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Just West of Paradise

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Hey everybody, it’s a bit out of the blue, but I’m back to kick off a fresh story to add to the collection. “What’s that, @Spiteful Murkrow , didn’t you already just start a new story not even two weeks ago that’s still on its first update?” you might ask? To which, I say, yes, and I’m still working on that one, though this one has the benefit of having been completed end-to-end for almost two weeks.

As for how that happened, this story was written for the PMD Writers United Discord’s Winter 2023 Writing Prompt, which was “Often unsung, the Shopkeeps of the Mystery Dungeon world have some equally interesting stories with their strange items and dangerous locales…”, which I took as an excuse to do something different and write something that’s actually from the canonical PMD game setting for once. Said writing prompt was tackled in the style of a Drabble Bingo, which turned into a little over 18,000 words in the version that was ultimately submitted.

Naturally, I won’t be unloading that all on you in one go, but rather as a series of 9 bite-sized installments following life through the eyes of a take on Post Town’s Kecleon merchant. I have exactly zero promises regarding pace of publishing or any hypothetical extensions to this story beyond that the last of the installments that I presently have written up at this point in time will be published on the anniversary of Gates to Infinity’s North American release on March 24th. So if you see me skip a week here or there, don’t worry, that’s me either touching up content that’s either already published or in the pipeline, focusing on my other writing priorities, or else just taking a break because I felt like it.

Special thanks goes to Arukona from FFN, who beta read the installments of this story right before Review Blitz 5 started, and to the proud Discord users of PMD Writers’ Union, PMD: Writers United, and a couple other Discord servers I’m probably forgetting at the moment who gave additional feedback and helped unjammed a few details during the process of initial writing.


And with that, let’s get to the real reason why you’re all here, to a glimpse of life in a small and easily overlookable town just west of Paradise:
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter


Swanna House



“Seriously? This is where we’re supposed to set up shop?”

Tipper scrunched his brow and let his mouth hang open as he stared at the boarded-up shop in front of him. He supposed that he should’ve seen this coming. When Dad said that a vacant franchise of Kecleon Market had opened up on the Mist Continent, Tipper thought that meant they’d be moving to Noe Town with its rock-hewn buildings and the metal towers it’d been putting up in recent years.

And yet, here they were, in this glorified rest stop along a highway between towns that didn’t even show up on maps of the Five Continents. While the fixtures styled after the heads of Kecleon like them were at least still intact, the weathered paint and the thick layer of dust on the counter was proof of the prior owner’s neglect even before letting it sit vacant for a year.

Tipper would’ve thought that this was some sort of mistake, except the letter with Footprint Runes on the counter left no room for doubt. The Footprint Runes on it were addressed with his father’s personal name, ‘Kakureon Torneko’, much as would be done back on the Air Continent. Somehow, Dad had agreed to come here of all places, and even planned on eventually bringing Mom over to help run the new shop.

“Oh come now, Tipper, it’s nothing that a fresh coat of paint and some grit can’t fix,” his father insisted. “This is a prime location! The shop’s the first thing anyone will see when they enter the town from the highway!”

No, that would be the mound of splintered wood and broken-up boxes heaped up along the back of the shop with the blue, conical roof across the street. Not that there was much competition otherwise. It was just this shop, the creaky-looking wooden steps leading up to the bluff that it was wedged against, and the pond and stream fed by the two glorified trickles of waterfalls which would surely make staving off wood rot a perpetual headache for them. Oh, and the two-story inn dug into yet another earthen rise just past it, which was supposed to be their home until they could line up permanent lodging.

“Hey! What’s the big idea standing me up?! I thought we had a deal!”

Tipper turned his head towards the square. There was a small circular design made of pavestones in the dirt… and a Scraggy and a pair of Timburr throwing down with each other over some sort of petty argument. They kept going at it for a moment before a Quagsire approached from a wooden bridge over the stream. The Scraggy abruptly bolted and fled, while the Timburr stiffened up and seemed to grow flustered as the Quagsire pulled them aside and talked about something that he couldn’t make out.

Well, this was certainly a welcoming neighborhood and worth skipping out on living in places that were important enough to show up on maps. Not.

“... I’m sure that that’s just an unfortunate coincidence,” Torneko said. “Anyways, our lodging should be just up ahead.”

Stars, Tipper hoped there was at least a Juice Bar in there. At the rate things were going, he was going to need a drink. The stronger, the better.



Tipper wasn’t sure what he was expecting from an inn called the ‘Swanna House’, even if he swore the Footprint Runes on the arch over the entrance read ‘The Inn of Swanna’ and didn’t match with the sign up front. He had expected some sort of ratty dump falling apart, but the inside at least looked comfortable, if painfully rustic with its wooden steps to the second floor just past the entrance, its low-slung tables and stump-stools, along with a wall and a signboard packed with local listings that looked like it’d never been cleared out. The only things in here that reminded him that this ‘Post Town’ wasn’t a total backwater were the embroidered circular rug near the counter, along with the cloths on the table and the counter in the back.

“Well, it seems homely enough, at least,” Torneko said to himself.

As if on cue, there was a loud snarl and sharp crash against a table. Tipper jolted his head leftward where there was a Gurdurr that smelled strongly of berry juice growling under his breath and throwing aside the handle to what used to be a mug.

Tipper picked up the pace and dutifully avoided eye contact with the Fighting-type. He didn’t know how sober the ‘mon was right now, but he could already tell he didn’t want to find out. He snuck a glance over at his father, who was pawing at the back of his head with his teeth quietly set on edge.

“Well, that’s certainly not quite how I wanted our first evening in town to go,” he murmured. “But I believe that’s our innkeeper right over there.”

Tipper turned his attention over to the counter as a Swanna made her way behind it from a side entrance. He went over alongside his father, as the elder Kecleon hailed the Swanna and gave a small bow as he made it to the counter.

“Ah yes, you must be Signora Swanna.”

Tipper cocked a brow, and he briefly saw his scales take on a confused yellow hue as he looked up at the Swanna at the other end of the counter.

“Wait, ‘Signora’? Is that your personal name or something?” he asked. “I’m surprised that you’re so… open about it here.”

The bird shook her head and let out a bemused chuckle in reply. Or at least Tipper hoped it was that.

“I suppose that’s one way of telling that you’re a long way from home, Kecleon,” she said. “‘Signora’ is a term of respect for dames like me from the Old Language that Pokémon sometimes use around these parts.”

Tipper supposed that that made a bit more sense, since the one constant his father had told him about the Pokémon from civilization he’d encountered during his wanderings was that they kept their personal names to themselves and those they particularly trusted. He supposed he had also known that the Old Languages before the Pokémon of the Five Continents began speaking a common tongue were also different from one another, but he didn’t realize that they’d be this different since had Swanna not explained it, he wouldn’t have had the foggiest clue what ‘Signora’ meant.

He just hoped that didn’t carry over to other practices as well. Stars, just imagine if all this time, they’d been acting impolitely to the ‘mon who was going to be running their lodging for the foreseeable future!

“So wait, what are we supposed to call you anyways?” Tipper asked. “Since we don’t really know how things work here on Mist, especially off the beaten path.”

“You can call me ‘Swanna’ if you want,” she replied. “Just don’t call me maybe.”

Tipper briefly cringed at the innkeeper’s reply. Why did that sound like it was some sort of bad joke? Though at least, she didn’t look bothered by it…

“That or ‘Signora’ will suffice,” she said. “Perhaps if we establish a closer working relationship, we can talk in more intimate terms.”

Swanna slid a set of keys over the counter with a small wooden clip with a number on it. For their room, Tipper figured, even if he didn’t know how on earth an inn was supposed to stay viable as a business with so few rooms to rent out. Torneko took the keys off the counter, before fidgeting them in his claws.

“Right, I suppose that we should settle into our room, since work will be keeping my son and I busy in short order,” the elder Kecleon said. “Though do you have any advice for settling in, Swanna?”

Swanna paused for a moment and seemed to be weighing something in her mind. She opened her beak, and after a brief hesitation, raised a wing to speak up.

“Just be patient, and if you get a cold shoulder at first or don’t make as good of a first impression as you’d hoped, don’t take things personally,” she said. “Pokémon around these parts have had a lot on their mind lately, especially with that recent batch of Mystery Dungeons that have been freshly cropping up nearby.”

Well, that totally wasn’t worrisome at all. Less so the bit about Mystery Dungeons cropping up since Dad had always seemed to handle those fairly effortlessly and much of their merchandise was sourced from them. It was more the part just beforehand that worried him. From the bit about the ‘cold shoulder’, Tipper was starting to get the feeling that Post Town wasn’t exactly a ‘warm and inviting’ sort of place.

His father didn’t seem to be fazed by the response. Probably because his baseline definition of ‘tough customers’ were wild Pokémon snarling and throwing blows at him over having their territory intruded on.

“I’m sure that my son will have plenty of opportunities to get to know the Pokémon around here while watching the shop here in town,” Torneko said. “After all, hospitality is a hallmark of Kecleon Market’s service!”

Tipper jolted up and turned to his father with a startled stare, not bothering to hide the white that was starting to show up on his scales.

“Wait, but aren’t you going to help me run the shop?” he asked. “Mom’s not due to come here for at least a year and I thought that it was company policy to have two shopkeepers per location so that way there was always at least one on staff behind the counter.”

“Nope! That policy was actually revised after Kecleon Market began its relationship with its new storage contractor,” Torneko replied. “I’ll be working the Mystery Dungeon end of things full-time! It’ll help keep your end of things well-stocked for your customers so you can focus on interacting with them!”

Fantastic, he thought to himself.

Tipper threw a claw over his face and pinched his brow as a sinking realization came over him:

He was going to hate this place. He could already tell.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter


Glorious Sparklies



The first few days in Post Town were mostly a learning experience for Tipper as he gathered up the paints and cleaning materials needed to make the shop presentable for its reopening, and he was surprised at how much he learned about the town in the process.

For instance, Gurdurr was a deadbeat who seemed to spend more time drinking and moping to himself in the Swanna House’s Juice Bar than actually working as the carpenter he was supposed to be. He also learned the times of day when Gurdurr was least likely to be around so that his visits to the Juice Bar would be more tolerable. The townsfolk also seemed to have that same sort of indifference to strangers that Pokémon in more populated places like Baram Town sometimes had, which meant public arguments and fights would go ignored by them as long as it didn’t involve them personally.

He supposed that it wasn’t all bad. He’d also learned that the various spaces in the Swanna House that had been set aside for posted messages had their fair share of mission requests and advertisements. It was how he found the supplier for the paint for the store, along with the Gold Exchange that would convert Poké into more compact gold bars which could be stored more easily. Always a positive since the Deposit Box meant to be set in front of the shop hadn’t arrived yet, and space in the safe which came with the shop was on the cramped side.

“Fwohoho! This is the gold exchange known as GLORIOUS GOLD!”

Though Tipper wasn’t sure if he’d have come to this Gold Exchange if he’d known it’d be like this. It was hard to judge the Cofagrigus owner for building a shop that took after him when it was a fast way to help the shop stand out for his less literate customers, even if the counter shaped after a stack of gold bars was definitely pushing the bounds of good taste…

“I lose control when I see GLORIOUS sparklies! Yes! GLORIOUS! Sparklies!”

But Tipper definitely could judge the place for having a proprietor that seemed to all but foam at the mouth at the mere thought of gold. Was this Pokémon actually going to manage to exchange any gold bars? Or were they just going to turn into his midnight snacks?

“Cofagrigus, you can spare me the introduction. I know how places like these work,” Tipper sighed. “Look, I just want to convert some money over since my dad and I are a bit tight on space right now. Do you have a going rate at the moment?”

“Of course! It’s just a mere 555 Poké for one of my GLORIOUS! Sparklies!” the Ghost-type exclaimed, before trailing off with a flustered wave of his arms.

“Or at least it will be once I have some to offer and can finish setting my shop up,” he added. “I’ve got plenty of treasures to offer in trade if you already have any, though!”

Tipper pinched his brow and shook his head. Of course an actually useful service in this town wouldn’t actually be functional. Since it wasn’t as if Post Town had much else to motivate Pokémon to come off the highway beyond its spring water.

“Would it really have killed you to put a ‘Coming Soon’ on that advertisement of yours?” the Kecleon scoffed. “Though good luck on getting those Gold Bars together. You’ll need it.”

Cofagrigus didn’t seem particularly thrilled with his tone of voice, though Tipper found it hard to care after wasting precious time from his lunch break on a clod who couldn’t be bothered to put up accurate advertisements. The Kecleon turned and started to head off back for the bridge into the main square, when he saw something move off to the left of the unfinished Gold Exchange. Curious, he decided to investigate.

Tipper rounded the corner and saw a rug with a counter and some crates in the back set out with a Foongus dusting himself off. It was clearly a shop of some sort, even if Tipper couldn’t see any wares set out.

“Wait, what on earth do you sell anyways?” the Kecleon asked. “I didn’t know there were other shops on this side of the stream.”

“That, my scaly friend, is a story and a half,” the Grass-type replied. “But the long and short of it is that I sell ways to get far, far away… for a very particular clientele.”

Tipper raised a brow in reply. There weren’t a lot of merchants in the world who could afford to be picky about their customers, let alone ones in a little town like this where most of the business to be had was from passersby from the highway. Even so, he couldn’t help but wonder…

“Foongus, I’m from Kecleon Market,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to find a better potential client around here than me or my dad.”

“Sorry, but that isn’t good enough for me,” the Grass-type said. “My services are specifically for humans. I happened to come out here to set up shop since word is that a bunch of them have been popping up around these parts as of late. That, and my suppliers happen to be close by here.”

Tipper blinked. Is this a scam? Since this guy just gives off a vibe that he’d peddle Ekans Oil in his spare time.

“Uh… huh. And just what do you sell again?” Tipper asked.

“As I mentioned, ways to get far, far away. I happened to buy up licensing rights from some local inventors for a means to do that,” the Grass-type said. “A way for any Pokémon to jump straight into a Mystery Dungeon.”

Yeah, this was totally a scam. Tipper could already tell.

“Can’t a Pokémon capable of using Teleport already do that?” he asked, folding his arms. “What do you really sell, Foongus? Teleport Gems?”

“Please, those are so passé, and they still require a Pokémon with Teleport to use them,” the dubious merchant scoffed. “The solution I sell cuts out the middleman entirely. It just requires these.”

The Foongus hopped aside from his place and revealed a set of red and gold metallic tiles. He stooped and spread them across the counter, as Tipper turned his head down to inspect them, as a sharp frown spread over his face.

“Seriously? A bunch of cards?”

“Correction, Entercards. You arrange them and they interact with ley lines to form what we call a ‘Magnagate’ to get you around,” the Foongus insisted. “The sets my suppliers have made for me so far currently link to a dozen locations, including one ‘Kecleon Bazaar’ that you might be interested in.”

Tipper jolted up and his mouth flopped open in shock. H-How on earth does this ‘mon know about Kecleon Bazaar?! It was a training ground where those in Kecleon Market who wished to follow in the footsteps of the company’s legendary founders for going about Mystery Dungeons to scrounge wares and sell directly to Pokémon inside toughened up! And it was a prime source for a swath of the goods they had on offer that couldn’t be reliably sourced from local Mystery Dungeons.

Could… this Foongus really have a way of getting to Kecleon Bazaar? Its location was a trade secret for the company but it certainly wasn’t on the Mist Continent of all places!

He didn’t know whether or not the Grass-type was being serious, but this needed to be nipped in the bud and fast.

“Look, if you really have a way of getting into Kecleon Bazaar, let’s strike a deal to get that off the market,” the Kecleon insisted. “Since that’s really not someplace anyone from Kecleon Market wants to become common knowledge.”

“Sorry, no can do,” Foongus insisted. “Though you don’t need to worry, these Entercards are meant specifically for human customers. Since they have what I and my associates want.”

“Which would be…?”

“Magic numbers.”

Tipper screwed his eyes shut and sighed. He couldn’t believe he actually let himself almost get taken in by this nonsense. There was definitely no way that Foongus was running a shop that only served humans. It wasn’t as if they just casually rained from the sky! Why, this had probably all been some sort of confidence trick to get him to waste a fortune on a bunch of worthless cards!

“... ‘Magic numbers’,” he scoffed. “You seriously expect me to believe that you’re successfully running a shop just collecting those?”

“Well, this is a start-up venture, but the profits to be had if it pans out will be nothing short of phenomenal,” The Grass-type explained. “A sequence of sixteen numbers, a sequence of three, and two pairs of two. My associates tell me they’re the keys to unimaginable treasures from the human world, and I’ve even managed to snag a few sets already from humans who managed to hold onto at least part of their memories.”

Tipper furrowed his brow into an exasperated scowl. He couldn’t tell who was the more gullible one here: Foongus, or whatever unfortunate soul he passed these ‘Entercards’ onto. It reminded him of a back alley shop he’d once run across in Baram Town. Some hole-in-the-wall that sold maps and treasures that were allegedly from a “Phantom Island” that laid between the Air and Grass Continents which sometimes popped up in folktales.

It was all a bunch of rubbish, but clearly, the proprietor had lost a few marbles and came to genuinely believe the nonsense his shop was built around. Something like that must have happened with Foongus, too.

“You know what? You’re crazy,” Tipper said, shaking his head. “And I need to get back to work before-”

“Oh! There you are, Foongus!”

“We’ve got those Entercards you asked for!”

Tipper turned as an Espeon and Umbreon came bounding up with a small sack that they threw onto the counter. It landed with an audible clack as a few of those metallic cards spilled from its mouth. The Kecleon stared in disbelief at the pair as they chatted with the Foongus, who shot a smug look back at him.

The lingering worry came bubbling back to his mind. What if those ‘Entercards’ weren’t all just an elaborate confidence trick? It sounded a bit stupid, but maybe he should try and buy up those cards that supposedly went to Kecleon Bazaar… just in case.

Tipper looked on for a moment, before he shook his head and turned away.

“Pah, what on earth are the odds?” he harrumphed. “Magic numbers, teleporting cards? What a bunch of nonsense.”

As if anyone would actually waste money on such preposterous-sounding trinkets in the first place. Let alone actual humans. With any luck, Foongus’ shop would fold in a couple weeks, and the Grass-type would go and pester some gullible kids in a guild town or something like that.
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter


Quagsire



Tipper rested his head on the back of his claw boredly as he watched the world pass by. The shop had been cleaned up enough to have a grand reopening, if still without the Deposit Box that was supposed to have come in. Not that Dad really seemed to have much time to spend in Post Town between his crawls through Mystery Dungeons.

While Post Town was just off a highway and there was usually a steady stream of Pokémon that passed through every day, their arrivals were fairly uneven. Morning would be busy with locals rousing for the day and heading out for nearby jobs or travelers hitting the road. Noon was usually a bit more crowded than normal thanks to Pokémon stopping by the Swanna House to grab a bite. And of course, there was the evening rush into town before things got too dark out on the highway.

“Blugh…”

That was all fine and good, except it felt like half the time in between, there was precious little to do other than to just stare off at the pond and waterfalls or at the windmills in the distance. The time after the morning rush today had been another one of those moments, especially after the fight which broke out in the square towards its tail end. With how slow business had been today, Tipper was starting to wonder if he’d have been better off just closing the shop up to go and take an early lunch break.

“Oh, hello, Kecleon. You seem a bit, hmm… distracted.”

Tipper’s eyes widened as he looked up and saw there was that Quagsire he’d occasionally seen around town at his counter. The Kecleon hurriedly straightened up and dusted off his scales, quietly thankful that his father wasn’t here to see things since he’d surely never hear the end of things for making this sort of first impression on a customer.

“W-Welcome to the Kecleon Shop!” Tipper stammered. “How can I help you?”

The Quagsire trailed off a moment and put a paw under his chin. It was admittedly a bit hard to tell for sure with the Pokémon’s beady eyes, but something about him just gave off the vibe that he was a bit spacey.

“Oh, hmm… I’ll just have some of those Sleep Seeds you have over there,” he said. “Five or six should be enough.”

Tipper turned his head as Quagsire motioned off at a counter behind him, where a small pile of Sleep Seeds was sitting on the counter… where the Apples were supposed to be. Gah, he really must’ve been zoning out today.

The Kecleon turned and started taking the Sleep Seeds off the shelf as he turned his attention back to the Quagsire on the other side of the counter.

“... Have you had trouble falling asleep lately or something?” he asked. “Since I’m not sure why a Pokémon that mostly hangs around town would need so many Sleep Seeds.”

“Better safe than sorry,” the Water-type insisted. “With the way that things have been going around these parts lately, you never know when you’ll need to punish some evildoers.”

Tipper froze as he pulled a Sleep Seed off the counter, and cocked a brow back at the Water-type.

“I’m sorry, what did you say you did around here again?”

“These days, I mostly just help solve problems that I find around town,” Quagsire answered. “Though I used to be a lawmon back in the day, ‘Quagsire the Outlaw Hunter’. It wasn’t often that an evildoer could give me the slip, mm-hmm.”

Quagsire seemed to have a flash of pride come over him, as Tipper finished gathering up the rest of the Sleep Seeds from the shelf.

“Uh huh, sure. So, what, am I supposed to take it that you’re the Sheriff of this town or something?”

“Well, honorary Sheriff, but something like that, yes.”

Tipper caught himself as he stared back into Quagsire’s eyes. The Pokémon sure didn’t strike him as being the ‘Sheriff’ type, even if Tipper supposed that he and his parents had run into enough customers in life to know that looks could be quite deceiving. Quagsire seemed to find his reaction funny, and shook his head with a knowing smile.

Whatever the case, Tipper had already put up an iffy enough display of the hospitality employees of Kecleon Market were supposed to display on the job, so peppering the ‘mon with skeptical questions probably wasn’t a good idea. Especially if he really was the honorary Sheriff of this town.

“That’ll be 360 Poké,” Tipper said. “Anything else I can help you with?”

“Hmm… well, yes, actually,” Quagsire said, passing a few gold-colored coins across the counter. “It’s actually the main reason why I stopped by here.”

Quagsire leaned on the counter, as the curve of his mouth smoothed out into a small, serious-looking frown.

“You don’t seem to really enjoy being here in Post Town, Kecleon,” he said. “Maybe it’s a habit of the younger generation, but it was a bit, hmm, noticeable in your attitude on the job.”

Tipper sucked a breath in and bit the inside of his cheek. Stars, now he was really glad that his father wasn’t around right now, since he’d definitely get an earful from him if the local customers were complaining about his service like this. He thought that he’d been putting up a happy enough face whenever customers were coming around and kept his scales a nice and cheerful green…

Clearly he hadn’t been doing that as well as he’d hoped.

“Sorry if it’s not the sort of service you were expecting from a branch of Kecleon Market,” Tipper sighed, hanging his head. “I know it’s not really an excuse, it’s just… I’ve had a lot on my mind lately.”

“Mm-hmm. Is it something that you want to talk about?”

Tipper looked away and pawed at his arm. He wasn’t sure whether or not it was a good idea to bring the topic up. After all, it was his job to make the shop’s customers happy and ensure a smooth sales experience on behalf of Kecleon Market, not to bother them with his own life problems.

… Even so, Quagsire had asked him to talk about it. And something about the ‘mon gave off the vibe that he wasn’t going to leave until he got some sort of answer.

“I wound up coming here to the Mist Continent as part of my job, and this… wasn’t exactly where I thought I was going to wind up,” Tipper explained. “Dad and I came from Baram Town, so I was just expecting that we’d be sent to work in a place that was a bit more… lively.”

Quagsire tilted his head in reply, and while it was a bit hard to tell with the way his eyes were, Tipper swore that he saw the ‘mon quirk a brow at him.

“Well, did you have any companions back in Baram Town?”

“Well, yes. Not that they were able to come along with me,” the Kecleon said. “I have a lot of fond memories of us getting together to shoot the breeze under the windmills or stopping to watch the waves come in while I was on break.”

“And do you have any here?

Tipper caught himself and stared back at Quagsire across the counter. He didn’t say anything back in reply, but from the way the Water-type’s mouth curled and the shake of his head… Tipper figured that Quagsire had already deduced that the answer was ‘no’.

“Even a big town will feel lonely without anyone to talk to, Kecleon. Why don’t you spend some time getting to know your fellow shopkeeps a bit more?” Quagsire suggested. “After all, if you’re always strictly business and quick to get snappy with them like you were yesterday with Cofagrigus and Foongus, it will probably take you a lot longer than it needs to to get used to life here in Post Town.”

Tipper felt his cheeks burn and saw his scales start to turn a deep, beet red. Stars, he’d really been covering himself in glory as a Kecleon Market employee lately, hadn’t he? Tipper snapped back to attention as Quagsire took his Sleep Seeds off the counter, and stuffed them into a small satchel before turning to take his leave.

“Though it’s just friendly advice on my part. If you have a better way of handling your problems, you’re more than welcome to try it out,” Quagsire said. “I just thought that it might help you since this town already has more than enough Pokémon that just keep to themselves and are standoffish to others.”

Tipper looked down and fidgeted with his claws. Would it make sense to talk more with some of the other shopkeepers? He… admittedly hadn’t really gotten the best impression from Cofagrigus or Foongus, and with how unfriendly a lot of the passersby had seemed, he wasn’t sure how interrupting the Box Buster across the lane or whoever ran that Gift Shop further down would go.

The next thing Tipper knew, he looked up and Quagsire was already halfway across the square..

“Ack!” Tipper realized he’d forgotten to give him the customary farewell to him as part of his job. “Thanks for your business! Come back anytime!”

Tipper sighed and pinched his brow. Maybe he should take that lunch break early after all. It wouldn’t make sense to go into the midday rush frazzled like this.

And he supposed that he had time to spare to try out Quagsire’s advice, if just for a bit.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter


Traveling Sales-Mon



Tipper admittedly wasn’t sure why he was doing this. He had wanted to chat up the Box Buster or the Ciniccino who ran the Gift Shop, but both had been out of their shops when he passed by. He thought of just turning back for the Swanna House, but the bridge over the stream was right there, and before he knew it…

“Fwohoho! This is the gold exchange known as GLORIOUS GOLD!”

He was back in front of Cofagrigus’ not-yet-opened Gold Exchange. Tipper had hoped that he hadn’t stood out too much from the day before, but unfortunately for him, a look of recognition came across Cofagrigus’s face once their eyes met.

“Oh, it’s you again,” the Ghost-type harrumphed, crossing his upper arms. “The shop’s still not open if that’s why you’re here.”

He supposed he should’ve expected as much. Tipper pawed at the back of his head, and glanced aside with a quiet mutter.

“Yeah, I kinda figured. I… guess I just came back because I wanted to get to know the neighborhood better. The Box Buster and Gift Shop were both busy when I was passing over, so I figured I’d try out a couple other places first. Were there any shops around here that I’ve been missing?”

“Well, there’s Foongus’ shop right next door-”

Aside from Foongus’ shop,” Tipper hastily added.

Cofagrigus studied him closely, and seemed to be weighing his words until he turned his attention off to the right of his shop and raised a spectral hand to point off at it.

“Well, they won’t be here until after noon, but you’re actually in luck,” Cofagrigus said. “I’m set to get a new neighbor to the right of my shop. If you stop by later in the day, the proprietor should be around. Not that they could ever hope to compete with my GLORIOUS sparklies.”

Tipper glanced over to the right of the Gold Exchange and saw that there was a green counter and mat spread out, much like the one that Foongus used for his alleged shop. The Kecleon wasn’t sure how on earth he’d overlooked that earlier, really. There was a small notice pinned to the front of the counter saying “reserved” with the proprietor’s name torn off which couldn’t help but pique his interest.

“Oh? Who runs the shop here, Cofagrigus? And what do they sell?”

“Couldn’t tell you,” Cofagrigus replied. “I’d admittedly been busy setting up my Gold Exchange so I hadn’t been paying much attention to my neighbors.”

Tipper frowned briefly. It sure seemed strange that Cofagrigus wouldn’t know his own immediate neighbors, especially since the other shop didn’t look particularly new in construction.

“Though I suppose that I wouldn’t be able to give you a consistent answer anyways since that stall’s actually set aside for traveling sales-mons. I’m hoping that it’ll be someone selling sparklies, but it’ll probably just someone running battle tutoring. Though who knows, really?” The Ghost-type glanced back and shrugged. “Sometimes you’ll get some really different shops that set up in that space. Like the year when Victini brought his V-Wheel here.”

Tipper couldn’t help but cock a brow at the Ghost-type’s response.

“‘Victini’?” he asked.

“You know, little apple-looking rabbit guy? Eccentric researcher? Pretty sure he’s some sort of Legendary Pokémon?” Cofagrigus asked. “I don’t know if you have one of your own wherever you’re from, but Victini built a machine that can apparently manipulate these energy waves which affect the nearby Mystery Dungeons that he discovered. ‘V-Waves’, he calls them.”

“‘V-Waves’?” Tipper tilted his head in confusion. Between this and the ‘V-Wheel’, this ‘Victini’ sounded more like some sort of obnoxious marketer than a researcher. Cofagrigus let out a low chuckle as he seemed to be adrift in fond memories.

“Mind you, the last time he was here was well before I got into the gold exchange business, but he and that V-Wheel drew quite a crowd… or at least he did until him shouting ‘V-Wheeeeeel!’ started wearing thin and scaring off the customers until he left,” Cofagrigus explained. “That’s how I managed to get the deed to this place! The prior owner heard Victini was considering coming back this year and figured he’d retire before the circus came into town.”

Tipper was starting to be quietly grateful that his shop was located clear across a square and stream from this place. Though even so, he couldn’t help but grow curious.

If the traveling sales-mon was indeed this ‘Victini’, then it’d probably make sense to get an idea of how this ‘V-Wheel’ worked, since being able to change the effects of nearby Mystery Dungeons sounded like it could be helpful for Dad’s travels through them. Who knew? Maybe one of those effects would even help him find more wares for the shop.

And even if it was just a more normal shopkeep, Tipper supposed it wouldn’t hurt to find out how things had been going lately further afield from Post Town.

“I… mean, I shouldn’t be away from my shop that long. But I suppose that I can come by sometime on my evening break to see what this traveling sales-mon is like.”



Rocks? Really?”

Yes, apparently. When Tipper came back to the space set aside for the traveling sales-mons during his evening break, the first thing he saw was a Roggenrola proprietor standing atop the counter… along with row after row of rocks spread out on the green mat behind.

“That’s right! I’ve got all the rocks a Pokémon could ever want!” the Roggenrola cheered. “Swirl Rocks, Happy Rocks, Gravelerocks…”

Tipper let his mouth hang open and pinched his brow. He was getting the distinct feeling that he should’ve gone to try and talk with the Box Buster instead. Or the owner of the Gift Shop. Or with Swanna for that matter.

“What on earth is a Pokémon supposed to do with all these? Use them as paperweights?”

“Well, some of them are meant to be thrown and others used as accessories. But if it’s paperweights you’re looking for, check the left end of the mat.”

Tipper turned his attention towards the left side of the mat, where sure enough, the stones seemed a bit more interesting. Some of them were colored, some had spirals on them. And curiously enough, one looked almost golden with a circular band on it.

“Huh? Why’s this rock look so different?”

“Ah, good eye there, Kecleon! For a moment, I thought that was a sparkly, but looks can be deceiving. That’s part of a ruin.”

Tipper blinked, as much to his surprise, Cofagrigus was out from behind his counter and floating over alongside him. The Ghost-type brought a hand down and raised the golden stone up, before giving a curious look at the Roggenrola on the counter.

“Where’d you get this from, Roggenrola?” he asked. “If the stones from wherever it came from looked like this, I might need to go treasure hunting for GOLD wherever you found it.”

“I actually got it in a trade,” the Rock-type explained. “The Pokémon who gave it to me said she found it near someplace called ‘Eternal Ruins’, wherever that is.”

A brief pang of disappointment came over Cofagrigus’ face as he set the stone back down and Tipper traded glances between it and the Ghost-type.

“Wait, just what are these ‘Eternal Ruins’?” he asked.

“It’s a legendary ruin where Ho-Oh is said to sometimes appear in the Mist Continent, which was built as a part of a broader set that Legendary Pokémon are said to similarly favor,” Cofagrigus explained. “Nobody really knows what the history of those places is, other than that the builders spoke the Old Language. Well, that, and that there’s plenty of treasures left around in some of the other ruins we know for sure exist.”

Tipper gave a dubious frown at the stone. Why did this sound so much like the tales of the “Phantom Island” he’d heard back home? Though then again, he supposed that there were also places on the Air Continent that had echoes of a long forgotten past. Ruins like the Ancient Relic left behind by Pokémon that were so old that nobody knew anything about the civilization that built it or what happened to it, and places that were stranger still like that Decrepit Lab that rumors said hadn’t been built by Pokémon at all.

Why, even the Poké they used for money was said to be a relic. Tipper hadn’t heard the full story behind it, but from what his father had told them, it was apparently based on some sort of ancient standard from a bygone time when the Five Continents were more interconnected. A time when there were cities so big that they made places like Baram or Noe look like little villages like Post Town, thus why stray Poké coins would sometimes turn up in Mystery Dungeons.

He wasn’t sure whether or not he believed all of those stories. But the Cofagrigus and Roggenrola seemed convinced it was something unusual, and who knew? Maybe Dad would come across these ‘Eternal Ruins’ sometime while they were here on Mist.

“I think I’ll take it, actually,” Tipper said. “My dad goes around Mystery Dungeons for his job, so he’d probably get a kick out of this. Thanks for pointing it out, Cofagrigus.”

Tipper passed a few coins over to the Roggenrola proprietor and claimed the rock from the mat. He then turned and made his way off for the bridge back to the Square.

And for the first time since arriving in Post Town, he didn’t have to force a smile on his face.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter


Box Buster



Tipper knew that those ‘Deposit Boxes’ Kecleon Market got for their locations were still in the process of entering a phased rollout, but he still hadn’t expected a hulking vault that was taller than him to show up right next to his shop. It had been painted a deep shade of burgundy with gilded trim along its edges, and sported a pair of circles set between spikes jutting out of the lid’s peak that gave it an appearance vaguely reminiscent of a pair of eyes and horns.

It reminded him a bit of a Kangaskhan who ran a Storage Shop back in Baram Town, even if he wasn’t really sure that a box without any shopkeeper to guide things would really be a good surrogate.

He glanced down and double-checked a small sheet of paper that came with the Deposit Box upon its arrival as he puzzled over the large knob in the center. Dad was supposed to have sent his batch of goods for the shop through the Deposit Box, but now he needed to figure out how on earth to get to its contents.

“To access your account’s storage, enter your Friend Code through the knob in the center prior to twisting the handle…”

Tipper studied the Deposit Box’s circular handle, where sure enough, the central circle was raised slightly with numbers engraved in intervals of ten between dotted lines. Dad had apparently already set up a storage account on his end of things, so now he just needed to enter the code. The Kecleon looked down at the sheet and the numbers that had been written down on them, and figured that those lines must’ve been for the numbers in between the intervals. He carefully twisted the knob until they matched their numbers, a few clicks to the left, and then back to the right, and then back left again…

CLICK!

Tipper blinked and tested the rotating handle, which incredibly, moved back and forth smoothly. He pulled it counterclockwise, watching as the heavy-looking lid propped itself open and…

“Ah!”

He found that the inside was packed full of various odds and ends. Seeds, Wonder Orbs, even the occasional accessory or garment. There was even a small partition inside that was filled with Poké coins. So these things were able to be used to store money in them.

He’d heard various rumors about the consortium that had set these Deposit Boxes up: that prominent bankers and storage keepers had financed their creation in the search of more secure vaults for their establishments, that they had been built based on designs reverse engineered from those abandoned sites on the Air Continent which were rumored to be of human origin.

He didn’t know how true any of those stories were, but he could already tell that this box was going to be a lifesaver. Why he wasn’t sure if he’d ever need to visit a traditional Bank or Storage Shop again after this!

CRASH!

Tipper jolted up with a sharp yelp as the ground shook, and turned towards the Box Buster’s shop across the road. He’d occasionally hear the sound of splintering wood or cries coming from it on prior days, but he didn’t remember them ever being this forceful.

“Whoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

Tipper flinched as a bellowing cry and another deafening crash rang out, forceful enough to make the front of his shop shudder. A second crash came, and then yet another. Tipper hung his mouth open in disbelief and closed the lid to the Deposit Box as he made his way over to the front counter of the Box Buster’s shop.

“What on earth is going on out there-?”

“Oh hey!”

Tipper looked up and saw a gray-and-blue scaled figure hurrying out from the back of the shop, brushing a few loose splinters that had clung to his horns. The Rock-type’s eyes lit up, before he made it to the counter and gave a cheerful wave.

“Oh, you must be the new guy! Pleasure finally meeting you!” he said. “I’m Rampardos! The Box Buster!”

Tipper tilted his head and looked past the shop with a puzzled frown.

“You… seem to be quite busy today.”

“Yup! I got a bulk order from a traveling Exploration Team that had built up a bunch of chests they’d found on their missions,” Rampardos replied. “There’s some really neat stuff in their boxes, too! The last one I broke open had an Insomniscope in it!”

That must've been quite a team to find something like that lying around. Though Tipper was starting to get a bit uneasy about this ‘bunch’ of chests that Rampardos mentioned…

“Uh… just how many boxes did this team bring to you again?” the Kecleon asked.

“I honestly lost count after the thirtieth or so, but between them and the chests that normally come in, I’ll probably be at ‘em all week!”

Wonderful. As if Tipper didn’t already have enough headaches to worry about in between getting a shop running in the middle of nowhere. Though would Rampardos’ shop even physically survive an entire week being bashed up like that?

“Not that I’m one to normally tell others how to do their jobs, but don’t you think you’re throwing your head around a little too hard, Rampardos?” he asked. “From the racket you were making, I thought that you were busting up your shop.

“Nah, these walls can take a bit of punishment,” Rampardos insisted. “I had ‘em built in mind for taking a bit of abuse.”

Tipper stared for a moment and hung his mouth open. Surely Rampardos had to get tired of this later in the day and slow down eventually… right?

“... If you say so.”

Tipper drifted off and made his way back to his shop by the square, and along the way, the crashing started ringing out from Rampardos’ shop again. He tried to ignore it and went back to the Deposit Box. He re-entered the combination to prop the lid back open and he grabbed a blue orb with droplets in it.

CRASH!

The ground abruptly shook from a stronger-than-normal blow as the Rainy Orb slipped from his grasp and shattered against the ground. Tipper looked up, as small clouds began to gather much as if a Rain Dance had been cast, as droplets began to patter against his scales.

They flushed a ruddy shade, and he pinched his brow as the racket from Rampardos’ shop kept dragging on.

“Ugh. This is going to be a really long week….”



The rest of the day went along much as Tipper had dreaded. As did the day after. And the day after that. Every moment when the Kecleon thought that things had settled down to relative quiet, a sharp crash or shout or worse still, a small tremor would come from the Box Buster’s shop. Everything about managing the shop had turned into an ongoing battle during that time:

Fighting to keep customers from getting scared off by the racket. Fighting to keep his wares from getting knocked off their shelves. Fighting to break the falls of the ones that did with wads of cloth for cushioning.

And of course, fighting to keep his own sanity from the constant din coming from across the street.

And then on the fourth day, things abruptly stopped. At first Tipper thought that Rampardos must’ve gotten through his bulk order early, but the day was just eerily silent from his shop. Asking around town revealed that the Box Buster had unexpectedly been off work for the day, and the Kecleon shrugged the matter off before turning in for the day at night.

It was now the morning of the fifth day since Rampardos started his ‘bulk order’, and as Tipper stocked the wares for the day, he noticed that once again, the Box Buster shop was quiet.

“That’s the second day in a row that Rampardos hasn’t been working. I hope he’s alright…”

A low grunt came from the direction of the town entrance and Tipper immediately grimaced at the sight. Rampardos was back, as good a sign that yesterday’s quiet was now over. Tipper hung his head with a low sigh, only to pause after noticing his Rock-type neighbor was laden down with a peculiar cargo.

“... Wooden planks?”

He blinked, but his eyes weren’t deceiving him, and for a second, Rampardos looked more like an aspiring carpenter than a Box Buster. The Rock-type made his way to the back of his shop and set the planks down to clear aside some ruined chests, before dragging the wood in. An envelope slipped the dinosaur’s grasp on the way over, as it got caught up in the wind and drifted along the lane.

“Rampardos, wait!”

The door shut before Tipper could say anything and for a moment, he thought to let the letter just sit there. Rampardos would surely come back to get it if it were important, after all. The Kecleon turned his attention back to his wares, as he heard the first few Pokémon start entering the plaza bright and early in the morning.

He felt the wind against his scales and faintly heard paper fluttering. Tipper turned his head, where much to his astonishment he saw the envelope blowing along, already most of the way over to the pond by his shop.

He sighed, before hurrying out from behind the counter.

“Oh, for crying out loud.”

He knew that it was still early in the morning, but did nobody else in this town seriously care enough to stop a runaway envelope? He hurriedly slipped out the shop’s side entrance and darted into the square, all but diving to snatch the envelope out of the air before it blew into the pool.

Tipper tightened his grasp on the envelope and breathed a sigh of relief, before he looked down at the Footprint Runes where the recipient information was supposed to be. There was the expected ‘Rampardos of Post Town’ and ‘Box Buster Shop’ on it, but curiously, there was an additional line above them all.

“‘Galton from Mistville’?”

Tipper cocked a brow. Did Rampardos have a partner who helped run his shop? Though where on earth was ‘Mistville’? Since he’d never heard any of his customers mention such a place. He turned and hurried along the path for the Box Buster’s. When he reached the counter, he heard the plonk of wooden planks jostling each other ring out from the backroom, as the Rock-type’s silhouette moved to and fro inside.

“Rampardos!”

Tipper watched as Rampardos turned and sidled out from inside his shop, before he raising the envelope and slid it over past the counter.

“You dropped this on your way in,” the Kecleon said. “If I’d gone after it just a bit later, I’d be fishing it out of the pond by the Swanna House right now.”

The Box Buster stiffened up as an embarrassed grimace came over his face.

“Oh! Er, sorry about the trouble! I’ll just be taking that…”

The Rock-type took the letter and hastily tucked it away under the counter. Perhaps Tipper should’ve left things there, but he couldn’t help but wonder about that extra line on the envelope above the recipient’s address.

“I didn’t know that you had a partner for your shop, even if I’m surprised he’d just put one of his personal names on it for the world to see,” Tipper said. “Though where on earth is ‘Mistville’ on this continent anyways?”

The Box Buster blinked in reply, before giving a sheepish paw at the back at his head.

“Er… well, that’s actually my name that I use with close friends and family, even if it’s technically read a bit differently than that,” he explained. “Here on Mist, it’s convention to read Footprint Runes which are part of such names in the Old Language. So that’d be ‘Galton Di Brumezia’, or ‘Galton from Noe Town’ in plain speech.”

Tipper suddenly felt a lot dumber. He supposed he himself had experience with similar letters back on Air, even if the convention for personal names was a bit different. It was convention to just put such names right after the species name written in Air’s own Old Language. Sometimes the names would sound the same as they did in plain speech like ‘Pikachu Ichi’ or ‘Nidoking Sakaki’, while with others like ‘Bippa Haru’ or ‘Nyula Hiro’, one could tell how one was supposed to read them just based off the runes in front of the name.

“Right, I suppose there’s times when the Pokémon back home sometimes read Footprint Runes in our own Old Language, too,” Tipper said. “Even if I can’t say that anyone there has a name like yours…

The Kecleon shook his head. Part of him was admittedly curious as to where ‘Galton’ came from as a name. At least at home, it wasn’t unheard of for Pokémon to go through multiple personal names in life as they evolved or their life circumstances changed. All the better to avoid being stuck with some embarrassment of a name one had as a hatchling like ‘Boo-Boo’ well into old age.

Though who on earth had even sent this thing if they knew Rampardos so well?

“Though what’s the story of the letter anyways?” he asked. “I didn’t think that Pokémon here on Mist were so casual about intimately addressing strangers.”

“Oh, it’s from my son,” Rampardos answered. “He works on an Exploration Team in a town towards the northern end of the highway that runs past town.”

The Box Buster trailed off and turned away, giving an uneasy paw at his shoulder.

“I… actually moved out here to Post Town to try to be a bit closer to him. He doesn’t get the chance to come back to Noe Town a whole lot.”

Tipper fell quiet at Rampardos’ response. He had a feeling that there was more to the story that Rampardos wasn’t telling him, but he opted not to press the matter. He also hadn’t realized that there were other Pokémon out here in Post Town who’d been plucked from big and bustling towns. Did Rampardos ever have doubts or regrets like him about coming here? Especially when he came from a place that had quite literally been reaching for the skies in recent years…

“I see. Do… you ever miss it?” the Kecleon asked. “Noe Town, that is? Since I was under the impression that it was a much bigger and livelier place than this.”

“Oh, it is. But the slower pace of life here’s not necessarily a bad thing,” the Box Buster replied. “It’s nice to have more space to work with. And there’s fewer Pokémon complaining about the noise my box busting makes or the wreckage of the chests piling up between runs to throw them out.”

Tipper supposed that was one way to tell that Rampardos also made quite a racket at his old shop. Though he still didn’t understand why Rampardos had abruptly stopped working a couple days ago. With how hard he’d been busting boxes up until yesterday, Rampardos certainly didn’t seem like the type who’d slack off from work…

“I’d imagine, though I’d actually been getting kinda used to it before you stopped,” Tipper said. “Were you taking a break from work?”

“Something like that,” Rampardos replied. “Though say, Kecleon. You’re living at the Swanna House at the moment, right?”

“Yeah? Why do you ask?”

The Box Buster turned back towards his shop, before pawing at his head with a sheepish grin.

“Do you happen to know if Gurdurr’s been taking any more carpentry orders lately?” the Rock-type asked. “I… might’ve busted the shop up a bit too much, and it’s been keeping me from being able to do my job.”

Well. That would explain a thing or two about why things had been so quiet lately. Tipper thought back to the last time he’d seen Gurdurr in the Swanna House’s Juice Bar. He was ornery as usual back then and questionably sober, and gave off the sort of vibe that just screamed that giving him business was a bad idea.

Tipper shook his head back, before lowering his head with a tired sigh.

“I’ll ask Swanna about it, but don’t hold your breath,” he said. “I’d personally recommend asking some friends of yours from Noe Town if they can come over to help you.”

“Er… right.” Rampardos nodded. “I’ll keep it in mind.”

Tipper headed off from Rampardos’ shop and off for the Swanna House. He doubted that the Signora would have any quick fixes to offer for the Box Buster’s shop, but he supposed he wouldn’t complain about there being a bit more peace and quiet for a while.

That, and a part of him figured that he ought to talk to Rampardos a little more often.
 
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