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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light [COMPLETE]


Winter can't come soon enough
Bonus #1

"Hello, folks. Name's Shane. Chosen one… possible future world saver… and all-around adorable ball of fluff because this Pokémon universe hates me and couldn't make me something cool."

Growlithe tilted his head in confusion. "Aww, c'mon, don't be like that. Vulpix are so soft and cuddly! And they're so poisoned and elegant when they evolve into Ninetales."

"Easy for you to say," Shane growled. "You were able to keep your fire-typing in this backwards place. What self-respecting Arceus thought it was a good idea to turn a Vulpix from a useful fire-type into a totally worthless ice-type?"

"Err, uh, maybe you shouldn't talk bad about the Original One like that," Growlithe mumbled, looking around in a panic.

"Psssht! What's he gonna do, drop a meteor on us or something? He's not Palkia," Shane scoffed, flicked a paw dismissively. "But, whatever, I'm straying off subject here." He cleared his throat. "Now, I understand my amazing adventure is still in its relative infancy…"

"Actually, it's probably more like a toddler at this point," Growlithe quipped.

"… whatever. Look, the point is, I'm sure all of you wonderful folks out there have noticed we have a disproportionately large percentage of canines in the cast so far," Shane said.

Eevee sprinted into the room, a big smile on his face. "Well, yeah! That's because we're all so much fun."

Shane stuck out his head and bit down on Eevee's tail. "Oh no you don't," he growled. Eevee's tail muffled his voice. "No one here is allowed to be cuter than me. How am I supposed to get this all-important message across if everyone's paying attention to you huh? You're not even a canine! You're like a feline-canine-rabbit-hybrid thingamajig."

Eevee's eyes watered. "But…"

"And you Eeveelutions multiply like rabbits too. Maybe that's why your fandom's so rabid," Shane muttered. He released Eevee's tail and shoved him toward the door. "In any case… scoot! Growlithe and I are busy here."

"Aww, you're a meanie! I'm telling my mommy," Eevee sobbed and ran out of the room.

"Cripes… kids, man," Shane grumbled. "Okay, where was I, Growlithe?"

"Um, something about lots of canines in the cast right now," Growlithe replied.

"Ah, yes, of course." Shane nodded. "Fear not, everyone. Because I, being the totally awesome guy that I am, have discovered the reasoning behind the absolute madness."

"Oh, really?" Growlithe wagged his tail excitedly. "Tell me! Tell me! I wanna know. Is it because we're gonna form up a super canine army to defeat a bunch of cat Pokémon led by Solgaleo, Mew, and Mewtwo?"

"What? No! That's stupid. And you totally made the name Solgaleo up," Shane dismissed. "The answer's obvious. Whoever's creating this adventure is clearly a hack of an individual with immense levels of bias and apparently no sense of shame."

Growlithe frowned. "Aww… that's not a fun explanation at all."

"But it's the truth," Shane said. "Look, I'm willing to admit Poképups are pretty cute. But we already have me, you, Tessa–"

"What about Null?" Growlithe asked.

A smirk appeared on Shane's muzzle. Seconds later, he collapsed onto his back, laughing hysterically. He flailed his legs about in the air. Unfortunately for him, Null just so happened to pass the room's doorway. He stopped to look inside.

"Null? Are you serious?" Shane wiped a tear from his eye. "He's no canine. He's the result of some game designer walking in on their kid watching that scene in Toy Story where the creepy toys Sid slapped together all crawl out of the woodwork, nodding at the TV, and thinking, 'I can totally do that for Pokémon.'"

Growlithe tilted his head in confusion. "I have no idea what any of that means. But you, uh, might want to think about bringing that train of thought to a stop."

Null's small, gray eyes narrowed and he stomped into the room.

"Why? C'mon, I know you guys are all thinking it too," Shane chuckled. "The guy's a total fr–"

Shane let out a squeak as Null plucked him up by his snow-white tails.

"Hey, stop! Leggo! Put me down! Those tails are very sensitive," Shane yipped, flailing about in the air. Null spun him around and hoisted him in Growlithe's direction. He let out a snort, which echoed against his helmet.

"Huh?" Growlithe raised an eyebrow. "Me? What did I do?"

Null shook his head and pawed at the ground with his foreleg.

"Oooooooooh!" Growlithe nodded slowly. "Are… are you sure that's a good idea?"

"How the heck can you possibly understand that? What's he telling you? Tell this nutcase to let go! I can feel the blood rushing to my head and it's making me woozy," Shane protested. In response, Growlithe opened his mouth and spewed a massive stream of flames. Shane's eyes widened and he howled in terror as the fire washed over him.

Null dropped his comically-charred form to the ground and left the room in a huff.

Shane coughed up a plume of smoke. "What… was that for?"

"Cut! Cut! CUT! That was absolutely terrible!"

Tessa stormed into the room through another door, holding a stack of cards under her right arm. She glared at Shane. "What kind of performance was that? Were you even looking at the cue cards?" She waved the stack of cards around in front of Shane's face. "You were supposed to be wishing everyone a happy National Dog Day!"

"I… did not… sign up… for that…" Shane coughed. He lumbered to his feet, trying to shake soot off his fur. "Great! Thanks a lot, Growlithe. I'm gonna need to bathe for hours to get this stuff out."

"Did you even listen to me?" Tessa shoved the cue cards into Shane's snout. "We're doing this again from the top. And this time… read. The. Cards."

"What, these dopy things?" Shane peeked his head around the cards to look at Tessa. "Puh-lease. This is supposed to be about calling out the powers that be for shoehorning in too many canines. What did you think we were doing?"


Tessa broadsided Shane across the cheek. He spun about in a circle and collapsed onto his belly. Stars swirled about his head. Tessa tossed the cue cards on top of him.

"I'm the one who organized this in the first place," she hissed. "I can't believe I let you talk your way into this. I knew I should've just done this by myself." She shook her head. "No offense, Growlithe."

"It's okay. I got to light a Vulpix on fire. That's good enough for me!" Growlithe chirped.

"Wanna grab a bite to eat, then?" Tessa asked.

"You know it!" Growlithe wagged his tail and followed Tessa out of the room.

"Unnnghh… isn't anyone… gonna help me?" Shane groaned. He tried to lift his head up but it fell back to the ground.

"No? Seriously? When I save the world… you guys are so not invited to the afterparty!"

The cast of Guiding Light wishes you and your canine pals a Happy National Dog Day! And if you're not American, well, hey, you got an extra scene, so that's something, right?


If you couldn't already tell, this is just a cheesy, non-canon omake. I'd love to do these for other holidays if people like them, so let me know! ^^

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Growlithe tilted his head in confusion. "Aww, c'mon, don't be like that. Vulpix are so soft and cuddly! And they're so poisoned and elegant when they evolve into Ninetales."

Poised, Growlithe. If they were poisoned upon evolution they'd probably die painfully, seeing as they're fairies.

(I don't know if that word mixup was intentional or not but either way I kind of love it because it makes Growlithe even cuter.)

Shane stuck out his head and bit down on Eevee's tail. "Oh no you don't," he growled. Eevee's tail muffled his voice. "No one here is allowed to be cuter than me. How am I supposed to get this all-important message across if everyone's paying attention to you huh? You're not even a canine! You're like a feline-canine-rabbit-hybrid thingamajig."

Seriously what even IS an eevee when it all comes down to it. Apart from an eevee, of course.

Also I like the mention of the tail muffling his voice. That's a fun little detail.

"What? No! That's stupid. And you totally made the name Solgaleo up," Shane dismissed.

Somewhere sunverse!Nebby is weeping radioactive space lion tears and doesn't know why.

"Null? Are you serious?" Shane wiped a tear from his eye. "He's no canine. He's the result of some game designer walking in on their kid watching that scene in Toy Story where the creepy toys Sid slapped together all crawl out of the woodwork, nodding at the TV, and thinking, 'I can totally do that for Pokémon.'"

Imagine if type: null had actually been a baby head on a metal spider body.

"It's okay. I got to light a Vulpix on fire. That's good enough for me!" Growlithe chirped.

Good gosh I like this growlithe.

This was fun. :D I definitely wouldn't mind more of these silly little episodes.


Winter can't come soon enough
Episode 3 is here! And with it, Team Radiance's first assignment. I hope you guys have Pokémon Refresh up and running, because this is a messy one. Check it out after the break.

Sike Saner
Ok this immediately made me think of ACNL's perfect fruit. And how the last harvest off a perfect fruit tree also yields a rotten fruit. And how the rotten pears and perfect pears look enough alike that one time I accidentally gave Lionel the wrong one and consequently felt bad but also laughed a little.
I'm just going to nod along with you because there's a slight chance I've never played an Animal Crossing game. I know, I know, blasphemy, right? Would Mario Kart 8, count? There are AC characters in it!

There's something magical about an exact percentage immediately followed by a rather informal word. :B

Character introductions: I vote "not boring". Especially not Magearna's. That thing's precious--especially her vocabulary. Also: type: null character! With a mysterious/suspicious past! Color me intrigued.
Ah, yes, Magearna. I figured, if I was going to end up making an exposition fairy of sorts, it should quite literally be a fairy (type). And I thought she'd go well with the even-more-robotic Metagross.

Poised, Growlithe. If they were poisoned upon evolution they'd probably die painfully, seeing as they're fairies.

(I don't know if that word mixup was intentional or not but either way I kind of love it because it makes Growlithe even cuter.)
Growlithe: Uh-oh... the human's onto me! *flees*

Somewhere sunverse!Nebby is weeping radioactive space lion tears and doesn't know why.
It's okay, Nebby. You're still my second favorite Liger Zero... y'know, behind the actual Liger Zero. See, I can say that, because I don't plan to make a Zoids reference in this story. ^^;

Imagine if type: null had actually been a baby head on a metal spider body.
I imagine Arceus taking one look at it and going, "That's it, I'm destroying humanity for real this time."


A beam of light crept across Shane's body. He brushed his forepaws against his face and groaned. Shane curled up into a tighter ball, attempting to will away the light. But the beam lingered over him. Eventually, Shane gave an annoyed huff and poked his head up. "What?" he growled. "What's the prob–?"

He cut himself off and blinked in surprise. "Uh… this isn't my room," he said, getting to his feet. "How did I get back on the beach?" Shane looked around, surveying the sand in front of him. The beach gave way to luminescent, orange water that seemed to extend off beyond the horizon.

Shane looked up and noticed the sky perfectly matched the water's orange glow. "Okay, kinda creeped out here," he said. "This is definitely not the same beach I washed up on. So, what gives?"


"Gah!" Shane fell to his belly, covering his ears with his forepaws.

"Do you have any idea how long I've waited for you to wake up?"

Shane looked around, but didn't see any signs of another Pokémon. "Two words, whatever you are: volume control. I'm right here. I can hear you perfectly fine," he scoffed, slapping the side of his head.

"Foooooooool!" the disembodied voice bellowed, sending Shane to the ground once again. "I do not have time for smart remarks. I cannot maintain our dream link for long, human."

"I'm dreaming?" Shane tilted his head. "That'd explain the crazy water, I guess." His brow furrowed. "Wait, did you just call me a human?"

"Of course I did. I summoned you here, after all."

Shane raised an eyebrow. "Wait, by 'here,' do you mean this dream or the Pokémon world as a whole? This is kind of an important detail."

"What do you think, human?"

"Uh, I'm gonna go with 'Pokémon world as a whole,'" Shane replied, preparing to cover his ears again if the voice got angry.

"Yes… correct! You see, human, I am in need of your help."

A broad smile crept onto Shane's muzzle. "Go ooooooon…"

"There is something out there… draining me of my powers! Something… that wants to upset the balance of nature. But I do not know what it is."

"Hmm…" Shane scratched his chin. "That's pretty vague, but just as I'd expect of a weird voice inside my head." He looked out toward the ocean. "Isn't there any kind of clue you can offer me? A cryptic riddle? A vision of the future? Heck, I'll take an interpretive dance. Anything's better than flying blind, here."

"Did you not hear me, you foolish fool? I said I don't know! Why do you think I brought you into this world? To figure everything out before it's too late for me!"

Shane's grin broadened. "So, what you're saying is, you need me to save the world? Ha ha, yes! Wait'll the guild hears about this. Tessa can take her stupid 'you're here by accident' nonsense and shove it!" He started dancing around the beach, singing, "I'm gonna be a he-ro! I'm gonna be a he-ro!"


Shane fell flat onto his face.

"You cannot tell anyone about this! I've put myself in enough danger already just by bringing you here. Go forth… and find whatever is threatening the balance of nature!"

"Uh-huh, sure. I'll get right on that," Shane promised. "And what are you going to do? Sit around and bother me with cryptic dreams like this again in the future?"

"This is all I can do if I wish to conserve my power. You'd better figure something out, because I will contact you again."

Shane nodded. "Sounds good to me. Now, uh, think you can wake me up so I can get started with this whole investigating business?"

"Fine. As you wish. Farewell for now, human."

For a brief instant, Shane saw a sun-shaped silhouette appear in the water. Then, the silhouette let out a bright flash, completely blinding him.


Episode 3: One Step Forward

Chapter 5: Pearls of Wisdom


"Vulpix, wake up!" Tessa said, shoving her slumbering partner's hide. "C'mon, it's already dawn. You're gonna make us late for our first morning assembly."

"Gzzkkrr… snnnrrrkk… mmmfffffrr…" Shane snorted and stretched a forepaw forward. "Five more minutes… Mom," he groaned.

"Okay, we do not have time for this," Tessa grumbled. She grabbed hold of Shane's cushion and yanked it toward her. Shane rolled off it, landing splayed out on his back. His eyes shot open.

"Hey, what was that for?" he growled.

"You overslept, you dolt," Tessa scolded. "Let's get going or Braviary will yell at us for sure."

Shane rolled to his feet and threw on his scarf. He jogged into the hallway, with Tessa following after him. They proceeded toward the main assembly area, where they found the guild members they had met yesterday. Braviary stood in front of the door to Metagross' office. Team Radiance shuffled up beside Yungoos and Growlithe. "Psst, did we miss anything?" Shane asked.

"Nah, youse rookies are fine," Yungoos replied. "I think Braviary's waiting ta see if da Guildmaster's showing up."

Shane nodded. He turned toward Braviary, but then something sparkled in the corner of his eye. Shane craned his head to the right. "Uh…" He raised an eyebrow. "Anyone else see a Milotic, Serperior, and Dragonair huddled in the corner? What are they doing?"

Tessa turned and spotted the three serpentine Pokémon in question. "You mean Team Captivate?" Growlithe spoke up. "They're one of the veteran teams. Must be taking a request from the Guildmaster if they actually showed up to a morning meeting." Tessa eyed the veterans skeptically. Milotic spotted Tessa and her eyes widened. She held up her rainbow tail to shield her face, but Tessa could see Milotic whispering excitedly to her teammates. Tessa hiked her scarf up over her muzzle and turned back to face Shane.

"Alrighty, folks," Braviary said with a clear of his throat. "Don't look like the Guildmaster will be gracing us this morning. So, without further ado, here are today's announcements." Braviary looked at Team Radiance. "Now, I know most of y'all met 'em yesterday, but we got us a couple of new recruits. That there…" He pointed a wing at them. "… is Team Radiance. If'n ya haven't greeted 'em, say hi to Vulpix and Te–" He paused again. "I mean, Riolu."

"Why don't you want anyone calling you Tessa, again?" Shane asked.

Tessa looked down at the ground. "I already told you, it's none of your business. Now drop it." She noticed the trio of Team Captivate exchanging whispers again. She repositioned herself between Shane and Yungoos, although Shane didn't seem to care.

"Now then," Braviary continued, "I'm sure a few of ya have heard that Sunset Shoals had some of its caverns flooded. Well, the team that went to investigate reported back to me yesterday. They said the local Pokémon are claiming the tide's steadily grown stronger over the past few weeks."

Shane raised an eyebrow. 'Huh… could that be related to the whole 'messing with the balance of nature' thing I heard about in my dream?'

"Ain't entirely sure why that would be. But what is important is making sure the folks in nearby Circadian Coast are safe from any flooding. To that effect, Team Captivate over there will be delivering some supplies on the guild's behalf." Braviary nodded at the serpent trio. Milotic winked and blew a kiss toward him. "Lastly, Magearna asks that y'all refrain from using yer Gear-Coms if'n you do any assignments today. She'll be performing some maintenance on her receiver," Braviary announced. "That'll about do things for us this morning. Now, get out there and show Horizon what we're made of!"

"Hooo-rah!" the apprentices shouted in unison.

"What, no motto? Lame," Shane mused.

As the group dispersed, cream-colored scales filled Tessa's field of vision. She looked up into Milotic's soft expression. Shane just sat beside her, a mystified look in his eyes. "Hiya… Milotic…" Tessa whispered.

"Tessa, sweetie!" Milotic wrapped Tessa up in her body. She craned her neck down and nuzzled Tessa's forehead. Tessa flinched from the contact and fought to dodge Milotic's gaze. "Oh, sorry." Milotic released her. "It's just Riolu now, right? Like it should be?"

"Yeah," Tessa whispered.

"Well, it's great to see you again. It's been ages!" Milotic chirped. "I can't believe you're finally in the guild. Oh, I'll bet your mom and brother are so proud!"

Tessa winced and looked away. "Milotic," Dragonair whispered. "You're being inconsiderate. Can you not see the distress on her face?" She slithered forward. "Sorry about her, Riolu. You know how she gets sometimes."

"It's… it's okay, Dragonair," Tessa stammered. "Mom's still… away."

Milotic's eyes widened. "Ohmygosh, I'm so sorry, Riri! I had no idea. I'll drop the subject right away." She turned to her teammates. "C'mon, ladies. We've got some supplies to deliver!" They all lifted their tails and tapped the tips together. Then they slithered off toward the stairs. Braviary fluttered over to Team Radiance the moment Team Captivate had departed the area. Shane still had a starry-eyed look about him, so Braviary flapped a wing in his face.

"Paaaafffttth! Pfffftt! I'm awake… I'm awake!" Shane hollered. He blinked rapidly. "Where's the fire?"

"Quite spacing out, hoss," Braviary scolded. "It's time fer y'all to get working. I'm here to show you the job board. So, follow me." Braviary escorted Team Radiance up to the main entrance. Shane spotted two bulletin boards on either side of the room. One of them clearly had sketches of Pokémon on it, but Shane couldn't make out any specifics. "We collect jobs from all over," Braviary explained. "Pokémon interested in our help can post jobs here themselves or send requests to us via couriers."

'Wonder how a postal system even works in a place like this,' Shane thought. 'Must be some secretive legion of flying-types.'

"Now then, I want y'all to get used to accepting assignments from this job board. So, I'm gonna pick out yer first one. Sound good?"

"No objections here," Shane chirped.

"Yeah, that's fine," Tessa agreed.

Braviary unclipped one of the pages from the board and inspected it. "Perfect. Y'all can take this to start." He passed the page over to Tessa.

"Please help me, Horizon Guild," she read aloud. "I have this string of pearls that I wanted to exchange at the Kecleon Shop. I could really use some extra funds, and I was just so fortunate to discover these pearls. But when I was on my way to Aeon Town, I lost them. I believe they're somewhere along the Clayback River. Signed, Lunatone." She looked up at Braviary. "The Clayback River? That's a bit of a trek, isn't it?"

"Now don't you worry about something like that," Braviary laughed. "Y'all are part of the guild now. We've got ways of navigating the continent lickety split. If'n you head over to Aeon Port, you'll find the transportation you need."

"Is it a Lapras?" Shane asked.

"Ha, yer a riot, son! Ya really expect one Lapras to service the guild? Nah, we've got something much faster," Braviary exclaimed. "But I'll let y'all figure that one out for yourselves. Do whatever preparations y'all need. Then head on out to the port. I'm-a log this job into yer file in the meantime." He turned and glided over to the stairs, leaving Team Radiance over by the entrance.

"So, uh, we've got our first job!" Shane cheered. "You've got our pouch, right?" Tessa nodded. "Then let's make for the docks!"

"Don't you think we should get some supplies first?" Tessa exclaimed.

"What do we need? We're just going to investigate a river," Shane scoffed. "Besides, how could you still have money after the stuff you bought yesterday?"

"That was money I had saved for, uh, a special occasion?"

"Are you asking me or telling me? Look, we're burning daylight standing around here. We've got some pearls to find. So, let's get going!" He trotted out of the front door. Tessa groaned and followed behind him. She quickened her pace in order to get in front of Shane and properly lead up down one of the larger streets.

After a few minutes of walking, the buildings of Aeon Town gave way to a small hill that ran down to a set of wooden docks evenly spaced out in the water. Shane whistled. "Huh… they actually have more than one dock here. I'm surprised."

Tessa adjusted her pouch. "Well, Aeon Town is one of the bigger communities in Horizon, if I'm not mistaken. It's only natural we'd have to be ready for a bit of traffic."

"So, is this port connected to the water that surrounds Rainbow Island, then?" Shane asked.

"Yeah, the Midnight Sea," Tessa acknowledged. "I'm surprised you actually remembered."

"Hey, anything related to Ho-Oh is bound to stay in my brain," Shane declared. "And, seriously, it's called the Midnight Sea? That's totally not ominous or anything!"

"It's named that way because if ye be dumb enough to try swimming underwater, ye'll find it's as dark as the night sky!"

Shane's fur bristled. "Did you hear that?" He looked around rapidly. "That sounded like a pirate! Quick, find us some eyepatches so we can blend in."

"That's just our ride, oh wise explorer," Tessa deadpanned, pointing toward the edge of the dock. 'What the heck is a pirate, anyway?' she wondered. Shane followed her line of sight and spotted a jagged blue dorsal fin and a pair of beady red eyes separated by a yellow star marking.

"Oh, sweet! We get to ride a Sharpedo?" Shane gasped. "That's awesome!"

Sharpedo surfaced. "Aye. I be the cap'n of Horizon's Sharpedo Sailors. Yer the new guild members, right?"

"Sure are," Shane chirped, his earlier trepidation having vanished. He jogged up to Sharpedo. "I'm Shane, and this is my partner, Riolu."

Sharpedo examined Tessa as she joined up with Shane. "Yer eyes be familiar, lass," he acknowledged. "Yeh wouldn't happen to be–?"

"Yes, yes, my parents and brother are all in the guild. Can we just get going now? We need to get to the Clayback River," Tessa cut in.

"Of course." Sharpedo swiveled around, exposing a pair of plastic seats that attached to his dorsal fin. "Climb aboard." Tessa jumped into one of the seats. Shane had a bit more trouble steadying himself thanks to his lack of any arms. "Alright, we be setting course for Clayback River!"


~Clayback River~

"Okay, I'm sensing an immense bias toward light-furred Pokémon in this continent!"

Tessa paused in the middle of climbing up a rock. She glanced down to see Shane along the dark red riverbank, brushing his forepaws against the very same rock she clung to. "What's the problem, exactly?" she sighed.

"Look at me!" He lifted up his forepaws, showing the wet, brown dirt caking them. "I'm tired of getting my fur all grimy. First, it's sand. Then, it's dirt. And now, it's silt!"

Tessa smirked. "What happened to not wanting anyone to think you were girly?"

"I can't help it!" Shane proclaimed. He stumbled back from the rock. As he did, his tails brushed through the riverbank. Clay and silt caked them, making Shane cringe. "It's this stupid Vulpix body and mind of mine. There's a part of my brain that's insistent I keep this pelt nice and shiny. And if it ever gets messed up my fur bristles, my stomach twists in knots, and I feel like I've got this awful itch I can't scratch."

"Aww, you poor, poor thing," Tessa teased. "Guess exploring's not for you if you can't handle a getting down and dirty."

Shane's left eye twitched. "I… that's…" He stomped a forepaw on the ground. "I can totally handle it! Watch!" He scooped up a pawful of clay and smeared it across his chest. "See? Perfectly…" He looked down at his clay-covered chest. Shane's muzzle twitched. Seconds later, he smacked his forehead with his paw. "Aggh! What am I doing?" he groaned, only to stare at his grimy paw with wide eyes. "CRUD! I just made it worse!" he howled.

"You know, you're really not helping things," Tessa scoffed. "Find some higher ground so we can get a better look around the river, will ya?" Shane looked away dejectedly and started trying to spot a vantage point of his own. Tessa resumed her climb up the rock. She hefted herself up to stand on the top of the rock and survey the area.

Two banks of clay ran in parallel. Both had steep, rocky inclines separating them from the surrounding plains. The brown, dirt-filled river coursed in front of her, providing a considerable gap if Team Radiance hoped to reach the other bank. Tessa soon spotted a few outcroppings of rock that seemed close enough together to jump across.

"This river's current looks pretty strong!" Shane shouted. Tessa looked down and noticed Shane had dipped a paw in the river. "I can feel it racing against my paw," he said. "This is running out to the ocean?"

"I'm not sure," Tessa called back. "Do you see anything sparkling in the water?"

"No. This is way too murky. Probably from all the silt and clay in the basin," Shane reported. "But don't you think Lunatone would have known if he dropped his pearls into the river?"

"I guess he would've requested a water-type's help, yeah," Tessa acknowledged. "But the river continues out to the north. And it looks like it gets wider over there."

She slid back down the rock to regroup with her teammate. "What do you propose we do then? We've got to search the other side of the river too or we're bound to miss it," Shane said.

"I know. I spotted a set of rocks that jut out into the river up ahead," Tessa announced. "One of us should try to jump the gap and reach the other ba–"

"Oh! Dibs! Dibs!" Shane jumped about excitedly and then sprinted forward.

"Hey… wait! We should talk this over before we split up," Tessa protested, but Shane was already halfway toward the outcropping she saw. She ran after him, only to notice Shane spraying the part of the river between the rocks with a jet of snow. To her surprise, a thin layer of ice formed atop the river.

"What are you doing? You're just gonna tire yourself out," Tessa warned.

"It's a failsafe. If I can't make the jump, I won't end up in the drink," Shane stated, puffing his chest out.

"Ice doesn't work that way, dummy," Tessa growled. "A thin layer's not good enough. You need to consider your weight and the fact that you'd have momentum from falling!"

"Bah, physics was never one of my strong subjects. I'll be fine. It's just something to make you not complain. Guess it didn't work," Shane said, laughing. "Okay, 'Operation: Miles Prower' is go! Three… two… one… CHARGE!" Shane sprinted across the first outcropping.

Tessa shut her eyes and look away. 'Please don't screw this up and crack your skull in half…'


She poked an eye open to see Shane trotting confidently down the rock along the other side. "What did I tell you?" he called back to Tessa. "Nothing to it!"

'Thank goodness,' she sighed, but she wasn't about to give Shane any satisfaction. "Don't celebrate until we've found the pearls. See if you can get up the dirt embankment over there and get a look around."

"I was already about to do that. Sheesh, no need to order me around," Shane scoffed, trotting over toward the hill. The dirt pile rose up high enough to reach the fields of green grass overlooking the river basin. As he approached it, Shane noticed something glimmer in the corner of his eye. "Hang on, I think there's something in this dirt pile," he announced.

"Don't just stand there, then. Dig it up," Tessa called. Shane braced his forepaws against the dirt and started digging away.

"Ugh… blecch!" Shane sputtered. "I can't believe dogs actually enjoy doing this back home."

"It's cause your technique's sloppy!" Tessa scolded. "Stop throwing the dirt to the side like a wuss and push it toward your belly."

"I'm… doing… fine!" Shane insisted. After a couple of minutes, his paws struck something hard. He looked down and noticed a sparkling silver bit of metal staring back at him. "Oh-ho! What have we here? Come to Shane, shiny." He stuck his paws into the dirt and gave a hearty tug. Tessa watched him unearth a string of mud-caked, silver beads. Shane tumbled back, clasping the beads as he landed on his back.

"Hey, those look like they could be our missing pearls," Tessa said. "Think you can manage to get back across with them in tow?" She bit her lip. 'Ugh, we did not think this through! I have the pouch and I have hands. Why did I let him jump across? Did I really think I'd be the one to find them?'

"Uh…" Shane looked at the pearls. "I think I can manage if I sling these pearls across my scarf. They're not that heavy."

"Kweh heh heh heh! Thanks for taking the trouble to dig those out for us, Snowy. Now we don't need to get our claws dirty!"

Tessa's heart leaped into her throat. 'No way… that's Sneasel's voice! What's he doing here?' As if to respond, Sneasel and Jangmo-o both emerged from the other side of the dirt hill, grinning wickedly.

"I thought your voices sounded familiar," Jangmo-o said with a laugh. "See, told you it'd be a good idea to lay low behind the hill."

Sneasel whirled on Jangmo-o. "What are you talking about? That was my idea!"

"Yeah? Well, I still provided moral support," Jangmo-o declared.

Shane narrowed his eyes at the duo. "What are you creeps doing here?"

"Kweh heh heh heh! Ain't it obvious? Combing for treasure, of course!" Sneasel declared.

"Yeah. Ain't nobody better at scooping up treasure than Team Fang," Jangmo-o added, only to receive a smack upside the head from Sneasel.

"You idiot. Why would you tell them our team name?"

"Uh, to strike fear into their hearts?" Jangmo-o squeaked.

"Yeah, but now they can try to report us!" Sneasel hissed. "Whatever, doesn't matter. Let's nab the pearls and toss Snowy into the dirty river where he belongs."

Tessa's eyes widened. "Vulpix, you've gotta jump back over here. Quickly! Don't try to take them both on at once."

"Why not? I've beaten 'em before!" Shane huffed.

"Don't be stupid! I've got all our supplies."

Shane's ears and tails drooped. "Uh… right." He turned and started running toward the rock.

"Oh no you don't!" Sneasel bellowed. He opened his mouth and launched a blast of frigid air toward Shane. The sand froze up in front of him. Shane's paws failed to gain proper traction and he skidded forward. He spun around and wiped out on the edge of the rock. In the process, the pearls tumbled from his neck, rolling toward the edge of the river.

"No!" Shane shouted. Tessa gritted her teeth at the sight.

'Okay, no point staying around here anymore,' she figured. Tessa took a deep breath and dashed across the rocks on her side of the river. She leaped over the water, letting out a grunt as her feet impacted the rock on the other side. Shane looked up and saw Tessa run by him. He rolled over and shot a blast of slushy snow ahead of himself. This forced Jangmo-o to skid to a halt. Sneasel, on the other hand, ran right through the attack, brushing snowflakes out of his eyes.

"Nice try, Snowy, but you're not going to stop me!" Sneasel yelled. Seconds later, Tessa slammed into his side, knocking him away from the pearls.

Shane immediately scrambled to his feet and leaped to his partner's side. "You grab the pearls and get back to the other side of the river. I'll hold them off!"

"Are you nuts? I just said you can't handle two-on-one!"

"Yeah, but I'm the one with the ranged attacks and you have the bag," Shane pointed out. He spun around and belted a high-pitched shriek at Jangmo-o, pushing the dragon back. "Give me an Oran Berry to tuck into my scarf and go!"

Tessa's muzzle went agape. 'Wait. He actually thought this through? Could it be Vulpix is actually listening to me?' She plopped an oran berry against his neck and ran off. Shane turned and lay down a stream of snow to cover Tessa's scramble up onto the rock.

Sneasel again leaped directly into the line of fire, catching Shane by surprise. His eyes widened and he tried bucking up on his hind legs to impede Sneasel's progress. But Sneasel successfully jumped over Shane. He whirled around and, in desperation, spewed wet, slippery snow onto the rock. The snowflakes lined its rough surface, creating a layer of slush. Sneasel had no way to avoid landing on the slick part of the rock. Though his claws offered decent traction under normal circumstances, uneven, slippery rocks were another story entirely.

Unfortunately, Tessa was still on the rock. And her paws offered no traction. Shane realized his mistake the moment he watched Sneasel land awkwardly, slip, and fall into the river. At the exact same time, Tessa prepared to lunge for the opposing rock embankment. But her foot slid out from under her and her momentum sent her off the edge of the rock.

Shane rolled to his feet and narrowed his eyes at Tessa. He felt the same spark of psychic energy he had drawn on in Dewdrop Woods. Concentrating, Shane fired a pink circle forward. Seconds before Tessa would have impacted the river, the attack exploded around her, flinging her back across the river. She landed on the opposite bank, leaving a Riolu-shaped crater in the mud.

"Eeep! Sneasel!" Jangmo-o gasped. He broke off from trying to attack Shane while the latter's back was turned and ran downstream. His partner surfaced, flailing his arms about.

"Don't worry… about… me! Get the… pearls!" Sneasel sputtered. Shane let out a growl and unleashed the biggest burst of snow he could muster. Jangmo-o hollered and jumped forward, trying to get away from the attack. However, this proved a foolish decision, because the only thing in front of him was the river.


"Jangmo-o, you iddddiiiiiiiiiiooooooooooot!" Sneasel hollered as the harsh current swept him and his cohort away.

"Phew. Made it out of that jam," Shane sighed. "See, Riolu, I told you I could handle…" His voice trailed off as he recalled the state he had last seen his partner in. Ears drooping, he muttered a weak, "Oh boy."

Shane dashed along the rock embankment and lunged back toward the other side of the river. He scampered down to Tessa's position, only for a ball of clay to strike him in the face. He staggered back in surprise. "Hey! What the–?"

"That was your cover? Freezing the rock?" Tessa snarled.

"Sneasel got around me, so I had to improvise. It worked, didn't it?" Shane groaned, trying to rub silt from his eyes.

"I nearly fell in that river! And I am not what you would call a strong swimmer," Tessa shouted, trying to suppress a shiver.

"But you didn't fall. I had everything under control."

"You hit me with Extrasensory right next to a very large and very sharp rock!" Tessa barked.

"Only because I wasn't close enough to use Roar effectively… aha ha…" Shane said with a nervous laugh. "So, I took a gamble. Big whoop. I succeeded. At the end of the day, that's all that matters. You should be thanking me for ending up in the drink."

"If your trajectory was even the slightest bit different I would have hit that rock. Then I'd probably have passed out and drowned!" Tessa hissed, her eyes watering. "And that attack really hurt!"

Shane nudged the oran berry in his possession over to Tessa. "But you didn't hit the rock. And I thought I told you yesterday that I don't dwell on what-ifs."


Shane whirled about and collapsed onto his belly. His right cheek now had a brown, palm-shaped imprint in it. "I thought you had taken what I told you yesterday to heart!" Tessa said, sniffling. "But, in the span of an evening, you somehow got even more reckless."

Shane pursed his muzzle. "Okay… my bad. But you really didn't expect me to just stand there and let Sneasel attack you, did you? We would've lost the pearls for sure." He walked up to Tessa. "You, uh, did hang onto the pearls, didn't you?"

Tessa glared at him but ultimately pulled the pearls out of her pouch. "Alright! A job well done," Shane proclaimed. He then looked at Tessa's mud-covered form, and then glanced at the mud and silt on his pelt. "Well, for the most part, I guess. There's nothing left to do now but head back to the guild, right?"

Tessa silently pocketed the pearls and stormed off upstream.


~Aeon Observatory~

"Oh, thank you! Thank you both very much!" Lunatone spun about in excitement while he levitated the pearls up beside him. "I had a momentary lapse in concentration with these things and flung them away. I'm so happy you were able to find them."

Shane stood tall and beamed. "It was no trouble at all, sir."

"Are you sure? You two look pretty grimy. Where did the pearls end up anyway?"

"In a bank of clay. No worries, I dug it out just fine," Shane exclaimed.

"But we did encounter a pair of thugs," Tessa stated, directing the comment to Braviary.

"Is that so?" He raised an eyebrow. "Who were they?"

"A Sneasel with a scar across his head-feather and a Jangmo-o with an oversized forehead scale. They called themselves Team Fang," Tessa explained. "They tried to attack us to steal the pearls."

Braviary fluttered over to the board on the opposite side of the entrance room. "Hrrrm… ain't on our outlaw board. Could've been a misunderstanding. But I'll be sure to pass it along to Officer Magnezone next time I see him."

"In any event, please let me offer you this pair of wands for your troubles," Lunatone declared. He levitated the rod-like instruments over beside Shane, who looked skeptically at them.

"Am I gonna turn into a Braixen if I touch one of these?" he wondered.

"I don't think it works that way, hoss," Braviary chuckled. Lunatone levitated his pearls onto the top of his crescent-shaped body and departed the guild. Braviary flew back over to Team Radiance. "Good work out there, you two. Although, I'm not too keen on y'all tracking mud in here like this," he said. "Next time, I'm-a have to write y'all up on a hygiene violation. But seeing as this was yer first assignment, I'll let it slide." He reached underneath his wing and produced a small pouch. "This here's your compensation. Fifteen percent of Lunatone's coin reward."

"Fifteen percent?! We're getting gipped! That's highway robbery," Shane whined. Braviary started to open his beak but Shane held up a forepaw. "Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Guild's gotta make money somehow."

Braviary scowled. "One of these days yer gonna mouth off to the wrong feller and end up tied to a branch by them fussy little tails of yers. But, yer right. If'n yer looking to make more, take more assignments. Also, ya get a better commission once y'all are apprentices." He stole a glance out the window. "I see plenty of daylight left, so y'all should consider taking on another job request or two."

Tessa's shoulders slumped. "Do we have to?"

"I suppose not, but it sure wouldn't look good fer rookies to be slacking on their first day," Braviary mused. He bid them farewell with a wave and descended into the guild.

"Hey, here's one asking for help gathering honey from Dewdrop Woods! We can totally do it," Shane chirped, waving a piece of parchment around. "I mean, we're already filthy, so might as well."

Tessa squeezed her eyes shut. 'It's gonna be a long afternoon.'


That same evening, a damp Shane walked into his room, a towel draped over his backside. "Ah, I feel so much better!" Shane said, shaking his torso and flecking water across the room. "I'm surprised my tails got unstuck that easily," he marveled, pivoting to wag his tails in unison. "Comfey's special soap worked like a charm!"

Tessa muttered inaudibly and turned her back to Shane. "You say something?" he asked.

"… no. You must have water in your ears," Tessa grumbled. 'How can he be so upbeat? Today was awful. This was even worse than the time Eevee's friends made fun of me for being a bad battler.'

"Oh, okay then," Shane said. "You're, uh, not still sore about getting sprayed by that tree sap, are you? Because I had no idea it could do anything but drip out of trees." Tessa tucked her knees in to cover up her face. "Aha ha… but it was kinda fun, wasn't it?" he added. Shane got no response. "Um… Tessa?"

"Don't call me that!"

Shane's tails stood up straight. "Are… are you feeling okay, Riolu?"

Tessa pulled her scarf up to cover her head.

"C'mon, you can tell me what's wrong," Shane insisted. "I'm your partner, after all."

Tessa whirled around on him. "Are you? Because you sure have a funny way of showing it!"

Shane's eyes widened. "Hey now. What's that supposed to mean?"

Tessa tried to suppress a shiver. "I need to you to promise me that you've got my back. Like really got my back."

"That's silly! Of course I do."

"No, I want you to promise me and mean it," Tessa said. "Having my back means working with me. Not doing whatever you want to do and hoping that I adapt. The reason the heroes of the past did so well is because they worked together. We're nowhere even close to them... and that's upsetting."

"This… this is about the river, isn't it?" Shane whispered.

"Yes! Yes, it's about the river!" Tessa barked. "It's easy for you to brush off… but for a moment there, I was horrified. I was falling down toward a very fast, very dark river with absolutely no way to save myself! And then suddenly this strong, painful force grabs onto me…" She picked up her pillow. "… and tosses me…" She hurled the pillow, striking Shane's face. "… across the river!"

Shane stood there, his eyes darting about the room. Tessa could see him visibly struggling to figure out something to say. "So please, Vulpix," Tessa whispered, fidgeting with her scarf, "please… just promise me you've got my back. Otherwise, I don't think I can make this work."

Silence followed. Tessa scrunched her eyes shut. 'Come on, Vulpix. Say something. Show me that I'm worrying for nothing. Show me that we're not doomed to fail... just like I failed at aura training and making friends in Sunrise Village. I need this... so, so badly. If this falls through... if I miss this one chance at making my biggest dream come true...'

Tessa flinched as Shane's forepaw tapped her shoulder. She shrank back from him. "Of course, I've got your back. You're my partner," Shane exclaimed. Tessa's muscles relaxed slightly. But then a grin appeared on Shane's face and he added, "After all, you're gonna help me rid the world of evil. Even if you don't know it yet." He gave her a knowing wink.

Tessa frowned and sat back down.

'… that's not what I wanted to hear.'


Admittedly, when I wrote that little bonus I totally forgot I had Tessa slapping the daylights out of Shane in this chapter. See, it's non-canon for a reason! Aside from that, we may or may not have just seen the first proper appearance of this fic's namesake! I'm sure you smart cookies already have a good idea who it is. I'm not trying to be subtle here.

Next time: outlaws, jealousy, and Pokémon talking to themselves. See you then!
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Gone. Not coming back.
I like that we get a lot more of the detail in the battle in chapter four there – dirt flying into eyes, snow being blasted, etc. Just to be clear, in my last review I didn't mean you should never mention the names of moves ever – you steer very clear of it in that fight, and I just thought I should clarify that it's fine to let the reader know what move is being used (or not, if you prefer not to), but that even if you do it's good to show them what it looks like. Whatever your intentions, the battle against Yungoos and Trapinch certainly felt more visually distinctive than the previous one, so that's good to see! And I'm a sucker for a fast-paced battle where people are frantically dodging attacks while also arguing with each other, so I very much enjoyed that part, too.

I'm not sure how Trapinch used his jaws to melt ice, though – do you mean that he broke the ice to free Yungoos? Because that's kind of all I could think of, since you don't mention him using any kind of move that would generate heat.

I quite like Magearna, too; it's always good to see a character who just invents the most ridiculous words wholesale for no real reason. Also it's interesting to see that Shane is finally starting to learn how not to say every single thing that comes into his head, as he does with Null. Or, like, that's what I would say, if it weren't for the fact that literally right after that he ends up insulting Togedemaru. Ah, well. Some things never change, I guess. Like Shane's questionable taste in creature design, which leads him to somehow find Bruxish creepy and to fail to notice that Type:Null's patchwork nature is kinda the whole point of its design.

The relationship between Tessa and Shane continues to impress, too. I like these things where you approach the game world from the perspective of one of its inhabitants, because like for an NPC the world is very real and serious, and things matter, whereas Shane is approaching the world like a PC, for whom everything is fun and barely even real at all, and this disconnect between their ways of approaching the world makes for great character interactions. That scene at the end of chapter five was particularly impressive in that respect.

"Not bad," he complemented.

That should be complimented rather than complemented.

Next time I'm-a have to right y'all up on a hygiene violation

You've got 'right' instead of 'write' here.


Winter can't come soon enough
Chapter 6 is ready to rock and roll!
... sheesh, who's writing this drivel? Oh... right... me!

Just to be clear, in my last review I didn't mean you should never mention the names of moves ever – you steer very clear of it in that fight, and I just thought I should clarify that it's fine to let the reader know what move is being used (or not, if you prefer not to), but that even if you do it's good to show them what it looks like.
Right. Yeah, I think the pendulum swung too far in the other direction. Hopefully this battle's a nice middle ground for you.

And I'm a sucker for a fast-paced battle where people are frantically dodging attacks while also arguing with each other, so I very much enjoyed that part, too.
Thank you; that means a lot! Given these are the first battles I'm writing, I'm making it a point not to bog them down in nothing but narrative descriptions of attacks. I feel like that gets boring quickly and will cause problems with future, longer battles.

I'm not sure how Trapinch used his jaws to melt ice, though – do you mean that he broke the ice to free Yungoos? Because that's kind of all I could think of, since you don't mention him using any kind of move that would generate heat.
Yeah, he just bit down on the ice and shattered it.

Also it's interesting to see that Shane is finally starting to learn how not to say every single thing that comes into his head, as he does with Null. Or, like, that's what I would say, if it weren't for the fact that literally right after that he ends up insulting Togedemaru.
I admit he spoke up at Togedemaru less for characterization and more because I wanted to poke fun at the Pikachu clone tradition. Like, I've always wondered what Pikaclones think of humans that compare them to Pikachu.

I like these things where you approach the game world from the perspective of one of its inhabitants, because like for an NPC the world is very real and serious, and things matter, whereas Shane is approaching the world like a PC, for whom everything is fun and barely even real at all, and this disconnect between their ways of approaching the world makes for great character interactions. That scene at the end of chapter five was particularly impressive in that respect.
I'm glad you're enjoying it. That makes me very happy! Since they're the MC's I'm constantly worried about what you guys reading think of them. I want them to be entertaining and engaging.

And thanks for reviewing as well! ^^


Chapter 6: An Outlandish Outlaw

~Aeon Observatory~

Braviary whistled. "Y'all got quite a few jobs done. Not bad fer yer second day. Color me impressed."

Shane beamed at the praise while Tessa preoccupied herself with pocketing the team's earnings. "Does this mean we're ready to move up to apprentice rank yet?" Shane asked.

"Now what kind of shoddy establishment do ya think we're running here, rookie? Y'all still got a lot more to learn about the ins and outs of guild life. Don't be getting big fer yer britches, ya hear?"

Shane's ears drooped. "Dang. Well, can't blame a fox for trying."

"We've still got an hour before supper, so y'all feel free to occupy yerselves with something else." Braviary exclaimed. "I hear Crabrawler's Café done be offering a two-fer-one special on berry juice."

"Ooooh, that sounds refreshing!" Shane chirped. "What do you say, Riolu?" Tessa shrugged and made for the exit. Shane's ears perked up and he trotted off after his partner.

'Okay, I'll admit things went better today,' Tessa thought. 'Though the jobs were pretty basic, so I shouldn't get my hopes up that Vulpix is really taking last night's conversation to heart.'

They wound their way down the hill into Aeon Town's central plaza. Crabrawler's Café stood right on the outside of the town square, facing the fountain. The duo hovered in the doorway, looking around the room for a spot to sit. The walls and floor were lined with smooth, dark brown wood. Luminous orbs were perched in the walls, giving a warm, orange tint to the room. Booths lined the walls, with various sized tables and benches to serve the many shapes and sizes of Pokémon. The more centrally-located tables were surrounded by bar stools. And the bar itself had a long, thin table spread around it. Standing behind it was a crab-like Pokémon that greatly resembled the building's exterior. He had a mostly purple body, with yellow antennae and blue pincers resembling boxing gloves. Additionally, his right eye was half-shut. He held a rag in one claw, using it to polish the counter top.

"Guess that must be Crabrawler. Anyway, I see a table for us over there," Shane exclaimed, pointed a forepaw to his left. An empty table sat over in the corner of the room by a glowing, multicolored jukebox. An outline of Shaymin lay etched into the front of the machine, surrounded by various music notes and floral patterns. Sparkling, rainbow crystals sat inside the glass dome at the top of the machine. Shane trotted over to the table and sat down by it, while Tessa turned and made for the bar area.

Crabrawler looked up and spotted Tessa walking up to the counter. "Afternoon, m'lady. What are you fixing for?"

"Can I get two mago berry juices, please?" Tessa asked, placing a few coins and her explorer's badge on the counter top.

"Certainly." Crabrawler glanced at the badge and then took all but one of Tessa's coins. She looked down in confusion. "Your discount still applies even if I'm running a special," he explained, prompting Tessa to pocket the coin. Crabrawler brushed two empty glasses toward her and started adding the contents for the drinks into a mixer. "So, I take it you're a new face around the guild, eh?"

"Yes, sir. My partner and I just joined a couple of days ago," Tessa explained.

"Ah, jolly good. And how are you finding things over there?"

"It's, uh, certainly something," she whispered.

Crabrawler inserted a large stone rod into the mixer and started mashing it. "I say, that doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Exploring proving tougher than you thought?"

Tessa stole a glance at her partner. Shane sat at a table, gazing hypnotically at the jukebox. "You could say that. My team's having some… growing pains," she finally replied.

Crabrawler started shaking the mixer up. "Speaking from experience, some Pokémon get taken in by the excitement of exploring and don't really consider any of the repercussions. They think they can be like the folks who stopped the Bittercold and Dark Matter."

Tessa winced, then fidgeted with her scarf. "But... um... they didn't really cause that many problems in Horizon, right? I didn't really think people here cared all that much about that stuff."

"Well, as far as I know, people don't speak all that openly about it. Besides, it's not really my place to judge. I'm just here to help Pokémon take a load off. Whether or not they're explorers or care about Mystery Dungeons doesn't matter," Crabrawler said. He filled up the two glasses with pink juice and pushed them toward Tessa. "Here you are. Two mago berry juices. Anything else?"

"That'll be all. Thanks," Tessa said. She grabbed the two glasses and turned to bring them to her table.

"If I may give you one bit of advice, my dear?"

Tessa froze and glanced over her shoulder at Crabrawler. "Yeah?"

"Don't let your doubts create a self-fulfilling prophecy," he declared. "You're bound to have some hard days, but as long as your spirit's in the right place, your mind and body will follow suit."

Tessa blinked in confusion. "Uh, thanks… I guess," she muttered, and resumed walking back to her table. Tessa set the glasses down and took the seat opposite Shane. He remained focused on the jukebox, his head slowly swaying back and forth. "I brought you your drink," Tessa announced, shoving the second glass toward him.

Shane jumped to attention and spun around in his seat. "Smells good." He licked his lips and pressed the straw to his muzzle. "Say, what's with the jukebox? I didn't think music was a thing around here." Tessa replied with a wordless shrug and drank her berry juice.

"It's a nice song," Shane hummed. "Very relaxing. And I like the lyrics. 'Solgaleo, provider of daylight… Great Lunala, defender of the night…' I don't really get what it's about, but it's catchy!" he said, getting a few annoyed looks from other patrons when he belted out the lyrics. "Do you know who sings this, Riolu?" Tessa ignored him and took another sip of her drink. "Uh, hello? Earth to Riolu." Shane waved a paw in front of her. "I asked you a question."

"… Primarina," she replied. "He lives near Sunset Shoals and makes music crystals that are distributed to Sky Jukeboxes around the world."

Shane blinked in surprise. "That's a dude singing? Dang, he's got some impressive pipes. I was totally fooled!" Tessa spun sideways in her seat and sipped more berry juice. "Um, okay, what's with the silent treatment? You barely said a word to me during any of our jobs today," Shane said.

Tessa shrugged. "… wasn't really up for conversing."

"Are you still mad about yesterday? I said I was sorry and I told you I've got your back," Shane insisted. "What more do you want for me? A lock of my fur? One of my tails?"

'How about an off-switch on that big mouth of yours?' Tessa scoffed, sighing. "Look, I've just… got a lot on my mind right now, okay? It's not like it was that big a problem. We did four jobs today, after all."

"Yeah, but I don't just want to work in silence."

"You were doing plenty of talking," Tessa said.

"It's not fun if you don't have someone to talk with," Shane muttered.

"All I'm asking for is a little space while I think things over," Tessa insisted. "You just told me you had my back. So, please just lay off the subject for the moment. Besides, how's a guy like you going to 'save the world' if a little silence bothers you so much?"

Shane's ears drooped. He poked at his straw with his snout and gave a defeated sigh. They finished their drinks and returned to the Observatory. Tessa immediately made her way back to the team's room while Shane remained in the main assembly area until dinner was called. As dinner went on, Shane noticed that Tessa was conspicuously absent.

He hastily finished his meal and retreated to his room, where he found Tessa laying on her pillow. "Hey, if you don't hurry up, you'll miss dinner," he said. Shane got no response. He walked up to Tessa and soon realized that she was fast asleep. "Oh... guess you must've been pretty tired," he muttered. "I'll, uh, leave you alone then, I suppose."

Shane walked over to his own pillow and lay down on it. His boredom quickly lulled him off into a deep sleep. He got up the next morning to find that Tessa was already awake and out of the room. Shane left for the central hub and found all the guild members settling in for the morning assembly. He made his way over to Tessa's side and sat down. Surprisingly, Braviary was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Metagross stood outside of his office.

Fact: Braviary is absent. Order: in his absence, direct all inquires to Magearna, Metagross said. Fact: there are no further announcements. Order: get to work.

"Hoooo-rah!" the guild apprentices shouted in unison. As the crowd broke apart, Team Radiance noticed Bruxish and Yungoos approaching them.

"Good moooooooooorning, dahlings! Settling in okay?" Bruxish greeted.

Shane tensed up. "Well, if I was sleepwalking before, I'm definitely not now," he muttered, casting panicked looks at both Pokémon's large, toothy grins.

"You need something from us?" Tessa asked.

"Actually, it's youse who needs somet'ing from us," Yungoos declared. "Braviary's out doing some work. So, he left it to us to show youse two da Outlaw Board."

Shane grinned. "So, we're catching baddies today, huh? Count me in!"

"Now, now. Don't go psyching yourself up too much, dahling. We're not going to send you two out unless we're confiiiiiiiiident you can deal with at least oooooooone of the posted names," Bruxish chuckled. "Now, come along." He waved his fins around and led Team Radiance up into the entrance area. The team approached the board opposite the one they had used the previous two days. Sketches of Pokémon were pinned up across the board.

"So, as youse can see, we put up drawings of wanted Pokémon. Da number of stars underneath is a rating of how dangerous we t'ink dey are. And below dat is da reward Officer Magnezone and his squadron are offering for da outlaw's capture."

"Wait, I don't remember seeing any jail in Aeon Town," Shane said.

"Dat's because da jail ain't in da town, rookie," Yungoos said.

"Yes. After all, it would be mooooooooost dangerous for the good townsfolk if the jail was right here. Imagiiiiiiiine if there was a jailbreak. Oh, it'd be utter chaos, dahling," Bruxish added. "Now, let's see if there's anyone here that fits your ranking." He ran his eyes along the board.

"Oh, what about that, uh, fruit-looking girl with the long legs?" Shane proposed, pointing to a picture in the corner.

"Tsareena? Not a chance, newbie. She's outta yer league," Yungoos scoffed. "Besides, Growlithe's been on the hunt for her. He'd get mighty sore if ya scooped in and snagged his capture."

Bruxish shook her head. "I'm sooooooooorry, dahlings, but these outlaws are too tough for you."

Shane's lower lip jutted out. "You're kidding! Well then, what are we supposed to do today?"

"Uh, there's still the Job Board," Tessa reminded him.

"Well, Magearna should be around shortly to update this board," Bruxish explained. "You could wait a bit. Maybe buy some supplies in the meantime?"

Shane looked expectantly at Tessa. "Yeah, I guess we can wait a little while," she said with a shrug. "Actually, I want to drop something off at Dhelmise Depot."

"Great, I'll go with you," Shane chirped.

"Uh, this isn't really a two-mon job," Tessa mumbled, but Shane was already at her side. She sighed and proceeded out the main entrance. Once again, the duo walked into town. This time, they headed for the street leading down toward the port. Tessa's eyes were fixed on a building that was styled to look like a giant blue anchor.

"Oh, Team Radiance! What a pleasant surprise," Lunatone called, waving the string of pearls at them. He was floating in front of the Kecleon Shop.

Shane and Tessa paused and walked over to him. "Hiya, Lunatone. Finally going to trade in those pearls?" Shane asked.

Lunatone nodded. "Yes, yes. I wanted to trade them in yesterday, but then Kecleon told me I could get way more for these pearls than I thought. He told me he's getting a supply shipment today. So, I decided to wait and see if he got anything new in stock. Oh, if I could get a Psychic TM I'd probably explode with happiness!"

Shane smiled. "Well, I'll cross my fingers for you, then," he said. "My, uh, nonexistent fingers, anyway."

"Hey, Lunatone! Drop those pearls, you lousy thief!"

Lunatone and Team Radiance turned to find a Solrock levitating quickly toward them. It had a noticeably large crack spreading across what constituted its forehead. "A Solrock?" Shane raised an eyebrow. "Is that your brother or something?"

"No." Lunatone's eyes narrowed. "I've never seen her before in my life."

"Liar!" Solrock accused. "You swiped those pearls from me. They're mine!"

"What are you talking about? I found these in Twilight Forest a few weeks ago." Lunatone gave Solrock a suspicious look. "I'll bet you're trying to take them from me."

"You've got that backwards. I was taking them through the forest, minding my own business, and you blindsided me and made off with my treasure. That's how I ended up with this wonderful little crack in my head," Solrock declared. "Now, fork those pearls over!"

"Whoa, whoa, hold the phone a second," Shane said, stepping between the floating rocks. "I don't know what your story is, Solrock, but Lunatone here reported the missing pearls to the guild. And we're the team that found them. So, I'm inclined to believe him."

"Butt out, kiddo. This don't concern you!" Solrock growled. Next thing Shane knew, he was hurtled back across the ground. Tessa's eyes widened and she ran over to her partner.

"Are you okay?"

"Nnngggh… head… hurts…" Shane groaned, eyes spinning about in a daze.

Solrock refocused on Lunatone. "It's not my fault a couple of guild dweebs fell for your obvious ploy. Now, last chance. Gimme those pearls or I'm using force! You messed with the wrong Pokémon, you two-bit con."

"But… these are mine! I found them myself," Lunatone whimpered.

"Fine that… have it your way."

Solrock's eyes flashed blue and the area erupted in a bright light.

"Uwwwwwaaaaaaaaaah!" Lunatone gave a pained cry.

"Lunatone!" Shane gasped. He tried to get to his feet but ended up headbutting Tessa in the process.

"Ow! Watch it, doofus. I'm right in front of you," she groaned, staggering back. The flash of light subsided, revealing Lunatone lying on the ground with a dazed look in his eyes.

"Oh no." Shane finally got his bearings and ran up to Lunatone. "Are… are you okay? Do you need to heal?"

"Pearls… gone again…" Lunatone blubbered. "Not… fair…"

Tessa rubbed her eyes with her paws and looked into the distance. "I think I see her on the outskirts of town!" She pointed forward. "Sunrise Village and Azure Cape are in that direction."

Shane looked down at Lunatone. "Don't worry, we're gonna get those pearls back for you. C'mon, Riolu!"

"But she can levitate! How are we supposed to keep up with her?" Tessa asked.

"Uh… I don't know," Shane conceded, breaking into a run. "I was kind of hoping you'd come up with an idea while we're chasing her!"

"Seriously?" Tessa groaned as she ran off after her partner.


~Azure Cape~
Solrock floated across the sandy beach, stealing glances backwards. "Unbelievable. Those little runts actually tried to tail me! I'd have thought they'd give up for sure the second I skipped town. They don't look like seasoned explorers." She screeched to a halt. "Wait, what am I doing? It's a Vulpix and a Riolu. I can take them down easily. And then I can loot all their stuff, too! Oh-ho, Solrock, you absolute genius you. This is gonna be a better day than I tho–"

Something small and green struck Solrock square between the eyes. A series of bright, sparking lights ensnared her. "Auuugh!" she hollered, sputtering toward the ground. As she opened her eyes and tried to right her position, her whole world spun about. "Everything's… a total blur. World's spinning..." she groaned. Solrock lost her grip on the pearls, which fell into the sand. "What… hit me?"

"Mwee hee hee! Oh, what an absolutely perfect shot. Picture perfect, wouldn't you say, team?" a shrill male voice cut through the air.

"Golly, you sure got her good, boss," a second, feminine voice praised.

"Yeah, she's totally dumbstruck," a third, deeper male voice chuckled.

"Who's out there?" Solrock barked. "Show yourselves!"

"Mwee hee hee… why we're right here… in front of you!" the first voice cackled. Solrock tried to shake the stars from her vision, but all she could see was a set of blurry circles hovering in front of her.

"Hoo boy, I bet you didn't expect to steal a set of cursed pearls when you woke up this morning, huh?" the female voice giggled. "Shucks, that would ruin anyone's day, wouldn't it?"

"Cursed?" Solrock's eyes widened. "Bah! There's… there's no such thing as cursed jewelry!"

"Is that so?" the deep voice chuckled. "Because we, the Vicious Pearl Spirits of Twilight Forest, beg to differ!"

Solrock grunted in surprise as the string of pearls smacked against her left side. It didn't hurt, but it left her quite unsettled. "This… this is a trick, isn't it?" Solrock growled. "Someone must've hit me with Confuse Ray or something."

"Oh golly, we can't do that. We're undead spirits, not Pokémon," the female voice replied. "I'm afraid you're just facing an impending curse. Ain't that a real shame?"

Solrock started looking about the beach in a panic. The sand melded with the trees in the distance, turning her vision into a canvas of green, tan, and brown. "What do you want with me?" she barked.

"Why, what any good spirits want, dearie. To C-U-R-S-E you! Mwee hee hee hee!" the first voice laughed.


"Hold it right there, Solrock! Release those pearls," Shane bellowed, as he and Tessa appeared on the hill overlooking the beach. They ran forward, their hearts pounding in their chests.

"We've… uh… got you now," Tessa panted. She sat down in the sand. "Well… maybe a quick break… first…"

Shane hoisted Tessa back to her feet. "C'mon, don't get soft on me now, partner!"

"Eh? Who's there now?" Solrock barked. She turned and stared at the levitating pearls. "Don't tell me there are more of you awful spirits!"

"Riolu?" Shane whispered.


"Is… is that Solrock… talking to the pearls?"

"… sure looks like it."

"Is that normal around here?" Shane asked.

"… no. Maybe your special brand of crazy rubbed off on her?" Tessa sneered. Shane jutted his lower lip out in the biggest pout he could manage. "It was a joke. Sheesh." Tessa shook her head. "I think she might be confused. Her eyes are rolling about in a daze. We should strike now," she instructed.

"Good idea!" Shane chirped. "You go in low with Bite. I'll go in high with Powder Snow." He craned his neck up and shot a snowball ahead of him. Tessa sprang forward and dived toward one of the shards of rock sticking off Solrock's body. Solrock tensed up from the sudden influx of cold, but wailed in pain as Tessa bit her bottom-most shard.

The pain snapped Solrock out of her trance. She glared at Team Radiance. "Ah-ha! I knew there were no such things as pearl spirits. It was you two brats, wasn't it? To think you actually tailed me out here. Well, now you're really gonna get it," Solrock declared.

Tessa quickly ran behind her, but her eyes glowed blue. A plume of sand shot up, showering Tessa and sending her tumbling to the ground. All the while, Solrock kept her eyes focused on Shane. He opened his mouth and arced some slush skyward, but Solrock telekinetically kicked up more sand, blunting his attack.

"Aww, that's just plain uncool!" Shane groaned. A pair of rocks suddenly hurtled through the dust cloud. The first one struck Shane upside the head and he stumbled back with a loud howl. And the second one hit him in the gut, knocking him onto his back. He rolled about in the sand, groaning in pain.

"One down," Solrock boasted, turning to face where Tessa had fallen, "And one to g–" She looked around. "Hey, where did that Riolu go?" She swiveled her body about the beach, trying to locate Tessa.

"Try below you!" Tessa bellowed and leaped up, using some of Solrock's tiny craters to get a grip along her back.

"Aaaaaugh! Why you fussy little demon furball. I'll pluck every hair from your body! Not even your mother will be able to look at you when I'm through with you." Solrock tried to draw forth the energy to fling Tessa away with a pink blast, but Tessa bit down on Solrock's back first. Solrock gave a pained cry and her levitation failed, dropping her into the sand.

Tessa leaped off her and swiped the pearls off the ground. But her upper hand didn't last long. The small mound of sand Tessa stood atop parted, dropping her into a makeshift sinkhole and prying the pearls loose. Solrock floated back up, flinging sand off her form with short pulses of telekinesis.

"You made a big mistake challenging a psychic-type on this kind of terrain, furball," Solrock spat. "Enjoy having sand in the worst possible places!"

"Oh yeah?"

Solrock swiveled around in time for a high-pitched wail to push her back across the beach. Tessa's eyes went wide and she dug herself further into the sand to avoid getting beaned in the face. Shane stepped forward, grinning. "You made a big mistake turning your back on me, lady." He turned toward Tessa, tails thumping happily. "See? I told you I got your back!"

"Vulpix! How many times to I have to tell you to watch where you're aiming? You nearly Roared her right into me," Tessa whined, pulling herself out of the sand.

Shane's triumphant smile vanished, replaced by fervent blushing. "Aha ha… that was… I, uh, must not have seen you there." He laughed nervously. One beat later, a crushing force struck his back and, next thing he knew, he was the one eating a face full of sand.

"It's not polite to interrupt others like that, you snot-nosed brat!" Solrock hissed in the distance. "If you know what's good for you, you'll stay down this time." Solrock used telekinesis to gather more sand, balled it into two large, hardened rocks, and tossed them at Tessa. She then hovered forward to close the gap between her and Tessa.

However, Tessa held her ground, allowing the first rock to strike her. Her paws lit up and she caught the second rock. She spun around and hurled the projectile shotput-style back at Solrock. She wasn't expecting that and had to fire off a single pink wave to blow the rock into sandy smithereens.

Back on his feet but rather far away, Shane tried to seize on the opening. He narrowed his eyes and sent jagged pink waves rippling along the beach. By the time they reached the unsuspecting Solrock, however, they were severely weakened. They detonated in a small pink flash. While the attack failed to rattle Solrock, it still disoriented her and allowed Tessa to get in close and bite her from below once again.

"Ha! It worked!" Shane cheered, jumping up and down. "See? Told you I can cover for you!" he belted out. Solrock hissed her frustrations and fired an arrow-shaped pink blast straight down, hammering Tessa into the sand. Shane abruptly stopped jumping for joy and sprinted forward. 'Crud, now I've gotta buy time for her to heal up or she'll be finished!' he thought.

"Hey, lady!" he barked. "Your face is so ugly it makes a Barbaracle blush. And your voice is so screechy that only a Loudred could love it." Solrock turned to give Shane a death glare. Shane yelped at the sight of several sand-made rocks getting thrown in his direction.

He put on his best Zigzagoon impression, attempting to weave between the rocks. Shane even used a well-timed, conical blast of snow to harmlessly shatter one of the projectiles. But just as he managed to see Tessa safely down an oran berry, a rock nailed him in his left flank, knocking him to the ground. His vision faded in and out for a second before going completely black.

"You're one nasty little Vulpix, kiddo, but now you're out of the picture," Solrock cackled. "Which just leaves that demon furball you call a partn– AAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGH!"

Tessa had successfully jumped onto Solrock's back. She once again bit down onto the rocky surface, scoring a decisive blow. Solrock crashed into the sand and rolled into an unconscious heap right next to the hole she had previously made to trap Tessa, who dropped to her knees, panting heavily. "We… we got her," Tessa muttered. "And the pearls?"

"Hooo-weeee, why they're doing mighty fine, thanks to you!"

Tessa's ears and aura feelers jolted upright. Her eyes widened as she watched the pearls levitate into the air. A purple cloud gathered behind them, materializing into a Misdreavus. The pearls sat between the ectoplasmic tendrils that made up Misdreavus' hair. "Oh great, don't tell me you're here to steal the pearls too?" Tessa groaned.

"Mwee hee hee… as much fun as it would be to see your reaction to that, we've got to draw the line somewhere. Besides, we got our kicks messing with that dumb Solrock."

Tessa shuffled back on the beach at the sound of a different, shriller voice. The sand beneath Misdreavus darkened. Out of the shadows rose the jagged, gaseous, purple form of a Haunter. Tessa immediately spotted a Looplet around Haunter's right hand, and a gold Horizon explorer's badge clipped to it. "Wait a second." She narrowed her eyes at the two ghosts. "Were you the reason Solrock was acting funny when we got here?"

"Guilty as charged!" Haunter cackled. "Team Specter, at your service. 'We care when it matters, and scare the baddies 'til they scatter!' Mwee hee hee hee!" He threw his head back to let out a hearty laugh.

"Vulpix is back on his feet, Haunter!"

Tessa pivoted to see Shane stumbling toward her. A small, purple-and-white balloon drifted beside him. Tessa had to blink a few times before she realized that she was looking at a Drifloon. "Excellent work, Drifloon. We owe it to our new recruits here after they downed this outlaw for us," Haunter declared.

Shane's eyes widened. "Solrock's an outlaw?" he gasped. His muzzle stiffened. "In retrospect, I really should've seen that coming. Guess the adrenaline rush was messing with my brain."

"Yup. One of the nastier outlaws too, if you ask me," Drifloon said. "Tell 'em, Misdreavus."

"Hoooo-weeee, Solrock's been on a string of thefts lately. Must be taking advantage of all the confusion these weird changes to the tides have brought. She always makes it seem like the things she steals belong to her. And, if Pokémon don't believe her, she uses Flash to escape," Misdreavus explained. "We saw the commotion at the Kecleon Shop, yup yup. Figured she could do with a taste of her own medicine."

Haunter's mouth widened and his oversized tongue fell out. "So, we gave her the old 'Team Specter Special.' We beaned her with a Totter Orb and played mind games with her to totally freak her out!"

"But then, golly, you two showed up out of the blue. Shucks, we weren't expecting that to happen," Misdreavus conceded. "We're awfully sorry for any confusion."

"Why didn't you guys help us out then?" Shane asked.

"Haunter told us to lay low and see how you two newbies handled things," Drifloon explained. "If you'd both gotten knocked out, we would've jumped in. But you didn't! And only Vulpix got KO'd."

"Which means you owe me your cut of tomorrow's profits, Drifloon! Mwee hee hee hee!" Haunter cackled.

"You guys… bet on us battling Solrock?" Shane gasped. "Isn't that, like, against guild regulations or something?"

"Golly, of course not! We'd never do something against the rules," Misdreavus insisted.

"Yeah… thanks for taking a dive by the way, kiddo," Haunter chuckled. "I cleaned up thanks to you!"

Shane pouted. 'Great… rub it in why don't you? I got knocked out in a battle against our first outlaw. I'll bet Haunter cheated or something to make sure I went down. That's the only thing that makes sense to me. Well, when I end up saving the world he's gonna look like a big old fool.'

"If it's any consolation, I think you guys did a really good job," Drifloon said.

"Gee… thanks," Tessa grumbled.

"Hey, we were all newbies once. A little tough love can go a long way," Haunter mused. "And since we're good sports, we'll even let you guys claim the bounty on Solrock."

Shane's pout quickly faded. Dollar signs flashed in his eyes.


~Aeon Observatory~

Shane nudged his empty plate over to the end of the table. "Ah, another wonderful supper. Thanks, Steenee!" he chirped.

"You're very welcome," Steenee giggled. "Always nice to see a new face enjoying my cooking." She twirled around and scooped up the empty plate.

"So, wanna head back to the room, Riolu?" Shane asked. He didn't get a response. "Riolu?" Shane looked over his shoulder, only to discover her seat empty. "Tessa?"

"If you're wondering about your partner, she finished eating and took off a while ago," Growlithe announced.

"Oh, you mean Riolu?" Togedemaru said as she entered the room. She had a pair of metal bolts firmly attached to her head. "I just saw her heading down to the veterans' quarters not too long ago. Someone's looking to get in troooouuubbbllllleeeee!"

"Thanks." Shane trotted toward the exit, only to pause beside Togedemaru. "Uh, what's with the... y'know...?" He pointed up to his forehead.

"It's an electrical amplification testing apparatus," Togedemaru snorted. "… obviously."

"Oh, right, of course. How silly of me," Shane deadpanned. He turned and departed the room. "What a dweeb…" he muttered under his breath.

"Don't think I didn't catch that sarcasm, mister!" Togedemaru shouted after him. "And you're the dweeb from where I'm standing! Calling me a Pikachu. Honestly! You'd have to be blind to make a mistake like that."

Shane ignored her and soon found himself in the assembly area. He descended the stairs to find a set of dimly-lit corridors. Shane spotted a thin veil of orange light flickering from one of the doorways. 'Wonder whose room that is?' he thought. 'Better not go in there. I don't need to be causing any troub–'

"… this is the way it was when she left. Honest. No one's gone in here since then. And, well, you've already seen where the Guildmaster's residing."

'I recognize that heavenly voice from the other day. It's Milotic!' Shane realized.

"What about Braviary?"

'… and Tessa's with her.'

"He got a room to himself once Metagross became Guildmaster," Milotic replied. Shane tiptoed toward the room.

"And… no one's heard anything from her? What about Team Buzz Buzz?" Tessa asked, her voice filled with desperation.

"Riri, please. If my team doesn't know, I strongly doubt those second-rate hacks would," Milotic scoffed. "She really doesn't want anyone finding out what she's up to. Maybe the Guildmaster knows something, but he's hardly one to share much of anything with anyone who isn't Braviary. So, good luck getting any info out of him."

'What are they talking about? It sounds like there's someone away from the guild on an important assignment,' Shane thought. He hovered by the edge of the doorway, pressing the left side of his face against the wall.

"Uh, okay then," Tessa muttered, "Well... what about… y'know… him?"

"Gallian? As far as the guild's concerned he never even existed," Milotic exclaimed ominously, "Guildmaster purged his record last week and— hold that thought, Riri."

Shane raised a curious eyebrow. 'Now who are they talking about?' He had no time to contemplate this further, as Milotic's form slithered out of the room. His tails and fur stuck up as Milotic gave him a disapproving look.

"It's not very polite to eavesdrop, you know," Milotic scolded. "Even less so in this part of the guild. You're only allowed on this level in the company of someone with veteran or staff status. So, who let you down here?"

Shane gulped. "Nobody. I… I was just trying to find Tes— I mean, Riolu," he stammered. "I, uh, just got down here, I swear."

"It's fine, Milotic. Leave him be," Tessa dismissed. Her head poked out of the doorway moments later. "Sorry I ditched you at dinner."

"You could have at least told me you were coming down here," Shane muttered. "What's in that room, anyway?" He craned his neck to get a better view but Milotic's rainbow tail spiraled up to block him.

Tessa stepped out beside Milotic. "It's my mom's room. I was just… seeing if she had maybe left something for me on the off chance I made it to the guild, since she's still away."

'… liar,' Shane thought. 'From the sound of things… she doesn't actually think her parents are in the Grass Continent. But then… does that mean they lied to her?' He wanted to press the issue further, but Milotic's scathing look told him he was in hot enough water already, so he dared not try his luck.

A smirk appeared on Tessa's muzzle. "You weren't actually worried about me, were you?"

"I'm, y'know, supposed to have your back… remember?" Shane stammered out his reply.

Tessa flinched. 'I think this is him trying to do a better job. It's just so hard to tell. I wish I knew exactly what was going on in his head. Sometimes it feels like he doesn't really understand what I'm telling him.'

"D'aww, that's adorable!" Milotic giggled. "It's almost enough for me to forgive you for coming down here by yourself."

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. 'Don't do it again, Shane, or you're in big trouble,'" Shane groaned.

"Hey, you said it. Not me. Now run along you two, or I'll get Braviary down here." Milotic shooed them off with her tail. But as they departed, Shane managed to catch a glimpse of the room Tessa was in. Specifically, the light revealed a tapestry showing what looked like two Pokémon. One was a large, metallic-gray lion with a gigantic mane. And the other was some sort of bat with giant, crescent-shaped wings.

"Ready to head off to sleep?" Tessa asked as she climbed the stairs.

"Hold up… one question," Shane said. "What was with those two Pokémon on the wall in your mom's room? The oversized Pyroar and Golbat?"

Tessa tried to stifle a giggle. "You mean Solgaleo and Lunala? They're spoken of in Horizon legends. It's said they embody the sun and moon themselves… or something like that."

'Wait, what? I thought this was Ho-Oh's turf. Didn't I see a sun in my dream the other night?' Shane gasped. "Hmm... sooner or later, I think someone needs to bring me up to speed on the local legends."

Tessa shrugged. "I don't exactly have them committed to memory. You're better off asking someone else in the guild. For now, let's get some rest. I'm still sore from battling Solrock."

Shane's brow furrowed as he watched Tessa climb up the stairs. "You're sore? I'm sorry, but which one of us got pelted with rocks again?"

"… let it go, Shane. Everyone gets knocked out in a battle sooner or later."

Shane hung his head and followed Tessa, grumbling bitterly under his breath.

End of Episode 3


Nasty Ball of Sunshine, Solrock
While not one of the stronger outlaws in Horizon, Solrock's wit makes up for her lack of raw power. She specializes in using her psychic powers to turn the terrain on her enemies, and then make a quick getaway. If an exploration team can coordinate well enough, perhaps they can throw off her routine and defeat her?


Okay, so maybe Solrock wasn't exactly talking to herself, but she was still an outlaw and jealous of Lunatone's pearls. So, that counts, right? And even if you didn't like that... look! Spoopy Pokémon. Originally that team had a Mimikyu instead of a Drifloon, but the whole disguise thing kind of messed with the ghosts' abilities to meld into shadows.

Anyway, this will probably be the last two-chapter episode. From here on out, things get more meaty. I'm very nervous about this upcoming episode, because of what I've got planned. I hope you all enjoy it.

Next time: Sentry duty. Like jury duty, but much shorter and far less painful! See you then.
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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
You need to stop posting chapters so fast! It’s hard to keep up! xD

Anyway, last place I left off, they were just entering the guild! Lots of character introductions one after another, but I find myself loving all of them just the same. From Braviary’s mix of hospitality and tough love, the Guildmaster’s calculating, yet accommodating approach, Magearna’s hilarious vocabulary, the faaaabulous Bruxish, the scrappy Yungoos, and so many more. They’ve all got a fun and unique flavor to them already.

I am also extremely curious about Null. I mean, artificial Pokémon have always been a strange thing to consider in the context of the PMD universe, but maaaan, I wanna know where he came from.

I like the fact that Pokémon generally don’t have names, and in fact find the idea of names to be kind of strange. Although the fact that everyone calls Tessa by name feels a bit strange and contradictory. I know there’s almost certainly a story behind her insisting everyone call her Riolu now, but I’m more wondering how they came to know her as Tessa to begin with!

Anyway, Shane and Tessa. Good lord those two could argue all day. xD It’s really easy to see why Shane’s attempts at acting genre-savvy come off as super-obnoxious to anyone actually living in that world (having the reality of your situation treated like a collection of tropes has got to be disconcerting.) But at the same time, it’s obvious that he’s trying to be more supportive. The guy practically oozes positivity. Even if it’s… you know,ridiculous positivity.

Also, that voice in Shane’s dream has gotta be the only thing hammier than him, I swear. xP

The fights are definitely getting more dynamic! Lots of terrain usage and creative move application. And the battle over the pearls at the riverbank was super tense! Especially that moment when Tessa slipped and Shane had to use Extrasensory to save her. Man, though… I know he’s made his fair share of mistakes, but Shane is obviously trying to watch out for Tessa! I hope she learns to see that.

But it’s clear that things are improving for them as of the most recent battle. And speaking of that battle… Team Specter. That is all. xD



Winter can't come soon enough
Lucky number 7 is here. And it's the longest chapter to date, which is a bit of good fortune for you guys. I totally planned it this way. Check it out below.

Chibi Pika
You need to stop posting chapters so fast! It’s hard to keep up! xD
Aha ha... I didn't think it was that fast. But, yeah, I do have a revise/draft system going. For example, this chapter was revised while a later chapter was being drafted.

Lots of character introductions one after another, but I find myself loving all of them just the same. From Braviary’s mix of hospitality and tough love, the Guildmaster’s calculating, yet accommodating approach, Magearna’s hilarious vocabulary, the faaaabulous Bruxish, the scrappy Yungoos, and so many more. They’ve all got a fun and unique flavor to them already.
Glad to hear it. I wanted to try and give the supporting cast some quirks to stand out, but I wasn't sure if I was going to overboard or not.

I am also extremely curious about Null. I mean, artificial Pokémon have always been a strange thing to consider in the context of the PMD universe, but maaaan, I wanna know where he came from.
I think he'd like to know, too, ha ha.

I like the fact that Pokémon generally don’t have names, and in fact find the idea of names to be kind of strange. Although the fact that everyone calls Tessa by name feels a bit strange and contradictory. I know there’s almost certainly a story behind her insisting everyone call her Riolu now, but I’m more wondering how they came to know her as Tessa to begin with!
You have no idea how much I want to say why this is happening but I think we're a long ways off from that point. Don't worry, there's plenty of fun to be had in the meantime.

Also, that voice in Shane’s dream has gotta be the only thing hammier than him, I swear. xP
It's totally intentional. I had a very certain character from a TV show in mind when making the dream voice. Trying to emulate their speech through text is kinda tough, though. XD

The fights are definitely getting more dynamic! Lots of terrain usage and creative move application. And the battle over the pearls at the riverbank was super tense! Especially that moment when Tessa slipped and Shane had to use Extrasensory to save her. Man, though… I know he’s made his fair share of mistakes, but Shane is obviously trying to watch out for Tessa! I hope she learns to see that.
Glad you liked it. I wanted Solrock to be a step up from Team Fang, Yungoos, and Growlithe, and thought that having her use the beach against Team Radiance was a good way to do that. I'm hoping to incorporate terrain elements more, especially with some of the later locations we'll visit.

And speaking of that battle… Team Specter. That is all. xD
Would you believe they weren't in my original outline? I added them in when I revised it because I noticed a disturbing lack of ghost-types in the story.

Thanks for taking the time to review. ^^


~Dewdrop Woods~

"Are you serious, here? Umbry and I bumped into that dinky little Riolu a few days back. She's totally worthless!" Espy spat, pacing back and forth along a dirt trail. "What makes her so important, huh?" She stopped and look at Umbry. "If she was really that important, then why didn't we know about her earlier?"

"That's a good question," Umbry growled. He directed his fierce red eyes toward a nearby tree. At its base floated a spectral bat about three times as tall as Umbreon. The bat's luminescent blue wings were wrapped over his body. "You sure took your sweet time telling us about her. Any particular reason?"

"Don't give me that look. I'm just the messenger here," the bat sneered. "I'm not a fan of this either, you know. I'm wasting valuable energy coming here for something so stupid and insignificant. Oh, how I'd love to replenish some of my light." He opened his mouth wide and licked his upper lip. "Especially when you two look so vibrant. Brimming with energy to siphon off!"

Umbry's furrow brow momentarily faltered. He shrank back toward Espy. "Shut it, Lunala!" he growled. "We're part of the same team, remember?"

Lunala vanished in a cloud of black smoke, only to reappear hunched over beside Umbry. His fur stood up on end and his tail ducked between his legs. "That all depends on how well you two can do your jobs. I've been promised every last drop of your light if you two fail to live up to expectations," he whispered, smacking his lips in eager anticipation. "If I were you, I'd consider getting a move on. You're burning daylight... for all of us." The red eyes nestled underneath his black, armored helmet flashed. "And you know how much I hate losing out on light."

Lunala straightened back up and looked over his shoulder. The bushes behind him rustled. Lunala opened his right wing and stuck out a black, crystallized arm. A Shadow Ball shot forward, striking the bush. An alarmed yowl rang out and a Meowth tumbled out of the bushes. Its blue-gray fur stuck out against the black dirt. "Here. Since I'm feeling generous, I'll offer up a 'willing volunteer' to help with your work. Enjoy!"

Meowth looked up in horror as Lunala melted into a puddle of shadows. Espy and Umbry slowly crept toward it, smiles spreading across their faces. "Yes... I think this little fella will do just fine," Espy declared, forehead gem crackling with red and black energy.


Episode 4: Two Steps Back

Chapter 7: Sentry Struggles


~Aeon Observatory~

"Settle down, y'all," Braviary called, quieting down the assembly area. "Now then, I'm hearing some murmurs 'round these parts. So, the Guildmaster and I want to set the record straight here."

He turned to Metagross. The Guildmaster stepped forward. Fact: the guild will engage in an expedition to Sunset Shoals. Reasoning: to search for the cause of the rising tide.

"Oh wow, a big expedition. It's been two months since the last one," Growlithe barked.

"Well, if it's to Sunset Shoals I'll obviiiiiiooooously be going," Bruxish declared, flashing the group a toothy smile.

"I sure hope I'm picked to go this time," Togedemaru harrumphed. The metallic bolts were still fastened to her head. "Last time was a whole week sitting by the Pokénector. I was pretty much bashing my head against the wall in boredom by day two!"

"Is that why there are dents? I was wondering where that came from," Trapinch chuckled.

"Excuse me? Did you just insinuate I'm fat?" Togedemaru growled.

Sweat droplets popped up on Trapinch's head. "O-Of course not! I know they're from Null. It was just a joke!"

"Fat? Nah. Swell-headed is more like it…" Shane muttered.

"I heard that, human!" Togedemaru hissed.

'Crap… crap… inner monologue, Shane. Inner monologue!'

"Now, now, keep yer yammering to yerselves. This here's assembly time," Braviary scolded. "We're gonna be doing things a bit different with this here expedition. Yes sir, the Guildmaster and I talked it over, and we'll be having all y'all apprentices coming with us. And all the staff, too."

"Alright, finally!" Togedemaru cheered.

"What did I just tell ya? No interrupting!" Braviary barked. He turned to Magearna. "Mags, ya sure yer okay leaving yer lab behind for this?"

Of course. There are a few things I wish to studicate in that area, Magearna exclaimed. Togedemaru, you will assist me, yes?

Togedemaru rolled her eyes. "Do I really have a say in the matter?"

No. I was simply engaging a courteous professionality script, Magearna chuckled. I think it worked out nicely.

"Err… right. Anyway, Team Specter has generously agreed to stick around while we're gone to keep an eye on the place," Braviary continued. He then turned to Team Radiance. "Which means y'all are gonna take orders from them while we're away, got it?"

Shane ears drooped. "Wait, we don't get to go with you?"

Fact: only apprentices can accompany. Fact: you are novice rank. Conclusion: you will remain at the guild to continue training, Metagross replied.

"Are you serious?" Shane tilted his head up and bellowed, "LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME!"

"If'n ya don't want to be on cleanup duty in the mess hall I suggest ya drop the attitude there, rookie," Braviary warned. Tessa shot Shane an annoyed look. "Besides, Null's still a novice too. So y'all will have him around for company."

Team Radiance glanced toward the south hallway. Null brushed the side of his helmet against the wall, hissing. Shane dropped his head and poked at the ground with a forepaw. "Okay, I would like to rescind my earlier 'Laaaaaaaaaaaame,' and amend it to a 'major bogus,'" he whispered.

"We do have work to do to prepare for this trip," Braviary continued. "But y'all will get more detailed instructions tomorrow. For now, get any supplies ya think y'all need. Remember, we're dealing with pretty wet terrain here. So, plan accordingly." He nodded slowly. "That'll be all for now. Dismissed!"

"Hoooo-rah!" the apprentices shouted in unison and started breaking off. Braviary fluttered over to Shane and Tessa.

"Don't go runnin' off now, you two," he said.

Tessa stepped toward Braviary. "Look, if this is about Vulpix's outburst, I–"

"I didn't mean it!" Shane protested.

"I'm assigning y'all to sentry duty today," Braviary declared. "Now that y'all have gotten yer bearings, it's about time y'all contributed to the inner workings of the guild. We can't expect the same folks to do the same things day in and day out. Would get mighty boring, ya hear?"

Tessa nodded. "Of course."

"Seriously? Couldn't we start with something more interest– oof!" Shane grunted as Tessa elbowed his rib cage, abruptly cutting out his complaint.

"Ignore him," Tessa said. "He didn't sleep well last night, so he's been complaining nonstop since he woke up."

Shane shot Tessa an annoyed look as the Riolu followed Braviary down the south hallway. They arrived in the Pokénector room to find Trapinch and Null already settling in. The latter lay down beside the Pokénector's giant, glowing globe while the former fiddled with a dusty binder. "Look alive. Y'all got rookies to teach today," Braviary announced. He stepped to the side and shoved Team Radiance forward with a wing. "Show these two how to do sentry duty so we can count on them to take a turn every so often."

"You got it, Braviary," Trapinch replied, giving the best salute he could manage with his stubby foreleg.

"Good. Now, I've got work to do to prepare for this expedition. So, don't y'all go disturbing me unless it's an absolute emergency, understand?"

"Yes, sir," Trapinch and Tessa replied in unison. Null nodded from his spot.

"… whatever," Shane muttered under his breath. He watched Braviary leave out of the corner of his eye. When he was confident Braviary was out of eyesight, he sauntered over to one of the cushions. "Okay," he said, yawning. "So, what, we just lay around and twiddle our paws then? Or, let me guess, that globe thing will light up and we got to do some kind of timing minigame to open the gates properly?"

Trapinch gave Shane a blank look. But that paled in comparison to the glare he received from Null. 'Cripes… what's that guy's problem? You'd think I just broke his favorite toy or something…' Shane thought. Null growled and tensed his talons against the ground. He immediately turned away.

"Look, I have no idea what you're talking about," Trapinch said. "Please, just pay attention. I really don't want to have to explain this more than once." He walked over to the Pokénector. "Whenever someone steps on the pedestal outside, the base of this structure will glow. If it's blue, it's a registered guild member. If it's green, it's a non-guild Pokémon we've synced in the Pokénector."

At that moment, the base of the structure lit up bright blue. Null looked up at the spinning globe. "Okay, so there's a guild member outside," Trapinch said.

"Thanks. I never would have gotten that, Captain Obvious," Shane deadpanned.

Tessa gave him another disapproving look. Trapinch ignored him. "So, we don't have to sound any alert when it's a guild Pokémon. But we do need to make a record of it." At that, the spinning globe started glowing even brighter. Tessa narrowed her eyes and immediately made out an image of Milotic in the center of the globe.

Trapinch grabbed the binder he had opened, along with an ink pad. "I'll just record Milotic's return in our log book here," Trapinch said as he pressed an ink-covered foreleg to the page, "and Null over there will open up the door so Milotic can pass." He nodded to his partner. Null pressed a switch on the floor. The room trembled under Team Radiance's paws. They heard metal grating against metal up above them.

"When the glow fades, the Pokémon's inside the guild, and we're safe to shut the door," Trapinch continued. As if on cue, the blue light faded from the Pokénector's base. Null pressed the switch again and Team Radiance heard more grating noises.

"So, those are the basics," Trapinch exclaimed. "A couple of final points. If you see the base of the Pokénector glow yellow, then it's someone we don't have records of. So, you need to ask them to state their name and business. Then you contact Magearna and have her proceed up to the entrance. But that almost never happens. Although… I guess it did happen when you showed up, Vulpix."

"Is that everything?" Tessa asked.

"Not quite. There's one more color: red," Trapinch said. "But, uh, none of us apprentices have ever seen that on sentry duty. I don't know what it's for. Only that I'm supposed to ring up Guildmaster Metagross, or whoever's in charge if he's out."

"So, I was right. We are just gonna sit here and twiddle our paws," Shane scoffed. He let out another yawn and started back toward the cushion he found.

"Hey, don't start slacking on me now," Trapinch scolded. "Some days we can get a pretty high volume of traffic. And with an expedition coming up, there might be a lot of movement today."

"Wait, so what happens if multiple Pokémon show up at once?" Tessa asked.

"No worries. The Pokénector can identify up to five Pokémon with one scan," Trapinch replied, "Any more than that, and we usually just tell them to break into groups. So, think you can give it a try?"

"Sure." Tessa nodded. "I guess… I can do the identifying and log book stuff, first. Vulpix, you want to operate the door?"

Shane froze with a forepaw hovering over the pillow. "Do I have to?"

"Yes," Tessa replied. "Look, we're not getting out of this. Even if you don't like it, you've got to put up with this. I'm offering you the easier task. So, just go over by Null already!"

"Okay, okay. Sheesh." Shane dragged the pillow across the room toward the door switch. "Hey, uh, mind giving a 'mon some space, big guy?"

Null continued to look at Shane while he scooted back toward the wall. His expression was unreadable behind his mask. Shane's fur bristled as he took his position lying next to the Pokénector. 'Does this guy have some sort secret crush on me or something? I can practically feel him boring holes in the back of my head,' Shane thought. Just to be safe, he relaxed his tails to cover up his flanks.

As Shane predicted, the sentry duty process turned out to be slow going. There were a few instances of the Pokénector's base flashing blue. But then a quiet lull occurred. The entire time, Shane kept stealing glances at the chimera lounging behind him. He expected Null to pass out at some point, but he continued inspecting Shane like he was some sort of alien creature.

"... beast."

Shane's ears twitched. He turned around and looked accusingly at Null. "What did you just call me?"

Null immediately looked away. Before Shane could press further, a flash of green drew his attention. "Oh!" Tessa gasped, jumping up and scrambling toward the wall. A speaker sat mounted a few inches above her head. It ran up toward the ceiling. "U-Um… ahem…" Tessa cleared her throat. "Registered Pokémon identified! The Pokémon is…" She looked over her shoulder and watched the image of a Magnezone appear. "… Magnezone!" Tessa finished. She nodded to Shane who lazily pressed the door switch. "Please proceed inside."

Tessa then grabbed the log book off the floor, pressed a digit to the inkpad, and scribbled along the bottom of the page. "Um, what should I do when I run out of space? That was the last page in this binder."

"Oh, that's an easy one." Trapinch walked over toward the room's far wall. He pressed a circular button and part of the wall slid away to reveal a storage closet. Trapinch grabbed a stack of parchment and walked it back to Tessa. "Here you go. Just add it into the binder. I'll take the old pages over to Togedemaru to file away."

While Tessa and Trapinch attended to the logbook, Shane shifted uneasily on his cushion. The fur on his neck stood on end. He immediately spun around. "Okay, Null. What's your deal, huh? You've been eyeing me like I'm a criminal since I set foot in here," he hissed in a whisper.

Null's gray, heavyset eyes narrowed at Shane. A growl rumbled in his throat. Shane momentarily lost his nerve, but took a deep breath and furrowed his brow at Null. "What's the matter, too afraid to say what's on your mind? Or does that ridiculous helmet of yours block your mouth?" Shane growled. "Why are you even wearing it anyway? If it's to make a fashion statement, I can tell you right now that it's not working."


Shane glanced over his shoulder to see Tessa frowning at him. "Are you trying to pick a fight with Null? What is wrong with you?"

"Me?" Shane looked hurt. "He's the one looking at me like I killed his best friend. Talk to him! Because he sure won't talk to me."

Tessa crossed her arms. "Null hasn't said a word since we got here. I'm sure he's just concentrating on the Pokénector and you're just jumping to conclusions, as per usual."

Shane was on his feet at this point. "I am not jumping to conclusions!" he growled. "All I want to know is why this guy…" He jerked his head in Null's direction. "… is making me feel so uncomfortable!"

"… you didn't… close the door…"

Shane's blood ran cold. 'His voice… it's so… raspy.' He slid a hind paw back and hit the switch. "Okay, there, it's closed. But that only just happened. You've been staring at me all day."

Null shrugged his shoulders.

"Don't you just shrug at me," Shane growled.

"Vulpix… drop it." Tessa said.

"No, I won't just drop it," Shane said. "What's the matter? Is it because I'm human? Is that it? Are you human? Is that why you're studying me so intently? I get it... you're probably jealous. I got turned into a reasonably-normal looking Pokémon and you became a living jigsaw puzzle. Even by Pokémon standards, you're hideous!"

Tessa's eyes widened. "Stop it, Vulpix. That's totally uncalled for."

"No, it isn't. Think about it, Riolu." Shane whirled on Null. "The guy washed up in some waterfall with absolutely no memory and then he ends up in, of all places, an exploration guild. That sounds awfully familiar." He pointed a forepaw directly at his face. "Don't you think?"

Null merely cocked his head in confusion. "… human?" he muttered.

"Don't you go playing coy with me. This has got to–"


Tessa stiffened. "Hey! That sounded like Yungoos!"


Tessa's aura feelers tensed up. "I… I think something's going on upstairs."

"What, like a commotion? I just let Magnezone in, that's all," Shane stated. He yelped as a set of talons gripped his back. Next thing he knew, he sat on Null's scaly, furry back. Null lumbered down the hallway, with Tessa right beside him.

"… the Pokénector… doesn't reset… until the door is closed…" Null hissed. "Someone could've… snuck in… because your partner thought it was more important… to yell at me…"

"Seriously? Like that would really happen," Shane scoffed. Tessa didn't respond. Instead, she ran ahead and dashed up the stairs. Null had a bit of a tougher time. He had to tilt his head so the crest of feathers atop it didn't catch on a part of the stairs. Null and Shane had just about reached the entrance when they heard a startled yelp.

"Tessa!" Shane cried. He jumped off Null's back but the chimera stuck out a foreleg to block him.

"… you've done enough… for one day…" he growled. "Stay back here. Better yet… get Braviary…" Null shoved Shane backward and charged into the room. Shane poked his head forward and gasped at the sight before him.

Tessa stumbled to her feet, rubbing her head. Behind her, the outlaw board had been knocked off its posts. Yungoos was passed out next to Tessa. And in the middle of the room a blue and gray cat stood on two legs. It had a jet-black coin sitting atop its forehead. Its whiskers, however, were bright yellow and razor-sharp. And the cat's tail was bright white, resembling a scrap of paper. An inverted black triangle sat in its chest, with a red, winged heart glimmering in its center.

'What the–? That's no ordinary Meowth!' Shane realized. 'It looks totally possessed or something!'

Null ran over to Tessa to try and help her up. Meowth gave a furious hiss, unsheathed a set of white, razor-thin claws, and charged toward Null, swinging wildly. Shane watched Null swipe the air in front of him, sending wind blades racing forward. To Null's surprise, the Meowth leaped over the Air Slash with a feral screech. Null hefted up his head, hoping to catch his opponent with his helmet or feathery crest. But Meowth landed on Null's back. Shane's ears throbbed at the sounds of claws scraping scales. Null grunted in aggravation, trying to buck the feline off him.

Shane jumped out from the staircase. "Get off of him!" he shouted. His eyes flashed pink and wavy ripples raced across the room. Shane's jaw dropped, however, when the attack detonated, only to fizzle out harmlessly against Meowth. Instead, Meowth narrowed its glowing red eyes at Shane. It lunged from Null's back and sprinted toward him. "Th… That's impossible!" Shane cried. More psychic waves surged across the room, but Meowth ran right through the explosive pink bursts.

"Idiot!" Tessa barked. "Why would you use a psychic-type move on a Meowth? It's a dark-type!"

Meowth lunged for Shane, who dived to the floor. He flinched as Meowth slashed some of the fur off his leftmost tail. "Oww! A dark-type? Since when?"

"Since always!" Tessa shouted.

Null similarly hissed in pain, rattling his helmet about. He gathered up another ball of concentrated air in his foreleg and arced a long wind blade forward. This one speared Meowth in the back, causing it to stumble forward. Tessa then barreled into it with a burst of speed, slamming it against the wall. Meowth thrashed about in Tessa's grip, then leaned its head forward, trying to bite her. Tessa gasped and stumbled backward. Meowth scrambled for the door, only to slam up against it and bounce backward.

"… I told you… to get Braviary…" Null snarled. "… do as you're told…" He charged down Meowth, winding up to strike with his talons.

"No. That'll take too much time. You guys need my help!" Shane squeaked. Meowth got a frenzied look in its eyes and leaped upward. It dug its claws into the metal wall and climbed about. Tessa growled in frustration and ducked into the stairwell. Null turned around and slung air crescents forward while Shane fired a straight column of snow.

However, Meowth scurried quickly across the wall. Not that it was ever in danger. Because the two attacks collided, creating an explosive burst of frosty air. Null grunted and turned his head away. He hissed once again and thrashed his head around, letting out rasping coughs. His ice-cold gaze fell on Shane.

"I was just trying to help," Shane muttered. Meowth had managed to find a window. It shattered it with its claws and scurried out the newly-created hole. Null slammed a foreleg against the ground in frustration.

"What in tarnation happened up here?"

Braviary flew into the room, with Tessa positioned on his back. She stole a glance at the broken window. "Did Meowth get out through there?" she gasped.

"… yes. Because he," Null pointed an accusatory talon at Shane, ",wouldn't follow directions…"

Braviary's eyes narrowed. Shane found his gaze drifting toward the bird's razor-sharp claws. "Mind explaining this one to me, rookie?" Braviary asked.

"He wouldn't stop staring at me!" Shane blurted out, pointing back at Null. "Null was making me uncomfortable and I just wanted to know why."

"And you neglected your responsibilities so you could harass him about that," Tessa cut in. "Then, when something did go wrong, rather than listening to Null's order to get Braviary, you simply jumped into the fray." She turned to Braviary. "He tried using his psychic-type move on a Meowth."

"Meowths are supposed to be normal-types!" Shane huffed.

"Not in Horizon, they ain't," Braviary scolded. "Null, were you really bothering Shane?"

"… sometimes I just… seem to space out. I was having… one of those moments…" Null muttered.

"Oh, come on. He's lying!" Shane accused. "That's way too convenient to be true."

"Really?" Braviary raised an eyebrow. "Cause based on yer attitude this morning, it sounds to me more like you were bored and tried to take yer frustrations out on yer senior guild member. And that not only caused you to be careless, but to completely ignore his instructions."

Shane winced. "No," he whimpered. "I just... made an honest mistake."

"That may be, but it was a completely preventable mistake, if'n you were acting maturely as an explorer should," Braviary lectured. "I'm sorry to have to do this, but I can't just write this off. Ya won't be getting supper tonight, rookie. And that goes for yer pardner, too."

A wild look appeared in Tessa's eyes. "What?!"

"Y'all are a team. That means ya both need to take responsibility for each other's poor decisions," Braviary stated. "And now that you know this, Riolu, maybe you'll try a bit harder in the future to keep yer pardner in line if'n he keeps getting testy." He turned back to Shane. "Now, I believe ya owe Null here an apology."

"But I didn't do anything wrong!" Shane protested. "Tell him to say sorry for creeping me out." He noticed Tessa glaring daggers at him and quickly fixed his gaze on Null, who stared off into space.

"… hrmph. I don't have time to stand around waiting." Braviary turned toward the staircase. "Null, if'n Shane here don't give ya an apology, let me know tomorrow morning. I'm sure I can think of something appropriate fer him." Braviary flapped his wings and drifted toward the stairs.

Null stared directly at Shane. "… well?"

"I'll apologize when you apologize," Shane growled, but he was clearly squirming under the combination of Null's gaze and Tessa's piercing glare.

"… I'm sorry… if I made you… uncomfortable. I meant no harm. I really do… just space out sometimes…" Null wheezed.

Shane frowned. "That's supposed to be sincere?"

"Vulpix!" Tessa hissed.

"… fine. I'm sorry, too," Shane grumbled. "There, everything's cool." He turned toward Tessa. "Can we go now?"

Tessa stormed forward, thumping Shane with her shoulder. "Don't you say a word to me," she seethed. As she stomped toward the staircase, Shane's fur prickled.

'But… I didn't do anything wrong here,' he thought. '… right?'


Shane continued saying that thought to himself throughout the evening. But he had a harder time believing it with each repetition.


He flinched from the gurgling of his stomach. 'It's not like I never went long periods of time without eating as a human,' he thought. 'But, I don't know, something about this Pokémon body makes being hungry feel really bad.' He stole a glance at Tessa, who sat in the corner, boring holes into the floor. Shane hung his head shamefully and sighed. 'Everyone thinks I'm a screw up now, don't they? All I was trying to do was figure out what that Null guy's issue is. How could I have possibly known anything like this would happen?'

Shane heard shuffling beside him. He noticed Tessa walking out of the room. His temptation was to follow her and see if he could try to patch things up, but then he saw Dragonair meet her by the other end of the table. The two departed the dining area together. At that point, he figured Dragonair was escorting Tessa to her mom's room. 'And I'm not looking for a repeat of last night, that's for sure,' he figured.

Shane stood up and trudged off. He quietly padded through the empty halls until he reached his room. Shane crept onto his pillow and lay down, curling up into a ball. He just wanted to shut his mind off and go to sleep.

'Tomorrow's another day, right? This is a small-time thing. It'll all blow over by tomorrow,' he told himself. 'Time heals all wounds, after all.' But that hardly lifted his spirits. And the churning of appetite-stirring juices in his stomach only served to make him more restless. It wasn't long before Shane had uncurled, rolling onto his back. He kicked at the air with his paws, trying in desperation to generate enough fatigue to pass out.

It was in the midst of this bizarre routine that he glimpsed his partner in the doorway. She wore a dumfounded expression. "I cannot believe you!" she growled. "Fooling around in here like absolutely nothing happened."

Shane rolled onto his belly. "That wasn't… I was trying to fall asleep," he said.

"Did anything Braviary tell you this afternoon sink in?" Tessa huffed.

Shane frowned. "Don't you think you're being a bit harsh? I made a mistake. I won't do something like that again. That's it. Case closed."

Shane noticed Tessa shaking. "No, that isn't it!" she barked, stomping a foot on the ground. "Because you keep promising that you'll be more careful. But that hasn't happened yet! You haven't really made any effort to do that."

Tessa's accusation was a proverbial slap across Shane's face. "Now that's not true. What about, um, yesterday… with Solrock?"

"You seemed to have forgotten about that today," Tessa countered. "You think this is some sort of game? All you care about is doing whatever you want so you can have fun. And anyone who tries to be just a tad bit careful is ruining that fun. That's how it is, isn't it?"

Shane frowned. "No, of course not. I'm… I'm totally serious about trying to find a way home." He stood up. "But, I'm not gonna be a downer about the whole thing. I want to enjoy my time here. What's so wrong about that?"

'I knew it. Why did I get my hopes up over this guy?' Tessa thought. 'Figures someone with such a screwed-up life would find a screwed-up human to match her. This is... so humiliating.' Tessa teared up. "The fact that you're putting other Pokémon in danger to 'enjoy your time here.' That's what's wrong."

"It's not like I'm intending for that to happen," Shane insisted. "Trouble just keeps finding me. But you're from a family of experienced explorers and I'm a human. I'm pretty confident that that makes me stronger than your average Vulpix."

'There's that same old line again. What if I leave and he somehow turns things around and becomes a hero? I'll be an even bigger loser than I am now!' She shook her head. 'No... I can't show weakness here." Tessa bared her teeth at Shane. "Oh, step off it, will you! Just how swell of an ego can you get, huh? It's like you can't do anything wrong in your eyes."

"It's not ego. It's fact," Shane barked back, his temper starting to slip. "Check those stories of yours. Odds are they'll all say that pairs of Pokémon not much different from the two of us took on the likes of Rayquaza or Dialga and succeeded. If that's not special, then I don't know what is."

Tessa's paws had balled up into fists. "You're… just… so sure of everything, aren't you?" she seethed. "Well, answer me this, then. What if you're right? What if Null's a human?"

Shane's annoyed expression dissolved into one of shock. "Duh-don't try to change the subject!" he stammered.

Tessa wiped her eyes. "No," she whispered. "I'm on the right track, aren't I?" Her gaze sharpened. "You're worried Null's the human who's supposed to be here. Which would make your arrival an accident, just like I suggested the day we met!"

That did it. Tessa could see the fight drain from Shane's eyes. His mouth fell open and all he could do was weakly gasp for air. His fur stood up on end and his empty gaze fell to the floor.

Tessa unfurled her scarf and tossed it toward the floor. "I want some space, Vulpix. I'm going back to Sunrise Village to think through some things. If you have any respect for me as a Pokémon, you'll leave well enough alone and stay here," Tessa said. She turned and marched out of the room, leaving Shane sitting there.

"… please."

Tessa froze in the doorway.

"… please don't go."

Tessa narrowed her eyes at Shane. "I just can't deal with you right now," she whispered. Tessa quickly disappeared from the doorway. Shane sat on his cushion, ears twitching as his partner's footsteps grew ever more distant. He stared blankly at the exterior of his room for several seconds. Then, he shakily got to his feet, scooped up Tessa's scarf, and stumbled out of the room.


~Aeon Town~

'This is for the best. I'm doing the right thing.'

Tessa stole a glance back at the dim glowing bulbs stemming from Aeon Town's buildings. She gulped down the saliva pooling her mouth. 'Vulpix was driving me up the wall. I needed to get away from him and reevaluate.'

She forced herself to look away and continue on the dirt path. It would be a bit of a walk to Sunrise Village, but she figured that she could make it to Sylveon's house before it got too late out. Despite this, she felt a small, nagging voice whispering in the back of her mind. Telling her she could still turn back. That she could patch things up.

'No, I've already made my decision,' she insisted. 'This was doomed from the start because it involved me. Everything I do turns into a lost cause. This is what's best for both of us.' She turned her attention toward the forest. 'I'm sure Gallian knows I joined the guild by now, anyway. If I stay there, I'd only end up dragging everyone into harm's way. There's no way Vulpix could take–'

A bright flash of light erupted around Tessa. Her body tensed up and she let out a cry of pain as she fell back to the ground. Her head throbbed and she threw her paws up over her eyes, trying to rub out the bright light. "What… what happened?"

"Uhuu huu huu! It's been a little while, my fluffy little Riolu. Did you miss me? Because I sure missed you."

Tessa sat up, the stars fading out from her vision. She found herself looking into Espy's sharp blue eyes. Her forked tail lazily drifted from side to side. Her grotesque forehead diamond sparked menacingly. "Oh... wait. You can't miss me. You don't even remember the last time we met." She traced a forepaw across the black choker around her neck. A winged heart, with demonic horns and a piercing eye sat in the center of the collar.

'Wait.' Tessa's eyes narrowed 'Why does that symbol seem familiar? Didn't I see something like that?' She met Espy's gaze. "Do I know you?" she stammered.

"Weren't you listening to me earlier? I already said I wiped your memories of the last time we met," Espy said, flicking her snout skyward. "Last time Umbry and I thought you were a useless nobody. But it turns out you're just the Riolu we're looking for!"

Tessa stiffened. 'Wait… is there someone else here?'

No sooner did she try to turn around than something swept her legs out from under her, sending her onto her back. The second she hit the ground, she found herself looking into a set of fierce red eyes. Umbry's black body blended into the twilight, save for bright red rings along his ears, tail, and limbs. The red ring on his forehead bore the same winged heart Espy had on her choker and the crystal armor around her chest.

"Wh… What do you want with me?" Tessa squeaked. "Don't… don't tell me an Absol sent you. I… I was just leaving the guild, I swear!"

Umbry raised a brow. "Absol? Can't say we know one. Hey, Espy, did you infect an Absol recently?"

"Nope!" Espy replied, shaking her head while Tessa pivoted toward her. "But boy would I looooooove to. That silky white fur… oh, and that curvy blade on its head. We could do some real interesting stuff with an Absol. We should totally find one to infect when we're done here, Umbry! I'll bet an Absol could wreak some havoc on these dungeons and draw the Tapus out of hiding."

"One step at a time, Espy," her partner cautioned. He fixed his gaze back on Tessa.

"Infect? What are you babbling about?" Tessa muttered. 'This is bad. This is worse than bad! I left the pouch with Shane at the guild. I've got nothing here to help me!'

"I wouldn't expect a dumb little puppy to know about the Prism Virus," Espy giggled. "Let's just say it can make you an ultra-fun Pokémon to be around." She crept toward Tessa, grinning mischievously. Tessa tried to slide away, only to bump into Umbry. She yipped in fright.

"I… don't want anything to do with you!"

"Aww, c'mon. Don't talk like that. I think you'll love being infected," Espy whispered. She brushed her hide up against Tessa and ran her forked tail along the Riolu's arm. Tessa's aura feelers immediately spasmed.

"No! Stay back!" Tessa shoved Espy to the side and bolted to her feet. She tried to run, but another bright flash of pink erupted around her. Next thing she knew, she was eating dirt.

"Uhuu huu huu! Yes! It's much more fun when you play hard to get," Espy giggled. "I can tell you're going to make a wonderful edition to our Prism Virus family."

"Stop wasting time, Espy. We're burning twilight here," Umbry growled.

"Ugh… fine. You're such a stick in the mud, Umbry. Is it any wonder Pokémon want me to infect them instead of you?" Espy sighed. Tessa's eyes widened as she saw Espy's forehead glow, along with the winged heart in her choker.

"Now, that'll be enough of that there nonsense!"

Espy's grin faded. She yelped as a wave of fire and snowflakes washed over her. Umbry's eyes widened seconds before the feathery form of Braviary barreled into him, knocking him clear across the trail. Tessa's heart hammered in her chest as she caught sight of a familiar set of six white tails in front of her. Shane looked over his shoulder at her. "Are you okay? Did they do anything to hurt you?" he asked, while Growlithe took up a defensive stance beside him.

"I… I'm fine," Tessa squeaked. 'He... he came back for me? Even after I chewed him out? This can't be right... no sensible Pokémon would stick their neck out for me like that.'

Across from the canines, Espy stumbled to her feet. "Nnnnnrrrghhhh… spoilsports!" she hissed. "You'll pay for this... jerks! C'mon, Umbry, we're done here." Espy turned and sprinted toward her companion.

"Oh no ya don't!" Braviary shouted. He bucked his wings and soared after the duo. But the moment Espy reached Umbry, their eyes flashed purple. Espy produced a strange, almost-mechanical card in her paw and slammed it to the ground. Braviary screeched to a halt as purple energy crackled around the two attackers. The guild members watched in shock as the energy dragged Espy and Umbry into the ground, leaving nothing but a patch of scorched grass behind.

Growlithe bounded over to help Braviary, while Shane turned and scrambled toward Tessa. She noticed he had the item pouch slung around his neck. Shane fumbled through it and pulled out her scarf. "I think this belongs to you," he said.

Tessa reached a shaky paw out and grabbed hold of it. "I… I told you not to come after me," she whispered.

"I know, I know," Shane said, lowering his head guiltily. "But I felt bad… like, really bad. I went to Braviary and he offered to fly me over to find you. And then we saw what was happening and, well, leaped into action." Tessa wanted to ask what Growlithe was doing with them, but she noticed Shane poking at the grass with a forepaw. "Um, are you, y'know, mad that I didn't listen to you again?" he stammered.

Her muzzle stiffened. This was definitely the most vulnerable she'd seen Shane since they met. And she was the one who had gotten attacked. "A little," she whispered, prompting Shane to wince. "But…" She gave him an exhausted smile. "… I don't think I'd be here if you did listen. So, thanks."

This immediately brought a relieved smile to Shane's face.

"What are partners for?" he replied, and offered a forepaw to help her to her feet.


As I mentioned, this episode's left me very nervous for a number of reasons. First off, we have probably the most dramatic tension between characters yet. And second, well, those of you who wanted to find out more about the Eeveelution duo got your wish. I'm sure you probably have some very spot-on guesses as to what might be happening here. And I hope you're interested to see where things are gonna go from here. Though if you're not, I'd still like to know your thoughts so I can try making improvements.

Next time: Magearna puts the "fairy" in "exposition fairy," helping Shane finally learn a bit about the Horizon Continent.
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Ok, inclined to believe the loudmouth who pulled Shane into this dimension is Solgaleo. Meanwhile we've got some baddies wearing crescent moons and having... unusual features. We've got something hecking with the tide. We've got a virus, specifically a prism virus. Conclusion: Lunala is flipping tf, most likely on account of being infected by the prism virus; i.e., by Necrozma. Why Necrozma is doing this--whether it's deliberate or not--I can't say. I guess we'll see what's what in due time.

And maybe there's a UB-related reason why Espy (Espy, hands, not Etsy) opted to verbally bold "ultra-fun" as well. Or maybe that's just a big ol' extradimensional red herring. :V Maybe none of this as it appears and I shouldn't take anything at face value. ;) Again, I suppose we'll see!

Also: I'm not sure whether I want to know how the heck a solrock barfs or whether I really, really don't. XD;


Gone. Not coming back.
I think I'm beginning to get a bit of a better picture of how this story's organised now. Sorta picaresque, but with an overarching thing that slowly emerges from the background into the foreground – like a PMD game, in fact, so, y'know, I probably should've expected that.

There are two things that seem a little strange about the Azure Cape segment, when Solrock's running off: one, that she's talking to herself, especially given she's so out of breath that talking is an unnecessary hassle; and two, that she's out of breath at all. Solrock is so emphatically a solid, unmoving piece of rock, down to its origins in the airless void of space, that seeing one gasping for breath seems unconvincing to me. I know PMD has a tendency to anthropomorphise and ignore the inhuman physiology of its characters, but a breathless solrock seems to maybe push that a bit far. I guess maybe that's a matter of taste, so possibly not something to worry about too much.

That said! The battle there is one of the best yet – you strike a good balance between telling us what moves are happening and what they look like with each execution, and not only that but you use them in creative ways, too, taking advantage of the medium to build on the bare-bones game mechanics and make use of the environment. It's fun.

And then, next chapter, obligatory sentry duty! Man, I really liked sentry duty; I'm kinda sorry it wasn't in the later PMD games, although the sheer number of pokémon species involved might have made it a bit more complicated than before. It did always seem strange to me, though, since like the point of it was apparently to give the person on the door like three seconds' warning of the person who was about appear before them. I like that you expand it a bit here, to make some vague semblance of sense.

Plus, a nice fierce argument. I like that you haven't drawn it out; it felt to me like the situation would build to this confrontation fairly quickly, because Tessa and Shane kind of needed to start working together sooner rather than later if you wanted the plot to get going, and it looks like my instincts were right. If you were concerned about it falling flat, it definitely didn't. Both this chapter and the last are among the stronger ones so far, I think -- they're quite effectively focused, and you've got your introductions out of the way, so there isn't much to slow things down. Thinking back on previous chapters after having read these ones, actually, it occurs to me that your introductions would probably have slowed things down less and been more effective if they'd been staggered -- characters introduced as they became necessary to each chapter, perhaps, rather than with an extended tour of the facilities. That kind of thing works okay in games (although not always; I feel like the later PMD games in particular suffer extensively from a surfeit of expository cutscenes), but less so in fiction.

Besides, how's a guy like you going to 'save the world' if a little silence bother's you so much?"

You have 'bother's' instead of 'bothers' there.

Next thing Shane new,

And here you have 'new' for 'knew'.

Solrock swiveled around in time for a high-pitched wail to push her back across the beach. Stella's eyes went wide and she dug herself further into the sand to avoid getting beaned in the face.

Someone called Stella appears in this one sentence and nowhere else in the fic to date.

Specifically, the light elucidated a tapestry showing what looked like two Pokémon.

While that's technically correct, I'm not sure I've ever seen 'elucidate' used literally before – certainly it read a bit strangely, and doesn't seem to fit with the tone you have going on in this story.

'Everyone thinks I'm a screw up now, don't they?'

There's nothing wrong with this line, I just like the fact that Shane thinks that they think he's a screw-up, when of course in actual fact they know he is. :p


Winter can't come soon enough
We're officially eight chapters in. Which is way better than being ate chapters in. The latter would leave me with a stomachache, I imagine.

Yes, I am going to have one of these cheesy opening bits before every chapter. Because I have no shame.

Ok, inclined to believe the loudmouth who pulled Shane into this dimension is Solgaleo. Meanwhile we've got some baddies wearing crescent moons and having... unusual features. We've got something hecking with the tide. We've got a virus, specifically a prism virus. Conclusion: Lunala is flipping tf, most likely on account of being infected by the prism virus; i.e., by Necrozma. Why Necrozma is doing this--whether it's deliberate or not--I can't say. I guess we'll see what's what in due time.
Well, if you stick around, you may or may not get to engage in a smug, satisfactory round of "I told you so-ing." That's always fun, right?

And maybe there's a UB-related reason why Espy (Espy, hands, not Etsy) opted to verbally bold "ultra-fun" as well. Or maybe that's just a big ol' extradimensional red herring. :V Maybe none of this as it appears and I shouldn't take anything at face value.
I'd like to think I put a few shocking twists into the story, but I'll leave it up to folks like you to judge them for yourselves.

I think I'm beginning to get a bit of a better picture of how this story's organised now. Sorta picaresque, but with an overarching thing that slowly emerges from the background into the foreground – like a PMD game, in fact, so, y'know, I probably should've expected that.
I promise the episodes will start linking up a bit more soon enough. One of my biggest concerns though was making sure the MC wasn't too vanilla. I mean, Shane's fur is very vanilla, but I'd like to think his characterization isn't! :p

There are two things that seem a little strange about the Azure Cape segment, when Solrock's running off: one, that she's talking to herself, especially given she's so out of breath that talking is an unnecessary hassle; and two, that she's out of breath at all.
Honestly, you're definitely right. It's not even something I really put in for comedy, I think I just sort of wrote it without thinking about it. It does mess with the funny part of the scene (Team Specter) so I did change it to have her just talking to herself out of impatience.

That said! The battle there is one of the best yet – you strike a good balance between telling us what moves are happening and what they look like with each execution, and not only that but you use them in creative ways, too, taking advantage of the medium to build on the bare-bones game mechanics and make use of the environment. It's fun.
Aww. Thank you! I want to make terrain and environmental usage a decent part of the battles. Especially because some of the later locales will vary things up from beaches and forests.

Plus, a nice fierce argument. I like that you haven't drawn it out; it felt to me like the situation would build to this confrontation fairly quickly, because Tessa and Shane kind of needed to start working together sooner rather than later if you wanted the plot to get going, and it looks like my instincts were right. If you were concerned about it falling flat, it definitely didn't.
I'm glad you liked it. Their relationship is just something I'm going to keep fretting over. And it's because of what I've got planned. I don't want to give specifics, but I will say that my biggest concern is I'm gonna make them too argumentative or bitter. Their relationship's going to grow... but it's not going to be the games' "instant power of friendship."

Both this chapter and the last are among the stronger ones so far, I think -- they're quite effectively focused, and you've got your introductions out of the way, so there isn't much to slow things down. Thinking back on previous chapters after having read these ones, actually, it occurs to me that your introductions would probably have slowed things down less and been more effective if they'd been staggered -- characters introduced as they became necessary to each chapter, perhaps, rather than with an extended tour of the facilities. That kind of thing works okay in games (although not always; I feel like the later PMD games in particular suffer extensively from a surfeit of expository cutscenes), but less so in fiction.
A fair point. I thought I could get away with it because the tour wasn't encompassing an entire chapter or episode, but I guess it must've dragged a little bit. The thing is that I kind of want it to set it up so that secondary characters could pop up whenever the need arose, but thinking about it, I suppose the audience might forget about some of them, too.

Oh, lastly, I meant to put this in the end of the last chapter but forget. For those of you wondering about Null's unusual speaking patterns, they're based off of Detective Tyrell Badd from Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. Basically every one of his dialogue boxes contains ellipses in some way, shape, or form. It's supposed to make him (and Null) sound grizzled.

That'll do it for responses. Onto the chapter!


Chapter 8: Much-Needed Background

~Aeon Observatory~

After Growlithe volunteered to inspect the town's outskirts, Braviary took Team Radiance back to the guild. The flight proceeded in silence, save for the gentle whistling of wind beneath Braviary's wings. Tessa stared out toward Aeon Port and, beyond it, the Midnight Sea. The moon's bright-blue reflection rippled in the choppy waters. She directed her gaze up toward it. The full moon served as a beacon that glowed proudly in a hazy purple sky, accentuating the small, twinkling stars surrounding it.

'That's odd,' she thought. 'I could've sworn we had a quarter-moon the night before Shane and I got here. How could it turn full so quickly?' Tessa blinked and shook her head. After the day she had, the last thing she needed was to rile herself up thinking about the size of the moon. She pushed that thought out of her mind and instead turned to look at Shane. He was staring at her, but promptly turned away the moment their eyes lined up.

It seemed like Shane had something he wanted to say, but the silence persisted through Braviary's landing and subsequent guiding of Team Radiance back into the Observatory. The trio shuffled down to the main level. "Well, I suppose now y'all can check 'evening excitement' off yer 'rookie to-do list,'" Braviary said, attempting to bring some levity to the atmosphere. Based on the blank stares he got, it wasn't very effective. "I'm gonna retire fer the night. No more funny business from either of ya, got it? Done made me go and worry away a good three years off my lifespan..."

Team Radiance nodded in unison. Satisfied, Braviary descended to the veterans' quarters, leaving them to tread the empty hallway leading back to their room. They each sat down at their respective cushions, Tessa staring out the window and Shane studying the floor.

Finally, the silence broke. "I've really screwed this all up, haven't I?"

Tessa's ears twitched and she looked over her shoulder. Shane was batting the edge of his scarf with a forepaw. "I just want to do things differently here. To be better than my human self," Shane sighed. "This may come as a surprise to you, but I'm not exactly well-liked over in my human life."

'Gee… I wonder why,' Tessa sneered internally. Guilt immediately bubbled up inside her for such a thought. She bit her lower lip.

"It's not that I'm a bad person. At least… I don't think I am," Shane continued. "And it's not like my life sucks or anything. I have a place to live, food to eat, and a job that pays enough to keep me comfortable. I can't complain about that stuff. It's just…" He hung his head shamefully. "… I, uh, don't really have any friends in the human world."

Tessa felt conflicted. On the one hand, she was exhausted. It had been a trying day and, to cap it all off, she was just attacked. She really didn't feel like hearing a sob story from the Pokémon that had been the target of all her ire. But on the other hand, if she played the listening game then maybe, just maybe, Shane would finally cool down a bit, figuratively speaking.

"And I tried to, y'know, put myself out there," Shane continued, "It's just… things never clicked. I think… people didn't like me because I was pretty negative. Like, all the time." He looked up toward the ceiling. "But why shouldn't I be? The human world… I think it's an awful place. Humans aren't like Pokémon, you know."

"I kinda figured," Tessa scoffed, only to wince as Shane looked down guiltily.

"I… sorry…" he mumbled. "I didn't phrase that well. It's just… you guys here. You look after each other. You try to help one another out. That's what makes places like this guild so great." He pawed at his cushion. "But humans don't tend to work like that. Oh, sure, we have some good eggs who try to do nice things for others. But there are far more humans who are totally selfish… and look out only for themselves."

'You mean... like you've been doing since I've met you?' Tessa thought, biting her lower lip to stop herself from blurting that thought out.

Shane continued to avoid Tessa's gaze. "In fact, it's common for humans to stab one another in the back…"

"WHAT?" Tessa blurted out, eyes widened in terror.

Shane winced. "S-Sorry… sorry! I didn't mean that literally. I mean, like, betrayals and stuff," he squeaked. "Look, the point I was trying to make is that other humans always end up disappointing me back home. And I have such lousy luck. I can't put on a happy face as a human. So, nobody talks to me."

"But, you've been pretty upbeat here, all things considered," Tessa pointed out. In her mind, she added, 'A bit too upbeat if you ask me.'

"I know," Shane sighed. "Remember how I said Pokémon are fictional where I come from?"

'Oh gods, not this again,' Tessa groaned. She nodded in the hopes of moving the conversation along.

"Well, I use those fictional adventures as an escape. A way to temporarily shut out all the things I don't like about the human world. I can have as much fun as I want in my games. Even if it's not real, everything seems possible when I'm playing." He stood up and glanced at the wall. Shane could just make out a faint outline of his shadow in the glow of the moonlight. "… and then I actually woke up as a Pokémon," he whispered, slowly shaking his tails.

"I seem to recall you believing this was a dream," Tessa said.

"Well, yeah, that was the only way I could make sense of it at first," Shane conceded. "But once I realized this was legit…" He looked down again. "… I was determined to do things differently. I wanted Pokémon to like me. I thought if I acted cheerful and energetic… I could make friends. But, I totally mucked that up." He hung his head shamefully. "I guess I'm just a screw-up no matter what universe I'm in."

'Okay, either he's crafty enough to make a Zorua jealous or this is genuine,' Tessa thought. Her aura feelers bristled against her fur. 'I'm sensing something in a snapshot of his aura. And… it's upsetting. I guess he's telling the truth, then.' Her brow furrowed. 'Still... he didn't have to drag me through his crazy fantasies.'

"You know, you're not the only one with problems," Tessa spoke up, immediately wondering if there was a better way to phrase that. "I get it. Your whole 'stuck in another world and another body,' dilemma is pretty big. But it's not like all the Pokémon you've met lead perfect lives. We have issues too."

"… you're right," Shane sighed. "I guess I'm just being selfish."

'Yeah, you are,' Tessa thought, only to immediately wince. 'Stop it, Riolu. Mom taught you better than that,' she berated herself. "Sorry, that's not what I was going for. It's just… if you really want to do things differently here, you should, y'know, treat other Pokémon the way you'd want them to treat you."

Shane's stance slouched. "Was I really doing that bad of a job with the golden rule?"

"Uh..." Tessa poked her index digits together. "I don't know what you mean by golden rule. Besides, do you really want me to answer that?" But that was all the answer Shane needed. He sighed and made his way back to his cushion. "Y'know… if you're looking for a place to start, why not try apologizing to Null tomorrow?"

Shane shivered. "But… but I already did that," he whimpered.

"You didn't sound very sincere," Tessa chided. "Hey, look. Whether you apologize for real or not is up to you. But as your teammate I am strongly suggesting that it's in your best interest to at least try."

Shane hung his head in defeat. "I guess… you're right."

"Good," Tessa said. She watched Shane circle around his pillow and curl up into a ball. "We can talk more in the morning if you want, I guess. Good night." She lay down on her own pillow.

"… hey, Riolu?"


"You miss your parents a lot, don't you?"

Tessa sat back up, clutching at her scarf. "Y-Yeah."

"Is that why you keep going down to your mom's room? Because you're thinking about them?"

Tessa nodded. "Yes." She heard Shane whimper and sighed. "What is it now, Vulpix?"

A snowy white head popped up to look at her. "It's just… I haven't even thought about my family since I've gotten here… until now. Who knows how much time has passed in the human world for me? They could be worried out of their skulls for all I know." His ears drooped. "I guess I really am selfish."

Tessa scooched her pillow closer to Shane's. "No use beating yourself up over something you can't control." She flinched, thinking of her own parents.

"But… but what if I really am here by accident? What if I can never go back home?" Shane wondered. "My family will never know what happened to me. And the people at my job are gonna think that I died or something and then–"

"As I recall, a certain human-turned-Vulpix told me that he, and I quote, 'prefers not to dwell on the what-ifs,'" Tessa said. "Let's just take things one step at a time. Sleep now. Apologize to Null tomorrow if you're up to it. And then we'll go from there."

"Okay." Shane nodded. "Okay."

"Now, let's get some rest. It's been a long day"

They both laid down and lulled themselves off to sleep. The next morning came and, to neither member of Team Radiance's surprise, Braviary assigned them to a second day of sentry duty. After all, they still needed to prove they could do a competent job with that assignment. And, clearly, Braviary's harsh words stuck with Shane. He volunteered to man the log book and spent the morning diligently pacing back and forth between the sentry station's table and the Pokénector.

"Um, you don't have to stand up all the time, you know," Trapinch pointed out.

"If I lie down, I'm just going to lose focus and make another mistake," Shane replied, intently studying the Pokénector.

"Err…" Stella glanced down the hallway. "Tell you what. How about Trapinch and I go grab some snacks from Steenee? You can stay here with Null." That idea made Shane's fur bristle. His tails ducked between his legs and his ears flopped against his head. He whined softly. "Or… I guess you and Trapinch can go get snacks. And I'll just stay here with Null," Tessa sighed. Shane's expression brightened and he hastily departed the sentry room with Trapinch in tow.

'Guess he couldn't work up the courage after all,' Tessa thought.

Null swung his gaze to Tessa. "… something you… want to tell me?"

"Uh, listen." Tessa sat down in front of the Pokénector. "Braviary told me that Shane and I need to be held accountable for what we do as a team. So, um, I just want to, y'know, apologize. For my teammate. The… uh… the way you were treated yesterday wasn't very nice. And… um… Shane promised it's not going to happen again. So… uh…" Tessa's shoulders sagged. "I'm not doing a very good job at this, am I?"

"… I appreciate… the sentiment… and accept your apology…" Null muttered. He shook his head about.

Tessa sighed in relief. "Um, I don't suppose you would be willing to answer something for me, would you?

Null shrugged.

"Do you really not remember anything before the guild?" Null's shoulders sagged and Tessa's expression blanched. "Aha ha... never mind. Forget I asked."

"… it's fine..." Null sighed. "… not much to say. I woke up… in the infirmary. Soaking wet. Lot of pain. I was found... in Glyphic Falls... apparently. I've stayed here… ever since. But before that… nothing…"

"So, you were in pain?" Tessa parroted.

"… yes. I thought... it might be... from the falls. I was found… in one of the basins… according to Growlithe…" Null recalled. "But in reality... I think it's this helmet. It hurts." Null brushed the corners of his mask against the wall.

Tessa gulped. "Do you think you might've been a human, then?" She could not read Null's expression.

"… I don't know. That word seems… odd… to me…" Null responded. "… the first time… I heard it… was from listening... to Vulpix. It sounds… alien…"

Tessa figured Shane would get at least some relief from that answer. If Null didn't think he was human, then Shane's appearance here could still be significant in some way. At the same time, however, it didn't completely rule out the possibility of Null being human. 'Gah… if only I had some way to find things out for certain,' Tessa thought.

An idea quickly came to mind, and she asked, "Well, what kind of Pokémon are you? I've certainly never seen anything like you."

Null looked down. "… I don't know."

Tessa opened her mouth, but no words came out. In fact, she opened and closed her mouth several times, but couldn't think of anything to say to that.

"… I've spoken… with Magearna… Braviary… Guildmaster Metagross. They're all stumped too…" Null reported. "Though Magearna… did say… that my helmet… brought the Original One to mind."

"Original One?" Tessa parroted. She looked Null's helmet over, tilting her head in the process. "Um, I'm sorry, but I don't really think I see what you're talking about. Far be it for me to question Magearna, though."

Null started wheezing and Tessa quickly thought to move away from the current subject. "So, uh…" She scratched his forehead. "Did the guild give you that helmet to heal up some injury?"

"… Didn't you hear me? I said... I think this thing... is what's causing the pain."

"Oh." Tessa looked down guiltily. "If it hurts, then why are you wearing it?"

"… I don't know."

Tessa raised an eyebrow. "Then why not take it off?"

"… because I can't."

"What?" Tessa gasped. "How does that even work?"

Nulls eyes narrowed. "I. Don't. Know."

Tessa figured it was time to bring this conversation to a close. "O-Okay… th-thanks for answering my questions. S-Sorry if I bothered you."

Null grunted and repositioned himself on his cushion. Shortly afterward, Shane and Trapinch returned with the snacks. The remainder of the sentry session proceeded mostly in silence, save for the occasional outburst from Null. Shane was extremely relieved when the team's shift ended and they could proceed to dinner. After they finished and returned to their room, Tessa took the time to loop Shane into her conversation with Null.

"So, he's not a human then?"

"Well, I can't say that for certain," Tessa replied. "But from the way it sounded, he doesn't seem to think he is. Still… the fact that the Guildmaster knew you were a human but has absolutely no idea what Null is seems rather odd."

"Uh, isn't he a Pokémon by process of elimination?" Shane wondered.

"Can you identify his species? Because I sure can't," Tessa declared. "And Null doesn't know, either."

"Err, you've got me there," Shane conceded. "Maybe he got cursed by a Legendary or something?"

"I think that's a bit of a stretch," Tessa said. She flopped down onto her pillow. "Actually, I was thinking maybe we recruit him."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Y'know, ask Null to join Team Radiance."

Shane's ears tucked against his head. "No way. Nuh-uh. I'm sorry… but it's not gonna happen. That guy just scares the fur off me. Even if you say he's fine… I just don't feel safe around him. Besides, there are other 'mons in the guild. Why go right for him?"

"I just, I dunno, feel bad for him. His badge is bronze like ours, so he's still a newbie. But he's already been here for months," Tessa explained. "It sounds to me like sentry duty is all he's done since joining the guild."

"I don't blame the guy. If I looked like that, I probably wouldn't want to go out in public either," Shane muttered.

"But don't you see? How's he supposed to figure out anything about himself if he's cooped up here day in and day out? I think we should give him the chance to explore with us. Maybe it'll jog his memory," Tessa reasoned. "At the very least, I would think you should sympathize with him."

"What? Just because he has no idea why he's here either doesn't make us, like, share a special bond or anything," Shane dismissed. "You're just generalizing."

Tessa winced. "… ouch. Okay, it sounds bad when you phrase it that way. But I still think we should give him a chance." She looked over at Shane and gave a weak smile. "Treat others the way you want to be treated, right?"

Shane gnashed his teeth together. "That was a low blow," he grumbled. "But fine. Whatever. Do what you want. I guess we could use a muscle-head like him on the team for some heavy lifting. Or maybe he'll just scare all the enemy Pokémon off with his hideous–"

"Vulpix!" Tessa gave Shane an unamused look.

Shane raised his forepaws innocently. "I said you can recruit him, okay. But the second this decision goes south, I'm going to be singing 'I told you so' until your ears fall off."

Tessa opted to respond to that with an overly-cheerful grin that wouldn't look out of place on Shane. "Great! I'll ask him tomorrow, then."


But before Tessa got the opportunity to talk to Null at morning assembly, Togedemaru shoved Team Radiance aside.

"Hey, hey, hey. Guess what? It's your guys' lucky day! Because you're working with Magearna and me," she declared.

The duo exchanged confused looks. "Um, doing what, exactly?" Shane asked.

"Equipment testing, checks, and maintenance, of course. What else would we do?" Togedemaru giggled. Team Radiance gave her a pair of blank looks. She rolled her eyes. "Gee, try to contain your enthusiasm there, guys. Anyway, no more time for chit chat. There's science to be done. Off we go!" She extended her quills and nudged Team Radiance down the north hallway to Magearna's lab station. They found her hunched over her desk, examining a large map with a magnifying glass.

"Yoo-hoo, Mags! I brought the test dummi– oops, I mean I brought our assistants for today," Togedemaru sang while she pushed Team Radiance into the room.

Splendiferous! Magearna looked up from her map. The magnifying glass retracted into her arm. I was just going over the travel route for the guild's upcoming exploridition. But please, come in. Make yourselves at home. We've got plenty to attend to today.

A lightbulb went off in Shane's head. "Um, actually, Magearna. I was wondering if I could ask you some questions."

Certainly. My question-answering circuits are functionating at one hundred percent efficacy today, so you're in luck, Magearna replied. Togedemaru, why don't you get Riolu set up to beta test our Heavy Scarf?

"Of course." Togedemaru grabbed hold of Tessa's right arm. "Hope you've got good upper body strength. When we tried this out on Growlithe last week, the poor guy couldn't walk for two days." Tessa's eyes went wide and she shot her partner a pleading look. But Shane was already over by Magearna's desk, ignoring her.

"So, what's the deal with this place and Ho-Oh?" Shane asked. "It sounded like Ho-Oh's important around here. Y'know, cause of Rainbow Island. But then I saw a picture of these two big Pokémon and Tessa mentioned something about the sun and moon…"

Ah, you are referring to Solgaleo and Lunala, Magearna acknowledged. Local legends believe them to be physical personifestations of the sun and moon, respectively. She folded up her map and rifled through some pages in one of her desk draws. Magearna pulled out a smaller version of the picture Shane had seen in Tessa's mother's room and placed it on her desk.

"Yeah, that's definitely what I saw," Shane said. "What do the legends say exactly?"

Well, they're rather lengthy. But I can attempt to explainolate the key points, if you would like, Magearna offered.

Shane nodded. "That would help a lot, actually."

Very well then. Please stand by while I boot up my exposition mode. Magearna cleared her throat.

'Wait… exposition mode? Oh god, I've made a mistake. Take it back, Shane. Take it back!' Shane thought.

Exposition mode has loaded, Magearna announced. She pulled several more pages from one of the drawers in her desk.

Ahem… the early days of our world were marked by clashes between the three Super-Ancient Pokémon responsible for creating the land, the sea, and the sky. Their endless battles created a state of constant unrest in the world. Pokémon never knew peace, because their lives were filled with violent quakes, torrential rains, and vicious winds.

Shane's jaw stiffened. 'Hold up… Magearna dropped the funny words. Is that, like, part of her… programming? I don't even know what to think right now…'

During the conflicts, one sizeable chunk of land broke off of the Air Continent and drifted into the ocean. That land would become the Horizon Continent…

"Wait, WHAT? This continent's floating across the ocean?" Shane gasped. "Then how does Rainbow Island stay in the center of it?"

It's not adrift anymore, thanks to the Land Spirits, Magearna replied. But I am afraid that is an entirely separate story in it of itself. And my exposition mode is already down to eighty-five percent function. So, we must continue.

'Land Spirits? Didn't Tessa say something similar? Are they like… the Regi trio or something?' Shade quickly made a mental note to follow up on that tidbit later and resumed listening.

So, to summarize, things were bad. But a group of Pokémon banded together, and begged the Super-Ancient Pokémon to end their battles. To keep things simple, let's just say the trio agreed to cede control over the world's weather to a pair of weaker Legendary Pokémon.

"Lemme take a wild guess: Ho-Oh and Lugia?" Shane wondered.

Correct! Lugia monitored the weather from the depths of the sea, and Ho-Oh from high in the skies, Magearna elaborated. But Ho-Oh soon came to learn that part of her responsibilities included controlling the degree of sunlight and moonlight that each continent receives. If there is an imbalance, a continent experiences strange weather patterns that can cause Pokémon to go berserk.

"I don't suppose these imbalances could also create odd, dungeon-like environments that constantly shift their layouts in totally random ways?" Shane mused.

Magearna raised an eyebrow. Curious. I thought you said you hadn't heard of these legends?

"Eh, it just reminds me of something I saw in my human life," Shane said with a nervous laugh. "Anyway, what happened from there?"

The task proved too exhausting for Ho-Oh, Magearna said. Since Lugia stayed deep underwater, Pokémon brought their complaints solely to her. She tried retreating to the relatively-empty Horizon Continent to find peace and quiet. But in doing so, she accidentally increased the intensity of moonlight we received.

Shane grew worried. "Did something bad happen?"

Yes. A terrible storm befell the land. The likes of which hadn't been seen since the Super-Ancient Pokémon fought. Its rains proved so intense, it flooded the center of the continent, creating the Midnight Sea, Magearna said. Ho-Oh was caught up in the storm. And its ferocity nearly tore her to shreds. Magearna then produced a piece of paper and placed it on her desk. Shane glimpsed what looked like some sort of swirling vortex. He could faintly make out a pair of orange-yellow wings.

"What is this?"

An artist's depiction of what we believe happened to Ho-Oh. A portal appeared in the eye of the storm. And from it emerged two beasts, the likes of which Ho-Oh had never seen.

"So, other Legendary Pokémon then?"

Magearna shook her head. No. In Horizon, we explicitly refer to them as "beasts."

"You mean Entei, Raikou, and Suicune?" Shane asked. Magearna tilted her head. "Err… in the human world, there's, uh, a legend that ties them to Ho-Oh. And it calls Entei, Raikou, and Suicune 'beasts,' so…"

We think that whatever appeared from that portal was not of this world, Magearna declared.

Shane's eyes widened. 'You mean… like aliens?' He looked up at the ceiling. 'Cripes, I guess the truth really is out there. Where are Mulder and Scully when you need them?'

The beasts released an otherworldly energy and dissipated the storm in an instant. They had saved Ho-Oh's life, Magearna continued. But the beasts were unable to return from whence they came. And their bodies reacted poorly to our planet's atmosphere. Ho-Oh refused to let her saviors die in front of her. So, the legend goes that she transferred their spirits into two seals: the Dawn Hourglass and Dusk Hourglass. Magearna produced another page, showcasing two sparkling hourglasses: one a brilliant gold and the other a majestic purple. It is said a great, supernatural power dwells within each of them.

Shane titled his head. "But, what does that have to do with Solgaleo and Lunala?"

Exposition mode is at forty-five percent. I will address that issue now, Magearna acknowledged. See, while Ho-Oh had preserved the beasts' spirits, their bodies remained behind as empty, lifeless husks. Ho-Oh covered them in her Sacred Ash and set the bodies ablaze with Sacred Fire.

A brief image with two smoking towers of bright, rainbow fire flashed through Shane's vision. He shuddered and his fur stood on end.

From the ashes emerged two masses of cosmic energy. Both of which quickly mutated and grew. They transformed into a pair of Pokémon resembling the beasts that saved Ho-Oh.

"Solgaleo and Lunala?" Shane turned to look at the original picture. "They… do kind of look like a sun and a full moon, now that I think about it."

Correct. And that is because, thanks to Ho-Oh, these Pokémon gained control over the sun and moon. Solgaleo can manipulate how much sunlight shines on the world. And Lunala, in turn, controls how much moonlight we receive, Magearna explained.

"So basically, these two took over the whole 'balance of day and night' shindig in Ho-Oh's place, then?" Shane asked.

Magearna nodded. Yes. However, their lives are finite. Once every two centuries, Solgaleo and Lunala are reborn through Ho-Oh's Sacred Fire and Sacred Ash. If ever this cycle were imperiled, it's said that the Dawn Hourglass and Dusk Hourglass will ensure the balance between day and night remains in place.

Shane nodded slowly, taking Magearna's tale in. "Where do these two reside? In space?"

No. Supposedly, there's an island floating up in the heavens: Celestial Island, Magearna explained. But it is the great mystery of our continent. One that countless exploration teams have sought to solve… and failed.

'Okaaaaay then. Guess that's a bit of a touchy subject around these parts. Note to self: don't bring it up with anyone,' Shane thought.

Have I properly answered your questions? Magearna asked.

"Uh, actually, there's a couple more things…"

Magearna's body slumped over, causing Shane to stagger backwards in surprise. Moments later, her eyes flickered back on and she righted herself. Oh… drat. It would appear I ran out of energy for exposition mode. What were you saying?

"Err… I just had a few more questions for you," Shane said. "For one… aren't there two Ho-Oh's in this world? What happened to the oth– MWWWF!"

Magearna threw an arm up over Shane's mouth. She leaned over. Who told you about that?


Magearna removed her arm, causing Shane to give a deep exhale. "Nobody," he repeated. "I, uh… thought I read something about it… in the story of the human who beat the Bittercold."

I am sorry. That information is highly classificated. Not even community leaders like Guildmaster Metagross are privency to it, Magearna stated.

"But you know about it," Shane pointed out.

It is not something I am at libertarian to discuss with you. I could offer you an apology cycle if that would help.

Shane's ears drooped. "Oh… okay. Forget I said anything."

But didn't you have more inquierations?

"Yeah." Shane's muzzle stiffened. "What the heck were you guys doing when Dark Matter attacked? Don't you think they could've used your help over in the Water Continent?'

Magearna looked down. We were utterly clueless, I'm afraid. Before that incidentiary, we had little-to-no contact with our fellow Pokémon beyond Horizon. Understand, human, the Air Continent is the nearest landmass other than small islands. And it is half a world away. Even Legendaries like Mew are incapable of teleporting such a vast distanography. One day we awoke to hear a booming voice claim all Pokémon would be turned to stone. Needless to say, we engaged in a massive panic cycle. The guild started evacateriazing as many Pokémon as we could find deep into the continent's underground caverns, she said. I stayed with the Guildmaster at the time to monitoriate the situation. Luckily it resolved itself. In the aftermath, I…

"Okay, okay, I think I've heard enough," Shane sighed, rubbing his head against his shoulder.

"Great!" Tessa's tired voice called from across the room. "Because I could really use someone tagging in here." Shane turned around to see his partner lying on her back on the floor, a bizarre gray scarf around her neck. Her fur was completely disheveled and her ears bent in directions that Shane never thought Riolu ears could go.

Togedemaru, I thought I told you to start her off easy, Magearna scolded.

Togedemaru laughed. "Oh, I totally did that. I put her on the easiest difficult setting we had!"

"Um, should I get Comfey?" Shane asked.

"No! Just come take a turn so I can have a break," Tessa harrumphed.


"Hey, Null, wait up a second!"

Tessa tailed Null out of the dining hall following dinner. Shane followed her, though he was quite disoriented from the day's work.

"… do you need something?" Null asked.

Tessa scratched at her head. "Actually, I was just, uh, wondering if, I dunno, you maybe wanted to join Team Radiance?"

Null stumbled, but quickly collected himself. He turned to fix his cold, gray eyes on Tessa. "… you want me… on your exploration team? Is this… a joke?"

"Trust me, I reacted the same way. She's totally serious," Shane said.

"You look like you could use some fresh air," Tessa exclaimed. "Have you ever done anything other than sentry duty?"

Null shook his head. "… I'm fine… being a sentry…"

"But you're not even an apprentice yet and you've been here for months," Tessa pointed out. Null simply shrugged and started turning away from Team Radiance. "Wouldn't you like to try and figure out more about who you are? Or why you're here?"

Null froze. "… look at me… Riolu. I'm not trying… to scare the other Pokémon… in Horizon…"

"It's useless fighting her over this, Null. If I've learned anything about my partner, she's as good at arguing as she is at battling," Shane deadpanned. "You'll never win."

Null let out a sigh. "… tell you what. I'll consider it. Just… give me a day or two… to think about it… okay?"

"You got it. Take as much time as you need," Tessa chirped. Null nodded and lumbered along the hallway. Tessa turned back to her partner. "See? That went way better than I expected. You've still got all your fur intact and everything."

Shane examined his pelt and fluttered his tails. "I suppose you're right. Maybe this is a sign… a sign that things are looking up for Team Radiance!" He puffed out his chest.

Tessa rolled her eyes. "Well, I guess you're back to your usual uppity self, then."


Quick debrief on the chapter below, if you're interested:
And Episode 4 continues to set off all my worries. This chapter needed some pretty extensive rewriting. I don't know what my past self was thinking. For one, Shane and Tessa had their opinions of Null reversed in the first draft. Which not only made no sense given Shane's attitude toward the guy up to this point, it also contradicted my outline. Additionally, Magearna's lore dump was quite literally several paragraphs of bold-faced text. It was dreadfully boring, so I tried to add some stuff with Shane to give it more flavor. And to top it all off, my original explanation for what Horizon was doing when Dark Matter was around made absolutely no sense. In the end, two scenes were cut from this chapter and will instead be showing up in chapter 9. So, look forward to a slightly longer update next week.

But, yeah. I'm surprised I got this far without someone getting steamed that the world of Guiding Light is a slight variation of the canon world. It's a narrative decision that I debated when I was making the outline for the story. I ultimately chose to keep it. This is my first fanfic, and I'm not confident in my worldbuilding abilities yet. Which is why I'd love to know if you thought the Horizon lore for this chapter was good or bad, and why. If you want to grab your pitchforks and torches, at least give me a ten-second head start.

Lastly, I did notice that the story passed 1,000 views with the last chapter. Either a lot of spambots really like this or there are plenty of kind folks giving it a glance. I'm flattered regardless, and thank you all very much for the support so far! ^^
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Hey look. PMD fic! I must heap praise on it!

In all seriousness, though, I miss PMD fics. I started my run on Serebii with one, so I'm kinda partial to them. And from what I've read so far (the prologue and Chapter 1), it's a little cliché at points, but it's a good start. There are a couple of little twists here and there to keep things fresh, so I'm pretty invested at the moment.

So, with general stuff out of the way, let's head into some specifics, shall we?


First of all, I kinda like how this isn't someone from the Pokémon world, but rather someone from OURS, and even moreso, someone who's really jaded about the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, to the point where he uses the freaking guides to get the starter he wants. I DO THAT! I like that detail.

Also, WE KNOW HIS NAME!! That's actually very rare on PMD fics, and it's great that you actually chose to include that.

“Fooooooooool! Did you REALLY think you could pull off this little stunt without ME finding OUUUUT about it? Don’t make me LAUGH!”

Uuuuuuuhhhhh...well. That's a little...sudden. Forceful too. Perhaps even a bit too much. It feels so blatantly evil and weird that it just feels...out of place, I'll phrase it.

Oh, and he's an Alolan Vulpix? Cool. Me likey.

Chapter 1

"Today's the day. I'm gonna do it. I'm not gonna chicken out."

Awwwww, that's so cute! Thinking you're not gonna chicken out, I just wanna pinch your cheeks, it's so adorable.

Tessa failed to account for the scarf's length. She stepped on one of its ends and faceplanted. Her momentum sent her tumbling down the hill. She rolled all the way into the town square, collapsing in a dazed heap.

'Ooog, this was a mistake,' she mentally groaned. 'I should just go home before I make an even bigger fool of myself.'

Um, okay wow, I take back my sarcasm. That's just brutal and cruel. I'm sorry I made fun.

So, the scene where Shane wakes up. NO AMNESIA! Thank goodness, I was worried for a second. I'm interested to see how his knowledge on the game mechanics will interfere with how the world actually works.

"Relax, girlie," Vulpix scoffed. "Everything's okay. Y'see… I'm not actually a Vulpix. I'm a human!" He puffed his chest out proudly. "Name's Shane. I'm dr–" he cut himself off, "Uh, I mean, a 'mysterious force' must have dragged me into this world in order to help save it from a terrifying evil!"

Best synopsis ever.

"But I am a human," Shane insisted. "Don't you want to save the world with me?"

Tessa clutched her satchel. "The world is... just fine. And I… don't like your tone."

Honestly, I'm kinda with Tessa on this one. Shane sounds completely freaking nuts right now, so she has every reason to be skeptical of his rambling.

"Well, if you just got here, what's with the anklet?" Tessa asked, pointing to Shane's foreleg.

That, my dear Tessa, is called a MacGuffin. They're a small fraction of the magical objects called "plot devices." Remember it well.

"H-Hey, gimme back my family's treasure!" Tessa hollered, rolling to her feet.

That...reminds me just a little too much of the Explorers games. I know you mentioned that there were gonna be easter eggs, but this was a little too blatant.

Overall, this is a good start. I'll admit, though, that Shane is starting off more than a little grating, and you're a little ham-fisted with Tessa's cowardice. It feels like you repeat the same lines of thought and dialogue constantly with her, and it becomes redundant. Now, this is only the first two sections of nine, so I expect that it's improved. Either way, I'm looking forward to more.

-Phalanx, out.

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Is it just me or is Magearna's... ah, unique command of the language getting... even more unique? Is this what happens when she gets flustered--e.g., by someone knowing stuff that's supposed to be classifi(cat)ed? If so, that's seriously adorable. And if not? Magearna's still adorable.

UB involvement = confirmed! At least in past tense. Interesting to see them as the saviors in that story--assuming that rescuing Ho-oh was a good thing. I mean... it seems like it would be, yeah? But one never knows. Could be an out-of-the-frying-pan situation that just so happens to include a very, very, very long fall into the fire.


Winter can't come soon enough
Warning: this chapter might make you hungry. I suggest you grab a snack before you start reading.

And from what I've read so far (the prologue and Chapter 1), it's a little cliché at points, but it's a good start. There are a couple of little twists here and there to keep things fresh, so I'm pretty invested at the moment.
I will concede the start is probably a bit too close to the source material, but I was hoping the bait-and-switch could kind of make up for it.

First of all, I kinda like how this isn't someone from the Pokémon world, but rather someone from OURS, and even moreso, someone who's really jaded about the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, to the point where he uses the freaking guides to get the starter he wants. I DO THAT! I like that detail.
I totally do it too. And I'm glad you called Shane jaded, because his gameplay habits will almost certainly pop up at a later point.

Also, WE KNOW HIS NAME!! That's actually very rare on PMD fics, and it's great that you actually chose to include that.
You can thank Negrek and Cutlerine for that. They're the ones who convinced me to add it into the prologue. ^^

Uuuuuuuhhhhh...well. That's a little...sudden. Forceful too. Perhaps even a bit too much. It feels so blatantly evil and weird that it just feels...out of place, I'll phrase it.
I understand the gripe. The thing about that character is that its speaking mannerisms are based off of an existing character from a TV show and that was the best way to translate it into writing. It'll make more sense later, I swear!

Oh, and he's an Alolan Vulpix? Cool.
I see what you did there. :p

So, the scene where Shane wakes up. NO AMNESIA! Thank goodness, I was worried for a second. I'm interested to see how his knowledge on the game mechanics will interfere with how the world actually works.
If you're reading this, then odds are you've seen it play out a bit for yourself. Needless to say, his lack of Gen VII knowledge makes him a bit "wrong genre savvy," shall we say?

That...reminds me just a little too much of the Explorers games. I know you mentioned that there were gonna be easter eggs, but this was a little too blatant.
That's about as blatant as it'll get, I hope. The further we get into this the more I'm hoping to deviate in a lot of regards.

Overall, this is a good start. I'll admit, though, that Shane is starting off more than a little grating, and you're a little ham-fisted with Tessa's cowardice. It feels like you repeat the same lines of thought and dialogue constantly with her, and it becomes redundant. Now, this is only the first two sections of nine, so I expect that it's improved. Either way, I'm looking forward to more.
Hmm... do you think you could tell me which parts of the dialogue seem redundant? As for Shane, sorry about that. He's supposed to come off as a bit annoying, but maybe I've exaggerated things a bit too much? Either way, thanks for taking the time to review. ^^

Is it just me or is Magearna's... ah, unique command of the language getting... even more unique? Is this what happens when she gets flustered--e.g., by someone knowing stuff that's supposed to be classifi(cat)ed? If so, that's seriously adorable. And if not? Magearna's still adorable.
It's entirely possible her motherboard might've overloaded a bit. Sometimes mechanical Pokémon can have a few screws loose. *rimshot*

UB involvement = confirmed! At least in past tense. Interesting to see them as the saviors in that story--assuming that rescuing Ho-oh was a good thing. I mean... it seems like it would be, yeah? But one never knows. Could be an out-of-the-frying-pan situation that just so happens to include a very, very, very long fall into the fire.
Well, I did keep things a bit on the vague side. For all you know, they just saved Ho-Oh as a matter happenstance. If you emerged in the middle of a torrential storm and you could get rid of it, you'd probably just want to do that, right?

Anyway, on with the story.


Chapter 9: Grievous Gluttony

"Tessa. Wake up, Tessa."


"Come on Tessa. You can wake up now. It's alright. Mom's here."

Tessa's eyes shot open and she sat up. She found herself on a cliff, looking out over a sprawling green field. A star-filled, twilight sky hung above her. And a full moon cast the cliffside in a soft, bright-blue light.

"M-Mom?" Tessa squeaked. She rubbed her eyes and blinked several times. A lithe Lucario stood in front of her. She had a single fang protruding from the top-left portion of her mouth and a white, diamond-shaped patch of fur in the center of her forehead. There was a lavender bandana around her neck, with a gold explorer's badge clipped to it. Tessa took in the sight for a few moments before her vision turned watery. She sprinted forward, watching the blob of tan, black, and blue steadily draw closer. Lucario knelt down, opening up her arms and wrapping her daughter in an embrace.

"I… I don't understand," Tessa sniffled. "Nobody knew where you were. How are you here?" Lucario clasped Tessa's chin and lifted it so their eyes met. She wore a frown on her face. Tessa's ears and aura feelers drooped.

"Y… you're not actually here, are you?" Tessa hiccupped. She brought a paw up toward her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Tessa. You're dreaming right now," Lucario replied. "This was the only way I could safely reach out to you."

Tessa's heart sank. "Then… you're not coming home?"

"I can't, Tessa," Lucario said. "Not for a while. There's something important that I'm in the middle of. But, as you can see, I'm perfectly safe. You don't have to worry about me. I can look after myself."

"Does… does this all have to do with why you left?" Tessa asked.

Lucario nodded. "Tessa, words can't express how sorry I am that I lied to you about why I was leaving. I wanted nothing more than to tell you what was happening. But I had to make sure that everything was safe before I tried contacting you."

"But what are you doing, then? What's so big that you couldn't tell anyone in the guild about it?" Tessa asked. "Please, Mom. I need to know."

Lucario took a deep breath. "It's complicated, Tessa. To keep it simple, a certain Pokémon approached me to ask for my help. So, I'm working with a very special group to make sure this Pokémon stays safe."

"Oh," Tessa whispered. "Well… that's… um… something. How much longer do you think you need to be away for?"

"I can't really say, sweetie," Lucario replied. Tessa whimpered. Lucario brought up her paw and started rubbing her daughter's head. "But… I think I should be able to keep contacting you like this. So, at least we can stay in touch." She gave Tessa a reassuring smile, but Tessa couldn't return it. "I know it's not ideal, Tessa. But we'll make do." She sighed. "I can't say the same about Gallian, though. I tried to reach out to him the same way, but…"

"Mom… Gallian's gone."

Lucario's face blanched. "T-Tessa, what are you–?"

"He left, Mom," Tessa elaborated. "A couple of weeks after you did. He just walked out on the guild."

Lucario bit her lower lip. "I see." She brought her paw down to Tessa's shoulder. "And how are you holding up?"

"I'm, uh, doing okay, I suppose," Tessa mumbled. She grabbed her scarf and twisted it to show off her bronze explorer's badge. "I'm part of the guild now."

A smile crept across Lucario's muzzle. "Oh, Tessa, that's wonderful news!" She leaned over and nuzzled Tessa's neck. "I wish I could've been there to…" Her voice trailed off as her daughter looked down at the grass. "Tessa, is something wrong? Is someone giving you trouble?"

"N-No." Tessa shook her head. "Just… y'know… having a bit of trouble finding my footing, that's all. You and Dad… set the bar pretty high."

Lucario sighed. "That shouldn't matter, Tessa. Just try to be the best explorer you can be. So, are you flying solo or on a team?"

"A team."

"You've made yourself a friend, then?"

"Err… not exactly," Tessa muttered. "My partner and I just sort of… ran into each other." She fidgeted nervously with her scarf. "He's, uh, a Vulpix." To Tessa's surprise, Lucario's eyes widened. "Mom, is everything okay?"

Lucario's muzzle stiffened. "Tessa… where did you meet him?"

"Um, over at Azure Cape. Is… is that important?"

Lucario placed her other paw on Tessa's free shoulder. "I need you to listen to me. You need to distance yourself from Vulpix."

"But… he's my teammate."

"Then find another one," Lucario stated sternly.

"M-Mom, I can't just abandon him like that," Tessa said. "His situation's a bit… unusual."

"Then you need to keep your eye on him, understand? Do
not trust him," Lucario declared.

Tessa's brow furrowed. "How do you know about my teammate, mom?"

"It's the Pokémon I'm helping protect," Lucario replied. "She told me that she sensed a Vulpix with an unnatural aura appear in Horizon. She believes that Pokémon will be a lightning rod for the kind of trouble we're trying to keep her safe from."

Tessa bit her lower lip. Was this really happening? Her mom knew about her partner. And she considered Vulpix a threat of some sort? "Mom, isn't there anything else you can tell me?"

Lucario shook her head. "I'm afraid not."

"Why not?"

Lucario sighed. "It's tough to explain. I don't want you knowing too much, sweetie. Because I'm trying to protect this Pokémon from something that's far more active in Horizon right now than it is where I'm hiding. And if whatever's causing problems back home catches you, it'll figure out what I'm doing and where I am. And that could put all of us in grave danger."

Tessa wasn't satisfied with that response. She opened her mouth to ask another question when her mom cut in, "I'm afraid our time's just about up."

"Already?" Tessa squeaked. "But… but I have so much to tell you!"

Lucario nuzzled Tessa's neck once more before standing back up. "Don't worry, Tessa. I'll reach out to you again soon. I promise." She stepped back toward the edge of the cliff.

"Mom!" Tessa cried, lunging forward. She skidded to a halt as a pair of dark-blue, golden-rimmed, crescent-shaped wings unfurled behind her mother.

A loud screech echoed across the clifftop, followed by a blinding flash of blue light.


~Aeon Observatory~

"Tessa? Hey, Tessa. Wake up!" Shane nudged Tessa with his snout. "C'mon, it's almost time for morning assembly."

Tessa's eyes opened and she pushed herself upright. "Morning already, huh?" she mumbled.

"You were really out, huh?" Shane said. "Must've been pretty tired."

"I guess so." Tessa yawned and rubbed her eyes.

"Well, we'd better get moving if we want to make the assembly on time," Shane said. His tails wagged as he turned toward the door. "Wonder what they're gonna have us do today?"

Tessa frowned as she followed her partner out into the hall. 'That dream I had. It felt so real. Does that mean I was actually talking with mom? And, if so, what should I do about Vulpix? I mean… he has managed to get us both into a fair bit of trouble in such a short time. Maybe mom was telling the truth?'

"Hey, Riolu. I got us a spot over here!" Shane called with a friendly wave.

'I guess I should just do what Mom suggested and keep an eye on him,' Tessa concluded, approaching Shane. They both turned toward the Guildmaster's office as Braviary cleared his throat.

"I'm sure I don't need to remind y'all that tomorrow is the big expedition!" Braviary announced to the assembled guild members.

"Which is why you just announced it anyway, right?" Togedemaru heckled, drawing laughter.

"Har, har, very funny. But yer forgetting I've got the power to pull any of y'all off this expedition," Braviary said. That promptly shut everyone up, though Togedemaru jutted out her lower lip in her best pouting effort. "Now then, the last thing we're needing is some rations. Luckily, Steenee will be attending to that today. That means the dining area is off limits. So, y'all are on yer own fer meals. Maybe try out something new in Crabrawler's Café. Just don't come complaining to me." He spread his wings. "That'll be all. Now, get out there and show 'em what yer made of!"


The assembly broke up and Shane turned to Tessa. "So, what do you think's on tap for today?"

As if the universe had heard him, Steenee approached the duo. "Ah, Team Radiance, right? Just the folks I wanted."

"Um, can we help you with something?" Shane asked.

"Why, yes. You've been assigned to work with me today. We'll be gathering food and supplies for tomorrow's expedition from the Kecleon Shop and Dewdrop Woods. And then, of course, preparing it for the trek," Steenee explained. "You guys should drop off your stuff at Dhelmise Depot. I'll bring everything we need and I wouldn't want you to accidentally lose any important inventory."

Shane's ears drooped. "Aww, Dewdrop Woods again? I hate that place," he groaned.

"Is that whining I'm hearing?" Steenee gasped. "You can't just expect to dart all around the Horizon Continent right from the get-go, y'know."

"It's not that," Shane complained.

"He's, uh, had a bit of a rough time in our past trips to Dewdrop," Tessa mused.

"Rough? I fell in a pond. I got an apple smashed on my face. Not to mention I ended up lathered in disgustingly sticky honey," Shane recalled. "I just got my fur all nice and fluffed, so–" His eyes widened. "–Oh god, I'm totally turning into girl!" He smacked his head against his shoulder. "Turn off, you stupid Vulpix brain!"

"Actually, I can understand. I believe coat pristineness is a source of personal pride for Vulpixes," Steenee said.

"Yeah, well I hate these dumb Vulpix instincts," Shane growled. He craned his neck upward and shouted, "You couldn't have made me something cool, like a Charmander or a Torchic or, better yet, a Riolu?"

"Um, but Vulpixes are cool," Tessa pointed out. "They're ice-types, after all."

A vein bulged out of Shane's forehead. Tessa recognized the look in her partner's eyes and ran out of the room laughing. Shane gave chase, barking, "YOU THINK I'M GONNA LET YOU GET AWAY WITH A PUN LIKE THAT? YOU GET BACK HERE AND TAKE THIS POWDER SNOW LIKE A 'MON!"

Steenee blinked in shock.

"Yeah, they're a real winning team, alright."


~Dewdrop Woods~

"Aww, come on!"

Shane jumped back toward a nearby tree and started brushing his right flank against the bark.

"I told you guys to warn me before you start tossing berries all willy-nilly," he whined. Shane backed away from the tree and glanced at his side. Streaks of purple lined his snow-white fur. "This is getting ridiculous. Do the powers that be just have a cruel sense of humor or something?"

Tessa walked by cradling an armful of berries. "Don't be ridiculous," she scoffed. "You're not so special that the Original One just sits there thinking of ways to make you unhappy."

"I was being rhetorical," Shane groaned.

"Sorry about that," Steenee said. "I'd have held onto the forage bag myself but, well, you kind of don't have any hands and that makes it tough for you to pick berries."

Shane's left eye twitched.

"Psst… I wouldn't bring that up if I were you," Tessa whispered. "He's kinda sore about having four legs."

"First thing I'm doing when I return to being a human is kissing my opposable thumbs," Shane sighed. "Oh, the things I've taken for granted all my life."

Steenee picked up her forage bag and deposited her pile of berries into it. Tessa followed suit. "So, what do we have left to get?" she asked.

"Just some Perfect Apples for Braviary," Steenee replied.

"Hey, we actually know where the Perfect Apple tree is!" Tessa chirped. "Don't we, Vulpix?"

"Oh no." Shane shook his head. "I'm staying as faaaaaaaaaar away from that thing as possible. You two can deal with the Perfect Apples."

"Aww, but Shane, your Extrasensory is perfect for knocking them free of that super-tall tree," Tessa exclaimed. "Can't you just help us out a little bit?" She batted her eyelashes at him.

Shane turned his snout skyward. "No way. I can read the stars, and they're telling me I'm gonna end up buried under a pile of apples."

"Um, it's daytime," Steenee pointed out.

"Doesn't change a thing," Shane huffed.

"What if I buy you a mago berry sorbet when we're finished?" Tessa offered. Shane's muzzle stiffened. Tessa smirked. She appeared to have found a weak point.

"Nnnnggh… the answer's still no," Shane stammered, turning away to avoid Tessa's gaze. Tessa crossed her arms and started tapping a foot on the ground. Shane swallowed a mouthful of spit. He turned back to Tessa with a resolute gleam in his eyes. "Add in a razz berry twist or it's no deal."

"Hmm, you drive a hard bargain there, but I'll accept," Tessa giggled. "Okay, Apple Boy, let's get moving."

Shane rolled his eyes. "Oh, sure, you'll call me 'Apple Boy' but you won't call me Shane," he grumbled, turning to guide the two ladies back into the same area he had battled Trapinch and Yungoos in several day earlier. However, when the large Perfect Apple tree came into sight, Shane knew something was off. "Hey! There aren't nearly as many Perfect Apples as there were last time we were here," he gasped. "What gives?"

"Look." Tessa pointed a paw forward. "There's a pile of 'em next to the tree. Looks like you're off the hook."

Shane grinned broadly, only for that expression to immediately falter. "Wait, I still get the berry sorbet, don't I?"

Tessa shot him a smirk. "I never recall shaking on it."

"That's not fair!" Shane protested, chasing his partner down the hill toward the pile of apples. The two of them made it about halfway down the hill before a rush of frosty air shot out from the roots of the tree. Neither could get the proper traction to stop. They rolled down the hill, ending up in a pileup by the base of the tree.

"Well, well, well. See, Jangmo-o, what did I tell ya? These two are a couple of no-good crooks. Kweh heh heh!"

Shane poked his head up. "You've gotta be kidding me," he groaned. Shane spotted Sneasel sitting on the lowest branch of the tree, tossing a Perfect Apple in one hand. Jangmo-o sat beside him, eyeing the Perfect Apple pile intently.

"Yeah! Trying to steal the Perfect Apples we went through the trouble of picking," Jangmo-o huffed. "The nerve of it all."

"Team Fang!" Tessa growled, bolting to her feet. "Trying to make off with the forest's whole supply of Perfect Apples, are you?" She hiked up her scarf to hide the frown on her muzzle. 'You've got to be kidding me. Maybe Mom really is telling the truth here.'

"Hey now, we picked these things fair and square," Sneasel scoffed. "You're the ones who were about to make off with our hard work. We heard everything." He shook his head. "To think you'd stoop so low. Almost makes a guy think you have it out for him."

"Hey!" Steenee managed to catch up to Team Radiance. "The Perfect Apples here are for all Pokémon to share. You can't just make off with all of them."

"Kweh heh heh! Last I checked, there weren't no laws on the books saying how many Perfect Apples a guy could take," Sneasel cackled. "Besides, we're doing this for the good of all Pokémon. We've got, uh, this special grass-type friend, see? We're gonna plant these Perfect Apples and make a whole forest of Perfect Apple trees! Then everyone can enjoy Perfect Apples."

"But Sneasel, I thought we was gonna sell the apples for mad coin?" Jangmo-o interjected.

Sneasel's face went bright red and a vein bulged out of his forehead. "Jangmo-o, ix-nay on the oiling our plans-spay," he seethed.

"Huh? What d'ya mean?"

"It means keep your trap shut you Trubbish-for-brains!" Sneasel hissed, grabbing hold of Jangmo-o and shaking him. "Ignore my silly little friend here. He's fallen on his head a few too many times, y'see. Kweh… heh… heh…" He rubbed the back of his head, "You're, uh, not buying that, are you?"

"Not in the slightest," Shane sneered. A mouthful of frosty slush started gathering in his mouth.

"Ah! Ah! Ah!" Sneasel shook his head. "I wouldn't do that if I was you, Snowy." He crept along the branch toward the Perfect Apple pile. "After all, if you try to attack us now, all these lush Perfect Apples will get caught. As will your precious Perfect Apple tree."

"Yeah! And if the tree gets frozen, there'll be no Perfect Apples for anyone," Jangmo-o laughed. "Good thinking, Sneasel."

"Didn't I just tell ya to shut your mouth?" Sneasel barked. "Or do I need to freeze it shut?" Jangmo-o lowered his head and shook it. "Now then." He turned back to Team Radiance. "My friend and I are going to grab some Perfect Apples and be on our way. And you three won't move so much as a muscle. Because if you do… you can kiss your tree and your precious pile of apples here goodb–"


"… excuse you," Jangmo-o gasped.

"What? I didn't belch just then, you moron," Sneasel scoffed. "Stop trying to deflect blame. I knew I shouldn't have let you eat that weird-looking berry."

"It wasn't me, either!" Jangmo-o exclaimed. "And if it wasn't you, then–?" He glanced down at Steenee and Team Radiance. The trio shook their heads in unison. Jangmo-o's eyes widened. "Hey, Sneasel… I don't think we're alone here," he muttered. He looked down and saw the pile of Perfect Apples moving. Several apples spilled off the pile, rolling to a stop by Team Radiance.

"Aiiiiiiiyyyyyyeeeeeeee! The Perfect Apples are aliiiiiiiiiiiiiive!" Jangmo-o screeched.

Sneasel smacked Jangmo-o across the cheek. "Pull yourself together, you lout! Fruit ain't alive."

"Excuse me?" Steenee narrowed her eyes at Team Fang. As she did, the pile of Perfect Apples moved again, sending a few more rolling toward Team Radiance.

"Then again… maybe there's some creepy forest spirit?" Sneasel stammered.


"Okay, that definitely came from the apple pile," Tessa concluded, shuffling away from it.

"Hey, Sneasel?" Jangmo-o whispered. "Is it time to execute Plan R?"

"No way. We came here to get Perfect Apples. So, we ain't leaving without our Perfect Apples," Sneasel proclaimed.

Suddenly, a single bolt of electricity exploded out from the pile of apples, shattering the edge of the branch Team Fang stood on. They saw the apple pile start to fall apart. Team Radiance gave startled yelps and backpedaled from the tree, diving to the ground to avoid an apple avalanche.

"Never mind. These apples ain't worth this trouble," Sneasel panicked. "Time for Plan R!" He and Jangmo-o jumped down from the Perfect Apple tree.

"RUN AWAY!" they shouted in unison, sprinting for the cover of the forest.

"What's going on? Perfect Apples can't do things like that," Steenee gasped.

Shane rolled up to his feet and peered at where the Perfect Apple pile had once towered. He squinted. "Are those a pair of Munchlaxes?" He took a step forward, only for the Munchlaxes to lock eyes with him. Shane froze. A chill ran down his spine. "Wait... something's really wrong here!"

"I'll say! Those look nothing like Munchlaxes are supposed to!" Steenee gasped, watching as the two Munchalxes grabbed handfuls of Perfect Apples and shoved them not into their mouths, but the blue, void-like funnels sitting in the centers of their stomachs. "Did... did they just eat the apples with their bellies?!"

"Guys, I think we should get out of here!" Tessa cried, panic spreading across her face. The Munchlaxes turned their sights on Tessa, showing off the black crystals covering their faces in armor. Tessa caught sight of the extra pair of arms protruding from each Munchlax's stomach. The mouth-like pincers at the end of their extra arms snapped wildly at the air. "Steenee, we have an Escape Orb, right? Something's very wrong here!"

The Munclax duo gorged themselves on more Perfect Apples. They turned in unison and belched in the guild members' direction. "Ugggh! Peeyew!" Steenee waved a hand in front of her face. "That's noxious."


Tessa's ears twitched. "Did you just say something, Shane?"

"N-No," Shane stammered. "It was them!" He pointed a forepaw forward, showing the Munchlaxes marching forward in unison.


Both Munchlaxes raised their hands and their pincers. Their claws and pincers glowed simultaneously. They started to wave them back and forth.

"I know that move. That's Metronome," Shane gasped. "Anything can come of it!"


The Munchlaxes pointed their limbs forward. A stream of fire shot out from the right Munchlax. The left one extended a long, spectral tongue forward. "Look out!" Tessa cried. She tackled Shane to the ground, feeling the heat of the Flamethrower singe the fur on her back. Steenee gasped as the other Munchlax's ghostly tongue glided across her body. She immediately stiffened as electricity crackled around her.

"Steenee, quick. We need the Escape Orb!" Shane shouted.

"... paralyzed. Can't reach… bag," Steenee wheezed.

Shane and Tessa exchanged panicked expressions. "Okay, you go grab the forage bag from Steenee," Shane said. "While these two lugs are close together like this, I can hit 'em both with one Powder Snow and buy us time. Now, get moving!"

Tessa chose not to protest Shane's decision. She sprinted across the area while Shane turned and fired a wide blast of snowflakes at the Munchlaxes. However, much to his absolute shock, the duo easily skirted the attack. They split up and charged him down. 'That can't be!' Shane gasped. 'Munchlaxes are supposed to make molasses look like a turbo-powered jet by comparison!' He could see both Pokémon winding up to attack him and dove forward. He skidded across the dirt as both Chip Away punches sailed wide. Instead, the Munchlax socked themselves in their guts, right on top of their second mouths.

"Grrrraaaaaaaaaaaaagh!" they growled in unison.

Tessa squeaked frightfully. 'This is awful! Somehow, Vulpix managed to get us all in trouble again. And with more berserk Pokémon like that Meowth. I don't believe this. Mom was right!' Tessa turned away from the Munchlaxes and continued fumbling through Steenee's bag. "Aha!" She hefted the Escape Orb up in triumph. "Okay, we're outta here." But when she tapped the orb to activate its effects, nothing happened. "Uh, Steenee, is this thing broken?"

"GUYS!" Shane barked, ducking a gigantic burst of crimson energy with a look of utter terror on his face. "Can we pick up the pace a little bit, please?" He spun about and shrieked at the top of his lungs. His Roar hurtled the nearest Muchlax into its counterpart. The two slumped down in a dazed heap, giving Shane time to scramble to his partners. He scooped up and hastily downed part of a Perfect Apple, feeling some of his energy return to him in the process. "What's the hold up?"

"The Escape Orb's not working," Tessa declared. "Something's jamming it."

"How does that work?" Shane groaned. "Oh, it doesn't matter. We need Steenee on her feet. Does she have any paralysis-curing stuff on her?"

"Yeah. I've… got a… cheri berry," Steenee stammered. Tessa started rummaging through her forage bag again. But the Munchlaxes had come to. "Guuuuuuuuys… they're starting up another dual Metronome," Steenee panicked.

"Relax, they're due to have a screw-up soon," Shane scoffed. But then he spotted brilliant sheens of red and pink light gathering around the Munchlaxes' claws. "Never mind… MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!" He shoved Tessa to the side and tried to grab Steenee by the forage bag and drag her away.

The Munchlaxes pointed their arms forward. A conical spiral of fire shot forward, with a dazzling pink light expanding the flames. The psionic energy caused the flames to spread out, showering Team Radiance. Shane howled in pain as wisps of fire peppered his back, leaving ugly black scorches across his fur. Likewise, Tessa yelped from flames searing her feet and sending her to the ground.

"Confusion boosted… Fire Spin?" Steenee gasped. "Something's not normal… with those Metronome attacks. They're too on-point. Like some force… is manipulating what attacks they're getting."

"I'd gladly take that over my usual bad luck shining through," Shane groaned. He noticed an oran berry had rolled out of Steenee's forage bag in the commotion and gobbled it down. He got to his feet, but quickly had to fire off a small, explosive wave of Extrasensory to damage one of the charging Munchlaxes. "Look alive, Tessa. One's coming for you!" he shouted.

His partner caught his warning. She spun around, her fist glowing bright blue. Then, she opened her palm and smacked the Munchlax's stomach-mouth. "Gnnnnaaaaaaargh!" Munchlax howled, body jiggling from the blow. He toppled onto his back, giving Tessa time to flee toward her partners.

"Thank goodness," she sighed. "After all these years, I finally got Force Palm working correctly!" Her fists glowed again as she ran down the Munchlax harassing Shane. But she didn't expect it to suddenly turn on her. It met her Force Palm with a swing of one of the black arms emerging from its gut. Its larger frame prevailed, and its Chip Away sent Tessa to the ground. It proved a short-lived victory, however, as a curtain of Powder Snow blanketed Munchlax's backside.

In fact, the rush of snowflakes quickly gave way to a fierce gust of ice-cold air. Munchlax snarled and a single, ethereal question-mark appeared over its head. The damaging effects of Shane's newly-discovered Icy Wind quickly faded. "Oh, great. Way to take the wind out of my awesome new move moment. Any more tricks you're keeping up your sleeve, big guy?" Shane groaned. He quickly ate his words, jumping to barely dodge a ghoulish tongue extending out from the Munchlax's second mouth. Meanwhile, its partner sprinted toward them, wagging its fingers as it readied a Metronome attack.

"Not this time!"

Shane and Tessa glanced over their shoulders and saw a shower of multicolored leaves batter the Munchlax, tripping it up and bringing it to the ground. Steenee landed in front of it, apparently having found her cheri berry. "You guys focus on that one," she said. "I'll try to keep this one separated from its partner." She bent down and spun the petals on her head around. A sparkling pink powder sprinkled over the Munchlax. Its ferocious gaze suddenly softened and its jaw slackened. Drool trickled out of its open mouth. "That ought to slow you down a bit," Steenee declared.

The other Munchlax would have none of this. It let out a roar and lashed out at Tessa with all four of its arms. She lacked the time to dodge and took the blow square in her chest. However, it proved too forceful for her to get her bearings straight and use Counter. Shane took a defensive stance in front of her and Roared the Munchlax away. It stumbled about in a daze, allowing Shane to run and scoop up the forage bag. He snatched up an oran berry in his mouth and tossed it to Tessa. "Here, catch!"

Tessa caught the berry in a trembling arm and scarfed it down. She rose up to her knees. "Why didn't you attack it?"

"It's used Amnesia. My attacks aren't going to do that much good," Shane reported.

"Well, my attacks aren't doing much good either," Tessa panted. "So, how do we deal with this guy?"

Shane had no time to answer as he glimpsed white light encircling the Munchlax. "Oh, crud. Not another Metronome!" he groaned. To his horror, he felt the ground starting to shake. A short distance away, the tremors hit Steenee, who dropped to her knees. The other Munchlax, took advantage of this to ready a Metronome of its own.

As Steenee fell to the ground, she sent a dozen razor-sharp leaves forward, pelting the Munchlax and making the Tri-Attack burst of ice, fire, and electricity that formed in its claws sail harmlessly off toward the woods. But the other Munchlax faced no resistance from Shane or Tessa. They were hurtled atop one another by the Earthquake. Shane gave a loud moan. His limbs trembled as he tried to force himself back to his feet. But he couldn't muster the energy to do so.

"Rrrggh… get off me… Vulpix!" Tessa grumbled. "We're sitting Duckletts like this."

"I'm too tired," Shane whimpered. "My legs feel like melted butter after that attack!" He looked up and saw a Munchlax bearing down on them. Shane roared it back again, buying him some time. He sucked in a deep breath and, with a pained wince, rolled onto his back. Tessa skirted free and charged down the Munchlax.

It narrowed its eyes at her and started gathering up energy for Metronome. But Tessa had no intention of letting things get that far. She flash-stepped forward with a burst of Quick Attack. Rather than striking Munchlax, however, she appeared by its side. Too focused on charging its attack, Munchlax had no countermeasures against the a Force Palm blow to its ribs. The impact sent Munchlax skidding back across the ground, directly into Steenee's line of fire. Both Munchlaxes' expressions blanched when a swarm of leaves raced forward, striking their bodies.

"Grooooooooooaaaaaaaaaarrrrgggggh!" they roared in agony before collapsing onto their bellies.

"We… we got 'em." Steenee weakly raised a fist in victory. "How are… you two… holding up?"

She turned to see Tessa helping Shane struggle to his feet. Steenee winced at the streaks of burnt fur on Shane's back. "Goodness! We need to get back to the guild to see Comfey right away."

"I'll live," Shane grunted, leaning on Tessa for support. "I think we should bind those two Munchlaxes up and contact the guild. Guildmaster Metagross should have a look at this. Something not right with those guys."

A twinge of movement from one of the Munchlaxes made the trio jump. "No," it wheezed, "Must infect. M… Must inf–"

Its body seized up. The red moons on its ears faded and the crackling sound of shattered glass echoed through the clearing. "What's going on?" Tessa squeaked. Shane yipped from his partner squeezing his shoulder.

"Look at the Munchlaxes," Steenee gasped, pointing a hand forward. The trio watched in horror as the black crystals covering the Munchlaxes' ears faded into a thick black mist. It swirled around each of their bodies, spiraling down toward the dirt. As the mist sank into the earth, all of the color seemed to drain from the Munchlaxes' bodies.

"They're disintegrating," Shane hollered, his legs quivering. The irises and pupils on one of the Muchlax's faces dissolved off its body, following the black mist into the ground. When all of the mist faded, the two Munchlaxes lay unmoving next to one another. Their fur was nothing but different shades of gray and their eyes were now cold, hollow balls virtually indistinguishable from their gray faces.

Tessa threw her paws over her face and looked away. "S-Steenee? A-Are th-they–?"

Steenee crept forward. She gently nudged one of the Munchlax's bodies, but got no response. "I… I don't even hear any snoring. And Munchlaxes are very loud sleepers," she said.

Shane's jaw stiffened. "How could they go so suddenly from being super aggressive to… to…" He gulped. "To that?"

"Uhuu huu huu huu! What a silly question. They weren't strong enough hosts, of course."

Shane's tails stuck straight up and his fur bristled. "Wait, I recognize that voice!" He started looking about in a panic. A flash of lavender light caused Team Radiance to flinch, and then look toward the apple tree. At the base of the tree appeared the pink and black forms of Espy and Umbry, respectively. Tessa's aura feelers started to quiver.

'No. Not them again,' she thought. 'Is this what Mom meant when she said Vulpix is a lightning rod for trouble? If I stay with him… am I going to have to keep dealing with these two? I can't handle that!

Shane narrowed his eyes at Espy. "You're the jerk who tried to hurt Tessa in Aeon Town."

"Now, now." Espy shook her head. "Is that any way to talk to a lady? Hmph." She pointed her snout skyward. "I'll bet you're the kind of Pokémon who conveniently forgets his Poké when he's out on a date. Soooo not worthy of my attention."

Umbry picked up one of the Perfect Apples on the ground and stared at it disdainfully. "This was a wasted use of an Ultra Entercard, Espy. They've both got parts of that scarf on. We'd just be wasting our strength trying to infect them."

Espy pouted. "Aww, c'mon, I just wanted to play with those two a bit. What if we take Steenee home as a consolation prize?"

Steenee's cheeks puffed up at this. "Now wait just a darn second, here. I am not going anywhere with a couple of strangers." She turned to Team Radiance. "You mind explaining all of this to me?"

Tessa shot Steenee a worried look. "I… I really don't know. These two showed up out of the blue in Aeon Town a couple of nights ago and attacked me." She tried to shuffle over toward Steenee. "We… we need to see if that Escape Orb's working now."

Shane meanwhile, stared at the pair of aggressors with a look of abject horror. 'Entercards? No… that's impossible. This is just a sick coincidence. It can't be them. They were such nice characters in the games. They'd never attack innocent Pokémon like th–'

Espy's eyes glowed blue. Shane turned and saw Tessa and Steenee cry out in pain as a burst of psychic energy hammered them into the ground.

"Uhuu huu huu. Normally, I love it when 'mons get all fussy like this. But Umbry's mad at me for dragging him out here. So, either take off those scarves and surrender…" Espy narrowed her eyes at them. "… or you three are about to retire from exploring… permanently."

Shane tensed up. 'No, no, no, no! This doesn't make any sense. What kind of backwards universe did I end up in? I… I…' He threw caution into the wind and, despite his exhaustion, shot a swirling blast of Powder Snow at Espy and Umbry. He immediately booked it toward his partners. His attack fizzled out uselessly against a pair of sturdy, glimmering, pink barriers.

"Delightful! Here I was thinking you were just gonna roll over and take it, pupsicle." Espy licked her lips excitedly. "But now I get to have some real fun!"

Shane dove for Steenee's forage bag and pulled out the Escape Orb. To his delight, the item sparkled with a brilliant golden aura. "Thank heavens. Let's get out of here!" he bellowed.

Espy's eyes widened. "No! Our energy's supposed to block those things!" she hissed. "Don't just stand there, Umbry. GET THEM!" Umbry raced forward, but it was too late. A multicolored vortex surrounded Steenee and Team Radiance, sending them shooting into the sky. Umbry skidded to a halt in the dirt.

"… like I said. Wasted Ultra Entercard," he growled.


~Aeon Observatory~

"So, lemme get this straight. Y'all got attacked by a pair of rabid Munchlaxes?" Braviary asked. Shane, Steenee, and Tessa nodded in unison.

"Yeah, but when we beat them, all the color drained from their bodies in this creepy black mist," Shane exclaimed.

Tessa suppressed a shudder. "When the mist disappeared they…" She gulped. "Their bodies were just lifeless husks!"

"And that's when the two Pokémon who attacked you in Aeon Town showed up?" Braivary asked. Tessa nodded. "Hrrrrrmmmmm… and yer telling me that them Munchlaxes were like the critter who attacked the guild the other day?"

"Yes, sir. They both had red crescent-moons on their bodies, just like Meowth did," Shane reported. "And the two Pokémon who attacked Tessa had the same symbols as well."

Braviary rubbed his chin with a wing. "Which means they're definitely connected. In fact, they could even be related to the tide issues in Sunset Shoals."

"Really? Isn't that a bit of a stretch?" Steenee gasped.

"Not at all. Far back as we've been keeping records, Pokémon done lose their minds when our lands are thrown out of balance," Braviary pointed out. "And that means tomorrow's expedition is more important than we realized."

'Huh, I wouldn't have thought to make that connection. I guess that's what being a seasoned explorer's all about,' Shane thought. 'Either that, or this guy knows more than he's letting on and he's trying to play us. In which case, I'd better pay close attention to him.'

He extended a wing toward Tessa. "I want to thank y'all fer discovering this, even if it did put ya in danger. This could prove mighty helpful fer us." Tessa gave the bird a confused look but shook his wing. "Since ya done brought me this info, I'm-a go ahead and sign off on Team Radiance's guild maintenance training. Y'all are now free to go back to taking jobs."

Shane perked up a bit at this.

"I'll inform the Guildmaster of yer findings and see if he has any thoughts. Y'all are dismissed for the day," Braviary announced and walked off toward Metagross's chambers.

"Sorry about today, guys," Steenee sighed. "That really got out of hand."

"It's not your fault, Steenee," Tessa assured her. "The important thing is that we all made it back safely. Right, Vulpix?"

Shane continued to study Braviary as he entered the Guildmaster's office. "Huhwha–? Oh, yeah. Good work. Go team. All that jazz." He halfheartedly waved a forepaw around in the air.

"I don't think he actually heard me," Tessa sighed. Steenee had already left the assembly area, leaving the duo by themselves. Tessa brought her paws up to her shoulders, trying to put a stop to her shivering.

'What happened out there today. I can't really blame it on Vulpix, can I?' Tessa thought. 'I mean, it wasn't his choice to go to Dewdrop Woods. That was because of Steenee. But… if we'd gone there without him, would we have been safe?'

"Hey, Tessa, you doing okay?"

Tessa snapped to attention. "I told you not to call me that," she growled. "And… I'm fine." She crossed her arms and looked away. "I was just spacing out, that's all."

The sounds of claws scraping limestone drew the duo's attention. They looked up and noticed Null approaching them. His explorer's pouch was awkwardly slung across his helmet. "What can I do you for, Null?" Tessa asked, happy for the distraction.

Null shook his head and dropped the pouch in front of Tessa. "… my inventory," he mumbled. "I figured… we should pool resources…"

Tessa raised an eyebrow. "Whatever for?"

"… I overheard… your conversation…" Null muttered, looking down guiltily.

Tessa beamed. "… and you want to join up with our exploration team?"

"… no," Null replied bluntly. Tessa stumbled and Shane let out a sigh of relief. "… but… I think I may… go with you… for a few missions… here and there…"

Shane frowned and looked away. Tessa nodded her approval. "Well, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Welcome aboard." She extended a paw. "We're happy to work with you."

"Speak for yourself," Shane mumbled under his breath.

Null awkwardly extended a foreleg, allowing Tessa to realize his talons made pawshakes an impossibility. "Uh… lemme just…" Tessa wrapped her paw around Null's ankle and clumsily moved it up and down. "… there! Aha… ha…" She quickly retracted her paw. "We don't have a scarf to give you, Null. I hope that's okay," Tessa muttered.

Null craned his body to show his helmet covering up most of what would pass for his neck. "… I think… I'll manage…"

"Right. Sorry," Tessa muttered.

The trio fell into silence. Shane didn't need to be a psychic-type to tell that, even with most of the guild leaving tomorrow, Team Radiance would have plenty to talk about.

End of Episode 4


Guzzling Gluttons, Ultra Munchlax Duo
A dark force has taken these two's normally ravenous appetites and turned them positively monstrous! With the extra arms granted by the infusion of otherworldly life energy, their chaotic Metronome attacks have turned unnaturally aggressive. Hurry and stop them, Team Radiance, or they may eat every piece of food in the whole forest!


So, we've officially reached a turning point of sorts for the story. As this chapter hopefully illustrated, I'll be taking a much different approach to bosses compared to the games (in both appearance and what they can do). I don't know what sort of expectations you guys still have for this, especially after this episode. But I hope you'll stick around. I promise it'll be a fun ride. And if you're not having fun, let me know so I can try to patch things up for you. Thanks again for the support.

Next time: "Well, shucks. I'm getting a Special Episode? That done makes me happier than a Swirlix with a Whipped Dream!"
Last edited:

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
Oh gosh, the munchlax. The munchlax. At first I thought they were baby guzzlord and made such a noise because holy heck that's an adorable thought. As it stand I still can't help but suspect they were... UB-ified, somehow. Guzzlax. Idk, whatever the case may be I certainly thought they were neat. :B

Also: Tessa's mom's wings. I wonder if those are something she can manifest in realspace or if that's just a dream-call thing. At any rate, it gives me a sense of who the "she" she mentions protecting might be.


I wanted to review last night and go on a reading binge, but I ended up falling asleep as it was so late. I really liked the opening in the third chapter because I liked the descriptions of colour and smell cause it helped me get into the scene straight away. I really think it's interesrting how nicknames are bizzare in their culture, the dynamics between Shane and Tessa are still entertaining, they make me think of two tourists in a country that they've never been to before, but really want to congtribrute to their society.


Winter can't come soon enough
In the words of the great Dr. Eggman, "Time for a change of pace!"

Welcome to the first of five Special Episodes. They're here to provide a bit of variety in the story. Each of these is designed to provide what I hope are fun little nods and parodies toward different genres in media. Together, these episodes are meant to answer two specific questions. Special Episodes 1, 4, and 5 will tackle one question, while 2 and 3 deal with the other one.

You can find it after the break, as usual. Enjoy!

Sike Saner
Oh gosh, the munchlax. The munchlax. At first I thought they were baby guzzlord and made such a noise because holy heck that's an adorable thought. As it stand I still can't help but suspect they were... UB-ified, somehow. Guzzlax. Idk, whatever the case may be I certainly thought they were neat. :B
Baby UB's definitely sounds like an interesting concept, but it's not something I had planned. I mean, if you count the Cosmog line as UB's then I guess Nebby's a baby UB. But that's a whole different can of worms. Yeah, they're Guzzlax's. The intention was to take Metronome (Munchlax's signature schtick in the anime) and make it a bit more... terrifying. It's no Z-Metronome, but it definitely frightened Team Radiance.

Also: Tessa's mom's wings. I wonder if those are something she can manifest in realspace or if that's just a dream-call thing. At any rate, it gives me a sense of who the "she" she mentions protecting might be.
Whoops, I did not intend to make it seem like they were Lucario's wings. No, those belong to who you probably think they belong to.


I wanted to review last night and go on a reading binge, but I ended up falling asleep as it was so late. I really liked the opening in the third chapter because I liked the descriptions of colour and smell cause it helped me get into the scene straight away. I really think it's interesrting how nicknames are bizzare in their culture, the dynamics between Shane and Tessa are still entertaining, they make me think of two tourists in a country that they've never been to before, but really want to congtribrute to their society.
No need to rush! Feel free to take your time. I'm not going anywhere. At least, I don't think I am. Glad you like the descriptive bits. The prologue made reference to this whole "Mind, body, spirit, and balance," tidbit, so I wanted to try and incorporate the special and general senses into things. At the same time, that's part of the reason why you have little instances of Shane's human brain not able to understand an instinct he might have as a Vulpix. I didn't want things like that overwhelming every episode, but they'll continue to pop up. Also, I never thought about it, but I guess Shane is a tourist in a manner of speaking. He'll probably go bug Tessa to buy him a Hawaiian shirt.

Thanks for the support, everyone. On with the fic!


"Things sure are a-changing 'round these parts."

Braviary craned his neck up toward an oak bookcase. He grabbed hold of a binder with his beak and hopped over to a nearby desk. He dropped the binder onto a small reader's podium, with a glowing orb attached to provide a source of light. Then he used his beak to flip the binder open, showing sketches of Shane and Tessa. Below the drawings sat a line reading "Team Radiance Exploration File."

"I was beginning to think she'd never end up joining us. It's just such a shame that she arrived now. After all, the Guildmaster's getting rid of her family's records."

Braviary shut the binder. He grabbed a larger one from his desk using his beak and shoved it onto the podium. It opened up, showing a pair of sketches. The first displayed three Pokémon raising bronze explorers' badges high: a Rufflet, a Metang, and a black and red-orange cat with a bell-like orb on its neck. Below that drawing was another one. It showcased the same three Pokémon, only this time they had gold badges. In addition, a Riolu stood next to them, smirking. She had a bronze explorer's badge pinned to the bandanna around her neck, a small fang sticking out of her mouth, and a white patch of diamond-shaped fur on her forehead.

"I wish y'all could be here to see her. Yer little gal's really coming into her own with that partner of hers."


The name's Braviary. I'm the intelligence expert and assistant to Guildmaster Metagross here at the Horizon Exploration Guild. Course, that weren't always the case. Back in my heyday, I was part of one of the guild's top exploration teams: Team MIB. What's the name mean? Why, Metagross, Incineroar, and Braviary, of course. Now, we weren't actually like that when we first joined. But we were confident, yesiree. Confident we'd evolve and show the whole continent how strong we are.

We never backed down from a mission. Even if it done got us in hot water. Course, that meant we got into plenty of jams. None of them compared to this one mission, though. Been about 25 years, but I still remember it plain as day. Cause it would turn out to be the most important job we ever did…


Special Episode 1: Seasoned Veterans

Chapter 10: Tracking a Tremendous Treasure

This Special Episode will follow Braviary back during his time as an explorer on Team MIB. The episode uses a first-person perspective for the duration of the flashback.


~Aeon Observatory~

"C'mon Rufflet. Wakey, wakey. Today's the big day!"

"Mmmrrgghh… ffrrrrggnnnngggh…"

My eyes opened to find Torracat staring right at me. His beady yellow eyes always made my feathers frizzle. "I'm up. I'm up," I groaned, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. My vision was still kinda fuzzy, but I could see the distinct lack of sunshine out our window. "Now what in tarnation did ya get me up for, Torracat? It ain't even sunrise yet!"

Torracat put on that annoying, all-knowing smirk of his. "Exactly. We have to get an early start. After all, this is our big assignment. If we nail this job, we'll make veteran rank!"

That's when it clicked. "Oh yeah. Guess it kind of slipped my mind. My bad."

"Slipped your mind? You're our inventory guy, Rufflet!" Torracat said. "Don't tell me you forgot to buy the supplies."

Well now, it might've slipped my mind in the moment. But that didn't mean I hadn't prepared the other day. "Course not," I said. I opened up our toolbox kit to show off all the wares I'd procured. "See, take a look fer yerself."

The quantity of items is sufficient to proceed.

I looked up at Metang, who was hovering over by the door. Least, I think it were hovering. Never could really tell, since ground-type moves could still hit him and what not.

"Thanks, Mets," I said with a yawn. "Now then, uh, someone want to remind me where we're heading for this here job?"

Torracat facepalmed. "Oh for heaven's sake. We're heading to Stormcracker Isle to find the long-lost treasure of the legendary Armored Adventurer! Or, at least, to try."

I raised a wing. "Hold up a sec. Ain't the Armored Adventurer nothing but a fairy tale? Y'know, something us exploring types like to tell yung'uns to get 'em interested in joining the guild?"

"Who's to say?" Torracat chuckled. "That's what we're going to find out. My dad tried looking for the treasure back before he became Guildmaster, but he could never navigate the inner caverns." Torracat got that confident gleam in his eyes. "He wasn't Team MIB, though. We're the best around. And now's our chance to show it."

"Well, shoot, finding a legendary explorer's treasure would make fer quite the adventure," I said. "So, what're we standing around here for?"

Torracat laughed. "That's what I was saying. Let's get moving. I already got us a pair of Sharpedo willing to head out to Stormcracker Isle."

And we are ten minutes and fifteen seconds late to rendezvous, Metang announced. Now it's sixteen seconds… seventeen… eighteen…

"Alright, I get it," I grunted, hefting the toolbox kit over a wing.


~Stormcracker Isle~

"Looks like you lot lucked out. The isle's going through one of its dry spells."

Torracat and I shared a Sharpedo, while Metang lay atop the other one, clutching it's big ol' fin. They sped across choppy morning waters toward a fairly large island. Sure, I didn't have Keen Eye. But I didn't need it to see the basic features: clusters of jungle brush, a rocky spire jutting into the sky, and a waterfall streaming out from the rock, giving rise to a river that dumped into the ocean.

I turned to Torracat. "If'n ya don't mind me asking, boss, just why's the place called Stormcracker anyway?"

Torracat glanced at Metang. "Yo, Mets. Give Rufflet the rundown."

Affirmative, Metang replied in that flat robot voice of his. This island is positioned directly in the migratory paths of Zapdos and Thundurus. Each Legendary Pokémon expels excess electrical energy while migrating. The energy gathers up around the island, forming torrential storms that can fall for weeks on end.

I could already feel my eyelids growing heavy again. Metang just had that effect on me. Guy could take any subject related to exploring and make it as boring as sentry duty at the guild. I done needed to shake my head about to make sure I didn't doze off. "So, why do y'all think the Armored Adventurer would stash his treasure here? Cause it's a tough island to penetrate?" I wondered.

"Either that, or he ended up here by accident and couldn't survive," Torracat said. "Which means if we find anything, that'll make us explorers on par with the mighty Armored Adventurer."

I pictured glimmering, gold statues of our team in the center of Aeon Town. Complete with Pokémon marveling at 'em and telling their kiddies about the brave explorers of Team MIB. "Heh." I rubbed my beak with a wing. "Now that'd be something to see, I reckon."

"Hey, Sharpedo, we need to head for the east side of the island," Torracat said. "Is that okay?"

"Sure," our Sharpedo replied.

"Hang on." I squinted at the island. "Ain't that gonna put us further from that there big rock than if we go to the west side?"

Correct, Metang replied. However, it is the safer route. The jungles on the west side contain very rare fruits and berries, making that part of the island a prime target for scavengers or wild Pokémon.

"And the last thing we need are some whackos trying to butt in on our big mission," Torracat declared. "Now then, full speed ahead toward that beach!" He pointed a claw forward. Next thing I knew, I was gripping the Sharpedo's fin for dear life as it carved through that there ocean like it were slicing up a thick, juicy melon. After a few minutes, we touched down on the beach and said our thanks to the Sharpedos. "You've got that flare to call these guys when we're ready to leave, right, Rufflet?" Torracat asked.

"Reckon I do," I replied, pulling out the flare from the toolbox.

"Great, then let's head inward," Torracat said, and led our team forward into the jungle. There were no paths for us to follow. So, we was dipping and ducking jungle brush and hopping over tree roots that were taller than Torracat. Of course, them giant tropical leaves weren't no problem for Team MIB. With my Wing Attack, Torracat's Flamethrower, and Metang's Confusion, we easily cleared a path forward in the direction of that huge rock at the center of the island.

Torracat, do you not think it wise to avoid burning any foliage? The smoke could alert wild Pokémon to our location, Metang said.

"Good point, Mets. But this is a deserted island. We're probably fine," Torracat replied. I rolled my eyes. If'n there was one member of Team MIB who could jinx our luck with his overconfidence, it was Torracat. "Still, it doesn't hurt to err on the safe side. I'll hold off on the Flamethrowers and try to look for the best angle to approach that rock."

For once, it seemed Torracat was completely focused. Maybe things were gonna be smoother than I tho–

"It was this way for sure, cap'n! There's smoke billowing outta these here bushes."

Doggone it. Torracat, ya jinx.

Metang, being closest to the gal's voice we heard, raised up his arms, readying to strike with Metal Claw. The bushes in front of him rustled. Halt. Identify yourself or I will use fo–

A black and blue blur shot out of the bushes. I saw a spark of fire, but realized Torracat was behind me. Metang weren't quick enough to react, so a fiery foot collided with his face. Course, with both me and Torracat in front of him, you could guess what came after that: a three-Pokémon pile-up. We smacked back against a coconut tree. To really rub salt in the wound, one of them stupid fruits fell down and conked me on the dang head.

"Oy!" Torracat shoved me to the side. "Mets, get up. Don't let that sneak-attacking hussy get away with this."

Understood, Metang bellowed, floating back into the air. However, whatever it was that attacked us had turned tail and run away.

"They can't have gone far. Mets, scan the area with your psychic powers," Torracat ordered. "Rufflet, give me eyes in the sky!"

I was still seeing stars from taking a coconut in the noggin, but I weren't no sissy. I flapped my wings and took to the air. Metang scanned the nearby bushes. His eyes turned blue and a nearby bush shook like an antsy Ludicolo. It didn't look like that had done anything, though. I pushed that though aside, however. Because I saw branches and bushes getting slashed up left and right by a Feraligatr with a particularly nasty look in its eyes. There were a couple Pokémon beside it, but I didn't recognize them right off the bat. It's not like I went about memorizing Pokémon species in my spare time.

"Boss!" I squawked. "Whatever ambushed us is bringing company. There's a Feraligatr and it's looking mighty grumpy."

To his credit, Torracat recognized the situation quickly. A water-type like Feraligatr put our team in a bit of a bind. We had no effective moves to deal with one. "Time to make tracks, guys! I'll lay some cover fire to distract them. Let's head for the inside of the island," Torracat declared.

"Err, boss, maybe it weren't a good idea to say that out lo–"

The same blur from before leaped out of the trees. Now, I'm a steady flier, but I weren't prepared for no aerial ambush. So, I was plum surprised when a Riolu struck me in my tailfeathers with a flaming kick. "Eyyyyaaaaaaagh! My keister's cooking! My keister's cooking!" I spiraled downward, with Riolu clinging to my legs. I spotted the little jackal, but didn't have no time to get off an attack before we crashed. Despite all that, Riolu hung onto me. In fact, she wrapped up my wings with her arms. This made my teammates pause.

"Go ahead! Try an' attack me, ye stinkin' landlubbers," she spat. "Ye'll just be harming yer feathery friend here." She turned toward them beaten-up bushes. "CAP'N! CAP'N! I've found us some strangers from the mainland!"

I thrashed about real good but this gal had an iron grip about her! All my struggling managed to do was make her mad. She dragged me toward the bushes, where I saw a patch of blue scales out the corner of my eye. Weren't too long before Feraligatr looked me right in the eyes. His angry, red eyes, big ol' teeth, and the claw scars across his chest made for quite the worrying sight, I tell ya.

"You've gone and made quite a ruckus, haven't ya, Runt?"

Riolu looked up at Feraligatr, gnashing her fangs together. "Grrr… how many times I gotta tell ye, cap'n. I've got me a name. It's Prisma! Not Runt!"

She called herself Prisma? That didn't make a lick of sense. I figured the gal had a touch of the crazy. Probably too much time under that hot sun. Still, I didn't given it much thought, considering my current predicament. "Hey, what's the big idea?" Torracat barked. Ever defiant, my boss was, even in a lousy situation for the team. Too bad this was one of them moments I wished he kept his yap shut. "Tell your friend to release my partner right now."

"Why did you capture him, anyway? Did you want to make a scene?" Feraligatr growled, eyeing my Riolu captor suspiciously.

"No, cap'n," Prisma barked. "But these blokes were tearing up the jungle and I weren't about to let 'em destroy our cover. I was attacking from the bushes and I took this here Rufflet as a hostage so those lubbers wouldn't try to keelhaul me."

Icy mist brushed along my feathers. "For the love of– how many times do I have to tell you, Runt? Ditch that stupid voice. We're scavengers, not savages. No need to speak like you jumped out of a hatchling's story."

Prisma's grip weakened. The gal clearly didn't have much pull with her leader. "B-But cap'n–" she whimpered.

"And it don't make ya sound intimidating, either," Feraligatr said. Were I not wrapped up in a Riolu hug, I'd have probably laughed. Unluckily enough, Torracat was there to do that for me.

"… fine," Prisma sighed. "But these are continent-dwellers. I'm sure of it!"

"Aye, captain!" the Mareanie on my right spoke up. "They've got badges. Must be one of them rescue teams from the mainland."

Feraligatr didn't like that one bit. He bore them wicked-sharp teeth of his at us. "So, what would a pack of goody-two-shoes rescuers want with Stormcracker Isle? There ain't no Pokémon around here needing your help."

"We're just… passing through…" I grunted, hoping my partners might be able to add to the ruse.

"Yeah. We're doing some surveying for our guild," Torracat continued. Bless him. His confidence could get us in hot water, but it bailed us out just as often. "Just trying to map out the island and then we'll be on our way."

"Fat chance of that," Prisma barked. "Where are your mapping tools, huh?"

Well, shucks. The jackal was a quicker thinker than I done expected.

"I've… uh… got 'em right in my toolkit," I lied. "If'n you just let go of me… I can show you."

Feraligatr opened his mouth to retort, but Prisma acted quicker. Her grip weakened. I had to resist the urge to laugh. I spun around and used a burst of air to shoot myself forward and smack Prisma in the belly with my signature Aerial Ace. That sent her hurtling into Feraligatr's gut. Now, he didn't like that one bit. Eyes went wide. Spit shot out of his mouth. If'n you were the inexperienced type, you'd have watched the scene with a fit of giggles. But not Team MIB. No sirree. Torracat covered the area in a spread of his Flamethrower, while I took back into the air. Metang hit the flames with his Confusion wave thingamabobs to spread that fire even further.

"Let's move, gang!" Torracat shouted. And we high-tailed it outta there mighty quick.

Course, it weren't so quick that we didn't hear Feraligatr shout, "Runt, you bleeding moron! You just cost yourself rations for the next two days."

A loud smack echoed through the air. Torracat and I glanced back to see Prisma on her knees; a paw gingerly held up to her face. Frankly, it served the varmint right. Trying to get the jump on us for no good reason. It was mighty stupid of her to buy into my little act and let me go. Except, it looked like Torracat didn't share my sentiments. I could see the worry on his face plain as a disguise on a Mimikyu. "Oy, boss-man. Stay focused. They're on our tails!" I cawed, trying to shock him back to his senses. Torracat frowned but quickened his pace.

Hoo boy. Of all the times to have a bleeding heart moment.

Them scavengers made a beeline for us. "If they're heading for the rock, they must be trying to find the treasure," Feraligatr hissed. "That's our treasure, lads. Don't let 'em take what's rightfully ours!"

I even saw Prisma running after us. She done had this fire in her eyes, the likes of which could make a Turtonator blush. And she was much quicker on the draw than her pardners. I thought she could do with some slowing up. So, I dipped down toward her and abruptly banked right. I had to adjust my angle to avoid a ball of sludge that Mareanie spat toward me. But I managed to get around to Prisma's back.

"Gnngaaaagh!" she howled as I hit her in the back of the head and pulled back up to finish off the U-turn. Course, that victory didn't end up lasting long. Turned out, Feraligatr could strike from a heck of a distance. Nothing could've prepared me for this massive tunnel of water striking me in the back and knocking me to the ground.

Rufflet is injured. We must provide cover, Metang stated. He and Torracat turned, preparing to face the charging scavengers. Now, I weren't about to take any of this lying down. I rolled forward, dodging a Force Palm from Prisma. Then I got back into the air just in time to avoid my teammates combining their attacks again. A Flamethrower column turned into a bunch of fiery rings thanks to Metang's Confusion. Except, it didn't do much. A small Water Gun from Mareanie and a massive Hydro Pump from Feraligatr snuffed all the fire out in a matter of seconds.

But the burst of steam that followed done messed up my flying course. It made Metang and Torracat stagger back. Heck, Prisma got caught in it too. "W-Watch it, cap'n," she hollered. "I'm right in front of ya."

"… bah. Don't get in my way and you'll have nothing to worry about," Feraligatr snarled. That put a furrow in Torracat's brow. He sprang forward, crunching down on Mareanie's head. He swung his head around and managed to toss Mareanie back into this lanky metal Pokémon called Bisharp. I tried to take advantage of the opening by swooping down and using a burst of Aerial Ace speed to hammer Prisma from above. But I weren't counting on Prisma actually standing her ground. She gripped my shoulders with them ironclad paws of her and fed me a dirt sandwich courtesy of a Force Palm right on the top of my head.

"Stop making the cap'n get mad at me!" she hissed, foot igniting fer one of them Blaze Kicks. Torracat leaped into the fray. His fangs caught on fire and he bit down on Prisma's leg. Fire spilled out in all directions. Prisma's eyes widened and she jumped back.

But Feraligatr shoved her aside, claws extending and glowing bright blue. I don't know how a scavenger like him got his mitts on a Dragon Claw TM, but I had no intention of seeing how well he could swing them things about. Luckily, Metang realized it too, cause a pink Confusion ring halted Feraligatr's progress. That gave me the time I needed to fly away.

"Let's break off, boss!" I squawked. Torracat didn't respond, as he was spitting a warning Flamethrower over toward Prisma.

"You don't have to attack us, Riolu," Torracat said when the flames died down.

"Yes I do!" she barked, lashing out with a glowing fist. Torracat barely managed to skirt the attack. It took a moment for me to realize that was Sky Uppercut. "I already lost rations thanks to you lot. I'm not falling any lower in the cap'n's eyes!"

"Why are you even listening to him?" Torracat asked. He spewed another Flamethrower to put Prisma on the defensive. "You shouldn't have to answer to a Pokémon that treats you like dirt!"

"What do you know, rescuer?" Prisma growled. "My crew's my family! I'd never abandon them." She kept her wits about her and ran right through the middle of that stream of Flamethrower. Next thing I knew, she smacked the boss between his eyes with a Force Palm. He bounced back across the dirt. Metang and I turned to shield Torracat so he could grab an oran berry to heal.

"We ain't making any progress like this," I grumbled. "Don't bother talking with that there varmint, boss. Ya can't reason with crazy. And she's a crazy one."

Torracat gnashed his teeth. "Sorry. It just burns me up to see a Pokémon get mistreated like that."

"Well, well, well." Feraligatr licked his chops. "It seems we're at an impasse here. You want into the inner caverns. And we want in there, too."

"But, cap'n, we've been searching them caverns for days! Ain't no sign of the treasure," Prisma protested.


Feraligatr backhanded Prisma, knocking her onto her back. "Quiet, Runt!" he barked. "Have you learned nothing from me? Mystery Dungeons are beyond reasonable explanation. Just because we failed before doesn't mean we give up."

My eyes widened. "Wait, so the inner caverns are a Mystery Dungeon after all? Boss, ain't this way too far out for the Tapus to control the landscape? We ain't never dealt with uncontrollable Mystery Dungeons before."

"Ha! You sound like you've never seen a Mystery Dungeon. What sort of pathetic rescue team are you hacks?" Feraligatr sneered. "Runt! Mareanie! We're setting out for the inner caverns. We'll leave Bisharp to take care of these three." Feraligatr gave Bisharp a reassuring pat on the bat. Then he grabbed hold of Prisma like she were an old doll and dragged her into the bushes. Mareanie followed along after them. Metang tried to turn and hold 'em off, but that Bisharp blocked our path. He disappeared into the shadows. Before we could realize he was using Feint Attack, he popped up in front of Metang and wrangled his arms. Weren't nothing Metang could do to Bisharp. He slammed Metang into the ground, and a loud CLANG rang out through the clearing.

"Mets!" Torracat gasped. He lunged at Bisharp, teeth burning bright, but the varmint rolled out of the way. I weren't in a position to do much good either. Thought swooping in to strike him with Aerial Ace could snag some chip damage. But the blades on his arms suddenly extended and I quickly found myself backing off.

"Boss! This feller knows Guillotine. We gotta keep our distance," I squawked. Torracat recognized the danger and jumped back, opting to shoot off a Flamethrower instead. That was a foolish move, cause his attack went well high of Bisharp. But at least that seemed to make the varmint leery.

What would you have me do in this situation? Metang asked. My lone ranged attack is Confusion and it will not work.

"If'n the two of us can give ya some cover, think you can move in and attack?" I offered. Probably weren't a good idea to open my big ol' beak, though. Bisharp heard us and vanished in the blink of an eye. Seconds later, he slammed into Metang and sent him backwards again. I couldn't help but squawk and fly higher. I was a hardy li'l bird, but seeing them glowing Guillotine blades done sent my heart a-racing.

Torracat stood his ground, though, and a fast, narrow Flamethrower scored a direct hit. Bisharp's gray arms lit up bright red. He thrust them to the side and I felt a rush of heat against my feathers. "Why are you guys treating Riolu so badly?" Torracat demanded.

Oh, lordy, he was still sore about that?

Bisharp's overheated arm blades extended. He swirled them around, ready to cleave the boss into ribbons. I gulped and dropped down, readying my body for a sudden upward jolt into a U-turn. There were a nice, satisfying THWUMP when I struck Bisharp's head, stunning him.

"You okay, boss?" I asked. Torracat grabbed my wing and I hefted him on up.

"Talk about a close shave," he sighed, placing a paw to feel his right cheek. Poor feller done got his whiskers sliced right off. No idea if that meant anything important, but he seemed frazzled about it. We didn't have no time for celebrations, though. Because I felt something hard and metallic smack against my back, knocking me into the dirt. I lost my grip on Torracat, but the boss opened up his fiery mouth. He clamped onto Bisharp's shoulder and Bisharp's eyes went wide.

"Hold on, boss," I squawked, summoning a tunnel of air to ram into Bisharp with Aerial Ace. I'd have thought that combo would show the feller what's what, but he somehow stood tall. I saw his arm blades flare to life and flapped back. But it turned out that I weren't his target. Torracat realized the issue all too late. Them bright blades struck the boss upside the head. Torracat released his grip on Bisharp's shoulder and slumped down the ground. "Dang it!" I hollered. "Yer gonna pay for that."

Bisharp raised up an arm and gave me a "bring it" gesture. Course, I knew I wouldn't be any good one-on-one with the guy. I just needed to stall for a moment. Luckily, Metang was prepared to land a hand. A loud mechanical CLANG sounded when his Metal Claw met Bisharp's metal skull. The varmint's eyes done teared up and he stumbled forward. I charged in for another smack with Aerial Ace, but Bisharp bounced back lickety-split and vanished. He struck me head-on and overpowered me. I wiped out in the dirt, seeing stars. Thankfully, I had already done my part. A red glow popped up behind that varmint. He turned around and threw his arms up in complete shock as a Flamethrower swallowed him up.

Torracat stepped forth from the heat, glaring daggers at Bisharp's smoking, KO'd form. Then I felt a metal arm around me. Metang hoisted me back to my feet. Are your wings operable? he asked.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Just got thumped mighty good," I grunted. There weren't no shame to getting outmuscled, but I couldn't help feeling like this wouldn't have been a problem if I weren't just Rufflet. I'd trained mighty hard, but I was still the only one on the team who hadn't evolved. This battle only served to highlight that sore spot.

Torracat jogged over. "Yo, Rufflet. How many Reviver Seeds do we still have left?"

"Nine, I reckon," I replied. I liked my intervals of fives and tens. Nice, wholesome numbers there. So, I tended to buy up our items in clusters of five. Sure, it bothered the teammates, but not enough for them to take over toolkit management.

"Do we have any idea where those scavengers went off to?" Torracat asked, scanning the area. They had ducked into the bushes but they could've left some footprints. Problem was, following them would be a plum bad idea.

I believe I detect faint traces of their energies near the southern section of the rock spire, Metang announced, pointing a metal arm forward.

"Is that the entrance to the inner caverns?" I wondered.

It is an entrance, Metang responded. I also detect structural weakness in the base of the rocks. It is due west of where I estimate the scavengers to be. He pivoted to his left.

Torracat grinned. "Ah, so we're gonna make an entrance."

"Now, wait just a doggone minute. I ain't trying to make no rock avalanche!" I squawked. Us birds didn't do so well in them situations, y'see.

I can deflect debris with Confusion, Metang offered.

"Sounds like a plan to me. Onward, Team MIB!" Torracat declared and darted off to the west.


Not every Special Episode will be this drastic of a change to the usual narrative style. So, if you weren't a fan of this, don't worry. However, do let me know what you didn't like about it, so I can try to adjust for the other chapters.

Also, with this chapter, we now have the identities of all four named characters in the story. The significance of that will be addressed later, so stay tuned.

Next time: Team MIB finds itself in a pair of puzzling situations. Where's Professor Layton when you need him?
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Winter can't come soon enough
And now, as promised, a puzzle. And a slight puzzle boss.


Chapter 11: Spirit of an Adventurer

~Stormcracker Isle, Central Part~

I hung back. Way, way back. I weren't going anywhere near that rock face until I was absolutely, five-hundred percent sure no rocks were gonna bash my skull in. I'd already taken a coconut and a Bisharp arm to the head that day, after all. So, I stayed perched in my tree, watching Metang work the rock formation.

I have identified the structural abnormality, he announced. I squinted, and just made out a visible crack running through a partition of rock. But that weren't the only thing strange about it. And judging by Torracat's gaze, he agreed with me.

"Hold up. This rock with the crack has a totally different look than the rest of the rock face," the boss announced.

"D'ya think the weather eroded it or something?" I wondered.

Unlikely. Otherwise similar structural weaknesses would present throughout the spire, Metang said.

"Maybe this was some sort of secret entrance to the caverns?" Torracat proposed. His eyes lit up. "I'll bet the Armored Adventurer must've made this!"

"Now hold yer Mudbrays, pardner," I squawked. "Weren't them stories saying the feller got lost in this island? Why would he make his own cavern entrance?"

"Maybe a severe storm forced him to do it out of desperation?" Torracat said.

Illogical. Upon closer inspection, this rock outcropping shows evidence that it was placed against the spire's surface. This suggests the individual responsible has entered and exited the cavern multiple times, Metang declared.

"Hrmph. That's mighty strange. But we're wasting time talking semantics here," I said. "Can you bust it open or not, Metang?"

Certainly. Please stand clear. Metang's arms lit up and he lashed out at the rock with Metal Claw. It shattered after several swipes, sending pebbles scattering every which way. I flew back, waiting for the dust to settle. Eventually, I could see a dim, green glow spilling on out of the hole Metang punched.

"You coming, Rufflet?" Torracat asked. He was already halfway through the opening. Metang still hung outside, ensuring there weren't anything about to crush us.

"Yeah, yeah, gimme a sec," I said. Had to take a few deep breaths and remind myself I'd been in plenty of caves and this one weren't no different. I flew inside, quickly landing beside Torracat.

Our self-made opening sent light spilling into the cavern. I could hear the scratching of claws on rock. Probably wild Pokémon booking it toward hiding spots. The opening weren't all that big, though, so the light soon faded. Instead there were these small, green patches of light scattered about the cave.

Torracat whistled. "Whoa. This place is covered in Luminous Moss."

"All the more reason not to like it," I harrumphed. "Them plants ain't natural, I tell ya."

I can hear faint traces of running water. Please be silent, Metang said. I clamped my beak shut and Metang hovered forward. Sure enough, I heard some running water echoing off the walls. I squinted, trying to use that Luminous Moss light to see if there were any brooks. The rocks lining the cave were damp, that was for sure.

"Up ahead here." Torracat waved us over. "I just stepped in a puddle."

I glided over to him with Metang following behind. The ground squelched beneath my feet as I landed. Water seeped out of the patch of mud I had accidentally found.


But that were nothing compared to the jolt my heart felt when that mud started moving. I squawked and fluttered my wings, hovering into the air. Looking down, I could faintly see the mud wash away and reveal the white-shelled, flattened backside of a Wimpod. The li'l feller looked up, only to recoil at the sight of my feathers. It scurried off along the cave floor and disappeared into a crevice.

"Hmm, guess those claw-scraping noises were Wimpod scattering," Torracat observed. "They're pretty meek little guys, if I remember correctly."

Course they were. But where there were Wimpod, I shuddered to think of their evolved form. Giant, hard-hitting Golisopods were the last thing our team needed. Sure, I could get in some effective hits, but Golisopods could tank 'em like champs.

I have located a stream. It descends deeper into the cave, Metang announced. If we follow it, we might locate the deepest recesses of the cavern.

"You don't suppose them scavenger fellers are in here too, do ya?" I asked, looking up toward the ceiling. Patches of Luminous Moss revealed a couple of Zubat hanging from it.

"If they are, they're not gonna know we're down here," Torracat declared. "Let's follow this brook and see where it takes us."

Metang led us forward, body reflecting light from the moss. It made him glow all green and stuff. Thanks to that, I finally spotted the brook in question curving sharply around a set of rocks. Course as luck would have it, these particular rocks had a pair of Zubat that weren't as timid as their friends from before. But a quick Zen Headbutt from Metang and a Fire Fang from Torracat knocked 'em right out.

We followed the brook down rocky stairs, into the next level of the cave. It didn't have nearly as much Luminous Moss brightening things up. So, when Metang's shiny hide entered the area, it whipped a set of Wimpod up into a frenzy. They started scurrying to and fro, hissing wildly. Bright-green balls of energy flew about from desperate Struggle Bugs launched in our direction. Weren't nothing a few Aerial Aces and some Zen Headbutts couldn't handle. But we did end up down an elixir after that, thanks to yours truly.

To our surprise, the next few levels grew steadily more waterlogged. I suppose I should've expected it. We were probably getting mighty close to the water level at this point. But the water was now up to Torracat's ankles. And some Zubat thought they could take advantage of his hindered movement for easy pickings. Boy did Metang and I show 'em they were sorely mistaken. We continued on down. At this point, I were expecting things to get pitch black. But strangely enough, the place where the brook stopped held a space full of bright Luminous Moss. The light was done reflecting off puddles, making the place look greener than a shack full of Rowlets. It made the pedestal on the far part of the cavern crazy obvious. There was some sort of circular rock atop it. And next to that pedestal, a few more rocks jutted out of the ground. They all glowed different colors.

"That's odd. It seems like someone's been down here doing something," Torracat said. "But, uh, what is it? Painting rocks strikes me as a bit of a strange hobby."

I am sensing some energy from the colored rocks. They have a similar aura to the pedestal on the far side of the room, Metang explained. I believe some sort of magical hold was placed over this room.

Something caught my eye next to the glowing rocks. I fluttered over and raised my brows at a plank of wood planted into the ground. "Hey, y'all, I think I found something," I said. "Looks like a sign of some sort." I squinted to try and read it. "And it's actually written in modern print."

"So, this wasn't done in ancient times, then." Torracat's eyes lit up. "Well, what does it say?"

"Gimme a sec here," I said, adjusting my position to better read the makeshift sign. "Says here:

'My days be numbered, my mind be fuzzy.
Adventures are done, though I've sure had plenty.
Got loads of treasure, but can't trust me crew.
Left directions here for the good eggs, though there were few.
If ye're one of me buddies looking for yer treasure's share.
Prepare me favorite brew to get yer cut fair and square.'"

I kicked up some water. "Dangummit! We ain't got time for no stinking brain teasers. Them scavengers could find us at any moment."

Torracat was of a different mindset. "Hey now, don't you see what this means? The tales are true. The Armored Adventurer really did exist. And we've found the entrance to his treasure horde!" I could practically glimpse the stacks of golden coins in Torracat's eyes. "All we need to do is figure out this 'favorite brew' riddle, and we're in the clear."

"Yeah, but what the heck is it supposed to mean?" I asked. "Sounds like some sort of fancy drink. But I don't see no drink dispensing equipment nowhere."

Torracat raised a forepaw. "Hang on. When you think about it, that rock on the pedestal kinda looks like a cup." He walked up toward it and reached out to grab the rock.

WARNING! The rock's energy level has just spiked, Metang bellowed, but Torracat had already placed a paw on it. The glowing rocks' colors all changed to red and a loud whistle sounded through the cavern.

"Agh! What in tarnation is that noise?" I squawked. A pair of screeches drew my attention and my feathers nearly turned all white at the sight of a pair of angry Golbat.

I turned right around and used an Aerial Ace wind tunnel to strike one of them. But my pardners were slower on the uptake. And that resulted in the other Golbat chomping down on my wing. Purple toxins dripped out from the varmint's fangs and made my wing burn. I felt that familiar sinking sensation that came with poison washing over your body. So, I bucked the Golbat away and fumbled through the toolbox while my pardners dealt with the varmint. I snagged a pecha berry and downed it mighty quick-like.

"You okay, Rufflet?" Torracat asked. I nodded slowly. "Guess now we know what happens if we get the puzzle incorrect. But do you think those Golbat were part of it?"

"Not a clue," I sighed. "We can't stand around doing nothing, though."

"Right," Torracat nodded, "So, the riddle said we needed to 'prepare me favorite brew.'" Torracat paced back and forth in front of the glowing rocks, whose colors had reset. "Favorite brew… favorite brew… the Armored Adventurer's favorite brew…"

His eyes suddenly widened and he shouted, "That's it!"

"Err, ya mind looping me in, boss?"

"There's a drink in old man Crabominable's place that's only for top-ranked exploration teams: the Armored Brew!" Torracat explained. "My dad told me all about it: 'One part spicy, two parts sweet, to make the best adventurers feel the heat. Add a pinch of bitter, and a half part dry, and now this hardy brew is ready for you to try!' That must be how we can solve this riddle."

"Cripes. That's one heck of an explanation," I mumbled. "I couldn't even follow ya. What about you, Mets?"

Metang faced away from us, studying the rocks intently. Upon careful analysis, I have determined that these rocks' colorations match those of the figy, wiki, mago, and aguav Berries. All of which are the primary berries used for making juices in Horizon.

I raised an eyebrow. "Are you trying to tell me these here rocks are actually crystallized berries? That's total hogwash!"

Negative. Given these rocks are displaying energy signatures, I hypothesize they are figurative representations of the berries used to prepare such juices, Metang elaborated. Perhaps, if we are to interpret Torracat's recipe onto these rocks, we can solve the riddle.

"Uh... right... yeah..." I rubbed my head with a wing. "Could ya say that again with some smaller words, pardner?"

Much as I'd hate to admit it, Torracat were faster on the uptake with this. "Right, so when it says one part spicy," he said, as he walked up toward one of the rocks, "We strike this rock that looks like a figy berry." He then tapped it with his paw and its colors brightened up. "Next is two parts sweet."

"… which means we hit that mago berry-looking rock twice?" I asked, finally catching on to things. I were closest to that rock, so I gave it two pecks with my beak. Like the first rock, it lit right up like an excited Lanturn.

A pinch of bitter suggests lightly applying pressure to this rock here, Metang declared, tapping a claw to the aguav berry rock.

"Oh, good. I thought we actually had to pinch it," Torracat sighed in relief. "Cause that'd be a bit hard for any of us to manage." I sure hoped he were joking with that one.

"So then, how do we do half of a part on that last rock?" I asked. "Ya can't half-touch nothing. That don't make a lick of sense."

Torracat sized up the only rock that wasn't glowing. "Wait a second," he muttered, leaning it toward it, "There's a very fine line right through the center of this rock. It's not one rock, it's actually two!"

I fluttered over to the boss. "Huh. Well I'll be a Vullaby's afternoon snack."

Caution: the left rock is a few hues darker than the right one. The cavern's odd lighting messes with the color patterns. Thus, the right rock better resembles a wiki berry, Metang said. Torracat reached out and tapped the right rock. This time, all four rocks lit up bright green, as did the cup-shaped rock on the pedestal.

"I think we got it, guys," Torracat cheered. He leaped toward the pedestal and touched the glowing rock. The entire cavern started trembling mighty fierce. Torracat have a yowl and jumped back. Turns out, that cropping of rock holding that pedestal were a trap door of sorts! Who'dve thunk it?

It slowly slid open, revealing stone steps that descended toward a soft blue glow. "That must be it!" Torracat chirped. "The Armored Adventurer's secret treasure stash! What are we waiting for? Let's get going!"


~Stormcracker Cave, Basin Area~

I didn't think things could get so bright so deep underground. But somehow, we managed to find a room that were glowing just about every color I could done think of. It was like looking into Ho-Oh's wings or something. Though, most of the area were glowing blue on account of these massive light crystals jammed into the rock walls. Still, there were piles of golden coins and other goodies that took in that light and projected a whole bunch of different colors.

"Golly, I ain't seen this much sparkly stuff in one place before!" I gasped. "Look at all these things. How could one Pokémon gather up so much treasure?"

"You read it yourself in the riddle, Rufflet. He had a team," Torracat chuckled. "Granted, one that didn't sound all too pleasant to work with. Kind of like that no-good Feraligatr's crew."

"Are you still sore about Riolu? C'mon, get over it," I groaned. "Look at where we are, man. This is the stuff of legends." I started looking around. "But what do we take? The coins? The crowns? I think I see a King's Rock in the corner over there. Any idea how much a 'mon will pay for something like that?"

Attention. I have detected an abnormality with the room, Metang cut in. That light crystal in the middle has a markedly different energy signature than the others. I do not believe it is natural.

"Well, yeah, the Armored Adventurer said in the riddle he told the 'good eggs' in his crew where to find this place," Torracat pointed out. "One of them must have brought thi– hold on." He approached the crystal. "There's a book next to it."

"Careful, boss. Don't want to be setting off no booby traps like with that puzzle on the last floor," I cautioned. "The Armored Adventurer could've put some other magical wards up."

Torracat nodded. "Good point. Mets, open it up with your telekinesis."

Very well. Metang pointed his arms forward and the book's cover flew opened. I winced, bracing myself for some sort of attack. Luckily, nothing happened.

"Guys… GUYS!" Torracat was jumping up and down excitedly. "I don't believe this. This… this is the Armored Adventurer's personal diary!"

"Yer kidding!"

"No fooling. Listen here." Torracat cleared his throat. "This first page says, 'Cap'n's log. The crew and I returned from our expedition around the Air Continent. Our biggest score came courtesy of Mt. Freeze, where I got a memorial wing from the mighty Articuno. But the plight was perilous. We almost lost Samurott in an avalanche. Given the dangerous nature of me work, I've decided to start chronicling me travels in this here diary. I don't know what I'll do with it when my days start getting numbered…' and yadda, yadda. You guys get the idea."

He turned back to us. "We've got to take this with us, above all else!"

"I agree. It'll be the perfect proof for the guild," I said. "But, out of curiosity, what do you suppose the last entry says?"


Metang flipped the pages forward until the boss held up a forepaw. He looked down at the diary and his brow furrowed. That weren't what I hoped to see. "Interesting," he muttered, "Listen to this, guys…"

Cap'n's log… what I think may be me final entry. These old bones of mine have grown too weary. I fear me days of seafaring and traversing the continents are at an end. But I can't complain. I've been fortunate to undertake such an incredible journey. If only me blasted crew weren't squabbling over who gets what parts of the treasure I've collected!

Most of 'em ain't even that loyal! Never following me orders. Always scheming about what should happen if I fall in a battle. Heck, me closest mate told me a few of 'em were thinking of mutiny! I don't want me precious treasures falling into their greedy little mitts. How is me mind and body supposed to find peace with such worries?

After thinking on it, I've made a decision to seek help from the mystical Ninetales of Mt. Freeze. I shall have a curse laid upon me. To protect me treasure, I'll forever bind me spirit to me body. Any unworthy Pokémon who attempts to take me treasure, shall suffer me eternal wrath!

Though I may not journey completely to the next world, at least this curse shall give me peace of mind.

"What a load of crock!" Torracat spat. "You can't bind a spirit to this plane of existence. When it's your time to go, it's your time to go. I guess maybe you could stay as a ghost-type? Mets, you sensing any ghost-type energy?"

Negative, Metang replied.

"I dunno, boss." I scratched my chin. "Ain't you ever heard that ol' story 'bout the curse of Nintetales? I ain't trying to end up like that poor Gardevoir."

"That's totally superstition and you know it," Torracat declared. "I'll grab the journal. You guys start packing some of those coins into the toolbox." Before I could so much as start to protest, Torracat had his claws all over the Armored Adventurer's diary. The moment he did that, a bright blue glow encased the book. His eyes widened and he dropped it to the ground, stumbling back in a daze.

Alert: the energy levels of the central crystal are rising rapidly, Metang warned. Course, his robotic voice made it even more unsettling.

We heard a crackle. And then another, louder crackle.

"The crystal's splintering, fellers!" I shouted, pointing a wing forward.

Torracat scrambled forward and scooped up the journal. "Then we'd better book it before something bad hap–"

The crystal burst open, sending jagged shards in all directions. Metang floated over and shielded the boss and me from the debris. A bright blue glow spilled out of the crystal. The cave floor quaked beneath our feet.

I am detecting a new Pokémon's presence, Metang exclaimed. He turned around toward the bright light, only to end up careening back through the room and smacking the far wall. Torracat and I turned with wide eyes. We found ourselves looking at the bulky, armor-plated form of a Golispod.

"Grrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaggggh!" that big ol' bug roared. "Treeeeaaasssuuuuuureee… muuuuuust proootteeeeeeect!"

"I knew it! We done triggered the curse!" I panicked. "Oh, real nice work there, boss. Yer gonna get our souls trapped in here for all eternity!"

"Whoa, the Armored Adventurer was a Golisopod? Who would've thunk it?" Torracat gasped. "Actually, that name seems like a dead giveaway. I can't believe we didn't realize it sooner."

"That's what yer focused on?" I yowled, ducking a swipe from the massive bug. "This thing wants to slice us to ribbons! It's his undead spirit or whatever."

"Well, it's types are bug and water, so you're the best guy to deal with it," Torracat declared.

"Then help keep me safe, doggone it!" I squawked. Golisopod's spirit let out a roar. The spikes on its right arm extended into glowing blue blades and it ran forward. It hurtled its arm around and slammed Torracat, knocking him back into a pile of gold.

"Ooooog… what just hit me?" Torracat groaned.

"That were one heck of a Razor Shell," I gasped. Course, now the spirit had its back to me. So, it was high time to get in some offense. I darted downward into an air current and hit Golispod's back with Aerial Ace. Problem was, his back were coated in thick armor. I thought I dealt some decent damage, until the spirit whirled around and broadsided me with a blue-bladed swipe of Razor Shell. I desperately flapped my wings to maintain my altitude, but Golispod focused squarely on me. "S-Stay back, you cooky spook!" I squawked, trying to use my smaller size to zip around the big feller. If'n there were ever a moment I wished I were a Braviary, it was right then for sure.

A shower of coins exploded out from behind us. Metang hovered forward, his metal face glowing bright pink. Golispod had time to turn around and let out a confused, "Groh," before he got Zen Headbutted back into the remains of his crystal.

"Nice shot, Mets!" Torracat exclaimed. "You okay?"

Yes, however we are down another Reviver Seed, Metang reported. Luckily, I do not believe the spirit can use the attack that knocked me out again.

Cripes! It had knocked Metang out in one blow? That didn't inspire all that much confidence. "Look alive!" I shouted, flying overhead to try and position myself behind the spirit. Golisopod lumbered forward, both arms lighting up with Razor Shell blades. Torracat frowned and fired a Flamethrower, hoping it would keep the spirit at bay.

But Golisopod didn't seem that bothered. A garbled roar sounded and Golisopod stomped forward, swinging both his arms at Torracat. Metang flew in front of the boss, face lit up with psychic energy. The Razor Shells bounced of Metang's glowing face, but he fell down to the ground from the force of the collision. Golisopod turned his sights on Torracat and lunged forward.

"Boss!" I shouted and made my move. Another Aerial Ace, of course. It were the best thing in that situation. I slammed into Golisopod's back as hard as I could manage, sending him crashing to the ground. That let Torracat run away unharmed. He spun around and returned the favor with a Flamethrower, giving me time to retreat and set up another angle for attack.

Golisopod roared furiously and lumbered to his feet. He spun around, snuffing out any lingering traces of Torracat's attack. Metang took this time to fire a wave of Confusion, hoping to knock Golisopod back on the ground. But the spirit held tough and lunged at Metang. This time his arms lit up green and he slashed Metang in the face with a nasty X-Scissor. Again, my pardner got flung across the cave, smacking into a mound of gemstones. He sank down to the ground, swirls in his eyes. I realized all too late that I shouldn't have stolen a glance at him. Next thing I knew I'd done been plucked out of the sky and clubbed across the chest with a Razor Shell blade.

I landed right next to Metang, who was glowing from taking in the energy of another Reviver Seed. "Ugh, just how much of a whooping can that spirit take?" I groaned. "Are we making any headway against it?"

I am unsure, Metang replied. But it is inadvisable to leave Torracat on his own against this oppo–.


Torracat flew over our heads and struck a light crystal. He flopped to the ground with a dazed look about him.

"Treeeeaaaaasuuuuuuuurrrreeeeeee!" Golisopod hissed, fixing his sites on the three of us. Torracat needed time for a Reviver Seed to kick in. So, I jumped in front of him and spread my wings protectively. The spirit's empty eyes glowed as bright as all the blue crystals. Light exploded out all around him. I had to shield my eyes with a wing. When the light faded, there weren't no trace of Golispod nowhere.

"What the–? Where did he go?" I asked. "Mets, you seeing anything?"

Analyzing… analy–

A blur of blue light raced right in front of me. It somehow ran over Metang, sending him rolling down the pile of gems. My eyes widened to the size of melons.

"What the heck was that?" Torracat asked, now back on his feet.

"How should I know? Maybe it's part of that crazy curse ya done triggered?" I replied. I should've known better than to complain like that. But I were mighty scared with Golisopod's spirit running about.

"Well, we have to stop it, or we're never getting out of here."

I noticed a light crystal to our left glowing brighter than any of the others. That light gathered up around the crystal and looked like it was going to fire at us. "Duck!" I shouted, and tackled the boss to the ground. The same blur of light that got Metang raced over our heads. I had just enough time to roll over and see the blur strike a different light crystal. Weren't too hard to put two and two together from there. "Boss, the spirit's done jumping between the crystals," I said.

Torracat's eyes narrowed. "Then we're smashing up some light crystals. That'll leave Golisopod with nowhere to hide."

"But that's our main source of light!" I protested.

"You have a better idea?"

I saw the spirit getting ready to crystal-jump again. "Nope," I cawed, and took off into the air. Torracat turned and raced to his right. He dodged the blur and shot a quick burst of Flamethrower at the crystal in front of him. My heart sank when it failed to do anything.

Inadvisable. Excessive force is needed to shatter the crystals. Not heat, Metang said. Golisopod's spirit crystal-jumped once again. Metang fired a burst of psychic energy toward the ground, pushing himself higher up to dodge the attack. He also managed to lash out at a ceiling crystal with a Metal Claw. It broke and sent shards falling to the ground.


"Did y'all hear that?" I gasped.

"Yup. The spirit sure didn't like Mets wrecking that crystal," Torracat said. "Maybe the crystals are tied to the curse somehow? He did pop out of one!"

A spark lit up in my brain. "That must be it, boss. If we break the crystals, we can weaken Golisopod enough to make him vulnerable!" Both of us had to jump apart to dodge Golisopod's spirit. It struck the wall behind us and started retreating toward a nearby light crystal.

"In that case, let's try to keep the spirit busy," I suggested. "Mets! You've gotta break them crystals, pardner."

Understood. Metang floated off toward the far part of the cave. Meanwhile, I turned around and charged toward the light crystal holding Golisopod. I slashed the thing, then quickly backwinged outta there so Torracat could douse it in a stream of fire. The crystal glowed and Golisopod's form fell out of it.

The moment it did, Golisopod charged forward. I expected him to go for Torracat with Razor Shell, so I done called up a wind tunnel to hit his side with Aerial Ace. That knocked him down the pile of gemstones. "Treeeasssssuuuuuuuure!" Golisopod howled while two crystals shattered off in the distance.

"Keep it up, Mets!" I encouraged, before flying upward to dodge a swipe of Golisopod's Razor Shell.

"Gimme an elixir, Rufflet," Torracat called. "My Flamethrower's faltering."

"I'm… a bit… YOW!" I had to dive out of the air, cause Golisopod dissolved into a ball of light again. He struck the wall once more and raced for a light crystal. My eyes widened when I noticed Metang floating toward the same one.

"Hold back, Mets!" I yelled, but it were too late. Golisopod shot out from the crystal, knocking Metang to the ground. He entered the only other remaining light crystal. I tossed Torracat his elixir and flew over to Metang.

"Cripes, this guys just won't quit," Torracat complained. He turned and spat a Flamethrower at the occupied crystal, with little effect. I gave Metang an oran berry and helped him back up. Then I flew forward, only to end up slamming into a pile of coins. Golisopod had crystal-jumped right into me.

The whole cavern was spinning. I tried plucking an oran berry out of the toolkit, but my strength failed me. That spirit did me in with that blow. I spent a few moments out cold before my vision returned. Torracat was over by my side to help me to my feet.

"How's the battle?" I mumbled.

"He's hiding in the last crystal," Torracat reported. "We'll take it out together."

I stumbled to my feet and found Metang at our side. The lone crystal in the room glowed crazy bright. I thought it were gonna explode on its own. But my teammates charged toward it. And I weren't about to ditch 'em. I flew along after them, using a burst of wind to speed forward. That let me strike the crystal first. That angered Golisopod, because a ball of light raced toward me. But I did my job. Metang had his opening and smashed that crystal wide open. The second he did, the ball of light stopped chasing me. It dropped to the ground, morphing back into Golisopod's usual form.

"… ha! Not so tough without your precious crystals, huh?" Torracat laughed and fired off a Flamethrower. It struck Golisopod's back and the spirit let out a mighty loud hiss.

"Nuuooooooooh! Treeeeaaaasuuuuuurrreeee… myyyyy treeeeeaaaaasssuuuuure!"

Golisopod fell to his knees. I didn't want to see any more fancy tricks or hex-powered nonsense, so I dive-bombed him from above. Then Metang hammered him with a Zen Headbutt. Golisopod reached a shaky arm out toward us, only for it to start dissolving right in front of us. "Can… not… beeeeeeeeeeee!" Golisopod howled as his body disappeared, leaving the cavern pitch black.

"We did it!" Torracat cheered. "We dispelled the curse!"

"Yeah," I sighed. "Remind me never to speak to no Ninetales in my lifetime."

"I think this means it's safe to nab some treasure and go," Torracat said. "Anyone have any idea where that journal got off to?"

But at that moment, the room started shaking. Light spilled into it from on high. All three of us turned around, eyes widening in shock.

"At last… the legendary treasure of the Armored Adventurer is all mine for the taking!"

I heard Torracat's claws scrape the rocks. "… Feraligatr," he growled. "So, the scavengers caught up to us."

Looks like we weren't outta troubled waters yet.


I did say we'd be moving a way from typical Pokémon moves. Here's the first case of that.

Next time: Torracat sits the scavengers down, looks them in the eyes, and asks them, "Can't we all just get along?" Nah, only kidding. They're gonna fight!
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Gone. Not coming back.
It's been far too long since I last commented here! Or no, possibly it's just that you update very quickly and I've fallen behind a bit as a result, but like, more content is not something I'm going to complain about, so. Here's a review! Sort of a disjointed one, because I wrote this up from notes I made on while on the train, but a review nonetheless.

First off, I think I'd say not to worry about making Shane and Tessa too bitter or argumentative; you're hitting the balance well so far, and anyway I'm not all that keen on the saccharine tone of the friendships depicted in the PMD games anyway -- flaws make for interesting reading, in character and relationship. And what you're doing is indeed interesting.

On a more general note: not sure I've mentioned it before, but I quite like how Gen VII-centric this is. I think it's been a fantastic gen so far, especially in terms of creature design, and it's nice to see all the Gen VII mons getting their time in the spotlight.

The big chunk of exposition is handled quite well, too -- obviously it's a big chunk of exposition, so it's always going to be rough, but you do a good job of breaking it up with dialogue with Shane. Given what you wanted to introduce, it's not too bad. As for your lore concerns specifically, well. I think we've all rewritten canon at some point. It does seem a bit odd that Ho-oh of all things is made the force behind Solgaleo and Lunala -- it doesn't really make intuitive sense to me -- but there's no reason why it couldn't be so, I guess.

Some things I might take issue with:

The colour drained from Shane's face

This seems slightly odd, given that he's an Alolan vulpix.

Tessa's "never take Arceus' name in vain" moment does seem a bit forced; like, it's quite obviously just there to introduce that bit of lore. It doesn't feel like a mistake she'd naturally make; it feels like something that's been imposed on her by authorial intervention.

But yeah. A quiet sort of chapter. Not much happened, which leads me to wonder if maybe it could have been cut down and used as the first third of the next chapter. Which is an interesting one, I think. I'm not sure I really buy Tessa's mother's need for secrecy. It feels so cliché when someone says "oh, I can't tell you because of Reasons" that unless they can offer some sort of explanation as to what that Reason might be, I get suspicious that they're only keeping secrets for the sake of narrative convenience. I suppose we're still early enough in the story that I'll reserve judgement on the matter for now.

apposable thumbs

That should be 'opposable thumbs' there.

The munchlax were a cool touch -- and a cool fight, too! You've improved your action scenes a whole lot since that first one, and it's really great to have been able to see your skills like actively developing like that. Definitely interested to see where this infection line goes, as well. The crystalline elements and the sort of guzzlord overtones, along with the detail you went into with regard to the Solgaleo/Lunatone lore elements, do suggest some sort of UB link, which is interesting. That's fertile territory there, and I haven't seen it explored much in fic yet. The actual munchlax themselves, though -- they might have been a bit too fully described; with creepiness, usually, less is more.

"Grooooooooooaaaaaaaaaarrrrgggggh!" They roared in agony before collapsing onto their bellies.

Is that a dialogue attribution? It looks like it, but if so, 'they' shouldn't be capitalised. Even if the comma at the end of a line of dialogue is replaced with an exclamation or question mark, you don't need to capitalise the first word of the subsequent attribution.

Onto the special episode, then, and it's a little more hit and miss than the usual chapters, I think. Like, a whole mini-story in Braviary's voice is a bit of a stretch -- his is sort of a comically exaggerated voice, the Lotta Hart of birds, to continue the line of comparisons to the voices of Ace Attorney characters, and while it's entertaining enough in small doses it grates when you sustain it like that. You kind of avoid that, but not in the best way; there are times when Braviary's narration no longer sounds like Braviary but just like the normal narration of the main story, which does get around the issue of Braviary's voice being grating when it permeates the whole narrative but also sort of stops it sounding so much like him. On occasion, you've got these odd inconsistencies within a single sentence. Like here:

Guy could take any subject related to explorin' and make it as boring as sentry duty at the guild

Braviary says explorin', but also boring, and I can't really see why. Maybe just a missed apostrophe during editing?

There are also some places where Metang's dialogue isn't correctly punctuated -- if it's followed by an attribution, it has to end with a comma, then an uncapitalised attribution. By way of example:

"I have identified the structural abnormality." He announced

should be:

"I have identified the structural abnormality," he announced.

Perhaps you're doing this as part of the stylisation of Metang's dialogue? But I think it conflicts too much with the sense of the thing to be worthwhile, if that's what you're doing.

Perhaps, if we are to interpret Torracat's recipe onto these rocks, we can solve the riddle.[/b]

Broken tag there.

There's a certain degree of anthropomorphisation you expect from PMD fics, but I think for me Braviary using his wings to actually manipulate objects is a bit too far. That might just be personal taste, but I honestly just can't stretch my imagination far enough to believe in an actual living creature doing that, and I thought I'd let you know.

Still, my critiques aside -- it's fun, and it's a nice romp through the past with an interesting boss fight (not at all something easy to carry off in a fictional rather than game context) and a satisfying enough structure. I think the main story is certainly a lot stronger, but that's more a testament to the strength of that story than the weakness of this one. It's definitely still worth a read, and I'll look forward to seeing how it ends!
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Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
He sprang forward, and crunched down on Mareanie's head.

I bet that tasted weird.

There weren't no shame to getting outmuscled, but I couldn't help feeling like this wouldn't have been a problem were I a Braviary. I'd trained mighty hard, but I was still the only one on the team who hadn't evolved.

The woes of being a 5th-gen mon. :p

Metang led us forward. His body was reflectin' light from the moss. It made him glow all green and stuff.

I love that.

I am detecting a new Pokémon's presence. Metang exclaimed. He turned around toward the bright light, only to end up careening back through the room and smacking the far wall. Torracat and I turned with wide eyes. We found ourselves looking at the bulky, armor-plated form of a Golispod.

"Grrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaggggh!" That big ol' bug roared. "Treeeeaaasssuuuuuureee… muuuuuust proootteeeeeeect!"

Undead golisopod! Effin' rad. :D I certainly enjoyed the vs. Angstrom battle. Looking forward to the rest of Braviary/Rufflet's little backstory. Side story? Maybe a bit of both, come to think of it.


Winter can't come soon enough
Let's bring this first Special Episode to a close, shall we? As an apology for putting up with my foolish decision to make this first-person, I've also made a new bonus scene that will be down in the next post. First off, review replies.

It's been far too long since I last commented here! Or no, possibly it's just that you update very quickly and I've fallen behind a bit as a result, but like, more content is not something I'm going to complain about, so.
The update schedule is honestly more for my sake. I'm hoping shorter, more frequent chapters help me stay motivated to write this and prevent any burnout.

First off, I think I'd say not to worry about making Shane and Tessa too bitter or argumentative; you're hitting the balance well so far, and anyway I'm not all that keen on the saccharine tone of the friendships depicted in the PMD games anyway -- flaws make for interesting reading, in character and relationship. And what you're doing is indeed interesting.
Well, thank you kindly. Hopefully you'll like the next couple of episodes then, because their iffy relationship will most certainly be tested.

On a more general note: not sure I've mentioned it before, but I quite like how Gen VII-centric this is. I think it's been a fantastic gen so far, especially in terms of creature design, and it's nice to see all the Gen VII mons getting their time in the spotlight.
Glad to hear it. I think the internet's general reaction to Gen VII is mixed (possibly leaning negative), but I really like a lot of the Pokémon it introduced. If my avatar's not a dead giveaway, I'm immensely biased. XP

It does seem a bit odd that Ho-oh of all things is made the force behind Solgaleo and Lunala -- it doesn't really make intuitive sense to me -- but there's no reason why it couldn't be so, I guess.
It's not intuitive. It's more of a development gag. I believe the original Gen VII rumors made reference to a "Project Rainbow." Ho-Oh is the Rainbow Pokémon, and thus it ended up getting tied to the cosmic duo. Also, Ho-Oh gets neglected quite a bit as far as spin-offs go, and I wanted to give the guy some love. This is coming from someone who prefers Lugia, but still.

This seems slightly odd, given that he's an Alolan vulpix.

Tessa's "never take Arceus' name in vain" moment does seem a bit forced; like, it's quite obviously just there to introduce that bit of lore. It doesn't feel like a mistake she'd naturally make; it feels like something that's been imposed on her by authorial intervention.
These have been rectified. Now, Tessa just doesn't see the resemblance in Type: Null's helmet. It's not like she knows what Arceus looks like, after all.

But yeah. A quiet sort of chapter. Not much happened, which leads me to wonder if maybe it could have been cut down and used as the first third of the next chapter. Which is an interesting one, I think. I'm not sure I really buy Tessa's mother's need for secrecy.
Understandable. The tidbits surrounding the lore dump probably seem odd right now but they're laying the groundwork for a topic that we'll be diving into starting next episode. As for the other bit, you're right. I did some slight revisions. So, yes, Lucario's being intentionally vague. But now she gives her reason. Essentially "There's something bad out there. And if I tell you what I'm doing, it can find out if it gets you and then I'll be in danger." Not the most noble gesture.

The actual munchlax themselves, though -- they might have been a bit too fully described; with creepiness, usually, less is more.
Fair enough. I was a bit uncertain if I got the Guzzlord bits across, so I may have overdone it. Unless you're referring to the scene after they're defeated, in which case, I wasn't really sure how best to describe "the life and color get sucked out of you." And I wanted to make sure people didn't interpret it as, "Wait, isn't this just like Yveltal and Oblivion Wing?" Because Super did that already. <.<;

Even if the comma at the end of a line of dialogue is replaced with an exclamation or question mark, you don't need to capitalise the first word of the subsequent attribution.
Yeah, I missed those. So, all the chapters through this one were rough drafted before I learned about dialogue attribution (thanks to you and Negrek). So every revision process has had me making those changes, but I've missed a few. Like the ones with Metang, which you also pointed out.

Onto the special episode, then, and it's a little more hit and miss than the usual chapters, I think.
I think it's a case of me getting overeager. I really wanted the Special Episodes to be different, and more experimental. Going first-person was not a good idea for this one. Needless to say, no other characters with dialogue quirks will do this for the remainder of the story. The next special episode uses the usual narration anyway.

There's a certain degree of anthropomorphisation you expect from PMD fics, but I think for me Braviary using his wings to actually manipulate objects is a bit too far. That might just be personal taste, but I honestly just can't stretch my imagination far enough to believe in an actual living creature doing that, and I thought I'd let you know.
No, that's fair enough. I changed the ones that specifically referenced his wings to use his beak or legs/talons.

I think the main story is certainly a lot stronger, but that's more a testament to the strength of that story than the weakness of this one. It's definitely still worth a read, and I'll look forward to seeing how it ends!
It's fine. I know they won't be for everyone. Again, I think they were ways for me to avoid burnout and give me something different to do without starting up a whole different fic. A bit selfish, admittedly, but I'm glad you found some enjoyment out of it. Thank you for the continued feedback, too. It's very helpful.

Sike Saner
I bet that tasted weird.
I headcanon that Pokémon can't taste what they bite when they're using a fang-based attack. :p

The woes of being a 5th-gen mon.
Yup. Braviary would be my favorite flying-type if it wasn't so ridiculously impossible to use one in an in-game team. So the honor goes to Togekiss instead.

Undead golisopod! Effin' rad. I certainly enjoyed the vs. Angstrom battle.
You have no idea how tempted I was to sneak a Guzma joke somewhere into the battle, but I couldn't make it fit. As for the other bit, thanks for pointing that out. I had a work-related paper open while I was editing, and mucked things up with Word's find and replace feature, which resulted in a whole bunch of Angstroms (the unit of measurement) getting added into the chapter. Clearly I didn't find all of them. XP

And with that, onto the chapter!


Chapter 12: Dead 'Mon Tells No Tales

Torracat had clamped a paw around my beak before I could say anything. He shoved me behind a pile of jewels. "Sshhhh!" he whispered. "Let's lay low. Maybe we can sneak out while they're preoccupied with the treasure."

"Yer actually gonna let 'em take this stuff?" I gasped.

"Some of it, yeah," Torracat answered. "There's way too much for any single group to take. Besides, they're just trying to scrape by in life."

"But they attacked us," I protested. "Wait a sec." I narrowed my eyes at the boss. "This is about Riolu, ain't it? Why you still harping on her? We'll never see her again after this."

"Because I can't just let a young Pokémon like us suffer at the hands of a bully," Torracat blurted out. "If they have this treasure, Feraligatr will leave her alone. I'm sure of it."

"Cap'n! I heard someone. We ain't alone here," Prisma's voice carried. I groaned and rolled my eyes. So much for laying low. Maybe we could still weasel out of this without a fight?

Wait a second. What was I thinking? Of course we could do that! "Psst… boss," I whispered. "I've got me an Escape Orb. Let's just grab some stuff and get going."

"No. I'm not leaving without that journal," Torracat said. "I think we can negotiate with these guys. There's plenty of treas–"

Our hiding spot exploded, burying us in a large pile of jewels. I thrashed about, trying to find my way out. This was the worst experience possible for a bird like me! Sure, they were jewels. But jewels were just colorful rocks, and I never did well with rocks. It took a solid minute, but I tunneled my way out, taking in a big gulp of air. It's not like I were drowning or nothing, but I weren't exactly breathing right when I was pinned down. It took a few moments for me to realize something was off. I hoisted up my wing, only to jump in surprise.

"M-My toolbox!" I stammered. "Where'd it go?"

"Looking for something, landlubber?"

I looked straight ahead. Prisma stood where the pile of jewels once towered, spinning my toolbox kit by its strap. My heart leaped into my throat. I was just about to complain, but my brain done remembered about the Escape Orb. If I let 'em know about it, we were gonna be in a heap of trouble. Instead, I settled for shouting, "Give that back, ya varmint!"

Prisma stuck her tongue out at me. "Never! It's me property now, scallywag."

"Runt!" Feraligatr snarled, making Prisma jump. "Now's not the time to be acting like an immature pup. We're here for the treasure, not their worthless supplies!"

"But cap'n, they be a rescue squad. There might be some valuable plunder in here," Prisma squeaked. Feraligatr lashed out, striking Prisma across the face. She collapsed on the ground and Feraligatr scooped up my toolkit.

"You don't have any pull here, Runt," he hissed. "I'm the captain and I say what we take. Or do you want the crew leaving you like we found you? Because I'd be more than happy to obli– AIIIIYYYYYAAAAAAAAGH!"

Torracat had lunged at Feraligatr and crunched down on his scaly shoulder. Feraligatr thrashed about but couldn't buck the boss off. Metang managed to cordon Mareanie off and hit him square between his eyes with a psychically-charged headbutt. And at that point, the battle was on!

Prisma managed to get to her feet and lunge at Torracat. "Get off the cap'n!" she barked, grabbing hold of the boss and dragging him to the ground. Feraligatr locked eyes with me and I quickly found myself flying backwards to dodge a big, gushing Hydro Pump stream.

"I'm-a pluck those feathers of yours off one by one, kid," Feraligatr threatened. His teeth started frosting over and he ran right after me. Fortunately, I was way more agile. I dipped down toward the ground. By the time Feraligatr lunged to use Ice Fang, I had already flown around him. I kicked up a wind turbine and let it carry me straight into Feraligatr's back. He fell onto some gold coins.

But Feraligatr bounced back mighty quick. He rolled to his feet and jumped toward me. I didn't have the time to pull up. Instead, he bit down on my wing, encasing it in a thick layer of ice and making me squawk in pain. Feraligatr pinned me underneath his large frame. "You rescue types think you're so tough," he scoffed. "But when it gets right down to it, you can't hold a candle to battle-hardened Pokémon like me."

Feraligatr opened his mouth to attack when a blast of pink energy knocked him of mef. Metang floated above me and brought one of his arms crashing down against my wing. It shattered the ice, allowing me to hop to my feet and take to the air, banking toward my right. "Mets! Ya gotta switch targets with me, pardner," I begged. "I can't hit Feraligatr from a distance and it's too risky to get in close."

Understood, Metang replied. He turned around and floated in Feraligatr's direction. Mareanie didn't like that one bit, though. He shot a stream of piping-hot water at Metang. But Metang must've seen a dirty shot like that coming. He veered off to his right and the Scald went straight into Feraligatr. It didn't do much damage, but it sure made the varmint mighty angry.

"Mareanie, you fool! Watch where you're aiming or I'll see to it you don't get a cut of any of this stuff," Feraligatr hissed. Mareanie tensed up, giving me the perfect opening to fly in front of him and slash him with my feet. I quickly pulled up and rolled to my right. Poisonous stems whizzed past my left side, nearly knocking me off course.

"… you don't have to do this, Riolu. I've seen how your so-called crew treats you," I overheard Torracat pleading. I took a quick look and saw him ducking a Force Palm strike from Prisma.

"The crew is me family!" Prisma hissed. "Without them I'll be all alone, with nowhere to go and no one to turn to!"

Hoo boy. Torracat really wanted to get through to the gal. That was gonna make things harder. I made a sharp right to fly over to the boss.

"Hey, get back here! I'm not finished with you," Mareanie hissed, trying to hop after me. Scalding water raced forward, but sailed wide of me. Seems Mareanie couldn't attack all that well while moving. Which was perfect for me. I quickly doubled back, summoned a wind tunnel, and careened into his squishy head. This sent him flying back into a rock wall.

When I turned away from Mareanie, I found Torracat on his back, with Prisma trying to pin him down. "Rrrggghhrrr… you're… quite the scrapper," the boss grunted.

"This treasure be ours for the taking!" Prisma hissed. She raised an arm up to strike Torracat with Force Palm. I darted forward and slashed her in the shoulder. Course, this done messed up my momentum. Next thing I knew, the two of us were tumbling into some of the treasure. Seconds later, my chest plume was on fire! I smacked the ground and had to snuff out the flames by rolling around. Prisma ran toward me, her eyes blazing in anger. Lucky for me, Torracat barreled into her and quickly bit down on her leg with flame-coated fangs, tripping her up.

"Just listen to me, Riolu," he begged. "Do you really think Feraligatr's going to let you have any of this treasure for yourself?"

"Rrrrgggh… shut up!" Prisma yelled and lashed out with a spiraling Sky Uppercut. She struck the boss in the jaw, upending him. I didn't have any time to help him either, because boiling water grazed my right shoulder, signifying Mareanie was back in action. I flew forward, zigzagging through the air to try and confuse him.

"Hold still, you stupid bird," Mareanie growled. He spun around and hurled more purple Poison Jab spikes in my direction. I barely strafed them while I swooped in to attack. Mareanie's eyes widened right before I used a gust of wind to ram his frontside. He tumbled backward and I broke off once again.


I flinched as Feraligatr sank black, shadowy fangs down on Metang metal skull. That varmint still had my toolbox kit. Worse yet, I saw him pull out one of our oran berries while Metang was dazed. He scarfed it down, then turned and fired a massive Hydro Pump at me. I weren't expecting him to notice me, so I got blasted clean out of the sky. I crashed down in the middle of the cave and everything went black. It took several seconds for a Reviver Seed to kick in and get me back to my feet. But this weren't good. We were gonna run out of those pretty soon, and then who knows what the scavengers would do?

"Hey, cap'n!" Prisma croaked, trying to scramble away from Torracat. "Can't ye give me one of them berries? I be feeling a touch weak."

Feraligatr turned and glared at her. "Didn't I already tell you you've lost ration privileges? Stop complaining and deal with Torracat or you'll be facing limited rations for far longer."

Prisma winced and looked down. That gave Torracat a second wind. He directed his anger toward Feraligatr, lunging toward the varmint and sinking his fangs into his stomach. I turned away from the howling gator and flew at Prisma, whacking her from behind.

"Y'know, my boss is awful concerned about ya," I said, moving higher in the air to dodge Prisma's flaming leg. "Frankly, I'm not sure yer worth the trouble. But, how can ya really stand to be around a Pokémon that treats ya like that?"


Torracat sprinted past us, with Feraligatr in pursuit. "Runt!" he barked. "If you don't start pulling your weight in this fight, I'll toss you into the ocean myself!"

Prisma narrowed her eyes and she lunged at me. I tried to fly up, but her Blaze Kick connected with my chest, sending me sputtering toward the ground. "You fools just don't understand," she hissed, "I owe my life to Feraligatr and his crew. I can't turn my back on them. Things don't work that way with us scavengers. A life debt takes a lifetime to repay. Walking out on it isn't an option."

"But you don't need to keep that up, you know," I countered, pecking her right between the eyes. She stumbled back and I rolled forward, striking her with my chest. Now I had the upper hand – err, wing – in our little tussle. "I'm sure you can make decisions fer yerself. But, hey, if you want to be unhappy the rest of yer life, go right ahead. Ain't no skin off my bones."

I jumped into the air before Prisma could hit me with a glowing paw. "And where would ye expect me to go? Us scavengers are outlaws. The only place awaiting me on the mainland is one of them jail cells."

"That's not true!" Torracat shouted, running past us. A Hydro Pump stream raced past the two of us moments later. And then out of some coins exploded Mareanie, on the receiving end of one nasty blow from Metang. That proved enough to knock that varmint's lights out. For a moment I wondered if one of our Reviver Seeds would turn traitor. But nothing happened to Mareanie, thankfully.

Metang turned his attention to Feraligatr and rifled off a spiraling pink wave. Feraligatr stumbled about from the blow. He wheeled on Metang and sprinted toward him, dark energy encasing his fangs. Metang was already on the move, which gave Torracat the chance to head toward me and Prisma. She looked at us and narrowed her eyes.

"Oh, I see how it is. Trying to double-team a lass, eh? You landlubbers are pure scum!" she hissed, launching into a swirling Sky Uppercut. My wing done got clipped, but I was able to maintain my altitude.

"You can come with us to the Horizon Exploration Guild," Torracat said. "I can vouch for you with the Guildmaster."

"Uh, boss, ya sure that's really a good idea? I don't know if she'll fit in all that well," I muttered. Prisma didn't seem to think highly of it either. Her response was to smack Torracat right in the face with glowing palm. His legs gave out and he crumpled to the ground.

"How stupid do ye take me to be?" she spat. "The second I set foot in a guild I'll be tossed into the brig to rot away for who knows how long!"

"Runt!" Feraligatr roared, failing to chomp down on Metang and getting struck in the side by a psychically-charged Zen Headbutt. "What are you doing talking to those blathering fools? If you're not gonna pull your weight, then at least start grabbing treasure so we can make a run for it!"

Prisma winced and scrambled toward one of the coin piles. Torracat jumped in front of her. "I'm being serious here. The Guildmaster's my dad. I'm sure he'll believe me if I tell him you're a good Pokémon at heart."

My eyes widened. "Boss, don'tcha think yer better of keeping something like that to yerself?" I was about ready to knock Prisma's lights out with an Aerial Ace, but she had frozen in front of the boss.

"I… I…" she mumbled. "But Feraligatr… could still find me. I… I don't wanna…"

"RUNT!" Feraligatr snarled as Metang tackled him to the ground. "What are you standing around for? I swear, when this is over I'll slash you up and leave you for dead on the beach, just like I found ya!"

Torracat frowned as Prisma raised a fist, readying a Force Palm. But then, to his surprise, she whirled around and ran toward Feraligatr. She shut her eyes and shrieked loud enough to make my feathers stand on end. Metang floated to the side, blasting Feraligatr with psychic energy. This sent him staggering toward Prisma, eyes wide in confusion.

"I've had enough of your threats!" she cried, and hammered her Force Palm into Feraligatr's chest. Torracat grinned from ear to ear.

"I can't believe ya actually got through to her," I muttered. "Only you, boss. Only you."

"… heh." Torracat puffed out his chest. "I knew my charm would win her over eventually. Now, come on. Let's put the kibosh on this lousy scavenger." He ran toward Prisma and Feraligatr, yelling, "Give it up. You're surrounded!"

"Never!" Feraligatr snarled. "This treasure's rightfully mine. It was collected by a seafarer. As a scourge of the seas, I have claim to all of this loot! So, shove off!"

"No." Torracat shook his head. "Golisopod was a brave adventurer who lived for the thrill of exploring. And he made sure that the honest members of his crew got their fair shares of treasure. Why do you think he never bothered selling any of this stuff? He could've made a fortune!"

"Yeah," I agreed, "Yer just a no-good crook who only looks out fer himself!"

"There's more than enough treasure here for all of us," Torracat said. "But you don't deserve any of it. Not with the way you treat Riolu."

"Um, that's not my name."

Feraligatr's eye twitched. "My 'crew' is nothing but a bunch of lazy hacks! Especially the little runt over there. They're dead weight… you hear me! And with this score of treasure, I can cut them all loose." He lumbered to his feet, baring his fangs. "I won't let you take this treasure from me!" he roared. "Have you forgotten… I have your bag here?"

He raised up the toolbox kit. "Either you stand aside and let me take this treasure or I'll smash up everything in here!"

I glanced up just in time to see Metang's eyes flash blue. Feraligatr's arm seized up and my toolbox flew out of his hand. Metang grabbed hold of it. Inventory secured. You have lost your leverage. Surrendering is the only option.

Feraligatr's eyes widened. "W-What the–? This can't be happening!" He clenched his fists. "I finally find the Armored Adventurer's legendary treasure, and a bunch of no-good rescuers and the stupid, snot-nosed runt I saved from starving to death on some random beach are trying to stop me! It ain't fair!" He backed away from us. "Ha… ha… I ain't letting it end here. I will have this treasure no matter what!" Feraligatr turned and sprinted toward one of coin piles. He lunged at it, but I slammed into the varmint and knocked him into a wall. This time around, he didn't hit it with no simple thump. Instead, the rock wall started splintering.

I gulped. "Uh… boss?" The cracks widened while Feraligatr sank to the ground. In fact, they were spreading toward the ceiling.

"What is it?" Torracat asked, scooping up Golispod's journal and pushing as much treasure as he could toward Metang.

"We might want to deploy that Escape Orb right about now," I said.

"What, you're just going to leave me here?" Prisma gasped.

Before I could explain anything, the wall above Feraligatr collapsed. Giant chunks of rock fell to the ground, burying him alive. The cave started shaking and more debris rained down from the ceiling.

The structural integrity of the cavern is deteriorating! We must evacuate immediately! Metang declared. He finished putting away some treasure, reached into the toolbox, and grabbed the Escape Orb.

"Quick! Everyone reach out and touch as much treasure as you can," Torracat hollered, placing the diary in his mouth and splaying his body across all the treasure as he could reach. Likewise, I draped my wings over a wingspan's worth of jewelry.

"What about me?" Prisma hollered. The rocks were getting close to her.

"Jus gwab muh tawl," Torracat yelled, voice muffled by the journal.

"Eww… are you kidding?" Prisma's snout wrinkled in disgust.

"Twust me!"

Cringing, Prisma wrapped a paw around the boss's tail. The floor's exit was now sealed off by fallen rock shards. Metang hoisted the Escape Orb high. A blinding light swept across the room, teleporting us safely out of the dungeon.


~Stormcracker Isle~

I have deployed the flare to request Sharpedo transportation back to Azure Cape. We can walk to the guild from there, Metang announced. The rest of us were seated on the beach, staring out at the ocean.

"Thanks, Mets," I said. "You sure yer okay carrying that treasure? I can take the toolbox kit back if'n you want."

It is fine, Metang replied. Your wings were damaged in battle. It is best that you not strain them further before Blissey can heal them.

I nodded my thanks.

"We've also got to thank you, Riolu," Torracat said. "No idea how things would've escalated with Feraligatr back there if you hadn't stepped in."

Prisma poked at the sand. "Yeah," she whispered. "Are… are you really going to take me to your guild?"

"You'll be fine," Torracat insisted. "Like I said, I just need to talk things out with the Guildmaster."

"Err, boss, do you really think it's such a good idea to bring her back there with us?" I asked in a whisper. Torracat gave me a look that said I needed to get with his program mighty quick. I sighed. "Guildmaster Lycanroc's a very nice feller," I stoically told Prisma. "Done gave me an amazing malasada on my last birthday."

"Well, that's easy for you to say," Prisma grumbled. "If he's Torracat's dad, of course he's gonna treat you guys nice. But I'm just some random pup, who spent the last few years hopping islands to scrounge up whatever I could find on them."

"Uh, if you don't mind me asking, what exactly happened to you?" Torracat said.

Prisma glared at the ground. "That's… personal."

Torracat frowned. "But, it would really help out your case if I could give my dad the full story. Plus, my teammates could back me up. Right guys?" I gave the boss a bewildered look while Metang didn't even acknowledge him. "I said… right guys?"

"Err, yeah, of course," I said, shaking my head.

Affirmative, Metang added.

"See? C'mon, I'm sure whatever it is that happened can't be that bad, right?"

Torracat couldn't see it because of where he was sitting, but I noticed Prisma's right hand ball into a fist around some sand. She reached up and started adjusting her bandanna. That's when I saw what looked like some scrap of paper poking out of it. Prisma stuffed it back against her neck before I could get a closer look.

"Look, I don't know how I ended up under Feraligatr's care, okay?" she growled. "All I can remember is suddenly waking up in some little cave on the edge of the water. Feraligatr said he'd found me passed out and half-buried in the sand on some beach. Said that I would've starved to death if he hadn't brought me to his ship. That meant I owed my life to him and needed to work for him." She hung her head in shame. "What was I supposed to do in that situation? He was bigger and stronger than me. And he said if I tried to walk out, he'd leave me for dead on the beach, just like he found me."

"Hey, no one's blaming you," Torracat assured her. He leaned over and rubbed Prisma's back.

Well, I kinda blamed her. But I weren't about to say anything to spoil the moment. Because it had pretty much clicked for me. Torracat done had a crush on the gal! That bleeding heart of his got us in hot water, again! Sure, things could've gone way worse, but this whole adventure would've been much smoother if he weren't lusting after Prisma. Maybe I couldn't say anything in the moment, but he was in for a tongue-lashing once we were back at the guild.

"What's gonna happen to me at the guild?" Prisma wondered. "Am I gonna have to work some sort of job, or–?"

"It depends. You could just be a staff member that offers up a helping hand. But I think you'd make a great explorer," Torracat chirped. "You can't join our team, of course, but you could take assignments on your own or link up with some other members of equal or lower rank. Who knows, if you get good enough, maybe you can take on a job with the three of us?"

Prisma looked down again. "So, I'd just end up travelling places, like I did with Feraligatr?"

"Sort of," Torracat said. "The difference is that you can control what you choose to do. And, it gives you the chance to help other Pokémon instead of attack them. Not to mention, there's the prospect of being able to find treasure like we did or earn reward money." He leaned in toward Prisma. "Doesn't it sound at least a little bit exciting?"

"I… suppose?" Prisma muttered. "It'd just… take some getting used to, that's all. All I've ever really known is scavenging."

Torracat smiled. "Well, I'm sure some of those skills can transfer to exploring." Gods, he was being so sweet it was sickening. "But I think you can do it, Riolu."

This caused her to put on a sour face. "Why do you keep calling me that?" she growled.

The boss look surprised. "What do you mean? You're a Riolu. Plain as day."

"I have a name, you know," Prisma said. "It's Prisma. Feraligatr laughed when I said that to him. Are you going to act the same way?"

Torracat and I exchanged confused looks. "A… name?" Torracat parroted. "I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand."

Prisma looked dumbfounded. "Did I hit you in the head too hard? How can you not know what a name is? It's what you call yourself."

"Well, yeah, I call myself Torracat because I'm a Torracat," Torracat said. "What else would I call myself?"

"Something unique," Prisma said. "Otherwise, what's the point?"

Torracat shrugged. "It's not like any of us have any problems talking to each other. Besides, all your old teammates were like us, weren't they?"

Prisma rubbed her foot in the sand. "How could I have known? I wasn't allowed to call them by anything other than their ranks."

I raised a confused brow. "If'n there's anyone here who hit their head a bit too hard, it's you, pardner. Yer practically speaking nonsense, if you ask me."

Prisma's eyes darted about in confusion. "I… I don't understand," she squeaked. Then she sighed and rubbed her temples. "You know what? Forget I said anything. Just call me Riolu. It's not a big deal, I guess."

Torracat scooted up beside her. "Hey, no need to get worked up. If you want to be called Prisma, I'll call you Prisma."

Her expression immediately brightened up. "Y-You will?"

"Sure. It's no problem," Torracat said. He looked over at me.

"… hrmph. Don't be expecting no special treatment from me, missy," I said. "Yer Riolu. That's all there is to it."

Torracat rolled his eyes. "Don't mind him. I think the heat's finally getting to him." He extended a forepaw forward. "Anyway, let me be the first to welcome you to the guild. I'm sure we'll work great together in the future."

Riolu took his forepaw and shook it slowly. "I don't get it. Why are you being so nice to me? I attacked you guys, after all."

Torracat waved it off. "It wasn't your fault. If you weren't afraid of Feraligatr, I'll bet none of that would have happened." He gave her a warm smile and I had to resist the urge to gag. "Besides, I like to believe in the words of this one famous explorer: 'Truly bad Pokémon… don't really exist anywhere.'"

Oh brother. That couldn't have sounded more rehearsed if the boss had tried. Still, I had to give him this, he was putting in the effort to win her heart. And it looked like it was working, to boot.


~Aeon Observatory~

"This is remarkable!"

Guildmaster Lycanroc sat looking at our haul, blue eyes wide in amazement. "You… you really found some of the Armored Adventurer's treasure?"

"Well, we done would've got even more if the cavern hadn't caved in on us," I reported.

It's still quite the impressinative accomplishment, Magearna said. One of her arms had turned into some sort of fancy, plate-shaped doodad. She ran it across the treasure pile. And is this really the Armored Adventurer's personal journal?

Affirmative. Its contents describe numerous expeditions, Metang reported. Magearna picked it up and flipped through it. Furthermore, we have ascertained that the Armored Adventurer was a Golisopod.

"Fantastic! And it seems you've brought yourselves back a friend," Lycanroc continued.

"This is Prisma, da– I mean, Guildmaster," Torracat introduced. "She was unwillingly serving as part of a scavenger crew we ran into on the island. They were trying to get the treasure, too."

"Don't mind the 'Prisma' bit, sir," I cut in. "Riolu will do just fine fer her." I'm pretty sure that made her glare at me, but I didn't care.

"I see." Lycanroc nodded. "And now you're looking to put your skills to work helping Pokémon and exploring Horizon?"

Riolu bowed her head. "Y-Yessir!" she squeaked. "I… I'm very sorry for attacking your son. I want to do my best to become a contributing guild member in any way I can."

Lycanroc chuckled. "It's okay, Riolu. You don't have to explain yourself. You look like a pretty reasonable girl to me. We'd be happy to have you in the Horizon Guild. I'll just talk to Leafeon. She can get you situated and help you fill out the proper paperwork."

Riolu nodded. Leafeon appeared in the Guildmaster's doorway and escorted her out of the room.

"So, I think it's pretty much a technicality at this point, but I can officially say you cleared your exam mission with flying colors!" Lycanroc declared. He dropped a pouch to the ground and out of it spilled three shiny, golden badges. "Here are your official veteran rank badges, with all the perks they entail you to."

"Yeehaw!" I chirped, scooping up my badge. "Wait'll the folks back home get wind of this."

"Obviously, I can't have Leafeon get you situated in the veterans' quarters, since she's busy with Riolu. I suppose you can go grab some chow from Meganium," Lycanroc said. "Once again, congratulations. I knew you guys could pull it off."

"Thanks, dad," Torracat said.

Lycanroc smiled. "It's my pleasure, son." He walked forward and pat Torracat on the head. "Don't tell this to anyone else, but I think the three of you are gonna do a swell job running this place in the future. I can feel it in my bones."

Torracat rubbed the bridge of his nose. "… heh. We'll do our best!"


And so, we succeeded in getting our veteran status. Frankly, things only took off from there. My teammates and I took on tougher missions, bringing in more rewards, but also more experience with our battles. It took a few weeks, but I was able to realize my dream of evolving into a Braviary. My teammates weren't terribly far behind either. We really became Team MIB: Metagross, Incineroar, and Braviary.

All the while, the boss showed Prisma the ropes of exploring. She caught on quicker than I expected, making it all the way to veteran rank without much of a hassle. It made her so happy she done evolved into Lucario on the day of her veteran promotion, as cheesy as it sounds. Still, that got the boss's attention. Pretty soon the two of them became inseparable. Heck, they were mates well before Lycanroc stepped down and handed over the reins of the guild.

Incineroar became the new Guildmaster. He initially kept Leafeon as his assistant, but it weren't long before she retired and I ended up taking on her job. I was mighty shocked he didn't pick Lucario. But, to my surprise, he told me that she had turned down the offer. She said her heart would never be in that job. She needed to be out exploring. At the time, I didn't question it. Now, I can't help but wonder if there was another reason to it.

Yup, that mission sure did lead us all toward a brighter future. At least, that's how it felt…


~Aeon Observatory, Present Day~

Braviary flipped a page in the binder, revealing a picture of his team, alongside a smiling Lucario, and a young Absol. In her arms, Lucario held a blue egg with black stripes. Incineroar had a paw placed on top of the egg, with his other paw resting on his mate's shoulder.

'I remember this,' Braviary thought. 'Of course, they took Gallian in and reared him like he was their own kid. But they were overjoyed to finally have an egg after years of trying. And now, she's grown up and here in the guild, only…'

Braviary closed the binder and placed it back in its shelf. 'Where did everything go wrong?' he wondered. 'I had to get rid of Gallian's records, and now the Guildmaster wants Lucario's records removed too. First Incineroar perishes on a mission, then Lucario walks out on us, and if that weren't enough, Gallian abandons us shortly after. No wonder Riolu's feeling so blue. Has she even told her partner about this stuff?'

His brow furrowed. 'Since the day we met, I've always thought something was off about you, Lucario. I held my tongue because Incineroar loved ya so much and he was my friend. But I should've spoken up... I should've told him the truth.' He took a new binder off his shelf, and opened it up to look at drawings of Shane and Tessa. 'What kind of mother runs out on her own kids, huh? What kind of mother won't even tell her family she ain't supposed to be a Pokémon? Is that why you ran away? Did you find a way back to your real home?' He shuddered at the thought. 'Then what were Incineroar, Riolu, and Gallian to you, huh?'

Braviary shut the binder and looked up toward the ceiling. "I hope you have a good reason for doing this stuff, Guildmaster. Riolu deserves to know about her mother... sooner rather than later."

End of Special Episode 1


But wait, there's more! Head down to the next post for the second bonus scene. Now with 100% more being canon to the main story.
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