering pleasure. Team Traveller's members stared as the Plasma Pokémon continued soaking up the audience's adulation, an annoyed scowl settling on Elty's face at the Ghost-Type's showboating.

    "Świetnie, just what we needed."

    "There's just 32 contenders left standing before the eighth-finals, so these matches will be flying by faster than you know it!" the Rotom cheered. "First up, is Team Swanna of Tromba versus Team Mirage from our very own Tidemill West!"

    "Oh that's us!" Crom exclaimed. "Looks like we're kicking off this round!"

    The Druddigon's enthusiasm failed to be mirrored by the rest of "Team Swanna", Ander in particular seemed to be unimpressed with the Rotom's announcement, giving an annoyed shake of his head.

    "Though he got our team name wrong... again." the Scyther sighed. "Though wasn't Team Mirage the one with that strange Pikachu we spotted in the evening matches? I don't think they'd be too hard for you to handle."

    Thalez continued on, moving on to a match between Team Wrecker along with one with 'Team Glyph'... Certainly a balanced-sounding matchup as Team Traveller looked over to see the sight of a group of Unown celebrating the announcement as a disinterested Rhyperior glanced over, evidently one of their opponents. Team Traveller was called up next, their next match pitting them against a 'Team Bedtime' which prompted the three to peer over and look at a group of visibly dozing Pokémon headed by a Munchlax… Nothing that they couldn't handle given that they couldn't stay awake through their own match assignment.

    The trio's thoughts turned back to the impending trial, and how little they had to show for their efforts. One after the other, Nida, Guardia, and Elty tried to tease out some potential angle they could still try, only to come up short until a loud buzz from Thalez's booth drew their attention back to the Rotom.

    "And there you have it folks!" the Ghost-Type crackled. "Those are all the matchups of the second round!"

    "Well at least it doesn't seem like we're matched up against anyone too tough…" Elty murmured. "Or Valatos and his buddies for that matter."

    "Don't tempt fate, Gardie," Guardia grumbled, only for her admonishment to be swiftly drowned out by Thalez's voice.

    "So without wasting any time, let's get the three sailors of the Siglo Swanna and Team Mirage onto the field so we can get the first battle started!" the Rotom cried, prompting a wave of cheers and applause to break forth from the stands.

    "Crom, Kiran, Dimitri," Pladur grunted. "That's your cue."

    "Yeah, stay sharp out there," Ander added.

    The Druddigon and his teammates strode onto the field, the beaming sunlight revealing a battlefield which had been rearranged to form a grassy, open field with a few stones in the center. All around them were the spectators' stands, packed to the rafters with Pokemon of every conceivable shape, size and type, the whole lot of them in an uproarious cheer as the teams made their way out. Crom scanned the lower portions of the audience and smiled as he caught sight of Nida, leaning over the edge as she waved eagerly to her teammate.

    "Buena suerte!" the Nidoran cheered. “We’ll be rooting for you!”

    "Right!" Crom grunted. "Time to show off what we've been learning!"

    The three watched warily as their opponents trotted out to the field, the team consisting of a ghostly, Pikachu-looking Pokémon up front flanked by a Masquerain and an Amoonguss. Crom and his teammates assumed their fighting stance as Thalez began his usual routine to hype the crowd up for the countdown, but their concentration was broken by a dismissive scoff from the other side of the field.

    "Ah, a team of sailors, huh?" the ghostly Pokémon sneered. "Be warned, it'll take more than a good eye for stars to see through our web of illusions!"

    "Wait, what was that supposed to mean-?" Dimitri began, only to be cut off by a deafening cry from the audience.

    "GO!"

    Caught off-guard by the sudden beginning of the match, Crom and his teammates jumped into battling stances with a start. The three glared ahead, seeing that the strange Pikachu and his team had already taken formation much more gracefully than they had. Kiran jumped to lead his own team with a sharp squawk in response.

    "Alright, like we drilled!" Kiran cried. "Stay sharp and focus on the foe that suits your fighting style best!"

    The trio charged ahead, Crom and Dimitri running along the battlefield in parallel with each other, as Kiran led the way from above. As the two teams neared each other, Kiran noticed the Amoonguss slowly trudging along the side, prompting him to dive at the Mushroom Pokémon in a swooping attack.

    "Gotcha- Gwark?!"

    A stream of hot, sticky bubbles sent Kiran stumbling back through the air and crashing down onto the arena floor unceremoniously. The bird hastily flicked the suds off of his plumage, kicking off the ground just in time to avoid another such assault from its culprit: the Masquerain who hovered over Kiran with a taunting sneer.

    "Hah! You'll need to try harder than that, Swellow," the Eyeball Pokémon jeered.

    As Kiran hastily darted off, Crom ran for the peculiar Pikachu, his maws opened for a crushing bite. The Dragon-Type noticed that the rat wasn't moving at all out of his way, filling him with a fiery confidence.

    "Heh, should have run while you could've!"

    "Oh trust me, I have nothing to fear," his opponent hissed back.

    Crom gave a guttural shout, only to feel a warm sensation at the back of his throat. The Dragon-Type went wide-eyed and reflexively spat up a bluish ball of light at the strange Pikachu, looking out stunned as the orb sailed along. Why, that was a Dragon Rage! Had he really grown that much in his journey? The Dragon-Type watched with excitement as the orb of fiery light barrelled into the Pikachu, surely enough to put him on the ropes… And watched as to his horror, the light orb dissipated with little effect other than to make the Pokémon backpedal with a light sting.

    "H-Huh?!" Crom exclaimed. "B-But you're a Pikachu!"

    "Correction, I'm a Mimikyu," the Pokémon hissed. "Could a Pikachu do this?"

    The Mimikyu abruptly whipped up a cloud of pinkish dust and lunged for the Druddigon. Much to Crom's astonishment, the creature shot out an inky, ribbon-like tentacle tipped with claws and swung it through the pinkish haze into his chin.

    "Agh!"

    Crom flew back and landed on his back stunned, the dust cloud moving over as the Druddigon felt a blow to his stomach and his arm. The Dragon-Type hastily righted himself and took off in a blind panic, the "Pikachu" giving chase with a hopping pursuit around the arena.

    "Oh no you don't!" Dimitri chittered.

    The Kabutops ran up as black wisps ran along his scythe, the vampire crab bringing his blade-like arm down with a slash at the Disguise Pokémon. The Mimikyu's head jerked back, sending the Ghost-Type tumbling away, only to rise up with its head hanging limply off, glaring back. As the Mimikyu shifted back into a battle-ready stance, Dimitri ran in to try and deliver another blow, sprinting for the Ghost-Type.

    "Hah!" the crab jeered. "Your evasion's lacking-"

    Dimitri shrieked in pain as he suddenly felt a large weight on his back along with a piercing sensation. The Kabutops thrashed wildly, throwing off the Amoonguss from his back just as the Grass-Type withdrew some vine-like protrusions behind his shield-like arms, their tips dyed a noticeably bluish tinge.

    "Oi!" the Mushroom Pokémon snapped. "You'll have to deal with me before you hack your way through our team!"

    "Dimitri! Tactical retreat!"

    The Amoongus whirled around at the sound of a loud squawk, only to be struck by a flying tackle from a speeding Swellow. The Grass-Type tumbled back from the impact, weakly propping himself from the arena floor. Groaning, he looked up, just in time to see Dimitri cut a wide arc across the air, leaving in its wake a blade of air that slashed him across the chest.

    "Nrk…"

    The Grass-Type lurched forward and limply toppled onto the ground, shaking loose a cloud of golden spores from his cap which billowed out to envelop his foe. Dimitri gasped with alarm, and accidentally inhaled the spores in the process. The crab quickly broke into a fit of wheezing as he felt every muscle in his body grow heavy and numb.

    "Agh!"

    From his vantage point high above, Kiran watched Dimitri stagger forward, struggling with all his might against the weight of paralysis. The Swellow turned to circle around the battle below, but his concentration was broken by a sharp yelp coming from somewhere behind him.

    "A-Aah! H-Help!"

    Kiran turned his attention backwards, where he spotted Crom tearing along the battlefield for dear life as the opposing team's Mimikyu chased after him closely, swiping just out of reach of the Druddigon's tail. The Swellow threw a hasty glance to each of his teammates before committing to a decision, turning to dive for his younger teammate.

    "Hang in the- Argh!"

    Before he could cover any meaningful distance, the Swellow was blown away and into the ground by a sudden Whirlwind. His place was quickly taken by Team Mirage's Masquerain, who flashed a glimmering light on her wingtips that lit up the arena floor and prompted the Mimikyu to shift his gaze to the Bug-Type. From his place further down the field, Crom kept running from his pursuer, only to notice that the Mimikyu's hops were growing fainter and going further away.

    "Huh?" Crom murmured. "Where's he goin-?"

    "Aaaagh!"

    The dragon whirled around at Dimitri's shriek of pain, turning to see that he had been mobbed by the Masquerain and Mimikyu, who'd pinned him down and surrounded him.

    "Dimitri!"

    Crom instinctively ran forward after his teammate, his Swellow mentor haggardly righting himself and leaping back into the air with spread wings as his breaths came out tired and exasperated.

    "Gah! I can't make sense of this team's strategy!" the Swellow squawked. "Every time we try to get a foothold, they always keep distracting us!"

    Crom kept fast on his path, mulling over Kiran's exclamation in the few moments he could spare as he closed the distance to Dimitri. He had passed up a good chance to really damage him earlier, but if the Mimikyu was just going to bolt right for Dimitri once he finally caught up, what was the point of coming after him so severely?

    Unless... chasing their team apart like this was the whole point?!

    "Hey wait a minute! That's it!" Crom exclaimed. "They're just picking off whoever they think's the most dangerous from our team first!"

    The Swellow blinked blankly for a moment, before having his gaze harden in firm determination, shouting out to his pupil below as he entered a steep dive.

    "Then let's turn their strategy around!" the bird cried. "Cover me!"

    Kiran flew out ahead of the group, sailing low above the ground directly for Team Mirage's still-standing members. At once, the Masquerain spotted him, and sounded the alarm with a loud buzz to her teammate.

    "Oi, Captain!" the Bug-Type buzzed. "We've a bogey to the right!"

    The Mimikyu whirled around just in time to spot the Swellow come barreling towards them. Unimpressed, the Ghost-type readied a claw for a swipe, throwing his arms back in preparation to bat it out at their incoming attacker.

    "Hrmph, this won't be difficult."

    The Mimikyu lurched forward to deliver his attack alongside his Masquerain teammate, only for their concentration to be broken by a blue blur lunging from behind. The Masquerain felt a heavy tackle from overhead and plummeted to the ground, lying dazed for a moment. She heard the noise of her Mimikyu partner shouting and the sound of him suddenly struggling with the Kabutops, and felt a rough, sandpapery claw abruptly yank a wing backwards. The bug grimaced in pain, beating her wings wildly in an attempt to catch sight of his surprise attacker.

    "Yeow!"

    On reflex alone, the Masquerain gave a deafening beat of her wings and jerked ahead as the sandpaper-like grip slackened, coupled with a pained yelp from its culprit. The Masquerain hastily whirled around to see Crom tottering in a daze, and further off, her teammate having knocked himself free of the Dimitri's attacks. Team Mirage's members looked around themselves and went wide-eyed at a sobering realization: their foes had them totally surrounded on every side!

    "Gah! It was a feint-!" the Mimikyu exclaimed, only to be cut off with a loud squawk.

    "See ya!"

    The Ghost-Type hastily turned to flee, his teammate's attempt to follow thwarted by an overpowering Whirlwind that sent the Masquerain flying back along the battlefield. The Bug-Type hastily tried to take to the air, only for Crom to run up and clamp down on her wings with his jaws. As the Druddigon struggled with the bug, Kiran strafed from above with a cutting wind and Dimitri staggered over, leaping to close the final distance and bring a scythe blow down on the Masquerain. The bug shrieked out of pain, tumbling on the ground and coming to a twitching, groaning stop on the arena floor. With their foes' flier downed, all eyes turned towards the last remaining opponent, the Mimikyu pulling himself up from the ground.

    "Davay!" Dimitri cried. "Let's do this!"



    "You've got this, Crom!"

    From their place in the stands, Team Traveller grew ecstatic as their friends turned the tables against Team Mirage. The Mimikyu hastily readied a slash of his claws, only to be driven back by a watery dash from Dimitri. The Ghost-Type tumbled along, swept up by a Whirlwind from Kiran that sent him flying along the grassy field, directly into the path of a waiting Druddigon with opened maw, who pounced on him… and bit down.

    "Eyaaaaaah!"

    The Mimikyu's shriek filled the air of the stadium, the Ghost-Type tottering as Crom let him go with his mouth, collapsing into a clump of tall grass. As soon as the Mimikyu hit the ground, the stands roared with approval, prompting Thalez excitedly chime in pronouncing the victor.

    "And Team Swanna wins the match with a surprising turnaround!" Thalez crackled. "Give it up for them, everybody!"

    On cue, the stands cheered even louder at the Rotom's prompting. From their place in the arena, Crom and his teammates stood amidst the grassy battlefield, soaking in the applause. As the three basked in the attention, the medics came to collect the members of Team Mirage as the victors began to trudge off for the stands. All the while, the audience's applause continued, including that of a visibly animated Nidoran from the lower rows.

    "He did it! He did it!" Nida cheered.

    "You mean his team did it," Guardia corrected. "Your Crimgan friend was struggling with that Pikachu-looking Pokémon."

    "Yeah, when that other team ganged up on Dimitri, I was sure that they weren't going to make it," Elty said. "Talk about quick thinking there-"

    "Hoy," a barking voice said from behind. "Are you 'Team Traveller'?"

    The three blinked and turned around, only to be surprised by a horned, forked-tailed dog with a satchel over his back waiting for them with a letter under his paws.

    "Er… who are you again?" Guardia asked.

    "I'm from the mailroom downstairs," the Houndoom explained. "You got a fan letter earlier in the day."

    The Dark-Type passed the envelope over, prompting Nida to scoop it up and examine it, seeing a star-shaped leaf design emblazoned on it. The trio traded puzzled looks with one another, before Elty turned his attention back to the courier, giving a confused fold of his right ear back.

    "Wait, we have fans here?" the Growlithe murmured.

    "I've heard of stranger things happening, but you've clearly been fighting well enough to impress someone here in Tidemill," the Houndoom answered. "Keep it up, and maybe you'll get some more."

    The black dog turned and slinked off further along the stands, leaving Team Traveller to crowd around the letter. Nida checked both sides of the envelope once again, only to see that beyond the presence of the leaf design on the front, there was no writing or marking whatsoever to tell them about where the letter had come from.

    "No sender or address…" the Poison-Type murmured. "Let's open it up and see who it's from."

    The Nidoran slipped the nails of her paws under the envelope and pulled the seal open, turning it over as a silvery-white feather fell out and settled on the ground. At once, the gathered Pokémon hopped back with a start and their mouths flopped open out of surprise, realizing that only one Pokémon in the Cradle could've sent a feather like that.

    "Zaczekaj chwilę! That's Pleo's!" Elty exclaimed.

    "How did he manage to send it?" Guardia asked. "We only saw him being trotted out on the first day and kept up there in that box!"

    Guardia's question gave pause to the Growlithe, who lowered his head in thought. It wasn't very likely that Pleo would just be given envelopes to send out freely, especially with how he had been kept so isolated from the rest of the crowd... Could it really have been Pleo that sent it?

    "Maybe it wasn't him that sent it," Elty mulled. "Let's see if there's a message in there. Maybe whoever sent it wants something."

    Elty flipped over the envelope once more, and after feeling something weighty between his teeth, shook the paper sleeve thoroughly to get at it. A quarter-folded sheet of paper, full of colorful runes, fell out of the envelope and onto the ground in front of them with notes in the margin.

    "'Match the position of the runes by color'," the Growlithe murmured.

    "Eh? Is that supposed to mean something among you hut-dwellers?" Guardia demanded. "I don't really understand what the writer wants."

    "… I'm stumped too," Nida sighed. "If I didn't know better, I'd think it was instructions for a weird game of checkers. But there's way too many colors and I don't see how doing the same move over and over again would help you win."

    The Growlithe paused and stared at the colored runes, comparing their positions in the left and right charts. One move repeated over and over again in a game would be fairly useless, but what if it was actually meant to shuffle things around instead? The Fire-Type blinked, suddenly realizing that as long of a shot as it sounded, maybe the team actually had something that could stand to be shuffled around like that...

    "Hey, did we ever give Cardino back the journal from yesterday?" Elty asked.

    I don't think we did?" Guardia answered. "But what does that book of your unreadable hut squiggles have to do with anything?"

    "I just wanted to try something out."

    Elty put his nose into the team bag and pulled out a piece of paper along with a writing pad and a charcoal nub, slipping the pad and nub over a forepaw. The Growlithe nosed the journal open and followed the text to the top of a page, carefully transcribing its contents, and then writing a second copy carefully shifting the runes around just as they had been on the two charts on the paper.

    "Ah! Hey wait a minute!" the Fire-Type yelped.

    The dog looked down at the transcribed text and noticed much to his astonishment that his still-incomplete second transcription started to have intelligible phrases in it. There was 'sandbar', 'merchant ship', 'captured loot'... Elty kept at his transcription as Nida watched, the dog carefully sketching out a short passage denoting a past raid in which the Shadow Brigade chased a merchant ship onto a sandbar and pillaged it before sailing off with captives to ransom. The rabbit looked up at the Fire-Type blankly, the two quickly coming to the realization that the paper was none other than...

    "This is a decoder!" Elty exclaimed. "And it works on Sibich's diary!"

    Guardia blinked, stunned at the discovery. There had to be some sort of catch, right? Well, it didn't seem so, as far as she could tell...

    "Wait, so you mean something unexpected finally went our way for a change?" the Cubone murmured.

    "How did Pleo find this? And how'd he know what it was?" Nida asked.

    "I dunno, but you can't argue with results," the Fire-Type grunted. "Come on, let's figure out what this thing says!"

    Nida looked up at the stands and for a fleeting moment, saw Pleo in the window of his box high up in the arena. A passing Exeggutor from the row in front blocked her vision briefly, and as soon as the Grass-Type left the Nidoran saw the young Protector slip behind the curtains prompting her to mutter a thanks under her breath. One way or another, they'd get him back home to where he belonged, she'd see to that even if it was the last thing she did.

    "We're back!"

    The three remaining members of Team Traveller looked up to see Crom and his companions walking in from their battle on the field just as the benched members of their team returned from a nearby stairwell with pawfuls of snacks. The Druddigon along with his Swellow and Kabutops teammates were obviously tired, but at the same time electrified with the thrill of victory. The young Dragon-Type gave a proud beat of his wings, darting up to his companions with special emphasis on his Nidoran teammate.

    "So what did you think?" Crom cheered. "That practice we did has been holding up pretty well, huh?"

    The Druddigon and his companions blinked and looked down at the papers spread out on the ground, tilting their heads curiously at the chart of colored runes with an emptied envelope set aside. They glanced back up to Elty, Nida, and Guardia and noticed the three were seemingly entranced by the mysterious chart.

    "Oh? What are you doing with that letter there?" Dimitri asked.

    "It's the decoder that we needed to read Sibich's diary!" Nida exclaimed. "Pleo found it and sent it to us!"

    "Huh?! Pleo did?!" Kiran squawked. "But how would he have been able to even get this to us through his guards?"

    "I dunno," Elty began. "But I say we worry about that later and find out what's in here first-"

    "And next up is Team Wrecker and Team Glyph!"

    Team Traveller grimaced at the sound of Thalez's voice, watching as the group of Unown from earlier floated off and a small crew of workers descended on the battlefield to start changing it around. A sinking realization dawned on the three, as they realized that the next match was due in just a matter of minutes and more importantly...

    "… That's the match right before ours," Nida murmured. "We'll probably have 15 minutes at most before we're on the field.

    Each member of Team Traveller glanced out to the field and then back at the journal, suddenly finding themselves paralyzed by indecision. The journal had to be decoded as much as possible before the trial, or else it would be nothing but a paperweight for Nico and Rita… But on the other paw, if they were no-shows to their next match, they'd forfeit the tournament by default, leaving all their hopes of getting to Pleo on just Crom's team...

    "We'll help while you're out there," Pladur said.

    "Huh?" Guardia murmured.

    "Get what you can done now," Ander offered. "We'll take over while you're fighting in your match."

    "Yeah, we're a team," Crom added. "We wouldn't just let you struggle on your own!"

    Team Traveller as a whole was stunned, at a loss for words. Even though it would complicate their plans to prepare for their next match, their old teammates were still willing to cover for them out of nothing else but their camaraderie... Nida's ears flicked back as a small, grateful smile spread across her face.

    "… Thank you."

    Carrying herself with a newfound determination, Nida perked her ears back up, stamping the ground emphatically.

    "Come on, let's get going!" the Nidoran squeaked. "That diary isn't going to decode itself!"

    With that, the group hastily cracked the diary open and set out the chart, each of the Pokémon grabbing a nub of charcoal and a piece of paper from the bag on Nida's shoulder in order to tackle a chunk of the tome for decryption. As much as there remained to be done to make it through the next trial and battle, for the first time in a day, there again seemed to be a ray of hope on the horizon.



    Author's Notes:

    - mànega - Venetian: "gang" (criminal)
    - pàre - Venetian: "father" (informal), "dad"
    - Trimmien (トリミアン) - Japanese: "Furfrou" (Official Romanization)
    - Buena suerte! - Spanish: "Good luck!"
    - Davay! (Давай!) - Russian: "Come on!" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2018
  18. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    So, the mafia wears scarves too? That's hilarious. Though, I guess, the whole think about the mob is that they're "hidding in plain sight," so to speak. Of course they've got the chutzpah to do something like that; they weasel out of all their crimes. I've been waiting six months on this site to use chutzpah in a review, and I'm so happy I finally made it work. *sniffle* I also like the idea of a Zoroark being used to cover the mob's tracks, so to speak. And I say that because it's rare to see anyone actually have Zoroark make illusions in its enviornment. That one in the movie could do it, but I feel like everyone casually dismisses that idea.

    And we're quickly introduced to our resident mafioso, who is also Alvise's dad, I believe? I'll admit, I wasn't sure exactly which mafia stereotypes you were going to be drawing from, here. It looks to be predominently Italian. I mean, I get Godfather fibes from Saéta's office, anyway. What I was not counting on was that there is, in fact, a bigger fish to fry in this scenario. And, in typical (fifth case) Ace Attorney form, it turns out that the bigger fish is the culprit and if the heroes are going to get anywhere, they've got to deal with him. On the other hand, a dirty cop is such an overdone thing, I wasn't particularly surprised in that regard. I'll see how it plays out before judging, of course.

    Athena: Nnngh! This situation's hopeless. Apollo, what am I gonna do?
    Apollo: Well, it's like Mr. Wright always says. In times like these, we've just got to turn our thinking around!
    I regret nothing!

    The interrogation of Sibich was also fun to read. He's got all the smug satisfaction of someone who knows he's getting away with something seriously underhanded, but enough of a silver tongue to talk his way around the whole situation. It's made better, of course, by Team Traveller's frustrated reactions to all of this. Normally those would be inner monologues, but given the cast size, you had to take some creative liberties. Doing things like having them glare at Sibich is, I think, a good intermediate step.

    Meanwhile, the beginning stuff with Pleo just makes me wonder what the Empire's thinking not contracting some sort of, y'know, professional tutor for the guy. You'd think the Queen would have at least a few at her beck and call. Although the scene as a whole felt like it kind of broke up the chapter for me (you couldn't really put it anywhere else, to be honest, but I'd gotten invested in the investigation stuff, so I was a bit disappointed with the transition), it's certainly sweet to see Cabot trying to make Pleo feel welcome. I mean, it's pretty much in his character b/c he wants to be everyone's friend. But it at least looks like it's working. And is going to get him in hot water. Also, why do I get bad vibes from Coil?

    Also, yay a Mimikyu! I'm not biased, I swear. To me, it looked like you were putting Mimikyu's and Masquerain's speed to good use, having them constantly faking out Crom's team and then double-teaming an unsuspecting foe. And then, of course, their strategy got turned against them. Because turnabouts are just the theme of this episode, I suppose. *ba-dum-tsssssh*

    That's about all I've got. Looks like we'll be getting to the bottom of the big mystery, thanks to Pleo's little delivery. I have a couple of thoughts in mind, but I'm pretty sure they're wrong, so I don't know what to expect.
     
  19. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    I lol'd. You really take advantage of real life idioms in the Pokemon world, and it both works well and is amusing. XD

    I'd equate "parental leave" with something to do with eggs. I don't know if it should've been written off as a legit excuse that easily.

    Ughhh, Cabot and Pleo in this chapter are super sweet. <3 Definitely the highlight of the chapter for me. Like... as time goes on, Cabot just gets kinder and kinder to Pleo. He doesn't seem to have any ulterior motives, or at least, not malicious ones. And he just keeps going above and beyond what his job description even requires of him. I hope they end up friends in the end.

    Wow. That's one serious case of laziness/exhaustion? XD

    I always enjoyed seeing everyone's determination to save Pleo and keep him safe, but there's something a bit more bittersweet about it here now that Pleo thinks they might be giving up on him and ignoring him. I'm sure he'll be ecstatic to know sending his feathers helped them in a massive way when they meet up again.

    Till next time. :)
     
  20. Spiteful Murkrow

    Spiteful Murkrow Early Game Encounter

    Well, like today's installment, it's a bit late, but in keeping with the crossing of the 40k view milestone, I'm back with another batch of trivia. This particular installment will be fairly character and location-focused, as there's still a few swerves left to happen in the plot of this episode in Giotto that couldn't be dealt with without giving out spoilers.

    How did you come up with Giotto?

    Giotto is one of the few cases in-story where the island's first sketches were defined by an abstract idea that it should serve as the seat of power to the Empire, along with a name, a corruption of "Johto". The island was eventually planned as having a Venetian theme thanks to a decision to style the capital on it after a mashup of Venice and Amsterdam, which seemed to fit as 'Giotto' still sounded like a plausibly Venetian-sounding name, and due to meta of Venice's history as a sea-based center of power. As for the Amsterdam portion of the hybridization, that influenced the description of the canal layouts and the presence of polders further afield of the city. During the run of the story, it was decided to debut Alola Form Pokémon on Giotto given its role as a major narrative checkpoint, which led to a decision to go ahead and hybridize the island thematically between Johto and Alola. For reasons obvious in the story, it was decided to make the island's name originate from its characteristics reminding its residents of a place in the Old World as opposed to being tightly connected to its past, as those of you who have read Casting Off may have discerned from a throwaway mention of the local Protector being Tapu Fini.

    How did you come up with Tidemill City?

    Tidemill City and its surroundings are the product of taking pre-modern Amsterdam's footprint of streets, canals, and dikes and plopping Venetian-styled architecture on top of it. Rather than a direct copy, the infrastructure has been adapted for Pokémon and pulls from historical features of even larger-scale cities from history such as Ancient Rome, which influenced the depiction of insulae-styled apartment blocks. In keeping with 'Giotto', the city pulls influences from Olivine City, which influenced the choice to make a lighthouse a portion of a prominent local landmark. As for the name, it is named after a type of mill used to grind flour and generate usable energy built by the sea exploiting wave energy, a relatively common feature of parts of the world with large numbers of dikes, which similarly influenced its beta name of "Watermill City".

    How did you come up with Vecioferàle Arena?

    Vecioferàle Arena was the product of splicing the Roman Colosseum together with some stadiums from the anime for design and layout, particularly the ones used for the regional conferences in the B/W season. The lighthouse attached to it was created fairly late into development, and added in order to better accentuate a Johto motif to the city.

    How did you come up with the Visitor District?

    The Visitor District was developed after a realization that Tidemill City felt a touch too open to outsiders for a world with pirates roaming around the seas. Fortunately for me, a reusable template for larger settlements had already been used in some capacity in Andaku in Kenobi, which led to the Visitor District being developed as a less crime-infested analogue akin to closed ports such as Dejima for Shogunate-era Japan. Although not a haunt for pirates, the Visitor District serves much the same purpose as Andaku, a place where strangers who are not fully trusted can be allowed in and dealt with while in theory remaining isolated from the rest of the island.

    How did you come up with the Trouble Center?

    The Trouble Center is an idea and terminology that was cribbed from Paper Mario: TTYD in order to expand on the premise of how requests for help outside of Mystery Dungeons would be dealt with in a PMD-esque setting. Those of you with good memories of the earlier parts of the story may recall that Nida mentioned that such requests were generally expected to be posted at establishments such as Juice Bars as opposed to the message boards of guilds, which given the density of a large city, seemed to be sufficient to support an entire business based around matching up Pokémon to take such odd jobs.

    How did you come up with the Empire's legal system?

    This is the somewhat lame part where I reveal that this episode had planning for Ace Attorney references for multiple years involving a scenario that would have Team Traveller caught up in uncovering a deep web of intrigue in the process of exonerating Eric, Sela, and Hanuna. Although the focus on courtroom antics was dialed back quite a bit for this episode, the fundamental Ace Attorney-style structure of "a judge handing down a sentence based upon presented evidence" (a.k.a. the system used in Japan until mid-2009) was retained since it both added an immediate contrast to the Company's more decree-based legal system where local rulers call the shots based off of outside feedback and the inherent needs of being able to process large volumes of prisoners at once lent themselves well to a system that in its original incarnation was explicitly stated to have been developed to an explosion in case load.

    How did you come up with the characters in the legal system?

    The characters in the Giotto legal system are fairly transparent references to characters from the Ace Attorney series. Cardino is based off of Detective Gumshoe and owes his name to an Italian pet name for 'Richard' much as Dick is in English, Pikachu being chosen due to its canonical status as a detective Pokémon. Although it should be fairly obvious by now, Nico is heavily based off of Phoenix Wright, his name being a riff off of his in-series pet name as 'Nick' and chosen to be a Fletchinder as a nod to phoenixes. Rita is based off of Maya Fey with her species chosen to be Misdreavus due to its morphological similarity to Maya's necklace and owes her name to 'Meg', a misnaming her inspiration character gets from a part of 1-4. While searching around for variants of the name, Virgil134 stumbled on 'Rita', and the rest was history. The Judge is based off of the Judge that presides over your cases in the first five games, with the choice of Slowking being chosen due to its simultaneous vibes as a wise but airheaded Pokémon. Akin is a fairly transparent take off of Winston Payne, down to the punny pain-based name which is a groaner pun off of 'aching'. Since Akin's inspirational character was a fairly straightforward example of a 'smug snake' archetype, his species was quickly settled on to be Serperior.

    How did you come up with Eric, Sela, and Hanuna?

    Eric, Sela, and Hanuna owe their origins to a group of characters created by Umbramatic that he refers to as the 'Booster Trio'. They were incorporated into this story thanks to them being particularly memorable, and their original incarnations origins as a band of thieves making them feel like a suitable fit for a setting infested with pirates.

    How did you come up with Nagant?

    Nagant was developed later into the course of pre-planning Fledglings as a conscious foil to Lyn from the side of the Empire. Specifically, she was envisioned to be a Pokémon who was in thrall to the past in a much more direct fashion than her Samurott counterpart, with her driving motivation for pursuing Pleo being to restore a happier time in her life.

    Nagant's species was decided fairly early on to be a Clawitzer, with her name being a nod to a line of firearms that saw service in early-20th century Russia, with the Mosin-Nagant rifle in particular being particularly influential, which also influenced her beta name 'Mosina'.

    How did you come up with Nagant's crew?

    At its core, Nagant's crew was envisioned as a hodgepodge of naval recruits, mercenaries, and press-ganged misfits that would reflect the Empire's scarcity of resources to throw at its naval fleet and give her a bit of a headache in the process. Her ship, after going through a number of chapters unnamed was ultimately dubbed the Vasilek, the Russian name for a cornflower, which is a symbol of nobility… and a mobile artillery piece.

    Jun owes his origin to a character premise suggested by Virgil134 of a very 'by-the-book' first mate that could serve as a foil to Nagant's relative laxity when it comes to rules and procedure (as evidenced by her precipitating multiple plot events by charging off on her own behind enemy lines). The decision to make the first mate a Beedrill came from the ability of many insects, including bees and wasps to see polarized light, which aids navigation by tracking the position of the sun even in conditions that would obscure its rays. The fact that he covered the skies as a complement to the waters that Nagant handles helped to reinforce that decision. Jun's name is a Korean name with the meaning of 'army', which seemed fitting given the martial nature of his character. During development 'Jeong' was also considered as a name for the character, but didn't make the cut since it didn't roll off the tongue quite as well.

    Cabot owes his origins to a character concept thrown around by Virgil134, which entailed putting in a cheery, optimistic, yet naive character who joined the navy out of desire to go on adventure. He was named after John and Sebastian Cabot, both real life explorers who were born in Venice. Given Cabot's personality and his origins from Giotto, the name seemed like a fitting match. During his creation, Cabot went through multiple evolutions in concept, going through beta names that included Alenquer, Nehsi, and humorously enough for those who have read Casting Off, Galton.

    Berecien owes his origins to a character from Venia Silente's Playfield, specifically the Rapidash running mate to Eltenios. The bond between the two originally was emphasized more beyond Elty and Berecien's current budding rivalry, with the original concept for Fledglings' incarnation of Berecien being of him as an Iron Fleet member who was pals with everyone's favorite Growlithe.

    Niilo is another character who owes his origins to a concept created by Virgil134, specifically of a character to fill the role of a mercenary who's mostly just in it for the money. His name is a Finnish version of Nick or Nicholas which was chosen for two reasons: the first being for irony value as Nicholas means "victory for the people", a far cry from the very money-oriented motives that everyone's favorite Sandslash sellclaw has shown off. The second reason is a matter of playing to type, as Nick is the name of the actor who plays Lance Hunter, a cynical mercenary character from Agents of SHIELD, whose premise influenced Niilo's character. Although his species has been fairly constant, during his creation, other names for Niilo were considered, which included Lance and Keihäs.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2018

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