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Like a Dragon

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, it's been a while, but for those of you happened to remember some of the chatter associated with Hunting Game in the lead-up to its release might have remembered me mentioning that I'd written it in part as a mechanical pilot to an anthology of some shorter and more lighthearted one-shots I had in the oven. Well, that'd be this one that you're reading right now.

Now, if these one-shots happen to read familiar to you... well, they should. The initial set of one-shots published here are expanded and overhauled versions of the drabbles I submitted for Thousand Roads' Third Anniversary Drabble Bingo way back in May 2022, so while some details got changed around, the stories were largely the same.

Time will tell just how much things wind up outgrowing that initial base of stories since this one-shot collection happens to have one of those "theoretically indefinitely expandable premises", but as my latest sideshow to a sideshow I’ve got going on from my main work, this is one of those "bumps whenever I have time, energy, and motivation to make things happen" projects. But hey, there will be at least seven stories in this thing for your reading pleasure before I decide that I'm done with it.

These one-shots are uploaded in the order they were originally written in and are designed to be read in any order the reader pleases. To that end, I've added a cute little table of contents added as a little flourish for those that want to just skip straight to one or another story with little blurbs about what their rough premises are. But that's enough rambling from my end for now. Let's get right into things...



Like a Dragon



It is the world of Pokémon and you are a dragon, a word that means many things to many sorts. Mighty and meek. Strong and weak. Covered in scale and fur and most everything in between. These are your stories, ones about the various creatures who can claim such a title.

Even if some of them might seem strange to others at a first glance.



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A Guarding Dragon - It is in the nature of dragons to stand guard over their treasures. Even if you are a Flapple, you are no different.


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A Dragon's Ferocity - Ampharos are unassuming creatures, ones that a human might find cute and unthreatening. You thought the same once, until you saw one display a power and ferocity like your own.


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A Dragon's Lineage - The birth of a child is a milestone in the life of any Pokémon, not least of all for a dragon. Few things are said to be stronger than a parent’s love, but can that still be the case when your child is so different from you?


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A Dragon's Savior - When others speak of a dragon, they might reflexively think of strong and fearsome creatures that make the world tremble at their approach. You are a dragon and are none of those things. And in your current predicament right now, you find yourself wishing that such a dragon was around to come to your aid.


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A Dragon Someday - Last year, your closest friend, your partner, was taken from you because you didn’t have the strength to fight off your enemies. In your quest to get him back, you’ve come across treasures that promise to give you just the strength you need… if you can just steal it first.


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A Flightless Dragon - Bagon like you are creatures who hear the call of the heavens above, enough so that you can feel it in your bones… even as your attempts to fly keep bringing you crashing to earth. Your place in the sky like a proper dragon lies just beyond your grasp. Perhaps all you need to claim it is just a little leap of faith.

 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.



A Guarding Dragon



Turffield had always been a quiet, humble town, its rhythms dictated by the growth and harvests of the nurturing bowl formed by its many terraced farming fields. While life had taken a quicker pace in the town itself, especially after the local stadium was built, its surroundings remained as quiet and bucolic as ever. And so it was for you that day, on the same old dirt lane, next to the same old apple orchard, all under the same old sky under the drifting clouds.

You even stood guard on the same old stand put out for harvest time: a shabby table with a raised ledge at its deep end you sat on, overlooking cardboard cartons resting at an angle that were stocked with the same red apples that grew year in and year out. They were set out next to the same old sign and the same old chipped cup offering them up for sale. Three for the price of one of those ‘soda pops’ that were all the rage.

Clink.

Along with the same clatter of metal against porcelain that jolts you to attention. You raise your eyes briefly from your disguise and see a gray-haired woman dropping some spare change into it before grabbing at one of the apples on the shelf. You let your gaze linger jealously on her for a moment, only to turn away and slink back into your cover as the sound of footsteps shuffles off. Just another normal sale, and from one of the same old customers to this orchard. One that’d probably been giving business for quite a while.

The family that ran this orchard had set aside a small portion of their stock every growing season for travelers for years, perhaps for centuries. If the stories told by your mentor who used to keep watch for the orchard were to be believed, they’d kept this practice alive since the times when humans wore metal armor and fought with blades much as Sirfetch’d do. Times that even a dragon would find to be from a distant, unrecognizable era. Fortunately, the process by which the orchard dispersed its stock was simple to understand: take an apple from the hoard of red fruits set out, and then add some change to the hoard of coins in the cup. A gesture of goodwill and trust to those passers-by.

“Oi, look, there’s free food just lying around there.”

Except, every year, there were always a handful of travelers that would abuse that trust, and you were pretty sure you could see a few more of their ilk right now from your hiding place: a stocky young man and a gangly girl. The pair were both dressed in black with ridiculous pink hair and face paint.

That was why you were here: to serve as the orchard’s trusted guardian over its little hoard of fruit and coins. The loutish humans hadn’t noticed you yet, and you keep a careful, watchful eye over them as the man reaches for one of the apples and bite into it much to his partner’s skepticism.

Your mentor told you stories in the past of how sometimes it was best to take a gentler approach with passersby who would abuse the trust of the orchard. When they were needy or desperate, or when they’d simply failed to read the sign. Circumstances that merited a stern but patient warning, or sometimes even a blind eye in understanding.

“Aren’t you supposed to pay for that first, bruv?”

I don’t see anyone actually bothering to sell them. And someone just left this money lying around! Finders keepers!”

Though from the man’s words and way he was reaching for the coin-hoard in the cup, a gentle approach would clearly not do. You uncoil yourself from your hiding place, a larger apple hiding in plain sight on the raised shelf at the top of the stand, and stretch your neck out to telegraph your warning.

“Wait, why does it suddenly smell like flowers right now?”

The humans turn and look up at you, with your disguise revealed. You uncoil your body and spread your wings, fanning them wide to make yourself look bigger and remind the pair that even if it was a modest hoard, that it was yours and since you were a dragon, that they stole from it at their own peril. To make your message clear, you raise your voice and let out the fiercest roar you could muster…

Which judging from the look on the man’s face, still needs a bit of work to make it sound more imposing.

“Ah, it’s just a Flapple,” he scoffed. “What, come here to help yourself to some apples, too?”

You narrow your eyes and feel bile build up at the back of your throat after seeing the man pick up the cup. You’d given him fair warning, now it was time to show this would-be thief that you meant business. You spit up a spray of fluid at his coat, which sizzles against the fabric, bubbling up as the acid eats away at its surface. That gets your message across, and the humans’ arrogance quickly evaporates as their eyes shoot wide and they recoil with startled yelps.

“Ack! Blimey!”

“I told you you were supposed to pay for that!” the woman cried. “Let’s get out of here!”

The man hurriedly throws aside his jacket as your acid burns holes into it and the pair take off running down the path, the man dropping his purloined apple along the way. Good riddance, really.

You make your way down from your perch and right the cup and the coin-hoard, carefully returning the loose coins that came out. Then you turn your attention to the jacket and tug at it to move it off the path. No sense in leaving it lying around to make other travelers unsafe and scare them off. You bite down on a corner and pull it away onto the other side of the road, when you hear a jingling noise. A quick nose into a pocket and search with your claws turns up some coins in it.

Enough to have bought at least three of the stand’s apples had the man just been honest.

You take the coins and added them to the cup, before taking the bitten apple the loutish man abandoned before he fled and returning to your perch. For whatever reason, humans had a habit of turning up perfectly good apples after someone else gave even the littlest of bites to them, but that was hardly a loss for you.

It was back to the same old quiet, watching over the same old stand on the same old lane outside of Turffield. Except now you had a snack as you waited for the next traveler to come by.
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.



A Dragon’s Ferocity



Finding hunting grounds was a challenge for any dragon, especially one with an appetite as big as yours. Though that came with the territory of being a Pokémon of your kind: one the gods had given the strength to make the world tremble before their three heads, at the cost of them needing to be ever fed. As such, Hydreigon had to have a nose for finding grounds that would sate that hunger, even if it meant looking in unlikely places.

You remembered when you first heard the rumors, of untouched hunting grounds south and west of the shrines to the great dragons. Grounds where prey were plentiful in number and grew fat and sleek from verdant fields. You can see them now as clear as day through three sets of eyes

You look down at the ground at the silhouette of your wings over the treetops to make sure that you’re not dreaming: green, rolling plains just beyond the forest. And milling about on top of it, a veritable sea of bleating, yellow wool.

“So the stories really are true…”

Your stomach growls at the sight and your mouths begin to water. Somehow, such rich hunting grounds had gone unclaimed all this time. All yours for the taking. And to think that your peers opted to squabble over competing claims in the mountains for prey that could slip away into caves and crags at a moment’s notice!

… Though perhaps things weren’t so black-and-white. These fields were supposed to be tended to by humans, and it was said that as balance to the toll of tooth and claw the gods allowed Pokémon to take on humans that interfered in their affairs, that they saw it fit to allow humans to similarly punish Pokémon that interfered with theirs… and of those of the Pokémon that made cause with them. Which those Mareep almost certainly have done.

But they are humans, and you are a Hydreigon. They are said to quake in fear at the sight of your kind, even the ones who left the wild to den among them. Your kind by contrast, has stories in both your and their folklore of your kind’s mightier individuals laying waste to their villages.

But there is no need for things to come to that today: you didn’t come to hunt humans, so your quarrel isn’t with them anyways. If they wished to make it so for the sake of a few unwary Mareep… well, you’ll believe they can win that battle when they emerge from hiding from their dens and challenge you themselves. You are the Hydreigon, after all. They are the weak creatures dependent on hiding behind the strength of others.

You bank in the air along the edge of the forest and swoop lower, glancing over your shoulders to make sure another dragon hasn’t tailed you. The skies are clear but for clouds, and it’s all the encouragement you need to dive out towards the flock of Mareep in the fields, building up bluish, fiery light in your mouths.

A few of the Mareep spot you and freeze, frantically bleating out warnings to their fellows, but it is too late. You spit up a Dragon Pulse, and then another, and another. Three Mareep crumple to the ground, singed with might of your dragonfire. Their peers break away in a panic, but that is just fine by you. Your have already felled your prey before they knew what hit them. When you finish them off, you will be rewarded with a fill of succulent and still-tender meat. The just reward the gods are said to give to hunters that do not revel not in the fear and pain of their prey and quickly finish them off.

A quick swoop down and you are there to seize one of the felled Mareep with your leftmost head, biting down into her wool. You feel a feeble pulse in your jaws, but with the condition she is in, you doubt the sheep will wake up before you can carry her off and dispatch her in a quieter place away from your foes’ grasp.

You hastily flap your wings and make your way over to the second and do the same with the rightmost head as a few electric bolts sail in. The Mareep are attempting to close ranks to aid their fallen comrades. But those attacks are from Mareep, while you are a Hydreigon, and they bounce off your hide like little pricks from a Combee. Perhaps less so, since Combee pricks can be surprisingly painful sometimes.

A bellowing roar turns back a good number of the sheep in a panic and a few wingbeats later, you make your way to the third Mareep and open the jaws on your central head. This one wakes up as you approach and flinches with a low whimper after he sees you.

“I suppose my luck was bound to run out,” you grumble to yourself. This Mareep’s fear will make his meat tough and stringy compared to the other two. Perhaps you’ll eat him first to just get it over with so your meal will end on a less disappointing note.

You bare your fangs and prepare to bite down and fly off, when a blinding flash sails in and numb warmth courses through your body. You lose your grip on the other two Mareep and fall back with a pained bellow. You beat your wings and even your body out, turning your heads to see the rest of the Mareep pulling your prey away from your grasp and an Ampharos approaching with a piercing glare, sparks still dancing on his hide.

“You should know better than to prey on Pokémon that trade life under the wild’s rhythms for those set by humans. Especially ones that have done you no wrong,” the ram bleats. “The gods do not smile on Pokémon that would harm them like this.”

You blink incredulously at the Ampharos, before flitting back and coiling your necks. It occurs to you that he would be much bigger and more filling quarry. And without any hint of fear about him, the meat from his body would surely be more pleasing to consume. Even so, the ram struck you harder than you expected, and harder than you’d care to let him know. So you bare your fangs back and unfurl your six wings to their full span, snarling to remind this interloper that you are a Hydreigon, while he is a mere Ampharos.

“I think that I’m more familiar with the ways of the gods than a human pet,” you sneer. “And what do you think a mere grazer like you can do to me?”

The Ampharos narrows his eyes, before letting static crackle on his body before he glares daggers at you and speaks in a calm, unfazed tone.

Kill you. With the very power that you wield as your own,” he answers. “We Ampharos have the strength of dragons coursing through our veins, and as the Lead Ram of the Floccesy Ranch Flock, I have come far along enough to be able to use it.”

At this, you burst into laughter, struggling with all your might not to fall out of the air and bowl over onto the grass. This Ampharos… the creature that should be quailing in his tracks and begging for his life right now, is threatening you? You’d heard that being in the care of humans went to the heads of some Pokémon, but this was just too much.

Just then, a weak jolt of electricity courses through your body and you stop laughing as your limbs lock up and grow stiff. Your eyes widen briefly, but you recompose yourself and turn with a snarl. After all, you are the Hydreigon, and he is a mere Ampharos. Your kind eats Pokémon stronger than him on a regular basis.

Burn!

You disgorge a blue pulse of dragonfire, which makes the Ampharos stagger back much to your satisfaction. You let out a bellowing roar and fight against your stiff wings to fly at the ram as smoke swirls, opening your jaws wide to tear into him. It is then that the smoke clears and much to your alarm, the Ampharos is still standing, with an orb of bluish dragonfire in his mouth.

A sharp yelp comes from your throats, one that catches you off-guard with how much it sounds like the frightened bleating of the Mareep from earlier. Something that you will make a point of never telling another soul about in your life. You hurriedly try to pull up, when burning pain shoots through your belly. The world spins about you as you lose altitude and crash onto your side on the ground with a loud thud.

You lie there in a daze briefly as you struggle to make out swirling colors and shapes that won’t stay still. H-How on earth had this happened? You are the Hydreigon, he is the Ampharos! Th-This was completely backwards from how things were supposed to go!

You yelp after a sharp kick strikes your stomach and rolls you over onto your back. Something presses down on your central throat and you start to have trouble breathing through it. You look up, and there is the Ampharos standing over you, static dancing on his hide. Your ears pick up bleating jeers from all around you, as the Mareep aren’t afraid of you anymore and are eager to make sure you know it.

This is it. You’re going to die here. You want to face the end with bravery and dignity, like a dragon is supposed to in such situations, defiant even against the final blow. Contrary to all your expectations, the Ampharos has emerged the victor from your struggle after all, and you know he has every right to claim you.

… It proves harder than you thought, and waiting for death is a more frightening experience than you expected. You screw all six of your eyes shut as a shiver runs down your body. Things begin to grow a bit hazy, and while you’ll never admit it if you somehow survive this, but you’re pretty sure you’re whimpering right now. It’s lower and rougher, but it’s not wholly unlike the sounds the last Mareep from earlier was making after he came to.

But the killing blow doesn’t come. You still hear the Mareep’s bleating all around you, and you still feel the aching pains wracking your body, so you’re not dead yet. You crack your eyes open warily, and see the Ampharos’ foot still on your central throat. The static has died down on his hide, and in its place, he looks down at you with a piercing glare.

“I would just like to remind you that I warned you this would happen,” the Ampharos huffed. “Fortunately for you, we ‘pets’ don’t live by the rules you do in the wild and there is no blood to be avenged. Go and hunt elsewhere.”

The Ampharos lets his foot off your throat. You roll over onto your stomach and wheeze for air out of fright. You had no idea that Ampharos could become this fierce, this powerful. You look back at the sheep, who is beginning to have impatient sparks dance on his hide again.

“And don’t come back here,” he warns you. “If I see you in these fields a second time, I’ll see to it that you won’t live to tell others about losing twice to an old ram.”

There is nothing left to be said between you two. You yelp and scrabble onto your stubby legs. After pitching startledly to the ground from a failed attempt at taking off, you leap into the air and fly off as fast as your wings and your wounds from battle will let you.

Somewhere south and west of the shrines to the great dragons, there are untouched hunting grounds where prey are plentiful in number and grow fat and sleek in verdant fields. Someday, a dragon with great strength might claim it for his own.

But that dragon is not you. You’re not going to tempt fate and you’re going to put a healthy distance between you and that accursed Ampharos. There was a lake you spotted north of here about fifteen minutes ago by flying: you’re going to go there, lick your wounds, and try your luck fishing for Basculin.
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads, for beta reading this one-shot.



A Dragon's Lineage



For a Pokémon, dwelling among humans comes full of quirks and oddities, and it’s rife with occasions you’d never encounter while living in the wild. The humans have their orbs with simulated habitats that carry Pokémon both great and small in them. They bring in a variety of contraptions that they use to carry themselves around or keep their dens lit and warm regardless of the time of day or the season—including the one you’re in now. And of course, they have access to medicines and machines that allow Pokémon to recover from wounds that would be mortal in the wild.

But the human oddity that holds your attention most right now is a cylinder sitting on the tiled floor of the hallway of the human den you’re in. The cylinder looks much like a light-creating contraption humans call a “lantern”, but this one has a purple and yellow egg resting inside of it behind a layer of clear glass. If you hold your head in front of it right, you can even see your reflection in it. Your white and blue scales along your serpentine body, the blue orb on your neck, and the pair of wings on the sides of your head.

“Are you sure this will work out?”

The hissing voice that reaches your ears and prompt you to give a quick turn of your head to your left, reveals an Arbok staring worriedly down at you, giving an unconscious waggle of her tail back and forth. She is your partner, the two of you both under the same human. And... she is also your mate.

She glimpses briefly at the egg in the contraption—an “incubator”, you’ve heard it called—and flicks her tongue briefly before looking away from you with a low sigh.

“My kind doesn’t normally rear children for long,” she says. “No longer than it takes for them to slither off into the grass,” she continues, turning aside with a hint of hesitation. “I’m… not sure what I’d be able to offer our child when I don’t know the first thing about watching over one.”

You flatten out your head-wings and suck in a sharp breath. If you were still back in the wilds, you would never hear the end of this from your peers. They’d have no shortage of words to say about how you chose a mate who by nature wasn’t used to staying and nurturing her child. About how you sired a child who would never be able to fly alongside you; nor to fight as you could, for they would never wield your dragonfire. One who would draw mockery and laughter from dragonkind were he or she to claim the title of ‘dragon’.

You shake your head to try and dismiss those thoughts. Why were you dwelling on them anyways? You’d come to live with humans precisely because those other dragons didn’t lend you aid at a time of need in the wild. Because none showed up when you were swept onto sharp rocks by a rogue wave when you were still a Dratini, and were left with deep wounds from it. Wounds that kept you from moving about in the water properly and made you gravely ill after they grew infected. If you hadn’t been discovered on that beach by humans all those years ago, you likely never would’ve lived long enough to worry about a child at all.

She’d even given you a chance to return back to the wild after evolution wiped those wounds away… and you’d turned the chance down, because you’d made friends with the other Pokémon that traveled with the humans you came to know.

Including the Arbok with whom you’d sired the egg in the incubator you’re staring at right now. Your whole life has been marked by taking chances and making choices that aren’t possible for you in nature. Why should that change now?

“We aren’t living like that,” you insist. “There’s room for us to try things differently.”

A crack sounds out, as a fissure runs down the length of the shell and violet scales nose at it from underneath. The Arbok sets her teeth on edge and looks around worriedly.

“Of all the times for Belinda not to be here,” she murmurs.

You’re a bit nervous yourself, and you find yourself sharing your mate’s wish that your trainer were present at the moment. But she won’t be back to this den for a few hours still, and you’re pretty sure that in this case, you’ve learned enough from her in order to get by at the moment.

“It’s alright,” you insist. “I think that I can get the machine open.”

You nose at the plastic covering over the front of the incubator and after a few fumbling noses at it, it slides open—just in time for the egg to split and the form of a young Ekans to emerge with a few tired groans. This is your child who you’ve been waiting for all these weeks. It takes a while before you can spot the appropriate patch of scales that lets you know for certain, but this is her.

You pause and your heart swells for a moment as you lower your snout at the young serpent. She abruptly coils up, and then shrinks back with a sharp rattle of her tail that makes you hesitate.

Are you scaring her? You hesitate and try to pin the wings on your head back to make yourself look smaller and less imposing.

“H-Hi there,” you stammer. “I… I know that I probably look different than what you’re expecting, but I’m your-”

You don’t get to finish your words before you hear a startled hiss. Before you know it, you feel is a heavy smack at your snout from a lunging tackle, followed by the stabbing pain of fangs sinking into it.

“Agh!”

You lurch backwards from the incubator and fight every bone in your body to not thrash about. A quick glance down your snout reveals your child dangling from your snout, her top fangs sinking into them past your scales. Your mate slithers over and hurriedly nuzzles at the Ekans, speaking in a soothing tone with a soft hiss.

“Easy! Easy, little one! There’s nothing to worry about! That’s your father!”

You wince a little as you feel a weight let go of your snout. Your child hits the floor and slithers behind the Arbok.

You nose at your wounded snout, and brush away a couple droplets of blood against your scales. It occurs to you that you’re still feeling healthy at the moment. Guess your mate’s reassurances that her kind starts their lives without poison weren’t just empty words. You turn back to your mate, and see your child craning her head out warily from behind her mother to look at you.

“Da-a da?”

It will take some weeks before your child’s grasp of her voice’s rhythm and tone begins to allow her to speak coherently, and you’re not sure whether or not her letting go of you was a fluke or not. You see your mate nose at her to try and calm her down, as your eyes begin to drift towards the floor of the human den.
You start to get doubts again. Over whether this was a good idea. Over whether this will even work. Sure, Belinda will be there to help care for your child as your trainer, but with how different you and your mate are, will your child love you the way you want to love her back?

“Dada.”

You feel scales brush up against yours, and look to see your child has come up to you and begin curling around your body. Or she’s trying to, at least. Your worries and fears ebb away then, as you resolve that whatever the future holds for your family, that you’ll work things out.

“Y-Yeah, th-that’s me. Dada. You- You kinda gave me a scare there.”

You nose at your child and she noses back at you. You don’t know whether or not she will ever be able to call herself ‘dragon’. Or whether she’ll ever be able to share any of your ways. But right then, right there, you are convinced that in all the ways that matter, that she is just like you.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.



A Dragon's Savior



You keep your body close to the ground under the shade of a canopy of leaves overhead. A large bush that you might have been happy to gorge on in better times, when the dark was there to disguise you and the rain was there to aid your movements. But as the heat in the air and the rays of sunlight trickling in through the gaps between the leaves reminds you, now isn’t that time, and you don’t dare budge in your hiding place.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. You were supposed to have gone foraging while the nightly rains made it easier for you to move about. You were supposed to have eaten your fill of leaves and berries hours ago, and then gone back to your hiding place to rest alongside your peers.

But then you ran into that Serperior on the prowl and you were forced to hide in these bushes. You’d tried to keep an eye out for a chance to sneak past the fearsome serpent, but you were lethargic from not having had the chance to eat beforehand. One thing led to another, and before you knew it, the rains stopped and the sun began to peek over the horizon.

For some Pokémon, the night was dark and full of terrors. But with your slow gait and your frail body, damp darkness was your ally. The beating sun had long dried up that dampness outside, and it won’t be until about midday until light rains come again to the island that you live on and make moving around easier again.

Or at least easy enough to try and sneak back to your den by going from bush to bush. You’d tried to rest and conserve your energy until that time came, but between your hunger and the daytime heat eating away at the damp layer of slime on your body, you kept having trouble staying awake.

Worse still, every now and then, your antennae would pick up movement from just outside the bush you were hiding in, like the heavy footsteps you sense passing by you right now. Just as in those prior occasions, you keep still and try to tell yourself that whatever is on the other end hasn’t seen you. That if you just stay quiet, you can hold on and inch away back to safety. But it was your evolution that had mucus that would burn to the touch. If whatever found you set upon you…

You try not to think too hard about it. Suffice to say, you don’t have such natural defenses just yet, and you’re stuck here waiting and trying to remain still and quiet like your life depends on it.

Because in all likelihood, it does.

Except, this time the footsteps return. Your small eyes shrink to pins and you desperately hold your breath, when the bush around you erupts with activity. A pair of gray, chitinous horns slice through the foliage right above you, just barely missing your antennae.

You scream, and spit up a stream of blue dragonfire at your attacker before you break from the bush and slime ahead as fast as you can… which is probably pitifully slow in comparison to your attacker. You turn your eyes as much as you can and see your foe is a hulking, brown beetle, with barbed pincers at the top of his head and a mouth full of sharp, fang-like mandibles.

You remember there is a ledge just up ahead from your hiding place that goes down to the beach. Down to where humans sometimes come onto this island from the sea. If you can just make it there, maybe you can buy some time for the Pinsir to lose sight of you. Enough time for you to find another bush to hide in.

Except, the dew and nightly rains have long dried out. You hurriedly inch forward, contracting your foot as the edge comes into view. Any relief you have is swiftly quashed by the sound of an overpowering hiss. The Pinsir is behind you, coming at you lunging with his pincers, aiming to grasp you between them and finish you off. You flatten yourself against the ground as the pincers snap shut just overhead with a sharp clack and you throw yourself off the ledge.

You hit the grass below as the impact knocks the wind out of you. You lay there stunned for a moment and try to get up when you hear wings buzzing. You look behind you and see the Pinsir has followed you, evidently having seen your leap of faith this entire time. You let out a low whine as the beetle clicks his mandibles, and steel yourself for the end.

That is when you see a sudden shock of green and brown barrel in, trailing telltale flecks of fiery blue that looks just like your Dragon Breath. The blur crushes the Pinsir to the ground, before jerking back up high into the sky. You look as the Pinsir struggles against the ground in a daze, before he hurriedly scrabbles away and limps off into the brush.

Your breaths come tense and heavy as you look up, and see a towering tree above you. Or at least you think it is a tree until it turns and cranes downward. The things that look like coconuts at first glance turn out to be a trio of heads, and you freeze as they study you carefully.

“You look tired, young dragon,” the Exeggutor says. “Why do you move about in the sun in such a state?”

You breathe in and out sharply as you feel an overpowering urge to flee, when it occurs to you: this Exeggutor has saved your life. Even if he is tall and imposing, if he meant you harm you, he’d have done so by now.

The least you can do as a thanks is to give him an answer in reply.

“Because I was stranded while I was foraging for food,” you explain. “And I was set upon by my enemies while I was weak and vulnerable.”

The Exeggutor stares at you for a quiet moment, before shaking his leafy heads. The great dragon cracks a trio of small smiles and rumbles in reassurance.

“It won’t be much longer until the daytime rains, little one. This is where I normally sun myself before they come. Won’t you stay and rest a while?” the tree-creature asks. “As one dragon to another, I can lend a helping frond this once.”

You’re still in disbelief over everything that has happened. But you need a shaded place to rest, and no bush on this island has carries sort of power your unexpected guardian just wielded.

And so, even if part of you is still wary, even if it is still afraid. Your words wind up leaving your mouth without you thinking.

“Of-Of course.”

The tree-dragon rears back up, his head stretching high up into the sky where the birds might fly as shade falls on the grass around you. Exhausted, you inch forward and flatten yourself against it near the Exeggutor’s legs, closing your eyes as sleep claims you.



You wake up to the patter of rain against your body. You yawn and turn your eyes skyward, finding the Exeggutor turning to glance you over before he cranes his head down to speak.

“I’m afraid this is where we must part ways,” he says. “My rhythms call me to the west of the island for when the rain parts for the afternoon sun. And yours…”

The Exeggutor motions off inland, where you see your fellows inching along. Goomy and Sliggoo, making their way down from the hilltop to forage. Your eyes brighten from the sight and you start to set off, only to catch yourself as you turn back to the great tree dragon towering up into the skies above.

“I don’t know how I can ever repay you,” you murmur.

“Be careful and patient, young dragon,” he answers. “If the fates smile upon you, you too will grow strong and tall one day. Knowing that you’ll use it to help another dragon small in stature just as another did for me when I was once small and weak is thanks enough.”

You don’t know if that day will ever come. Especially since you’re sure you’ve never heard of your kind growing tall enough to tower into the sky like this Exeggutor. But you give the dragon your word and begin to slime off, calling out to your peers in the distance.

You’ll have quite the story to tell them after you’ve eaten your fill and finally make your way back home. Of how a fellow dragon saved your life, one taller and stronger than you could’ve ever imagined.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
>like a dragon
Ayyy

Yeah, the title's an artifact of when this project carried significantly more underworld influence for its scenarios, hence the title that ought to be very familiar to those who know their Yakuza series. Unfortunately, I kinda struggled with coming up with them on that front. Who knows, maybe someday I'll write a short showing some "dragons" aligned with a villainous team belting it out together over karaoke.

Though I did manage to get at least one one-shot done in that original vein. That would be today's, where even if I was a bit more of a hack than normal, I got out something that I was decently alright with. Originally I thought about sandbagging the update since I'd already put up something earlier today, but eh. It's also ORAS' anniversary today, and today's scenario is decently fitting for it.

Special thanks to @Venia Silente and Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads, for beta reading this one-shot. And with that, let's get into a story that you might find a bit familiar, if still different from how you remembered it.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter


A Dragon Someday



You crouch as you peek out from the bushes along the stone fence line, the salt tang in the air pricking your nostrils as you crouch and pull a set of sharp leaves on your arms taut into each other as blades. Humans call the place you’re in ‘Mossdeep City’, and you are in one of its neighborhoods somewhere in its northwest tip. Here, the houses are big with broad yards, ones that belong to humans with many treasures.

Treasures that you and your human partner used to ambush such humans for.

You paw at a small, black wristband hiked further up your right arm and ask yourself why you feel so nervous right now, when it occurs to you that if your partner was here, he’d pull you back into your Pokéball on the spot and give you an earful later. You don’t know what exactly he’d say, since your grasp of human language is still a bit shaky, but the gist of it would surely be that taking this sort of risk for a treasure was a terrible idea and that you were an idiot for even thinking about doing it.

Your partner instructed you in the past that it was not safe to go through houses such as these blindly. Many of them are watched by the likes of guarding Manectric, and others have eye-like machines hidden about which allow humans to see those who prowl about their territories and track them down later. It was better to snatch the things of the humans from these big houses while they were out and about in the busier parts of the city, where a human like your partner could lose a pursuer among the crowds as easily as you could among the treetops of a forest.

You look out from your hiding place and see a broad, green lawn—a rarity for houses outside this neighborhood. You start to feel your stomach knot up as you realize that all the tricks you and your partner used to use won’t work here. You’ll be completely in the open the moment you leave your bush, so it is imperative that you slip in and out unseen.

Your earlier plan had been to try and snatch your mark’s treasure back deeper in town, when you’d first seen this man and overheard him with some companions of his. You hadn’t made out all of his conversation, but he’d apparently found stones that made Pokémon stronger. You’d tailed him the entire way back on your own, occasionally stopping and pretending you were waiting for a trainer if passersby found your presence as an unattended Pokémon strange. It’d cost you an opening to make your move more than once already.

Now, your attention drifts back to the scene at the house where your mark is seated on patio furniture near an overlook of the sea: a man in white hair in a black suit… who is tending to a Metagross. You gulp and begin to understand why you haven’t seen any guards here. This human and just this companion of his alone are already strong enough to be their own guards, to say nothing about any others that might be hiding in those other Pokéballs on the holster around his waist.

You feel a cold shiver run down your spine and start to get second thoughts about this whole idea. Attempting direct battle with those two would be tantamount to suicide. You’d feel much more confident if your trainer were still here for you. If he were, he’d simply distract the man and his companion while you cut open the bag,snatched those stones within it, and ran off. He was always crafty with battle strategies, and were you caught, he could even potentially get you out of trouble by pretending you’d been misbehaving and feigning an apology.

Except, he isn’t here alongside you right now.

You glimpse back at the wristband on your arm. As the memories of your trainer locked up in that little silicone strip start to swirl about in your memory.



Your trainer was a kind human. He never treated you ill, and was always there to come to your side when you were hurt or frightened. He was a bit loud and brash, but you frankly preferred having a partner of that sort who wasn’t afraid to stir up trouble on behalf of his friends.

… Right, trouble. There certainly was no shortage of that when you two were together. Perhaps you should’ve suspected that something was wrong from the way you and him kept getting into fights with other humans, often over little trinkets or bits of paper and metal that humans value. Sure, as long as you were able to overpower their Pokémon, those fights usually came to an end quickly: after all, you were the one with Leaf Blades, and humans tended to lose their will to fight without a strong partner at their side.

But other times it had been you who lost the battle, even if you took it all in stride. It was thrilling, almost like hunting: but with key differences. Even if you failed, you’d get more second chances, and your human and you would be there to have each other’s backs.

… Until one night last year, when those second chances ran out. You’d ambushed your foes to snatch their belongings like many a time in the past, except partway through the battle, one of your usual enemies intervened, a human in a peaked cap with a Growlithe. You remember a flash of panic coming over your partner’s face, a gout of fire hitting yours that hurt more than you expected it to, and then everything going black when you hit the pavement.

You remember waking up afterwards on a bed in the backroom of a Pokécenter with your mouth muzzled, your ankles zip tied, and your wrists similarly bound behind your back. You panicked and called out for your trainer, expecting he’d be there to help you like he always was. He never came, and the Chansey on-staff told you not to expect him, and to not cause trouble since you were only allowed to be out of your Pokéball at that moment because your wounds needed overnight observation.

One thing led to another, and after wriggling the zip ties around your wrists loose enough, you cut your limbs loose and broke from your bedding to try to fight your way out of the room to freedom. That didn’t last terribly long since there was a human with a peaked cap waiting outside in the hall partnered with the biggest Arcanine you’d ever seen. Before you knew it, the fight was over, with you pinned to the ground on your stomach with a snarling mouth filled with sharp fangs hovering just overhead.

Things were kinda hazy after that moment. You remember curling up under the Arcanine’s grasp and sobbing and begging for him not to roast you before one of the Pokémon on staff hit you in the face with Sleep Powder. It’s probably for the best, since from what you can remember of that moment, you know it’s not one of your prouder ones.

When you came to again just before daybreak, you woke up with a fresh set of zip ties on your limbs, fastened tight enough to start digging into your scales, and saw the Arcanine and his trainer scowling at you at your bedside. You panicked at first, but gathered before long that at least you weren’t going to die. The way the Arcanine pointedly told you afterwards that if you’d caused further trouble, you’d have your arm leaves cut and either spend the rest of your observation period sedated and drooling into your bedding or be sent back to your Pokéball regardless of your wounds was a good enough hint.

You heeded the hound’s warning since your fighting spirit had long worn down since your earlier encounter, but your trainer still didn’t come. It took all your courage to ask the Arcanine when your trainer would come for you, when he answered you with words that haunt you to this day:

"Your trainer isn’t coming. He’s been taken away to be penned up for harming other humans and Pokémon. He’ll most likely be there for a number of years."

You started to cry after that and begged and pleaded for you and your trainer to be let go. You tried to explain that you didn’t know your trainer had put you up to something he wasn’t supposed to and just been trying to help him like any Pokémon with a human would. He was your dearest friend, and you swore up and down that if they’d just let him and you go that neither of you would cause any harm afterwards.

In retrospect, you're not sure why you thought your words would make any difference.



Right, that’s why you’re doing this. For your trainer. To get the strength to find him and reunite with him. It was admittedly a shot in the dark, but you reasoned that one of those stones in the man’s bag might help. Maybe there was one inside that could make you stronger. Heavens knew you could’ve used something like that back when your partner was around. Before that night the humans in the peaked caps took him.

You suck in a breath and try to dismiss those memories as you look back out at the lawn, but a few continue to linger stubbornly. Mainly ones that have got you worried about your entire plan right now.

You think back to when you were discharged from the Pokécenter after that awful night and were passed back along with your Pokéball to your human’s parents, an elderly couple who live here in Mossdeep City. Most of the trip went by inside your Pokéball after it was pushed into a darkened container before it was removed and you were unceremoniously dumped out into the outside world, still-quivering, onto their doorstep. The humans in peaked caps pulled your human’s parents aside to explain something to them, while the Arcanine from your Pokécenter room was there too and sternly warned you to stay out of further trouble.

In the dog’s words, continuing on your trainer’s path would almost certainly bring you to an unpleasant end. You remembered him telling you that there were analogues to the buildings with human cages for Pokémon, in which Pokémon would be penned up in their Pokéballs for most hours of the day, and only let out for short periods of time into drab, featureless rooms. Being sent to such a place was one potential fate for Pokémon that kept getting into trouble the way you did. Getting cast out into the wild and being forced to relearn how to survive that lifestyle was another one. If you really got into trouble, the Arcanine warned you that you could even be put to death.

That last thought makes your attention drift from the yard outside your hiding place and sends a shiver up your spine. You’ve been ignoring the Arcanine’s warnings for some time now, and while you haven’t gotten caught yet, if you did, you don’t know what threshold the humans would use to decide whether or not to take your life.

You remind yourself that you’re not taking this great risk for the thrill of it. As far as you know, you’re the only one out there, human or Pokémon, that still cares about the fate of your partner.

Your trainer’s parents would normally be the ones to come and defend him when he was younger, but ever since you were handed over to them, they seemed to have forgotten about him. They stopped talking about their son and took down the pictures they had of him around the house. They even got rid of most of his belongings, with the band on your arm being one of the few items you were able to snatch away for yourself.

They don’t pay you much mind either and basically ignore you as long as you come home at night and don’t show up obviously injured. You don’t know whether or not it’s because you remind them of the son they seemingly forgot, or if it’s just because they’ve grown older and more sedentary.

The various friends your trainer used to have similarly haven’t done anything either. You haven’t even seen them beyond a couple chance encounters on the street. Their own Pokémon told you that there was nothing to be done for your human until he was released from his captivity.

That left just you to try and get your trainer back, but you would need strength for that. Strength more than what your occasional scuffles in this town’s back alleys and snatched item here or there from your daytime wanderings would accomplish. Strength like what those stones are supposed to provide, which from what you overheard from the man in black’s Pokémon said, carry a power that can transform Pokémon entirely.

You snap back to attention after hearing heavy footsteps and see the man and his Metagross head off for the house, with his bag sitting unattended on the patio table.

This is your big and only chance. It could be the last thing that you or your partner ever stole for all you care, so long as it helped you get him back.

You burst from the brush, reminding yourself to make this an in-and-out encounter. You bolt up to the table and hop up one of the chairs, hurriedly tipping the bag over and pawing through its contents.

Inside, you find all sorts of rocks. Small ones, large ones, rough ones, smooth ones. Tools for measuring them, tools for chipping away at them. … Was this human raised by an Aggron or something? Since you can’t say you’ve ever run into a human that cared about rocks this much before.

As you paw through the stones, you see it: a round, light-blue stone with an orange and white swirl. That must be one of the ones that made Pokémon stronger.

Just then, you hear a door slam open and freeze up. You wrap your claws around the blue stone and leap off the chair, bolting across the lawn for the fenceline. You leap to try and scrabble up it, when a harsh, metallic voice barks at you to stop.

You see a bluish aura envelop your body, and your eyes shrink to pins as an unseen force abruptly freezes you in midair and holds you aloft. You thrash about to try and break free, to no avail. You gulp and look back, as the man in black approaches you and the Metagross with him holds you aloft with telekinetic force, glaring daggers at you all the while before it gives a passing insult at your intelligence for thinking it wise to steal from them.

“‘Grovyle the Thief’, huh? Whoever put you up to this one’s been reading too many children’s stories.”

‘G-Grovyle the Thief’? ‘Stories’? You didn’t pick up all of the man’s words, but humans have ones about Grovyle that steal things?

You try to glare back and flash your leafy blades to show that you won’t go down without a fight, when his Metagross lets out a metallic-sounding hiss and makes a clacking noise under its body before telling you to go ahead and make its day. You shiver at the sound when you realize the noise probably came from the Metagross’ mouth. Metagross are supposed to be vicious predators that pin their prey under their bodies to devour them, and this one has you completely at its mercy.

You suddenly feel so small and alone. No human partner, and this was your desperate attempt to get him back. You pull your tails tight against your body and begin to stammer an explanation back in your tongue as your words come out in a squeaking stream. That you were never really going to hurt anyone. That you’ll leave right away if the man in black will just tell his partner to let you go. That Grovyle don’t taste good for anyone to eat, and especially not for Metagross.

The Metagross growls and remarks about you putting up a ‘pathetic display’, while the human doesn’t seem to pick up on anything you said and begins to approach. You draw in shallow, tense breaths and let out a frightened whine as he nears; then you look up and blink in confusion.

He’s… smiling at you right now. You’re not sure why, but he turns his eyes down at your paws still wrapped around the blue stone and points at them with one of his fingers.

“Oh, you were trying to grow stronger, weren’t you?”

‘Stronger’? This human knows about that? About how you’re trying to get strength to get your partner back?

The man says something quietly to the Metagross that makes the Steel-type sigh. The force holding you pulls you back from the fence and lets go. Without thinking, you turn to run, but before you can get more than a couple steps away, a sharp bark rings out and demands to know where you think you’re going. You skid to a stop as the Metagross blocks your path and tells you that it and its human aren’t done with you. Because of course they aren’t.

You gulp and shrink back, and look at the white-haired man, only to see that he doesn’t seem angry with you. The Metagross relays the man’s question to you and after a moment’s hesitation, you give a timid nod back to him in reply. The man hesitates after your answer, before making his way back to the bag you tore up to fish through the other rocks that were inside it.

You’re not sure if you’re in trouble right now or not. The human seems friendly… but definitely not safe. You look down at the blue stone in your paws. From how little you understand his tongue, it’s for the best not to make assumptions: for all you know, he’s toying with you right now before he turns you over to the humans in the peaked caps… or feeds you to his Metagross.

When you look back up, you see the man return with his right hand cupped around something. It’s probably a Pokéball. He must think you live in the wild and be planning to try and catch you. You’re pretty sure it won’t work since you can still go in and out of your trainer’s just fine… not that the man in black would know that.

“I’m afraid you wouldn’t have any luck getting stronger with that stone though. That’s for my partner; this was the one you wanted.”

Something about the stone you’re holding. Something about his Metagross. You forget for a moment that humans can’t understand Pokémon tongue and reflexively open your mouth to ask him to explain, only for him to pre-empt you by opening his right hand and showing off a pair of spherical stones in his grasp. One of them is a light green stone with a red and green swirl in it. You look down at your body and then at the stone, then at the one in your paws and off at the Metagross.

His Metagross then asks you how you planned on being able to use a Metagrossite in the first place. You blink at the question and suddenly feel a lot stupider. Of course a stone that would make a Pokémon stronger would look like the Pokémon that it would work on, and you snatched the one that looked nothing like you!

“I found this Sceptilite on a recent caving expedition, but I don’t really have need for it myself. Not too many of my friends would be able to use it, either. But It could make you strong, and awaken the might of a dragon in you for a short time.”

You missed most of his explanation, but managed to pick up part of his last few words. ‘Might… of a dragon’? You turn and ask the Metagross if that little rock would make you into a dragon? As in those strong creatures that fly about the skies as they please? The ones that humans tell myths of roosting in this land and soaring up to strike stars from the heavens? Of controlling time from a distant land in the far north?

You don’t know how on earth that’s possible, but you certainly aren’t going to turn it down right now. That’s exactly the sort of power you’d need to get your partner back.

The Metagross swiftly crushes your excitement by pointing out that the stone would indeed do that… for a Sceptile, while you are a Grovyle.

You hang your head a little with a low, disappointed whine when you remember that there is a second stone of many colors with a swirl in it in the man’s hand as well. One that seems to match a pin that’s set in place on the collar of his suit. What’s that one for?

“It’ll take you some time to use that Sceptilite, and you also wouldn’t be able to use it on your own. You’d need the help of a human like me that you deeply trust. Though it looks like you already have someone like that, don’t you?”

You follow the human’s finger towards the armband around your wrist. The second stone… is for your partner? The Metagross confirms your theory and explains that this second stone is a ‘Key Stone’, and it apparently works together with stones like this ‘Sceptilite’ somehow.

You don’t understand how those things work, and you’re not fully sure why these two are just dangling them in front of you. The man in black holds out the hand with the stones, and then the other empty-palmed. You hear the sound of heavy footsteps and see the Metagross backing out of the way, and cast a glance between your escape route and at the man in black.

“So what do you say, Grovyle? Seem like a fair trade for that Metagrossite and letting you go?”

The Metagross tells you its trainer is offering you a trade and encourages you not to turn it up, since it frankly would’ve preferred to Meteor Mash you and call it a day. You look at the blue stone in your paws, and the pair in the man’s hand. You could turn and flee now while the path is open, or you could take a risk and give up this stone that he evidently cares so much about, which surely must be valuable if he’s willing to give up two others in exchange for it.

You hesitate for a moment, when your mind turns back to your partner, waiting caged and alone somewhere, and you look at the two stones in the man’s hand. In a swift motion, you make the trade and palm the green stone and the iridescent stone.

You back up for the stone fence, nervously reminding the man that you made a trade and that he promised you your well-being. Your words go over his head, but beyond giving an unamused scowl, his Metagross does not move to cut you off, and the smile remains on the human’s face as he looks down at you.

“I figured you’d like it. Just don’t get yourself into trouble trying to impress your friend, okay?”

You nod back and clutch onto the stones before hastily scrabbling over the fence and into a back alley behind it. You stay there panting tensely for a while, when you gape up and see that the sun is further towards the west than you remembered it. It’s time for you to go home before your trainer’s parents get too worried about you.

The whole time, you make your way down confident and at peace, without the earlier nervousness you’d had for much of the day. You don’t know when the day will come, but someday, you will be a dragon. And one way or another, you will wield that power alongside your old friend. Together.
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads, for beta reading this one-shot.



A Flightless Dragon



WHAM!

A loud crash rings out after your head strikes the floor, the momentum rolling you onto your back. You lie there for a moment, looking up at the ceiling and at the shelf along the wall that you dove off of for the fifth time, where you can see books and various odds and ends belonging to your trainer.

You turn your eyes down at your blue and yellow scales and your nubby arms and let out a sulking growl. You’re still no closer to flying than you were the first time you dove off the shelf, or the day earlier, or any number of days before that.

You get up and reorient yourself with your surroundings, namely your trainer’s bedroom. Ahead of you by the window is the bed your trainer sleeps on, still messy from not being tidied up in the morning. To the right, there’s a large, squarish box called a ‘television’ that has a gray plastic device with pads with multicolored buttons on it connected by cables hooked up to it. Sometimes it has gray devices with stickers on them wedged into it, but today it has a translucent blue one in it that itself has a yellow card seated in it. It got moved from the living room after a black one like it took its place a couple years ago, and your trainer mostly uses it these days for playing some video games that have gotten popular in recent years. Ones that he played on some sort of plastic brick before he got that blue device.

They’re the same ones that the small row of little dolls on the television are from. Like the one that looks like some sort of Feraligatr mixed with a Gyarados. Or the one that looks like a shrunken Rhydon. Or the one that looks like a Sharpedo with a spear on its snout. Strange creatures that at once feel vaguely familiar to you, yet not, for reasons you can’t place.

And off to the left, there’s a desk for schoolwork and a set of boxes called a ‘computer’ there. Next to it, there’s a Wartortle stirring from basking under the sun: Roy, your trainer’s starter. He’s a leader of sorts for the team of Pokémon who share your trainer. You flinch a bit, thinking he’s going to get up and scold you, only for him to briefly pull his head and limbs partly into his shell, before turning with a sleepy murmur.

You’re a little surprised that he’s so unfazed by the racket you’re making, but after diving over and over again onto the carpeted floor for the umpteenth time, he must’ve gotten used to it.

You give the side of the shelf a growling headbutt and fume to yourself. Your kind is supposed to be able to fly! But in your trainer’s cramped house here in this town, with everyone pressed up against each other in a sprawl, your opportunities to practice are limited to dives off furniture when others are out of the house… or aren’t paying attention, like how your trainer is busy right now with some ‘laundry’ thing with the other humans of his family.

You should probably stop before anyone notices since you get scolded whenever your dives wind up damaging something or distracting others, even if your trainer and his family have grown more and more used to your attempts to practice flying. But what did they expect? Dragons of your kind are supposed to fly, you know it in your bones. Bagon like you in the wild supposedly feel that way enough to leap off bluffs and even cliffs to try! Like the fake ones in your Pokéball, except much taller and real.

... You wonder if any of them ever got any closer to flying than you have.

But your “cliff” here is this shelf. It’s taller than Roy, or any of your teammates, but that’s not saying a whole lot, especially when your trainer stands taller than it. Agh, if only you could go someplace higher up! You’d heard that some Pokémon needed to have space to dive first before they could fly, maybe that’s what you’re missing right now.

You don’t know for sure if it will work, but diving off the bedroom shelf isn’t going anywhere at this rate, and if you believe what Roy tells you about human beliefs, repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is considered a sign of insanity among humans.

Except, you’re here in this little three-story house amid a sea of others just like it. It’s not as if you’re going to just conveniently find a cliff here to jump off and try…

You feel a breeze blow in through the window and look off at your trainer’s bed. The window behind it was left ajar to help cool the room down since it’s been fairly warm this week.

… It occurs to you that you’re on the top floor of the house right now. Even if the height out the window is surely still short compared to a cliff, it is taller than the jump off the shelf.

Maybe it’d be enough for you to finally fly?

It’s not as if you have anything better to do right now. Roy’s dozing off, and your other teammates are busy elsewhere in the house. You make your way over to your trainer’s bed, and after a few fumbling attempts, you clamber up it. Then you go up to the windowsill, and over to the window where you put your nubby arms up to the gap.

“Nrgh…”

You tug at the window to open it wider, but you keep struggling to pull it open. After eventually getting it wide enough to slip a leg in, you decide to wedge your body between the window and push it open with a creak.

You step back and look down from the windowsill. You can see the windows of the lower levels of your trainer’s house below; the entire building is much deeper lengthwise than what one would expect when initially seeing it from its entrance. Like most of the other ones on this street are. The side you’re facing overlooks the side alley where trash gets left to be picked up, with a fenceline barely a human arm span apart that separates the house from the alley’s pavement.

You go up to the ledge, but once there, you hesitate. Is this a good idea? You’ve made this jump once before and gotten chewed out over it by both Roy and your trainer. Something about it being dangerous. You hadn’t been able to fly when you tried that time, but almost felt like you were.

You’re older and more experienced now. For some Pokémon like Taillow that’s all it takes, from what you’ve heard. Maybe… just maybe, things will be different this time if you try.

“Whuh? Marl?”

You stiffen up and look back down at the desk where your Wartortle teammate is getting up and rubbing his eyes. He stares at you blankly for a moment, before seeing you at the edge of the windowsill with the window open and you ready to leap through it. His red eyes widen in alarm, and he starts to dart over with a claw held out to grab you.

“Wait! Marl! What are you-?!”

If Roy’s going to get you in trouble, you might as well just jump. And so you ignore his cries and leap ahead, lowering your head into a dive. You flap your arms for good measure, so that way it’ll help you pull up as you near the ground.

Except, you didn’t realize how close to the house you were—

CHUNK!

Your head hits something hard and stony, and you pinwheel forward like you did after diving off the shelf in your trainer’s room. Except there’s no carpeted floor below you this time. You briefly feel air underneath you, before your left leg smacks the pavement and the rest of your body follows.

You hear a faint crack and agony shoots through your leg.

Then the air fills with your screams.



Everything after your dive from the window went by in a blur. You remember bawling from the pain in your leg and crying out for your friends for help. It wasn’t long before Roy wrangled your trainer and your teammates along. After discovering that so much as touching your left leg hurt you, your trainer recalled you to your Pokéball and everything went black.

When you came to, you woke up on a bed in the backroom of the local Pokécenter: at once the pain in your leg came back and you started to cry again. After calming you a bit, the human and Pokémon nurses there put your left leg in a splint and cast, which held it still and helped make the pain more manageable.

A little while later, your trainer and teammates were allowed into the room, and they came in to try and comfort you.

You were discharged from the Pokécenter within the day. The Chansey that worked there told you that you’d broken your leg from your fall. Evidently Bagon’s armored heads didn’t do much to defend them if they fell on other parts of their bodies. Your wound was beyond the ability of the machines there to heal, and was so severe that your Pokéball would put you in stasis whenever you were in it. Hence why you blacked out and didn’t see the normal simulated mountains and cliffs in your Pokéball or the world outside in its sky when you were recalled.

That’s what you were told, anyways. In order for your leg bones to heal as quickly as possible, you’d need to have Potions applied periodically and rest outside your Pokéball with your leg in its cast so that your trainer and teammates could keep an eye on you as your leg bones stitched themselves back together.

Which in practice meant your trainer or one of your teammates would stand watch by you as you laid in a tatty bed set on the floor. It apparently used to be Roy’s when he was smaller, and judging from the rips and tears in the fabric from what looked like bite marks… you honestly had no reason to disbelieve your teammates.

And so there you are, on the floor of the bedroom where the gray box with cables would normally be, in this chewed-up bed, lying down and looking up at the ceiling much as you did just after diving off the shelf yesterday. Except this time, you can’t even hope to get up onto the shelf on your own.

You look down the hallway after hearing chatter and footsteps and see your trainer, a younger teenaged boy with a face that other humans kept having the hardest time picking out. He’s tending to a Flaafy, a Murkrow, and a Cubone and packing up a bag. Heading out, it looks like.

“Marl?”

You turn your attention and look up at the other side of the bed to see a Wartortle’s face peering down at you worriedly. Right, it’s Roy’s turn from among your teammates to watch over you. You… haven’t really been keeping track of time with how miserable you’ve felt since coming home.

“How are you holding up, Marl?”

“Awful,” you reply.

The turtle grimaces briefly, before pawing at the back of his head by one of his furry ears and looks away.

“I… kinda figured,” he sighs back. “I don’t mean to kick you while you’re down, but at least you now know why you’re not supposed to jump from the window, right?”

You get up and grit your teeth. That wasn’t your fault. It was the fault of that stupid wall in the alleyway! If it wasn’t there, you’d have landed on your head like you were supposed to if you weren’t able to fly and none of this would’ve happened!

You say about as much back to Roy, and try to sit up only to feel pain shoot through your splinted leg. You try to blink back a few tears, and curse yourself for failing to do so. As if you needed to look any weaker or more pathetic right now. You wipe the tears away and try to put on a brave face, but you find yourself unable to do much other than look down at your bedding with a glum murmur.

“I- I just wanted to fly…”

The Wartortle looks at you for a moment, before shaking his head. He gives a scratch under your chin, a trick he and your trainer picked up in the past from another human who cared for another dragon. One that could fly like a dragon is supposed to. Normally, him doing this helps put you in a good mood and makes you giggle if he brushes up against a ticklish spot.

Except, right now your leg’s throbbing and you just can’t get your mind off of it.

“You’ll get there. But… just take it easy for a while, okay?” the Wartortle tells you. “I need to help Calvin with a grocery run in a bit, so it might be a good time to get some rest.”

You freeze after the words leave Roy’s mouth. You think you really are going to cry now. You’re in pain and can’t try to chase the thing you love or do anything else but just sit here, and now your own team leader is telling you…

“Y-You’re just going to leave me here alone?” you stammer. “C-Can’t you at least bring me along in my Pokéball?”

The Wartortle hesitates a moment, before shaking his head in reply.

“Your leg won’t heal properly if you’re in your Pokéball all the time. It’ll put you in stasis in your present condition, remember?” the Water-type reminds you. “We’ll be back before you know it, I promise.”

Every word from the Wartortle is like an Icicle Spear, hitting you one after another. He turns for the door when he seems to pick up on you not feeling well. He hesitates for a moment, before turning back to face you.

“I know that humans don’t really understand Pokémon in general, Marl. But I’ll try and get Calvin to pick up something for you,” he says. “The rest of the family will check up on you if you need any help. Just call out for them.”

You feel too crushed to say anything back at the moment, and you slump into your bedding with a defeated murmur.

“O-Okay.”

Roy turns his head and slips past the door frame as you sink into your bedding. Your voice hitches, and when you think no one is watching you, you sniffle a little and begin to shed a few tears into its fabric.



“We’re back!”

You must’ve dozed off after Roy left, since the next thing you remember after crying and nodding off was hearing the Wartortle’s voice. You raise your head from your bed as the Water-type hurries in, carrying a small length of string. He approaches you with an eager smile, which abruptly slides off his face as he pauses and then bites his tongue.

“Oh. I… didn’t realize you were feeling so upset, Marl.”

You see a flash of guilt come over the Water-type’s face and narrow your eyes. He could’ve not left you behind earlier or stayed home, but no. He just had to go along to get the stupid groceries. You turn away with a pouting huff, before feeling his claws paw at your chin.

“Look, I really didn’t mean to make you feel like I didn’t care about how you were doing,” he said. “Though hopefully the surprise we got you while we were out helps make up for it a bit.”

“And what’s this ‘surprise’ supposed to be?” you grumble, without turning to look at him.

The Wartortle opens his mouth to explain, only to catch himself and think better of it before he speaks up with a small grin.

“Wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I just told you,” he says. “You’ll figure it out pretty quickly, just sit up for a bit.”

You warily sit up and shuffle onto your bum, wincing after you apply pressure onto your left leg a couple of times. It’s at that point that you hear footsteps approaching, and see your trainer come into the room holding a large red balloon.

Your face falls, and you shoot back a sharp glare at the Wartortle.

“Roy, why would you bring a balloon to taunt me like this?” you sulk. “As if I needed more reminders that I can’t fly—!”

The human teen hesitates for a moment before he stoops down and pats at your chin, and you can’t help but calm down briefly. Roy takes the opportunity to lift your arms up, as your trainer slips the cord of the balloon around you and ties it around your chest underneath your arms. At once, you feel a force tugging you from above. You look up at the balloon and then down again, when you notice it.

“Oh!”

Your feet! They aren’t touching the ground anymore!

Your feet somehow are now about Roy’s waist height off the ground. You lean forward, trying to keep your belly parallel to the ground. Much to your surprise, you manage to stay off it at about the same height. You flap your arms and stay aloft, when your heart flutters as it suddenly dawns on you…

“I’m- I’m flying! I’m flying!

“Well, more like ‘floating’, you’re being held up by something humans call an ‘Air Balloon’,” Roy corrects you. “They don’t last that long, but they help keep Pokémon off the ground for battles, especially little ones like you.”

The Wartortle looks aside and gives a sheepish pat at his shell’s chest plates before smiling at you.

“It took a few tries to explain it to Calvin, but I figured you’d like it,” the turtle explains. “I just hope you’re not too mad at me for not being there for you earlier.”

The boy with the unplaceable face stoops down and pets you. You can’t understand most of what he’s saying to you in his tongue—that’s more Roy’s skill. But from the way his voice inflects, you’re pretty sure your trainer is asking you something. The Wartortle listens in for a moment, before he turns over to you.

“Calvin says you looked lonely in bed all day, and he wants to know if you’d like to get tugged around a bit,” the Wartortle explains. “It’s not quite the same as having a pair of wings, but…”

You start to feel tears well up in your eyes again and sniffle a bit. This time, it’s not because you’re feeling hurt or sad or alone, but because you can’t get over how you’re actually flying right now… sort of.

And so, the next words come out of your mouth without you even realizing it.

“I-I’d love that, actually.”



Five minutes later, you’re in the back alley that your trainer’s bedroom window overlooks. The air rushes against your body as you lay level with the ground, the pavement zipping past you. Your splinted leg slips from mind as there’s nothing for it to brush up against and you race past mountains and clouds in your imagination.

A length of string tied up against the Air Balloon’s cord pulls you forward, and you whoop and holler excitedly as Roy tows you after him. All the while, you flap your arms and call out for your teammate to keep going and to pull faster. There’s only so much Roy can do as a Wartortle, but he does his best, laughing and cheering you along all the while as the sky flushes orange from sunset.

In one corner of your mind, you’re sure that this must look silly to dragons who can fly like they’re supposed to: you can’t move yourself without help, you can’t steer, and you can’t do rolls or loops. Much as Roy said, it’s not really flying.

But for the rest of you, none of that matters right now. You can feel the air brush against your scales all the same, you can look some of the world down, and you’re able to share it with your friends. Just like how you will someday in the future when you’re all grown up and can spread your wings and fly just like this all by yourself.
 
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