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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Ambyssin, Aug 2, 2017.

  1. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

    [​IMG]
    Banner by golden3point14 (tumblr here!)

    Welcome to the world of Pokémon! Where it's all fun and games... until your life's the one on the line.
    Stop me if you've heard this one before. You wake up somewhere you don't recognize, only to find you've been turned into a Pokémon! Before you know it, you're off on a globe-trotting adventure. Sound familiar? Of course it does! Which is exactly why Shane is ecstatic when he awakens as a Vulpix. Even if he doesn't understand why his fur is white, and he breaths ice instead of fire. To him, it's unimportant. His memories are intact! That should make this all a breeze, right? Well, he certainly thinks he's hot stuff, until he discovers an otherworldly force turning Pokémon into vicious alien creatures. Can he put his preconceptions aside, and work with his partners to preserve the balance between day and night?

    -Content Warning: some realistic violence (no gore), crude/sexual humor, character deaths, depression references, and allusions to suicide (a la the Explorers games). This fic currently has a T rating on FF.net.
    -There are unmarked spoilers for the Mystery Dungeon series, as well as Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. If you intend to play any of these games blind, skip this fic for now.
    -While the fic is divided into chapters, the chapters are also grouped into episodes. I equate an episode with a typical chapter in one of the PMD games.
    -Most Pokémon are NOT nicknamed (just like the games) and a Pokémon’s species name will always be in upper case. I know there’s debate about that, but it’s force of habit for me.

    Accolades
    Best Character Development 2017
    Best Character Dynamic 2017 (Shane & Tessa)
    Funniest Fic 2017
    Best Minor Character 2017 (Metagross)
    Funniest Character 2017 (Shane)
    Co-Winner: Best New Pokémon Chaptered Fic 2017
    Co-Winner: Best Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Fic 2017
    Co-Winner: Best Non-Human Supporting Character 2017 (Type: Null)


    Nasty Ball of Sunshine, Solrock (From Chapter 6)
    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?

    Guzzling Gluttons, Ultra Munchlax Duo (From Chapter 9)
    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!

    Restless Spirit, Golisopod (From Chapter 11)
    Having eternally bound his soul to this plane of reality, Golisopod rises to defend his treasure from would-be thieves. Aside from his usual attacks, he can jump between the large crystals scattered throughout his treasure horde. But just how did Golisopod come to be like this? What sort of strange magic lurks behind Ninetales' curse?

    Scavenging Crook, Feraligatr (From Chapter 12)
    As the leader of a crew of outlaws, Feraligatr ferries his team from island to island, searching for anything valuable to flip for a profit. It's tough scraping out a living combing for treasures in Mystery Dungeons. But Feraligatr greatly prefers it over working some boring, dead-end job inside a building.

    Nihilistic Terror, Ultra Parasect (From Chapter 13)
    Exposure to the Prism Virus morphed the mushroom atop Parasect's head. The poisons leaking into its body have drained it of the last of its free will. Now, all it can think about is spreading its toxins throughout Twilight Forest and sucking the life of whatever it can get its poisonous tentacles on.

    Master Thief, Marshadow (From Chapter 19)
    Horizon's most notorious outlaw. Countless exploration teams across the continents have tried to capture him throughout the years, but all have failed miserably. His mastery of shadow-melding makes him as elusive as the most well-trained Kecleon. His signature move, Spectral Thief, can pummel a Pokémon into unconsciousness so quickly, they don't even remember how they were knocked out.

    Absorptive Aggressor, Ultra Bewear (From Chapter 22)
    Espeon and Umbreon have pumped Bewear full of life energy from a creature not of this world. The resulting increase in muscle mass has peaked Bewear's anger, and she will stop at nothing to tear Dewdrop Woods down. Her flexing behavior is evidence that her spirit has warped to such a tremendous degree, that she cannot realistically be called a normal Pokémon anymore. Is there any way to turn her back to normal?

    Pesky, Petty Crooks, Team Fang (From Chapter 23)
    Lycanroc has lent his strength to Team Fang, making a pair of annoying thieves into a giant headache for poor Team Radiance. Though Sneasel and Jangmo-o pride themselves on their abilities, the fact is that they have a very short list of successful crimes under their built. The list is so small, they haven't even been acknowledged as legitimate outlaws... well, until now.

    Paradox Navigator, Sticky (From Chapter 26)
    And who could this creature be? Did he really call himself "purple?" What kind of Pokémon names itself after a color, anyway? Well, despite his minuscule appearance, he has a couple of tricks up his nonexistent sleeves. Like the ability to create trap tiles on the ground! It's believed that this ability is shared between the aliens dwelling beyond this world.

    Four-Bladed Menace, Ultra Totem Lurantis (From Chapter 28)
    She slices! She dices! And she carves up a mean tossed salad, to boot! This once-friendly Totem of Moonrise Marsh has seen her blades sharpened by the power of the Prism Virus. With two extra scythes at her sides, she can use a slew of new techniques to punish her foes. Why can she wield attacks she can't normally learn? Is this the Prism Virus' doing? Has something alien taken hold of her soul?

    Ultra Recon Squad, Team Paradox (From Chapter 33)
    Gallian's newfound exploration partners have arrived from Ultra Village, a distant world destroyed by an entity known only as the Lightless Black. They claim their purpose is to observe, and search out bizarre energy patterns they call ultra auras. But something about the way they talk seems familiar. Perhaps they are Ultra Village's equivalent of an exploration team...

    Destructive Duo, Ultra Espeon and Ultra Umbreon (From Chapter 35)
    The former heroes of the Mist Continent have pledged themselves to Zero. Their raw, latent fears of past threats to the world have enveloped their hearts in darkness. And Prism Armor serves as proof of their loyalty to the Prism Virus' cause. With corrupted Z-Power flowing through their bodies, they have powered up their Entercards and turned them on Team Radiance.

    With that out of the way, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

    XxX

    What is the essence of one's being?
    What magic ingredient fills us with life?
    And sets us apart from plants and bacteria?

    There is no one single part.
    Rather, living beings contain four essential elements.
    Individually, they are important.
    But together, they form the backbone of our existence.

    'What? No, no, no, no! Ugh, this can't be right! Seriously, game? You’re giving me Bulbasaur? I wanted Riolu! I put in all the right answers to the stupid quiz. I'm sure of it!'

    A Nintendo DS dropped onto the dented part of a rusty metal desk that had clearly seen better days.

    'Well, this is just great. Brilliant use of your free time, Shane. Now, you get to start over from square one tomorrow.'

    Shane shut off the DS and folded it close. He pressed a hand to his forehead and ran it through his greasy brown hair. His gaze fell to his computer screen. 'What a worthless guide. It got me the wrong starter.' He shook his head. 'No, I'm sure the guide's fine. I probably screwed it up... somehow. Because that's just my luck.' Shane looked at his watch and let out a sigh. 'And on that wonderful note, it’s time for work.'

    He headed for the bedroom door, pausing to inspect himself in his mirror. He rubbed his hands on his head in a halfhearted attempt at smoothing out his bedhead. But he gave up after a few seconds, and proceeded out of the room. He descended a dusty wooden staircase, ignoring the cobwebs tucked away in the corner like he did the other ten thousand times he'd used the stairs. Once on the ground floor, he grabbed his bag from a broken hook and glanced out the window. 'Looks like I'm gonna need my raincoat,' he thought, and grabbed it off the floor. He shook the dust and dirt off of it, and swung it on over his back.

    Satisfied, he slid on a pair of worn, mud-caked work boots. He went out the front door and locked it behind him. He hiked his hood up and started walking out toward the dreary, rainy streets.

    'One of these days I've got to get off this evening shift. All the fun stuff happens while I'm getting hammered at work.' He fumbled for his car keys and unlocked the door of a small silver car with a noticeable dent in the front bumper. 'I'll bet the RP thread's going to get updated with a new event, and my characters will get left behind, as usual. Which means I'll have to scramble and catch up with all the missed posts.' He swung the driver's side door open and climbed in.

    'Let's just get this over with.'

    XxX

    The first element is the Mind.
    A sum of our thoughts, knowledge, and memories.
    The Mind is both our arbiter and our navigator.
    Making decisions large and small.
    And guiding us through the treacherous quest we call life.

    Next is the Body.
    Our physical form.
    The Body grants us control, through movement and sensation.
    It exerts force on the world around us.
    Giving us strength to overcome any obstacle in our path.

    'Of course the rain would get worse just as my shift is ending,' Shane thought. 'What a total joke! But, that's my luck for you. The worst luck on the planet.'

    He sat down in his car, trying to brush water off the sleeves of his coat. He quickly grew frustrated, and turned the car on instead. He drove it toward the exit of the empty parking garage, passing a row of stone pillars in the process. A sheet of rain poured down on the other side of the garage's exit. Shane reached over and grabbed a pair of glasses from the passenger's seat. He slipped them on and squinted into the night.

    'It's still too blurry,' he thought. 'But I'm not about to spend the night in the break room. My back'll be stiff for weeks. Besides, it's a five-minute drive… tops. Now's not the time to chicken out. I'm tired and I want to sleep in my bed.'

    He gently pushed the pedal and the car lurched forward. The moment it left the safety of the parking garage, rain pounded on its exterior.

    'Ugh. How annoying. Like I'm stuck in the middle of band class. Let’s turn on some music,' Shane thought, switching on the car's radio. A slow jazz tune carried through the speakers. However, the rain completely drowned out the song. This only served to put Shane more on edge. His grip on the steering wheel tightened. He leaned forward, hunching over the wheel. Shane slowly made a right and drove down the street. He could see a spot of red suspended in midair. A sure sign of the upcoming traffic light. He eased the car to a stop and quickly looked back and forth through the foggy intersection. No headlights came into view. So, Shane began to make a right turn onto the main road.

    But then a blaring horn sounded. Shane had just enough time to glance to his left before an intense crushing force slammed him against the middle arm rest. Metal and plastic shards jabbed his rib cage, knocking the wind out of him. Shane's seatbelt immediately locked up. His body lurched against it, the seatbelt protecting him from being launched across the inside of the car. At the same time, a set of airbags activated from the door and steering wheel, sandwiching Shane in his seat. The taste of iron filled up his mouth, and the scent of motor oil assaulted his nostrils.

    Pain surged across his body. Shane could only let out a weak cough before his vision went completely white.

    XxX

    The third element is the Spirit.
    That mystical force lurking deep inside us all.
    Spirit emerges in times of hope, reflection, triumph, and defeat.
    Helping us to get the most out of a joyous occasion,
    Or navigate the troubled waters of stress and crisis.

    "Aggggggggggggggh! Somebody help me! It... feels like I'm… being ripped apart!"

    Shane forced his eyes open. He quickly wished that he hadn't. A purple vortex surrounded him. Bright lights flashed around him, overwhelming his senses and forcing him to shut his eyes. Shockwaves rippled through his body. He could feel his skin crawling, like it wanted to rip itself right off of him and float away.

    "P-Please… someone… anyone… HELP!" he shouted. "I don't wanna die! I don't wanna die!"

    A lion's roar drowned out his cries. Shane fought through the pain to open his eyes. All he could see was a brilliant yellow fireball, surrounded by luminescent blue wings. They glowed with such intensity that they blunted out everything else in the vortex, and burned Shane's eyes.

    "Fooooooooool! Did you really think you could pull off this little stunt without me finding out about it? Heeheeheehee. How ridiculous! I can feel my light seeping off of you. It wants to return to me!" The fireball appeared to shrink in size and a second roar sounded. This one had a sense of desperation to it. Shane saw two black bars grab hold of the fireball. "And as much as I want you gone, I need you for something much more important." From the middle of the glowing blue wings, a pair of red eyes looked up from the fireball, staring directly at Shane.

    "Is… is someone out there?" Shane shouted. "I'm hurt. I need help! Whoever you are... do something!"

    The red eyes flashed and the fireball suddenly started growing closer. Shane shut his eyes and tried to move his body. But he lost all feeling in his arms and legs.

    "You need help, huh? Then help you will get. Take it easy. No need to worry. I have just the thing for you, my human friend. Heeheeheehee... bwahahahahaha!"

    Pressure hit Shane's eyelids, and they were yanked open. An orange inferno raged in front of him. Solar flares tickled his feet. A tingle rushed up his back. The fireball erupted into a wall of rainbow light. Shane screamed in agony as the light swallowed him up whole, limbs and clothes dissolving into swirls of black smoke.

    XxX

    The final element is Balance.
    Mind, Body, and Spirit cycle through constant patterns of give-and-take.
    These three elements depend on one another.
    If Balance between them falls apart,
    Our being suffers and our life is imperiled.

    A Vulpix's body seized up, feeling water brushing its snow-white fur. Its eyes opened, and immediately widened in panic at the sight of deep, dark blue surrounding it. Vulpix flailed its limbs about desperately, but made no progress moving upward. Instead, it continued sinking further into the ocean, the light from the surface growing progressively dimmer. Vulpix's soaked fur weighed it down, and it soon grew tired. It made the fatal mistake of opening its mouth. A stream of air bubbles rushed out and Vulpix took in a mouthful of water. Realizing its mistake, Vulpix thrashed about with renewed vigor, slamming its eyes and mouth shut for good measure.

    But Vulpix's flailing quickly burned through its energy. The last of its willpower faded. Vulpix's muzzle slowly opened. Water flooded into its nostrils and mouth. Black spots popped up all around Vulpix's vision until it saw nothing but darkness. A few stray air bubbles trickled out from its mouth. Its body went completely still.

    Then its forelegs twitched.

    Vulpix's body curled into a white ball. An unseen force grabbed hold of Vulpix and sealed it inside a bright, fluorescent green bubble. The bubble shot up through the water and burst through the surface, hovering into the air. It remained suspended in midair for several seconds, streams of moonlight reflecting off the bubble and striking the water. Then, without warning, the bubble took off soaring across the night sky. It sped along the surface of the water until it came to an abrupt stop at the edge of a beach. Ripples raced around the bubble, eventually poking a small hole in its base. Vulpix slid out of the protective forcefield, dropping onto the beach with a soft thump.

    The bubble then burst, showering bright green light across Vulpix's body. When the light faded, a small anklet sat around its left foreleg. Vulpix tensed and coughed up a mouthful of seawater. The coughing fit continued for a few minutes, until its body slowly relaxed. Vulpix's chest gently rose and fell while the tide lapped up against its silky white tails.

    XxX
    I don’t have a specific upload schedule for this yet. I’ll try to iron one out if I can. Chapters will definitely be longer than this. But for now, I hope you enjoyed the prologue. See you next update!
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018 at 6:42 PM
  2. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Hi there! I've seen you posting around recently, and I was very curious to see what kind of fic you'd be putting up. Somehow I wasn't expecting Mystery Dungeon (not sure why, there's plenty of love for the genre on Serebii), but I'm not disappointed; it looks like you have a neat spin on the genre, in that maybe it's going to be some kind of rebith-style adventure? Or maybe a "final test" kind of thing where how the protagonist behaves as a vulpix determines whether he lives or dies. Or something else! It's pretty rare for a PMD story to give readers even a vague idea of the protagonist's human identity, and it'll be interesting to see how that difference plays out in terms of the plot.

    Personally I find referring to people as "the male" or "the female" to be rather clincal and detached. Any reason you're not using "man" here or elsewhere in the story? I'm also not clear on how his hair color is relevant in this sentence.

    A little wink at this story starting out as a kind of game, I'm guessing? (If I'm reading your author's notes right, anyway. It'll be interesting to see how you craft a story out of a Choose Your Own-style game that's completed, because you get both the spontaneity of the user choices but also the ability to go back and kind of pick and choose what works and what doesn't, so you can produce a more cohesive product. Sounds like a fun exercise!

    Oh, well, I guess he's not a man as such, then. "Youth" still has a rather, I don't know, Edwardian kind of flavor to it? "Teenager" might work better if it's appropriate, but best of all would probably be... to just give him a name, unless there's a serious reason you're being coy with it.

    Overall I'd say your writing comes off a bit stiff and overly formal at times, and you can make strange choices with your vocabulary. Referring to Vulpix's mouth as a "maw" is anonther example... usually that's a word associated with more grisly, gnarly sorts of mouths that you'd find on a monster, and because it's so uncommon it really stands out when you use it repeatedly. At times it looks like you're actively working to add more descriptive words and to use more uncommon terms, and to me it comes across a bit forced.

    It's hard to say a great deal about the plot or characters at this point: it's clear we have some kind of human-turned pokémon situation going on here, but what fate has in store for the guy in the Pokémon World is still totally up in the air. Is he going to be sent off on your usual save-the-world plot, or is he going on a more personal journey that somehow intertwines with elements from "Vulpix"'s human past. Of course, we've got that mysterious voice and the amulet to account for as well... it could really go anywhere from here! I look forward to seeing how this one
     
  3. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    An interesting start here! It's a classic PMD opening in a lot of ways, but I like the interspersing of the intro text from the games (if that's what it is; I haven't played them in ages and I may be misremembering, which would I guess ruin that point) and the way you've made use of the story's roots as a CYOA fic to mesh with that game-iness. Sometimes gameifying a fic like that just feels off, but in this case I think you make it work, and that's pretty cool. The PMD genre kinda tends towards the sort of save-the-world plot you get in the games, and while I don't yet know exactly what I want to say about what you're doing with our generic expectations and the games themselves, I think I want to at least wave a hand at it and say you're doing something here.

    As for critique, I'll try not to repeat what Negrek said too much, but I have to agree about your prose style sometimes being a little forced. 'Precious air bubbles funneled out, and salty brine rushed into its muzzle' is a good example of what I mean: it feels like there might be too much description weighing it down. I'd also have to agree about the incongruity of details like the man's brown hair. They'd come across more naturally if you worked them into some sort of plot point. To take that one as an example, you could have it come into play with the rain slicking his hair down, for instance, or even wait until he wakes up as a vulpix: a convenient way of introducing a protagonist's appearance in a PMD fic is to have them reflect on the disparity between their current and their former bodies, and I don't think it would hurt the reader's ability to picture the scene to not be given all the details right away.

    There are also some places where your dialogue is slightly dodgy, grammatically speaking:

    Here, there's no dialogue attribution in the bit between the two segments of dialogue, just narration, so it shouldn't be attached to them. Like this:

    Here, you've got almost the opposite kinda issue – the dialogue attribution isn't attached to the dialogue when it should be; you've got a period where you ought to have a comma. Like this:

    This is just a prologue, so I think I'll hold off on commenting too much further for now – but yeah, I think it's a cool set-up, even if I haven't been able to articulate why I think that very satisfyingly, and I'm looking forward to see what you end up doing with it!
     
  4. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Dreamzone Trainer

    This is a promising start. I liked the way your story gave off a sense of intrigue and mystery at the same time. For starters, one is immediately curious to know more about the maniacal voice that spoke to our main character in the darkness, but i'm sure that will be revealed in good time. Your descriptions are good, you know your adjectives pretty well, and the story has a commendable level of immersion to it. I look forward to seeing more b)' ')b
     
  5. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

    Thank you, folks. This was a treat to wake up to. ^^

    Negrek & Cutlerine, thanks for pointing out the narrative stiffness. I have to write a lot of reports in my job, and I clearly have a problem flipping that switch off to write for fun. I did go back and make a few changes since you were right and there wasn't any reason to keep the human's name hidden. Hopefully I can fix that for the chapters, but keep calling me out on it if it still happens.

    I should also point out (and I guess I didn't explain it well at the start) that I never got to actually post this as a CYOA, because the forum shut down. I had made a very rough outline with how things would pan out depending on what choices were taken, along with introductory stuff crafted. Most of the chapters will be from scratch, though.

    And Cutlerine, the italics stuff isn't from the games (usually there's some opening monologue about an adventure in a world of Pokémon and the personality quiz). I don't think I'll be game-ifying it too much, but if it does get bothersome, let me know and I can revise it.
     
  6. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

    Happy Friday! Here's the first chapter to celebrate the end of the week.

    XxX

    Episode 1: A Chance Encounter

    Chapter 1: Stranger on the Shores


    XxX

    ~Aeon Town~

    'Today's the day, Riolu. You're gonna do it. You're not gonna chicken out. You'll march right up that hill, walk through the front door, and...'

    Riolu paused in the midst of marching back and forth across the outskirts of a colorful town. 'Oh, who am I kidding? I can't do this!' She grabbed hold of the rainbow scarf around her neck and pulled it over her head. 'I'm just wasting my time. I may as well go back to Sylveon's house.' She looked out at the buildings dotted around the town's square, taking in the myriad of assorted colors and designs. Eventually, her gaze came to rest on the small stone fountain in the center of town. She smiled at the sight of the stone Gorebyss spiraling out of the fountain, spitting water in all directions.

    But the smile faded. She let out a sigh, and her gaze fell to the ground. Riolu wiggled her toes, expecting the gesture to suddenly bring forth an epiphany that would snap her out of her current indecisiveness. And when it didn't, she kicked a small pebble and watched it roll into town. In the process, her gaze came to rest on the largest building in Aeon Town. It sat atop a hill, at the end of a large dirt path that wound its way up from the town square. The domed roof sparkled under the sun's rays, giving off a hypnotic glow of purple and gold. Riolu continued to stare, feeling her earlier concerns melt away.

    'C'mon, Riolu. It's the guild! Your whole family's had to take that first step at some point. And now it's your turn,' she thought, trying to psych herself up. 'You can do this! All you have to do is stop thinking, and start walking. Come on, now. One foot in front of the other. March!'

    Riolu stomped down the path into town. 'I've got the scarf and everything. Dad said it always gave him good luck. I'll bet it can do the same for me.' As she walked, Riolu clasped the scarf and held it up to her face to look at its frayed edges. One end had a sun stitched into it, while the other end had a crescent moon. The fabric glistened with a rainbow hue. 'It's time for some of that good luck to pass ont–'

    "WAAAAAAAAH!"

    Riolu failed to account for the scarf's length. She stepped on part of it and found herself falling toward the ground. Her face struck first, and her momentum sent her tumbling down the hill. She rolled into the town, nearly bowling over a frightened Furfrou couple. "Hey, watch where you're going!" the male Furfrou shouted, shaking his head disapprovingly. "Seriously, the nerve of some Pokémon. Trying to learn Rollout in the middle of the street."

    "I don't think Riolu can learn Rollout, dear," his mate pointed out.

    "... hmph. Doesn't make it any less rude."

    Riolu continued forward. She finally came to rest in a collapsed heap in the middle of town square. She tried to sit up, but her whole world was spinning.

    'Ooog, this was a mistake,' Riolu groaned. 'I should just go home before I make an even bigger fool of myself.'

    "Tessa! Yay, I made it in time!"

    A cheerful voice jolted Riolu– or, rather, Tessa to attention. She scrambled to her feet, resisting the urge to throw up, and grabbed the scarf to stop it from dragging on the ground.

    "Eevee?" Tessa gasped as the brown, fox-like Pokémon sprinted up to her. "I... I thought I told you to stop calling me Tessa. It's Riolu now." Eevee slowed his pace and frowned at Tessa. "Never mind. Did you run all the way here from Sunrise Village?"

    Eevee trotted to a stop beside Tessa and dropped the bag in his mouth. "Yup, yup. Mommy said you were gonna try to join the guild again. I wanted to give you a good luck present." He looked down guiltily. "But you had already left." He immediately perked back up. "So, I ran over here as fast I could!"

    "That's so sweet of you. But I really don't think I'm going to–"

    "Look, it's an oran berry," Eevee chirped, producing the fruit for Tessa to see. "I picked it out myself." He beamed and wagged his tail.

    'Awwwwww! Now I can't turn down something like that,' Tessa thought. She leaned down and placed the berry in her satchel. "Thanks a ton, Eevee," she said, tussling her friend's mane. "But you better hurry home. I don't want Sylveon to get worried."

    "Okay!" Eevee nodded. "Maybe if I run fast enough… I'll finally learn Quick Attack!" He turned around and scampered up the hill without so much as a goodbye.

    'Man… if only I had Eevee's enthusiasm. Joining the guild would be a breeze,' Tessa sighed. She adjusted her satchel and started up the hill to the guild's base. As she approached, her paced slowed and her gaze fell toward the ground.

    'Oh no… it's happening again. I'm freezing up. Just like last time. And the fifty other times before that!' she realized. Tessa glanced up at the building. A shiver racked her body. She backed away, her feet moving without any orders from her brain. She was in the process of turning around when she bumped into something fuzzy.

    "Oof! Hey, watch where you're walking."

    Tessa's aura feelers shot into the air. "Oh my goodness. I'm so sorry, I–" She cut herself off. Rather than looking the Growlithe she had bumped into in the eye, she focused on the anklet around his foreleg. A silver badge was pinned to it. The sight of the overlapping sun and crescent moon made Tessa's aura feelers start to throb. "You're... you're with the guild," she whispered.

    "Sure am! I'm Growlithe. Say, aren't you Lucario's daughter?" he responded. Tessa stiffened. Growlithe gave her a concerned look. "Lucario and Incineroar talked about you all the time! They called you something really strange. What was it, again? Oh, yeah. I remember! It's Tess-uh, right? "

    Hearing the name Incineroar made Tessa jump. She landed on the edge of her scarf and proceeded to hop backwards a couple of times, trying to keep herself from falling to the ground.

    "Are you okay?" Growlithe asked. "You seem kinda jumpy." He paused for a moment, and then his tail started to wag. "Oh, wait, I think I know what's wrong here. You've got first-time jitters because you're coming to join the guild, right? I totally get it. When I joined, I was so nervous, I coughed up a fireball and burnt a hole in one of the rugs. Boy, was I embarrassed." He let out a hearty laugh. "By the way, I haven't seen Lucario around the Observatory lately. Any idea where she went?"

    "Uh… um…" Tessa fidgeted with her scarf and looked down. "I... I think there's been some sort of mistake."

    Growlithe frowned. "Oh, really? But that's Incineroar's scarf, isn't it?"

    Tessa's grip tightened on the scarf. "That's... uh...

    "Well, he never said it was one of a kind, I guess. Maybe this is just a funny coincidence. In which case, my bad! It's been fun talking, but I should really get going." He moved ahead of Tessa, only to pause. "Wait." He shook his head. "How could I be so inconsiderate? The family you're from shouldn't matter. You're going to the Observatory, right? Whatever you're heading there for, it'll be much easier if you show up with an apprentice like me."

    Tessa's eyes went wide.

    "N-No!" she blurted out. "I... uh... must've made a wrong turn somewhere. Sorry!" She gave Growlith a small bow and sprinted down the hill. Tessa tucked her head in and tightly gripped her satchel.

    'I knew it… I couldn't do it. Growlithe even offered to guide me in and I just froze up. I'm no better than a frightened Joltik! Why do I have to be such a screw up?' she thought, making for the outskirts of town. 'He just had to bring up Mom and Dad, didn't he? This was a disaster!' She squeezed her eyes shut and quickened her pace, not bothering to look back as she left Aeon Town behind.

    XxX

    ~Azure Cape~

    Tessa continued running until the dirt road gave way to sandy bluffs. A mid-morning sea breeze bristled her fur, sending a shiver down her spine. She jogged to a stop and let herself sink down to her knees. Dropping her bag into the sand, she threw her paws up onto her face and let out a groan. Tessa flopped onto her stomach, burying her face in the warm sand.

    'And just like that I'm back here... again,' she thought. 'How many times have I done this, now?' She scooped up a handful of sand and gently poured it onto the back of her head. 'Am I really that pathetic? Did I really rely on Mom and Dad that much?' A sinking feeling filled up her gut. Tessa couldn't stop a whimper from escaping her mouth. 'If only Mom or Dad were here. None of this would be happening. I'd have joined the guild. And I'd actually have a group of friends. But... no. Instead I'm here... alone. Just like last week. And if I try again tomorrow, I'm just going to end up back here. But I bet I'll try, anyway.' She let out a bitter, muffled laugh. 'Because I really am that pathetic. Guess I answered my own question.'

    Tessa continued laying in the sand, letting her mind go completely blank. Eventually, her boiling back bothered her enough that she forced herself back up to her feet and grabbed her satchel. Tessa started walking up toward the shoreline, staring down at the impressions her feet made in the wet sand. 'Why did I think today was going to be any different? Because I wore the scarf?' She ran a paw through its silky fabric. 'If anything, this thing made it worse! Usually I can at least make it up to the top of the hill before I panic and start thinking about Mom and Dad. But I didn't even get halfway up the hill today!'

    Tessa gave a frustrated growl and kicked up a patch of sand. She watched it splash into the water, but the sight did little to make her feel any better. Tessa stopped along the shoreline. She balled her paws up into fists and braced them against her thighs. Clenching her teeth, Tessa took in a sharp breath and forced her eyes shut.

    "... hyaaah!"

    She swung her paws forward, digits springing open. Tessa stood frozen like a statue. After a minute passed, she lowered her arms, letting out a loud groan. Tessa continued this routine, until the heat wore her down. She wiped her brow with an arm. 'And, surprise, surprise, no progress. At this rate, I won't even learn Force Palm.'

    Tessa scooped her satchel up and turned to leave the beach, when her nostrils twitched. She rubbed the bridge of her snout. 'Ugggh... gross! What smells like wet fur?' She turned around to inspect her back. 'It's not me. Someone out for a morning swim?' She shrugged. 'Bah, what does it matter? If some idiot wants to get swept out to sea, it's none of my business. I should really just go.'

    A swathe of white caught the corner of her eye. Tessa pivoted to her left and spotted a rock jutting out from the ground. A ball of white sat at the base of the rock. 'That's way too big to be a salt deposit. But it's just past the edge of the tide. So, what's the deal, here?' Her curiosity aroused, Tessa crept toward the rock. It didn't take her long to realize that she had stumbled on something far more important than a sea salt pile. 'Wait a second... four legs. Six tails. Bright white fur? That's a Vulpix!'

    Tessa broke into a jog, hurriedly closing the distance between her and Vulpix. As she ran up to him, the stench of wet fur overwhelmed her. 'Jeez. He really stinks.' She waved her paw in front of her snout. 'Does this mean he washed ashore?' Tessa looked out to the water. 'Oh, gods. What if he's hurt? What if... he's dead?' Tessa looked down and gave a relieved sigh when she saw Vulpix's chest slowly rise. 'Okay, at least he's not dead. But I can't just leave him out here like this. What if a wild Pokémon swoops in while he's sleeping? Or what if the tide comes in too far and sweeps him back out to sea?'

    That was all the convincing Tessa needed. She reached out and nudged Vulpix with a paw. "Um... wake up, please. You... uh... you really shouldn't sleep here. I don't think it's safe."

    Vulpix stirred. Tessa withdrew her paw with a startled squeak. She fell off balance, and her rear hit the sand. Slowly, Vulpix's eyes fluttered open and he uncurled his body.

    "Unnnnghhh. Who was using my head to play a bongo set?" Vulpix groaned. Tessa's ears twitched, displeased at the sound of Vulpix's nasally voice. "What... happened?" He looked around in confusion. "And what am I doing on the beach? It's not summer. And I definitely can't afford a vacation anywhere tropical."

    "Um, are you okay, mister?" Tessa stammered, getting back to her feet. "I found you sleeping out here, and–"

    Vulpix's eyes widened. "Hey… you're a Riolu," he gasped. "And you just talked!" Vulpix's ears perked up. "Oh, wow." He looked about. His tails wagged independently of one another. "Okay, I think I get it. This must be a dream. But… it feels so real." He brushed his head against the sand, feeling the coarse grains on his fur. "And that can only mean... that this is a lucid dream." He looked around the beach. "Wow." He gave a whistle. "Pretty impressive work here, brain. Now don't you dare wake me up." He craned his neck toward the sky. "I want to experience my own adventure in a world of Pokémon. And I can't do that if you bungle things up like you usually do."

    Tessa raised her brow. "Um, sir. You're not dreaming. I think you might've hit your head," Tessa muttered. "You sound like you're rambling."

    "I suppose the first thing I should do is figure out what Pokémon I turned into," Vulpix chirped, completely ignoring Tessa's comment. "I guess I can rule out a Riolu. Which, honestly, is quite disappointing. And I expect better of my own mind." He looked at Tessa, whose eyes widened. "But I suppose having one as a partner is just as good. Now I'll just– OOF!"

    Vulpix started to stand up, but collapsed onto his belly. He picked his head up and again tried getting to his feet. But the sand gave out underneath his legs, and he again dropped to his stomach, limbs splayed out in all directions. "Okay. So... it looks like I'm a quadruped. And... I've got white fur," he grunted. "That... doesn't ring any bells. I'll bet that means I'm super important!"

    Tessa watched the scene unfold with a worried look on her face. 'What is wrong with this guy?' she wondered. 'He's totally delirious. And… did he just say I'm his partner?' She bit her lower lip. 'Please don't tell me there's some sort of crazy Pokémon code of honor that says if you rescue a Vulpix in need, they become your servant. I don't think I can deal with that!'

    "Hey, Riolu?" Vulpix called, waving a forepaw at her. "Mind lending me a hand? Kind of having trouble standing, here."

    Tessa rubbed her shoulder and looked away. "Uh... I'm not really sure that's such a good idea. What's the problem, anyway?"

    "Didn't you hear me? I can't figure out how to get my legs to work," Vulpix said.

    Tessa frowned. "Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds?"

    To her surprise, Vulpix looked up toward the sky again. "Oh-ho. So my partner's got a lip on her, huh? I approve, brain. But, uh, you think you could give me a little bit of control here?"

    Tessa started to shuffle backwards. 'I don't like where this is going. I think it's time I made my exit...'

    "Finally!" Vulpix had gotten to his feet and let out a triumphant shout. He stumbled forward, nearly losing all of his progress in the process. But he managed to make his way toward the water's edge. Tessa crouched down, ready to break into a run if something went wrong.

    "AHHHHHHHH!"

    Vulpix let out another shout. And all the nervous energy Tessa had built up made her jump and let out a frightened yip. "Eep! What's wrong? What is it?" she asked, whirling around to face Vulpix.

    "Seriously?" Vulpix glared down at the water. "I'm a Vulpix? This isn't cool. This is awful! I look like all frilly and girly," he groaned, swinging his hips around and looking dejectedly at his tails. "And what's with the white fur? Am I albino or something? I know I'm a pretty pasty guy. But I can't believe this. Even in my own lucid dream, I have the worst luck in the galaxy! Why couldn't I just be an albino Growlithe instead?"

    He slapped the water with a forepaw, only to jump back as some droplets struck his snout. Tessa took another step away from him, shaking her head. 'This has to be some sort of trick. He's probably acting crazy to get me to lower my guard.' She instinctively clutched her satchel tighter. 'Well, if this outlaw thinks he's stealing my stuff, he has another thing coming!'

    But she couldn't bring herself to turn away from Vulpix. 'But... what if he isn't faking? Can I really just turn my back on him like this? He seems... well, lost would be putting it nicely, I suppose.' Tessa looked down. 'Ugh, I know I'm gonna regret this.' She jogged up toward the water's edge. "Um, excuse me. But, why are you shouting about being a Vulpix? Is… is that a problem?"

    Vulpix chuckled and shook his head. "Ah, Riolu, Riolu, Riolu." He put a forepaw on Tessa's shoulder.

    "Please don't touch me!" Tessa cried and shoved Vulpix's paw off. She shrank back defensively.

    "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 paused. "Uh, I mean, some sort of mysterious force must have dragged me into this world so I can save it from a terrifying evil!"

    Tessa's jaw slackened. "A human? But… you look like a perfectly normal Vulpix to me."

    The newly-named Shane laughed. "Oh, don't be so modest, Riolu. Unless you're modest-natured, of course, which will make you one heck of a Lucario when you evolve. But we have no way of finding that out, ha ha. Look, I know the white fur's probably strange, but that just means I'm special. If you stick with me, we can take the world by storm."

    Tessa crossed her arms. "Okay, I don't know how badly you hit your head while you were swimming, but you're clearly off your rocker. I've only ever known Vulpix to have white fur. It's strange to see one so far from the Invern Mountains, though. Was there some sort of avalanche that brought you all the way out here? That would explain why you seem so... loopy."

    Shane's muzzle stiffened. "Wait… Vulpix live in the mountains? Like snow-covered mountains?" Tessa nodded her head. "Huh… well there was that one Ninetales in the Air Continent. But I guess my brain's taking some 'creative liberties' with this dream," he muttered under his breath. Shane turned back to Tessa. "See? That's gotta prove I'm human. How else could you explain why I wouldn't know what a Vulpix looks like?"

    Tessa fidgeted with her satchel. "Well, I've heard of humans, I guess. But, y'know, only in those stories about the times the world was in crisis. And none of those ever centered on Horizon."

    "Horizon?" Shane parroted.

    "That's, um, the name of the continent we're on," Tessa replied. 'How could he not know that?'

    "Oh, cool name. Sounds appropriate," Shane said. "We'll have plenty of time to talk the lay of the land once we settle into… uh…" His voice trailed off and he looked around. "Say, what kind of groups does this Horizon place have, anyway? Rescue teams? Explorers? Expedition Society?"

    "We have an explorers' guild, I guess," Tessa answered.

    "Perfect!" Shane jumped beside Tessa. "Then what are we standing around here flapping our lips for? Let's get moving!"

    "What?" Tessa stepped back. "Are you crazy? You can't go waltzing into the guild just because you feel like it. You... um... you need a reason to go there."

    "I have a very good reason. As do you," Shane insisted, giving her a confident smirk. "We're gonna enter this guild together. Meaning, you and I are gonna form an exploration team!"

    "Absolutely not!" Tessa shouted, shoving Shane back once again. "I… I just met you. And all you've done is... is yell loudly and... uh... say crazy things like you're a human."

    "But I am a human," Shane said. "And that's important around here. Why wouldn't you want to save the world with me?"

    Tessa clutched her satchel. "The world is... just fine. It's been that way since Dark Matter was destroyed, and it'll stay that way. Now, please stop talking. I don't like your tone. You can't just force a Pokémon to do something they don't want to do. Especially one going out of her way to help you out."

    "Well, maybe the world's fine now but I guarantee it won't be for long," Shane declared. "C'mon, just come with me and…"

    "Enough! I am not letting you steal my stuff!" Tessa shouted…

    THWACK!

    … and beaned Shane over the head with her satchel. His legs quivered. He rocked back and forth a few times before collapsing onto his side.

    Tessa dropped her bag to the ground, her arms shaking uncontrollably. "Oh no… oh no, no, no, no, no, no." She knelt down and started shaking Shane. 'You've gotta be kidding me, here! This guy spooked me, and I reacted. I couldn't have hit him that hard, could I?' she wondered. 'This is just great! I can't leave him here like this. What if he wakes up and reports me to Officer Magnezone? I'll get in trouble for sure!'

    Tessa strained to heft Shane up. Her legs trembled from trying to sling him over her shoulder. 'Okay, he's much heavier than he looks. I thought all this fur would make him light!' She tried to take a step forward, but her legs buckled. 'Ugh. Come on, Riolu. Dig deep. Just get him over to Sylveon's and then he'll be her problem.'

    She slowly shuffled off toward the dirt road.

    XxX

    ~Sunrise Village, Sylveon's House~

    Tessa trudged toward the lone, pink, circular home sitting a ways off from the circular array of buildings. She couldn't lift her head up to see the windows and chimney designed to resemble Sylveon's eyes and bow, respectively. But she was able to brace Shane against one of the house's pillars styled after Sylveon's feeler-like ribbons. She slowly twisted the door handle and threw the door open. Tessa threw Shane to the ground.

    "Sylveon... I'm home," Tessa wheezed. "And I, uh, kind of need your help."

    Across the room, Sylveon dropped the mixing bowl held in her ribbons and jogged over to the front door. "My goodness!" she gasped. "What happened here?"

    "It's... a long story," Tessa groaned. She staggered over to a nearby chair and collapsed onto it. "I found him in Azure Cape. He looked and smelled like he'd been in the ocean. But he woke up and started saying all this weird stuff and, uh, then he passed out again. Do you think you could help him? I'm worried he's hurt."

    Sylveon looked down at Shane. "Well, I think I may have something that could help him out." She gently scooped Shane up in her ribbons and carried him off toward one of the house's bedrooms. Tessa let out a groan and settled back in the chair. She had eyes shut for a minute, when footsteps caught her attention and made her sit up in the chair.

    "Hey Tessa, do you think the ocean is magic?"

    Tessa looked over at Eevee, who had jumped up to put his forepaws on the chair. "What makes you say that?"

    "Well, you said it spat out Vulpix. And made him talk crazy," Eevee said. "Unless you were telling a big, fat lie."

    "No. I really did find him passed out on the beach," Tessa sighed.

    The door to her room opened and Sylveon stepped out. "Well, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with Vulpix. The poor thing was exhausted, that's all," she reported. "He must have riled himself up on the beach and fainted from fatigue."

    "Is Vulpix gonna be okay?" Tessa asked.

    "With bedrest and some food, he should be up and about come tomorrow," Sylveon answered. "Did you end up carrying him all the way here?" Tessa nodded. "Goodness," Sylveon gasped, "You must be tired. Or maybe you were jumpy after going to the guild?"

    Tessa looked down guiltily. "Uh… about that. Y'see, I–"

    Sylveon frowned. "You didn't go, did you?"

    Eevee's ears drooped. "Did… did I pick the wrong berry?"

    "What? No, Eevee, of course not," Tessa insisted. "I just..." She glanced up at Sylveon. "... couldn't follow through. I started thinking about Mom and Dad again and…" Her voice trailed off. Tessa got to her feet and approached Sylveon. "You're Mom's friend. Did she drop by while I was out or send a postcard or a letter in the mail? Please, Sylveon, you have to know something."

    "I'm sorry, Tessa." Sylveon nudged Tessa's chin with a ribbon. "Nothing's changed since last week. I'm still just as in the dark as you are. Besides, she and I haven't really spoken since, well..." She fell silent and Tessa hung her head. "If anything, the guild is more likely to know where she is than I am."

    Tessa's shoulders slumped. "I understand," she sighed. "Um, is Vulpix awake now?"

    "Yes. But don't talk to him too long. I want him to rest," Sylveon replied.

    Tessa opened the door and entered her room. There, she found Shane lying on her straw bed, looking out a window. "H-Hi there," she whispered. "Sorry about, y'know, back at the beach."

    "You mean for socking me in the head with that bag of yours?" Shane grumbled. "Not a great first impression, if I'm honest."

    "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Tessa blurted out. "I thought... I panicked for a moment and thought you were an outlaw who wanted to steal my stuff."

    "But I told you I'm a human," Shane stated.

    "That… is just very hard to believe," Tessa said. "And I've heard that outlaws know some crafty tricks."

    "Wait." Shane's body stiffened, "I lost consciousness after you hit me."

    "How many times do I have to apologize for th–?"

    "Quiet a sec," Shane said, drawing an annoyed look from Tessa. "If… if this was a dream, it should've ended when you knocked me out. But I'm still here. And I'm still a weird, white-furred Vulpix."

    "All Vulpixes have white fur here," Tessa reminded him.

    Shane's eyes sparkled and his tails thumped excitedly. "Don't you realize what this means? I'm really in the world of Pokémon!" He jumped to his feet. "I'm gonna be a hero!"

    His legs suddenly shook and he flopped back on his belly. "Careful, careful," Tessa scolded, running up to Shane's side. "You're suffering from fatigue. You need to rest."

    "I can tell," Shane groaned.

    "Here." Tessa produced Eevee's oran berry from her satchel. "Eat this to keep your strength up."

    Shane sniffed the berry and gobbled it up. 'Wow! Normally, I can't stand fruits and veggies. But this thing's so sweet,' he thought. "Thank you," he said to Tessa, "that really hit the spot."

    Tessa sat on the floor next to the bed. "So, you're really a human, then?"

    "Yup!" Shane proclaimed. "But, it's strange." His brow furrowed. "In the games… humans always lost their memories when they came to the Pokémon world. But I still remember everything perfectly. Apart from how I got here, I suppose."

    "Games?" Tessa parroted.

    "Ah, right," Shane chuckled. "They never had to have a conversation like this in the games, I suppose." He pivoted on the bed to face Tessa. "See, in my world, Pokémon are fictional characters." Tessa gave him a blank look. "Y'know, made up? Don't really exist?"

    Tessa frowned. "Okay, I'm starting to doubt your story again."

    "I'm serious," Shane said. "Before I woke up here, I was a male human. I had a family with two little sisters who bugged the heck out of me. I lived with them until I moved out. Then, I stayed on my own in this shabby little house in the projects of a human city and worked a job in a human hospital. I went to bed one night and, next thing I know, I wake up to see you talking to me."

    "Well, if you just got here, what's with the jewelry?" Tessa asked, pointing to Shane's foreleg.

    "Huh?" Shane looked down at the anklet clinging to his thigh. "I've never seen this thing before." He pressed his other forepaw against it, only to find that the anklet wouldn't move. "Urrrnnngggh… I think it's stuck. You got any grease or butter here?"

    "We do, but Sylveon only keeps enough around for her cooking."

    "Oh. Then, never mind," Shane sighed. He sank back down in the bed. "So, does this mean we're going to go the guild tomorrow?"

    Tessa's fur stood on end. "Ugh, this again?" she growled. "Why me? I already told you I don't fully trust you."

    "Isn't it obvious? I'm a human. If I'm here, then this world is in trouble," Shane insisted. "And the only way we're gonna find out is by joining with the guild so we can explore and, well, stumble onto whatever problem the world's about to face."

    "That's a bit of a stretch, don't you think?" Tessa countered.

    "Didn't you tell me you'd heard stories of humans before?" Shane asked. "Well, what were they about? They couldn't have been mundane, otherwise your parents wouldn't bother telling you them." He didn't notice the look of horror that flashed across Tessa's face when he said the word "parents."

    Tessa tried to compose herself to give an answer. "Well…" She rubbed her shoulder. "My, um, parents did say that some bad stuff has happened in their lifetimes. And that humans supposedly played a role in making that stuff go away. But it all sounded really crazy! I mean, come on. A human coming from the future to prevent time itself from collapsing? Another human teaming up with the spirit of Mew to fight an amalgamation of the world's negativity called Dark Matter? All the adults I know say that stuff happened... and that's fine. Doesn't change the fact that nothing's gone wrong since I hatched out of my egg."

    Shane's snout stiffened. 'Wait. Those sound just like the games!' he realized. "I think I know what you're talking about."

    "Are you serious? The only way you'd know what I'm talking about is if you were from this world. But you're claiming you're from the human world. So, which is it, huh?" Tessa scoffed.

    Shane let out a nervous laugh. "I'm from the human world. Cross my heart, hope to die. I was there... and now I'm here. And with this anklet that I have no idea how I got, no less. I know you may think those stories sound strange, but considering my situation, I don't have a problem believing they're real." He tapped a forepaw against his chin. "And, think of it this way, why would Pokémon make stories up about humans if they're not real?"

    "For fun, I'll bet," Tessa replied.

    "Seems like something awfully strange to just make up out of nowhere," Shane countered. "Can you even describe what a human looks like?"

    Tessa fidgeted. "Nnnggh… not really. Everyone knows that the humans that show up... they're always…" She looked up at Shane. "… turned into Pokémon... like you're claiming to be."

    "Exactly!" Shane proclaimed.

    "I… I'm sorry." Tessa clutched her head and shook it. "This is just so much to take in."

    "… ha! That's how I should be feeling, not you," Shane laughed.

    Tessa frowned. "You're not helping."

    Shane rolled his eyes. "Okay. How about we view it from another angle, then? The guild's my best shot at figuring out how to return to the human world," he said. "But, if I just go by myself, they'll never believe I'm a human."

    'Certainly not with that attitude of yours,' Tessa scoffed. "And what do you want me to do about that?"

    "Take me there. We'll form an exploration team and find a way for me to go home." Shane rolled onto his back and stretched out his limbs. "And if it just so happens we discover a terrifying evil plot and foil it, then that'll just be an added benefit."

    Tessa bit her lower lip. 'Is he serious? Does he really think we could be like Team Poképals... or Team Gaia? That's crazy! Besides, I can't even walk up to the guild's front door. I'd just end up holding this guy back.' She fidgeted with her scarf. "I… I'm sorry. I don't want to do something like that," she muttered.

    "Are you serious?" Shane looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "You could be a hero! You'd be just like the Pokémon in your stories. Imagine… Riolu, the legendary explorer."

    Tessa pulled her scarf over her eyes. 'He seems really confident about this. Maybe I'm not giving him enough credit? Maybe... maybe he's exactly what I need to get out of this rut? I mean... he seems to like me. That's more than I can say for any of the other Pokémon my age here... aside from Eevee. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe...' Tessa's thoughts trailed off and her body tensed up. Images flashed through her mind.

    A lithe Lucario standing in a doorway, looking back in her direction. "Go stay with Sylveon until I return. I promise... I won't be long."

    A streak of white flashing across her vision. The tip of a black scythe hovering in front of her.


    "No… I can't…" Tessa stumbled to her feet. "I can't take you to the guild. Not now. Not ever."

    Tessa scrambled for the door. "Hey, wait, where are you going?" Shane called.

    "Somewhere else! We've already spoken too long. You need to rest."

    The door slammed shut before Shane could further protest.

    'Okay.' Shane rolled onto his stomach. 'Well, that was a bust. She must not be my partner, then.' He yawned and stretched out across Tessa's bed. "As soon as I'm rested up, I'll hit the road and look for the right Pokémon. Maybe there's another, cheerier Riolu wandering around, and she's just a red herring."

    XxX​

    Tessa's eyes opened. She looked around the room, trying to make out the furniture in the dark. She put a paw up to her face, and clasped one of her aura feelers. It trembled in her grip. Tessa's heart started pounding. She sat up and stared at the front door. 'Is… someone outside?' Tessa slid to her feet and tiptoed toward the front door. The closer she got, the more she felt her aura feelers throb. 'Oh, why can't you guys just work like you're supposed to?' she lamented. 'I wouldn't have to go outside if I could actually read auras like I'm supposed to.'

    She slowly opened up the door and a creaking noise echoed through the room. Tessa flinched and quickly slipped outside. The moment she shut the door, her aura feelers stood up on end. Her ears twitched and she pivoted to her right. She could see a shadowy blur off in the distance, but it was too dark for her to make out what she was looking at.

    "I think the test was a bust, Umbry. This definitely isn't the Mist Continent. Heck, I don't think I've ever been here before."

    Tessa heard the bushes rustling and pressed herself up against one of the house's pillars. She held her breath and gently poked her head out to confirm the blurry figure was still standing there. 'What do I do? Should I go inside and tell Sylveon? Or wait to see if they leave?'

    Before she could give her situation any further thought, a male voice said, "You're right, Espy. Looks like our Ultra Entercard screwed up... again. And this was the worst miss we've had so far! It's gonna take days of tweaking to deal with this."

    "Well, what are we supposed to do in the meantime?" the first voice – Espy, if Tessa had to guess – asked. "Do you really want to risk using another Ultra Entercard? What if it drops us into a volcano, huh?"

    "I'd rather take my chances if it means actually getting to go home and avoid sleeping in some bushes by a hick town and a forest dungeon," Umbry growled. "We're supposed to be keeping a low profile, remember? That goes completely out the window if we stay here. Everyone in the village will wake up and see us."

    "I'm not an idiot, Umbry," Espy scoffed. "Besides, it's too late to go unnoticed. We're not alone."

    Tessa's heart leaped into her throat. 'No... that's impossible! She couldn't have seen me... I've been hidden the entire time.' She got onto her paws and knees and tried to crawl back toward the front door. But she looked over in the direction she'd been staring and found a pair of bright blue eyes looking right at her. A red crescent moon twinkled underneath Espy's eyes. She darted forward without so much as a word. Tessa scrambled to her feet, trying to throw the door to the house open. But Espy managed to close the distance between them astonishingly fast. Tessa tried to shout for help, but a pink forepaw covered up her snout. Next think she knew, she was pinned on her back. Tessa looked up at her assailant, eyes freezing on the black crystals covering Espy's chest and shoulders.

    "Ssssshhhhhh," Espy whispered, pressing her forepaw harder against Tessa's snout. Her forked tail snapped to her side, revealing black, metallic spokes where the tips of her tail should've been. "Well, aren't you a curious little eavesdropper. It looks like this accidental trip won't be a complete bust after all. Umbry and I can always use a new... playmate." She leaned forward, showing off the star-shaped diamond embedded in her forehead. Tiny metal veins fanned out from the diamond, digging into Espy's scalp. The sight made Tessa's skin crawl. Espy's diamond startled to crackle with red and black energy.

    Tessa tried to struggle out from Espy's grip, but she was too strong. 'No... this can't be happening! I'm too young to die!' Her entire world went bright red. But, to her complete surprise, she didn't feel anything. The red light faded as quickly as it appeared, leaving her staring at Espy's shocked expression.

    "That's impossible," she whispered. "You shouldn't be lying there like that. I just infected you. The fur should be burning off your body. There should be Pheromosa parts tearing through your flesh! What's going on here?"

    "Espy, what is wrong with you? What part of keeping a low profile didn't you understand? Get over here... now!" Umbry ordered. Tessa could just make out another figure out of the corner of her eyes. But all she could see was a pair of fierce red eyes, accentuated by glowing red rings on what she guessed were Umbry's tail, legs, and ears.

    "Just a second, Umbry. Can't you see I'm in the middle of something important here?" Espy hissed.

    The red crescent moon on Umbry's forehead flashed, causing Espy to tense up. "I don't care. We're not here to infect anyone. You've already screwed things up for us big time. Let's get going before you manage to give me an even bigger headache."

    "But Umbry, don't you see? She withstood infection," Espy exclaimed, again pressing town on Tessa's face. She teared up at this. "We have to take her with us. She's exactly what I've been looking for. She's the perfect new playmate for us." Umbry stomped over to their location and bit down on one of Espy's pink, triangular ears. "Ow... OWW!" she shouted, releasing her grip on Tessa, who remained lying on the ground, frozen in fear. "What are you doing, you moron? We need to take her with us."

    "No we don't. I told you to stay with me, but you just wouldn't listen," Umbry snarled. He released his grip on Espy, who stumbled next to him. "Wipe her memories of us so we can leave. And this time, no infections, no talking about finding new playmates, and, most importantly, no jumping strangers!" Espy rolled her eyes. She pointed them at Tessa and they flashed pink. Tessa's body stiffened, and then immediately relaxed.

    "There, happy?" Espy huffed. Umbry lowered his head and shoved her toward the nearby forest. Espy gave a squeak of protest, but Umbry shoved her forward again. This continued until they had both disappeared into the trees.

    Tessa slowly sat up, getting over her stupor. She blinked a few times. Her mind raced for some reason, but she couldn't tell why. 'What the–? When did I get out here?' She opened her mouth, expecting to say something. But instead, Tessa's world went completely black. She was unconscious seconds before she fell back into the dirt, snout pointed up toward the starry sky.

    XxX​

    Tessa had no idea how long she was out for. Only that it was still nighttime when she reawakened. After blinking a few times to get the fuzziness out of her vision, a throbbing pain emerged in her head. 'Nnnnngh. What happened to me? I remember going to sleep, but now I'm outside,' she thought. As she got to her feet, she sensed that something was wrong. A chill ran across her neck. She brought her paws up to her neck and started feeling around. Panic overtook her as her paws brushed against fur. Tessa looked down at the ground. 'Where's my scarf?' she wondered. 'No! This can't be happening! Where did it go? Where did it go?' She whirled around and continued scanning the ground. 'I still had it on my neck when I went to sleep. Don't tell me... don't tell me someone dragged me out here and stole it!' She looked back to the house. 'Wait... what if it was that Vulpix? What if I was right? He could've–'

    "Kweh heh heh! What a stroke of luck, eh, Jangmo-o? And here we was thinking we'd be going home empty-handed."

    Tessa looked to her left. There, she spotted a pair of Pokémon walking along the dirt road. She could see a set of gleaming white claws holding up a rainbow scarf. It glistened under the moonlight. Tessa bawled her paws up into fists and charged toward her scarf. "HEY! Stop... thieves! Gimme back my scarf!" she shouted. The two Pokémon turned around in surprise.

    "Suh... Sneasel, what are we gonna do? She wasn't supposed to wake up and see us!" Jangmo-o gasped. "How are we supposed to make our brilliant getaway now? She's gonna try and stop us!"

    Sneasel slapped his accomplice upside the head. "Jangmo-o, you ditz! You ain't supposed to tell the broad we're escaping. That'll ruin the whole point of, well, escaping!"

    Jangmo-o rubbed the back of his head. "S-Sorry, boss."

    Tessa barked angrily and lunged at the thieves. They both jumped out of the way. Sneasel yanked Tessa's scarf back just in time to avoid her reach. He slung it over his arm. "Nice going there, Jangmo-o. Your big mouth just cost us, like, a big head start!" Sneasel scoffed.

    "But ain't you just wasting more time by yelling at me?" Jangmo-o pointed out.

    Sneasel's eyes widened. "You're right. What are we standing around for? Time to deploy our super speedy getaway special. Ready? GO!" Tessa jumped back to her feet and tried to swipe at her attackers. But Jangmo-o and Sneasel had already broken into a run. Sneasel turned to look back at Tessa. "Kweh heh heh! Nice try girlie, but ain't no Pokémon around here can outrun us!" he shouted. "We'll take great care of your scarf, though!"

    "Heh... yeah! Thanks for the present, toots," Jangmo-o cackled.

    'No... not my scarf...' Tessa whimpered. 'Not Dad's scarf. That was all I had left of him. And now it's gone!' She dropped to her knees. 'This is all Vulpix's fault. If I didn't run into him, I'd be sleeping in my bed and nothing bad would've happened!' She smacked the ground with her paw. 'I should've refused to help him. But I didn't. Because I'm an idiot! A weak... pathetic idiot who can't even stand up for herself!' Tears welled up in her eyes.

    "Hey... what are you just laying around for? Aren't you gonna go after them?"

    Tessa turned around and spotted Shane jogging over to her. She quickly rubbed her eyes dry with her paw.

    "Vulpix? What are you doing out here?" Tessa hiccupped. "You're supposed to be resting."

    "I heard you shouting. And I already told you, it's Shane," he replied. "Wait... were you crying? Because of those two jerks? Come on! They didn't look so tough. I bet we can take them!"

    Tessa went slack-jawed. "Wh-what? Are you crazy? We can't just go after them. It's... it's the middle of the night!"

    "So? If that scarf's really so important that it'd make you start crying, then we have to get it back. Now, are you just going to sit there or are we going to give chase?"

    Tessa blinked tears from her eyes. "We?"

    "Of course." Shane extended a forepaw. "At the very least, I owe you for letting me crash in your room."

    Tessa's eyes dart around as she tired to process Shane's offer. Wasn't she just cursing him out a moment ago? Should she really trust him? "But there's no way we'll catch them. They both blend into the night so well," she whimpered. "We should just wake up Sylveon and call up Officer Magnezone. He'll know what to do."

    "Yeah, right," Shane scoffed. "If we do that, I guarantee you that your scarf's as good as gone." He started to walk ahead of her. "Losing that scarf clearly shook you up, so it's gotta be important to you. Are you going to lie there and tell me you're gonna let it go without a fight?"

    Shane helped Tessa to her feet. "Right." She nodded, wiping snot from her nose. "I… I can't let them take my scarf. It... it means a lot to me. We have to go after them."

    "That's the spirit!" Shane chirped. "Just tell me which way we need to go."

    "They were heading in the direction of Azure Cape… I think," Tessa said. They both started running toward the outskirts of the village. "Maybe if we hurry we can catch them while they're still there?"

    "Only one way to find out," Shane declared, increasing his speed.

    XxX​

    And... we're off and running! I don't think chapters will generally get out this quickly, but this is the length I'm shooting for (~4-5k words). Those of you who didn't know what to expect... well... I'm curious what you thought. In any event, I hope you enjoyed. See you next time!
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
  7. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    This is interesting. You have this really classic PMD opening – the prospective guild member trying and failing to work up the courage to go inside, a flight to the coast, a stranger washed up on the beach. And then, just when you think you know what's coming next, you have Shane, who is just fantastically jerkish. He knows what's meant to happen as well as the reader, and he's kind of a dick about it, and the opening conversation doesn't end in partnership but with him being clubbed into unconsciousness by the person who finds him. It's a really nice twist, and you don't drag out the super-conventional opening so long that it gets boring, either, which is always a risk with a beginning chapter like this one where the introduction is so textbook it could well be offputting to potential readers before they realise they're being tricked.

    And after that, the initial picture just gets more and more complicated as the messiness of reality invades the PMD conventions: Tessa's problem with the guild seems to be less to do with low self-confidence to be overcome with a partner than with her mother, and the more Shane tries to make things fit the mould the more they don't. It's just great. There's kind of a swing back towards convention with the villainous team showing up to nick Tessa's treasure and the subsequent chase, but given what's already happened this chapter, I'm definitely really interested to see what you plan to do with all that.

    From a more critical point of view, I feel like there are still a few issues with clinical detachment, even when we're looking at things from Tessa's perspective. The line 'Another quadruped leaped out and stood beside the girl' is a good example – there's this weird dissonance between the first creature, which gets called a girl, and the second, which gets called a quadruped. The words are in completely different registers and it reads very strangely. Given that this is the pokémon world and ordinary people come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, I think there's a good case to be made for saying 'Someone else leaped out', or 'Another pokémon' if you'd prefer.

    There are also a couple of grammatical dialogue things to watch out for, like here:

    You need to start a new paragraph for a new speaker, between 'furrowed' and '“Wait...”', and 'She' ought to be uncapitalised – even if a line of dialogue ends with an exclamation or question mark, the dialogue attribution gets punctuated as if it ended with a comma, in lowercase.

    Other than that, yeah, good stuff! Definitely looking forward to seeing what you've got planned for subsequent chapters.
     
  8. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    I have to admit, I was super let down by the beginning of this chapter! After the unusual direction you took with your opening, I was very disappointed when the second started with what looked like a retelling of PMD Sky with some of the details changed (scarf swapped for the rock, Eevee showing up, etc.). I was worried we were going to get basically a novelization of the games, but with some tweaks, and that the intriguing opening wouldn't end up mattering at all.

    ...so naturally it was a relief that as soon as Shane opened his mouth and started talking it was clear we weren't going to be following in the footsteps of the Sky plot, heh. Going with a character who not only doesn't have amnesia, but knows (or thinks) he's in a video game-adjacent world opens up a ton of fun possibilities, and what's more, I love the personality you've given Shane. It wasn't really what I was expecting given what we see of him in the intro, but I think it's going to be very entertaining watching him bounce off Tessa and, probably, about every other character in the world. I also anticipate a reality check into the boards in his future, heh.

    I also love that Tessa's reaction is quite realistic for someone who's found a person washed up on the beach who starts blathering about epic quests and saving the world and all that. She's having none of his overinflated sense of self-importance, and it's great. It'll be interesting to see how her story plays in with whatever it is Shane's going to end up dragging into; she has more going on than just the lack of self-confidence that the PMD: Sky partner had, and it wouldn't be too surprising if her mother's disappearance somehow ends up intertwined with whatever calamity is undoubtedly going on. (Shane may be kind of a dick about it, but I don't think he's wrong on that count, heh.)

    I thought your prose was better this chapter a well, although there was more story-wise to focus on, so perhaps I didn't notice it as much. Only nitpick I'd have here is that you might be overdoing it a bit with the s-stuttering effect. There's a lot of it going on, and not just from Tessa, for whom it might be a personal quirk (though I think it's used a little heavily even for that case). Usually what the dialogue contains is enough to indicate that the character's nervous or excited, and you don't need to literally write out the stutter. Also consider that there are other ways to show that a character's flustered.

    Also, you don't get "transfixed" on something (third paragraph, last sentence), you just get "fixed" on it.

    The only major thing that seemed a bit off to me was the end of the chapter, where Tessa meets two sets of shady characters. The back-to-back villain encounters struck me as strange. Like, Sneasel and Jangmo-o show up literal seconds after Espy and Umbry run off. I guess I can see them no having seen those two or not particularly caring about them even if they did, but it just strikes me as a weirdly abrupt shift between these two encounters, which also sort of point in different directions, plot-wise: the espeon/umbreon look more like an overarching plot hook, pointing the way towards what may be the ultimate "big bad" in the 'fic. Meanwhile, Sneasel and Jangmo-o look more like standard early-game villain types. If you want the story to continue with Tessa and Shane pursuing and fighting them, perhaps it would be better to introduce Espy and Umbry at some other point? Or at least give a little buffer between the encounter with them and Tessa's scarf getting stolen. (That would make a reasonably good way to open a new chapter, for example.)

    Overall I'd say this is a fun follow-up to your opening chapter. I think Tessa and Shane have a great dynamic and will be entertaining to follow over the course of the story.
     
  9. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    I've just finished reading the prologue and the first chapter. I really thought it had a really good PMD atmosphere and liked the wordbuilding and direction this is heading to. I like the way you describe Tessa and Shane's dynamics and they're really entertaining characters. They felt like real characters and I thought it was a nice touch using the game mechanics in the prologue .
     
  10. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

    So, the 1st chapter's been revised, thanks to your guys' inputs. General review response stuff:
    @Cutlerine: "Fantastically jerkish," is a much better description for Shane at this point than I had in my outline. And thanks for pointing out the dialogue tag issues. I don't think I was taught about them, so let me know if I muck it up again.

    @Negrek: Yes, I was rather worried people would think, "Oh, this is PMD Sky," and just click off it. Glad you stuck through, though. I did want to poke fun at the "Meet a stranger, instant friendship!" scene every PMD game tends to have. It's perfectly cute, but life's never that simple.

    @Chlobo: Thank you kindly! I'm trying to make sure not to dump too much worldbuilding in from the get go. So, if you (or anyone else) think there's too much exposition at some point, let me know.

    And now, on to the next chapter!

    XxX

    Chapter 2: Cape Conundrum

    ~Azure Cape~

    Shane quickly discovered that his bravado came with a fatal flaw: running. Namely, he was bad at it. When he finally managed to stop stumbling every few feet, he soon found himself wincing with every step he took. Pebbles lodged themselves between his digits, and the coarse ground scratched his new paw pads. He gritted his teeth and kept at it, though, trying to keep up with Tessa. But it wasn't long before his lungs started burning. Sweat pooled in his tuft of hair. It collapsed, plastering slimy fur against his eyes. He had to shut them to drive away the stinging sensation.

    "Okay… running on four legs is not as easy… as those dogs on TV make it," he panted.

    "Then why did you suggest going after these guys?" Tessa growled from up ahead of him.

    "I'm not the one who lives here," Shane said. "You should've told me... how far it was..."

    Tessa shook her head. 'This was a huge mistake. But, we've already come out all this way. It'd be pointless to turn back.' She spotted twinkling lights ahead of her. "We're approaching the beach."

    "Great. I could do with a midnight dip at this point," Shane quipped.

    "Are you even taking this seriously? This whole thing was your idea," Tessa groaned. "And I want my scarf back."

    "I know," Shane acknowledged, "I just didn't factor in the run distance. Aha ha… ha…"

    They jogged down the hill in tandem. The grass and dirt gave way to a sandy beach that sparkled in the moonlight. The cool sand soothed Shane's sore paws. He sighed contently. Tessa slowed up and looked around.

    "I don't see them anywhere," she reported.

    Shane rolled his eyes. "Puh-lease. Like they would really just stand in the middle of a wide-open beach. They may not have sounded like the sharpest tacks in the toolkit, but no introductory boss could be that stupid. Maybe they went somewhere else?"

    "That doesn't make sense. The Cape's the only place in this direction besides Aeon Town," Tessa said. "Maybe they found somewhere to hide?"

    "Like that giant wall of trees over there?" Shane said, jerking his head back.

    Tessa's eyes widened. "No way! That's part of the boundary of Dewdrop Woods," she said. "They, um, wouldn't try to breach a Mystery Dungeon and hide there just to seal a scarf, would they? They'd get jumped by wild Pokémon for sure."

    "What are you asking me for? I don't know a thing about this place, other then it's wet and sandy," Shane scoffed. "Feels nice after that run, though. We ought to come here again sometime."

    Tessa slumped over. "Then, it's hopeless, isn't it?"

    "Hey, cut it out with that quitter talk, Riolu! We're not giving up yet," Shane said, slapping her on the back. Tessa whirled on him with an angry look, but Shane ignored her. "Look at me. I died on the first Goomba in World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. the first time I ever played it. And did I break the game cartridge in a rage? No. I mean, I was playing an emulator, so there wasn't a cartridge to break and I definitely wasn't about to smash Dad's computer. But, the point is, I kept at it and, a few months later, I was able to beat the game!"

    Tessa gave him a confused look. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I thought we were here to get my scarf back. Are you telling me you think it's going to take months?"

    Shane rolled his eyes. "No. I'm saying that, even if they're not out in the open, those two still sounded like a pair of knuckleheads," Shane said. "No way they're bright enough to have a solid escape route planned out. Especially if they just scooped up your scarf on a whim."

    "You seem remarkably confident for someone who doesn't even know where he's going," Tessa sighed. She was about to say something else when her aura feelers twitched. "Wait a tic." She scanned the beachfront. "I think someone's out there."

    "Why, cause your little face baubles told you?" Shane scoffed. "Man, sure must be nice having magic aura-sensing powers at your beck and call." His snout wrinkled. "All glory to the aura wielder. Making every other Pokémon look bad since the mid-2000's." He let out a huff and looked away, pouting. 'Was it really too much to ask for me to be a Riolu? I never get what I want.'

    "I can't really control it, you know," Tessa mumbled, rubbing one of the feelers.

    "Seriously?" Shane cocked an eyebrow. "Oh god, are you, like, actually a little kid?"

    "What? No," Tessa said, looking a bit insulted at that.

    "Then what's the problem? Are you defective or something?" He rolled his eyes. 'Figures something like this would happen. I get to be around a real Riolu, and she can't even use any aura. What a joke!'

    "I just... I don't have anyone to teach me how to use aura, okay?" Tessa huffed. "If my feelers twitch like this, I can pick up some traces of another Pokémon's presence. But it's only for the briefest of moments and…" Her brow furrowed. "Oh, why am I wasting time explaining this to you anyway? Let's just keep going."

    "To where?"

    "Over by that rock formation." Tessa pointed a paw forward. She and Shane cautiously approached the outcropping of rock. As they did, Tessa's aura feelers twitched again. "I think we're getting close."

    "Well, we sure won't hear anything if you keep flapping those gums."

    Tessa reached out and clamped Shane's snout. His eyes went wide. "Quiet! They're talking," she said.

    "Kweh heh heh heh! Like taking candy off a hatchling." Sneasel's voice carried from behind the rocks.

    Jangmo-o whistled. "It's so sparkly. Like it's made out of gems."

    SMACK!

    "You dope. They don't make clothing out of gems," Sneasel barked. "How would a 'mon wear something like that? It'd be wicked uncomfortable."

    "Maybe for you."

    "Well, some of us don't have scales," Sneasel pointed out. "Especially not ones shaped like wussy li'l hearts. Ain't that right, heart-face?"

    "Oh yeah? Well... well... I'd rather have a scaly face than a feather popping out of my head," Jangmo-o countered. "It makes you look like a girl."

    "Then catch!"

    "Augh!" Jangmo-o hollered. "What'd ya do that for? I don't want this thing."

    "There. Now you're the girly one," Sneasel laughed. "Go on, twirl around for me with that frilly little scarf. Kweh heh heh!"

    "Nnnrrrrggghhhhh." Tessa gnashed her teeth together. She released her grip on Shane's mouth and jumped across the rock formation. "Gimme my scarf back!" she shouted.

    Sneasel and Jangmo-o jumped to attention. "What the–?" Sneasel narrowed his eyes at Tessa. "Hey, ain't that the broad we swiped this scarf from?"

    "Either that, or she has a twin sister," Jangmo-o replied. "She's got the same extra fur tufts over her ears."

    Sneasel rubbed his claws together. "Kweh heh heh heh! You actually tailed us out here? That's cute. Real cute. But you're a fool if you think you can take us alone," he taunted.

    'Well, I guess that's my cue,' Shane thought. "Who said anything about Riolu being alone?" he bellowed, trotting out from his hiding spot and puffing out his chest. "Well?" He looked at Tessa with a smirk. "How was that? Pretty heroic entrance, eh? Anyway." He cleared his throat. "Surrender… you fiends! Return the scarf at once." Sneasel and Jangmo-o exchanged looks, only to break down laughing. Shane's expression faltered. "Hey! What's the big idea? You should be, I dunno, quaking in fear or something. Don't you have any idea who you're messing with?"

    Tessa's shoulders slouched. 'I don't like where this is going.'

    "Kweh heh heh heh! We should be afraid? Of what, you, Snowy? Don't make me laugh," Sneasel dismissed.

    "But, you laughed before you said that, dude," Jangmo-o pointed out.

    Sneasel whirled on his counterpart, a vein bulging out of his forehead. "How's a guy supposed to talk tough if his partner's not backing him up, huh?"

    Jangmo-o stiffened. "Err… uh… well…" He narrowed his eyes at Shane and Tessa. "We stole this scarf fair and square. Back off or we'll have to get nasty!"

    "Oh yeah?" Shane jumped at the two of them. "Well, take this!"

    He opened his mouth, only to let out a weak cough and a puff of air. His eyes widened. "Hey, what's the big idea? Where's my attack?" he gasped.

    "It's right here!" Sneasel shouted, and slammed into Shane with a sudden burst of speed. Shane fell into the sand with a holler.

    "Your turn, puppy-girl. This is for ruining our patented super speedy getaway special!" Jangmo-o cried. He charged forward. Tessa's entire body started trembling.

    'No, no, no, no. This is not how this was supposed to go down!' She raised up her arms in a vain attempt at shielding. 'Oh pleeeeeeease let this work.'

    Jangmo-o tackled her. But Tessa maintained her balance. Her arms glowed red and she swung both fists at her attacker. She socked Jangmo-o right in the snout. He stumbled back in a daze. "OWIE! OWIE!" His eyes teared up. "Sneasel! She countered me right in the schnozzle. That's not faaaaair. Tell her to fight fair!"

    "That's a bit rich coming from you, don't you think?" Tessa growled. 'Thank gods, it actually worked.'

    "Oh yeah? Well… well… if you're gonna be like that, then I've got no qualms about doing… this!" Jangmo-o scooped up some sand in his claws and hurled it at Tessa. She threw up her paws, but her reaction time was too slow. Coarse granules scratched Tessa's eyes, turning her vision blurry. Tessa stumbled back, trying to brush the sand out of her eyes. Jangmo-o charged forward and tackled her to the ground.

    "C'mon, Riolu! That was weak. Put your back into it," Shane barked from beside her.

    "Why don't you worry about yourself, Snowy? Kweh heh heh!" Sneasel cackled. He darted forward, seemingly disappearing before Shane's eyes. Next thing he knew, Sneasel reappeared beside him, knocking him back into the sand.

    "Auugggh! Pleeechff… gwwwaaaaf!" Shane coughed up sand. He ran his tongue across the insides of his cheeks, and nearly gagged. "Dang it! Why can't I make an attack? Where's the fire?" He jumped to his feet and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. "Come on, stupid, girly Vulpix body. Flame on! Torch 'em! Get all fired up! Fire in the hole!" He clenched a forepaw. "Why isn't any of this working? Ugh, this is why I wanted to be a Riolu!"

    "Kweh heh heh! Your friend Snowy's a few berries short of a bush, toots," Sneasel cackled, rubbing his claws together. "All the better for easy pickings."

    Shane shot Tessa a panicked look. "Riolu. Why can't I use Ember? I'm a Vulpix, right?"

    "I'm… a bit busy… OOF!" Tessa and Jangmo-o collided with one another mid-charge. They bounced back in opposite directions.

    "A Vulpix using Ember?" Sneasel doubled over in laughter. "What rocks are rattling around in your brain, Snowy? You're half a world off in your thinking." He disappeared into the shadows again, and then struck Shane from behind with another Feint Attack. Shane whimpered as he skidded across the sand. Dusty streaks formed across his pristine, white coat as the sand scratched up his hide. "Get a load of this clown, Jangmo-o. He really thinks he's like them orange Vulpixes across the ocean. What a riot!"

    "You idiot," Tessa shouted from ahead of him, "Why would you even suggest trying to fight these guys if you don't even know how to use your own moves?"

    "Well, I… I thought I could just use Ember. It's the low-level fire-type move. That's how it works when a Pokémon starts out battling, right?" Shane groaned, trying to lumber to his feet.

    Tessa ducked a lunging Jangmo-o and whirled on Shane. "Fire-type? Have you completely lost your mind? You're an ice-type, you spaz! How could you not have known that? Look at your fur color!"

    "Wait, what?" Shane's jaw dropped. "Is that your idea of witty battling banter? It needs serious work!"

    Tessa glared at him. "For the love of... does it look like I'm joking to you?"

    Shane's eyes widened. "No way! An ice-type Vulpix? What sort of messed up universe is this, huh?"

    "The one that's gonna be your end, Snowy! Kweh heh heh heh!"

    Shane yipped in fright and tunneled into the sand. Sneasel emerged from the shadows, but sailed right over him. Shane popped his brown, sand-covered head up.

    'An ice-type? Then I should know an ice-type move, right?' he figured. 'Okay, Shane, make or break time. You've just gotta think cold. Ice cubes. Popsicles. The freezer aisle at the old grocery store with those god-awful frozen pizzas. My bedroom during the winter because running the heat's too expensive. Aha!' A chill ran across Shane's fur and numbness spread down his limbs. He opened his mouth and a flurry of snowflakes rushed out. Sneasel flinched and threw his claws over his face. "Holy Karp! I am an ice-type," Shane gasped. "Are you kidding me? This is terrible! Ice is, like, the most garbage-tier of all the types. I'd have even taken poison over this. What, did I piss this world's Arceus off or something? I definitely didn't ask to have my Pokémon life set to 'hard mode!'"

    "Finally realized the obvious, did we?" Sneasel wiped frost from his brow. "Well, it ain't gonna make no difference. I can withstand Powder Snows all night. Kweh heh heh!"

    A lightbulb went off in Shane's head. "Riolu!" he shouted, sprinting away from Sneasel.

    "Not… nnngh… now!" Tessa grunted, trading blows with Jangmo-o once again. A short gust of Powder Snow raced past her shoulder and struck Jangmo-o. He gave a cry of pain as frost covered up his right flank.

    "We're switching targets," Shane instructed.

    "Right, because your other ideas have worked out great so far," Tessa protested.

    Shane grabbed Tessa's shoulders with his forepaws and spun her around. Sneasel charged the duo down, brandishing his claws. "Go for it, champ. I believe in you," Shane encouraged and shoved Tessa forward. Then he spun around to face the dazed Jangmo-o.

    "Nuh-not c-c-c-c-cool," Jangmo-o said, tiny fangs chattering in his mouth.

    "Oh, wait! Time out!" Shane held up a forepaw. "That's a perfect setup for my first heroic one-liner. Ahem…" He straightened himself up. "On the contrary, you ugly little Cranidos wannabe. It's very cool!" he proclaimed. He gave Jangmo-o a cheeky grin. "Eh? Eh? What'd you think? Pretty good, huh?" Jangmo-o looked at Shane in disbelief. "Bah, everyone's a critic," Shane grumbled, and then released another flurry of snowflakes. Jangmo-o was ready this time and jumped back. When he did, his body started glowing red. "Oh no you don't. You can't run from me. I've got type advantage on my side, villainous scum!" Shane declared. He dashed forward, spewing another Powder Snow. Jangmo-o dug in his legs and absorbed the blow. The scale on his forehead lit up bright white in the night.

    "Huh?" Shane's snout stiffened.

    "Vulpix, get outta there!" Shane heard Tessa cry from behind him. She and Sneasel had just bounced back after smacking into one another. "He's Biding. If he redirects that attack on you, it's gonna hurt."

    "Eh?" Shane turned around and his eyes widened as a glowing Jangmo-o charged him down. "Ahh! No… stay back… stay BACK!" He gave a loud, girlish shriek. Jangmo-o halted mid-charge. An invisible force grabbed hold of him and flung him back into one of the nearby rocks.

    "Gnaaaaaargh!" Jangmo-o cried. His Bide energy evaporated around him.

    "Alright!" Shane cheered. "What the heck did I just do? Did I learn Hyper Voice in my first battle? Man, I am totally awesome! I'm gonna be the best human savior this world's ever seen."

    No sooner did he finish that sentence then Sneasel popped out of the shadows and slammed into him from behind. Shane faceplanted into the sand. "So, Snowy thinks he's a big-shot because he Roared my partner at the right time, huh?" Sneasel scoffed. "Well that's nothing but a dirty lie. Kweh heh heh!"

    "Sorry, Vulpix!" Tessa called. She flash-stepped forward, using the burst of speed to charge into Sneasel. The two tumbled across the sand.

    "It's… pllletttth… Shane," Shane grumbled, spitting out more sand.

    "Sneasel, it ain't fair!" Jangmo-o whined. "They ain't supposed to use tactics against us. I don't see no guild badges on 'em. We've been bamboozled!"

    Sneasel and Tessa staggered to their feet. "Huh. So, that's your game huh? Kweh heh heh! Not bad, girlie."

    Tessa narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?"

    "You pretend to be all innocent and weak. Then you tail a couple of decent-looking targets and knock 'em about," Sneasel replied. "That's pretty low… even by our standards. How long you been on the outlaw board for, huh?"

    "I am not a thug," Tessa declared. Sneasel darted from his spot, disappearing into the shadows. He reemerged and struck Tessa in the chest. But as she stumbled back, she swung her right arm around. Red light flared up around her fist. She smacked Sneasel in the gut.

    "Aaaaagh!" Sneasel spun about from the force of the blow. He stumbled about for a few steps before collapsing onto his belly.

    "Sneasel!" Jangmo-o's eyes widened. Shane jumped in his path.

    "There. Now, surrender that scarf or I'll turn you into a lizardsicle," Shane declared.

    Jangmo-o unwrapped the scarf. "Fine. You want it so bad? Here…" He used his jaw to hurl it forward. "Take it!"

    The scarf blinded Shane. He let out a surprised gasp and stumbled back. Jangmo-o bore down and charged at him. Tessa saw the scene happening and immediately tried to run forward. But Jangmo-o was much closer to Shane. Just as he pulled the scarf off his eyes, Jangmo-o slammed into him.

    Rrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip!

    His hardened forehead scale tore the scarf in half as he and Shane fell to the ground.

    "NO!"

    Tessa staggered to a stop. Jangmo-o looked down and saw the torn halves. "Sweet! Now we can get twice as much for these," he cackled. But as he lunged to scoop up the halves, Tessa sped forward and shoulder-tackled him. Jangmo-o smacked the sand with a resounding THUMP and went limp. Tessa tossed sand on Jangmo-o's face for good measure, and then got to her feet. She trudged over to her torn scarf. Shane sat beside the halves, looking particularly pleased with himself.

    "Well, the going got a bit rough there at the start. But the side of good prevailed in the end. Isn't that right, Riolu?"

    Tessa kneeled down and gingerly scooped up the two strips of cloth. She rested them on her knee and started dusting them off. "My... my scarf..." she whimpered. "Dad's scarf. It's ruined."

    "Riolu? Hello? Anyone home?" Shane started waving a forepaw in front of her face. "Shouldn't we, uh, find someone to arrest those guys?"

    "Uuuuuuurrrrrgh… y-you… got lucky, Snowy."

    Shane whirled around to see Sneasel up on one knee.

    "Kweh… heh… you and girlie over there… better hope… you don't see us… again," Sneasel panted. He managed to scoop up Jangmo-o and rest him on his shoulder. "Next time… no kiddie gloves…"

    "Ah yes, the old 'we were taking it easy on you,' cop out," Shane chuckled. "What's the matter? Not 'mon enough to admit you got beaten by a white Vulpix?" He turned around and switched his tails about at Sneasel. "It's okay… I'd be embarrassed if I were you, too."

    "Ooog… Sneasel," Jangmo-o coughed, sliding off his shoulder, "We won't get no rematch if we stick around here. We've gotta execute plan R!"

    Shane raised an eyebrow. "And that is?"

    "RUN AWAY!" they shouted in unison and scurried along the beach, stumbling the whole way.

    "Crud." Shane kicked the sand. "We've got to go after them!"

    "… forget it, Vulpix."

    Shane turned around to see Tessa back on her feet, cradling the halves of her scarf. "Look at us. We're all banged up and dead tired," she pointed out. Shane looked over the tan streaks staining his pelt. Blood rushed into his face. "We're not gonna catch them," Tessa said.

    'Ugh! If I was a Riolu like her, this wouldn't look so stupid. Heck, if I was a normal Vulpix, it wouldn't look that bad,' Shane groaned. 'But, the girl's got a point. My legs and chest feel heavy enough already.'

    "What about your scarf?" Shane asked.

    "Don't you mean 'scarves?'" Tessa separated them, letting them dangle uselessly in her arms. Jangmo-o had cleaved the scarf cleanly in half. The two halves were equally-sized, with each one having frayed threads on the end that had gotten cut.

    "Oh..." Shane whispered, lowering his head. "Crap... I really mucked that up, didn't I?"

    Tessa slung the half ending with the moon pattern around her neck. "Well… it fits much better now. No more tripping over it. I guess that's a consolation… or something." Her ears folded against her head.

    Shane perked back up, failing to read the disappointment in Tessa's voice "It sure is! Now you've got two of them. See, something good came out of this after all." He smiled at her.

    "I guess so," Tessa mumbled. She noticed Shane continuing to look right at her. "Uh… can I help you?"

    "Well, y'know, you've got that other scarf half there," Shane said, pawing at the ground. "I thought, I dunno, that maybe I could have it?"

    Tessa clasped the other half of the scarf against her chest. "And why would I do something like that? We're not friends."

    Shane's muzzle stiffened. "Aww, c'mon. We battled together pretty well. I'm telling you, we could make a great team."

    "In sync?" Tessa frowned. "You leaped into action without even knowing if you could use any moves... and you had the gall to scold me when you weren't doing anything to help!"

    "Well, yeah, I suppose you're right. But once I found my rhythm I–"

    "You tried to use Ember and called yourself a fire-type," Tessa reminded him. "You didn't even realize I was facing a dragon-type at first, did you?"

    "In my defense, in the world I'm from we don't have things like that Jangmo-o guy. Besides, he didn't use any dragon-type attacks. No harm, no foul. And I already told you before, Vulpixes are fire-types in my world. They have orange fur and–"

    "But this isn't your world," Tessa said. "The fire-type Vulpixes are only in the continents an ocean away from us. And since you clearly don't know as much as you claim to about this continent, whatever makes you think that I would want to go exploring with someone like you? Your breed of recklessness could get an unsuspecting Pokémon killed!"

    "Okay, I get you're hesitant. But I can give you a great reason to adventure with me," Shane chuckled. "I'm a human in a world of Pokémon. There are legends about what folks like me can do. That makes me important and you, as the Pokémon who found me first, equally important… by extension, of course."

    Tessa's lips pursed. "You're assuming things, Vulpix."

    "It's Shane."

    "… whatever." Tessa flicked a paw. "You don't even know why you're here, right?"

    "Well, no, but I assume I–"

    Tessa quickly pounced on that statement. "Aha, see. You 'assume.' That means you don't know. So, who's to say you didn't just get brought here by accident? For all we know… no, for all anyone knows, there could be dozens of humans-turned-Pokémon running around here that don't have legends about them. All because they were dragged here by accident." She jabbed a digit into Shane's sternum, and he tensed up.

    Shane sucked in a weak gasp of air. His chest tightened and he clutched it with a forepaw. 'Accident?' he repeated. His jaw locked up. Sharp, pointed, invisible edges dug into his hide. Shane violently lurched his body forward, forcing Tessa to step back. His tails curled up against his rear and his muscles spasmed violently. He mouthed the word "accident."

    "V... Vulpix?" Tessa gasped.

    Shane swayed back and forth. Tessa stepped toward him, expecting him to pass out again. To her surprise, he blinked a few times and shook his head. "Nnngh... wh... what happened?"

    Tessa managed to stuff her animosity toward Shane back in the deeper recesses of her mind. 'What just happened? That didn't look like something he could just fake.' Her brow furrowed. "Mind explaining yourself, there?"

    "Huh?" Shane looked about in confusion. "What do you mean? Weren't you in the middle of accusing me of assuming stuff? Which, by the way, I'm totally not doing."

    Tessa's snout stiffened. 'This is some sort of mind game, right? He totally had a breakdown the moment I said I thought his arrival was an accident. Did he black out or something?' She frowned as Shane rubbed his head with a foreleg. "Let me ask you something, Vulpix. Why me, huh? Why do I have to be your partner?"

    Shane froze, looking like a deer caught in a car's headlights. "Uh, well..." he stammered, pawing nervously at the ground. "I just... I dunno... I like you."

    "How can you say that? We've only been together one afternoon."

    "I don't know how to explain it. You give off a good vibe," Shane said, giving her a big smile.

    "That's still not good enough," Tessa said.

    Shane bowed his head, sighing loudly. "Look, I just really like Riolus, okay. I think they're awesome." He gave her a pleading look. "You have no idea how long I've dreamed about something like this."

    Tessa crossed her arms and raised a skeptical brow. "I thought Pokémon weren't real where you were from."

    "I could still dream about it," Shane whispered. He looked back up at Tessa. "Isn't there anything I could do to convince you I'm worth your time?"

    "Apologize to me."

    "Huh?" Shane tilted his head. "What for?"

    "For rushing into battle... and getting my scarf ripped," Tessa said.

    Shane frowned. "But–" He cut himself off, wincing at the serious look in Tessa's eyes. "Okay. I'm sorry I rushed into battle. And I'm sorrier I got your scarf torn up. I'll try not to bungle things up again."

    'Something tells me that's as good as I'm gonna get,' Tessa thought. She cleared her throat. "Okay, I can accept that."

    "Ah, finally coming around, are we?" Shane asked, chuckling.

    Tessa narrowed her eyes. "Don't push it, okay. I gave you a place to stay and you helped me get my scarf back... sorta. That makes us even."

    "I guess that's fair," Shane replied. An awkward silence came over them. "So, uh, does this mean you'll come with me to the guild?" Shane batted his eyelids at Tessa.

    She shuffled backward. "I... I don't think I can."

    Her mother again leaped to the front of her mind. Lucario stood in the doorway, firmly clutching a badge in her paw. "There's something I need to do, Tessa," she said. "It's guild business, so I can't tell you about it. Go stay with Sylveon until I return. I promise… I won't be long."

    The image quickly faded, only for a new one to replace it in her mind: an Absol glaring at her with as much intensity as he could muster, pointing the tip of his scythe forward.

    "Don't you ever let me catch you setting foot in that guild. If you do, I won't hesitate to strike you down!"

    Tessa jolted to attention and rapidly shook her head. "I'm sorry!" she blurted out. "I can't… I can't do that. If… if you want to go there," she said with a gulp, "you'll just have to find someone else."

    "But you just said you'd be okay working with me," Shane reminded her. "And, well, I'm in a strange land. With no friends or family. And no idea what to do. The guild's my best option if I'm going to figure out what to do about my current situation."

    "I'm sorry, Vulpix, but I can't help you," Tessa insisted. "Please drop this subject."

    "… no!" Shane responded, causing Tessa to tense up.

    "W-Why not?" she growled.

    "Look, Riolu." Shane's gaze fell to the beach and he pawed at the sand. "You don't like me. I get it. But we can make this work, together. We battled together pretty well, didn't we?"

    He extended a green, sand-coated paw toward Tessa. She clutched the scarf around her neck. 'Can I really do it, though?' she wondered. 'Every time I get close to the guild, I…' The same image of an Absol barking at her flashed through her mind.

    'No!'
    Tessa straightened up her stance. 'Enough is enough. I can't keep turning tail and running like this. I'm not about to be the only one in my family to chicken out from the guild. Besides, Sylveon told me it's the best way to figure out where Mom went. I don't care what Gallian says… if I go with Vulpix, everyone will hopefully pay attention to him and leave me alone.'

    Tessa took a deep breath. 'What if he's actually right? I know he's a bit... much. Odds are, we're gonna fail. Harder than hard. But, maybe if I stick with him, I can be famous, just like he said. Then people would actually pay attention to me. And maybe... maybe I could finally make some friends.'

    Tessa took another deep breath and closed her eyes. She then extended the other half of her scarf forward. "Don't read too deep into this, okay?" she said. "I'm just giving you this so it'll look like we coordinated a bit before going to the guild. So, here. Take it."

    Tessa opened her eyes and thought she saw Shane's eyes sparkle. He snatched the scarf up in his mouth and slung it around his neck. "Alright! This is gonna be great!" He stuck out a forepaw toward Tessa. "Uh? You gonna fist-bump me or not?"

    "No," Tessa replied. "And there are conditions attached to this. First off, if I reserve the right to back out of this if I think it's a bad idea. Understand?"

    "Pfffbttt, you'll have nothing to worry about there," Shane laughed. Tessa glared at him. "Okay, okay, I agree. Whatever."

    Tessa nodded. "Good. And, for the other condition, we're not going right away."

    Shane blinked in confusion. "What? Why?"

    "Because we need to do some training first," Tessa said. "I want to be absolutely sure you can use your moves when you need to so we don't have a repeat of this performance. Y'know, in case there's some sort of entrance exam or something."

    "P'shaaaw, you're overthinking this. They'll be happy to have us."

    Tessa crossed her arms. "That's my other condition. Either put up with it or the deal's off."

    Shane rolled his eyes. "Fine, if you insist." He sauntered up beside Tessa. "Come tomorrow, when I dazzle you with my attacks, you'll realize we're just wasting time."

    XxX

    ~Sunrise Village, Sylveon's House~

    "There you two are!" Sylveon grabbed hold of Shane and Tessa with her ribbons and dragged them in through the doorway. "Where did you run off to at this time of night? Do you have any idea how worried I was?"

    Tessa looked down guiltily. "It's my fault, Sylveon," she admitted. "I thought I heard someone shouting outside. And then a pair of thugs tried to steal my scarf. I woke Vulpix up and we chased them to Azure Cape. Things… got a bit out of control from there."

    "I can see that," Sylveon said. "Your scarf got cut in half. And you two are positively filthy. Are you sure you're okay?"

    "I'm a little banged up, but it's not that bad," Shane said. "We managed to walk all the way home from the beach without any trouble." He took a step forward, intending to emphasize his point. However, his legs gave out, and he flopped onto his belly. "Oooooooog," he groaned.

    "You are most certainly not okay, Vulpix," Sylveon declared. "I want you heading right to bed and you are not getting up until I say it's okay. Do I make myself clear?"

    "Crystal, ma'am," Shane muttered. Next thing he knew, Sylveon's feelers had wrapped up his torso. Sylveon carried him off toward Tessa's room. Tessa waited until the door closed, and then lumbered toward the couch.

    "Tessa?"

    She froze, and then turned around. "Hi, Eevee," she whispered. "I didn't wake you, did I?"

    "Did something happen? You're all dirty," Eevee squeaked.

    "Oh it's, uh, nothing important." She tried to give Eevee a reassuring smile. "Run back to bed."

    "Okay," Eevee said. "Good night, Tessa."

    Tessa let out a yawn. "Good night, Eevee." She watched her friend retreat into his room. Then she lay down on the couch and stared up at the ceiling.

    'Mom,' she thought. 'I'm gonna do it. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna fail. Just like with your aura training. But if I don't... then I'm finally going to be someone that you can be proud of... wherever you are.' She rolled onto her side, burying her face into a cushion.

    'I just hope this isn't a huge mistake...'

    End of Episode 1

    XxX​

    Pokémon battles are not something I can say I have a lot of experience writing, so hopefully this turned out okay for you guys. But if it didn't, let me know what I can do to improve on these going forward.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
  11. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    Oh I should have held on until you posted chapter 2. I really enjoyed chapter 2 and thought this was a lot better than chapter one. I thought the battles were done decetly and I could imagine the battles happening as if I was watching or playing them on my 3ds. Quite and nimble. I really liked Sneasel's dialogue in particular, he had a sinister vibe about him.
     
  12. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Oh my gosh. Okay if I had to describe this one in a single word, it'd be fun. This is a genuinely fun read, and a lot of that comes from the personalities you've given these characters and they way they play off each other.

    Shane is a hecking GOOBER. What a dork. He seems to have no sense of shame whatsoever and a marked inability to take things seriously for the most part. I love him. :D And of course Tessa is a great foil for all that, what with her...well, acting the way a lot of people would actually act with someone like Shane suddenly on their hands, and with her fears and troubles and whatnot.

    And, of course, the would-be scarf-thieves. Also funny. Meanwhile the eeveelution duo are mainly intriguing at this point. What's their deal? Do they have any connection to the loud, dramatic vulpix-maker in the prologue? I'm eager to find out.

    I'm definitely enjoying this one. Looking forward to more. :D
     
  13. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Dreamzone Trainer

    Review for Chapter 1-2

    Chapter 1 began with a scene very reminiscent of the Explorers of trilogy and the remaining chapter seems to follow the same basic formula like the whole ‘You’re a pokemon that can talk’ and also the whole washing up on a beach and someone conveniently being there to rescue the protagonist from drowning or getting fried under the sun.
    While I’m mixed on that approach, what struck me as odd was that some of the character’s go by their species name instead of having their own unique names. There’s the eevee known as eevee and the growlithe known as growlithe, etc. I often would recommend not doing that due to the obvious questions it raises like; How come Tessa isn’t called Riolu and has her own unique name? Why is Tessa’s mother called Lucario and not by a unique name when her daughter has one? Did her mother simply decide to go against the norm of calling everyone generic names out of the blue? When someone enters a town of patrats and calls out patrat, how will the specific one he’s referring know they’re the ones being referred? Will you be able to catch a serial killer called Geodude when every Geodude is called the same? Do they only give character’s unique names when they’re more than one of their species in a designated area? If that’s the case, does that mean there’s only one of each pokemon in every town?

    Yeah, you can clearly see how things could easily get contrived from there.

    What I did enjoy was Shane’s personality. He’s hilarious in many ways. It’s rare even in a pmd fic to find a protagonist that self aware. Poor lad thought he was dreaming, and when he found out he wasn’t, he still rolled with his ego anyway.

    Chapter 2 for the most part was just a really long battle, a battle that almost made me forget about those suspicious fellows looking for ‘playmates.’ Can’t wait to see what that was forshadowing. The battle itself was okay, though it got hard to follow every now and then. I enjoyed how lighthearted and cartoony the whole battle scene felt. I’m not saying that it was a bad thing, but the battle noticeably lacked any tension to it, which was probably your intention.

    All in all, this story looks really promising as a semi deconstruction of the PMD genre. The characters are hilarious and nothing feels too out of place. Keep it up!
     
  14. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

    Some brief review responses while I revise chapter 3.

    ChloboSkoba
    Thank you kindly! My intention with Sneasel was to give him a bit of a sleazy, underhanded vibe. In my head, he sounds like a squeakier Alec Baldwin (cause that guy only plays smarmy slime ball characters). So I try to keep that voice in mind when writing his lines... only the dialogue's much cheesier.

    Sike Sanner
    Oh goodness; I'm not worthy!
    See, you people need to start writing my outlines. You all have way better descriptors for Shane than I do! :p
    Initially I had just had him written as a giant goofball, but through the revision process he developed a bit of a cocky attitude that I ended up liking and sticking with. But I've got plans for him. *evil grin*

    I asked my Magic 8 Ball about this and it told me "ask again later." Sorry!

    DreamSayer
    While the easy cop-out answer would be, "Because I'm mimicking the games," this is something I wavered back and forth on. The next chapter will have an in-universe explanation as to why and I do have a big narrative explanation as to why I did this that I will not say because it might spoil a few of the bigger (and possibly biggest) scenes in later episodes. But if it does become really bothersome to folks (and speak up if it does, all of you) then I can go back and give the major characters names. I'd just revise a few things later down the road to compensate. As it stands, I don't really plan to have multiple characters of the same species unless they're minor enemies I wouldn't bother giving nicknames to in the first place.

    Maybe starting off with a 2-on-2 battle wasn't the best decision on my part. ^^; In any event, yeah, early battles are going to be a bit more vanilla. But the plan (assuming it works) is to start shaking things up quite a bit the further the story goes along. Hopefully everyone enjoys the later battles.
     
  15. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Heya! I’m always a fan of PMD fics, so I’m glad to see another one joining the fold.

    And I will admit that I was totally caught off-guard by how silly everything has been in these opening chapters. But then I remembered—the actual PMD games are 100% like that! xD It really does highlight, as Dream said in the Discord, how dark a lot of the PMD fics run around here. And hey, it should make for a fun contrast.

    It's also rare to see anything of the human's life before being turned into a Pokemon (only example I can think of is Ginji's Rescue Team.) I don't think you would have included it if it weren't going to be significant later on. Especially considering that he appears to have... you know... freaking died. xD; That's a heck of a way to get sent to the Pokemon world!

    I like how you’ve reversed the usual formula—in general, the player tends to be the straightman to the more lighthearted partner, but here we’ve got a ridiculously over the top protagonist with a more grounded partner. This is, of course, a direct result of him not having amnesia, and his constant attempts to be genre-savvy. And of course the fact that he had no idea that Vulpixes can be ice-type. xD But man, he's definitely feeling quite self-important about being a human in the Pokemon world. I, of course, can't wait to see him get knocked down a few pegs. ;P

    I do agree with Negrek that having the serious encounter with the Eons back-to-back with the silly encounter with the most hilariously inept thieves ever definitely left me feeling a bit "whuh...?" the first time I read it. ^^;

    That's all for now. I'm interested to see where this goes!

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
  16. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

    Chapter 3 is here and, with it, the start of Episode 2! You can find it right after the break.

    @ChibiPika
    Oh, don't worry, we won't be all sunshine, rainbows, and kittens here. After all, how can light do any guiding if there isn't some dark in the way, right?
    Bad jokes aside, as I mentioned in the darkfic thread I have no experience tackling mature subject matter and no confidence in my ability to write it so I wanted to stay farther away from that for my first fic. The games can get pretty dark, and I've got something planned that I hope will creep everyone out a bit.

    Indeed. But I thought it appropriate given some things to come later. Also, funny story, a few weeks after I started drafting this, I found a hard copy of Ginji's at Too Many Games and ended up buying it.

    I'm glad you caught that! One of the big points of Episode 1 was to make it clear that Shane has absolutely no idea what Gen VII is. He's basically from 2015. Maybe I was a bit too subtle about it?

    I'll be honest, I interpreted "Eons" as Lati@s and had to go back to make sure I hadn't somehow changed an Espeon and an Umbreon into the Lati twins. And, hmm, maybe I should reorganize this so the Eeveelution encounter is at the end of chapter 2 instead?

    Thanks for the review!

    XxX

    ~Aeon Town~

    Shane sat underneath the awning of a small building. Its exterior was stylized to look like the face of a Kecleon, with the awning serving as an extension of its green and yellow forehead. The sweet smell of berries and other fruits tickled his nostrils, and he soon found himself gulping down saliva.

    "There… I think that's enough supplies."

    Tessa walked out of the town's Kecleon Shop, patting her comically inflated satchel with a paw. Shane raised a skeptical eyebrow. To him, it appeared that Tessa was about to topple over from the weight of her bag. "How much stuff did you buy, anyway?" he asked.

    "Well, given that we're not official guild members yet, I only had access to a limited variety of items," she explained. "So, I got us a handful of apples, four oran berries, a pair of elixirs to keep our energy up, and some geo pebbles."

    Shane blinked rapidly, trying to process her list. "That… seems like overkill," he confessed. "You seriously bought a bunch of dead-weight rocks?"

    "Why not? I've heard they can sock an enemy pretty well if you toss 'em right," Tessa said.

    "What do you think this guild is going to have us do anyway? Summit Horizon's tallest mountain? We're gonna be fine," Shane insisted. "If anything, that overstuffed pack of yours will just slow us down."

    "It doesn't hurt to properly prepare," Tessa insisted. "One could get hungry while exploring, for instance."

    "I'm well aware of that, thank you. I have a stomach. And it's definitely working," Shane harrumphed. "Now let's stop lollygagging and get to the guild already. It's time to meet some fresh, friendly faces!" Shane turned and looked about the town. "Uh… let's see." He tapped his chin. "If we came from the left, then we should probably go to the right…"

    "The guild's on top of the hill overlooking the town square," Tessa explained, guiding him forward.

    As Shane approached the central fountain, he noticed a few Pokémon mingling about in front of one of the few two-story buildings in the area. It stuck out from the houses near it, as its sides had two rounded, blue sections protruding from the first floor. The majority of the building was purple, save for a pair of windows on the second floor. One of which was only half as tall the other. Shane's curiosity got the better of him and he asked, "What's with this place?"

    "Oh, that's Crabrawler's Café. It's the main spot for Pokémon to gather and hang out," Tessa explained. "It's really popular with explorers. My mom got me a berry sorbet from there once. It was heavenly."

    "Berry… sorbet?" Despite his personal lack of experience with Pokémon berries, Shane felt his mouth watering. "Quick!" He jumped in front of the Riolu. "Let's mash up one of those oran berries. I'll use some Powder Snow and we can make homemade sorbet!"

    "Absolutely not. I spent good money on those berries," Tessa said, swinging her satchel back behind her. "You're the one so gung-ho about going to the guild. So, are we going or not?"

    "Oh, relax, I was just having a little fun," Shane dismissed. "You need to lighten up a bit. How are you gonna make a good impression on the guild if you walk in all grumpy?"

    Tessa scowled. "I am not grumpy."

    "Really? Cause that expression could make an Ursaring blush," Shane chuckled, and trotted on ahead. He quickly made his way along the dirt path leading up the hill. However, when he turned back, he noticed Tessa progressing much slower. "See, told you that bag would weigh you down," he taunted. "At this rate, it'll be afternoon before we get inside." He trotted down to Tessa. As he approached, he noticed Tessa clutching her scarf protectively. "Hey, something the matter?"

    "I… I…" Tessa gulped. "It's just… nerves." Shane suddenly gripped Tessa's shoulders with his forepaws and jostled her back and forth. "Agh!" Tessa barked, shoving Shane back. "And just what was that all about?"

    "Just loosening you up," Shane explained. "There. Now can we get a move on?"

    "Don't touch me without my permission!" Tessa squeaked. Shane hopped back in surprise. Tessa brushed off her shoulders and adjusted her scarf. "And, for the record, no, that didn't help one bit."

    Shane sighed and shook his head. "Well, that's just because I don't have hands. Or magic aura-y powers. Otherwise, I could've done a much better job." He turned and jogged back up the hill. "Maybe we'll luck out and find a Manaphy who could Heart Swap us."

    "I did not just hear you say that!" Tessa barked.

    "Hey, for what it's worth, I think you'd make a great Vulpix. You're already a regular ice queen," Shane laughed, running the rest of the way up the hill.

    Tessa took a deep breath and stared at the ground. 'C'mon, Riolu. You can't let that guy get under your skin. No more beating around the bush, here. Just… close your eyes if you have to.' She did as her brain instructed and marched straight forward, stopping when she felt the fluff of one of Shane's tails against her side. Tessa opened her eyes and found Shane examining the building. It was circular, with a foundation of golden stones. Purple tapestries hung off the side of it. Each one had stitched in it a white emblem displaying a crescent moon that overlapped the sun. That same icon was etched into the stone platform positioned right in front of the door. Above the door, a purple triangle stuck straight up into the air, casting a shadow over the grassy knoll the building sat atop.

    "Huh. It kinda looks like a sundial," Shane realized.

    "What? That's no Sandile. Besides, most of the structure's underground anyway. Built into the hill, I think."

    "No, no, I said 'sundial.' They're a, y'know, way to keep track of time?" Shane explained. Tessa gave him a blank look. "Forget it. Must be a human world thing." He tilted his head to the side. "What's with the telescope? Is this place some kind of planetarium or what?"

    "Um…" Tessa fidgeted with her scarf. "If I remember correctly, I think this place is actually called the Aeon Observatory."

    "That so?" Shane raised an eyebrow. "Y'know, for someone who claimed to absolutely, positively want nothing to do with this place you sure do know a lot about it."

    Tessa rolled her eyes. "Don't jump to conclusions. My parents' house is in Aeon Town. I'd have to be pretty clueless not to know about this place. It kind of sticks out against everything else here."

    "Fair enough," Shane said. "Now, how do we get inside?"

    "Well, oh intrepid explorer, I'm not an expert like you, but I suggest we stand on that pedestal in front of the entrance," Tessa replied, pointing to the stone platform in question. Shane glanced at it but had to look away from the light reflecting off its glass surface. He blinked rapidly to clear his vision and walked up to the platform.

    "Didn't need the snark in that answer, but I'll take it," Shane said. His tails wagged slowly as he jumped onto the pedestal. The sun and moon carving suddenly lit up, causing Shane to shield his eyes. "Hey, don't just sit there, Riolu," he called. "Climb on up!"

    "Uh… yeah. Right…" Tessa stammered. She stumbled up beside him, throwing her arms up as bright light filled her vision.

    "Registered, non-guild Pokémon and unregistered Pokémon detected. Stand by for identification!" a shrill voice shouted.

    Shane looked around the pedestal as the glowing circles swirled around them. They soon fizzled out, retreating into the carving.

    "The Pokémon are… Riolu and Vulpix!" the voice announced. "Please state your business!"

    "We're here to join the guild!" Shane bellowed, puffing out his chest.

    "Not so loud, please," Tessa whimpered, glancing nervously around the hill.

    "Understood!" the voice replied. "Please proceed inside!"

    The stone slab in front of the duo spiraled open, revealing the fringes of a bright purple carpet. "Hey, they're already rolling out the welcome mat for us. Awesome!" Shane cheered. He gave Tessa an encouraging shove off the pedestal and booked it inside.

    "Oof! Hey, watch where you're walking," Tessa growled. She checked the contents of her satchel and followed him inside.

    XxX

    Episode 2: Minor Growing Pains

    Chapter 3: Laying Some Foundations


    XxX

    ~Aeon Observatory~

    Tessa immediately bumped into Shane on the other side of the doorway. He sat on the carpet, taking in the guild's entryway. "It's… beautiful." He let out a whistle. "Look at that starry sky they painted on the ceiling. I think that's a Luvdisc constellation on the right. Oh... oh! And that's definitely a Solrock over there. And a Lunatone in the corner! This is really pretty. I like all the purple and gold."

    "I guess it's pretty nice," Tessa said with a shrug. She spotted Growlithe sitting in front of a large wooden board, studying it intently. He noticed her and smiled.

    "Hey, you're that Riolu I bumped into a few days ago," he barked, his tail wagging excitedly. "You're back. And you brought a friend! Hello, Riolu's friend!"

    Tessa crossed her arms and turned away from Shane. "We're not friends."

    Shane's ears twitched, but he ignored Tessa. He glanced over at Growlithe. "Oh, so the Vulpixes are backwards here, but the Growlithes made off just fine," he scoffed. "Honestly, how can anyone back in the human world like Vulpix more than Growlithe? It's not even a contest."

    Growlithe tilted his head. "I beg your pardon?"

    Tessa stepped forward and cupped a paw over Shane's mouth. "Err, don't listen to him. He's, uh, new around these parts."

    "Well, I'll be."

    Tessa and Shane jumped to attention at the sound of a new voice. They both noticed a staircase in the corner. From it emerged a tall, red and blue bird with a proud crest of white feathers atop its head. "I was wondering when I'd see ya finally set foot in here," the bird chuckled. "Ya certainly kept us waiting, huh, Tessa?"

    "A Braviary?" Shane's eyes sparkled. "Okay, this guild's officially cool in my books," he declared, totally glossing over Braviary's statement.

    "Ha ha. I like the attitude, pardner. But if'n yer expecting flattery to get ya a free pass to apprenticeship, you've saddled up to the wrong place."

    "Of course, sir. Wouldn't think of it," Shane said, giving a nervous laugh. But his expression quickly shifted. "Hey… waaaaaaaait a second." He narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Braviary, "I've, uh, 'heard' an accent like that before. You wouldn't happen to know any suspicious-looking Nuzleafs, would you?"

    Braviary scratched his head. "Can't say that I do. Ain't no Nuzleafs living around Horizon, last I knew of."

    Tessa turned to Shane with a look of horror. "What are you doing?" she whispered. "Don't talk to Braviary like that. He's the Guildmaster's assistant!"

    "Sorry." Shane looked down. "It's just that, uh, my instincts tell me not to trust any Pokémon with a kooky accent that acts nice to us. It's a recipe for disaster and double-crossing."

    "I thought you said Pokémon didn't exist where you were from," Tessa hissed.

    "Something the matter, you two?" Braviary asked. "Don't wanna keep the Guildmaster waiting, y'know. So, if'n y'all would head in that direction." He gestured back to the stairs. "I'll be right on down after I have a short chat with Growlithe over yonder."

    Shane and Tessa turned and descended to the guild's main level. They found multiple hallways stretching out in different directions from a central room. Like the entrance, the new room had a starry sky motif on the ceiling. It was dark purple, with clusters of yellow and light blue littering it. Unlike the mural in the entrance, this sky faded into orange, and then finally to a sunny blue along the walls. In between each of the hallways, small pegs stuck out from the walls. Luminous orbs sat atop them, evenly distributing spherical light patches throughout the room to make up for the lack of any windows. The floor had a purple carpet in the center, with the same logo stitched into as the tapestries outside. Different versions of those tapestries also hung from the walls, next to the luminous orbs.

    Shane broke the duo's silence. "Hey, uh, am I crazy or did Braviary call you Tessa?"

    Tessa's eyes widened and she quickly looked away from Shane. "… he did."

    "So, is that your real name, then?"

    "No. It's... um... my mom told me it's just some old Lucario custom that dates back to ancient times. And you're not allowed to call me that," Tessa ordered. "Ever."

    Shane raised a confused eyebrow. "Why not? I happen to think it's a very pretty name. Suits you nicely!"

    "If you want me to go through with this you will not call me Tessa. Understand?" she growled.

    "Whoa, whoa, take it easy," Shane coaxed. "No need to get so cross. It's just a name. Besides, you really just want me to call you Riolu?"

    "Yes. That's what I'm supposed to be called. What else would you call me, huh?"

    "Well, don't you think that could be awkward?" Shane pointed out. "Like, what if we run into other Riolus? How am I supposed to know who's who? Heck, how do any of you even talk to each other when you're in groups? That seems like a pretty big oversight, if you ask me."

    Tessa gritted her teeth. "Look, I get you're not from around here and stuff. But maybe you could just be silent and observe a bit and then start pestering folks with questions? It just so happens that the overwhelming majority of Pokémon simply call each other by their species name unless they're bullies, really good friends, or madly in love with each other. It's not a big deal."

    "And nobody gets confused?"

    "If you're in a group of Pokémon of the same species you just make eye contact with the one you want to talk to," Tessa scoffed. "Did your 'brilliant human mind' not think that one up?"

    "It did," Shane said. "But there are other situations. What if, say, you tried to report the Sneasel that robbed you to the guild. You can't just say, 'The culprit was Sneasel, officer.' Because there are probably plenty of Sneasels around here." Shane smirked, feeling pretty confident with his deduction. 'Sure, the games don't go with the actual name route, but this is very clearly not a game.'

    Much to his surprise however, Tessa only glared at him. "You just love racing to conclusions, don't you? The fact of the matter is, no two Pokémon of the same species look completely alike."

    Shane's jaw slackened. "Say what now?"

    "We all have differences between one another. Sometimes they're big differences and sometimes they're small," Tessa continued. "My mom is very thin compared to other Lucarios, and has a white birthmark on her forehead that looks like a diamond. And I have extra tufts of fur on top of my ears compared to other Riolu." She grabbed her ears and bent them over. "Plus, my aura feelers are small for someone my age."

    Shane let out a laugh. "Ha! That's a good one. I've stared at Riolu on my computer screen for hours and the only way they look different is if an artist decides to take creative liberties with their fanart."

    Tessa's glare fiercened. "Are you saying I'm lying?"

    "Uh… I guess not," Shane muttered. "But if you're telling the truth, then that just proves my point from when we first met: we're destined to be a world-saving team, you and I! Because I, uh, read up on some of your local human legends and it sounded like many of the Pokémon that worked with the humans were called something different than their species name." He flashed Tessa a broad grin.

    A vein bulged out of Tessa's forehead. "Will you drop that whole world-saving business already?" she hissed. "Pokémon are gonna look at us funny if you keep that up."

    Luckily for Shane, Braviary appeared from the staircase, abruptly ending the conversation before Tessa could escalate to full-blown shouting. Braviary focused on an open corner of the large room, where the stone walls gave way to a metal door. "Hopefully the Guildmaster ain't busy," Braviary mused. He approached the door and knocked on it with a wing. The metal door slid open and Braviary gestured inside. Shane and Tessa walked through the door and entered a cold, gray room. It lacked any sort of decorations, save for a tapestry dangling from the far wall. It had a similar image stitched in it as the pedestal outside: a purple crescent moon overlapping a golden sun.

    "Wow… talk about a sterile room," Shane muttered. "It's almost like the metal's been thrown up on top of… whatever used to be here."

    "Quiet!" Tessa hissed and elbowed Shane's ribs. "You're gonna get us in trouble."

    "Guildmaster, I've got some new recruits," Braviary announced.

    Shane jumped as he noticed part of the gray on the far end of the room shift. He watched four metallic limbs extend, hefting a massive, disc-shaped body up off the floor. 'The Guildmaster… is a Metagross?' Shane mentally gasped. 'Wicked awesome! I don't see what Tessa doesn't like about this place. It just keeps getting better and better to me.'

    Metagross slowly pivoted to face forward. Fact: the recruits are Riolu and a human.

    Shane jumped at the Guildmaster's robotic voice. "Cripes!" His tails stiffened. "Wait… you know I'm a human?"

    "Ha ha! That's our Guildmaster, for ya," Braviary laughed. "Always calculating things faster than you can even say 'em. How do ya think we keep things running so efficiently here? But, uh, not to disrespect ya or nothing, Guildmaster." He looked at Shane. "It's just, uh, that don't look like no human to me."

    Acknowledged. Fact: this Vulpix has memories of things alien to this world. Fact: he seeks to join the guild to find out why he is in our world, Metagross explained.

    "Eh? I never said anything abo– oh, I get it. You read my mind."

    Fact: conversations detract from my ability to analyze and calculate in peace. Conclusion: read minds to deter idle chatter, Metagross explained.

    'Wow, someone must be a real hit at parties, then,' Shane thought. 'Wait… he didn't hear that, did he?'

    Metagross' eyes narrowed in a fashion that suggested yes, he very well did hear that.

    "So, what do you think, Guildmaster?" Braviary asked. "Should I register these folks, or–?"

    Order: administer test. Reason: to ascertain the duo's capabilities, Metagross replied. His eyes flashed blue. Instructions transferred.

    Braviary blinked rapidly and he rubbed his head with a wing. "Err, right. Still ain't used to them mind games of yours, pardner." He turned back to Shane and Tessa. "Alright, you two, follow me back out." The trio headed toward the office's door.

    Riolu.

    Tessa froze as Metagross's robotic voice echoed in her head. She cautiously looked back at him.

    Warning: continued dwelling on your family will impair your path to success in this guild.

    Tessa flinched at this. "… thank you, Guildmaster. I'll, um, try to keep that in mind." She clasped her hands against her chest and shuffled out of the room, keeping her head bowed low. Out in the assembly area, she spotted the tips of Shane's tails disappearing up the stairs and quickly sprinted after him. She made it back up to the entrance and stopped next to Shane. Tessa hunched over, trying to catch her breath.

    "Alright, eyes and ears on me, you two," Braviary ordered, pacing back and forth by the front door. Shane and Tessa stood at attention. "A big part of working fer the guild is helping us maintain an adequate stock of resources," Braviary explained. "Can't have folks going hungry, fer example."

    "Our big test is… a food run?" Shane rolled his eyes. "Heh." He glanced at Tessa. "And you were worried."

    "Son, we don't take kindly to folks who interrupt 'round these parts," Braviary said. Shane stiffened and looked away, biting his lower lip. "Now then, our resident cook, Steenee, had gone to Dewdrop Woods to get food yesterday. But she ended up losing one of the guild's looplets in the process. Them things are mighty valuable. So, the Guildmaster wants y'all to find it."

    "Uh, question?" Shane raised a forepaw. "Who's to say another Pokémon didn't already snatch it up? That'd make a journey there pretty pointless, wouldn't you say? Besides, don't Mystery Dungeons always change their appearance? That looplet could be anywhere by now."

    Braviary's brow furrowed. "Now look here, feller, I hope ya ain't trying to be cute. Fer one, looplets are plum useless if'n you ain't the exploring type. And second, everyone knows Mystery Dungeons out here don't work like them kooky ones they got overseas." He shook his head. "Are you sure you know what yer doing here, pardner?"

    "Ignore him, Braviary," Tessa said. "You heard the Guildmaster. He's human. He doesn't know any better!"

    Shane gave her a confused look. "Huh. I reckon I hadn't considered that," Braviary muttered. "Ah well. Guess you'll just have to learn about Horizon dungeons the old-fashioned way. By brute force, ha ha!" He reached in his satchel and pulled out a piece of paper and a glowing blue orb. "This here is directions to where Steenee went. And this is an Escape Orb. Use it when yer done or if'n y'all end up in over your heads. You, uh, do know about these things, yes?"

    Tessa stared at it in confusion. "They magically teleport us out of the dungeon, right?" Shane asked.

    "Heh, guess you do know a bit after all, hoss," Braviary chuckled. "Yeah, it'll warp you to the forest's edge lickety split."

    Tessa's eyes widened. "But wouldn't that be painful?" she gulped.

    "Nah. These here orbs are enchanted by psychic-types. Just, y'know, don't eat a ton before you use it fer the first time," Braviary explained. Tessa pocketed the orb and tightly gripped the direction sheet. "Well, if'n y'all got no questions, yer dismissed. Guildmaster expects a result one way or another by sundown."

    Shane's eyes widened. "Then we'd better get a move on. C'mon, Riolu!" He turned and dashed for the door.

    "Hey, wait!" Tessa lumbered after him. "You don't even know where you're going, you ditz!"

    XxX

    ~Dewdrop Woods~

    The entrance to Dewdrop Woods lay just on the outskirts of Aeon Town. The massive wall of trees – Shane remembered it from pursuing the would-be scarf thieves – had an opening in it that let inside the forest. As soon as they stepped through the entrance, the forest swallowed them up. Massive trees hung over their heads. Their thick, leafy branches blocked out most of the bright sunshine they had enjoyed on their walk over. Only tiny beams of light could weave their ways through openings in the treeline. The rest of the forest was as shady as any beach umbrella Shane had ever sat under in his days as a human. Interspersed between the trees were patches of thick bushes. Some held thorns. Other produced flowers that assaulted Shane's nose with a bevy of soothing aromas.

    Shane and Tessa proceeded down a path that winded its way through the foliage. Rich, earthy soil crunched underneath their paws with every step, releasing a fragrance that reminded Shane of the parks he had gone and played in as a kid. Every so often, he and Tessa found themselves tripping over a hidden root. But, other than that, the trek was quite uneventful. Shane took note of the multitude of swollen roots protruding from the trees. Each time he got near one, he crouched low, expecting a wild Pokémon to pop out. But when nothing happened, his confusion grew.

    "Okay, this is really bugging me now," Shane finally spoke up after they had trekked pretty far into the forest. "Why is there this nice pathway through the middle of a Mystery Dungeon? Where are the wild Pokémon jumping us at every turn? And why do you have directions around this place if it's supposed to change its appearance every time someone goes in and out of it?" Tessa continued starting at the direction sheet. "Hey, aren't you going to answer me?"

    She let out a sigh. "You really don't know, huh?"

    "No, I don't. And I'd appreciate an answer. Unless you don't know either," Shane said.

    "Sorry. You said you'd done some reading, and you seemed like you knew what you were talking about with Mystery Dungeons," Tessa said, scratching the back of her head. "I guess you only know about the ones overseas."

    "Yeah. Okay. I admit it. Now, what's the deal with dungeons in Horizon?" Shane asked.

    "Simple. Rather than being labyrinths made up of floors, our dungeons are giant landmasses," Tessa explained. "Like this big forest, for example. The dungeons are separated from civilized towns by natural boundaries."

    "So, like that giant wall of really thick, really dark trees we walked through at the start?" Shane wondered.

    Tessa nodded. "Exactly. As for the other stuff, since the dungeons are stationary landmasses, they're not always changing their layouts," Tessa continued. "The Land Spirits decide when to change them. When I was a pup, my parents told me they can terraform the whole continent using their signature move: Nature's Madness."

    Shane stopped walking, blinking rapidly as he tried to process Tessa's explanation. "Wait, what? Nature's Madness? Land Spirits? You mean, like the Regi Trio?"

    "What? No. The Tapus! How could you not know who they are?" Tessa gasped. "It's their responsibility to keep Horizon's landscape safe. If it wasn't for them reshaping our dungeons, the chaotic energies of ley lines would build up to such a massive degree that the whole continent would break in half and sink into the ocean." As she said that, she fidgeted with her paws and eventually finished by thrusting her arms apart, like she was trying to imitate an explosion.

    Shane's ears stood straight up. "Seriously?"

    "Seriously." Tessa resumed walking forward, prompting Shane to jog after her. "And when they change the dungeons' landscapes, they try to make safe paths for explorers and other civilized Pokémon to navigate through. That way, we're not disturbing any wild Pokémon's territory. They don't attack us. We try not to bother them. Honestly, it's a good arrangement. And it's worked for us so far. We stayed clear of most of the problems that the other continents experienced."

    "Uh... okay," Shane mumbled. "I mean, I recognized 'ley lines,' but everything else in that explanation just kind of went over my head. What's the point of having a guild if the dungeons aren't constantly changing, anyway? Seems like waste of manpower to me." He paused. "Or, I guess, 'monpower." He let out a chuckle at his own lame pun.

    Tessa rubbed the bridge of her snout. "Look, we don't have time to be standing around debating the semantics of Horizon dungeons. You were the one who wanted to do this. If it bothers you that badly, then take it up with the Guildmaster when we're done here." Tessa carefully sidestepped an enlarged tree root. Shane stole a glance up at the tree line, which towered over his head. One of the branches looked ready to break off and fall down on the bush sitting beside the tree.

    "Whatever. Still, it's strange. How do you figure the guild's able to get any food from a place like this?" he asked.

    "No idea. I've never been here before, remember?" Tessa replied, going back to looking at the directions. "Okay, looks like we're coming up to a crossroads. We need to take the left path."

    "Um, are you sure about that?" Shane trotted forward, glancing down two pathways sectioned off by rows of trees and bushes. "Because I swear I see light from the other path. I think there's a clearing in that direction."

    "Who's the one with the directions here?" Tessa reminded him, waving the parchment around. "We're going left."

    "Look, just hear me out for a moment. If we know which direction to go, why not investigate the other path?" Shane proposed. "The clearing's real close. Maybe there will be some treasure there?"

    "No. We don't need to take unnecessary risks, Vulpix. We're on a timetable here," Tessa pointed out.

    "It's minimal risk for a potentially big reward. How impressed would the Guildmaster be if we showed up with the looplet and actual treasure?" Shane said. "I'll bet we'll get fast-tracked to a higher-level status for our team!"

    "It's not worth it. Especially when we're not familiar with this ar–"

    "Too late!" Shane called from up on the right path. "I'm already heading for the clearing!"

    Tessa clenched her free paw into a fist and ran off after him. 'I could just leave him behind,' she figured, 'But that's bound to get me in trouble with the Guildmaster.'

    Shane's form had already disappeared into the bright clearing. "Well, do you see anything?" Tessa asked.

    "Just a pond and a couple of nests!" Shane yelled back. "Guess I was mistak– Hey, where did you guys come from?" Tessa tensed up and she quickly increased her speed. "Hey! Ow! OW! No pecking! I… I'm not here to cause trouble!" Shane yelped.

    'Ugh, you idiot!' Tessa mentally hissed. She emerged into the clearing, squinting from the sudden influx of light. When her eyes adjusted, she saw Shane running in a panic from a quartet of angrily squawking, black and white birds with sharp, gray beaks.

    "Gaaah! I didn't know this was your private roosting grounds. I'm sorry! We're just passing through, I swear!" he yipped. "Whoa!" His forepaw hit a root and he fell forward. Shane tumbled across the ground and fell into the pond on the other side of the clearing with a small splash. The birds hovered by the water's edge, exchanging confused looks.

    Tessa rummaged through her satchel and produced a pawful of geo pebbles. 'Way to scare the Pikipek, dude. And that idiot said we wouldn't need these.' She let out a laugh. Tessa chucked the the pebbles forward, making them spread out in different directions. Her trajectory was on the mark and the Pikipek found themselves peppered by her projectiles.

    She ducked back behind a tree. The Pikipek all looked about in confusion. Suddenly, a plume of pond water doused them as Shane emerged from the pond. He shot a Powder Snow at them. It instantly froze their already-soaked bodies. They plummeted to the ground and landed on top of each other, forming a veritable stack of frozen Pikipek. Tessa emerged from her hiding spot while Shane tried to shake out his wet fur. "S-See?" he said through chattering teeth. "N-No p-p-problems a-at a-a-all!"

    "The only reason you didn't end up in trouble was because I stepped in with my – what did you call them again? – oh yeah, 'dead-weight rocks,'" Tessa said, crossing her arms and smirking. "Who's the unprepared one now?"

    Shane's legs quivered. "Unless you've got a towel in there, I'm still saying you."

    "Oh please, you're fine. You're an ice-type, you'll live," Tessa scoffed.

    Grooooooooowl!

    "… but all that running around is a problem. For your stomach," Tessa sighed. She pulled one of the apples from her bag. "Here, you need this."

    Shane accepted the apple and munched away at it. "… it's a little bitter," he reported.

    Tessa rolled her eyes. "You're welcome. Now let's get back to where we should be going. Unless you fancy another swim?"

    "Hey now. Maybe I'm secretly trying to learn Water Pulse?" Shane proposed with a goofy grin. Tessa didn't even respond. She turned and walked back toward the fork in the path. "What? Come on!" Shane jogged after her, small ice shards dropping off his snowy tails. "That was funny. Can't I at least get a chuckle?"

    "No!" Tessa barked. "Because this was nothing more than you wasting time. We're lucky you only riled up some Pikipek. It could've been a lot worse! Bewear live in these woods, you know!"

    "I told you, we have nothing to worry about," Shane scoffed. "Like the Guildmaster would send us off to some terrifying labyrinth." He flicked his forepaw. "And that last sentence of yours was grammatically incorrect. 'Beware live in these woods?' Ooooh… very scary! What should I beware of, exactly? Giant tree leaves?"

    "Ugh, you're not listening to me," Tessa growled. "Sometimes things aren't as clear-cut as you think they are."

    Shane rolled his eyes. "Nice piece of wisdom there. You get that off the back of a fortune cookie? I prefer something along the lines of, 'don't dwell on the what-ifs.'"

    "Fine then. Once we're officially in the guild, if you want to do a bunch of crazy missions on your own, no one's stopping you."

    "But, that would defeat the point of us being a team," Shane pointed out.

    "If we're supposed to be a team then at least try to understand where I'm coming from!" Tessa snapped. "I know you think this is exciting… but there's real danger out here. And I want to avoid it as best I can."

    Shane ignored her. "Hey." His eyes narrowed. "I think I saw something sparkle in the distance. Are there any other directions on your list?"

    Tessa scowled. "Were you even listening to me?"

    "I'm serious, Riolu." Shane proceeded forward, crouching low to the ground. "I think we might've found it. Do your directions mention anything about veering off further to the left?"

    Tessa sighed and checked the sheet. "Yes," she replied. "Apparently this path currently leads to four different areas with fruit growing in them. We want the leftmost one."

    "Excellent!" Shane chirped, padding forward confidently. The duo continued on the path, with Tessa taking the time to eat an apple. As she finished, she saw something sparkle up ahead. She noticed the path splitting off in four directions. Shane turned into the leftmost one and she followed him. The path led to a small incline, which descended into a dusty, dirt-filled pit. A single sparkling tree grew out of the center. While it wasn't as large as the trees surrounding the pit, it stood out, since it sat in the center of a ring of sunlight that made its golden leaves glisten.

    "Whoa!" Shane gasped. "Check out the apples in that tree. They're huge. Like, as big as our faces!"

    "Yeah," Tessa whispered. "How is that tree not collapsing?" She looked down and noticed Shane had already reached the base of the tree.

    "Hey, I found the sparkly thing," he announced. "But it's a chest. I'm pretty sure looplets don't look like this."

    "Yeah, you're right." Tessa jogged down toward the chest.

    "I guess the directions were mistaken?" Shane thought aloud. "Still, as long as we're here, we might as well help ourselves to whatever goodies are inside." He rubbed his forepaws together eagerly.

    "Hang on, Vulpix. That might not be such a good id–"

    "HOLD IT!"

    The two canines jumped and whirled around. They spotted a mongoose with bright yellow hair sitting on one of the tree's branches. "I know I didn't just catch youse two tryin' to make off wit' our treasure."

    Shane raised an eyebrow. "What the heck are you supposed to be? A Furret wearing an ugly wig?"

    "Vulpix! Yungoos are very sensitive about their hair," Tessa scolded. But the damage was already done. Yungoos flung the apple by his side at Shane, who hollered as the fruit splattered against his face and doused him in applesauce.

    "Gaaaaah!" He stumbled back. "Hey, that stings!"

    "Yeah, it should," Yungoos snickered. "Like da sting of some lout tryin' to run off wit' ya goods!" He looked down at the ground. "Now, Trapinch!"

    The soil started to shift under Tessa's feet. She squeaked in surprise and jumped away from the tree. The treasure box sank beneath the dirt. Tessa scanned the ground. "Nnngh, c'mon you stupid aura feelers. Sense something!" She flicked one of the baubles on her head.

    The spot where the box previously sat had given way to a small, round, orange head with beady black eyes. "Treasure box is secured, Yungoos," Trapinch announced.

    "Excellent." Yungoos rubbed his forepaws together. "Now, we show dese two losers what happens to Pokémon who try to steal from us."

    "No… no… wait. Please wait." Tessa threw up her forepaws. "This is all a big misunderstanding. We're not after any treasure. We're just trying to find something our friend left here while she was gathering food yesterday."

    "… ha! Likely story," Yungoos dismissed. "Does it look like dere's anyt'ing valuable around here dat ain't edible?"

    "Um… no. But, that's only because we just got here," Tessa insisted. "Give my partner and me a second to check in some of these bushes and, um, maybe we'll find something."

    Tessa heard Shane spit mushed apple from his mouth. "Oh, we are so not backing down!" he hissed, rubbing sticky residue from his eyes. "Not after that ugly Furret threw an apple at me. Why do you 'mons get off on making white-furred folk messy, anyway? Get a hobby!"

    "Vulpix, wait. We can talk this out with th–"

    Shane shot a Powder Snow up toward the tree. Yungoos dug his claws into the branch and spun around it. He dropped down to the ground, dodging the stream of snowflakes. "Okay, dat tears it! Da two of youse ain't walking outta here wit'out a heaping mess of bruises!" He snapped at the air with his large fangs.

    "Vulpix, seriously?" Tessa barked. She turned back to Yungoos. "Please… please excuse my idiot of a partner over here. He got attacked by some Pikipek earlier and I think it made him delirio–"

    Beside her, Shane lunged for Trapinch. But Trapinch disappeared into his hole and Shane ended up headbutting the apple tree. "Ow!" He stumbled backward. "No fair, going underground like that." His eyes darted about the ground. "You can't hide forever! Come out and take your Powder Snow like a man… err… bug-worm thingy. You get the idea!"

    Yungoos turned and glared at Tessa, who promptly facepalmed.

    'Oh, for gods' sakes… this guy's gonna be the death of me!'

    XxX​

    I swear this fic won't be following a constant pattern of alternating plot/interactions and battles between chapters. These are just easy breaking points for the earlier acts. Hope you all enjoy and see you next update.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
  17. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    Shane's iffy capacity to distinguish between reality and fiction continues to entertain; in particular, I have to say, I really like the line 'No introductory boss could be that stupid.' Also, this probably isn't intentional but the fact that he wanted to be a riolu really does add to his jerkish personality for me; I'm pretty enthusiastic about most pokémon designs, if I can see how the concept is meant to work, but I have never been able to muster anything other than distaste for the lucario line. None of the elements of the design seem to fit together properly, and it just looks … weirdly amateurish compared to even other designs from the same generation. That Shane really likes that kind of thing cements him in my mind as someone of questionable taste.

    Moving swiftly on from my shameless creature design snobbery! I like the dynamic you're establishing between Shane and Tessa – one of them being kinda useless but convinced he's amazing, and the other being quite strong but convinced she's terrible. It plays out really nicely in that fight against Sneasel and Jangmo-o, where Shane should have this – he's ice/fairy fighting a dragon – but just completely doesn't even know how to use his powers and ends up mostly shouting encouragement (“encouragement”) at Tessa from the sidelines.

    The battle itself is a bit hit and miss – like, sometimes we really see what's going on, all the movements and blows and what have you (which is great!), and sometimes we just get told that someone used quick attack to hit someone else (which is less so). Those latter moments are actually quite hard to visualise, I think, and that's a bit of an issue for battles, which should ideally be clear and sharp in the reader's mind. Rather than saying Tessa used quick attack, show us the quick attack: the darting movement, maybe the world blurring around her as she moves faster than she herself can see, and the impact of her paw or whatever it might be on Sneasel himself. When you translate a move from game to fiction, it acquires a bunch of characteristics that it doesn't necessarily have in-game: the sound it makes, the force it hits with and how that affects the target, the temperature of it, potentially the smell for some moves like thunderbolt (ozone), sweet scent (flowers, I guess?) or gunk shot (decay). Battles in fic are a chance to show all this off, to really bring the stories you fight through in-game to life, and it'd be great to see maybe a little more of that.

    It's nice to see the lookout thing from the games implemented here in the story – my copy of the games that was a part of stopped working several years ago, with all the plot triggers just refusing to actually happen for some reason, and so I'd actually forgotten that that was ever a thing. It's cool that it's in this, though!

    I also like that you give an explanation for everyone not having names, which I think actually does seem at least somewhat plausible when you consider how alien a culture the PMD world must have –although I have to admit, I'm not totally convinced that you could give someone a specific enough description of, say, Sneasel to let the authorities know that it was that Sneasel in particular without there being reasonable room for doubt – like, people can make mistakes about that kind of thing even with humans, and there is substantially more variation in appearance between individual humans than between many other kinds of animal, given how we tend to customise our appearances with clothing and hairstyles. That said, I can imagine a nameless culture in which nobody has a name because, well, nobody ever has a name so why would they, and I think you make it work here. I kinda think it would be an even more convincing representation of a nameless culture if they didn't even understand the concept of giving an individual pokémon a name, but of course Tessa has one, and so does this Gallian person, so the concept does exist, which leaves you in a weird place halfway between a culture with names and one without that possibly weakens the argument you make for not having them. Still! It's nothing really majorly problematic, I think.

    I'm not sure about this, however:

    I don't see how Shane could whistle the words 'it's beautiful', so perhaps you meant that he said them, then whistled? In which case, it would be punctuated like so―

    ―since the whistling isn't a dialogue attribution but rather a separate action.

    That should be 'kooky' rather than 'cooky'.

    When you begin dialogue with an ellipsis like this, you should have a space between the ellipsis and the first word, and you don't need to capitalise it, either. Like so:

    It's nice to see the adventure picking up, though! And I like how you're taking on dungeons – like, it's always kinda glossed over in the games why everyone in a mystery dungeon is out to murder you, but you've given the endless lines of anonymous enemies you have to chop through a measure of personality and agency that I quite like, and a motivation that makes sense: once again, it's Shane who's getting everyone into trouble. I'll be looking out for your next chapter!
     
  18. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    WELL GEE GOLLY GOSHES YOU SURE CONVINCED ME

    ...You know, I might've said something about how much trouble Shane might get himself into in a world with mind-readers, but since he doesn't seem to stop much of what's in his head from getting to his mouth anyway... :p

    PFFFFFF gosh. Such a nerdlord. XD


    Metagross was pretty rad, but I think I like Braviary even more. He's oddly precious somehow. Plus any opportunity to put "if'n" in text is a great thing. :D
     
  19. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Chimera Puppy

    This update has it all: battling! New faces! Shane putting his foot in his mouth! ... wait, that last one's not a good thing, is it? Oh well, it's still here. So just check it out after the break. First, some review responses.

    Cutlerine
    While I could say that this is me poking fun at the Lucario line's absurd levels of popularity (and it definitely is to some extent), that tidbit will be coming into play later... like way later.

    That's what I was worried about. I'll probably need to go back and rework things a bit when I'm not quite so busy. Even though the battle in this chapter isn't terribly long, I tried to describe all the attacks with actions instead of name-dropping them. Let me know if this is an improvement or I'm still off the mark.

    And, yeah, a fair complaint with the name explanation. It does seem a bit on the contrived side but, well, I can't say they don't use nicknames here (Sneasel did call Shane 'Snowy' after all, even if it was meant as an insult).
    All I'll say is that there's a very specific reason that Tessa and Gallian have the names that they do, but you're not going to find out for quite awhile.
    Sorry to tease like that, but it's there for a reason, I swear.

    Sike Saner
    Glad you like 'em. My intention with Metagross was to make him the anti-Ampharos/Wigglytuff as far as personalities go. They're a pair of lovable goofs, so Metagross is a terse, emotionless automaton who sticks to business matters. And I'd say that's pretty in-line with its Dex entry. As for Braviary, well... I just wanted to give him that accent.

    XxX

    Chapter 4: The Guilded Age

    Yungoos lowered his head and charged Tessa down. The sight reminded her of the battle with Sneasel and Jangmo-o. She opted to use the exact same strategy. Tessa braced her arms against her body. Yungoos struck her in the thighs, shoving her back slightly. But Tessa swung a glowing fist around and socked Yungoos in the jaw.

    "Gack!" Yungoos shouted. Tessa's counter upended him, leaving him sprawled on his back. Tessa stole a glance at Shane, who had jumped onto a tree root to dodge Trapinch leaping out from the ground. Satisfied, she returned her attention to Yungoos.

    "Not bad," he complimented. "That smarted quite a bit. But now that I know what I'm dealing with…"

    Yungoos turned around and kicked the ground with his legs. Tessa gasped as dirt buffeted her face. She stumbled back, rubbing her eyes and blinking them rapidly. Yungoos' eye gleamed and he charged Tessa again. Tessa couldn't see him through her watery vision. He body-slammed her right to the ground, then sprang up to run down Shane.

    "C'mon, Riolu!" Shane barked, his Powder Snow trail missing Trapinch again. "I've got to focus on Trapinch. My attacks are more effective on him!"

    "Too bad, so sad," Yungoos taunted. "Now, Trapinch!"

    As Tessa tried to right herself, the ground shifted beneath her. Trapinch shot up into her back, knocking her even further away from Shane. "Nnnngggh…" Tessa groaned. She pivoted her head to see Trapinch running forward. He vanished into thin air.

    Tessa recognized the Faint Attack from her previous battle and jumped back. Trapinch's shadowy form just barely missed her. Tessa opened her mouth and bit into Trapinch. Black shadows danced across Trapinch's body. "Ouchies!" he squealed and flailed his limbs about. Tessa fell to the ground on top of him, pinning him down.

    "Can't tunnel away now, can you?" Tessa declared, restraining the ground-type.

    "Yungoos! I could use some help here," Trapinch shouted. Yungoos kicked a ton of dirt into Shane's face. Shane gasped and the blast of snow he was focusing on went awry. Tessa's eyes widened and she rolled off Trapinch. The stream of condensed water grazed the corner of her right shoulder, sending a chill down her arm.

    "Vulpix, you dolt! You almost hit me," Tessa hissed. "Watch where you're aim– AUGH!" Trapinch cut off her complaint by successfully running into her from the shadows. This widened the distance between Tessa and Shane yet again.

    "It's not my fault," Shane growled. "You were supposed to stay on Yungoos. This match-up's unfavorable. We need to switch targets!" He shot a quick burst of Powder Snow to give himself cover for a charge toward Trapinch. However, the sand clouding his vision made the attack sail clear of Yungoos yet again. Yungoos ran after Shane and struck him from behind. Shane fell to the ground and the wind rushed out of him.

    "Heh… trying to weasel out of t'ings, eh? Dere's a Pursuit for your troubles," Yungoos snickered. "Y'know, you and Riolu dere ain't much of a team, are ya?"

    "I… can… handle things myself!" Shane grunted. Next thing Yungoos knew, he had a face full of Shane's frigid tails.

    "Nyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaargh!" he gasped and dropped to the ground, struggling to catch his breath. "What is your problem? Youse don't just shove your tails in someone's face like dat! Dat ain't natural," he spat.

    Shane buffeted Yungoos with a point-blank stream of slushy snow, freezing him to the ground. "Heh… how's that for a creative use of Tail Whip?" Shane boasted. "Hey, Tessa, check it out! I've put this guy on ice. See, nothing to worry abo–"

    "Stop bragging and get over here!" Tessa barked. She lunged toward Trapinch with a burst of speed. But her Quick Attack went wide as Trapinch burrowed underground once again. "I need Trapinch distracted so I can heal. I'm not doing too hot."

    "That's because you hesitate too much," Shane scoffed. "See? Leaping into battle can have its advantages." He trotted over to her location, scanning the ground. Tessa grabbed an oran berry out of her bag. When she did, Shane spotted movement on the ground behind her. "Duck!" he shouted. Tessa shoved the berry in her mouth and dropped to her belly. Shane rifled off a small, ball-shaped glob of Powder Snow, striking Trapinch while he emerged to spear Tessa from behind. Trapinch squealed in pain and retreated underground. "Oh no, not this time!" Shane grunted. "I've got me an idea." He sprinted over to the hole left by Trapinch. He then took a deep breath in and exhaled as much snow as he could manage straight into the hole. The soil around him started freezing over.

    "Like that's really going to do anything," Tessa sneered. "How slow do you think a Trapinch moves underground?"

    One second later, Shane found himself sprawled out on his belly. Trapinch dug into him from behind and jumped off his torso to lunge at Tessa. Her eyes widened, but she held her ground, preparing to counter him if necessary. Yet, to her surprise, Trapinch's momentum carried him beyond her reach. Instead, Trapinch hit the ground bit into the ice around Yungoos' legs. "Nice moves dere, bud," Yungoos said.

    "You doing okay?" Trapinch asked.

    "Better dan dose schmucks, dat's for sure," Yungoos chuckled. "Quick, while they're still split up."

    "Got it." Trapinch nodded and dug back into the ground. Yungoos darted in Shane's direction. Shane prepared to keep Yungoos at bay with Powder Snow. But Yungoos proved faster on the draw and splattered more dirt across Shane's face. His head pivoted away and he shot his attack in Tessa's direction. She had her back turned to him, so the slushy spiral struck her, coating her fur in a layer of frost.

    She staggered forward, enabling Trapinch to slam into her thighs from underground. This made her collapse onto her back. "Vulpix!" Tessa howled. "What did I just tell you before? Mind your surroundings!" She awkwardly rolled to her feet and accelerated into Trapinch. This put enough distance between the two of them for Tessa to scarf down part of an apple and pull out a few of her pebbles.

    "It wasn't my fault," Shane sputtered, spitting out bits of sand. "This guy's playing dirty… literally."

    "It ain't dirty, it's strategic," Yungoos boasted. "Da two of youse ain't in sync at all. Your teamwork's laughable."

    "Well, we haven't worked together all that long," Shane panted. "But all I've got to do is freeze you again and make it a two-on-one scenario."

    "Yeah, fat chance I'm letting dat happen again!" Yungoos bellowed. He lowered his head and charged at Shane. If Shane wanted to dodge, it would only put more distance between him and Tessa.

    'But she's pretty fast,' he figured. Shane scampered back until Yungoos stumbled to a stop. "Tessa!" He shouted. "We need to regroup!"

    "Don't call me that! And don't you tell me what to do. It's your bad decision making that's put us in this spot," Tessa growled, hurling the rocks at Trapinch. He avoided them by darting into the shadows. Tessa bolted forward and collided with his shadow-encased body. Both Pokémon bounced back, but Trapinch manage to tunnel underground.

    "I'm serious here. They're trying to keep us apart on purpose," Shane declared. "You've got to believe m– EEP!" He ducked a plume of dirt from Yungoos and coated the ground with Powder Snow. Yungoos started slipping and sliding about.

    "If we battle next to each other, we're bound to hit each other," Tessa countered.

    "Look, just trust me on this one. We can't coordinate this far away!" Shane begged.

    "Then do to Yungoos what you did to Jangmo-o back on the cape. Roar him away so I can approach safely!" Tessa ordered.

    Shane blinked in surprise. "Wait… that was Roar? I just thought I, uh, hit him with some kinda psychic attack…"

    Tessa scowled. "You mean you didn't even know you could use Roar? What was the point of training these last few days? I told you to practice all of your moves!"

    "I… I practiced Powder Snow plenty," Shane muttered.

    "Are you sure about that? Because you could've fool–"

    Trapinch emerged from the ground, cutting off Tessa. She jumped back to dodge him. Likewise, Yungoos charged at Shane once again. This time Shane held his ground. He took in a deep breath and let out a shrill, watchdog-like bark. Yungoos gasped in surprise before tumbling across the forest dirt and skidding to a halt by the tree.

    "There. I got him," Shane wheezed.

    "Great! Now move your frosty butt over here," Tessa barked, grappling with Trapinch. Shane turned and spat on the ground. Then he ran over to Tessa

    'But, I can't just use Powder Snow. I'll hit Tessa too,' he realized. 'C'mon, there's gotta be something I can do. Concentrate… concentrate...'

    Shane felt a spark ignite in his mind. He narrowed his eyes fiercely at Trapinch. Before the ground-type could react, a pink glow encapsulated his body and hoisted him into the air. Trapinch yelped as the glow erupted into a burst of pink light, flinging him across the forest. Yungoos' eyes widened. He dove for cover behind a large root. His partner struck the front of the root and slid down to the ground. "Ha ha, yes!" Shane hopped about excitedly. "Guess who just learned a new move to save the day? This guy, that's who!" He puffed his chest out proudly. "Oh, the Pokémon anime would be so proud of me right now." He flashed Tessa a confident grin. She stared at him with a look of disbelief.

    "That… what even was that?" she gasped. "It looked like Psychic, but…"

    "Hmm." Shane tapped a forepaw to his chin, "I know some normal Vulpixes can hatch knowing Extrasensory. Maybe these bizarre, ice-type ones can too? In which case, that only makes me more awesome than I could have imagined! I'll bet the humans in your stories didn't get any egg moves this awesome. Assuming they even got some in the first place."

    Tessa grit her teeth. "Will you quit patting yourself on the back until after we've saved our own hides?"

    Yungoos scrambled out from his tree root hiding spot. "Youse t'ink yer clever keeping an attack like dat under wraps?" he barked. "Den dat just means I gotta take ya out first!" He sprang out from his hiding spot, only for Tessa to bolt from her location and body-check Yungoos. The force of the collision hurtled Yungoos into a nearby tree root. He struck it and slid onto his stomach, a dazed look in his eyes. Tessa approached him, fists raised to strike.

    Yungoos immediately raised up his forepaws. "I yield! I yield! Enough… enough… youse two passed da test."

    Tessa's stance slouched. "Wait… this was a test?"

    A cocky grin flashed across Shane's muzzle. "Ha haaaaa! See, what did I tell you, Riolu?" He confidently swaggered up to Tessa. "Nothing. To. Worry. About," he declared, jabbing her back with his forepaw for each and every word.

    Tessa's expression fell. "I… I don't understand. Weren't we supposed to fetch a looplet for the guild?"

    "Yeah, dat was a ruse. Sorry 'bout dat," Yungoos announced. He quickly scurried behind the tree root and reappeared carrying the treasure box from earlier. Yungoos opened the box and pulled out a pair of badges. Each one had a silver version of the overlapping sun and moon insignia Shane and Tessa saw at the guild. But this time it was boarded by a pair of fiery-orange wings. "My partner and I are wit' da guild," Yungoos exclaimed. "Dese are our badges."

    "Wait… but we came right to Dewdrop Woods from Aeon Town," Tessa exclaimed. "How could you possibly have gotten here to set this up for us?"

    "We've been here since dis mornin'," Yungoos reported. "Guildmaster came up to us and was all like, 'Beep boop… a vision told me we're gettin' new recruits. So I'm gonna have youse test 'em in da woods.' And, well, can't exactly say no to da Guildmaster." Yungoos fastened his badge onto his right shoulder. "So, yeah, dat's dat. By da way, if it ain't obvious, your so-called looplet? It ain't here."

    "Seriously? Then what are we supposed to show back up to the guild with?" Shane asked.

    "Well," Trapinch weakly muttered, having regained consciousness. "The Guildmaster's not a particular guy…" Trapinch dug into the treasure box. He managed to heft out an extraordinarily large apple. It was as big as the ones up in the tree. But this one sparkled in the afternoon sunlight. "… you won't get a rise out of him. But if you show this to Braviary, you'll pass. I guarantee it."

    "That is one gnarly apple," Shane observed.

    "Perfect Apple, actually," Trapinch corrected. "They're a personal favorite of Braviary's." Tessa and Shane both raised eyebrows at this. "Don't look so confused. Everyone who has to take the entrance exam comes here to battle a couple of guild apprentices. The Perfect Apple is the symbol of your victory."

    "Even if it was a lucky coinci–"

    "Now, now, Yungoos. They beat us fair and square," Trapinch scolded.

    "Right. But I still meant what I said. Youse two better hone your teamwork, if youse gonna contribute to da guild," Yungoos declared.

    "Heh." Shane rubbed the tip of his snout. "I think we'll be just fine." He stepped forward and rolled the Perfect Apple over to Tessa. "So, what's say we use that Escape Orb and make our way back?"

    Tessa picked up the Perfect Apple and inspected it. "Yeah, I guess that's the next step."

    XxX

    ~Aeon Observatory~

    "Well, shoot. That's a mighty fine Perfect Apple y'all managed to dig up." Braviary gripped the oversized fruit in his talons and rolled it beside him. "And it's fresh and everything. Eeyup. I reckon you two pass with flying colors! I'd expect nothing less of ya, Riolu."

    Shane smiled broadly while Tessa rubbed her left shoulder and looked away.

    "Aww, y'all ain't sore about me lying to ya about the test, are ya?" Braviary asked. "I promise that's the only lie I'll make about any assignment y'all take in the guild."

    "It's fine, Braviary," Shane insisted. "Riolu's just not in a celebratory mood, I suppose." He shot his partner a look that screamed, "Get with the program."

    "Now, let's go see the Guildmaster and finalize y'all's registration," Braviary declared. "Then we can get on with the introductory stuff. Y'all finished quickly, which is great. Gives ya plenty of time to settle in." Braviary guided them back into Metagross' chambers. Metagross levitated parchment and an ink pad over toward them.

    Order: generate name for your exploration team. Order: sign pawprints on guild contract, Metagross stated. He set the page and ink pad down in front of them.

    "Ah, right, the all-important team naming," Shane acknowledged, turning to Tessa. "You better not suggest something cheesy like Team Poképals. That's stupid. We need to be more creative than that."

    "I wasn't about to suggest anything like that," Tessa growled.

    "Okay, at least we agree on that part," Shane chirped. "Now, we've got to think of something cool. To show everyone that we don't mess around. Maybe something like Team Frostbite? Cause I can use ice attacks and you can bite stuff?"

    Tessa's eyes narrowed. "Absolutely not. I will not have our team name revolve around a lame mishmash of words."

    "Fine then." Shane flicked a forepaw. How about Team K9? Cause we're both dogs, in a manner of speaking?" Tessa gave that idea a thumb's down. Shane frowned. "Well, if you don't like those, then maybe we need a name that exudes power? How about Team Iron Fist or Team Shellcracker or Team Vortex?"

    Tessa fiddled with her scarf. "I'd prefer something that sounds more… positive. We're not trying to intimidate others. Guild explorers are supposed to help Pokémon."

    "I'm aware of that, you know," Shane grumbled. "And you're not being all that helpful. You could at least try offering a suggestion."

    Tessa looked up at him. "What about Team Radiance?" Shane raised a skeptical eyebrow. "It sounds uplifting," Tessa continued. "Y'know, something like, 'Through darkest night and brightest day, Team Radiance always finds a way.'"

    Shane blinked in surprise. "That's… great! I really like it!" His tails wagged excitedly. "Yeah, Team Radiance. It's bright. It's bubbly. And it goes well with the whole 'sky motif' this guild seems to have going for it." He glanced at the tapestry on the far wall.

    Accepted. Sign contract to finalize registration. Metagross instructed.

    Shane dipped his left forepaw into the ink pad and stamped it on the bottom of the parchment.

    "Now hang on, Vulpix. Don't you think you should at least read this over fir–?"

    Shane grabbed Tessa's paw, dipped it into the ink, and stamped it down next to his pawprint. She gave him a look of utter disbelief. "You… you… you…" She started gnashing her teeth together.

    Generic congratulatory statement. Fact: you are official novice members of the Horizon Exploration Guild, Metagross announced. His eyes flared blue and a box levitated down toward Braviary. Fact: this box contains your starter's kit. Braviary will explain its contents. Order: be prepared to take up your first assignment tomorrow morning. Statement of farewell. Metagross turned and stomped back toward the far end of his room. Braviary steered the newly-dubbed Team Radiance out of Metagross' office. He set the box down and opened it up.

    "Right, let's get a few things squared away first," Braviary announced. "Yer supplies. They're a bit limited since y'all are novices. But if'n y'all graduate to apprentice or veteran rank, we'll have more to offer you. In the meantime, here are the basics." He produced two badges similar to the ones they saw Yungoos and Trapinch had. They each accepted a badge and pinned it to their half of the rainbow scarf. "Yer badges. They're bronze because yer rookies," Braviary explained. "Silver badges denote apprentices. Gold badges are guild veterans. Gray badges are fer staff members of the guild. And, well..." He lifted a wing to showcase a platinum badge. "... the Guildmaster and I have our own special ones. Now, them badges will get you access to exploration items from the Kecleon Shop, as well as a storage space at Dhelmise Depot. It also gets you discounts at a buncha places in Aeon Town," Braviary continued. "Graduate to a higher rank and y'all will get better discounts. Sound good?"

    Shane and Tessa nodded in unison. Braviary next pulled out a map. "Standard issue Wonder Map. Nothing special to say here." He handed it over to Tessa, then pulled out what looked like a smaller version of her satchel. He spun it around one of his wings. "This here's an explorer's pouch. Much better than yer run-of-the-mill bag. No matter what you stuff in it, it don't change size."

    Tessa accepted the pouch and examined it. The fabric felt a lot more durable than her current bag. "Wait, how does that work? Is it TARDIS technology?" Shane asked, sniffing at the pouch.

    "What-is? That some sorta human world thingamajig?" Braviary asked, scratching his head. "We ain't exactly got a lot of stories about humans. Aside from the handful of world-saving ones."

    Shane laughed nervously. "Y'know what? Forget I said anything. It's probably just filled with Palkia's shed scales or something."

    Actually, an acquaintance helped me generate the energy needed to produce those.

    Team Radiance jumped at an unfamiliar robotic voice. Unlike Metagross, this one sounded female. They turned to their lefts and spotted a metallic, humanoid creature comprised of multiple spheres walking toward them. Its head was an oversized gear with metal, rabbit-like ears. Shane's eyes lit up. "Coooooool! A steampunk robot." He jumped beside the creature, ogling it. "All we need is to find you a Victorian dress, a monocle, and maybe stick a few exhaust pipes on your head and shoulders and–"

    "Vulpix!" Tessa barked, her face bright red with embarrassment. She stepped forward and dragged him back. "You can't just accost strangers like that."

    That is okay. Most new members are intrigued by my appearance. I find their reactions seventeen percent amusifying, the robot exclaimed. I am Magearna. I am the guild's equipment and technical specialist.

    "Eeyup. Mags here helps us make the things we use out in the field," Braviary reiterated. "She's also our resident expert on looplets and emeras. If'n ya ever got a question about 'em, she's yer 'mon." He turned to Magearna. "This here's Team Radiance: Vulpix and Riolu."

    On the subject of looplets, Braviary, I must ask something of Vulpix, Magearna exclaimed. She walked toward Shane and grabbed his left foreleg. Such curiositude! It appears you already have a looplet. But… hmm… this is not one of the standard looplet designs.

    "Wait, that's what this is?" Shane looked down at the band on his foreleg.

    "Now that's funny." Braviary scratched his head. "If'n yer a human who just showed up here, how'd ya get yer mits on a looplet?"

    "I don't know. Riolu said I already had it on my foreleg when I woke up on the beach," Shane announced.

    Wait. There is further shockification, Magearna announced. There is some sort of gemstone in this Looplet. My sensors read emera-like qualities. However, this is like no emera I have detectified in recent years. It appears embedded into this looplet. She held Shane's foreleg up toward Braviary. See for yourself.

    "Huh, yer right. This Looplet's done got all four notches open." Braviary rubbed his beak. "But this glowing stone in the middle looks just like an emera."

    Begging cycle initiated, Magearna announced. I must requesticate that you allow me to examine this looplet in closer detail. I am sure I have seen this somewhere before, but I need to check my record banks. Perhaps it houses some sort of secret?

    "Well, I'd really love to, but I can't get the darn thing off. It's stuck to my leg." Shane demonstrated by attempting to push the Looplet off with his right forepaw, to no avail.

    Disappointment levels have surged to thirty-five percent, Magearna sighed. Well, if you disqualify anything new about your Looplet, do come see me. My curiosity sensors are definitely firing on all cylinders. She gave Team Radiance a curt bow and retreated down the northwestern hallway.

    Braviary shrugged. "Err, I suppose I should give y'all yer starting looplets, then. Or, rather…" He pulled a small band out of the box. "… give Tessa one. Seeing as Vulpix's already got one." He tossed the looplet to Tessa.

    "Please call me Riolu," Tessa whispered while she slipped on the Looplet.

    "If'n you say so. And to go with the Looplets, here are a pair of emeras." He tossed Tessa a pair of glowing, teardrop-shaped stones. "A paralysis guard and a sleep guard. Now, y'all don't need to use 'em right away. But if'n you choose to, they've only got enough energy to last one day of exploration. Most folk activate 'em at dawn and they fizzle out at dusk."

    "Where can we get more of them?" Shane wondered.

    "Town shops is y'all's best bet," Braviary replied. "Otherwise, Magearna can make you some if'n you find her enough stardust."

    "Stardust?" Shane parroted. "Like from comet trails?"

    Braviary shrugs. "Beats me. No one's sure why stardust falls into Mystery Dungeons. It just does. But that's enough rambling. I've got one last thing for ya."

    He pulled out a circular device that had a tiny antenna sticking off of it. 'Huh… kinda looks like a Klefki,' Shane thought.

    "This here's a…" Braviary frowned. "Oh, now what did Magearna call this doohickey again? Ah, right, a Gear-Com." He handed it over to Tessa. "It's some sort of magic communication thingamajig. It's synched up to Magearna and Guildmaster Metagross, so you can reach one of 'em if'n ya need to. I ain't too sure on the range, but we've tested 'em all around Horizon and they work just fine."

    Tessa finished placing the items in her new pouch. To her surprise, it remained surprisingly light. She easily slung it on like a backpack. "Okay, time to get on with the tour," Braviary announced. "Now, this here is the main assembly area. Every morning novices and apprentices gather fer announcements and assignments. Fer the record, if'n y'all make it to veteran status, y'all get a lot more freedom to do as you wish. Don't even have to live here if'n ya don't want to."

    "Then I guess we'll just have to rise up through the ranks, eh?" Shane said, grinning at Tessa.

    "Let's take it one step at a time, Vulpix," Tessa cautioned.

    "It's Shane, partner," Shane chuckled, ignoring her.

    Braviary waved a wing in between them. "Y'all can daydream on yer own time. Yer on guild time now, so eyes and ears on me. Now then, this way." He slowly flew across the assembly area. A small pond sat in the southeast corner of the large, circular room.

    "Oh no! No, no, no, no!" Shane shuffled backward. "I am not going for another swim. My fur is dry and I am happy." The pond water rippled and out popped a pink and yellow triggerfish.

    "Well, helllllooooooooo, dahlings!"

    "GYA!" Shane stumbled back, colliding with Tessa in the process. She shoved Shane off her. Braviary shot a wing out to keep Shane from tumbling into the pond. He quickly caught his breath. 'Dear lord. Those lips… and those teeth. Cripes and I thought that Yungoos guy had an ugly mug. Apparently he was just trying to live up to this… fish… thing…'

    "Bruxish, say hello to Team Radiance, our newest recruits. This here's Vulpix and this is Tes– ah, I mean Riolu," Braviary introduced.

    Bruxish's eyes widened. "Of coooooooooourse! Lucario's daughter. Oh, you've got your mother's eyes, dahling. I always knew you'd find your way here."

    "Um, so, Bruxish, is it?" Shane asked, cautiously approaching the pond. Again, the statement about Tessa's mom flew over his head. "What, uh… are you here for?" Shane jumped back in surprise as Bruxish levitated high out of the pond. 'Waah! That scary fish is psychic? Oh, this keeps getting weirder and weirder."

    "Well, I aaaaaaaaam an apprentice. I specialize in water area navigation," Bruxish explained. "But, of course, not everyone wants to explore places like that. So, most of the time, I help with move and ability maintenance."

    "Eeyup. If'n you got the coin, Bruxish here can help you learn some special moves," Braviary explained.

    "And if you're really willing to pay up, I can even swap your ability, dahling," Bruxish continued. "Very helpful in a piiiiiiinch, wouldn't you say?"

    'Uh, I don't even know what my ability is, so I'm not sure that'll help much,' Shane thought, but held his tongue. Tessa remained silent.

    "Okay, let's get a move on." Braviary shuffled Team Radiance forward. He guided them along a small hallway leading to the south part of the building. Both Shane and Tessa slowed their pace toward the end. They hovered at the edge of a small, circular room. There was a closed door embedded in the far wall, blending in seamlessly with the wall except for a faint outline. A desk sat beside it, as did a large machine containing a glowing globe floating above a stone pedestal.

    But Shane's and Tessa's gazes stayed locked on the two Pokémon lying on cushions beside the globe. They both recognized Growlithe. But neither knew what to make of Growlithe's partner. It lay still, staring down at the ground through its large, stone helmet. The talons on its forelegs gripped the edge of its cushion tightly, while its canine-esque hind legs rested against the wall. A fish's tail lazily drifted back and forth between its hips. The gemstones lining its tail glinted in the pale light from the globe. "What… what is that?" Shane gasped. "Is it even alive? Is that supposed to be a statue? Because it's a real eyesore."

    Tessa turned and gave him a look. "Could you be any ruder?" she hissed in a whisper.

    "Oh, come on. Don't give me that. Even by weirdo Pokémon standards, that thing's creepy. Just listen to it breathing. All raspy and wheezy... like it's been smoking a pack a day for its entire life."

    "Yes, it's weird. But if it's part of the guild, we need to be respectful toward it… whatever it is," Tessa said. 'Or else it looks like it'll tear us to shreds!' she mentally gulped.

    "Howdy, Null." Braviary saluted the helmeted creature with a wing. "Any activity lately?"

    The strange Pokémon shook its head about, letting out a loud, raspy groan. Shane's fur stood on end and his tails shot into the air. 'That's not normal… that's not normal! Keep me away from that freak.'

    "Nothing to report, sir. Aside from those two newcomers, we've had a quiet day," Growlithe said. He spotted Shane and Tessa. "Oh, hey, it's the newcomers." He waved at them. "Hiya, I know we already met. But let me officially say welcome. I'm Growlithe!" he barked excitedly. "I'm glad you're both here. We need more pups around this place, if you ask me. Any fire-related troubles, you come see me. There's nothing I'm not willing to burn." His tail thumped again the cushion. "Normally, I'm not on sentry duty. I'm just filling in for Trapinch today."

    "Sentry duty?" Shane looked around the room in confusion. "You mean, you guys do that here?"

    Braviary nodded. "That there pedestal you saw outside the entrance? It senses any Pokémon's presence. When it does…" He turned toward the globe-like structure. "… our Pokénector detects what kind of Pokémon they are. If'n they're from one of the continent's towns or villages, we know. But if'n they're from out in the wild or one of the other continents, well that's when you alert me or the Guildmaster."

    Shane stared inquisitively at the globe. "So, is this like the Pokémon Nexus, then?"

    "Ha! Yer pardner's got a good head on his shoulders, Riolu," Braviary chuckled. "If only he didn't have the lip."

    "Well, how else would I talk?" Shane quipped. Tessa facepalmed.

    "That ain't funny, son. But yer right. Magearna made this after studying the Pokémon Nexus over at the Water Continent's Expedition Society," Braviary explained. "Unfortunately, it ain't quite as impressive as their doohickey is. Their science guy is mighty protective over it, from what I hear. That, and we need to keep the Pokénector up to date by sending guild members to the different areas 'round Horizon."

    "Horizon… that's the name of this continent, right?" Shane asked.

    "Yeah," Tessa finally spoke up. She pulled out her Wonder Map and opened it up, showcasing the continent.

    "Huh, kind of looks like a donut with a chip in the middle of it," Shane observed. "What's the island in the center?"

    "Rainbow Island," Braviary answered. "That there place is off-limits, no matter how good of an explorer you get to be. It's a sacred spot."

    "Is that so?"

    "Yeah. Ho-Oh used it as a roosting spot in ancient times," Growlithe reported. "Isn't that awesome? The amazing immortal Legendary bird that spits rainbow fire once treated this place like a second home."

    'Guess I know who the dominating Legendary is around these parts,' Shane mentally chuckled. "What about you, big guy?" He turned toward the helmeted Pokémon. "Anything to say?"

    It was at that point that Null looked up. His beady gray eyes zeroed in on Shane. His fur bristled, allowing Shane to see the thick coating of scales lying underneath. Null suddenly shot to his feet and a let out a furious roar. He looked at Shane, snarling, and dug his talons into his cushion. Stuffing spilled out onto the floor. "Whoa, Null, take it easy!" Growlithe gasped, jumping to his feet. "Are you having those headaches of yours again?" In response to this, Null snarled once again. He turned to his side and slammed his head against the wall, leaving a noticeable crack. He took in deep, raspy breaths, and then bashed his head against the exact same spot in the wall, widening the crack.

    Shane whimpered and shuffled back toward the hallway, tails shooting between his legs. 'What's going on here? Why was that freakish thing looking at me like it wanted to kill me?' he wondered. Braviary turned and hastily guided them away from the sentry station. "Okay… what's up with the big dude in the helmet?" Shane asked, his voice ripe with worry.

    "What, y'mean Null? Oh, don't pay him too much mind," Braviary dismissed. "We found him unconscious at Glyphic Falls several months back. No idea how he wound up there. Heck, he didn't have no memories of anything, I reckon. Poor feller don't even know what kind of Pokémon he is. We took him in and he's been with us since. Never leaves the sentry station, though, except to go to his room and sleep. I don't blame him. He can't eat or drink, after all. And we can't seem to get the helmet off him, no matter what we try. I reckon it's making him act kinda... kooky. But he says it's stuck on him."

    Shane's body stiffened. 'Wait. This Null guy washes up in some waterfall with no memory?' His eyes widened. 'No… no way. He couldn't be like me… could he?' He quickly shook his head. 'No! It's not true. Tessa's wrong. I'm not here by accident. Null's situation is just… a coincidence. That's all.

    "Something bugging you, Vulpix?" Tessa asked.

    "I, uh, just realized how hungry I was!" He laughed nervously and rubbed his underbelly.

    "Well, the longer y'all jibber-jabber, the more you delay yer dinner," Braviary chuckled. "C'mon and follow me." Braviary led them next to the western wing of the floor. A series of arched doorways lined the hall. "So, if'n you haven't guessed, novices and apprentices room over here. Showers are down at the end of the hall. Don't y'all let me catch any word of any funny business in there, understand?" Shane and Tessa nodded in unison. "If'n ya reach veteran status, y'all will get offered better lodgings one floor down." Braviary turned into the first room on the right. Tessa and Shane walked into it. Unlike the assembly area, it has a purely nighttime motif. The walls and ceiling were a mix of dark blue and violet, with tiny swirls of white to represent stars. Luminous orbs hung on either side of the doorway. But the room also had a circular window at its far end, bathing the room in orange sunlight and offering a view of the forest far below the Observatory.

    Shane approached the two sky-blue pillows in the center of the room's purple carpet. "Huh… and here I was expecting a straw bed," Shane said. "Fancy."

    "You better drop that sass, hoss, or I'll give you a pile of sand to sleep on instead," Braviary harrumphed.

    "Sorry, sir," Shane gulped. Tessa walked toward one of the cushions and set the item pouch on it. Satisfied, she followed her teammate back out to the assembly area. They proceeded down the northwest passage that Magearna went into earlier. The hallway led to a spacious room filled with three metal desks. Each one was littered with various diagrams and maps. Shane spotted the base of the Observatory's large telescope sitting on the other end of the room. Magearna sat working at a sheet of parchment with a compass. Atop her desk sat a small, rotund, gray and white hedgehog. She had brown and yellow triangular marks along her back, along with a tiny, bolt-shaped tail.

    "Jeez, Pikachu, you've sure put on weight," Shane gasped. "And got old."

    The rodent looked right at Shane. "Pikachu? PIKACHU?"

    THWAAAACK!

    Shane ended up sprawled out on his side. The rodent's triangular markings had extended straight and she dug them into Shane's hide. "Do. Not. Call. Me. A. Pikachu!" she hollered.

    "Ow! Ow! OW! Sorry! Sorry! It won't happen again!" Shane sobbed, his eyes comically watering.

    "Easy there, Togedemaru." Braviary ruffled his wings, shooing her off of Shane. Tessa kneeled down to help Shane stand up.

    "Way to put your paw in your mouth… partner," Tessa deadpanned.

    "So many… weird Pokémon… I've never heard of," Shane mumbled. "And look at the Pidgeys… flying around…" He spun in a circle, "Wheeeeeee!"

    "Well, on the bright side, this is a perfect segway for our next destination," Braviary mused. Tessa used her shoulder to support Shane as they went into the northern corridor. This wing ended in what was clearly a nursing station. Half a dozen beds lay evenly spread out across the room, with curtained dividers separating them. A desk and a cabinet sat in the one corner of the room not occupied by a bed. "Comfey, I've got a patient for ya. Togedemaru broadsided him," Braviary announced.

    A small, light-green circle floated out from behind a curtain, carrying a trail of flowers. "Ooooooh… look at the pretty flowers…" Shane giggled. He then waved a forepaw in front of his face. "Go away, Pidgeys! I wanna look at the flowers."

    "Oh my," Comfey squeaked. "He does seem rather dazed, doesn't he?" She drifted down and strung the flowers around Shane's neck. Comfey released a series of bright, flower-shaped lights. Shane blinked a few times, appearing to come to his senses. "There… all better!" Comfey announced, fluttering back into the air.

    "I've… never felt something like that," Shane whispered.

    "It's my specialty: Floral Healing," Comfey said. "I'm the resident medic for the guild. It's a pleasure to meet you. And Tessa, you've gotten so big! It's wonderful to see you here."

    Tessa clutched her scarf and looked down. "It… It's Riolu," she whispered.

    Grooooooooooowl!

    "Aha ha… ha… I don't suppose the dining area's the next stop, is it?" Shane laughed nervously.

    Braviary smirked. "It just might be, rookie." He led them out of the infirmary and down the eastern hallway, into the dining area. Shane expected a long table to stretch across the room. Instead, a series of small, circular tables littered the room, with windows sitting between some of them to offer up views of the forest behind Aeon Town. Braviary introduced Team Radiance to Steenee, and Tessa managed to clamp Shane's mouth shut before he could make a comment about Steenee resembling a walking piece of fruit. Steenee offered Shane and Tessa a quick meal, which they used to replenish their strength. After that, they both returned to their room.

    "Ahhhh… that really hit the spot!" Shane said, stretching out his legs and flopping onto his cushion. "Boy, what an eventful day. But we made it. We're in the guild!" he exclaimed. "And with all these amazing Pokémon, too. Well, okay, maybe there are a few odd ducks in the bunch. Like that weirdo, Null. But I still think this is gonna be awesome!"

    Tessa sat on the edge of her cushion, looking out their window at the setting sun. 'I can't believe I'm here. After months of chickening out. And…' She looked at Shane. '… it's all because of him.'

    A familiar line echoed through her head: "Don't you ever let me catch you setting foot in that guild. If you do, I won't hesitate to strike you down!"

    Tessa flinched. 'No… it's… I think it's for the better. Even if this guy's a bit on the reckless side. We'll just… have to work on that.'

    "Earth to Tessa."

    She stiffened. "Don't call me that. It's Riolu," she muttered.

    "Uh, sure." Shane scratched his ear. "But, did you hear my question?"

    "No."

    "Why do some of the Pokémon in the guild seem to know you?" Shane asked.

    Tessa's fur bristled. She took a deep breath and said, "Because the rest of my family are guild members."

    "Really? And you just thought to keep that hidden from me?" Shane gasped. "No wonder you're so quick on your feet! I can't believe you didn't want to come here. This is totally your element!" He gave Tessa a smile. "When do I get to meet your family, then?"

    "You don't," Tessa replied tersely.

    "… oh."

    "Neither of my parents are here right now. They, uh, went to visit the Grass Continent," Tessa said, fidgeting with the edge of her pillow. "They probably won't be back for months."

    "Well then, guess we'll just have to adventure hard for them," Shane proclaimed. He let out a yawn and curled up into a ball. "I know the sun's not even down yet, but I'm pretty beat. And I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings. What about you?" Tessa tucked her knees into her chin and resumed looking out at sky. "… too excited to speak, huh? Well, I won't keep you up then," Shane chuckled. "G'night, partner."

    Tessa stole a glance at Shane. 'With how today went, I just hope we can make it through our first assignment.'

    End of Episode 2

    XxX​

    Some of the later battles will definitely be longer. But I didn't want to bog things down with a very basic sort of battle. Instead, we have a bunch of secondary character introductions. I hope they were entertaining and not boring. But let me know either way. Thanks for the support thus far. See ya in the next update!
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
  20. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Ouchies.

    OUCHIES.

    Why is that amusing me so much. Is it because it caught me off guard? Or maybe it's because it came from a cute bug-thing that's more than 50% head. I don't even know.

    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.

    What I'm getting at is, for a moment I was certainly hoping that perfect apple was actually perfect. :p

    BEST QUOTE EVER

    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.
     

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