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Mail for Welltown (Oneshot)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by canisaries, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    Hey there! This here is a oneshot written for a competition over at Bulbagarden Forums with the theme "Undelivered Messages". It takes place in a setting similar to the ones in my other PMD-esque stories such as Dragony and Pletora's Story, that being a world of sentient and feral Pokémon without humans.

    Rating is teen due to mild violence, mild language, some sexual innuendo and dark themes. Said dark themes are kind of a spoiler, though, so I'll specify in the spoiler below:

    Implicit suicide and depression.

    Alright, onto the story, then. Hope you enjoy, and replies are very appreciated!

    ---

    Mail for Welltown

    Synopsis: Breloom Aki, a passionate mailmon, is shocked to hear that a place called Welltown hasn't had its mail delivered for several days. They say it's "too dangerous" to go there - but that doesn't scare Aki, who leaves for the town in the middle of the night to get the well-due mail where it needs to be.

    Uploaded: 7 Sep 2019

    Length: 9.9k words

    ---

    “Good morning!”

    The entirety of Rockridge Post Office flinched at the loud, sudden greeting. The mon inside exchanged glances as the strange breloom hopped in, their conversations ceased. A spectacled shiftry behind the main desk put down the letters he’d been sorting by destination.

    “Er… who are you?”

    “Ah! Yes! My name!” The breloom paced quickly to the desk. He looked the shiftry in the eye, puffed out his chest and straightened his back to channel as much of his excitement to his next words as he could. “Breloom Aki, sir! I look forward to working with you, sir!”

    “Working...” the shiftry mumbled, internally scrambling to put together any information he could - then he remembered. “You’re the transfer from Maple Way?”

    “Yep!” replied Aki and circled around the desk. “Pleasure to meet you, sir! What’s your name?”

    “Erm, I am Shiftry Giuseppe,” the shiftry said and adjusted his glasses. “I believe it was Grumpig Hulda who was handling the transfer, but she’s under the weather at the moment… er, Manuel?” he called.

    A lombre entered from another room. “Yes?”

    “Can you check that the transfer to come was indeed this, um, what was your na-”

    “Breloom Aki!” the breloom filled in. Discomforted, Giuseppe nodded and looked to the lombre.

    “Yeah, I gotcha,” the lombre replied. “Keep an eye on him in the meantime.”

    “Yes, I will, thank you,” Giuseppe said, and the lombre went on his way. The shiftry turned back to the breloom. “Er, I suppose you can watch and help me sort so I can show you how we do things around here.” And you can’t do too much damage that way, he almost added, but kept it in his head.

    Aki beamed. “It would be my pleasure, sir!”

    Giuseppe suppressed a roll of his eyes and began to explain the role of each stack on his desk. There was the pile of letters yet to be sorted, naturally, and then the stacks of letters divided by general geographical location. After that, they would be assigned to certain mailmon based on their routes or forwarded to other post offices if the destination was far enough from Rockridge.

    “In conclusion, it’s probably not terribly different from how you handled things back in Maple Way,” he said. Provided you actually are from Maple Way, he thought - and fittingly enough, the lombre returned at that moment.

    Despite what Giuseppe had partly hoped, however, everything seemed to be in order according to the lombre. The only discontinuity was a slightly earlier arrival than expected.

    “I was just so excited to come here!” explained Aki, then clapped his claws together. “Yay! Now I really get to start working!”

    He dove straight for the pile of unsorted letters and began shuffling letters to stacks at once. Giuseppe ground his teeth in fear of massive disorder and checked each sorted letter right after the breloom turned away but, to his relief and surprise, found them all correctly placed.

    “M-map’s over here,” he said, pushing forth the map of the Rockridge area, but Aki ignored it.

    Suddenly, though, the breloom stopped. He turned to the shiftry with a letter in his claws and demand in his eyes.

    “Where does Welltown mail go?” he asked. “It’s pretty far from everywhere, and it doesn’t have its own stack.”

    “A-ah… Welltown...”

    The name struck Giuseppe like a hurtling boulder. He knew the issue would have to be settled eventually, but he’d expected it to be at a quieter moment, with more experienced workers and certainly not with this… bouncy breloom.

    Nevertheless, he cleared his throat. Better sooner than later.

    “We… will not deliver Welltown mail at the moment.”

    Aki tilted his head. “So is it for some forwarding pile? Does some other office handle it?”

    Giuseppe answered honestly before he realized a lie would have been much, much better. “No, no one will handle it.”

    The breloom froze. “But… then… how does it get delivered?”

    “It… doesn’t.”

    Every bit of the cheer Aki had been overflowing with before had now disappeared. His stare was freezing.

    “I-it’s for a good reason,” Giuseppe added, though his standards scolded him for cracking under pressure to this insolent sapling. “Welltown is simply too dangerous.”

    “Dangerous?” Aki asked. His glare seemed to relent a little.

    “Yes, dangerous. It’s actually the reason you’re here. One mailmon never came back, and when we sent another, she said she barely escaped with her life. And since we were one mailmon short, we needed a transfer...”

    Giuseppe rubbed his branches together nervously. He snatched the letter from Aki’s grasp and slipped it into a drawer in the cupboard behind them. He pointed his leaves to it. “This is where we put Welltown mail for the time being. If it becomes safe to deliver there again, we’ll bring it all over then. Who knows, i-it might be soon! The sheriff is already looking into the matter, and he’s pretty capable.”

    Aki shifted balance to his other foot. “Uh-huh...”

    “Listen, uhh… Aki, was it?” Giuseppe asked, and Aki nodded, so he continued. “I understand that you are very… passionate about mail, it seems, but it really is better to leave this to the officials for now. We don’t want people to get hurt, do we?”

    Aki sighed. “I guess not...”

    Giuseppe sighed too. “Alright, good. Now that that’s settled, let’s get back to sorting this mail, okay? The sooner we sort it, the sooner it can be delivered.”

    Aki’s face brightened. He returned to the pile and resumed his sorting. Relieved, Giuseppe continued to watch over the breloom’s work. It was still flawless. The shiftry decided not to question it, only appreciating what luck had given him.

    ---

    The crickets chirped. The murkrow crowed. The night had fully fallen, and the time for action had come.

    Even with the full moon, darkness dominated the town. Aki took his tail into his hands and strongly shook it about. A green glow began to emanate from the growths ringing the tip. The light was faint enough not to shine in through the curtained windows of the houses around him, but bright enough to let him better see where he stepped.

    Happy with this, Aki crept across the town, stopping at each intersection to check nobody was there. Finally, he reached the post office. He reached into his satchel and produced a key - a key he'd 'borrowed' from a worker sleeping on their break earlier that day. With it, he slipped inside and snuck to the cabinet behind the desk, his tail faintly illuminating the drawers.

    When he took the Welltown letters, shoved them into his bag and left as quietly as he came, he didn't consider himself to be stealing. To him, it was returning something already stolen. Welltown had its mail withheld without permission. Aki would be the one to right that wrong.

    At the northern edge of Rockridge, on the root of the long forest road, Aki checked his map one last time. Yes, this was the road, and it would lead right to Welltown if he simply kept going straight. The fate of the other mailmon lingering in his mind, he kept his guard up - though he also considered the possibility of the mailmon having worked together to take out an annoying faraway delivery location. Such disregard for one’s profession sickened Aki.

    As he ventured deeper into the woods, he noticed how the vegetation differed from what he was used to in Maple Way. Instead of broad-leaved maples calmly swaying at his sides, the path was densely surrounded by fuzzy branches of spruce. Every now and then, hoothoot called or a murkrow zoomed across the gap above. Even a wild mightyena crossed Aki’s path, but one look at the breloom’s tail convinced the predator to move on. It didn’t want to deal with any natural weapon that glow was likely a warning of.

    The moon had traveled quite a stretch of its nightly path when the breloom finally noticed the forest getting sparser. He spotted tree stumps here and there, implying the existence of settlers. Aki was getting close.

    The breloom yawned and stretched to wake up his mind and body from the daze they’d fallen into during the long, monotonous trip. Well, there certainly wasn’t anything too dangerous on the way… either something’s wrong with the town, or the mailmon really were just lazy. That latter one’s starting to feel more likely… after all, that was one boring road.

    But nevertheless! He stood up straight. It is a mailmon’s duty to deliver, no matter the destination! The gratitude of the recipients and the rectifying of this mistake will all be worth it!

    With that, Aki marched on. Soon enough, the woods cleared up completely in the distance, and the breloom sprinted the rest of the way. He finally found himself flanked by wooden houses and sheds. Beyond them were modestly sized fields with emerging crops. One seemed to have a stuffed cacturne with one of its arms broken. Aki considered going to fix it, but decided not to intrude.

    It was then that Aki’s burst of energy ran dry. His head and legs got heavier with each step, and the satchel he carried felt like a few bricks had suddenly spawned within. He yawned again, but regained no vigor from it.

    I guess I really have stayed up way longer than usual… I should spend the night here. I'll find an inn and rest until morning. No one will be checking their mail at nighttime, anyway...

    Aki dug out another map from his bag, this time one specifically of Welltown. He'd found it in the post office when poking about and also 'borrowed' it. The map showed the signature well of the town in the middle and, with some searching, an inn a little eastward of where Aki seemed to be standing. After a few dozen lumbering steps, he faced the actual building. A sign hung above its entrance, sporting some text that contained the word 'inn' and that was all Aki needed at the moment.

    Yawning once more, he knocked on the door. It gave in from his tap, creaking as it swung inwards.

    Weird, Aki thought. The door's open, but there are no lights. Did they forget to lock up when they left?

    He peeked in. Total darkness. Once he brought in his tail's glow, however, he could tell the place was void of mon.

    "Hmh," he let out. How loud it sounded in the silence of the town startled him.

    Well, anyway… He closed the door behind him and looked around, spotting a hallway of doors starting from the right side of the room. He entered and tried the first door. It opened.

    He shook his head. These folks are really careless, forgetting to lock all these doors...

    The breloom entered and nearly collapsed straight on the bed before remembering his manners. With the last of his brain power, he took some paper and writing utensils and left a note. 'Will pay in the morning. Breloom Aki'.

    After returning the utensils to his bag, he finally let himself fall on the bed. The mattress received him with a soft embrace, so soft that it felt like he simply kept sinking deeper and deeper...

    ---

    Mmhh… am I awake?

    The breloom opened his eyes. He looked around, finding himself in a small dim room. The door was cracked open, leaking in a stripe of light.

    Wait. Where am I?

    Awoken fully by his creeping fear, he slowly got off the bed. He explored the room for clues, but found nothing defining on the floor, desk or tops of cupboards. He checked the drawers, but all were empty.

    Whose house is this? What am I doing here? What’s going on?

    He realized his breathing had quickened and tried his best to calm it. No, don't panic yet. Try to remember. What's the last thing I remember?

    The breloom thought back. Or he would have, but…

    Th-there's nothing there! I have no memories! I don’t even remember who I am!

    He wanted to scream, but stopped himself. That probably wouldn’t be a good idea… I don’t know who might be near or how friendly they are. Instead, I should try to find out more...

    He peeked out of the door. A hallway of doors began to his left, and a large room seemed to open to his right. No one seemed to be in either, judging by the silence. He crept to the room on the right and looked around.

    Sunlight poured in from the windows, revealing specks of dust dancing in the air. A reception desk stood against the closer wall. On the opposite wall was a closed door.

    Oh, this must be an inn. I feel safer already. Though the employees are nowhere to be seen...

    The breloom’s stomach rumbled. Hmm, I wonder if they’re serving breakfast...

    He reached for a bag, but realized he didn’t have one. He paled. Oh. Right. I don’t have anything with me. I must’ve given them all I had at the moment when I paid for the room. Assuming I paid… though I don’t feel like I’d be one to break the law. I’ll just hope I paid and that breakfast is part of the price...

    “Hello?” the breloom called. “Is anyone here?”

    No response. Only the quiet shuffling of wind in the trees outside.

    Alright, then… I guess I’ll check the kitchen.

    Another hallway opened from the other corner of the room, and that’s what the breloom decided to try. After some exploration, he did find the kitchen, and inside the kitchen...

    Eaugh!

    White and green fuzz covered all that had once been food. Flies buzzed in the air. The breloom backed out of the room, the stench overwhelming his senses. Can't believe I slept in the same building…

    He sighed. Well, good thing I’m a herbivore. There’s bound to be something edible for me outside. Just might not taste great...

    He made his way back to the reception room and opened the front door. The outside seemed to be void of mon as well. He stepped out, picked a direction at random and began walking.

    As he’d expected, vegetation eventually entered his sight. He had reached what seemed to be the edge of the town, given the buildings switched to spruces at the end of the path. Spruces did imply a forest with less fertile soil and thus plants less tasty, but the breloom wasn’t choosy. He sprinted for the trees… until he noticed his running steps weren't the only ones he was hearing.

    Is there someone else? He turned around and spotted a pink, plump figure traipsing across the road - a clefairy. They seemed to be civil given the hat on their head. This was a welcome signifier to the breloom. He didn’t know what wild clefairy looked like, but he was sure they didn’t wear hats.

    "Hey, you there!" the breloom called, and the fairy turned to him. "Could you tell me where I --"

    He cut his sentence short as he realized the clefairy was not approaching him with good intentions. Instead, the mon's eyes were alight with hostility, and their teeth were bared for a snarl.

    "H-hey, stay back!" the breloom shouted, grabbing his tail and wiggling the tip. "I've got puffballs full of spores! You don't want me to use them!"

    The warning fell on deaf ears. The clefairy yelled something incomprehensible and broke into a run. They raised a hand, and a pink sphere of light began to form on top.

    As much as the breloom hated wasting his precious bioluminescent fruitbodies, it didn’t seem like he had a choice. He yanked one off - it hurt just a little - and prepared to dodge and throw.

    “Final warning!” he said, but as he’d already expected, the clefairy didn’t stop. The sphere in their palm flashed one final time and shot directly at the breloom.

    An attack so obviously coming wasn’t hard to avoid. The breloom hopped aside and flung the puffball at the fairy’s face. It exploded on impact into a cloud of green smoke. The clefairy coughed and groaned while the breloom fled into the woods, wasting no energy looking back.

    Only after passing a dozen trees or so did the breloom stop to catch his breath. He heard no steps following him, and a glance over his shoulder confirmed that the clefairy wasn’t nearby.

    Phew, I think I lost them… he thought, sighing. What was up with that mon? I didn't do anything that should've angered them like that, did I?

    He began walking deeper into the woods, keeping an eye out for berries or flowers while continuing his pondering. Was that clefairy maybe why the place seemed so empty? A local nutjob gone haywire? It doesn't make sense, though. That attack they did wasn't particularly powerful. A stronger mon could easily bring them down, and so could a bunch of weaker ones if they just ganged up on them.

    Maybe I'm thinking about this from the wrong angle? Maybe this crazy clefairy was only left behind when the others fled from the actual danger? Well, that's not nice at all. If they can't help being that way, they shouldn't just be left to the houndoom like that…

    Eventually, he came across a meadow of yellow flowers and long grass. As they didn't taste too bad and the breloom was growing impatient, he settled for those to fill his belly. After finishing, he found some razzberry bushes growing at the edge of the meadow and ate a few of their berries to leave a better taste in his mouth.

    He lay down on the grass for a quick rest. His hunger sated, he considered his current situation. He still couldn’t remember anything, but if the town had more abandoned buildings, he could search them for clues or at least a map. He got to his feet and headed back to town.

    His way there was uneventful save for passing by two stray wooloo. They stopped their munching of grass to stare at the breloom, but continued once he showed no intention of approaching. Must’ve run away from their farms. I don’t blame them.

    Arriving in the town, he entered a gravelly street flanked by quiet wooden houses and stayed vigilant for any motion or noise. He decided to treat his puffballs as a last resort, given only three remained and new ones took months to grow. At least he remembered how his own body worked.

    The breloom tried each door he came across, but to his disappointment, none opened. As he wasn’t quite desperate enough to start breaking in through windows, he continued his search for an unlocked door.

    A few times, he spotted something around the corner before passing it and hid. This something was always another mon that appeared civil from afar, but on a closer look, walked sluggishly with no light in their eyes. They're like walking corpses… eugh, I hope that's not what they really are!

    Having turned a new corner, he spotted something white on the ground. Hm? He went to pick it up, realizing it to be an envelope. The sender and their address seemed normal enough, but the recipient, ‘Mawile Emily’, had an address no more accurate than ‘Welltown’.

    Well, that must’ve been a pain for the mailmon assigned to deliver it, thought the breloom. He felt an odd familiarity to something in that mental image, but brushed it aside for now to continue his search.

    Soon after, he found himself in an opening. The buildings surrounding it seemed larger and in better shape than the ones he’d spent his time around before, and in the middle of the area was a sheltered stone well. A well? Maybe this is the Welltown mentioned on the letter? Simply out of curiosity, the breloom walked up to the well and took a peek --

    Eww! What the heck is that?

    A black haze swallowed up the walls about three meters in. It was too sudden to simply be darkness, and for a second, the breloom could've sworn he saw it move.

    He pulled away from the well and moved on to the buildings of the opening. I'm not gonna stay there and risk inhaling that stuff… oh!

    The door he'd tried had given in. He peered in and, seeing the first room empty, slipped through. Nothing of interest caught his eye in a superficial analysis - the wooden furniture seemed beautifully carved, but still ordinary - so the breloom began going through the drawers of the cupboards.

    First there were letters. He skimmed a few, but they all seemed quite mundane. A leavanny family lived in this house, it seemed, though their daughter had moved out of town about a year ago. The breloom moved on to the rest of the stack of papers. Notices, wills, more letters, maps… maps! That was what he needed. One map was of Welltown, and indeed, the center of the town had a well and the buildings around it were arranged similarly to what he’d seen. This building in particular seemed to be of a tailor. He sought out a map of a larger area, located Welltown on it, and…

    He sighed. It’s so far away from everything...

    Noises came from outside. Steps. The breloom froze up. Crap! They’re coming here!

    Just before the door opened, he managed to slip to the other room. The steps entered the house. The breloom tried to match his tiptoes to them, hoping to creep deeper into the house.

    As the stranger advanced from one room to another, so did the breloom, and finally he found himself back in the first room. He glanced at the map in his hands, then at the one he’d put down on the cupboard. I left the map of Welltown over there… I really should get that one, I need it more than I do this general one...

    Listening carefully for the steps of the stranger whenever they moved again, he snuck up to the cupboard. Patiently and quietly, he swiped the map. There we go! Now to slip out...

    He turned around - and his tail smacked into the open drawer.

    The stranger hissed and ran in. Their raised leafy sickles and glaring red eyes revealed them to be a leavanny. Leavanny, like Leavanny Catherine from one of those letters I saw? She’s returned to her house!

    The breloom tried to dash for the exit, but the bug was more agile, leaping to the door and blocking it. Crap! What am I gonna do now? Spores? No, spores don’t work on grass types! Augh!

    The leavanny pounced at the breloom, striking at his head with a sickle. The breloom dodged with a duck, but still received a small gash in his mushroom cap, drawing out some clear droplets. “Hey! Stop!” the breloom cried, but just as he’d feared, it had no effect. The leavanny raised her leg in a kick and struck the side of the breloom’s body, knocking him onto the floor and the papers out of his hand.

    As he scrambled up, he saw the bug about to slash again. He wanted to drop down and shield himself with his claws, but panic scattered his thoughts. Somehow instead, he shouted the word that a faintly forming theory in his mind compelled him to speak.

    “C-Catherine!”

    His thoughts returned to their correct track. He bent his arms, but knew it was now too late. His claws surely wouldn’t cover him fast enough to block the oncoming…

    No, the leavanny was still. Her face was unsure, midway between confusion and rage. The breloom stared at her through his claws, blinking in his own perplexity, until he understood.

    “Catherine!” he repeated. It actually worked… and this really is her! “Your name is Catherine! You live in this house a-and you’re apparently a tailor?”

    The leavanny lowered her sickles, her beady red eyes inquisitive, awakening.

    “A-and Niedell, that’s your husband, right?” the breloom continued. “And you have a daughter named Cindy. She’s a swadloon, at least in the last letter I read… she moved to Maple Way to be an apprentice to some granbull...”

    The bug gasped. Her eyes lit up, focused, glanced around. Then they set on the breloom.

    “Who are you?” she asked. “O-oh, are you a customer?”

    The breloom exhaled in relief. He got up slowly, still watching Catherine in case of a sudden attack. “Oh, good, looks like you’re stable,” he sighed as none came.

    Catherine brought a sickle to her chin. “Stable?”

    “Uhh…” the breloom scratched his head. “This is gonna take a while to explain, so I have to ask you to be patient...”

    “W-why would that be?”

    The breloom noticed the letter and the map on the floor and continued to speak as he picked them back up. “Well, um, it seems like your town… Welltown, right? I think all the mon in this town have gone crazy.”

    The leavanny covered her mouth. “Oh dear, ‘crazy’ how?”

    The breloom walked to the door and pulled it shut. “From what I’ve seen, they attack you without reason and yell gibberish or so, not listening to you at all. B-but hey, I think I know how to cure them! You were crazy too, but I told you stuff about your life and you snapped out of it!”

    “Oh my… I hope I didn’t cause you too much trouble… I-I should make it up to you by cooking something! Let’s see...” Catherine rushed out of the room, headed for the kitchen.

    The breloom reached a claw. “Uhh, you might not wanna go there --”

    He heard a gag and something slammed shut. The leavanny returned, a leaf-hand covering her repulsed expression. “My apologies. It appears that we don’t have anything… edible. Um, how long have we townsfolk been… out of it?”

    “Well, I just woke up this morning with no memories in an empty inn, so I wouldn’t know… but I’m guessing, like, more than a few days?”

    “Goodness...” She paused in thought. “If you have no memories, do you not remember your name, either?”

    “Uhh...” The breloom stared at the ceiling. “Guess not. And you don’t know me?”

    “I’m afraid not. I don’t remember ever meeting a breloom in person.”

    “Rattatas. Well, I guess I need a new one for the time being. Got any suggestions?”

    “How about… um… Brighton? Your tail seems to ‘Brighton’ the room.” She giggled.

    The breloom checked his tail, which had indeed lit up from the action before. “Sounds a bit too fancy, though. How about Benny?”

    “W-well, it’s your name, sweetheart.”

    “Benny it is. Call me Benny!”

    “Alright, Benny. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

    Benny shuffled the papers in his hand into a better stack. “Do you have a bag I could borrow?”

    “Oh, sure.” Catherine fetched a bag for Benny. She paused to think, then decided to get her own purse as well. “Is it alright if I come with you?” she asked. “If it’s dangerous out there, we should stick together, shouldn’t we?”

    “Yeah, totally!” Benny replied. “We can investigate together. And if we bump into mon you recognize, maybe we can bring them back to their senses, too!”

    “That’s true, too. Let’s get moving, then.”

    Hungry for answers, they left the house behind, this time locking the door behind them. As they passed the well, Catherine took a peek inside it. She saw the same smog Benny had seen and promptly asked him about it, but was distressed to hear the breloom knew no more than her. She shuffled past him and quickly led them out of the opening.

    As no mon faced them on the road they entered either, Benny itched to chat. The chance that Catherine would know the answer to his question was slim, but any talk would beat the tense silence.

    “Ahem, so, do you know any Emily?” he said, catching up to her side. “Like a mawile?”

    “Emily? No, I don’t think so,” she replied. “I think I’ve seen a mawile in this town once or twice, though. Why do you ask?”

    Benny dug the letter out of his bag. “Well, I found this letter off the ground a while ago. I was wondering if you knew where this Emily lived.”

    “I’m afraid I don’t,” she said, “but I’m sure at least some of the townsfolk will. Let’s ask them once they’re alright.”

    Hisssss!

    They both turned towards the sound. A mon had appeared in an alley branching from their path - another leavanny. This one’s leaves were serrated unlike Catherine’s, which were smooth save for a few circular notches. Benny noted this to help with identification later on - though not before he yelped and leaped behind his travel companion.

    Catherine, however, seemed much calmer. “Oh, there he is,” she said and approached the hostile bug. “I knew he’d be somewhere near.”

    “I-is that your husband?” asked the breloom, clicking his claws nervously.

    “Indeed,” Catherine replied and giggled. “In fact, I think I’ll show you just how much of a pair of lovebugs we are...”

    Right after, both leavanny leaped at each other. Niedell was the first to strike, but Catherine dodged. In fact, the male kept attacking in vain as the female avoided each blow with grace, not once raising a sickle of her own. Benny was about to ask what the purpose of this all was when the male swiped top hard and lost his footing, creating an opening for Catherine, which she took - to wrap her arms around him and plant a passionate smooch right on his mouthparts.

    The two lovers fell to the ground, and once Catherine got off, Niedell had not a glint of violence in his eyes.

    "H-honey!" he blurted instead, bewildered.

    Catherine smiled. “Hello, dear.” She turned to Benny. “Sorry, I’ve just always wanted to do that… it happens in my favorite book.”

    She helped her husband up, introduced him to Benny and explained the situation with the breloom’s help. Niedell understood, or at least made a polite effort to, and stuck with the group as they continued their patrol for more townsfolk.

    The next mon they came across was a medicham, a wooloo herder by the name of Ranee. Having bought enough wool for her clothing, Catherine knew Ranee well and managed to remind her of her identity. When the herder learned what had become of the town, she rushed for her home to check on her wooloo, but the others stopped her.

    “It's dangerous out there with all the hostile townsfolk,” Catherine said, “not to mention we don't know if being left alone would just make you forget again.”

    "I saw two wooloo in the woods earlier today," added Benny. "They seemed fine to me."

    Sighing, Ranee gave in and joined the group. A while later, they encountered her chimecho neighbor and managed to recruit him as well. He, in turn, let out a chime to summon his chingling children. Those children were followed by his wife who'd apparently taken care of them even while under this curse of savagery. Catherine found this adorable.

    Through relationships familial, friendly and professional, their group kept expanding. Some mon they came across none could identify, but their superior numbers scared the strangers off from attacking. With time, however, it seemed that each stranger was known by some new recruit, and so no mon stayed a mystery for good in the end.

    As the group grew, they established a base at the town hall. Smaller subgroups of three to six mon were formed to improve efficiency. Some patrolled different sections of town while others searched their houses or the woods for unspoiled food and ingredients to keep everyone fed. One tropius even offered his fruit, though takers were scarce.

    At sundown, Benny's group decided to return to the town hall. The breloom and the two leavanny passed the well, noting the strange smoke still within, and entered the double doors of the town hall. The main hall had filled almost completely with mon during their absence - no more space was left on the benches, leaving a number of mon standing. A roll call appeared to be ongoing, led by a loudred sitting by a desk on the raised platform at the end of the hall. He held a stack of papers in his hands, presumably the full list of Welltown inhabitants.

    What Niedell paid the most attention to, however, was the mouthwatering smell in the air.

    "Ooh, someone's cooking stew!" he said, his antennae twitching. "Did someone find unspoiled meat?"

    A swellow by the door turned to him. “Oh, no, but Manectric Stefan and his pups went out hunting and brought back a plump diggersby!”

    Niedell’s antennae drooped. “Aw, not a fan of diggersby. Has such a muddy taste...”

    “Let’s not look down on their efforts, dear,” reminded Catherine.

    “Those canines will eat anything,” Niedell mumbled to himself.

    “...and finally,” they heard the loudred announce, “Zangoose Torque!”

    “Here!” shouted a zangoose from the back of the hall, his claws raised in the air.

    “Alright, good,” said the loudred. “So, it seems that every citizen has announced their presence except for three. And since the Leavanny family just appears to have arrived, that makes only one - Mawile Emily.”

    The name caught Benny by the ears. Emily still hasn’t been found?

    A torkoal climbed the stairs onto the raised platform. “Does anyone here know Mawile Emily?” he asked, neck extended. “Or any mawile at all? I don’t remember there being any mawile in this town...” he mumbled to himself.

    “Who’s that guy?” whispered Benny to Catherine. “Is he in charge now or something?”

    “That’s the town mayor,” Catherine said. “He’s always been in charge, I think. Torkoal do live a very long time… that’s why it’s said they’re so wise.”

    Benny crossed his arms. “He better not take credit for the whole thing...”

    As the mayor’s question was only met with silence, he spoke up again. “Mawile Emily. Does no one here know Mawile Emily?”

    “I-I’ve seen a mawile around, I think,” answered an electabuzz in the crowd. “But I thought she was from out of town… I mean, she was never in these town meetings.”

    A few others mumbled in agreement with him. Others whispered their own theories.

    “Maybe her name is there by mistake?”

    “Maybe she’s a wildren but still officially listed here?”

    “Maybe she’s dead?”

    The last one brought Benny shivers. B-but I need to deliver that letter!

    “Well, then,” the torkoal announced, “if you have any information about her, please do come to us officials about it while we set up our investigation. For the rest of you, I believe it’s high time you got to dig into the stew. Thank you all for your patience --”

    The rest of his words were drowned out by the explosive commotion in the crowd as it shuffled for the kitchen. The torkoal decided to give in, merely shaking his head, though still shouted one last message. “No pushing!”

    Benny sighed. “How can it be that no one here knows this Emily personally? It seems impossible.”

    “I know, dear,” said Catherine, placing a leaf-hand on the breloom’s shoulder. “I do hope we find her.”

    As the crowd thinned with its migration, Benny spotted a single group that stayed put. It appeared to be a family of the slakoth line, with a vigoroth mother and her two slakoth trying to nudge the slaking father awake in vain.

    Benny wrinkled his snout. He’s sleeping during the meeting? The nerve! That guy needs a lesson...

    The breloom marched over. Once Catherine realized he’d left her side, she skittered after him, uncertain of his intentions. The family noticed the arriving duo and gave them a puzzled stare.

    “Um, Benny, what are you --” tried Catherine, but froze as she saw Benny nab a puffball from his tail. “Benny, no!”

    The family’s eyes widened as they also realized what Catherine had, but no shout nor stare stopped the breloom from flinging this puffball at the snoring slaking.

    They all leaped away from the blow. The impact itself had only caused the slaking to grunt, but as soon as he inhaled some of the scattering spores, a coughing fit came over him, violent enough to snap him out of his sleep.

    “Aughh! What the hell was that?” he growled as soon as his airways allowed it.

    The vigoroth covered the children’s ears quickly. “Henry! Language!” She turned to Benny, glaring. “And what is wrong with you? You have no right to just… assault somebody like that! Th-those better not be poison spores!”

    “They’re not poison,” said Benny, claws on his hips. “But they do wake up slackers pretty well. You!” He pointed at the slaking, who was rubbing stray spores out of his eyes. “This meeting is important! Don’t just snooze in the middle! Every mon’s words are needed!”

    “Is that your excuse for thrashing him?” snapped the vigoroth. “I already announced his presence for him doing the roll call!”

    Benny only stood taller. “We need to hear every mon’s knowledge of Mawile Emily! No exceptions!”

    “He doesn’t know any ‘Mawile Emily’!” she mocked. “Isn’t that right, Henry, dear?”

    “Hrmh, what was that name again?” asked Henry, scratching his chest.

    “It doesn’t matter, you won’t know h-” the vigoroth tried, but Benny was louder.

    “Mawile Emily! Do you know any Mawile Emily?”

    “Emily? Nah, I don’t know no Emily,” the slaking grunted.

    Benny’s heart sank.

    The vigoroth crossed her arms, a smug smile on her face. “See? She doesn’t know any Emily. That means you are wrong and also crimi-”

    “I know a mawile, though,” Henry added.

    Benny’s heart bounced up again. “Really? What was their name?”

    “Emmy. But that’s not Emily.”

    Benny frowned, defeated, but Catherine gave the slaking a long stare.

    “You don’t reckon… that could be a nickname for an Emily?” she said flatly. Benny gasped, his hope alight again.

    “Oh, well, I dunno. It’s not like I was all buddy-buddy with her. In fact, she was a pretty lousy worker. Forgetful, came in late a lot, and worst of all, no respect for me. But I showed her. Kicked ‘er right out! Maybe she’ll learn some better work ethic in her next job.” He crossed his burly arms and snorted.

    “Yes!” shouted Benny, jumping in place. “Finally!” However, he stopped himself as he realized this information wasn’t yet enough to actually find the mawile. He hoped dearly that this wasn’t the extent of the slaking’s knowledge. “Um, do you know where she lives?”

    “Actually, I do,” Henry replied. “Normally, I wouldn’t care to remember, but Emmy’s home was bizarre enough for it to stick in my mind. You know the abandoned shack at the edge of town? Not actually abandoned, it turns out. Someone actually lives in a house that crappy, and it’s her.”

    Benny squealed in excitement. “Thank you very much, sir! Have a good night!” He swung around, tail nearly smacking into Catherine, and bolted for the door.

    The leavanny rushed after him. “Benny! Hold on! We should go to the --” she tried, but the breloom slipped through the door before she could finish. She groaned and simply followed.

    Across the hall, the motion had caught the mayor’s eye and caused his speech to trail off mid-sentence. He soon shrugged it off, however, returning to the conversation with his fellow officials. “As I was saying, the mysterious amnesia of the town and the odd substance in the well could both be due to some sort of contaminant in the water...”

    ---

    “Benny, stop!” shouted Catherine as she got outside. The sun had set, and darkness had begun to fall. “Do you even know where you’re going?”

    “I’ve got the map! I’ll find it!” Benny shouted back without stopping.

    Catherine frowned and leapt after him, circling the well in the way and --

    On her third landing, her foot slipped into a crack in the cobblestone pavement. As she tripped, the edge of the crack dug into her foot, bruising it painfully.

    “O-ow...” she groaned, carefully retracting the leg. “Oh, just my luck...” She rolled onto her back to get a better look at the injury - but something else caught her attention.

    Black smoke emerged from the well, pouring out like some kind of viscous cloud. It spread across the cobblestone, approaching the leavanny.

    Catherine didn’t know what this smoke would do, but she guessed it wasn’t healthy. She scrambled up and limped ahead, but she’d become too slow - the smoke was catching up.

    She drew her lungs as full as she could and shouted one last time before the smoke reached her.

    "Benny! H-"

    A dozen meters ahead, Benny slowed down upon hearing the call. Hmm, she's right. Maybe I should think about this for a bit more before rushing in…

    He turned around - but saw no Catherine. The center of town showed no signs of life outside the lights in the city hall.

    Oh. She must've given up and gone back to the hall. Probably telling the officials about this right now. He pouted. Well, I'm not gonna let them take credit for this, too!

    He shook his tail for light and pulled out the map from his bag. He located something that looked like a lone shack on the west edge of town and set off on the shortest route.

    Alright, this'll be a piece of cake! I'll go check out that shack, and if Emily's there, I'll remind her of who she is and give her the letter. Then she can come back to city hall and have dinner with the rest. She'll be so happy!

    He clapped his claws together. The sound echoed on the empty street, and he realized he was alone.

    Hold on… should I be alone like this? Won't I risk forgetting myself and becoming savage like the townsfolk?

    Ah, but wait, I wasn't savage when I woke up. I must have better resistance or something due to being out of town. Which I must be, because I wasn't on the list and no one knew me. Maybe I was a friend of Emily's, actually? If that's so, she'll be even happier to see me…


    He smiled and hummed a gleeful tune as he continued on his way. It wasn't too long before he reached the edge of town and spotted a good contender for the lone shack.

    Lichen and moss crept up its weathered wooden walls. No light shone out from the crevices of the shut windows or door. Benny couldn’t blame anyone for thinking it was abandoned - even he began to doubt the slaking’s word. Nevertheless, he stepped up to the door and tried it. It wasn’t locked.

    Something shuffled behind him, a few meters away. The breloom jumped in his skin and flipped around. Nothing looked different.

    He wanted to shrug the noise off as simply a frog or feral minun hidden by the darkness, but his nerves got the better of him and drove him into the shack. As the first room seemed safe enough at a quick glance, he shut the door behind him and leaned against it, heart pounding. His eyes searched the room for anything to block the door with. He found a wooden bench and fetched it as quickly as he could, pushing it onto the door.

    He sighed. That may have been a little bit paranoid...

    The breloom shook his tail to strengthen his faded light again and studied the room properly this time. The shack wasn’t as shabby on the inside as he would’ve expected. There still lay a maroon carpet on the floor, and the desk and chair right across the room had their beige paint mostly intact. On top of the desk was a moth-eaten tablecloth, and on the cloth sat an unlit lantern and a folded piece of paper. The paper was right on the edge, its fold facing the wall, as if it was begging to be opened.

    “E-Emily?” Benny called out. “Are you here?”

    No reply. The breloom peered in both doorways leading out of the room. He saw nothing through those, either. Still holding on to his hope, he searched the rest of the house, but it proved fruitless in the end.

    Darn, she must be away, he thought. Maybe she lost her memory in the woods and got stuck wandering about. I’ll definitely need the officials’ help if that’s the case. But just in case, I should check out that piece of paper on the desk. She might have said where she was going on it.

    He returned to the first room, opened the note and read it in his tail’s green light.

    Dear Anyone, it read,

    I can tell that I am not wanted.

    I have no friends. I don't even have acquaintances. No one speaks to me without obligation, no one smiles at me on the street. And why would they? They already have their own friends, ones that don't cry at the simplest setback, ones that wake up with sunshine all over their face, ready to charm the world. How could I ever compete?

    I have no family, either. Roughly five years ago, my mother left for what was supposed to be a quick trip. She never returned. I was soon told she'd gotten into an accident and passed away, but with time, I realized the truth. She'd simply found a way to start anew without a burden like me.

    And now, I have no job. I came in late the final time at Slaking Henry's Storage and the mon himself kicked me out. It's fine when he sleeps half the day, though, apparently. I hated that job, but it kept me fed. Now I have nowhere to go. No one will hire a failure like me. I have nothing to offer but a pain in the neck, that's what my life has taught me.

    But I'll make you all remember me. In hate or in shock, I don't care how. As long as you know I was someone, a real person, and not just a stain in the background.

    I am Mawile Emily, and I am going to make our well famous.


    Benny's heart beat in his throat. Did she…

    A window crashed open. The shards of the wooden shutters flew at Benny's feet. Smoke poured into the room, creeping across the floor and walls.

    Two leafy sickles emerged through the window, grabbing the bottom of the frame. Crimson, pupilless eyes stared through the haze, glowing along with something else below them, something Benny couldn't recognize.

    "C-Catherine?" Benny peeped as he eyed the sickles. They were shaped like those of his friend, and the figure resembled a leavanny, but the colors he could see were off. Too dark, too gray. Any leaves should have lit right up in his tail's green glow.

    The figure opened its mouth to speak.

    "She isn't here right now."

    The volume and the pitch made Benny flinch. It was a female voice, but not his friend's, and it had a darker echo behind it.

    The creature crawled through the frame a little too nimbly, sending another chill down the breloom's spine. He now saw the form completely. It was Catherine, but clearly not Catherine - her colorless body leaked smoke, and a collar of crimson pearls looped around her neck. Together with her eyes, they shone brighter than Benny's light, dyeing the room red.

    "So you've gone ahead and ruined my playground…" she spoke. "I should've thrown you out when I found you, just like that other guy. Instead, I got cocky…"

    "What are you talking about?" shouted Benny, glancing around the room for a possible escape route. "Who are you? What are you?"

    His gaze brushed over the note in his hand, then flicked right back. A familiar pattern of thoughts repeated. Could this be the same…?

    He had nothing to lose by trying, so he spat it out.

    "Emily! Mawile Emily!" He showed the writing to the stranger. "Please remember, Emily! Snap out of it! You lived in this house and a while back you got fired --"

    The paper ripped as a sickle tore it down from Benny's claws. He could barely breathe.

    "I know damn well that I am Emily!" the creature growled at his face. "I am the reason they all forgot themselves!"

    Benny trembled, but managed to speak his words. "H-how come?"

    The possessed leavanny stepped back. "How come?" She smirked. "Because I could. After my death, I wasn't gone like I'd expected. Instead, I'd become something else, something with actual power. And I put that power to use.

    "Every night, I wiped their minds a little more, and every day, they were less themselves. They became confused, afraid, aggressive! No longer the happy little vermin they were before! It sated my anger, and..." She tapped the pearls around her neck. "It tasted good, too."

    “But… why would you wanna do that?” Benny peeped.

    Emily scowled. “Of course you wouldn’t get it… you’re another one of them. Life’s so easy when you know how to talk, huh? When you have connections? People who care about you, know you exist, want you to keep existing?” She spat on the floor. “Your whole career is a testament to that! Delivering messages of affection and attention, from one perfect little mon to another!”

    Delivering… messages? A pressure grew somewhere in Benny’s mind, like a river against a dam wanting to burst through. That seems so familiar, but why?

    “Meanwhile I… I never got a letter for myself. Not once!” snarled Emily. “But enough about that… I need to take you out of the picture. And letting you live seems too generous...”

    She raised her sickle, staring coldly. “But I’ll at least make it quick.”

    “Wait!” shouted Benny. As the leavanny flinched, he dug his claws into his bag. “You do have a letter!”

    Her sickle wavered. “What?”

    The breloom pulled out the letter and offered it to her. “It’s for Mawile Emily… th-that’s why I came here, I wanted to find you and give this to you!”

    Hesitantly, Emily took the letter. She struggled to open it with her sickles, having experience only with mawile hands, but managed to remove the envelope and unfold the message.

    Benny could only listen to his heart pound as the possessor read the letter in silence. He yearned to know what was written, for the sakes of both his fate and curiosity, but no word came from Emily until the very end.

    “Granny...” she breathed. “Granny remembered me...”

    She sniffled. A glimmer formed in her eyes. “Someone remembered me...”

    The room lit up in a flash. Crimson turned to gold and white. Benny had to squint his eyes, but through them, he could see Catherine’s leaves started to regain their green. The smoke began to dissipate, black becoming gray, then clear.

    Emily touched the pearls on her neck. They felt lighter, warmer.

    “I’m… satisfied,” she spoke, her voice bright. She blinked her tears free. “I’m finally happy...”

    She looked to the Breloom. “Aki, please, let my grandmother know what happened. And tell her that I’m happy...”

    “I will,” Benny said. He lowered his brow. “Wait, what was that name you said?”

    Emily smiled. “Aki. Your name is Breloom Aki.”

    The dam in Benny’s mind shattered. Memories came flooding in.

    His childhood admiration of mailmon, how they traveled far and wide to make sure messages reached their recipients. His excitement at his apprenticeship at the Maple Way Post Office. His joy when he was officially employed, his pride at the end of the first day. The routes he traveled, the mailboxes he filled, the transfer to Rockridge, the distress upon learning about Welltown… and everything that came since, leading him back to this moment.

    “Where’s my bag?” he screeched immediately. “There was so much mail in there --”

    Emily chuckled. “Don’t worry, your bag is in the well. I made a platform above the water to hide there during the day, so it’s not soggy, either.”

    "B-better not be!" Aki tried to threaten, but his words came out as squeaks.

    The golden pearls grew brighter. “It’s my time to go now...” sighed Emily. “Please, Aki, tell my story to the townsfolk, too. I don’t want anyone else to end up like me.”

    Aki smiled cautiously. ”I promise I’ll tell them.”

    “Thank you...” Emily sighed. “Thank you, and goodbye.”

    The light reached its peak. The pearls shone like little suns, and then - shattered.

    The room sank into darkness. Aki blinked his eyes, soaking in the peaceful shadows, then jumped to his feet as he remembered his friend.

    “Catherine!” he shouted and shook his tail alight. The leavanny still stood in place, but her color had fully returned and her eyes were shut.

    “Nhh...” The leavanny sluggishly opened her eyes. “What? Benny? What happened?”

    Aki leapt to the mon and wrapped his arms around her. “You’re okay!” He leaned back to see her face. “A-are you?”

    “Um, I feel fine, I think. Though I did hurt…” Catherine lifted her foot, but felt no ache. She stepped it back down without pain. “...Huh. What happened?”

    Aki inhaled deeply, then unloaded his best summary of the events onto her. She decided to accept the explanation without much doubt - the day had already been bizarre. What was a little more strangeness on top?

    “We should really get back to town hall, then,” she said. “It’ll be a lot more convenient if the whole town can hear the story at once.”

    “Right!”

    Together, they moved the bench away from the door and left the shack, the town hall as their destination. The first stars had lit up in the deep blue sky above them, and a hoothoot's call echoed every now and then. It was peaceful - until someone spoke up some way ahead. He was joined by two others soon after, but their conversation was too muddled by distance to understand.

    Catherine's antennae perked. "Oh, could that be the search party for Emily? We should let them know the issue's been settled already."

    Aki nodded, and the two sprinted for the voices. Soon enough, they caught sight of the ones speaking and could make out their words.

    "What?" grunted a mightyena. "What are you talking about?"

    "My bag!" said the politoed. "I need to find it or my boss will --"

    "Hello?" called Catherine to the trio. "Would you three be the search party sent to find Emily?"

    "Two," corrected the manectric beside the mightyena and gestured to the politoed. "This one's just someone we found wandering about."

    "He said he didn't remember anything on the whole way here, and now he suddenly remembers everything!" added the mightyena. "Says he's a mailmon here to deliver some letters. Doesn't that strike you as suspicious?"

    Aki's eyes widened. He rushed to the group, claws flailing. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait!" he interrupted, then turned to the politoed. "You're from Rockridge, right?"

    The mon's eyes widened. "H-how'd you know?"

    "I'm from there too!" said Aki. "But enough talk, let's get your bag! Come on, it's at the well!" He leapt into a run.

    The canines and politoed stared after the breloom, puzzled, but Catherine followed. "We should go," she said to the others. "Don't worry about Emily, we found her already. We'll explain at the town hall. Now, come!"

    The mightyena and manectric exchanged a look.

    "Well, they were part of another search party," said the manectric. "I trust 'em."

    The mightyena grunted, but obliged. "You better be right…"

    All five mon soon arrived at the well. Aki explained that there should be two bags of mail on a platform at the bottom. The manectric lit up his fur, and they all looked down, finding the breloom's claim to be true and the mysterious smog from before nowhere to be seen. The politoed could finally cease his panic now that his lost bag had been found, meaning he wouldn't have to receive a terrible scolding from Shiftry Giuseppe.

    They entered the town hall with their news. The mention of several days’ mail being in the well awakened everyone’s curiosity, but Aki insisted the townsfolk first listen to his story. Begrudgingly, they agreed - not that they had much choice with the leavanny couple guarding the door, making sure no one would try and sneak out.

    Aki explained it all from start to finish. He told them who Emily was, what happened to her and what she did. Shocked to learn of the mawile’s fate, the mayor implored all to remain watchful over each other so that no mon would have to feel that alone again.

    Then, with the help of some psychic types, the bags were retrieved. Another shout-and-answer session was organized and, one by one, the lost letters finally found their recipients. Once both bags were empty, the meeting was dismissed, and the townsfolk gladly left for their homes. Everyone was eager to hit the bed after the long, worrisome day. Aki was no exception, however…

    “Man… it’s such a long way to Rockridge,” sighed Aki, sitting next to the leavanny couple on one of the hall’s benches. “I’d like to stay the night here, but unlike that other guy, I found no money in my bag. I can’t pay for a night at the inn...” He froze. “Wow, I hope they won’t charge me retroactively for last night.”

    Catherine rubbed her sickles together, then gave her husband a begging look.

    Niedell smirked. "Well, that depends. Does he mind if we get loud at night?"

    Catherine paled. "N-Niedell!" She smacked her husband on the arm with her sickle, but he only laughed.

    "Yes, dear, yes he can," said Niedell.

    “Who can what?” asked Aki.

    Beaming, Catherine faced the breloom. “Ben- I mean Aki, would you like to spend the night at our house?”

    The leavanny's smile spread to Aki. “That’d be great! Thanks! That’s so nice of you!”

    “Well, then, let’s get going!” said Niedell, standing up. “I’ve gotten sick of this hall by now.”

    The three gladly exited the building, stepping into the windless night. The full moon, freshly risen, shone golden just above the trees. For the first time in quite a while, lanterns burned bright on their sconces, casting a warm glow onto the stony houses and streets.

    Catherine sighed. “Oh, it’s so pretty… what a shame we’re going right back indoors,” she said, already arriving at her front door barely a stone’s throw away from the hall.

    "I know, dear," said Niedell, "but I'm sure tomorrow night will be just as pretty. Tonight, we need the rest."

    Aki nodded in agreement, his eyelids already heavy. After the couple had opened the door and entered, he raised a foot to follow, but froze.

    A wind had picked up in the still air, whistling around the stone well. Atop the gust danced tiny, golden specks.

    What… what is that? Aki wondered - until he understood.

    Watching the sparkling dust, he smiled. “Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten.”

    “Aki? Are you coming?” called Catherine from deeper in the house.

    “Oh, yeah,” the breloom replied. He gave the dust one last look. It swirled faster, ascending to the sky, then dimmed and disappeared one spark at a time.

    A bittersweet warmth in his chest, Aki moved in and closed the door.

    END
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019

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