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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Pathways of Aspiration [COMPLETE]


Well-Known Member
Hey Kindoflame! Really do appreciate the review, and there's no need to worry over the time frame, I can certainty understand how like can get in the way. Regardless, it is really cool for motivation having this kinda feedback. Now, onto the response:

I... do concede the point with having, or the lackthereoff, of Eoin washing the saddle. It definitely would be in character for him to do, and I think it was mostly a slip of my mind of not having it at least implied that he did such during a time skip of the chapter. Might be a pacing issue on my part, too focused on getting through the major story stuff that the nity grittty, but still important story details go over my head. For what it's worth, once I hopefully have Pathways of Aspiration complete, I plan on going back for some revisions. Adjusting grammar mistakes, small continuity errors, and rewriting a couple early chapters I think have room for improvement. Stuff like that. Having archived input like this will certainly help make sure I don't miss it when I do come back.

Your other point about the actual timeframe for the beast taking control also has a fair bit of validity. For what it's worth, I do agree that it'd bring a bit more difficulty having his transformations only occur for small increments. At least in my mind, part of why the beast didn't freak out too much like it did when around Chimera and Cerise, was because of the increase in trust and comfort it now has in Argon's presence, and the fact that the actual pokemon he's around in the scene are one of his own kind, even if they have different levels of intellect. Just like how Cerise was able to use the illusions of pallids to help calm the beast on the mountain, the beast wasn't as panicked surrounded by pallids during the meeting as much as if they were regular pokemon. Granted, I could have definitely done a better job integrating this into the prose of the chapter, as well as making the beast's silence and trust feel more warranted.

I'll definitely try to keep your input in mind for future chapters. Keeping fine detail of the order of events and the small stuff as well as the big can do wonders for reader investment. Thanks again for taking the time to read my story! I'll try to keep the updates somewhat consistent. Really helps knowing there are people out there who can read into my work. Also, best of luck on your future projects!


Well-Known Member
Chapter 29: A Time to Shine
"You're sure they got the message, Sir? I'd… rather not have them wandering through forests or the airfield while we're sitting here drinking sitrus berry smoothies and watching the Wingul fly by."

Were it not for the clouds of black smoke from the steam boats across the way, or the constant hustle and bustle of goods and pokemon alike being shuffled around Chimera and Binair, the Bagon would have thought he was on vacation. A soft, tropical breeze blew through the sizable Port Obstand, though any sound was quickly overshadowed by steps of guild member across the wide expanse of docks stretching out from the course sand.

"Not to worry, old chum," Binair replied, a metallic mug with a half coconut exterior telekinetically raising to his lips. "I took great care in ensuring your friends were informed of our whereabouts for our departure. They should be arriving in a few hours. From the reports I've read of your initial return, the two were very eager to leave after receiving rudimentary care."

Had Chimera kept any less company with Binair, he wouldn't have noticed the tinge of wariness in the Girafarig's tone. Aiming for a bit of distraction, Chimera gestured to a wooden bench at the end of one of the docks. Shuffling past a Marowak, Graveler, and Palossand working their way onto one of the dock's sandwiching steamships, Chimera planted himself on the bench. Binair lied himself on an adjacent cushion meant for more quadruple pokemon, inadvertently blocking Chimera from seeing a quizzical look somewhere in the boarding line.

"Well… between you and me, Sir, I'd say that mission you sent us on helped them connect a bit more than most teammates. Guess they were eager to go somewhere private," Chimera replied, giving Binair a cheeky shoulder tap. His coy smile faltered, however. He bit his lip, arms jittering a bit as he took a drink; a half truth, though one that would help uphold his agreement with Charmander and Girafarig alike. Binair said little.

Chimera made to speak, only to be cut off by three loud blares of a siren in the distance. The Bagon nearly jumped out of his seat at the noise, and seeing that some of the content's of Binair's cup had splashed onto his neck, the Girafarig seemed similarly startled.

"What in blazes?" Binair said. "I thought I'd told the port manager the westward dock was closed off for mooring until construction was complete. You alright, old chum?"

Chimera blubbered a half response, only to freeze part way feeling his scales a tad...wetter than usual. It was only when Chimera looked down, and saw a cold, pinkish, tasty liquid on his chest, below his now half empty cup, that he let out a defeated nod toward Binair. Glancing down, and realizing his free hand had subconsciously lowered to his crossbow at the noise, Chimera spotted its source.

Another steamboat, a tad smaller than the others moored in the docks, though perhaps that appeared only because the ship was about a football field's ways away in the water. The paddle behind the vessel spun in an unending rotation, churning up the otherwise clear tropical water, and steering it on a course that seemed to take it speeding toward the far right of the dock. Chimera could barely make out the figures of pokemon running topside.

"Y-yeah, fine Sir," Chimera replied, wiping off a bit of the drink so it fell in the water. "Blue scales wash off far easier than a white collar shirt. You know… you should have seen me during my first attempt at interviewing for management. Bought a cheap suit after working at that place for two years. Didn't count on my nerves getting to me when I got a cup of coffee in front of the interview room."

Chimera let out a chuckle, his smile fading as his eyes glazed over to the horizon. A small tap of a hoof shot him back to attention, just as a psychic aura emanated around the leftover bits of his chest. Soon, his scales were clean, with what remained diffusing into the water below.

"Well, no need to worry about that here, old chum," Binair replied, "You probably read just as many books as I did preparing for that interview. I suppose the difference is that it does wonders for unlocking potential when our efforts are rewarded. Take there, for instance."

Like clockwork, Binair's cane lifted from his mane pouch, its gold lined tip pointing to the western end of the harbor. Hammers pounding, cranes lifting, and pokemon shouting directions soon replaced the initial siren in Chimera's ears. A Weezing, one with bushy green mustaches of smoke, directed the organized cacophony of construction taking place. One second, the Weezing was giving orders to an Aggron, Rillaboom, and Dragonite carrying large, stone docking posts on their backs, the next it was listing off schematics for where a team of Sandaconda were clearing holes for the posts with a geyser of sediment.

"Yeah, best playing to your strengths, I guess," Chimera added "Couldn't lift one of those posts if you asked me before. Now? Damn things have a radius greater than my entire arm. Probably just as good as that Weezing at moving sand, too, even without the crutch. Staying behind a desk can be rough, course, and irritating, but at least it depends on the part of me I took time building up."

"And a much more useful part, if I do say so," Binair replied, eyes narrowing between Chimera, and the Weezing. "A mind that can delegate work is just as, if not more valuable than the ten, twenty, or a hundred bodies that execute it. In fact… how about a little pop quiz? You see those Mankeys, over there?"

With a bit of searching, Chimera nodded. Three Mankeys, hiding behind a pile of planks on the harbor just out of the Weezing's sight. Stout statures, fur ruffled and slightly stained from the fumes of the ships, and a posture between them that told the tale of pokemon that didn't have any plans on going back to work anytime soon.

"Yeah," Chimera replied, "I see 'em, and I've seen those same bitter scowls in the mirror enough to know they're not hiding because they're on break. Either someone took away their peeled chestnuts, or that construction has a taste of my good friend bureaucracy."

A slight smirk took to Binair's lips at Chimera's response. The Mankeys in question grumbled to themselves, heads dipping in a way familiar enough that Chimera half suspected their fur concealed bagged eyes.

"Given the latter," Binair replied, "what do you suspect are the causes of such inaction, and what could a leader such as that Weezing undertake to resolve it?"

Surprising Chimera most was how innate the answer came. Like a previously studied and stored away test answer brought to the forefront years later in a game of trivia, it rolled off his lips.

"Well… lack of efficiency could be one. Maybe that Weezing didn't do a good job delegating, and they're up a creek without a paddle waiting for instructions. Maybe the instructions they did get were poorly worded and the system they're lead under puts sitting around twiddling their nonexistent thumbs over asking questions to fix it. Or, maybe they simply haven't been given enough reason to work. Not enough carrot, not enough stick."

"A suitable start, old chum," Binair replied, a faint shout in the distance overshadowed by the horn of another ship leaving port. "I assure you, ports, ships, and guilds as big as these are not created by those willing to step back and accept the inefficient and directionless. A project like that construction needs a confident leader to keep it in motion. In fact, what say you to going over there for a little talk to those working? If there's anything I learned, it's that even the most… confrontational can be made productive given the proper incentive and direction."

Any confidence of Chimera's words was cut off by a loud gulp. He looked to the Mankees, as well as the overall crowd of pokemon at work on the dock, before glancing back to Binair. Chimera was half tempted to point a stubby hand at his chest and ask 'Me?', but the wide, expectant eyes staring at him from both front and tail of the Girafarig caught him in his tracks. Were instances like this not exactly what the Bagon wanted? Did he really get transported to another world, meet an everlasting companion, bargain with the legendary beings for a time gear, and nearly die climbing a mountain simply to back down from a bit of responsibility?

There wasn't any more room to question it. Lurching up to his feet with crutch in hand, Chimera pointed himself to the adjacent dock. A slight breeze billowed through the dock as he stood, causing the grey cape over the Bagon's back to ripple. To an outside pokemon, it looked quite heroic.

"I don't mind, Sir," Chimera replied, posture strengthening with every gust of wind. "Not at all. I promise you, I'll—"

A stray breeze also caught wind of the cape, sending a corner straight into the Bagon's face. The world seemed to freeze for half a moment, before relenting as the obstructing fabric fell.

"I mean… I'll take care of it."

"I have no doubt," Binair replied, "after all, it's an educational experience."


No sooner had the words left Binairs mouth had Chimera immersed himself in the slew of pokemon moving this way and that between the lines of docks, and stained cedar buildings lining the silk sand coast. In exception to the workers crowding the western end of the harbor, the pokemon Chimera passed were unified by in having the same three letters emblazoned on their badges. On his right, a wide eyed team of Cyndaquil and Squirtle were departing to the more inland dungeons, just as a Bagon and Raichu had made routine. On his left were a more roguish Serperior and Blastoise, escorting one of the many carriages of gold, cedar, cobblestone, meat, and somewhat familiar vegetables. Chimera watched as the Squirtle went up to one of the shops, ordering his own sitrus berry smoothie.

"Huh. Wonder what the odds are he knows where the berries came from," Chimera whispered, tone matter of fact. "Fifty fifty? Thirty seve—"

"So…"A large, dry hand pressed down onto Chimera's shoulder. "You're the one the boss has taken a liking to. Thought I recognized your face. Been getting cozy with the big guy, huh?"

The world seemed to freeze, crowded conversation going by the wayside in lieu of the course voice behind him. Had Chimera any fur or hair on his body, they would have surely stood up.

"Just trying to repay someone who's done well by me," Chimera replied, head locked in place while his peripheral vision looked desperately for the speaker's form. "Never liked the types that stab you in the back. Think of it as… networking."

A hearty trio of chuckles sounded behind the Bagon. Chimera remained frozen in place, though he again found his arm drifting ever so slowly to the weapon at his hip. After a second, however, he blinked, the gears beneath his rocky forehead beginning to turn.

"Hear that, boys?" the voice replied, a tinge of rowdiness under its chipper tone. "This 'mon might have a tougher noggin than any of us! Aimin' for the heights the way he is. Seems like nobodys even seen a trace of you not two months ago, and already you got a shiny gold badge to your name. Rank like that takes most 'mons years to get."

Chimera let out a chuckle, hoping it could hide that the hand loosely placed on his crossbow was starting to shake.

"W-what can I say?" he replied. "I try my best. Had a great partner to help get me there. Sure, in hindsight, we had a fair bit of special treatment, but our achievements are our own. I'll be a corpse before I let that get taken away. I hope there's no problem with that, is there?"

A distinct cracking sound grinded into Chimera's ears, akin to a skull being ground into dust. The Bagon nearly jumped out of his scales. Adrenaline fueled him to turn, but the warm hand gave enough motivation to stay still; his Bagon neck may have been strong, but with the right hand and a wrong sudden move, it'd only take a second to break it. Tilting his head ever so slightly, he could now see that the hand had a dark, purple tinge to it.

"I've seen you before, haven't I?" Chimera said.

"Sure have," the voice replied. "And I've seen that partner of yours. She's one of the good ones. But enough talk! A 'mon like you trying to flap your wings into those upper echelons of the guild? What do you say we give him a proper welcome, boys?"

Chimera's muscles tensed, primed at the ready to butt heads with the figure behind him. He felt something at his side, as dry as the hand on his shoulder, and curved like a makeshift club.

"L-Look," Chimera said, apparent club at one side, fidgeting stock of the crossbow against his other, "we're in the middle of a crowded harbor, and if you got a bone to pick with me, there are better ways to settle this. Can we talk this out like civilized people, or is this gonna...gonna…"

He sucked in a breath, eyes wide getting a clear view of the apparent bone at his side. Balanced on the very end of the bone was a wooden bowl, holding a crushed pile of chestnuts.

"Apologies," another voice rang out, more demure than the first, "Helios… can be a bit more upfront than most. Works well in a dungeon, though. Do the chestnuts taste alright?"

Turning around, it was a bit easier for Chimera to refrain from headbutting the pokemon behind him; if the Marowak, Graveler, and Palossand did get hit, he suspected he wouldn't be on the winning end.

"Don't get your hands tied up, Vish," the Marowak replied, giving Chimera a pat on the back as he smiled under his mask. "You know I wouldn't let things get serious. I'll take a decent dungeon and loot over directin' 'mons from behind a desk any day of the week, but anyone willing to take that up is fine by me. Hope the entrance wasn't too blunt."

"I've… seen worse," Chimera said, shaking his cast leg at the three with a smile. "Like to think I'm better at using what's in my noggin than whats around it. Can't imagine when a pallid butts heads with you guys, you get two broken limbs and fly through the air like a pinball."

"Well… " the Palossand whispered.

The otherwise silent 'entrance' of Palossand's mouth drew a deep sigh from Helios. He raised his hand to the side of his skull, scratching the sides as if rubbing temples.

"Ya got me there, Courser," Helios replied, "but if Arceus wants to come down and explain his thoughts giving a foot tall, grey Budew a godsforsaken solar beam, he can be my guest. Mate and kids'll have enough of a laugh at it once I get home."

The Marowark shook his head, outer cranium not hiding a bit of frustration. While Vish's top right arm gave Chimera a wave, the Bagon took a tentative hold of one of the chestnuts. A nibble at the exposed inside soon turned into a bite, and swallow. Seeing Chimera's nod, a content smile settled over the Graveler.

"Anyway… 'preciate the good humor in all of this," Helios replied. "May have only seen you a few times, but not a lot of 'mons I know would have kept their cool during that little performance. Not to mention I got a Cubone at home who'd probably kill to play with a gadget like you got. You were the one Flora was giving a tour of the, uhh… agriculture, weren't ya?"

"Yeah," Chimera replied, glancing left and right to a couple of the less informed teams passing them on the dock. "First taste of it. Guess it was necessary if I-we're gonna be working with more of you guys. I know I saw you in the fields, but Argon did mention your team a couple times… where exactly is the line between guards and resource teams?"

"If you're asking for the dotted line," Courser piped up, while his left sand bastion tilted up like a finger being raised, "you'll find that at the bottom of our contracts. We got the most benefits from the two week on, two week off agreement for guarding when we signed up. Just last year a pallid, grey vaporeon we came across dungeoneering thought it would be a great idea to turn to water and tackle a pokemon of animate sand. Can you guess how much it would have cost in health insurance?

Chimera spent more time than he'd like to admit trying to think that one through. A look toward Vish met a four armed shrug from the Graveler, while Helios shook his head slow enough to quash any curiosity in the Bagon. Clearing his throat, Helios looked back at Chimera, his face seeming to loosen under the mask.

"Look, my point here is that we're on the same team," Helios said, "I made my choices and I don't regret 'em, but before I had a mate and kids, trying to figure out the life I wanted took a lot of wandering. From what I've seen of you and the big 'mon in charge, you have that same decision ahead. Ever need help, and Team Tectonic would be happy to—"

"Look out!"

The voice was weathered, yet still had a sense of pride to it, perhaps because it was not one voice, but two. In stereo, the identical calls sounded, followed immediately by a deafening crash.

"What's that ten gallon hat saying no—... oh no…" Helios whispered.

Chimera saw the eyes of Helios, Vish, and even Courser widen before he could turn around. A half second passed where the three's mouths held open to speak, only to be silenced by another splintering crunch. Turning around, Chimera saw it.

A ship, a somewhat familiar one, was close to the half constructed dock. Very close. So close that its large, aft pedal was still spinning, while its bow had carved out a six foot gap into the harbor. Pokemon scurried. Panicked yells echoed left and right. About a dozen sailing pokemon rushed out from the confines of the ship to the upper deck. At the bridge, Chimera spotted a tricorn-wearing Areodactyl tugging desperately at the throttle lever.

For a millisecond, none of the four pokemon acknowledged each others presence. As with the others, Chimera's mind had gone into overdrive analyzing the situation.

"****," Chimera muttered. "****, ****, ****. Did anyone…"

Most had made it out alright. Shoulders bumped against wings bumped against fins with the deluge of pokemon running past the four away from the dock. Near the bow at the edge of the dock, Chimera only saw two figures. The first, a Weezing, floating not in the air, but lying in a heap near where the ship had initially struck. A deep gash had hit along the larger of its two bodies, spilling a thick, purple substance.

While the Weezing was thrown clear of the ship's path from the collision, another wasn't so lucky. A second loud thunk hit the air, accompanied by a scream. In the haste to retreat, a concrete mooring pillar had been dropped, landing firmly on the legs of a Mankey not two dozen feet in front of the lurching steamboat. It grasped the course edges of the pillar in a desperate attempt to move it, finding little purchase as the steamboat moved closer.

"... I-I got the Mankey," Chimera said.

"I'm on the Weezing," Helios replied, nearly simultaneously.

A side eye from Helios to Chimera for his exclamation was returned in kind. They didn't have long, however, for another moment of staring brought a second cry for help from the Mankey.

"What should we do, boss?" Courser said, gesturing to Vish with his sandy barricade. "There's not—"

"Crowd control," Helios and Chimera replied.

The latter understood the former's sideways glance a little better now. The Bagon's words seemed instinctual, with past training just barely able to lull Chimera's trepidating hand. Sharing a nod, Vish and Courser sprang into action, towards opposite bunches of pokemon on the harbor.

"You sure you got this, kid?" Helio said, glancing towards Chimeras stilts as he bolted toward the Weezing. "You-uh… don't look so hot."

"As long as there's no slight gusts of wind," Chimera replied, half-hobbling half-scurrying towards the Mankey, "I'll be fine."

The dock boards thudded under Chimera's feet, pace about equivalent to a medium jog if he were in perfect condition. Scrambling over a loose pile of scrap wood next to the large stack of boards, he was about a dozen feet from the Mankey, with the ship a similar distance away on the other side.

"Wha… wha-what should we do?"

Chimera froze, hearing another voice on the opposite side of the boards.

"I don't know," another voice yelled back, "What are you asking me for? We can't stay here. We gotta go someplace safe. We gotta—who in Landorus' beard are you?"

Turning the corner, he saw them. The two other Mankey of the bunch, huddled behind the pile of wood. Their eyes darted left and right between Chimera and the ship, knees shaking as if the air was filled with stun spores. Giving the two only a cursory glance, Chimera prepared to turn back to the imperiled Mankey, only to nearly stumble to the floor. As a shot of pain went through his crutched arm, Chimera eyed the concrete slab. The Mankey had made no purchase getting it off, and with his own half broken limbs, he would be of little help.


Quick as a ninjask, Chimera shot back to the two Mankeys, pointing his free hand at each of them.

"You two, with me! W-We gotta get your friend free, and I can't do it alone."

The Mankeys glanced behind themselves, as if Chimeras arm was pointing to invisible figures standing on the open water behind them.

"You out of your mind?!" one said. "You want us to run toward the crashing ship?"

A horn from the vessel blarred, its hulking frame inching forward. A panicked response from Chimera was cut off by the warning yells of the topside pokemon. He didn't have much time.

"Look, I…" Chimera said, adrenaline overtaking his words.

There was no time left for subtly. More boards from the harbor snapped, moving towards the entrapped Mankey like a fault line cracking. It was all instinct now. Shoring his footing, Chimera glared at the two Mankey, posture raising in spite of the crutch.

"If you don't help me get your friend free," Chimera said, voice rising by the second, "then he's either going to get very, very hurt, or something far worse. Are you in?"

The Bagon's exclamation shot them to attention. The Mankeys looked to Chimera, befores shifting to the approaching ship and back at each other. Still, their legs did not move.

"So… that's how it's going to be," Chimera whispered.

The two Mankeys retreated an inch. Even as the words left his mouth, Chimera needed to double check that the authoritarian voice was his. Scanning across the harbor for a moment, Chimera looked back at the two, his hand lowering a tad to his weapon.

"If you don't help me," Chimera said, words seething, "then I will make sure you both spend the rest of your lives as unpaid sod farmers with barbed wire fence as your lawn decure. Do you want that, or are you gonna help me? You should know I have some friends in high places."

It was enough. Whether the Bagon's face, or the golden badge pinned to his bag, the two Mankeys gaze trembling nods. Nodding to the two, Chimera joined them in making their way to the pillar. Once there, the Mankey greeted them with a groan. His leg below the pillar was stained with blood, and the ship was but a half dozen feet away.

"Arrghh… hurry!" the Mankey yelled.

They were quick to oblige. With his new 'team', Chimera grabbed hold of the end of the pillar with his free hand. They pulled.

The pillar went up a smidge, but trying to pull his leg out brought only another yell from the Mankey.

"C-come on, it's getting closer!" The Mankey yelled.

They tried again, with equal success. The splintering of boards against the bow was their timer. A little bit more, and the dock would collapse.

A third attempt. No dice.

"It's—arrgh—it's no use," Chimera grunted, teeth gritted. "We need… we need…"

His eyes widened. The two Mankey gave him a quizzical look, one that did little to stop the smile on his face.

"A lever," he whispered.

"We don't have time!" a Mankey replied. "The ship will be here any second."

Even as he heard the words, Chimera's mind went on overdrive. He searched around. No dice. The closest thing on the floor that would suit the purpose were the discarded two-by-fours two dozen feet away. He needed something else. Something sturdy. Something with leverage.

Whether from his own intuition, or simple dumb luck, he found it. As another horn from the ship crashed through their eardrums, Chimera reached into his satchel. Gesture having been well practised, he took out a bolt, and with the sharp edge cut the string of his crossbow off at the end of the prod.

"In Kyogre's name, what are you—oh."

Aiming the crossbow to the floor, Chimera wedged the free prod between the pillar, and the dock. He then took hold of the stock, pushing it so the prod would lift up. The Mankey needed only a second to think before they had taken a similar action.

"Come on," Chimera yelled. "Pull!"

"Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on…"

"Almost… there! N-No, too la—"


The dock itself seemed to shake as the ship plowed into it. Once sturdy pillars snapped apart like toothpicks against the many-thousand ton vessel. It crashed forward like a lumbering giant, decimating the last fourth of the dock, before coming to rest just feet from the shoreline. It was a gargantuan sight, made even more so by Chimera's underwater viewpoint. His arms flailed. The thought of a watery grave hit him just as a pair of arms and… something else took hold.

When Chimera resurfaced, he was greeted by the sight of three Mankees. After blinking the water from his eyes, another voice called him to attention.

"Everything within hand? I came here as soon as the commotion was within check."

Turning around, Chimera spotted on the opposite dock, a familiar Girafarig, along with a Helios, Courser, and Vish.

"F-fine, Sir," Chimera replied, before letting out a few hacking coughs of water. "Just… taking a little dip to learn some swimming. Was either the big, terrifying ship about to slice you in half here, or the public swimming pool back home."


"Everyone made it out alright?" Chimera asked.

A towel wrapped over his shoulders, fueled by the telekinetic power of Binair. Chimera's feet dangled over the now splintered edge of the dock. Staring into the clear, marine water below, he saw the reflection of Binair at his side, both figures coming in and out of focus with the droplets dripping from Chimera's leg.

"A little shaken up, old chum, but yes," Binair replied, a slow sigh following. "I'm having the port administrator interviewed as we speak. I suppose it's somewhat fitting an Aerodactyl have difficulty understanding the tonalities of the modern steam engine. Accidents happen, but perhaps I should be a little more prudent integrating new technology so rapidly into the guild."

Glancing over his shoulder, Chimera caught a glimpse of the Aerodactyl. Even a hundred feet away, his crooked tricorn stood out a mile. Below it was a look of absolute incredulity, facing the questions Team Tectonic.

"I… I don't know what happened," the Aerodactyl replied. "One second, we're pulling into the harbor and everything's roses, the next the engine controls get jammed!"

"And where was the captain during this?" Helios asked, feet tapping.

A long pause. From a distance, Chimera saw the Aerodactyl scraping his claws against each other.

"I-uh. Uhh...on the shore," the Aerodactyl replied. "W-we got in a bet over who deserved their wages more. Had a month's salary riding on being able to handle that ship for one day."

If Chimera's arms could reach high enough to face palm, he would have. Binair's tail seemed to snicker likewise.

"Well, I'm glad to hear no one got hurt, Sir," Chimera replied, looking back down to the splintered dock at his feet. "If… if you don't mind me saying, Mr. Boulder Bird seems like he's got smaller responsibilities than business in mind."

Binair's mouth opened just in time for another exclamation from the Aerodactyl. For a moment, it almost seemed like the Girafarig was mustering a defense, only to be replaced by a short nod to Chimera.

"He's the best manager I have for the port," Binair replied, before biting his lip. "Was, I mean. He'll be lucky to be stamping cans after this incident. Though… perhaps his folly brings with it some opportunity."

"Sir?" Chimera replied.

Chimera adjusted his hand on the port to steady himself, only to gasp as a sizable chunk buckled to the water under the pressure. Staring past their reflections, the long line of now scrap wood told a similar story. In spite of the accident, the majority of the pokemon walking through the dock had returned, including the work crew waiting on the adjacent dock.

"You don't mean— I couldn't."

"Is that so?" Binair replied, smiling at the Bagon's widening eyes. "Someone has to provide the leadership to get this project back on track, and the current gaseous director is getting treated for his wounds. If you showed one thing today, old chum, it's that you have the initiative. The qualities that follow are education, commitment, and most importantly, opportunity. Perhaps… Helios! Could you bring your team and the good administrator here?"

Chimera's chest thumped like a jackhammer. His hands shook. It took a great deal of willpower to keep his smile contained to passive curiosity. The palm trees swayed as the Aerodactyl and Team Tectonic approached.

"Need something, boss?" Helios said, prodding the Aerodactyl to the front of the team with his bone. "Seems like the gentleman gambler's given us everything he can. I'll have the report to you tomorrow."

"Merely offering some assistance to Chimera here," Binair replied, his gaze shifting between the three. "Should he accept picking up where the fine Weezing couldn't. After all, the best leaders only succeed by recognizing the knowledge of others. And you…"

The world seemed to sink in on the Aerodactyl with his silence. He tucked in his wings, as if trying to hide himself with a makeshift coat. Under his excitement, a tinge of empathy hit Chimera. He knew that look. The sullen eyes of thinking all was lost.

"Y-yes, Sir?" the Aerodactyl whimpered.

"Normally, a danger to life and property like this would warrant having those wings clipped to the lowest realms of this guild, but I'm willing to offer you a new position, of co-administrator."

Two beings on the harbor felt their insides twinkle with hope. It was the only time besides the wakeup that Chimera could remember pinching himself.

"You mean…" Chimera whispered.

Though he was far enough from Binair's head to hide his words, the Girafarig's tail caught it just fine. It's large teeth raised into a grin. Under its course nature, it seemed genuine.

"Correct, old chum," Binair replied, "though only if your rock and flying equal ensures you are well-trained in the fundamentals. A major stepping stone, but with the condition that another is crossed beforehand."

His hoof lifted, gesturing to the entourage of pokemon shooting the breeze at the adjacent dock. Concrete pillars were stacked for installation. Project plans stood idle above a fresh stack of lumber. The very world itself seemed to come into focus. Looking to Helios, the Marowak had a humored grin under his mask.

"Trial by fire, ain't it?" he said. "Guess you're getting that direction sooner than expected. Don't worry, though. We've had our fair share of helping with these projects, ain't that right, guys? We'll be with you."

Before Chimera even knew it, Binair had raised a hoof to him. It was a familiar gesture, with an offering that lifted down to him like a plush in a crane game. The world cleared. The cold of the mountain, the numbness in his broken leg, and for an infinitesimal moment, the memory of a certain Raichu and Charmander. It passed like the flowing breeze of the palm trees, all the while Chimera gave the hoof a hearty shake.

"T-thank you, Sir," Chimera said, roaring to life, "I won't let you down."

"You never have before," Binair replied, "I have no reason to doubt you now."

Chimera turned, about to make his way off the harbor. He stopped short, however, catching a look at Helios, with Courser and Vish flanking on both sides. Helios' purple hand, Vish' rocky arm, and even Courser's barricade were raised in a salute. The former's smile told of the gesture having a tinge of levity, but the meaning was all the same.

"Well… Sir," Helios said, sharing a look with Chimera. "What are your orders?"

The word seemed almost foreign to the Bagon, or at least the context. Eyeing the raised path before him, Chimera gave back his own toothy grin. His thoughts swam, awash in emotion at the wondrous new position ahead. A few grey clouds went over the evening sun, but he was content to lead in the shade.

It felt good.


Well-Known Member
Chapter 30: The Drift
"I could always tell his mannerisms and personality were somewhat unusual, but… human?"

Argon returned a nonchalant nod to Eoin, almost as if the two were gossiping over whether the Bagon snored in his sleep. Both had expected to spend at least a few hours via carriage or foot traveling from the airfield to Port Obstand, and yet due to the strange, noisy conglomeration of steel hustling them through the cobblestone roads, the day was as young as ever as they approached. Where one side of Eoin still mulled over the knowledge of Chimera's humanity, another, more feral part remained perplexed on the enigmatic combinations of pedals, wheel, and dials their Typhlosion driver used. It was a bumpy ride, if a fast one. After a pothole in the road nearly launched both Charmander and Raichu from their seats, an unspoken desire filled the two for a calming walk.

"I-I couldn't believe it either, at first," Argon replied. "Never thought a Raichu wandering out on the beach to avoid others could end up living something straight out of a story book. Or deserve to. He couldn't really take a punch or breathe fire, but… it gave him something different from other pokemon. Human or not, he's always stuck by me."

"And others seem to have noticed that extra something," Eoin whispered, not realizing the slight jump in his tail flame from its shield until it was too late. "Well… far be it from me to judge. I suppose we all have unlikely origins in this dangerous game we all have to play. Speaking of which…"

He looked left, and looked right. Argon similarly saw the long lines of guarded supply caravans they speed by, as well as the slight slouch in Eoin's posture. Just as the two saw an ocean-blue tinge through the thick brush of tropical flora on both sides, she scooted back to meet him. Only a few feet away in the driver's seat, after all, was a Typhlosion with a wandering ear. Not to mention that against the chilling nip of being open to the elements in a menagerie of steel, the huddled Charmander and Raichu could use some warmth.

"Besides meeting Chimera," Eoin whispered, against the constant drone of pistons, "this could also be a useful opportunity to further our aims for the revolution. To get the pallids to the guild hall, our success relies on departing from here. It's well-guarded, and equally defensible, but if we could enlist the sympathy of the port manager, this whole venture could get a lot easier."

"But… would they be willing to listen?" Argon replied, ears drooped down in thought. "I-I mean, if they do already know about the work farms, they've probably been with the guild for a lifetime, or at least as long as I've been. That's not easy to leave, even if we did have the damning evidence."

A turn out of the treeline, and to the cabins and docks jutting out of the yellow sand marked they were almost there. Eoin was silent with a claw to his chin, for longer than either he or Argon were comfortable with. Carriages of fruits and vegetables on their right rolled to the port town, while equally inconspicuous ones rolled away. With the constant chug of the engine, neither Raichu nor Charmander could make out the faint growls underneath.

"I don't know," Eoin replied, letting out a held breath. "I don't know. We can only hope that there are more pokemon ignorant than accepting across Faire. More pokemon that would be content having a pallid at their side, than down below washing a saddle."

As the rattle of wheels against ground turned from cobblestone to deck boards, Argon felt her cheeks spark from the sheer anxiety. Guild member or not, she was only one pokemon, and Arceus knew she had neither the charisma nor endurance to run around Faire advertising revolution like a particularly idealistic solicitor.

Pokemon on both sides of the harbor parted for the rumbling automobile to park. Argon and Eoin were glad to escape the incredulous stares departing their strange, mechanical carriage. The midday crowds seemed a bit thinner than usual, perhaps owing to the copious construction crews; Argon had to jump away making her way across the boardwalk to avoid a crew of three Mankeys, each carrying the last planks of wood from a pile like their life depended on it. Between the constant conversations, murmurs, and shouts from one work crew to the other, her ears raised hearing a single, distinct voice.

"D-do you hear that?" Argon asked, bumping shoulder to side against a Popplio in the process. "I… think that's Chimera. Probably best meeting up with him first."

As Raichu and Charmander wormed their way through the crowd, Argon couldn't tell what side of the caution tape the voice was coming from. One by one, they nestled past the wall of pokemon around the dock. A single ship, especially extravagant in spite of its size, was docked behind, having a group hastily running to paint over its chipped bow.

"Look," Chimera said, exacerbated voice becoming faintly audible, "I know you guys don't have Osha here, but I wanna speak with whoever thought putting a Wooper and Cloyster on lifting detail was a good idea. If you really need extra manpower, talk to me and I'll—"

Brown and blue eyes met across the boardwalk. Chimera nearly had to shout for his voice to project to the workers around his supply crate soapbox, and yet the rattle of his clipboard falling to the boardwalk hit both Bagon and Raichu like a gunshot. With more than enough shock to match Chimera's, Argon looked around. The same three Mankeys, with planks ready for installation and looking toward the Bagon for an order stuck on his tongue. A Marowak, Graveler, and Pallosand, who's faces clicked into her mind all too easy, giving their own directions to the rest of the work crew from a triangle formation with him at the center. A long line of freshly-made dock that stood between the two.

"Chimera, Sir?" A Morpeko said, flat cap nearly falling from its head as it reached for the clipboard. "Something wrong?"

He said nothing. First looking to Argon, then his own elevated position on the crate, Chimera looked as if jolted awake from a dream. Argon fiddled with her paws through the second of silence, her breath sucked out of her lungs.

"H-hey," Argon said.

Without thinking, Chimera lowered himself from the crate. Their eyes didn't break, saying all that could be said. A shrill wind cut through the warm air, ruffling fur and grey cape alike.

"Hey," Chimera replied. "I was just… I was just helping with… "

Shaking his head, Chimera turned to meet the Morpeko's curious look, and the clipboard outstretched in its hand.

"Could you tell Team Tectonic that I'm letting them handle the finishing touches?" Chimera asked. "If anyone asks, just… tell them I have a very important meeting."

Argon got her own shock back to reality feeling Eoin's side brush against hers. A silent look between Raichu and Charmander asked the same question. The former felt her ears raise in a quaint spark of optimism, against a flickering flame from the latter. Both could feel the air starting to feel a little heavier.

"I-It's good to see you," Argon said, taking a step up against the caution tape perimeter. "I know things have gotten a bit more complicated recently, but it's reassuring being a team again."

Chimera took a step forward, as Argon did the same. Eoin stood back watching the two meet in the middle, looking to the dock and extravagant ship on the other end like a chess board. With how the Bagon moved, it wouldn't be long before he reached the other side.

"Great seeing you too, Argon," Chimera replied, holding his hand out to Argon across the caution tape line. "I-uh... "

It took him a second to remember his partner's ignorance to such a human gesture, nor could he hide from her the slight trepidation in his arm spanning across the black and yellow tape. A second passed where they starred, with only nervous chuckles to fill the silence. Argon may have not known how to return the foreign ritual, but from her warm smile, it seemed enough time with the Bagon had taught her its meaning. She raised her own paw, though only to gesture to the tape.

"I-Is it alright if we—"

"Oh!" Chimera replied, eyes shooting wide in realization. "Of course. Here. No-uh, no hardhats necessary. The project should be about done, and God knows I don't need one."

With Chimera's hand on one side of the tape, and Argon's on the other, the barrier was raised to let Raichu and Charmander through. Eoin's head was on a swivel as he walked behind the two, mental notes going through the Pallid's head on planks laid, blindspots in the guards, and the two psychic horns peeking up in one of the portholes.

"So this is your game," Eoin muttered to himself, eyeing the window. "I'm half a mind to judge, though... I can only hope I'm more earnest in raising her to the soapbox."

"If you don't mind," Chimera said, letting out a stiff cough before turning to Argon. "I was planning on attending a little meeting on that ship now that the work is done. Think it'd be only fair if we all went."

Argon only nodded. Even if she felt her levitation starting to falter with every step of the Bagon, the pieces seemed clicking into place. In a strange way, a small part of her had accepted there'd be a day when the Quilladin and Dewott guarding the gangplank would offer Chimera a salute. A shiver ran down her spine, in tandem with a strange spark in her cheeks. Politics aside, she should be happy, shouldn't she?

"This is about the team," Argon asked, "isn't it?"

It was Chimera's turn to be silent. Argon already knew the answer seeing her partner's head droop to the reflecting water below, though to what extent, she couldn't tell.

Indiscriminate chatter mixed in with an echoing creak as the hatch from above deck to below opened. From the inside of the steamboat, it seemed like someone had cut a chunk of the Guild Hall, stretched it to fit a hull, and carved port holes in the sides. A carved mahogany bar stood out against the utilitarian steel on the outside of the vessel, while a glittering chandelier illuminated the red velvet carpet and silk green couches below. The centerpiece of the meeting room was a tall grandfather clock, with a face that seemed to peer into all who entered, and a swinging pendulum as big as a Girafarig's tail.

The comparison wasn't a coincidence. It was a modest crowd, some pokemon donning tricorns, others wearing caps all too similar to the Weezing, and all pinned with three gold lined letters that had nothing to hide. A familiar, sentient tail poked out through the crowd. Even when turned away to face a Kricketune, it was all too easy for its owner to spot the three pokemon who entered.

"You can inform the garrison, Gryllus, that their benefits will be organized post haste. They're the lynchpin of keeping the gears of the agriculture program running. I would be remiss not to—Chimera!"

With Raichu and Charmander at his flanks, Chimera gave Binair a wave. His body and mind seemed at odds crossing the crowd to Binair. Feet swaggered forth, creating a pressing time limit to think while his gaze remained locked to the carpet.

"Hello, Sir," Chimera replied, tone soft as his head raised a tad. "The dock construction is in the finishing stages. I can have a complete report to you by tomorrow. Is… is it up to standards? I know I could have managed the work crews a bit more efficiently, and when that Applin got mixed into the community lunch I knew I should've—"

"Completely," Binair replied, grinning back while his tail bobbed back and forth in rhythm. "Watching from here, I can say it may have gone faster with a certain ship-crasher in charge from experience alone, but in this instance, education took precedence. And it will continue to, now that I can confidently say our little agreement has been fulfilled."

A sideways glance from Chimera met his partner's eyes. Her stance seemed familiar, if a little more stalwart. He'd seen that droop in her ears, crossing a gangplank with a bronze badge pinned close to a time gear. As she looked to Eoin, however, there was… something else. Her gaze wandered to a nearby porthole, to where another tarped carriage was driven from the port. Even through the chatter, she could almost hear the growls of the pallids. Confused. Alone. The Raichu of yesterday neither knew of them, nor was needed to help, but now…

"I-uh, about that, Sir," Chimera said.

Binair's brow furrowed, while Chimera found his tongue tied, and his feet locked in place between Girafarig on one side, and Raichu and Charmander on the other. His hand subconsciously lifted to his slung crossbow, absently fiddling with the sliver of rope that hadn't been cut. Back and worth, his head turned, like a metronome of its own against the ticking clock. Teeth gritted, he took a deep breath. Fortune favored the bold.

"You've been good to me, Sir," Chimera said, breathing a sigh of relief after finding his breath. "Great, in fact. I still intend on following through with this training, but I made an agreement."

Glancing over his shoulder, he looked at Argon. Shock, incredulity, and a fair bit of relief seemed to flow through the Raichu.

"Chimera," Argon said, "if this is for my sake, you don't need to— I-I might be a lot busier myself for the future."

A faint voice in the Bagon caught the meaning under her words, but the rest of Chimera's mind only shored his footing.

"It's not just that," Chimera replied, turning to Binair. "I'm sorry, Sir, but I can't… I shouldn't compromise on this. More than I already have, at least. I'm all for the training, but we'll need to keep it part time, so the team we have can keep going. Is that alright?"

Binair's poker face broke just a tad as he held his breath. His head tilted, his tail gnawing at open air as he glanced back to Chimera and Eoin. For a moment, Binair's gaze lingered on the latter, meeting the Charmander's unmoving goggles with an equally cold stare. A blink from Chimera, and the Girafarig looked back, signature smile returning.

"I respect that, old chum. We can sort out the details for hours once the boilers get their coal, and we set off back to Pith Town. You've certainly shown yourself consistent. You, Argon, and… Eoin, was it? With an O, if I remember—"

"With an E," Eoin replied, flame seething under its cover. "A common mistake. It is no trouble. I doubt you ever thought it important to prioritize matters so colorless."

What would have been silence a second too long was saved by a blaring horn above deck. Trotting aside to a carved, chocolate brown coffee table, Binair's tail bobbed up, smile jolting to attention an Inteleon behind the bar. His call was answered with the clang of four silver chalices set on the bar. As a psychic aura surrounded the drinks, and their crimson contents sloshed through the air, Binair set his hoof on the table. It hit a checkerboard surface, styled in yellow and brown with carved miniatures of Pawniard, Rapidash, Nidoqueen, and Nidoking, and many others dotting its surface.

"Well," Binair said, slowly moving one of the Pawniard forward with his hoof, "in any case, I apologize. It is a shame we haven't gotten the chance to talk more, Eoin. I can tell a 'mon of intellect when I see one. Would you mind a bit of chess between us once we set out? Wonderful human game, it is. Before that, though… a toast."

The chalices floated above them, spinning in a square. They floated down as if by parachute to arm's distance, their contents still swirling when Bagon, Raichu, and Charmander took hold. In spite of the tarped carriages outside being no less present, not to mention the hours ahead dungeoneering with Chimera taking the place of much more important hours, Argon held a tepid smile. One Chimera returned, though with a slight droop that only a Yamask could match.

"Care to make the toast, old chum?" Binair asked, chalice floating up between the four. "I'd say after your work here today, you more than deserve it."

"Uhh, yes Sir," Chimera replied, snapping back into reality. "Thank you."

Raising his chalice, at least as much as his stubby hands could, Chimera looked between the three. He cleared his throat, staring absently out of the porthole where the work crews and tarped carriages of Port Obstand moved in constant motion until he had found the words.

"To… to a bright future ahead."

"F-for all of us," Argon added, surprising even a bit of herself.

The drinks clinked, the evening passed, and before long the horn blared once more as the course set for Pith Town. Chimera spent much of the ride lying on one of the couches, while Argon and Eoin found themselves subconsciously nestling together on an adjacent chesterfield. The same grandfather clock sat in between the furniture, with a constant, unending tick no matter where Bagon or Raichu placed themselves.


The week passed fairly quickly for Chimera. Days became myriads of activity, waking up in the same apartment, drinking the same cup of grepa berry tea, with the same Raichu to rise with in the bunk below. Where before, however, they would journey back to West Faire together with the setting sun at their back, he stayed. It never seemed to cause too much trouble, remaining at the port to supervise another project, or taking notes while a familiar Aerodactyl taught him the logistics of keeping thousands of soldiers, resource teams, and sailors working and content. After all, Argon seemed to always have her own thing to do after their daily missions.

He didn't have any time to ponder. With a clipboard in hand, and the salty port scent fresh in the air as the sun made its evening fall, Chimera made his own retreat. It was a quaint building, all things considered, built into an extension of the port just days ago. Stacked, yellow cinderblock walls with an orange, clay shingled roof. He eyed the wide, golden plate mounted above the door, finely engraved with bold letters.

Personal Office of one Chimera Droverson, WFG Port Comanager

"Still, never thought I'd see the day," Chimera whispered, letting out a chuckle to no one in particular. "A few more weeks, and pokemon here might stop asking me why I have two names."

It wasn't his first time in, yet the place seemed to have a strange familiarity under its fresh paint. Granite flooring, large cedar desk, and a rolling chair short enough that he didn't have to climb it like a ledge. Nailed to the back wall was a large map of shipping routes and hastily pinned reminders. As usual, the foremost said not to miss the late night ferry back to Pith Town, where a Raichu just as drowsy as himself waited in an apartment smaller than the office.

"Let's see… movie night tonight, right?" Chimera said, getting no response. "Just where did I put the—there."

With a spring in his step, Chimera jumped onto the rolling chair, sliding across the room until it hit the desk with a soft tap. Half buried under a mishmash of schematics, approval requests, and written reports, Chimera pulled out a thin, yet large movie reel. He grinned, wiping his hand over the title sticker; The Chimera of yesteryear may have preferred a flash drive and LED monitor, but he couldn't deny getting to watch Wiggly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with his partner had its own charm.

The glint of nostalgia in Chimera's eyes was cut short by three short raps against the door. The Bagon nearly jumped out of his scales, even finding his hand drifting to a functionally useless crossbow (he'd repair it someday, just… not now).

"U-uh, come in!" Chimera said.

The door was well oiled, and Chimera heard not a peep as it opened until he caught sight of the visitor. Even then, all he could hear was his own hushed gasp.

"Hello, Chimera Sir," the Togetic said. "Sorry to intrude on a gloomy hour like this. It's just… I'm the new secretary around these parts. The Presider thought it prudent I assist you personally. Have some news from him, in fact."

Chimera blinked, then blinked again. His head tilted, gaze lingering for a second as if stuck in a dream.

"Course," Chimera replied, a bit too quickly for his liking. "Course. Appreciate the help, it's just… you just… never mind. If you don't mind me asking, Ms., what's-uhh, what's your name?"

"Eleanor," the Togetic replied.


The last time Chimera met a secretary who could fly through the air without flapping her wings, it was he reporting to her. Realizing a bit too late that his guest was standing outside in the cold, Chimera gestured her in. His posture was a bit more rigid than usual, equally unsettled as he reached to the desk for a glass bowl of red and white mints, pulling out two (complimentary, of course. On a late night like this, he could go through a dozen).

"Want one?" Chimera said, walking a step forward so his stubby arm could bridge the gap. "And what's the news?"

The Togetic's feathers seemed to ruffle a bit, hesitating for a second before she took the mint.

"Right, Sir. Thank you. Construction of the guard posts around the new branch of the harbor has stalled, something about supplies coming in damaged or broken for some reason. The Presider was asking if you could help them make do with what they have before they clock in, tonight. Said he trusted you most to get this done. Offered overtime pay, too, for the hours you help tonight."

"Just a few more of those," Chimera mumbled, a dry grin on his maw, "and we'll have enough coins for two movie projectors in the apartment, but…"

Glancing back, Chimera let his gaze linger over to the mechanical clock on the desk. The hour hand was low. Too low. Inattentively, his hand lingered over the desk, to a homemade newton's cradle the Bagon would often occupy his time with. A single lift, and the contraption ticked and tocked, ball bearings fluctuating between the movie reel on one side, and the looming wall map on the other. Taking a deep breath, Chimera turned back; no use putting it off now.

"Yeah, sure," he replied. "Tell him I'll be right there. Gotta keep things running smoothly. Could you reschedule my ticket back to Pith Town two hours from now?"

"Right away, Sir," Eleanor replied, floating through the air to close the door behind her.

It was a bit too silent for Chimera's liking, with only the periodic ticks of the newton's cradle to keep him company. Posture drooping a tad, he made his own way to the door, glancing one last time at the film.

"Well… looks like movie nights gotta wait till next week."


The week passed like a setting sun, leaving a season a tad less warm, and a bit more dreary than before. Palm trees stood stout against the cold breeze, while the early morning hours between Bagon and Raichu passed with their usual routine. Another bag of paydirt brought home. Another group of feral pallids knocked to the floor against thundershocks and crossbow bolts. Bandages and splints over limbs were soon discarded; time healed all wounds, after all. The physical ones.

With time, came another opportunity. On the outskirts of Pith Town, with the soft sand at her feet and the water beyond painted in the vibrant orange of dusk, Argon readied herself.

"A-alright… I can do this."

A single target stood about three dozen feet away in the sand. Short, stacked with hay, and with a white and green visage vaguely modeled after a cartoon dinosaur, the practice target was no substitute for an actual threat. The true danger lay just a few feet to the side, in the form of a Ninetales. Even with no small number of gray hairs in his mane, he wielded a telekinetic aura holding his front two limbs a few inches off the ground, not to mention an inner fire Argon knew hot enough to melt stone.

"Remember what we've been going over!" Sean yelled across the way, paw tapping against a loose pile of stones at his side. "Hone the mind as a muscle, and your telekinetic abilities will endure for both the jog and sprints of combat. Keep a synergy between body and mind, and no pokemon will rival your maneuverability. And… best of luck, Argon. Nothing is out of your reach if you put yourself to it. On your mark."

Argon returned a soft smile, lowering onto all fours. Even now, he always made it look easy. All she had to do was take her father's training to heart, close the gap to give the practice target a solid punch, and hopefully not end up singed into ratatouille in the process.

Her eyes closed, a brief moment of serenity falling over Argon before she bolted. Sean certainly wasn't making things easy. Even with the Raichu's legs working on overdrive, she had barely gotten five feet out before spotting three stones soaring toward her from a telekinetic throw. The middle rock was easy enough to avoid, with a quick lunge to the right. Sean was tenacious, however, with the second flying so fast that even a last minute jump couldn't stop Argon from getting clipped on the side. She stumbled through the air, looking up just in time to see the third. Where she was falling, a hit was unavoidable. Unless…

It was the seventh day they'd been training after every mission, and by now it was almost a reflex. Psychic instincts spun into motion, forming an aura of energy that coalesced around Argon's tail. Thoughts sharpening to give it direction, she commanded her tail to raise under her, keeping her moving through the air as the stone whiffed just inches under. In the millisecond she had to think, Argon cringed; that would have hurt.

She wasn't out of the woods yet, however. She hit the ground, sand crunching against her paws with only a dozen feet between her and the target. Argon smiled for only a moment, before seeing the buildup of flames lining her father's open maw.

Oh no.

A wall of fire erupted from Sean's mouth. She could feel the heat against her fur, not to mention her own beating heart at the five pronged blast of destruction hurtling toward her. On instinct, Argon jumped, but she didn't have a hope of clearing its radius with just that. She wasn't an acrobat, but from a guildmaster's training, she wouldn't need to be.

Raging wall of embers getting nearer by the second, Argon again roared the psychic energy around her tail to life. In spite of, or perhaps because of her fear, she worked fast, moving the tail until it floated above her. The Raichu went up after her first jump, but never went down. After all, she had the perfect platform to keep her in the air. Again, Argon lunged, clearing the blast like a pole vaulter. Energy and adrenaline coursed through her, tingling, sparking, and crackling until she fell back to earth with a paw armored in electricity.

She may have gotten a few burnt hairs on her back in the process, but the target ended up much worse. Her momentum carried, fist knocking it back with a resounding crack into the sand. A mark remained on its snout, burnt from a torrent of static. In a weird way, even Argon couldn't believe it. Breathing heavy, she looked back to Sean with a tepid smile; if the Ninetales' wide eyes were any indication, his reaction was much the same.

"I… think that's pretty well for today," Sean said. "Exemplary work, Argon. I have no doubt you'll remain able to defend yourself for what's ahead."

It wasn't until the sparks in Argon's cheeks died that she heard the tinge of wariness in Sean's voice. He let out a few, coughing embers, before setting himself to the sand. His gaze remained steadfast, towards a familiar landmass across the sea. Keeping her smile up as best she could, Argon sat herself down at his side.

"T-thanks, Dad. Couldn't have done it without you. Feels weird, honestly. Being able to do more as a psychic type than staying afloat or fetching something I'm too lazy to grab. Has been a big help going on missions with Chimera. Between that, and him improving on that tool of his, we've been getting through our daily missions in probably half the time we used to. N-not to mention I can get a lot less dirty sneaking with Eoin through that pipe to the… the… "

"That pallid farm," Sean finished. "Orchestrated by my illustrious counterpart from the WFG."

Argon had heard her father well enough to know what didn't sit well in his stomach. The two sat in silence for a bit, listening to the rhythmic call of the waves. Pelippers, Toucannon, and Swanna flew up against a clear sky. If Argon squinted, she could even see a vaguely familiar Mantine above. Every so often as the Mantine flew above the city and beach, sections of folded pamphlets dropped from the saddle, falling to the ground like leaves.

"Argon," Sean said, snapping the Raichu back to attention. "I've long since learned that I cannot nor should not try to put a stop to what you aspire, but this… revolution, you and Eoin are planning, are you sure that the risk is worth the reward? I respect Eoin and the pallids that follow him, and I'll help anyway I can, but the last thing I want is for you to be harmed unnecessarily."

Argon would be lying to say she hadn't had similar thoughts. Just yesterday was probably the tenth time she'd tried getting the support of pokemon wandering the streets of Pith Town. The tilted heads. The incredulous stares. The mix of disbelief, or simple apathy as they returned to their business. She could only hope that Eoin was having more luck on his end.

"I-I mean, we have to try," Argon replied, fiddling with her paws as she looked to the sand. "I've spent far too long already playing it safe while others suffered. We can get the pallids here, but we need a way to let all of Faire know what they've had to endure. We just need a way to—"

"Bombs away!" Catalina called out, as high as a kite above the two. "'Lotta 'pologies for the shameless advertising, Aragon. The things corporate has me do…"

The call was followed by a pamphlet hitting Argon square in the face. About a dozen more fell to the rest of the beach, after which Catalina had soared off for her next target. Stifling a growl, Sean gave the Mantine a halfhearted shake of his paw. As he turned back to Argon, a psychic aura lifted the paper off her nose.

"You alright, Argon?"

"Y-yeah," she replied, giving a slight chuckle. "Swift attack from that Accelgor in Exeggutor's Jungle gave me far worse. I just—wait."

The pamphlet itself was a fairly standard thing, a colorful yet simple advertisement with probably the most artificial smile a Mantine could give on the cover. Looking up, however, and seeing another airdrop from Catalina, it all clicked into place. Her eyes opened wide, ears perking up with enough static over her cheeks to power a lightbulb over her head.

"Dad!" Argon said, head whipping over to meet Sean's eyes. "You remember that camera you gave me for my hatchday, r-right?"

"Of course," Sean replied, blinking a bit at his daughter's smile. "Do you need new film for it? I likely have enough connections back with the guild to offer you anything you need."

It was foolhardy. Hopelessly optimistic. But… it just might work. She looked up to the sky, seeing Catalina silhouetted against the distant landmass of East Faire.

"T-that's good to hear, Dad," Argon replied, "because if this all works out, we're gonna need a lot of it."

"A lot of what, if I may ask?"

The sudden voice sounded very familiar, but that didn't keep Argon's fur from jumping up like a scared cat. She whipped around in tandem with Sean, stopping only at the sight of a Charmander that has just realized his faux pas.

"Hello," Eoin said, posture shifting as he tried to regain an inviting smile. "Apologies for the interruption. I didn't mean to—"

"W-we were just finishing up the training," Argon replied, tone soothing a fair bit. "It's great to see you, Eoin. What brings you here now? A-and, what's that you're carrying?"

Eoin blinked (or at very least paused, enough that Argon could tell through the goggles), as if needing to remember there was anything in his claws, and exploding in realization at their importance. On his left arm, a simple wicker picnic basket, with a stack of tamoto berries and a thermos hanging off the end. In his right, a single flower. It was a vibrant thing, with a blooming button of small, orange pedals in the center that branched off into large ones of grey and white. He looked at Argon, then at Sean, breath sucked in as he pondered whether to hold the flower out, or hide it behind his back.

"Oh, this?" Eoin replied, putting on the simple smile of a feral that had absolutely no idea how to effectively lie. "Just some— Just that we… I thought that, as co-leaders in the events ahead, that we have some one on one time to exchange notes on our progress. My efforts scouting and sabotaging the defense construction at Port Obstand, yours to shift public opinion. Of course, we haven't had much personal time for such discussion in the past few weeks, and I thought at an hour like this, the cliffside just a short while from here would offer ample security. Is that… agreeable?"

Neither Argon nor Sean needed to look at each other to know the Charmander's intentions were a bold faced lie, or at least half of one. Argon's chest fluttered, half at the thought, and half knowing next to her was a Ninetales that could pick Eoin up with his mind and fling him across the sea.

"D-dad, do you mind if we… "

"Not at all, dear," Sean replied, soaking in Eoin's fearful glances just a bit too much. "Though remember the value of product restraint in times like these. The flower Eoin's holding may have already been pollinated, but when your Mother and I were your age—"

"Dad!" Argon yelped, ears raising in a pouty demeanor. "I-I mean… thank you."

She let out a deep sigh, walking to Eoin as a smile slowly returned. The flower passed from claw to paw, fading daylight falling under the horizon. On a chilly day like this, the warmth they felt as they touched was something to savor.

"Well," Argon said, "shall we get going? We don't have all—wait."

The thought hit her like a take down. How long had they been putting it off? A new, foreign box with a bulb that blared on the entire side of a wall. A roll of tape with that new moving picture thing on it, and a Bagon to share it with. Was that really tonight?

"Something wrong?" Eoin asked.

"N-no," Argon replied, "it's just… just nothing."

The days would pass, and the large sphere in the sky would make its periodic run over the horizon. As she sucked in a breath, however, Argon knew all too well that movie night would have to wait until next week.


They were tired. Again, the days passed, and again, the fall air outside seemed just a little less comforting than usual. Argon was the first to enter their apartment at the usual hour, though they never could predict who'd be the one to arrive later. Three raps against the door greeted her while nestled in her bed. A psychic flick, a click of the lock, and Chimera's visage greeted her.

"Hey," Chimera whispered, arms outstretched as he let out a nod.

"Hey," Argon replied, her own maw opening from the infectious gesture.

The Bagon said not a word as he set his exploration pack to the floor, papers nearly falling from their sleeve. Argon tucked herself into the sheets. She looked to her side, reaching halfway to her bedside table for her nighttime tea, only to find it already drunk. Closing her eyes, all she could do was rack her mind through the fog for something to say.

"H-how have things been going at the port?" she asked. "Projects been going well?"

"Yeah," Chimera replied, answer innate. "Binair asked me to help with some logistics around the Guild Hall. Will be nice getting back here for a bit. You know how it goes. Things going alright with Eoin?"

"Yeah, w-we've been keeping pretty busy ourselves. That Mimikyu pallid in the dungeon today didn't give you too hard of a hit, did it?"

Chimera blinked, needing a second to even remember the morning event she was referring to. Pausing, the Bagon tried every bit to summon the events of their daily mission, only to find they had slid though his mind. Shrugging, Chimera shook his head, before climbing the bunk side ladder to his own bed. He couldn't put his claw on it, but things seemed… different. As Bagon and Raichu rubbed their bagged eyes, however, both knew that neither the sun, nor the ticking gears of time would wait for either of them.

"S-should I turn off the light?" Argon asked.

"Sure," Chimera replied, before catching himself. "Wait, what about the—you know?"

His voice was half hearted, and he knew it. Argon would be remiss to call her own any more enthusiastic. Seemingly in tandem from the top and bottom bunk, the two looked to the side, spotting a large, metallic projector tucked away in the corner where the camera used to be. The same film lied on top of it, with a thin border of dust on its edges. Posture slumping, Chimera leaned back into the bed, letting out a sigh that turned into a nod.

"Next week?"

The constant, whispering voice in her consciousness suggested otherwise, but Argon already knew the answer.

"N-next week."


Well-Known Member
Chapter 31: The Stage is Set
How long had it been? Seven weeks? Two months? It all started to blend together after a while, but Chimera could always count on the end of a day's work to give him some clarity. He sat with his chair propped back, staring into the sky as a vibrant red glow reflected against the clouds. Even the palm trees lining the quaint, outdoor cafe had grown dormant this time of the year. With periodic chilling winds slicing against his scales, Chimera had to rely on the cape nestled around his form, and the undranken, steaming cup of Tapu Cocoa in his hands for some comfort.

Well, they weren't all that warmed the Bagon's heart. Maybe two dozen feet away, past the nearly dead isles of circular tables, overhanging straw umbrellas, and looming Klinklang logo (name hastily changed by the looks of things), was the fruits of his, and many a pokemon's labor: An imposing public stage, with paint still fresh, built against the marble walls of the Guild Hall.

Just a week ago he'd supervised a new community center across the way of the town square, and if Binair wasn't pulling his leg, the hours he spent leading pokemon today would make many more happier to come. A Primarina rockstar tomorrow. That Sobble and Scorbunny musical duo the week after (not quite his cup of tea, but he could see the appeal). His temples still ached with more than a day's worth of stress, and it wouldn't even be long before he was expected back at the apartment to restart the cycle anew, but Chimera found himself holding a tepid smile. The human of before may have spent just as much time filing reports, but now? Now he had something to show for it.

"Long day?"

A soft, yet cheerful voice reminded Chimera that the town square wasn't entirely a ghost town. She'd taken her seat on the other side of the circular table, a Nickit that had ordered her drink while the cafe was still full. Over the last hour as he waited, she'd take the occasional sip, or steal glances at the distant Guild Hall. Letting out a slight huff, Chimera nodded.

"One of many," he replied, chuckling. "But… not without purpose. Plenty of plays on that stage that pokemon will be able to see. Might ask my friend to come if we actually manage to find the time."

The Nickit replied with a terse nod, though her grin quickly took to something more bold.

"Very generous of you. I'm sure the beachgoers will be happy. Won't have to worry about their view being ruined by Bagon falling from above."

Chimera rolled his eyes, looking back at the Nickit with a soft smile. If she wanted to go, he had nothing better to do.

"Nor any Nickit shoveling sand into beachgoer's mouths while she makes a minefield of holes. Instincts are a funny thing." Chimera replied.

Her maw opened, seemingly in retaliation, before shutting with a conceding snicker. As Chimera looked back over the past few months, he found himself pondering the warmth in that laugh for perhaps a second too long.

"Touché. What's keeping a parvenu like you here anyway?" the Nickit asked. "Can't imagine we have much time until the new dawn."

Chimera let out a half sigh, testing the once steaming drink with his tongue to find it had cooled a fair bit.

"I'm the first one in, last one out for these types of projects. Gotta wait till my boss arrives to check our work. You've probably seen him."

The faint wrinkle in the Nickit's nose corroborated. The air settled into silence as the cafe gramophone across the way ground to a halt. A new track shifted automatically into turntable, spinning up a slower, more quaint tune.

"Sure have," the Nickit replied. "Went into town myself on a little search for something, and… an old acquaintance of mine. Had my own fair share of long nights. Still, feels nice getting to talk to someone other than myself during them."

"Right back at ya," Chimera responded, scaly brow furrowing the slightest bit. "Though, who are you searching for, then? Don't tell me you've been waiting out in the cold to talk to the one Bagon on Faire that needs a lighter to start a fire. There's probably another Bagon out there with a lighter cape who'd make much better company than his evil counterpart."

The Nickit's eyes seemed to widen, the rest of her reaction hidden as she stared down to the table. The brief silence that followed saw Chimera's chest grow antsy, and his smirk fade. It… wasn't that weird of a comment, was it?

"Well, I'd be chasing my own tail to find him," she replied, giggling a bit to herself. "The 'mon I was looking for, I'm… more trying to see what sort of role they really want to play. Been searching for a bit, but in my line of work, you learn to be quick on your feet."

She raised up on her seat, gesturing with a paw over Chimera's shoulder. Looking back at the stage, Chimera returned a slow nod. He turned back at the Nickit, gaze a bit more analytical than usual.

"That makes sense," Chimera replied, "if you don't mind me saying, you seem a bit like you've played a lot of roles yourself."

The Nickit tilted her head, blinking in incredulity. In most cases, Chimera would have backpedaled into an apology, but as he snuck a glance at the fox, the more he garnered a nearly infinitesimal smile on her maw.

"In a way," she said, tone accentuated innocence. "Was forced to study the bard a fair bit way back then. Dad always thought it kept me happy and content, but like they say, 'false face must hide what the false heart—'oh no."

The voice wasn't hers, at least at the end. Chimera saw the Nickit's face jump up in shock, recovering too late as she stared past him. By the time she tried to pull his attention back, he'd already seen it.

The stage was the same as he left it, excepting a single pokemon now at the center. The Fennekin waved at Chimera, a cheeky grin on her maw that was an unmistakable echo of her host. Pretty soon, Chimera joined in, turning back to a now pouty Nickit.

"I had my doubts, but… that confirms it," Chimera said. "How you been holding up, Cerise? Weeks been treating you well?"

A flash of light, and Chimera was greeted by a familiar Zorua across the table. Her muzzle snarled, paw lifting to take another sip of her drink as they locked eyes. After three long glugs, the cup lowered, its holder now sporting a smile; the game wasn't over yet.

"As well as they can," Cerise replied, tapping a bag at her side nearly overflowing with hastily drawn notes. "Seems like you've been doing well for yourself. I had you fooled, though, didn't I? You only found out because I wanted you to."

"Really?" Chimera asked, gesturing back over his shoulder to the stage. He couldn't see it yet, but the Fennekin once a few dozen feet away was now snickering a foot or so behind him.

Zorua and Bagon looked at each other across the table, one half smiling meeting another preparing for whatever verbal jab would continue the exchange. As Chimera looked into Cerise's eyes, however, memories of compasses, time gears, and hammy salemences coming back to the forefront, curiosity overtook pride.

"Alright… fine, you win" he replied, "you had me—"

"You win," Cerise said, "I got sloppy."

Nearly in unison, the two pokemon blinked, in unanimous surprise at the other's words. An entire argument seemed to happen in the silence, victory being passed back and forth like an unwanted coat. True, it was a juvenile game, but… something about it seemed to make the air a little warmer, soothing the reality of the pokemon each was sitting across.

"Well, you had me fooled for at least a couple hours," Chimera continued, clearing his throat "but… that lends itself to something else."

Leaning forward to take a sip from his drink, the Bagon's tone lost its levity.

"What's the real reason that you're here?" Chimera asked. "Been… what, two months since we saw each other? What's changed?"

Cerise perked up from her seat, only to pause, as if having a well practised presentation, but no time in front of an audience. As she pawed abscently at her exploration bag, trying to find the words, Chimera found himself balancing on the back two legs of his seat.

"O-oh, she's here because—"


Whatever Chimera was expecting, the sudden voice of a fennekin not a foot from his ear wasn't it. Cerise's fur shot up in shock and horror while Chimera fell back. He saw himself pass straight through Sophia's illusionary body on the way down, back of the chair hitting the ground with a dull thud.

"Chimera!" Cerise yelped, before her own voice lowered to a snarl. "...Sophia."

"I-I didn't—" Sophia replied, fur quivering in front of Chimera, "I wasn't… I'll go."

Before Chimera knew it, the Fennekin before him had disappeared. Still on his back, it wasn't long before the offered paw of a Zorua took its place. Helping Chimera up, Cerise let out a sigh.

"She means well, just gets a bit antsy around other pokemon. We've had a fair bit of time to ourselves these past months," Cerise said, taking a deep breath for the rest. "And as for why I'm here, I wasn't lying as a Nickit, if you can believe it. What goes hand in hand with that though, is… we've been doing our homework, and I know what I said before about only observing the time gears, but let's just say I've been inclined on another visit to the Guild Hall."

Chimera blinked not once, not twice, but three times in silence. Though he kept up a smile, the air between Bagon and Zorua seemed to get a tad heavier.

"... Cerise—"

"Trust me, I-I don't like it anymore than you do," Cerise said, patting the worn notebook in her pouch, "but this is the only way forward. I—we've combed through my mother's old notes, undertook some less than official research at all the artifact museums across Faire, and the best conclusion I can come up with is that our little test coming down the mountain was a fluke. The compass wasn't meant for that time gear, but if I can get my paws on what's locked in the Guild Hall, then… I might get the breakthrough that we need. That's all I'm asking."

Had he been in any other position, for any other team, Chimera was confident he would have taken Cerise's paw and started scoping out entrances into the Guild Hall right then and there. The ticking gears of time had chosen their route, however, and taking a sip warmed his tongue a bit less. He looked to Cerise, an irritation on his face that, unwilling to drench the Zorua before him, turned back to the only other target.

"I know why you're doing this, Cerise," Chimera said, "and I respect that. I really do wanna help you, a-and the last time we spoke, I was a lot harsher than I should have been. I apologize for that, it's just… I do have a role to play here. A lot of pokemon rely on me now, and I'm not sure I can… "

His head drooped. The shiny, platinum badge on his bag reflected against the crimson sky. In it, he could see Cerise's face, not a hint of blame in her eyes, though equally determined.

"And I respect that," Cerise replied. "Even if I do get this time heist to work, I think you'll have done more good on a whole than a petty thief like me. She let out a soft snicker, turning to a sigh as she looked to the clouds. "Not to mention you've indulged my antics more than any other 'mon in the guild would. But… I guess we both got a job to do tonight."

Chimera nodded, though something sat poor in his mind at the thought. He glanced around, to the town square that'd take hours before another soul entered. To the barren cafe, with easy listening melodies and smooth oak wood tables. Lastly, he looked to Cerise, seeing how her scarlet black fur swayed gently in the wind. Chest subconsciously starting to flutter, an idea took form. Sure, perhaps it was a longshot, and not the most professional option, but he could think of worse ways for the night to go.

"Well, I wouldn't say that," Chimera said, putting on an endearing smile that showed just a bit too much teeth. "Time gear heists are wonderful and all, but...how 'bout instead we go for a little night out as friends? You and me. We can go and get something to eat; my treat of course."

Cerise was halfway through taking a sip when every inch of her froze. She sucked in a breath, nearly taking a glug of cocoa with it as her eyes, ever so faintly widened toward the Bagon.

"Maybe find some out of the way studio for a bit of dancing," Chimera continued, "that is if you don't mind going with a Bagon who nearly got psychocked into oblivion by a lake guardian the last time he danced. Could even have a little movie night. I have it on good authority that the actor for the partner in 'Heroes of Time' is absolutely superb."

Chimera's arms lowered as Cerise' gaze lifted, desperately hoping he could hide his shaking hands under the table.

"I…" Cerise said.

The suave smirk she had carried over from the Nickit faded as Bagon and Zorua stared at each other. The latter clutched the notebook at her side, while the former found his jittering hand fiddling with his guild badge. Just over Chimera's shoulder, Cerise could see the theatre in the distance, with two towering, emblazoned theatre masks that almost seemed to stare down at the two. Following their example, Cerise returned Chimera's toothy grin, leaning forward on her seat.

"A tempting offer," Cerise said, "but I have to ask first, what happens if I say no?"

After taking his own deep breath, Chimera looked left and right over his shoulder, confirming yet again that the square was empty. This should have been the more dreary part of the offer, but for some reason, the butterflies in his stomach hadn't stopped. In a slow, calculated motion, he took hold of his crossbow, setting it on the table with a thunk. Even as Cerise's throat darkened with a preemptive shadowy aura, however, she couldn't help but notice that the Bagon's demeanor had dimmed only a bit. He smiled back, eyes wide as if he'd not placed a weapon, but a deck of cards or a new round of drinks.

"If that's the case, Cerise," Chimera said, scaled brow furrowing as he picked his words, "then I'm sorry to say that we'll have to part ways. If we're both still by the Guild Hall after one minute or so, we're going to have a… different kind of dance on our hands. One thing is for sure, though: I'm not going anywhere."

Were it any other Bagon, or any other Zorua listening, his tone would have seemed more like a threat than an offer. Like a poker player moving chips to the table, Chimera scanned his exploration bag. His hand glazed over the sharpened, glimmering bolts neatly lining one of the pouches, instead pulling out one with a wide, blunted end. True, it'd hurt, Cerise noted, but not more than a decent punch, or a halfhearted dark pulse from her own maw. As he set the bolt on his weapon, Chimera gave Cerise a quick nod. The Bagon was unable to hide his trepidation, and as an unspoken conversation sounded across the table, Cerise dipped her head likewise.

"Well," Chimera said, "what'll it be?"

The paths before her seemed equally valid, but a deep, mischievous grin on Cerise's form revealed she already knew her choice. Adrenaline coursed up her spine, forming the vibrant, cocksure posture of a role that was all her own. As the seconds ticked down, the few, precious seconds Chimera had given to make her choice, Cerise learned forward to take another drink. She looked him right in the eye, giving Chimera a wink while she sipped. After licking her lips, she cleared her throat.

"I'm sorry too, Chimera," Cerise said, "because I'm not going anywhere either."

Not a word more needed to be said. Bagon and Zorua sat in silence, scanning each other head to toe across the table. With a shrug, Chimera held his free hand out to Cerise. Eyes narrowing at the Bagon, it didn't take long for Cerise to realize that he was just as, if not worse at feigning innocence than herself. She closed her maw, a way to hide the shaded fire building in her throat, before outstretching her own paw. For a long second, the two shared an impromptu handshake.

Quick as a Ninjask, Chimera tugged. His head shot forward, rocky surface careening toward Cerise. The last thing he saw, as his gaze dipped to the table was a concentrated pulse of energy from the Zorua's maw.

Headbutt hit Dark Pulse point blank. A resounding crackle echoed through the Bagon and Zorua's ears, launching them both back from the concussive force. Like searing hot cocoa against a tooth, Chimera felt his forehead tingle from the blast. He hit the cobblestone floor back first, skidding a good dozen feet before he stopped. Thankful that his crossbow was still in hand, Chimera dusted himself off. Brown eyes met blue, gazes meeting over the coffee table between.

"Not bad," Chimera said, chuckling as he felt the scorch mark over his forehead. "I take it you won't accept a stun seed for dinner?"

Cerise rolled her eyes, dusting her own fur off from the exchange.

"Not unless your pride would need it," she shot back. "After all, that's the only way you'd get one up on me tonight. That, or putting me to sleep watching all the paperwork you do. Still… pretty impressive yourself, for a salarymon."

Any retort Chimera had was cut short by a crackling, jet black sphere soaring toward him with the speed and size of a baseball. On his back, with no way to dodge, Chimera's mind went into reflex. A nervous gasp left his maw, more of a squeak than anything. The shadow ball couldn't have been more than five feet away when his crossbow raised. The Bagon was quick on the draw, blunted bolt whiffing against the side of the sphere for an early detonation. By the time the smoke had cleared, and he'd gotten to his feet, the Zorua once in his sights was nowhere to be found.

"Just where the hell are… there."

Cerise snickered, paws working on overdrive bolting to, of all things, the stage. Panting all the while, she gave a triumphant glance behind her. Not twenty feet out, it was obvious to both Zorua and Bagon that the latter couldn't keep pace. What only Chimera knew, however, was that he didn't have to.

"Looking for someone?" Cerise asked, giving Chimera a cheeky paw wave as she leaped onto the stage. "Seems all that time getting chummy with Binair has made you a bit sloppy."

High ground obtained, the battle seemed almost over for Cerise. She readied herself for a potshot from the Bagon. Only… one that never came. Her ears perked up, hearing a faint slicing sound directly above. By the time she'd realized, it was too late.

Looking up, Cerise saw exactly what was keeping the weighty stage curtain behind her raised: A sizable sandbag counterweight, now with a thin, long slice cut from the bottom. She barely got in a word before a mountain of sand poured down. Less painful than most attacks, but shaking the heavy sediment off gave Chimera all the time he needed to close the gap.

At least, at first. The Zorua's agility had made jumping onto the stage, about twice either of their heights, a difficult yet manageable task. By the time she'd regained her senses, however, Chimera's stubby arms were still trying and failing to grapple for purchase. Every few seconds, she heard a grunt, followed by a brief glimpse of the top of the Bagon's forehead.

"Are," Cerise said, head tilting in realization, "are you—"

"I'm fine!" Chimera called back, jumps growing more frustrated. "Just… give me a few seconds."

His gaze craned to the top of the stage, Chimera silently cursed the two or three odd feet his transformation had blessed him. Priming for another leap, he was greeted by Cerise's silent, somewhat sandier eyes looking down. He froze, awaiting umbric fire.

"Do you… need some help?" Cerise asked, holding her paw out. "I may only be waiting up here so I can launch a shadow ball in your face, but you can trust me."

From the damage to his pride, Chimera was half tempted to take the shadow ball. He looked up to a Zorua no stranger to deceit. What she did lack, however, was the mocking snicker Chimera expected at his predicament.

"That does put a bit of a damper on our relationship," Chimera replied, shooting her a grin, "but… no sport in launching a bolt at your muzzle from down here."

After a running jump, the Bagon's hand met Zorua's. With a bit of effort, Chimera had scrambled onto the stage, leaving him and Cerise lying down with eyes to the sky as they caught their breath.

"And for the record," Chimera said, letting out a few quick gasps, "you do learn a few things working with Binair. Balancing scope, schedule, and budget in project management, keeping a very headstrong Sylveon from biting into the Applin it thought was lunch, and—"

A pause. Chimera bit his lip, words stuck on his tongue. Was it worth saying?

"And… the regrets a certain 'two face' has being estranged with his talented, heist-happy daughter."

Not a peep, nor even a breath left the Zorua's maw. Before Chimera even knew it, Cerise had rolled onto her side to glare at him. From her wide eyes, his words had paralyzed far more than any stun seed.

"You know?" Cerise said, incredulity lasting another second before a sigh took its place. "I-I… of course he'd tell you eventually. He's got a lot of tools to butter pokemon up, help them ignore his own faults."

After a moment more of silence, with Bagon and Zorua casting each other inquisitive looks, Cerise shook her head. She grinned back at Chimera, shaded auro forming around her paw.

"Now that we're both onstage, though, I think it's time to see how this scene ends. I'm ready to keep going. You?"

Chimera nodded back, though with a hint of perturbation under his smile. "Always was a fan of two 'mon plays," he replied. "Let's-uh… lets keep the collateral damage down. Will have enough forms to file already after this."

With crossbow in hand, he swung. It was a downward attack with the weapon held in his arms like a pickaxe. A hint of fear flashed in Cerise's face as she rolled, crossbow prods missing her chest by a single length of fur. By the time Chimera had jumped to his feet, and Cerise likewise, he had the Zorua right in his sights.

One of her. Chimera found his grin faltering, with not one, but two Zorua snickering back at him. They were soon joined by a third. Then a forth. Then a fifth. With only one bolt loaded, Chimera's aim started to shake, faced with five, equally lifelike opponents staring back at him. Desperate to buy time, Chimera stepped back, words primed to strike where arms couldn't.

"W-well, you're looking a bit beside yourself, Cerise," Chimera said, breaths quick as his aim clamored from one Zorua to the next. "I need to know, what's your endgame for this time heist of yours anyway? Binair can't have been father of the year by any imagination, but… I think he does regret not being there for you, and I think he genuinely wants to make amends. You're going to have to make a choice eventually."

Simultaneously, across five different Zorua, Cerise's muzzle crinkled. Each of their shadowed claws sat dormant, while their owners' eyes seemed to glaze over in an inner debate. Her posture shifted between trembling and firm, as if she was arguing with a nonexistent fennekin. Eventually, she settled on the latter, all planting their feet while staring back at Chimera.

"I-I could say the same to you," Cerise replied, voices echoing off of each other. "You can't really believe my Dad's beacon of benevolence is real, can you? I… might not have much love for Pallids myself, but you must have seen the work farms? I know from experience, the moment a pokemon gets in the way of his ego, the 'great mission' he has, he'll not give them a second of his time, or worse. Is he really the 'mon you want to become?"

It was Chimera's turn for his thoughts to waver. Perhaps she was exaggerating? Looking around where he was, there seemed enough evidence for that. The ornate, monolithic Guild Hall in the distance. The very wooden planks below their feet that was the product of their cooperation. Many a pokemon would find joy before the two faces of the stage. And yet, finding his aim wavering, Chimera couldn't help but look down, to the project accounting report hastily shoved into his exploration pack. All the progress he'd made, yet how often did the human of yesteryear find himself filing out the same?

"I—" Chimera said, giving a quick shake of his head, "I'm forging my own destiny, just like you are. The path to get there is mine to choose, just like yours is."

As Chimera blinked, and Cerise snapped out of her own trance, the two realized they'd just spent nearly a minute of battle lost in their own thoughts.

"That's fair, though uh… mind if we go back to hitting each other?" Cerise asked, letting out a slight giggle. "A lot simpler that way. Less stressful, too."

"You know that?" Chimera replied. "Couldn't agree more."

Adrenaline coursed through Chimera, facing five separate Zorua charging him. The first dashed to the left, serpentining across the stage, only to face a head-on bolt between the eyes. Its body faded into oblivion, giving Chimera only a second to prepare before another charged him from the center. Quick on his feet, he backpedaled. The Zorua sped across him, facing a sideways headbutt from the Bagon that left it equally dispersed.

It was good, but not good enough. Chimera only had time to turn before a third Zorua jumped from behind, claws bared. He winced, expecting a piercing pain in his scales when paw met back. Instead, the Zorua's claw sliced against him with all the power of an imaginary knife against butter. His illusionary foe left equally nonexistent wounds, but a very real opening.

"Poor choice, Chimera!"

His head was still turned when the genuine Cerise slammed into him from the front. Like getting tackled by a swift, quadrupedal, and especially furry linebacker, Chimera fell to the floor. The Bagon's head was in a daze, crossbow skidding from his hand across the stage. By the time his back had hit the floor, a number of realizations hit him.

The first: he had a large mass of Zorua lying on his chest. The second: trying to move his arms caused the paw pressing down on each to pin them to the floor, with his legs a similar story. The third? His instinctual reaction to lunge with his rocky forehead was equally fruitless. Something was holding it against the floor, denying him the distance he needed for a good swing. And as his eyes opened, he saw that something was Cerise's forehead.

Time seemed to slow. Two thoughts wrestled for control in his consciousness: He'd lost, and he could feel the Zorua's rapid heartbeat against his chest. Chimera looked at Cerise (little able to look at anything else where he was}. Cerise looked to Chimera. Her face beamed in a triumphic flare, with the umbric fire from her maw barely an inch away from Chimera's, though… something else laid behind. Chimera could scarcely describe it himself.

"I-I… I think we can call the winner here, wouldn't you say?" Cerise said, unable to pull her forehead back from Chimeras, lest risking a headbutt. "Promise you won't have anything to worry about. Will be in and out of the Guild Hall to test the time gear before Dad even knows what's happened. I'm sure he won't mind. Might even still have time for that night out." A pause. "I-If you don't mind, that is."

His thoughts were awash. Unable to move, and equally unsure whether failure would be as bad as it seemed, Chimera froze. His breaths were quick, a tiny bit of him thankful he'd taken a mint earlier, considering where he now lied. At the last second, he opened his maw, barely hearing the faint clop of hooves against cobblestone.

"I-uh… I guess that could work," Chimera replied, "as long as—"

"Old chum."

Nearly in unison, Bagon and Zorua's heads craned to the side. The Girafarig they saw, countenance suspended in a mix of shock and incredulity, was more than enough to chill their spines. Chimera looked back and forth between Binair and Cerise, desperately trying to find words that were long gone. The Zorua above, meanwhile, kept a deadset glare towards Binair. Her muzzle twitched in agitation while her fangs barred.

"Chimera, Cerise dear," Binair continued. "I would—amicably—ask the both of you to separate."

Bagon and Zorua could nearly feel the air get heavier around them. Binair's head, both of them, craned to the side staring at the scene. The pokemon on bottom was much too pinned to follow his suggestion, while the one on top (half covered in sand) much too distracted.

"S-sir," Chimera stammered, "I promise, we weren't… I wasn't… we—"

"No need, old chum," Binair replied, tone faster than usual. "We can sort out… this on a later date. It does complicate things, but for now I'll trust you're being truthful. Cerise, dear… "

The name was almost like a plea from Binair's mouth. Where he lay, Chimera could feel something build in Cerise's chest, a tension in her being that seemed ready to bolt into a nearby alley any second. Tentatively, Chimera raised a hand, not having the willpower to divert the Zorua's attention and ask her to move from his chest. She looked back at Binair, glaring at an equal height on the stage to the Girafarig.

"I-I have nothing to say to you," Cerise replied, head dipping to the floor. "Not now. Not ever. For the record, Dad, I came here on a heist to get one step closer to bringing Mom back, a-and to see whether Chimera would try and stop me, but she'll have to wait today."

With a huff, Cerise gently stepped off of Chimera, before turning her back to Binair. Chimera was just getting to his feet as a flash of light enveloped the Zorua, in her place appearing the Nickit he'd shared drinks with. Binair's gaze drooped when the Nickit turned away, about to make her way to the floor. It looked to Chimera as if the Girafarig was filled with stage fright, with his jeering audience the faces of past and present. He let out a deep, shuddering sigh, to a fox many feet away.

"I don't doubt your words are warranted, Cerise," Binair said, voice distant as she walked away. "But for however much my own are worth, just know that I miss her too."

The fox stopped. Her whole body seemed to quiver, while a sharp, whistling breeze flowed through the streets. Chimera was just about to take a step towards her when another flash of light hit his eyes. He raised his hand, seeing when it lowered a growling, steadfast Zorua staring back at Binair.

"Really?" Cerise asked, tone a biting whisper. "Seems like your illusions were always better than mine, Dad. Answer me this then: where were you?"

Cerise's paw lifted to step towards Binair, and for a half second, Chimera saw one of Binair's hooves step back. The Girafarig lay still, lost in the question while Cerise approached.

"Where were you," Cerise demanded, "every day Mom used to watch over me? Where were you every day I had to spend studying guild management and human literature? 'To persevere in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubbornness. Tis unmanly grief,' the book said."

She took another step forward, letting out a dry chuckle. Binair kept his footing, though Chimera could see the Girafarig's mouth hanging open like a loudred trying to find an answer.

"Figures, there'd be more than one two faced king to say that," Cerise continued. "What about every one of Mom's hatch days, where I'd read her adventuring journals now that she couldn't read them to me? Would have been nice to have someone else to talk with, as the weeks turned to months turned to years. Someone other than… than—"

Another flash of light, and the fox before Binair was joined by another, a familiar Fennekin that looked at the Girafarig with a seemingly foreign eye. Her ears drooped a bit as she turned to Cerise. Eyes widening at her faux pas, Cerise mouthed an apology. Chimera kept his own solemn silence watching from above, as if Arceus himself had flipped the audience and stage. Ever so quietly, the Bagon stepped away until he was in their peripheral; with the tense air, he was starting to miss getting shot at with shadow balls.

The fire in Cerise's gaze seemed to fade, if only a bit once she was right before Binair. Looking up, she let out a deep breath.

"I just… wished you'd have been there more, instead of that damned mission of yours. Wished you could have spared a factory or two for family's sake. Would have made things a lot easier. I bet you don't even know that I—"

"—Pay Ezra's resting place a visit, on the first day of fall every year?" Binair replied, Zorua jumping up at his response. "Under the disguise of the Umbreon sexton. I must compliment you on your choice of flowers; lavender makes her seem quite at peace, which I'm sure she is right now."

Silence. Cerise's own maw hung open, not sure whether to shout or whimper. Settling for a grumble, she looked away, glazed over in thought.

"What is it you want then, Dad?" Cerise asked. "A little late for a family reunion."

Her words seemed to sting both of them in equal measure. Taking a moment to collect himself, Binair set himself down on the cobblestone, matching Cerise's height.

"To make amends," Binair replied, tone soft and terse. "In your youth, I let myself get too absorbed in my obligations. Though I thought, and still think they were to the benefit of all pokemon of Faire, I've only realized recently the damage my hubris has caused."

A brief pause. With a Zorua's gaze bearing down on him, what came next was even harder.

"I-I… I'm sorry" Binair said. "I seek only to start over between us, and as I'm sure you know, I'm not one without a plan. That, and for you to stop tearing apart the best days of your youth in Ezra's name."

His latter words hit Cerise much harder. Her whole body tensed up, paw clutching desperately the notebook in her bag. Turning away, she met only Sophia's equally imploring face. The Fennekin didn't say a word, only taking a step back, closer to Binair. Chimera could barely see Cerise's silent gasp at the mutinous action. It'd have been easy for her to dispel the fennekin illusion—he'd seen it before—but… Sophia remained, as did the Zorua standing her ground. She looked to Binair, then back at the Guild Hall, artifact inside so close, yet out of reach.

"No," Cerise replied. "I'm sorry too, Dad, but no. I've given up too much, gone too far to go back now. Unless Mom wants to come back from the grave right now, and tell me every note I've read, every mountain I've climbed and every prison stint I've served has been for nothing, I'm not giving up."

Just as softly, Chimera could swear he heard a sniffle from Binair. Both head and tail on the Girafarig were slumped over, glum as if their worst fears were realized. A faint pink hue began to glow around his horns, followed by a wallet floating up from his side. From it, hovered a familiar black and white photo, texture stained and torn over the years.

"I can't give you that," Binair replied, "I'd trade all the gold and silver of Faire for her to come back, but I can't. I never wanted it to come to this, but if it will change your resolve… I can offer the next best thing."

Cerise's breath hitched in her throat. She looked up, curiosity whispering into one ear against the anger of another.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

Binair raised a hoof, before slumping it down as if pressing a button; the nuclear option seemed upon them.

"Those journals," Binair said, "the ones you and Sophia often read. They were from me and Ezra's time together during our exploration career. Alone, I don't doubt they give sound evidence to your goal, but not long before she fell, we buried a secret time capsule to dig up when we retired. It's there, that lies the journal with her complete conclusions of the artifacts."

Cerise blinked, then blinked again. Her eyes glazed over, mind trying to fit a new puzzle piece into what was once complete.

"I'd hoped my word would be enough over the years to convince you to desist," Binair continued, "but considering my many mistakes, perhaps Ezra's will succeed where mine failed."

"E-even if I did believe you," Cerise replied, "where would this journal be? Wouldn't put it past you to have a dozen teams waiting to bring me in."

A silent look exchanged between father and daughter, former frowning, though at whom no one could tell. He turned around, giving a gesture with his hoof to Chimera that shot the Bagon to attention. Now facing the port on the outskirts of Pith Town, he reached out, pointing to a familiar patch of land. Grey clouds formed in the distance, slowly building together for an oncoming storm.

"I can only offer my honor as a pokemon that you'll arrive safely," Binair replied. "The actual capsule is buried just a little ways off where she fell. For now it waits under, which I'm sure you'll recognize as old chum, what would become the primary worker lodgings at the Pallid Agricultural Center. In hindsight, I would have picked a more… accessible spot, but if you'd wish, I could accompany you in unearthing—"

"No," Cerise replied, voice shuddering a bit. "No. I-If… if you're being truthful, then I'll give it a look, but on my own terms."

Setting himself down from the stage, the Chimera of yesteryear doubted he'd have given two figs of what wasn't his business. There was paperwork to file, a Raichu waiting at their apartment to go to sleep, and the fact that just minutes ago they'd been exchanging shadow balls and crossbow bolts across the coffee table. However… something didn't sit right. He looked to Cerise, the Zorua whom his resistance had denied her the closure she deserved, not to mention the one he'd now need to book restaurant reservations for.

"What if I went along?" Chimera asked.

Two heads and a tail swerved to stare at Chimera. Clearing his throat, the Bagon gave a tepid smile.

"I-I mean, it could be a decent compromise," Chimera continued, tone hastening by the second. "Cerise, you'll get to call the shots without your dad watching over you. Binair, you'll get to know she's not going on a recovery mission alone. I-uh, promise things weren't what they looked like at the start. This is strictly business."

The slight furrow in Binair's brow, and the chomp of his tail told of a pokemon suspecting otherwise. While Cerise seemed antsy herself, however, a look, a pause, and eventually a nod was shared between Zorua and Girafarig.

"I-I mean, that—" Cerise said, "that could be alright. I know well enough you can handle yourself. I appreciate it, Chimera. I really do."

A renewed smile on her face, Cerise stepped away. She walked past Binair, set towards the wide expanse of land an ocean away. Just before Chimera could join her, she looked back, head turned in contemplation.

"I need to know, though," Cerise said, "why are you doing this for me? I know I haven't exactly been the most cooperative pokemon on your end."

Try as he might to deny it, Chimera had the answer in his head almost instantly. Joining Cerise's side, the Bagon let out a sigh.

"I've already been leaving one friend out to dry," Chimera replied. "I'm not about to do the same now."


Well-Known Member
Author's note: Hey all! Apologies for the long wait. Just wanted to mention I decided to change up the story summary a bit, since its had some time to develop. Think this should be a better fit. Now, without further adieu…

Chapter 32: A Natural Conclusion
"Alright-uh… my turn. Hmm. I think I got another one, from back when I had more skin than scales. See, there's this Scorupi and Whiscash, and the Scorupi wants to cross a river—"

A bitter gust of wind shut Chimera's mouth, sending a torrent of rain cascading against his side. The Zorua next to him fared little better, with black and crimson paws long coated from the muddy soil below. Only moonlight guided them along the winding road, as well as Cerise's steady gaze as they trudged forward. For a second, she glanced over, gesturing for him to go on. The Bagon returned her tepid smile, though even she couldn't hide her quivering form. Whether from the cold, or what lied ahead, Chimera never knew.

"So," Chimera continued, "the Scorupi's all like 'Hey, mind if I have a lift through that river?', but the Whiscash shakes his head."

His voice lowered two octaves, staring ahead in an imitative frown.

"'Now just why would I do that?' the Whiscash replied. "'The moment I let you on my back, you're going to sting me.'"

The Bagon's tone raised back up, almost to a squeal. Cerise opened her maw in response, as if to mouth the words, only to stop at the last moment.

"'Now jussssst why, in Thundurusssss's beard would I do that?' the Scorupi said back. ``If I ssssssting you, we'll both drown and perish."

Biting her lip, Cerise let out a small chuckle. She was half tempted to close her eyes and summon right behind Chimera visages of the dozen or so pokemon that could maybe match his accent (none of them Scorupi), but she stayed her paw; the storm seemed only getting worse, best to save what energy they had.

"What'd he do?" Cerise asked, tone a mock innocence.

"He let the Scorupi on his back," Chimera replied. "Lil guy hopped on, and they got just about halfway across the river when… wham!"

For added effect, Chimera clapped his hands together. Not a second afterwards, a bolt of lightning crackled through the sky, lighting up the road ahead. After almost falling backward, Chimera looked toward the nearly as shocked Cerise. He then glanced to his hands, before giving a half chuckle.

"I guess Thunderous is a bit peeved at your voice acting," Cerise said, quivering a bit less as she smiled.

"I wouldn't blame him," Chimera replied. "Anyway, I was just—yes, so while the Whiscash and Scorupi are dying in the lake, the Whiscash is like 'Dude, what the hell? Why'd you do that?'"

A beat of silence. Chimera shook his cape, letting the amassed rain slide off. The atmosphere was there, but at times like these, he half wished for a flashlight to point up at his head.

"'Why not?' the Scorupi answered back, taking its last, fleeting breath, 'It's—'"

"It'sssss in my nature," Cerise finished.

A blink, from Bagon to Zorua. Before Chimera could ask, Cerise stepped forward to take the lead on the trail, gaze to the floor.

"I-I… remembered it while you were halfway through," Cerise said, tone lowering to a whisper. "Was one of the human tales Dad used to read me in my early studies. He never was good at bed time stories. Would probably butcher 'The Torkoal and the Scorbunny' if he tried, but—w-wait, I think this is it."

It was a tedious process circling the outskirts of the work farm, but one that put them in sight of their goal. With the mud below, and the moonlit trees above, nothing stood in the way of the ramshackle collection of sheds in the center of the farm. Nothing but a few hundred feet of nearly flooded farmland, some barbed wire fences that would be easy enough to cross, and a few guard towers. Their searchlights cut through the rain and air, crisscrossing in search of any Pallid unfortunate or daring enough to be caught in the open past curfew. Taking a deep breath, Chimera took a knee at Cerise's side. Getting himself into the maximum security facility would be an easy feat. The thirteenfold convicted thief and daughter to his boss? Not so much.

"Guess it is," Chimera replied, scanning the watchtowers in the distance. "I… think I should be able to buy you some time. Won't seem too suspicious that the co-manager of East Faire's exports decided to drop in for a little surprise inspection of the security staff, starting at the southern wall. You sure you're up for this alone?"

Cerise nodded, taking great care that her pouch was tucked under her belly and shielded from the elements.

"No doubt. I can't thank you enough for all your help, Chimera, but… I've gotta handle this final step alone. Well, me and So—you get what I'm saying. This shouldn't take more than ten minutes, if everything goes to plan. Broken into museum storerooms that would make this place seem like Drenched Bluff."

She took a step forward, beginning to skulk towards the line of watchtowers in the distance, jutting up from row upon row of berry shrubs and wheat fields. Just before her shadowed form disappeared between the crop lines, she looked back. Chimera had set his own course towards the familiar main facility.

"A-and Chimera—"

A turn. He looked back, gesturing her to go on.

"I'm… sorry, for making you see all that between me and Dad. Can't imagine we made you very comfortable in that spot."

The Bagon sat still, eyes half open in the downpour. Though her own paws were already starting to feel numb, the toothy grin that slowly took to his maw was a welcome warmth.

"Can't say I'd wanna live it again, but I guess sometimes just call for a little father daughter reunion. From what Argon's told me with her Dad, you still got some stiff competition if you're shooting for awkward moments. Could even throw our hat in the ring, if we're still on for dinner tonight."

"If this goes our way," Cerise replied, "then the night won't be over before I get to show you the best Basculin meunière in town. At least if they're out of stun seeds."

From the look from Bagon to Zorua, they could have kept the banter up all night, but they had a job to do. After a final exchange of good luck, Cerise disappeared beneath the stalks, while Bagon in the distance came out of view. It was child's play skulking through the fields, more inconvenienced by the occasional root or jagged rock across her path than the threat of anyone spotting. About a hundred feet away from the line of guard towers, Cerise paused. A few minutes later, and one by one, the once scanning lights halted. She could see their faint outlines in the distance. A Marowak climbing down from the tower, irritated at an inspection at this hour of the night. Just a few feet in front, a Deerling, more thankful for having something to break up the monotony than anything.

"Not bad, Chimera," Cerise whispered, taking a preparatory breath. "Guess it's my turn."

Had there been anyone to notice, it was up in the air whether they would have. It was barely a mirage that slinked across to the sheds. Just a tinge of darkness. An empty moving spot where the moonlight reflected a bit less than usual. Before long, Cerise was as the central shed. It wasn't much to look at, with a construction that likely had to nibble the scraps of the Guild Hall's budget. Pressing her ear against one of the cracks in the wall, she heard only a few droning snores.

"Right under here," Cerise mumbled. "It's right under here. You'll be back soon, Mom. Just gotta get through this little detour first."

With one last glance behind her, Cerise cracked open the door. She took her time, weary of any alarming creak or groan from the foundation that would spoil everything. The bitter chill of rain against her mane relented, replaced by a pitter patter from the dilapidated roof. So far, so good.

The lodgings themselves were surprisingly empty. Just a few pallids lined the slipshod, shelf like beds. A grey Weavile and Mightyena resting in the corners. An equally monochrome Stoutland snoozing by the door. Where was everyone? Cerise was about to take a step forward when her paw froze, fur on her back standing up on end.

Pull yourself together. This just makes the job easier. Too late to back out now.

She held her breath, while the sound of rain mixed in with the low, hoarse snoozes around her. Though her fur was no less startled, Cerise made her way to the center of the room. Tracing a paw across the ground, she let a soft gasp when the floorboards aligned a bit too loosely.

Is… is this—

The Zorua's smile faded once she'd lifted the board. A secret compartment, to be sure, but… pamphlets? No dice. She'd need to dig deeper. What the cathole did do, however, was uncover the dirt underneath. Cerise felt like a pokemon with their paws in the cookie jar as she slowly dug. Only, what she was grappling with was a stuck, stubborn jar that refused to show its contents with every pawful of dirt she dug up. With a sizable pile next to her, Cerise let out a scoff. Her father was probably watching from the marble balcony overlooking the work farm, laughing like a Wooloo over the sheet he'd pulled over his daughter's—


Her eyes shot open. Barely visible under a layer of sand, there it was. Another minute of her paws scraping against the dirt, and it was in hand. Faded. Rusted beyond belief. Barely bigger than a lunch box, and yet enough that her whole form seemed to tremble. She held the steel container gently, as if lifting up a corpse from a grave; It took a second to get rid of the thought of what that made her.

The lid nearly fell off as Cerise unlatched it. Behind it all, however, as dry and preserved as the day it'd been left, was the true treasure. Her paws were a flash grasping for the sizable, leatherbound journal within. It had a familiar look, only twenty years less weathered than its counterparts. Just as Cerise set the journal onto the floor, her head tilted.

It hadn't been alone. Hiding under where the book had been in the time capsule, she spotted what looked like two scarves. One a shining gold, the other a radiant green, the cloths remained tied together at the end, even with corners singed, shocked, and threadbare. In truth, there was only a bit of color left on the former, the rest either lost to time, or faded into a smoky grey. Wracking her thoughts, Cerise's muzzle scrunched up.

Is that… no. Focus.

Time seemed to slow as Cerise opened the first page. She found her thoughts heavy, seeing from the backside of the cover a familiar picture taped on. Girafarig on one side, Zoroark on the other, egg in the center; happier times, but they couldn't be as lost as the two-face wanted her to believe. Directly under were two ink prints, a hoof and paw respectively. As she looked over to read the next page, Cerise held her breath; she wouldn't mistake that handwriting for the world.


In all likelihood, Honey, our manes will be old and gray by the time we settle down to read these memoirs, but I hold that seeing the good we've done, and will do for the beings of Faire will do just as much to keep our memory fresh. Years spent exploring this wonderous region at each other's side, dungeons traversed, communities built up, days upon weeks spent compiling this swanna song, and yet… I still look at raising this egg at our side, so full of life and limitless possibilities, as the greatest challenge and thrill that we'll face. You've always watched my back (and your own, if that tail of yours has anything to say), and—

"You're not with them, are you?"

The low, gruff voice crawled over her neck. She whipped around, inadvertently kicking the journal back. By the time Cerise had met eyes with the Stoutland across the room, she'd nearly jumped out of her own fur. His eyes were fierce yet steady against the moonlight, with more than enough curiosity to match her own.

"W-what do you mean?" Cerise replied, firming her stance to the Pallid. "I'm… I'm here on my own business. Was just about to gather my things and get out of all your hair."

Piolu's response was a gruff grunt, while his furry, three-pronged brow furrowed. The Stoutland looked as if playing scrabble, trying to find where exactly a new piece fit.

"Don't got a reason not to believe that," he responded. "Long since memorized the guards, and even if you were one, you'd be flaunting a badge. Besides, they'd have been a bit different finding our little library under the floorboards. Name's Piolu, by the way. Light sleeper if you haven't noticed. Just hope you've decent grounds for being here."

There it was again. A slight waver in the Pallid's countenance. Insignificant by most standards, but enough to goad Cerise to step back. She held her ground, however, looking the Stoutland over. As the moon lifted over its clouds, the nicks, burns, and many years of his mane went into view.

"Cerise," she whispered back, looking down to pick her words. "I came here to dig up a time capsule I'm interested in. Doesn't have anything to do with you, those pamphlets, or anyone here. I don't want to stay here any longer than I have to, you probably don't want me here either, so this'll be a lot easier for the both of us if… if… "

Cerise's voice fell. Piolu had broken eye contact. His gaze lowered, though it wasn't until Cerise saw his target that a deep chill ran up her paws. Barely a foot or so in front of Cerise, cover opened and clear for all to see, was the journal. She opened her maw, only to freeze up seeing the Stoutland's perturbed squint. A Zoroark and Girafarig, upside down from his angle, but unmistakable nonetheless. For a half second, she was tempted to illusion the whole page away, but the damage was done.

Silence. Cerise crouched down, already planning a sprint to the door barely a foot from Piolu. The Stoutland's mind worked a mile a minute, combing his memory over the months of planning and labor until a single point dawned. All at once, his eyes widened.

"'More unique ties to our foe than we originally imagined'," Piolu whispered. "I've been mulling over what that Charmander meant when he said that for months, and now… "

Another crack of lightning rippled across the sky, with a barrage of rain that pounded against the ceiling. Just as Cerise primed to move, Piolu looked back up, taking a step closer to the door. His snout scrunched up, eyes glazed over in thought. Just barely, Cerise caught something else on the Stoutland's otherwise deadpan face; the start of a grin, though cloaked back in shadows once the moonlight shifted.

"Cerise," Piolu said with a corse, morbid tone, "do you have any idea how many pallids they have locked up here?"

She knew a poker face when she saw one. The Zorua took her own step toward the door, while scooping the journal into her bag.

"It must be—"

"Thousands," Piolu finished, matter of fact. "Thousands of souls. Thousands of pallids forced to break our bodies shifting through the dirt with lean stomachs, clipped wings, and shabby hooves because the pokemon of Faire couldn't be assed to do the work themselves."

He let out a half chuckle, which quickly turned into a coughing fit. On instinct, the Pallid covered his snout with one of his paws. Or… what was left of it, at least. As the limb met a stray beam of moonlight, Cerise only now noticed the scab of flesh in place of his front paw.

"That, or protectin' the ego of a single two face," Piolu added, with another listless laugh. "Don't think I'm going out on a limb on that one. 'Nother question, Cerise: Do you think he really gives a damn about us? About any of us?"

A day ago, Cerise could have spouted the answer like a Durant asked the same of a Heatmor. However, something held her back. Silence punctuated the room, with only the voices of a Girafarig, Bagon, and Fennekin to occupy her thoughts.

"He never said to me why he built this place," Cerise replied, "but I think I know. I-I don't like him anymore than you, and I don't think this is right, but… let's just say he's lost his fair share to nature."

She turned away, eyes drooping.

"A lot of pokemon have," Cerise finished.

The Stoutland tilted his head, pausing for a second. With every bit to ponder, his snout only crinkled more.

"The pompous assface can cry us a river for all I care. What's important, is that I can count on my one paw the number of pokemon out there who would lift their eyes from the bread and circuses to think about a bunch of grey beings asking for basic decency. Nothin' some newspapers, avians with pictures, or a single Raichu can do to stop that. There's only one pokemon on Faire who can finally give us what we deserve, and right now he'd rather fill graveyards than upset his perfect world."

Another flash of lightning lit up the cabin. There was no crack, however, only a sudden thud that took its place as Piolu slammed his hoof against the floor. Cerise jolted up, suddenly sensing more than one set of groggy eyes staring at her. The Mightyena in the corner peered its eyes open, as did the Weavile. The former let out a whimpered growl, staring to the Stoutland for explanation. Cerise was little inclined to wait that long.

"I'm leaving," she said, fangs bared under a snarl. "Just step aside, and things don't have to get—"

"No, they don't," Piolu interrupted, giving a careful glance to Mightyena and Weavile. "'Case you don't know, Cerise, we've been planning a little independence march. We're all prepared to fight and die if and when the two-face sends his army out to slaughter us, but… "

The Mightyena and Weavile looked to each other, then to the intruding Zorua, before ending at Piolu. Unsaid words rang clear through their ears with the Stoutland's connotation. Neither smiled, their faces pale and nearly apologetic knowing what had to come next.

"Well Cerise," Piolu said, tone matching the air's chill, "I'm willing to bet he'll be a lot more… respectful, if he knew that spillin' even a drop of pallid blood will cause his daughter the same. We've spent our whole life trapped in this prison, it's not unfair to have a week, maybe a month of your time, wouldn't you say?"

The Zorua could scarcely reply with her worst fears realized. The Mightyena gave an approving snarl, as his own splintered claws scraped against the floor. She didn't have time to think before her other flank faced the shadowed, glowing claw of the waiting Weavile. Surrounded on three sides, she had only her heated thoughts to counter the Stoutland's cold stare.

"Y-you're wasting your time," she shot back. "Dad and I… aren't exactly on good terms. He probably wants me locked up more than you do. The only thing you gain kidnapping me is a liability."

A moment's pause. Piolu's fur crest furrowed in thought, only to follow with a nonchalant tilt of his head.

"If you're lying then, Cerise, we've still got a lot to gain. If you're tellin' the truth, we've got nothing to lose."

He took a step forward, closing the gap once the Mightyena and Weavile did likewise. Cerise's legs felt weak. Her mind was a metronome. On one end, the ticking desire to somehow find a way around the Stoutland and run as far away from the cursed work farm as possible. On the other, a seething energy inside her to spring forward and claw his face off. Both the past and present coalesced, into a piercing, fiery stare from Cerise to Piolu.

"You'll never change, will you?" Cerise said, desperately trying to sense which pallid would strike first. "Guess I should have known that a long time ago. Here or any dungeon, it's all the same."

Piolu only huffed, words as impactful as against a wall.

"We're fighting for a better tomorrow, Cerise. You can tell me how it looks from the moral high ground after you've lived behind the barbed wire for twenty five years. Might take a bit of time for the Charmander, Raichu, and the rest of the pallids here to come around, but… with vigor in our hearts, and righteousness in our cause, we push on."


"Thank you all again for coming. I-I… I know we've each taken our own risk being here."

It was dark in the outermost shed of the pallid living quarters, more by necessity than anything. Rain thudded against the roof like a distant jackhammer, occasionally seeping through the cracks of the rusted shingles to drop on Argon's head. The air was humid. Thicker than usual, so much so that she couldn't tell whether her paws were sweating naturally, or from the dozen or so sets of eyes staring at her. Maybe that, or the Bagon no doubt waiting patiently at their apartment, wondering when his Raichu companion would return from her supposed 'midnight date' with a certain Charmander.

Colorful and grey eyes alike looked back at Argon in the cramped room. Mantine, Staraptor, even a Cramorant among other avians, carefully handpicked over the past months. A mutual, unspoken sense of apprehension filled the room as two Talonflame looked each other over in the audience. This was the first time the former had seen its clipped, monochrome counterpart in anything other than a Raichu's equally greyscale photos. Likewise, the Pallid Talonflame tilted its head while Argon cleared her throat, having its first sight of the dozen or so other pokemon of Faire they were somewhat sure had similar goals.

"W-we're only going to have one shot at this," Argon continued. "Getting all the pallids out of here is challenging enough, but unless we can show all the pokemon of Faire the suffering here, and that they're not alone in wanting change, then this is all for naught. That's where you all come i—"

Whatever grand posture Argon had mustered melted away, feeling the warm scales of a Charmander wrap itself around her legs. She let out a quick yelp, while the Pallid gave its own yip of approval. From its wide, feral eyes, it was a bit hard to tell what he was approving, but Argon smiled back nonetheless. Its flickering flame may not have lit up the room, but the faint glow emanating from the Pallid's exploration bag did the job just as well.

"I think it likes ya," Catalina said, her large flipper covering up a smirk. "First pallid I've seen that's a snugglemander."

Argon giggled, finding a brief reprieve in tension from the staring audience. She shuffled in a halfhearted attempt to move the Charmander, to little avail.

"You have no idea," Argon replied. "He… should be back to his usual self any moment now. I-It's a long story."

For a moment, Talonflame and Talonflame seemed united in equal parts confusion. Nonetheless, neither pokemon nor pallid of the crowd interrupted Argon as she shuffled over to a nearby crate. With a psychic flick, the lid nearly burst open. Packed together inside like a pile of autumn leaves were stacks upon stacks of photos nearly fresh off of the darkroom. Argon had a practised paw taking hold of the select bundle; Their value to the mission ahead dwarfed the small fortune it took to get every one of the slips developed.

"T-These will be your map for the big day," Argon said, levitating one birds eye photo a piece to each avian. "Timing, routes, everything has to be perfect for the airdrop to happen once all the pallids arrive at Pith Town. And… Sapeur."

A spark of electricity was the response, between two shards of rocks that jutted out from the crowd. Both Pallid and Pokemon in the crowd dispersed in record time, neither wanting to get hit by the lumbering steps of the grey Golem. Argon herself nearly jumped up with every shake of the floorboards as he approached.

"We're almost done widening the tunnel as far as she'll go, Ms.," Sapeur said, trying (somewhat successfully), to stroke his magnetic beard with each stubby hand. "Took a lot of lost sleep from a lot of good pallids, but once the big day comes, shouldn't be any trouble bringing all of us to freedom."

"Weren't for them," Catalina added, "and to get here I'd'a had to spend a lot more time laying off the fried Remor... "

The Mantine realized her faux pass just a second too late. She looked around, about to hastily mention her newfound vegetarian diet, though none of the Pallids seemed intent on pressing the issue; Small fry it seemed, with what was to come.

"Right," Argon replied, clearing her throat just a bit too quickly. "T-thank you, Sapeur. Thank you, everyone. We'll have about a month of practice till the big day. Until then, we'll—"

A thundering crash broke through the rainfall. Initially, Argon turned back, waiting for a lightning flash to follow. Others soon followed, only to hear another deafening slam, along with the crack of splintering wood.

"What… what was…"

Argon blinked, then blinked again, finding the familiar voice a much different tone than her inner monologue. She looked down to meet the wide, equally incredulous eyes of Eoin. A moment passed between Raichu and Charmander, the latter too shocked to realize he was still nestled around her legs.

A scream was next. Not any scream either recognized, but most definitely in pain. Argon's ears twitched as shock turned to urgency. They had to move.

"Where is it—how?" Eoin asked.

No one had an easy answer. All Eoin knew was the direction of the call, and from there, its unexplainable source.

He was the first out of the door, with Argon fast behind. After a few exchanged glances, Sapeur hobbled likewise, with both pallid and pokemon Talonflame in tow. Eoin gritted his teeth as the first gust of wind spat rain onto his scales and tail, reflecting against the faint, azure glow of his pouch. Whether empathy from her own soaked fur, or simple reflex, Argon levitated her own tail above the Charmander's flame. A flash caught their eyes, localized to the shed a dozen meters away, in the center of the shantytown.

"Piolu is in there!" Eion shouted, scales getting soaked in the muddy ground. "Others too. They should be lying low if any guards investigated. We only have a minute before—"

The Pallid looked up, not so much stressed by what he saw, but what he didn't. The usual line of guard towers were speckled in the distance, but the closest ones held search beams completely still. Absent too were the usual first responders, rushing forward with bared claws, sharpened fangs, and shining badges.

Instead, Raichu and Charmander had free reign as they sped to the door. The voices were getting clearer now, along with another anguished cry. Even with their ears against the walls, it sounded more like a whimper than anything. With a cold, quivering claw, Eoin opened the door.

"P-Piolu? Are you in there?" Argon asked.

"We heard the commotion, and came to—gods… "

She'd fought well. Scuffs, scratches, and splinters lined the shed. On one corner, the unconscious body of a Mightyena, fur singed from umbric fire and claws. On the other, was a Weavile, equally inert, and covered with a desperate array of bite marks.

Eoin's eyes grew wide trying to sputter out a sentence. Turning to the back of the room, he found little help. On the ground, with what looked like a few cracked ribs, and a paw bent in a way not natural for any pokemon, was a Zorua. The Zorua. A grey, clawed paw was pressing against her chest, its owner a Stoutland nearly equally contused. His breaths were labored, glaring deadset towards the unconscious Zorua. It wasn't until he saw the faint light of the door, that he turned to meet Eoin and Argon. He made to speak, only to let out a few last, hacking coughs. Regaining his posture, the Stoutland looked to Eoin with a hint of pride.

"It's good to see you two," Piolu said, gesturing with his head to the defeated Zorua. "Didn't expect the guildmaster's daughter to have that much fire in her, but I think now we got all the leverage we need for the big day."

A different kind of shock was plastered on Eoin's face as he took the time to parse Piolu's words. It was a shock Argon recognized well, one she'd have seen even if the Pallid was wearing his opaque goggles. Looking back between Stoutland and Zorua, Eoin took a deep breath. His voice was soft, as smothered as his own soaked scales.

"Piolu… what have you done?"


Active Member
I have not been able to read almost anything on Serebii for month. I just read Chapter 30 and I wanted to let you know that you are a great writer. I had completely forgotten just how amazing you are with details as metaphors. The grandfather clock and the color of Eoin's flower are my two favorite from this chapter. It is just so subtle and explicit at the same time! I have had time to read a few book offline, and coming back here I can say that those published books by profession authors cannot hold a candle to you, in terms of technique. I really can't say how they compare to you in terms of plotting and character development until I read more of your story, but compare a random passage from what these stories and this story, and 85% yours will be better written.


Well-Known Member
Hey Kindoflame! Just wanted to say that I saw your post on my story. Really do appreciate your thoughts on how things are going. Does a great deal motivation wise to know there are people out there who appreciate my work. Hope I can keep the rest of the story to a similar standard.


Active Member
I've read everything out so far and, unfortunately, I have found something I am unsatisfied with. You have not really convinced me that Chimera would be so accepting of the pallids' slavery. At first I thought he was going to work as a double agent and help the pallids using his position as a dock-manager, but that does not seem to be the case. It seems to me that he is genuinely okay with working for Binair despite knowing the pallids' situation, and you have not really convinced me of that (although you have primed me to that possiblity with earlier symbolism).

There is no way a well-educated American would not see the connection between this situation and his own nation's history. Even if he was not an American, he is definitely from some modern, Western nation where the zeitgeist for the last half century has been equality for all. His entire cultural upbringing should be yelling at him to stop this injustice at all costs, so why is he not acting that way? There must be some rationalization he is using to justify not helping the pallids, but you have not shown us what it is. Granted, you may be planning on introducing as a theme later why people do not act against what they believe to be unjust (in which case I do not have high hopes for Eoin's march), but how Chimera is doing this is something you should have addressed before now.

You really could have solve this problem by just giving Chimera a couple of paragraphs of inner-monologue where he justifies his inaction to himself, which you could still do in the next chapter. No matter what you do, at some point in the future he and Eoin need to have a very explosive argument. Chimera has been complacent with the pallids' suffering and Eoin has been making some very big plans against him with Argon. The next time they meet after everything comes to light has to be filled with yelling, insults, and accusations, with many a good Ember or Headbutt thrown in for good measure.


Well-Known Member
Chapter 33: No Time Left
"This… this wasn't part of the plan."

It was all he could say. The Pallid stood, frozen. His tail poked out of the doorway, hit by the occasional bursts of rain. He barely noticed it. There were only three other things that mattered in their cramped, dingy excuse for a shed; The Raichu at his side, the Zorua bloodied into unconsciousness in the middle, and the Stoutland staring him down from across. Curiously, Piolu seemed equally perplexed.

"So what?" he replied, jabbing his hoof at Cerise's side. "Everything we could ever need, everything we could want for this revolution is right here. Imagine the hundreds, thousands of lives we can save if o'l Two-face finds out that he can't push us around anymore. Isn't that what we wanted? Savin' lives?"

Cerise was left with just enough strength to recoil against the jab. She let out a low moan, clutching her paw against a deep gash in her belly. Nearly in unison, a shiver ran down both Raichu and Charmander at the sight. Though she quivered from head to toe in the oppressive chill of the room, Argon kept a stern glare at Piolu. Eoin found himself lost staring at the floorboards of the shed, maw open trying to speak faster than his mind could process.

"B-but even if I did agree, this was nowhere near necessary," Eoin stammered, blinking faster and faster in thought. "We've spent months planning to change the minds of Faire's populace, you know that better than anyone. T-there was never supposed to be any plan for violent confrontation in the first place. And more than that—"

"It's wrong," Argon finished, a ferocity in her voice that caused even Eoin to flinch. "Piolu, I-I… I understand that you don't have much reason to care for pokemon like Cerise, but kidnapping her goes against everything we've tried to stand for."

Drops of water fell through the frayed ceiling, as brief as the minute changes in the Stoutland's glare under his fur covered visage. He let out a gruff sigh, lifting the fractured end of his paw to his head as if rubbing his temples.

"You just don't get it, do you?" Piolu replied, centering his stance to Eoin while casting a brief glimpse at Argon. "Neither of ya do. 'Cuz you weren't there. Only took till now to realize it."

Neither Raichu nor Charmander could see each other in anything but peripheral, but between them was an unspoken conclusion to keep flames low and let words speak where sparks couldn't. Eoin moved first, taking a few steps forward that Piolu soon matched. The Stoutland kept a close eye as they covered both sides of the room, keeping his paw within reach of Cerise.

"Piolu," Eoin said, "I—"

"Weren't hauled out of your home as feral as a Cranidos by some posh resource team," Piolu finished gravely, staring down at Eoin."Weren't strapped to a plow like the thousands of Pallids here were, and forced to spend decades wasting your life away while pokemon watched you from above like we're all just a buzzing hive of combee. The very same guards made from folks an ocean away that you've got set in your mind will come runnin' to our aid."

Piolu's hoof slammed to the ground. The floorboards splintered from the hit, while his paw grinded into the grain as if smothering a candle flame. For a moment as the Stoutland made to speak, his maw stayed agape; from his flinch, it was hard to tell if even he wanted to believe it.

"Don't ya see it, Eoin?" Piolu seethed. "There's gonna be no big rush to our side once we pass the point of no return. Every single guard and resource team that set foot on this prison knew who we were, what we endured, and did **** all." Piolu stamped his paw on the floor inches from the groaning Cerise. Her eyes focused on the cracks left in the planks, and she whimpered. "The thousands of pokemon lying ignorant in their beds won't be any different, no matter what some photos say. I wish it didn't get to the point where I had to spell it out like this, but…we've gotta face it, pallids are going to die. All we can do now is save who we can."

His chest heaved, out of breath waiting for an answer. In his attempt to find a retort, Eoin looked to Argon, only to find his partner's ears drooped, and her mind equally awash. It… couldn't be true? Could it? She could almost see herself just a few short months ago, nestled in the bunk of a room as crowded as this, glazing over some feel-good romance novel without a care in the world. Where would some boring, black and white article about pallids have landed? Cringing at the memory of her overflowing waste bin, she had a few ideas.

"B-but, " Argon said, voice trailing off, "we…"

"You're wrong."

It was Argon's turn to jump back. Eoin's voice rang through the room, along with the faint, charcoal like smell of his tail flame inflaming. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see his claws balled into a fist.

"I've lived my life with more privilege than most," Eoin said. "I admit I spent the first weeks of my civilized life reading under a legendary's care while my brethren suffered. But my unique position has offered me a sight that you and most everyone else here was denied: a… hope."

Piolu met the Charmander's claim with a passive yet curious stare. Argon was very much the same, at least until the Pallid once steadfast in his stance at Piolu turned to meet her. She tilted her head, seeing in his wide, grey irises a steady warmth even in their perilous predicament.

"Eoin?" Argon asked.

"She had no reason to give me the slightest thought when we first met," Eoin said, tone a bit more bashful than usual. "But in spite of having a secure career, and as much knowledge as any other denizen of Faire for our capacity to harm, Argon reached out her paw. The dozen pokemon we've recruited are no different, nor are the thousands I've lived among, and am willing to bet harbor a sympathetic heart in Pith Town. Maybe not all, but enough for this kidnapping to cause more harm than help."

In any other situation, Argon would have felt her cheeks light up in warmth, but instead she found her paws sweaty, feet shaking awaiting Piolu's reply. The roof creaked and dripped as the Stoutland mulled over his words. After a long exhale that ruffled his fur lined snout, his voice dropped to a chilly drole.

"If yer so sure the pokemon you've been with on the other side will give a patrat's behind about you," Piolu said, a faint smile under his fur, "then why don't you test it right now? A jab at Eoin's chest caused him to shudder, with nowhere to look but his scale's hue. "Go on, go back to Pith Town like you are now, no goggles or scale paint to hide behind. See how much they really care about ya behind the mask. Will be a riot watchin' the guards decide where yer best put to work."

The recoil of hesitation in Eoin was all Piolu needed. His flame dulled, flickering in the breeze even as Argon stepped in front.

"That was different," Argon replied, cheeks sparking in the humid air. "E-Eoin hid who he was because nobody knew the truth about pallids. Trying to change that will do a lot more than kidnapping Ce—"

"You don't know that!" Piolu shot back, mangled paw pointing at the new threat. "Tell me this, Argon: What are you going to count on if your old boss decides our investment costs aren't worth lettin' us live? Words? A… A… "

His tone wavered, pointed paw trembling in a subconscious paralysis. The Stoutland looked around Argon, ears drooped looking at Eoin as if half muttering an apology.

"A newborn, pretty boy Charmander with his head in the clouds, just as likely to be stuck hugging your legs as he is to do any meaningful leading? It may be fine and dandy snogging your snouts together, but back here in the fields, we need someone who knows what our suffering is like, and can put their mind above the heat in their cheeks."

Argon's retort was instant, or at least it would have been. Her teeth began to chatter in anger, only stopped by a resounding 'floosh'. All at once, the once soaking fur on her back felt warm. Uncomfortable warm.

She looked back, anger faltering to shock at the sight. Eoin's claws were clenched, with only a faint shadow of his eyes in view over his drooped snout. Even from the front, Argon couldn't miss the grey flame on Eoin's tail.

"E-Eoin?" Argon whispered. "Are… are you…"

It rebelled against the rain, rising to the size of a campfire. Steam floated up behind him, while the edges of the doorframe where Eoin stood were singed a dusty black. Subconsciously, Argon found one of her feet shuffling back.

"Do you have any idea what you've just done?" Eoin snarled.

Another barrage of rain hit the ceiling while Piolu thought. It creaked and groaned, seeming ready to join Cerise in a collapsed state anytime.

"What was the best for all of us," Piolu replied, letting out another dry huff.

Not good enough. Eoin took a step forward, further blackening the door frame with fire that only the storm above could fight. He took another, and another still, until the Charmander stood right before Cerise, on the opposite side of Piolu. Still, the Stoutland did not falter.

"We had a chance, Piolu," Eoin said, voice nearly matching Piolu's piercing monotone. "Despite everything you've said, we had a chance. To stand side by side with the pokemon of Faire as equals. To show them that we were not the heartless, feral beings they've been trained to think we are."

In the faint, blue glow emanating from Eoin's bag, Argon could swear that Eoin's pupils were starting to grow thin. Finding her tongue heavy in the dense air, she took an instinctive position between the two. Angled at Piolu, though nonetheless primed to grab either should the hoofs, or claws lit by dim azure light struck.

"I can see where yer goin' with this," Piolu replied, exhaling sharply, "but you've gotta listen. You're too—"

A sharp growl left Eoin's muzzle, enough to keep the Stoutland tentatively silent.

"Because of your rash, opportunistic kidnapping, we don't have that chance anymore. Do you think there's any chance at rational, evenhanded change now that the pokemon of Faire will know that we kidnapped an innocent pokemon simply because of her heritage?"

"Look, Eoin," Piolu replied, "I don't think you understand. You. Weren't. There."

"Do you think any of the soldiers will stay their claws when we've played right into Binair's hand? When we repay a pokemon with cruelty, whom without her help I might not even be alive?"

The Stoutland's brow furrowed, stuck between mulling over the Charmander's words or countering them.

"That's not the point. How the pokemon judge us won't matter long as we have her."

"We'll be judged by larger forces than them," Eoin retorted, tail flame slowly growing almost to the ceiling. "Even if we do succeed, you've built a future of mistrust, of fear. You've attempted to strong arm a force that outnumbers us a hundred to one, slandering a name we were supposed to protect, all for the cheap cost of our moral fortitude!"

If for only a moment, Piolu looked down from Eoin's gaze. In a renewed darkness, was the soft rise and fall of Cerises bruised, bloodied chest. Dozens of the same scrape marks lined her whole body, while coughed up blood soaked the floor. Butterfrees swam in Argon's stomach seeing the Stoutland's eyes widen. A faint flash of lightning sounded as he shook his head, looking back up to Eoin.

"I stand by my decision," Piolu said, slamming his hoof against Cerise's back. "Been pushed around too much in my life to let the same thing happen now. If you don't like that, then I suggest you leave."

Hours seemed to take the place of seconds. Eoin's expression didn't change, the dim of his tail flame doing the talking. Down and down it went, filling the room with smoke until Argon saw only a grey candle flame, faintly blue against the moonlight.

"You," Eoin seethed, "you've damned us all."


Argon shot back, flinching as if a bomb had just exploded next to her ears. Following after was a sharp squawk, pushed to the side for footsteps to take its place. That voice…

"Out of the way, the both of you, if you know what's good for you. Cerise?"

The door creaked back, caught in a gust of wind. It was just about to shut when a rocky forehead bashed into it, slamming it off its hinges with the force of a battering ram.

A tentative silence followed the breach. Argon's fur went on end, seeing in the doorway Chimera's dimmed silhouette. His crossbow was drawn, eyes like a Watchog looking for a Zorua's form. At first, his gaze set upon the Raichu and Charmander on the left and right, and for a moment his adrenaline fueled glare subdued.

It wouldn't last. Piolu was the third to look back, unmoving whether in surprise, or lacking the will and desire to back down. Still, the Bagon stayed his hand, weapon lowering to the floor.

At least, until he heard the groan. More of a whimper than anything, of a battered and bruised demeanor Chimera could scarcely believe belonged to the same pokemon. And yet, there she was. Blood, scars, and fractures clear for all to see against a dim, blue light. Chimera's eyes shot open, breath sucked out of him. She was tucked in a loose fetal position, barely able to breath against the ragged, clawed paw pressing down against her back.

In unison, Argon and Eoin glared at each other, having so much to say, yet veiled in an instinctual panic that held their lips just long enough. For another few seconds, Chimera stayed in something similar, chilling rain crashing against his grey cape.

"C-Chimera," Eoin sputtered, "I can—"

A loud 'thwick' hit the air. Argon knew that sound, knew it all too well. She didn't even need to turn her head to see what had happened; Piolu's roaring scream was enough to tell. All Eoin saw was a faint glimmer of light, from a razored bolt soaring through the air straight into the Stoutland's shadowed eye. A stream of colorless blood clashed against the blue light, all the while Piolu shook his head in a blind stuper.

"****! F-****ing shi—arrghhh!"

Chimera was already halfway across the room when Argon gasped. Were it any other pokemon behind the crossbow's sights, any other visage with bared fangs and fury charging against the Stoutland, she could have intercepted him like any dungeon foe.

Not once had he acted this fast. While Piolu struggled to open his right eye, fractured paw flinching against his pierced left, the Bagon struck. Like a ram, his bony forehead crushed against his foe. A distinct crack from the Stoutland's jaw followed another sputter of grey blood. Piolu collapsed. There was barely enough time for fear when he looked up, seeing the otherwise stout Bagon towering over him. His breath seethed. Glimmering against the moonlight, held in Chimera's hand with an icepick grip, was a razored bolt.


A familiar paw shot up against the Bagon's wrist, holding it back.

"J-just give me a reason," Chimera sputtered. "Just give me a reason why I shouldn't!"

With the start of tears in his eyes, Chimera glanced back at Argon, desperate for an answer. Argon didn't have an easy one. His hand flinched in her grasp, finding not a single word from her in defense of the Stoutland's actions. And yet…

"Chimera," Argon whispered, quivering in fear or intensity, "p-please."

All anyone could hear were the faint groans of agony, pallid and pokemon alike. All Chimera saw, where the deep blue, solom irises of his partner.

He knew that look. It was a pale memory, nearly trampled by hours of explorations, administrative training, and paperwork, but he knew it. The dampness in the air. The chittering moans of a foe at his mercy. The flush of anger that couldn't stop his knees from feeling weak. The desperate, pleading look for the human behind his scales. All at once, he knew.

His hand loosened from the bolt, letting it stab itself into the floor. What was likely the biggest sigh of relief he'd heard left Argon's muzzle. Just as Chimera returned a solemn nod, he caught a glimpse of her cheeks sparking in the darkness. Electrons flowed through her tail, diffusing along with a great deal of stress into the floor. Just then, the two blinked, sharing a realization:

Argon could have paralyzed his arm anytime she wanted. She'd done it before, after all, to save his life no less, and yet… why not now? Before the Bagon could give it another thought, a tentative hand set itself on his shoulder.

"Chimera," Eoin said, soft voice as if trying to soothe a Tauros, "I can't… I can't apologize enough for this. To both you and her."

Chimera's teeth clenched, thoughts warring on whether to let the Pallid's hand remain, or bat it away. In a shaky compromise, he turned back, stepping away from the two to look back at Cerise. The sight of the bloodied Zorua made his gut churn as he took a knee. The claw marks were unmistakable, from Stoutland, Weavile, and Mightyena alike. One of the Bagon's hands clenched, the other checking that her pulse was steady.

"Months…" Chimera whispered.

Eoin tilted his head, combing over what to say as if diffusing a bomb. His flame flickered, knowing the thousands of beings within the blast range of poor words.

"She'll be given the best care," Eoin said, "I assure you. I only ask that we can keep what's transpired a secret from Faire's—"

"I kept your secret for months," Chimera finished.

His thoughts broiled. Eoin stepped back from Chimera's piercing gaze, muzzle stammering.

"I told you I thought this was wrong!" Chimera shouted, slamming his fist against the floor. "I lied to my boss's face when I had every reason not to, because I respected you. Because I thought if I didn't tell him, if I stayed out of it, maybe you could shut this farm down while living up to your plan that no blood would be spilt."

"T-that was my hope," Eoin countered. "I… I couldn't have predicted this. I implore you, Chimera, thousands of innocent beings will be left to destitution if any pokemon finds out. Piolu was a renegade, we tried to stop it! His actions, they… they weren't from us."

The Pallid's plea fell on deaf ears. Chimera looked away, finding nothing to look at except the open door. A thin puddle of rain had formed where the dirt met the floorboards. In its warped reflection, Chimera could just see the silent reflections of some of the pallid sheds.

"They weren't from you," Chimera replied. "They weren't from the pallid that got a free ticket to sentience from Uxie. The rest? Well, I'm pretty sure Cerise is lucky that there were only three pallids here. Are they who I've been keeping a secret for? Half feral pallids that brutalize pokemon like Cerise?"

"They were three pallids out of the entire camp!" Eoin said back. "Your anger is warranted, but I offer you my word that no other pallid would have approved of this. I can bring in dozens who'd say the same. Hundreds!"

"From thousands?!"

Eoin bit his lip, just short of an honest confirmation. Argon was the one to take a knee in front of Chimera, glancing behind her to find Piolu sulking in the corner, attempting to treat his wound. None could deny that Chimera's scowl loosened in Argon's presence, though… something else briefly went unspoken between Bagon and Raichu. A slight furrow of the brow, a quick blink too many, or perhaps a recollection that, by each other's accounts, they both should have been a sea away in their bunks.

"T-the important thing is that we get them medical attention," Argon said. "You're free to do anything afterwards, Chimera. I-it's just… this is our only chance to get pallids the freedom they deserve. Please, you know what happens here is wrong."

Yet another weight to the scales. Chimera felt himself sulk, unable to rebuke her words. They stood against a counterweight of obligation. Remorse against anger. The desperate gaze of his partner against the expectant eye of his superior. A lifetime of education in another world screaming one action, the imagery of a fox's mangled form shouting another. Without a word, Chimera placed his arms under Cerise, softly picking up the Zorua as he turned back to the two; the die was cast.

"I'm sorry, " Chimera replied. "but I have to tell the truth. The whole truth. Eoin, Argon..."

The Pallid flinched, while Argon's ears drooped. As Eoin's breaths quickened, a temptation took him to make a break for the doorway. What were two pokemon's freedom to winning that of thousands? After a sideways glance to his Stoutland counterpart, however, stemming his bloodied eye with a loose rag, he found his feet weak.

All the electrons, and all the stress in Argon that had grounded into the floor came back with vengeance. They had to do… something. The very nature of their plan was based on surprise. Negating the Charmander next to her, however, there was likely no other pokemon than the Bagon her stomach reeked more at the thought of attacking. Could she stay the Raichu that stood by? The Raichu that stood by while all their plans, and the freedom of thousands were ground to—

"We've known each other a while," Chimera said, turning to the door. "In spite of everything, if there's any pallid or pokemon I trust can make sure this doesn't happen again, it's you two. I have my own obligations, but… just know it'll take a few hours of travel before I can tell Binair. Use them well, and… I guess I'll see you on the other side of the barricade."

Argon blinked, and blinked once more, as if her eyes were as surprised as her ears. Chimera's hands fidgeted, thoughts glazed over in an undying hope to have his cake and eat it too. It was only at the first step out of the shed that he hesitated, unable to turn back, yet with a muddy and uneven road before him.

"I-I'm sorry things ended up like this for us," Argon said. "For everyone…"

With a deep breath, Chimera glanced back, taking his first step forward all the while. A fleeting yet firm grin took to his muzzle as rain battered against his form. It was the most he could manage.

"Don't worry," he replied. "We'll all do our part to make sure no one dies. With everything I have, I'll make sure of that."

A few more steps into the dreary night, and he was gone. It was only after a moment more of staring into the darkness that Eoin let out his held breath. They looked at each other, loose posture and smiles telling a story of relief. Between Eoin's roaring flame, however, and the near constant sparks from Argon's cheeks, they each knew different.

"It's not perfect, but it'll have to be good enough," Eoin said. "I'll handle the ground evacuation. Between the adverse weather, and lack of preparation, I had hoped that the spirits would have been kinder. But… we have no time left."

Argon nodded, maw just about to open when her breath hitched. Slowly, her eyes widened. It was a minor detail, barely of note with the colossal adversity ahead of them, but the faint blue glow, the azure light that had shone from Eoin's bag to his scales, it was gone.

It took another second of incredulous silence at Argon's shock for Eoin to realize the same. All of the sudden… the bag felt a lot lighter now.


Well-Known Member
Chapter 34: Developing Pieces
They were almost there.

They had to be, right? It had been hours, at least. Hours of trudging back through miles of flooded cobblestone roads with her in his arms. With every turn, Chimera's gaze raised in a silent hope that the elusive Port Obstand would appear before them, only to meet yet another winding trail of rock and palm trees. His feet were chilled to the bone with every step into muddied puddles, and the stubby arms that felt Cerise's slow heartbeat had been cramped for over an hour.

There was no other option. Duel weights pushed on his exposed shoulders with a cascade of rain, both to the fox blanketed under his cape, and the Girafarig still ignorant to what the revolution had already cost him. Another thunderous rumble echoed in the darkness. Dipping his stony forehead to shield his eyes from the droplets, Chimera's hands clenched; A silent desire brewed in his chest to raise his voice to demand Lugia, Kyogre, Zapdos, Thundurus, or whoever else was in charge here shut the **** up.

It wouldn't be long until a new dawn. Another corner rounded, and another flooded path ahead. Figures.


Chimera's eyes shot open. Just as quickly, her bated voice faded. He nearly tripped over a loose stone hidden by the water, only able to muster an apologetic frown at his stumble.

"Yeah?" Chimera asked. "Please hang on. We're… we're almost there. Will be sipping cocoa at the port before you know it."

Her reply was cut off by a few hacking coughs. Listening close, Chimera could swear they sounded like faint chuckles.

"It's ironic, isn't it?" Cerise whispered, glancing back to give Chimera a tepid smile. "N-not even yesterday, we were exchanging shadow balls and crossbow bolts across the cafe table. Now y-you're carrying me back like a newborn kit."

Chimera blinked, then blinked once more. Feeling her shift in his arms, he forced a toothy grin; the harsh winds had affected both their wits. It would be an even match.

"Well, for however much it helps, I'd say those three pallids got off worse in the exchange," Chimera replied. "And… not too ironic, really. After all, I couldn't let a worthy foe such as yourself miss the dinner we agreed on."

"If," Cerise replied, her tone bright even as she forced a paw to her ribs, "If you think I'm letting you pay the tab after tonight, you've got another thing coming."

A stammer left Chimera, all he could muster for a comeback. It was hard to even imagine a restaurant, little able to see anything three feet ahead but muck, and trees whose branches jutted out from the shadows.

"Well, what does the 'Dread Bandit Cerise' have in mind?" Chimera asked. "If you think I'm gonna let you pay for overpriced Basculin meunière in your state, you better have something pretty convincing."


Chimera could feel Cerise shift in his grasp, like a mother fox shielding her kit with her body. The hint of levity in the Zorua's tone fell as they pressed on, splashes filling the silence. Turning back to face him, she let out a deep sigh, filling the chilled air with fog.

"Arceus, I was stupid, wasn't I?" Cerise asked.


The half second pause as Chimera bit his lip wasn't encouraging, but did she deserve anything but corroboration? Let alone from the pokemon carrying her limp body through thick and thin, from a poorly planned and even more poorly executed heist?

"It…" Chimera replied, "It was a shitty situation all around. I know I couldn't have done it any better, or known that kidnapping was on the table of their little revolution. You did what you had to do."

"I've been saying that to myself for years," Cerise said back, "and look what that got me. Captured. Getting out of prison, only to get captured again, and saved by the Bagon I'd originally stolen from."

"Granted, I was the reason you went to prison in the first place," Chimera added, with a chuckle that was just a bit too hollow for his liking. "So… I guess it all evens out, between that and not blasting my face in when you had the chance at the theatre."

A bit of tension ran through Cerise as her face strained. The Zorua looked on as if trying to concentrate on a test, yet could not produce an answer.

"Sophia wants to say thanks for what you did, by the way," Cerise replied. "She-uh… can't really come out right now, b-but between her, and how this whole mess worked out, I can't help but think… all this time running, stealing, pulling myself away from others, and what do I have to show for it? A worn, decades old journal that could very well end up saying that it's all been a waste? Well, that and…"

The Zorua shuffled again, while Chimera adjusted the cape so she remained sheltered from the elements.

"Well, you've certainly made my life a lot more interesting," Chimera offered, putting on as much enthusiasm as he could. "We've had our differences, but even with everything else I've been given, there's something you add that I can't find anywhere else. Had to dodge a few more shadow balls than my other friends, but—"


The Bagon froze, mid dry chuckle. There was something familiar about Cerise's smirk. It was hidden under a layer of soaked fur and exhaustion, but that mischievous look, that slight twitch of her maw just an inch or two from his had returned.


Chimera held his breath, pace grinding to a halt.

"... Check your bag."

"Check my wha—"

It took Chimera a full second of silence to realize it. With a labored grunt, Cerise rolled, so that her belly once hidden to the floor faced him. Strapped protectively to it was the Zorua's exploration bag, innocuous by itself, yet... had she lost weight, or had he gained?

Glancing to his side, it appeared both. The canvas satchel at his own hip felt just a bit heavier, while shining back at Chimera's wide eyes, seeped an unmistakable blue radiance. The Bagon blinked, as if it were only a mirage.

"That," Chimera stammered, "that's…"

"I-In hindsight, I really shouldn't have it," Cerise continued, a hint of melancholy returning to her voice. "It was back in that shed. I was knocked out, drifting in and out of consciousness from the pain. I-I remember waking up for a few seconds, and seeing grey scales in front of me. I… I was angry. Angry at everything. A-And when I saw his satchel with the time gear in it, while the two voices were focused on each other, I…"

Chimera stared on, not needing any more. Instantly, he opened the bag, spotting the familiar silver sheen as raindrops glowed blue against its light. His scaled hand dragged along the surface; It was as real as can be.

"I did the only thing I could think of," Cerise finished. "Even after the damn thing was worthless to me after the compass test, I just didn't want them to have it. I-If this really is all for naught once I get back, I want you to take it. I'll bet a former human like you can put it to better use than I ever could."

"I—" Chimera's breath hitched in his throat. She must need it for something, right? "I don't… I'm not…"

He picked up the pace, feet trudging through the mud as if they could make up the slack of his mind. It was the artifact that had started it all (one of them, at least), yet why did the Girafarig at the end of his march hold it in so high regard? There was no temporal tower to save. No impending collapse that it was the key to halting, right? If Uxie were to be believed, it was little but a battery taken from its source. The most important object of his entire career exploring, yet a paperweight.

"Thank you," the Bagon finally uttered, his toothy grin reflecting a pale blue back at Cerise. "For everything. I never knew that the bandit I met in that forest would end up giving me so much. We'll figure this out, though. We'll see if these are what'll bring your mom back, once we get back to Bi… well, speak of the devil."

It was little but the outline of a single cabin silhouetted against the distant treeline, but Chimera already knew they had made it. The Bagon's once arduous march turned into a jog, labored breaths gaining a new energy as he ran down the road. Cerise did her best to keep her visage from going one way or another; Even under a prideful mask, the Zorua could not decide whether meeting the Girafarig meant salvation or doom.

"I-I guess I can't put this off any longer," she whispered.

Neither Chimera, Binair, nor the gods above would wait. Even under a dreary moon, the softly flowing shores of Port Obstand, cut through with neatly aligned docks and steamboats never looked any brighter. Chimera fell to his knees, panting all the while as he set Cerise to the floor.

There he was. The Girafarig stood next to Chimera's own personal office, not a few dozen feet from them. He'd been waiting all night, it seemed. Two sets of bagged eyes stared into the distance, unwavering to catch when Bagon and Zorua would finish their triumphant march home.

It was not to be. As soon as the pair rounded the corner, what psychic power that was left keeping the umbrella levitating over the Girafarig's mane tore itself apart. It fell to the soiled ground, leaving Binair's wide eyed, petrified face open to the elements. One eye twitched.

He sped forth, with a ferocity that could put even the most conditioned Rapidash to shame. Before Chimera had even lifted his head, Binair was before them. The cape nestled over Cerise's form hid the worst of it, at least that was what Chimera wanted to believe. The dashes of blood dotting its surface from each cut, the paw sticking out that was bent in a manner no pokemon should ever have to see much less experience… it was unmistakable.

"By God," Binair whispered, every bit of zeal and poise in his voice thrown to the wind. "Cerise… Darling, what forced you to a state such as this? H-how could I—"

"I'll explain everything that happened, Sir," Chimera said, biting his tongue as he struggled to meet the Girafarig's eye. "There's a lot you need to know I haven't been forthcoming about. What's important now, though, is getting Cerise medical attention."

Any notion of deception from Chimera seemed to go in one of Binair's ears and out the other. The Girafarig was acting on pure instinct now, driven by a force neither economics nor management could hope to match.

"R-right. Thank you, old chum," Binair replied, horns glowing a vibrant pink as an aura surrounded Cerise. "We can have you in a hospital ship and with the best doctors West Faire has to offer before sunrise. It shouldn't—"

A paw raised, shutting the Girafarig in his tracks. With a deep groan, Cerise rolled over to meet her father, clutching the bag at her chest like it was a close friend. The uncertainty, the fear as Binair's gaze met hers hit Cerise infinitely worse than any anger he could muster.

"Wait," Cerise said. "W-wait. Set me down. There's… something I need to do first."

Binair was in no state to deny it. From what Chimera saw, Cerise could have asked the Girafarig to throw himself into the harbor, and not five seconds later he'd hear a splash. The Zorua's paw gripping her bag began to shake, from what Chimera suspected had little to do with the rain. It took her a few more seconds to even unbutton the top, and pull out the worn book underneath. Binair took a step back, only to freeze halfway seeing a journal that had stood the test of time better than any of them.

"I need to see this through," Cerise finished. "I-I need to see if it was all worth it in the end."

Binair did not even breathe as Cerise flipped past the first page. He stood, watching a film he knew the end to all too well, yet could not say a word of. A glimmer of hope flashed in the Zorua while she skimmed from page to page. Again and again, her paw flipped, becoming more ferocious with every second. After each turn, a new barrage of rain soaked into the faded parchment, smudging the ornate cursive almost faster than she could even read it.

All at once, it stopped.

Chimera tilted his head, only able to catch the title over Cerise's shoulder: Conclusion. Her eyes moved much slower this time. The Zorua's ears drooped, giving time for a nonexistent Zoroark to speak into her ear with each word. Even as close as she was, Chimera could garner little of her reaction; illusion or not, she hid it well.

"Well," Chimera whispered, the first to break the silence, "how does it look? If there's anything you need help with on your research, anything at all, I'll be—

The book dropped. Cerise's paws went limp, not saying a word of pages that had remained for decades becoming sullied with mud. Before Chimera could even gasp, he saw why; it was not just rain that had soaked the last page, nor the fox's cheeks. Her breath quivered, sniffling as she turned to face the two with messy tears.

"S-so… that's it then," Cerise weeped, gritting her teeth to fight back any more. "Everything. The artifacts. The legendaries. The time heist. M-mom. All just a… a chimera. A stupid dream, from a thief that was too stubborn to face the facts."

Like most things, she hid it as well as she could. Only a faint sniffle, or a paw rubbing her eyes breached the Zorua's defenses. Yet she didn't move. Not an inch, simply staring as the parchment turned into an imperceivable mush. Silently, Chimera held his hand out, intending what comfort he could reaching for her back.

He never could, however. The ragged, faintly green scarf levitating over her neck had gotten there first. Silently, Cerise gasped, unmoving as the fabric lowered itself to her nape.

"I wouldn't see it like that," Binair said, nestling the other gold scarf back into the Zorua's pack. "Quite the opposite, in fact. I… think she would be proud."

Her fur tensed, back still facing Binair. A tepid paw reached to the scarf, not sure whether to hug it close, or tear it off to join the journal.

"W-what do you mean?" Cerise asked. "I wasted all these years, caused so much wrong on a faulty plan. On a—"

"On a hope," Binair finished, giving a faint smile to the Zorua's back. "Something your mother had in spades. Regardless of the outcome, I believe this whole venture, and the… schism it caused has proved two things."

One clop of the Girafarig's hooves was soon joined by another. Now at her side, Binair lowered himself to the floor without a word. It wouldn't be unreasonable for her to shuffle away, and yet… Cerise remained, even as Binair laid his own hoof against her back.

"The first, that you're every bit the explorer that she was. You faced adversity, imprisonment, and my own continued negligence when I should have done everything I could to remain beside you. Yet you never lost faith, and you saw things through to the very end. Those are traits that I can guarantee even Ezra would admire."

She was well versed in hearing hollow regrets from the Girafarig; they were much easier to ignore through the prison visitation windows. And yet… something was different. That 'I know what's best as your father' voice seemed so detached. So distant. As that familiar war ravaged through the Zorua's mind, she offered only a soft grunt, neither pushing nor pulling Binair one inch. Clearing his throat, Binair knew what came next; it didn't make it any easier.

"The second, that I have completely failed in my duty as a father to you. I have prestige, power, and property to my name since starting this venture with your mother, yet… am no wiser than when I started. I'll have many to make up to once my sins are judged, but if there's any being that deserves my pentenance first, dear, it's you."

"W-what are you suggesting?" Cerise asked.

Deep down, she knew. She'd heard the same from a father that could not put his personal glory aside for the world. With every second, however, it was becoming harder to cast his words aside as usual. The Zorua quivered, on a knife's edge.

"A new beginning," Binair replied. "Father and daughter. In truth, I have been preparing for some time, but I'll only persist with your consent. I know firsthand what the price is for one's hopes going awry, and my one wish is to make up for lost time before that happens. I-I… I don't want to lose you again."

There was nothing else to say. The Girafarig's voice seemed on the edge of breaking, knowing it would not be unreasonable for the Zorua to turn away. Chimera sucked in a breath, taking a step back to let the Zorua decide. It was no doubt as uncomfortable for the Bagon as the last… encounter, but he could not deny that something felt right.

A full minute passed of silence, as a future long thought lost seemed to claw its way back into Cerise's life. A paw reached to her scarf, the last remnant of a past that would never come again. The door she sought may have been only an illusion, yet that did not discharge the pathway beyond.

"I-I… fine," Cerise said, turning to face Binair with the first smile in a decade. "I'll give it a try."

It was all too easy for Binair to respond in kind.

"That is all I ask."


Eoin could rarely recall a time when sunlight shining down below had made his flame tremble as much as now. When darkness cloaked the prison, and their tenuous route between the tunnel's exit, and the outskirts of Port Obstand, fortune seemed to have smiled upon them. The evacuation had succeeded, yet that was the easy part. Peeking through a break in the treeline, the very world seemed to close in on Eoin.

At his front, a few hundred feet ahead, was the port. Most of its ground had dried over after the prior rain, guarded by dozens upon dozens of exploration teams and guards. From the look of the Liepard and Golisopod guarding the entrance, it appeared as any average day.

Glancing behind him, Eoin knew it much the opposite. Hundreds of pallids stood anxious behind him in the outskirt forests. In a few minutes, there would be hundreds more. They stood in varying states of health, strength, and stature, yet there was a fire in each and every eye only liberty could sate. He knew them doubtless an even match against the port defenses, yet no more. As his gaze lowered to his claws, Eoin took a deep breath; it was do or die now.

"You alright, Sir?" a Carkol asked.

"Nothing to worry about, Sir. We're behind you every step of the way," a Talonflame added.

"I trust you, Sir," a Golem continued. "You'll be better at this than Piolu ever could."


The last whisper hit the Pallid the most. A familiar paw set itself on his back, a warmth that even the chill of morning could not dim. Eoin's flame lulled, in a strange desire to close his eyes and give himself to a more feral form looking back at Argon.

"But," Eoin replied, "but… what if he was ri—"

"I'm nervous too," Argon said back, with a few crackles of her cheeks corroborating. "B-by Arceus, I am, but we can't turn back now. Everything you've ever worked for is coming to a head. You were the one that taught me how important it is to take a stand; the least I can do is repay the favor."

In truth, Argon couldn't fully tell what made her do it. The rush of adrenaline knowing the importance of what was to come? The fear of not seeing the Charmander's endearing smile once the sun had set? Perhaps… a simple instinct in her being that it felt somehow right. Either way, Eoin could scarcely get in another word, feeling Argon's maw press against his own.

Eoin gasped, almost verbatim to Argon's own gasp just a few short months ago from his own unprompted embrace. It was a short kiss, all things considered. After a few long, yet fleeting seconds, Argon pulled away. She turned back, waving to a long line of avians spread out through the forest. Catalina was waiting for her with a wing ready, and pouches of developed photos strapped to her belly like a dive bomber.

"Best of luck, Eoin," Argon replied. "I-I'll see you on the other side."

A quick flap of wings as the avians took off above the trees, and she was gone. The Charmander's flame billowed in deep, labored breaths, unable to stem the warmth from his cheeks. One thing was certain as he turned back to the awaiting pallids; the fear was buried.

"I will scout ahead for the most vulnerable entrance," Eoin proclaimed. "Once I return, the revolution will begin in earnest. Steel yourselves; we march today for a better world for all."

He was no stranger to the tonalities of stealth. A lightless tail, and feral upbringing only somewhat overcome did much to help Eoin as he scurried across the perimeter. The defenses seemed as usual. Checkpoints were manned. Pairs of pokemon stood guarding every important intersection, and yet… strange.

On the very edge of the port, where the sand met the sea, the guard station was completely unmanned. Ducking behind a collapsed tree, not a hundred feet away from the sentryless station, Eoin tilted his head. It appeared as if out of a painting, with only a faint breeze, a softly flowing shore, and a beached, dilapidated fishing boat to its name. Was it a sloppy guard detail change? A careless sentinel abandoning his post for a quick drink? It… couldn't be that easy, could it?

Regardless, he had few other options. A direct assault on any other sections of the perimeter would be a recipe for avoidable tragedy. Eoin felt his scales shake as his foot met the sand, scurrying as fast as he could to make a break behind the empty guard post.

"Pleasant day, isn't it, Eoin? Though, nothing revolutionary I imagine."

Every single muscle in Eoin froze. He'd gotten maybe a couple dozen feet before hearing that voice. One confirmed suspicion after another flashed through the Pallid. He could barely turn around, only just able to eye the wrecked, dilapidated vessel behind him, and the Girafarig head poking up from its hull.

"No need to be tense, good sir," Binair continued, beaming a smile that anywhere else, from any other pokemon would have seemed inviting. "It's been a long day for both of us, I imagine."

"Y-you're… you are too late!" Eoin shot back, head on a swivel searching for the followup ambush. "We've already evacuated enough pallids from your prison. Even without me, your grand empire is moments away from—"

"For God's sake," Binair interrupted, giving a light chuckle, "I did not spend the last three hours tanning on a sloop to capture you or your followers here. Quite the opposite in fact— may you stop turning your head like a Noctowl?" Binair rolled his eyes as he shook his head. "I give you my word I've come alone."

There was not a single fiber of Eoin's being that would rate the Girafarig's word worth more than the bird droppings lining the vessel's hull, but a few more seconds of inspection gave nothing to the contrary. He was taken aback turning to Binair. Not from any strike team jumping out of the craft to apprehend him, but the folding beach chair held in his telekinetic grasps.

"Why are you here then?" Eoin asked, glancing over his shoulder. "If Chimera really did tell you what was coming, why waste time hiding alone?"

"To offer a proposal," Binair replied. "I figured a neutral location would ease tensions. Care to take a seat? I would have brought a chair for myself, but… my stature's become a bit uncooperative."

The chair unfolded, nestling itself in the sand next to him. Eoin narrowed his eyes, attempting to discern what tells he could from the Girafarig. All his options seemed bad ones. Of course, if he was telling the truth, the wisest course would be to turn his flame to Binair and run, but… Eoin could not deny a strange, almost morbid curiosity. As Binair levitated a checkered picnic blanket to his side, the Pallid took a tentative seat. A few seconds later, and no pop up chains, ropes, nor shackles to see.

"I doubt you would suddenly acquiesce now," Eoin said, eyeing a small table floating out of the hull set itself between them. "What reason do I have to not suspect a trap?"

"Simple," Binair replied, a steadfast stare overtaking his grin. "From what Chimera has told me, you and Argon acted in defense of my daughter. I respect someone who stands up for their belief, even against their own organization."

The Charmander bit his tongue, almost disappointed he had no counter. For how leisurly Binair nestled to the blanket, it could have been a vacation.

My proposal is this: I offer you and your followers safe passage from this port to Pith Town. Should you choose, you may have your march and see how the denizens of Faire judge you. In exchange, I have only one condition."

Eoin's piercing glare told the obvious question. His own imprisonment? Forced subservience after the march? The Pallid could scarcely tell what his opposite would levitate next out of that hull; a checkered board filled with ornately carved pieces, and two glasses of wine wasn't exactly his first guess.


"That you and I," Binair said, holding a soft tone, and gentle smile, "shoot the breeze this fine day, and have a little discussion… along with a game of chess, if you wouldn't mind. I've been feeling anxious for a match since our last meeting."

Eoin felt his eye noticeably twitch at the proposition. In hindsight though, he shouldn't have expected less; the Pallid would do anything to avoid a confrontation, and his opposite knew it. He stared back at the Girafarig, like two knights meeting on horseback for the pre-battle parley. All things considered, there were less civilized ways for this to go. Not a single piece was out of place as the chess board set itself between them. With a psychic spin of the battlefield, Binair cast a grin down to his adversary, now eyeing the white marble pieces before him.

"Your move, Eoin."

With his hand to his chin, Eoin's mind worked two fold. His claw worked its way along the top of each piece, eventually setting itself on the tip of a pawniard, directly before his king. Eyeing it move forward two spaces, Binair kept a cool poker face.

"Answer me this," Eoin said, a hint of ire sneaking into his own voice. "What possible justification could you possibly have for forcing it to come to this, for keeping beings no less worthy of life than yourself destitute and imprisoned? No doubt they could contribute more to Faire given education. You've all the resources in the world to give them opportunity, and yet you choose not to."

"Going straight for the throat, I see," Binair replied, a psychic aura coalescing around the opposite pawniard to move it one space. "An effective strategy. Well…"

The Girafarig's wine glass floated up to his maw. He took his time taking a sip, savoring each tonality of flavor, though the glass at Eoin's side remained untouched. He eyed the glass as if eyeing a sword above his own head. Binair's brow furrowed at the obvious connotation, his horns again glowing to lift a drop of wine out of the Pallid's own cup. Gulping it down with the rest, Binair returned an exacerbated frown.


"I say this in my defense," Binair replied. "Everything I have done, everything I will do, has been for the pokemon of Faire. Before the age of steel and railroads, have you any idea just how much of a population devotes itself to simply having enough grain to survive the next day? Freeing pokemon of that burden, and pouring every last bit of capital into their wellbeing has allowed for an influx of progress that even the highest civilizations can scarcely rival."

"That you have benefited most from," Eoin countered, his tail inflaming. "For all that progress, it seems Faire has learned little. The anger your imprisonment has caused will do far more to disrupt the lives of Faire's pokemon than whatever change was saved keeping us in line. It already has."

Eoin's move was decise, moving the pawn before his queen to stand beside its kingly counterpart. Even as he took a sip of the wine, the Pallid could not help but notice Binair's grip around his own glass changing. Ever so faintly, the glass seemed to vibrate in its psychic clutches, as if against a Loudred's shout.

"It would have been easy to consolidate Faire's wealth infinitely more than its current state," Binair replied. "Some more… laissez-faire policies for factory work hours, and an executive bonus redistributed from the common man's vacation fund, and I could have watched the pokemon of Pith Town line up for bread from an ivory mansion. Even in the beginning days of the West Faire Guild, however, I knew that path was folly."

A black pawn in the queen's row floated two spaces to challenge Eoin's maneuver. He laid a hoof to the board, slamming it just enough to not discard the pieces.

"Make no mistake, Eoin," Binair continued, his own temper starting to break from the mask. "The beings that I have spent my time in this world helping are not 'somewhat sentient', not 'perhaps sentient', not 'arguably sentient' they are. But…"

All at once, the vigor in Binair's voice seemed to fade away. Eoin's eyes widened, not sure whether his flame was more settled, or wary. It was a different smile that met Eoin, in spite the tension across the board.

"You're different," Binair said. "I never knew quite why until Chimera explained your unique origins. Polite. Passionate. A gentleman in all respects, yet brave enough to organize a movement that challenges decades of planning on my part. I would not have organized this little meeting had I not thought of you as an intellectual, and an equal in this game we're forced to play. It… really is a shame we find ourselves like this. Should the circumstances have been different, I like to think we could have spent many more fine days such as this testing wits across the board."

Of all that Eoin prepared for planning his next move, flattery certainly wasn't it. He could not deny the Girafarig's words were from the heart, yet there was a certain meaning behind the praise that made his flame flicker in all the wrong ways. The Pallid raised his glass, taking a sip as he moved his leftmost knight before his queen; well aged, no doubt, yet a slight feeling of bitterness under the sweet texture.

"As do I," Eoin replied, "but I believe your blandishment is misplaced. I am no different than the thousands that follow. Should this meeting go on a few hours more, I have no doubt you'll see a… different side of me. I can guarantee the pallids yearning for liberty are no less capable of intellect, anger, love, or righteousness than myself. It is simply our privilege fueling any supposed superiority."

Binair didn't even bother with the telekinesis, thrusting his hoof forward to move his own knight. It was an instinctual reaction, challenging the centermost pawn in a maneuver he'd no doubt done hundreds of times before.

"Do you really believe that?" Binair asked. "I can assure you the efforts to educate pallids to our level in days prior ended quite… tragic. I can list off the names of hundreds of innocent pokemon who have been the victim of barbarity exploring mystery dungeons. Just a few hours ago was proof that the inclination for violence inscribed into their being from millennia of defending time gears has not been vanquished. Thousands of pokemon across Faire were left mourning in broken homes from pallid attacks. That is not something so easily forgotten in a populace."

Eoin's own claws began to clench around the armrest. A part of the Pallid wished to strike out against Binair, for condemning the beings of now for the actions of yesterday. For thinking that Piolu's plot was anything but the culmination of anger from the Girafarig's oppression. Yet… another side of his being relented, noticing a tinge of remorse in his voice more than expected. Under the guise of scanning the board, his mind went to work. Chimera had told him of Cerise's plight, of course. Of her unending desire to reverse a death that led to decades of separation in Binair's—

Eoin's eyes shot open, claws nearly breaking the glass in his grasp.

"Because… you're one of them," Eoin replied, a certain sorrow in his tone. "Are you not? If so, all I can offer are condolences. It was an unjust death that took her, but that doesn't deny the capability of pallids to change. To make sure it does not happen again."

There it was. A chink in the knight's armor, a stare past Eoin's shoulders to the forest beyond that held for just a second too long. In the silence, Eoin leaned forward, moving his centermost pawn up to challenge the knight. Something else took to Binair's frown as he stared at the board; for perhaps the first time, he did not know what move to make.

"Let me make one thing clear," Binair seethed. "I am not using her death as an easy excuse. A convenient pathos to make way for hollow righteousness. I could not think of a more reactionary and ill-conceived gesture than using a single tragedy as justification for what you've seen. What I do, I do for the benefit of Faire's pokemon, based on decades of reason and evidence. Nothing more, nothing less."

A faint horn of a steamboat blasted in the distance. Binair glanced back, more than a bit of tension relieved from the interruption. Before Eoin could retort, Binair retreated the knight before his queen, letting out a quick cough.

"I… believe that is all there is to discuss on the matter. The convoy should be ready by now. You'll find the foremost guard station awaiting your revolutionaries, as well as a captain by the name of Wendy. Care to finish our game?"

Eoin took a deep breath, eyeing the sun just beginning its ascent. There were plenty of hours left in the day, sure. However, between risking his life leading a revolution, and locking himself against Binair in a game of chess, the Pallid could honestly not decide which was more stressful.

"Another time," Eoin replied, standing up from the chair. "Should everything go to plan, we'll have many more opportunities to finish this game. And..."

His eyes widened, the thought hitting how what was most important had been swept away in the last tumultuous hours.

"I-is… is Cerise—"

"Not her best state, but in good health," Binair replied. "In no small part to your efforts. It seems we've both had a lot to consider from the incident. Before you depart, Eoin, I'd like to offer a final injunction."

Like clockwork, the chess set, table, and glasses between them floated off to the side, leaving only open air between Charmander and Girafarig. Binair stood tall on his hoofs against Eoin, casting a shadow over the Pallid. Replacing any anger in his visage was something more solemn, a knowledge of a truth that, while distasteful, stood firm nonetheless.

"There's a reason I did not go through the effort of trapping you, Eoin," Binair said, "nor machinated a scheme to ensnare your followers on the route to Pith Town. It is simply because I did not have to. The pokemon you turn to for support, the ones expected to stick their necks out against the status quo enjoy three bedroom houses and regular trips to their favorite restaurant. They work nine-to-five factory jobs, with secure pensions and families that look forward to seeing their face at the end of each day."

Binair stepped forward, his long neck silhouetted against the clouds. His hoof bumped against the two glasses, spilling their red wine to the shifting sand.

"In short, Eoin, they have too much to lose. The hoi polloi would much rather stay at home than endanger their lives, all for the sake of pallids they have never even seen. You have my word I'll do everything in my power to ensure no blood is spilt, but if you continue down this path…"

"I've heard much the same," Eoin replied, neither voice nor stance wavering an inch. "Perhaps you are right, perhaps not, but if the pallids of Faire must suffer because the privileged that could have helped stood by, I will go down knowing neither I, nor those beside me joined them."

The palm trees rustled in the wind, while a rough wave crashed against the shore. It chilled the feet of Charmander and Girafarig alike, remaking the sand surrounding. Putting on his best smile, Binair turned to the port.

"I guess we should both be off then. Time waits for no man."


Well-Known Member
Hey Kindoflame!

I'm terribly sorry for not getting this review response in earlier. You make a good point in that I could have done a better job with Chimera's inner justification. For what its worth, a part of my delay was that I figured chapter 33 could provide a bit of a better explanation for Chimera's motives not working with the revolution, though... for the rest of the time, I have only my own procrastination to blame. I won't deny that I've taken a few historical parallels for the story, though as for Chimera's knowledge of injustices, and complacency... I'd say part of that was his belief that he could stay neutral, and partly his own self interest. He's a man who's grown up in a system that hasn't done him too well from his viewpoint, and will take any chance he has to achieve his ambitions, and grow out of the drudgery he thought he'd never escape.

Still, I hope in the next coming chapters I'll be able to provide a bit more motivation for the o'l Bagon. Thanks again for your continued reading and support! You've been a major motivator in my desire to bring this story to fruition. Till next time!


Well-Known Member
Chapter 35: The Black Horse
"You called, Sir?"

Binair gave a soft hum in response. The breeze was calm. Soothing rays of sunshine flushed between clouds over the roof of the West Faire Guild Hall, and yet Chimera could not get rid of the aching tension in his chest. To run out and prepare the troops for the inevitable march. To find some way to get through the hours to come knowing he'd done everything to preserve life and limb. To throw himself off of the nearby ledge. To do… something.

"Care to enjoy the view, old chum?" Binair asked, levitating a brass set of binoculars to his eyes from a nearby patio table. "I admit it could be a little better on a day like this, but all we can do is employ the hand we're dealt."

Taking his place at Binair's side (on top of a hollow milk crate so he could see over the railing), Chimera needed no clarification. Just a few miles away, pouring out of the dozens of ships nestling against the docks of Pith Town Harbor, were the grey outlines of hundreds upon thousands of pallids. They'd be at their doorstep within the hour. Their hue the same as the being who had supported him through high cliffs and frigid winds, yet also those responsible for the Zorua hooked up to an IV a floor or so below.

"W-what's our plan of action, Sir?" Chimera asked. "Barricades? Let them straight to the guild hall? This isn't gonna go away easy, one way or another. They've had months to plan out every step."

"I've a somewhat more… encompassing strategy that I wish to share with you," Binair replied. "Though, I sincerely wished it hadn't come to this. Before that business, however, I wish to offer an apology."

Binair turned, unable to hide the tinge of remorse leftover from the family reunion. From the distinct, perturbed tapping of his hooves, Chimera could tell his superior was not used to apologies, yet he owned them well.

"For what, Sir?"

"For my lies of omission since the past few months," Binair replied, grinding his hoof to the marble floor. "With minor exceptions, of which you've owned up to, you've served valiantly in the best interests of myself, and the guild at large ever since we played that first game of hoops. And yet, I've held knowledge of that gear at your side and more, yet played the ignorant fool."

Chimera's eyes widened, the glowing paperweight in his bag suddenly feeling heavier. Scratching his neck, Chimera looked to its ambient hue, less able to meet Binair's gaze.

"I've known you like to keep things close to the chest for a while now, Sir," Chimera said back. "Just trying to repay someone who's done more than I could ever ask for, and is by far the best boss I've ever had. Y-you… Sir… you've always seemed a bit partial towards me."

Binair bit his tongue, though neither of the Giragarig's mouths offered a denial. Chimera fiddled with his hands in response; there were a million ways to say this, what was the right one?

"The secret missions. The promotions. T-the personal office with my own secretary!" Chimera continued, forcing a smile to Binair. "I've… I've been your 'old chum' since the beginning, and yet I've never known why. N-not that I mind. Quite the opposite! It's just... "

Binair nodded; he need not finish. A sharp breeze whirled as the two stood in silence. With all the comfort of a bomb defuser, Chimera looked to the ledge. If it were not for the impending flood of pallids, or the badge that stared back at him, he was half a mind to jump off right then and there. What greeted him looking up, however, was a tepid smile from Binair.

"Well, your impeccable work ethic and leadership skills certainly helped, but I admit there's been another reason I've held you in high favor. Perhaps a quick field trip could kill two birds with one stone?"

The Girafarig turned before Chimera could offer a rebuttal. There was something mischievous in the tail that stared back at him. A bit more than usual.

"Should be a rather uplifting endeavor," Binair continued. "Please don't panic, old chum."

Chimera's maw was open mid objection as everything around the Bagon's scales started to feel… a bit different. A familiar pink aura had coalesced around his body, pushing against his movements as if he were moving in molasses. What followed was a feeling of weightlessness, as if lighter than air. The faint smile that returned to his maw was all too corroborating.


The Bagon was a full foot off the milk crate before hearing a soft clunk. He let out another gasp, just a tad lighter than from the impromptu levitation, seeing what was the tipped over bottom of the crate flip open. Underneath was a small keypad, not unlike what he'd seen in the more secure areas of his prior life. Curiously, the keys seemed far too small for any fine motor function from Binair's hooves, but a psychic press did the job just as well.

"Y-you," Chimera stammered, chuckling a bit as he met the Girafarig's grin. "You could have just told me to move."

"And not grant my Bagon companion his ultimate aspiration?" Binair replied. "I wouldn't miss it for the world. Please try and commit the code to memory, old chum; can't afford any mistakes for what's ahead."

A soft mechanical wir sounded below their feet from the final key press. With a faint rumble, the very marble beneath their feet began to move , retracting to form an empty chamber perhaps big enough to fit a snorlax in. It had a sparse carpet lining, with a panel on one side holding two buttons with arrows up and down. Chimera couldn't help but give an approving nod to no one in particular; how many other jobs had secret doors?

"Well," Chimera asked, "going down?"

They couldn't have been in the somewhat cramped elevator for over a minute, but Chimera had forgotten how long moments like these could last. A soft jingle played from a hidden speaker as Bagon and Girafarig stared ahead. One second passed, followed by another, followed by another still…

"So…" Chimera mused.

"So," came the reply.

"Ever had a problem with that tail of yours nipping people?"

One blink, then two.

"What? Oh, not usually. Had my back to a Mawile once when it got a bit too competitive. Cerise used to play a game in her early youth seeing how close she could get without it striking. I'll do my best to have my front to her now more often than my ba— ah, here we are."

The bunker seemed as peculiar from what Chimera saw as what he couldn't. From the concrete flooring, to the corrugated steel roof, to what had to be dozens of paper frappuccino cups haphazardly tossed into a corner waste bin, it seemed to combine the aspects of a doomsday shelter and disheveled personal office. The elephant in the room was a large, hexagonal structure on the far end. A sizable green tarp covered every bit, as well as towering boxes and shelves at either side. If Chimera listened closely, he could hear a faint electronic hum.

"Please don't mind the mess, old chum. Secrecy has… prevented the cleaning crew from covering for my usual dishevelment. If you wouldn't mind, I would like to show you a little something."

A wide desk not unlike what Chimera had seen in Binair's personal office was nestled against one of the walls. In place of the Girafarig's usual papers and folders were a menagerie of meters, testing tools, even what looked like a soldering iron. Beside a propped up photo of Girafarig and Zorua in the corner, levitated what Chimera could only describe as a model house.

"What's that, Sir?" Chimera asked, a modest smile soothing his worries. "A house for Durants?"

"Joltik, if you were lucky," Binair replied. "Though… not unlike the real deal. You'll find the much larger variant in a wonderfully quaint neighborhood called 'The Idyll of Faire'. Perhaps an hour's drive from here along the coast."

It was only once it was floating between them that the clay shingle roof, yellow stucco walls and palm tree decorations of the modest structure were clear to see. One of Binair's hooves nestled against the roof, a certain softness taking to the Girafarig's features as the house rotated.

"Looks like a nice little sanctuary, though… I don't think it's here because you got into scenic modeling," Chimera said.

"Correct," Binair replied. "I should take you there sometime, old chum. My former secretary settled down a year back and made chocolate chip cookies to die for when I visited. In truth, though… if everything goes to plan, it won't be more than a week before this humble abode is my home. Well, the home of a family."

Chimera's once leisurely eyes shot open at the connotation. The Bagon blinked, and blinked once more; the two bedroom, condo sized replica suddenly took up a whole new meeting. There was a certain sense of pride in Binair's stance as he smiled back at Chimera. More pride than any new factory, guild hall, or farm could put in the Girafarig.

"R-really, Sir?" Chimera asked. "I-I mean, I understand, but… I never expected this from you. Will Cerise be alright with it?"

"I can only hope. I plan to bring things up to her once she's fully recovered, and this dark business is over," Binair replied. "There's a new amphitheatre nearby I finished overseeing last week, as well as some security agencies that will pay clean coin to have an experienced thief test their business model. With any luck, the perfect place for a new beginning… a new chance to right my wrongs."

A Girafarig who owned an office bigger than the entire house, a Girafarig that Chimera could scarcely see not instructing, organizing, or otherwise working for the opulent building above their heads. True, in hindsight he should have seen this coming someday, but this soon?!

"Wait," Chimera stammered, "how are you going to oversee the—what's gonna happen if you can't oversee the guild? I-I want this as much as you, Sir, but I've been around long enough to know that it'll decline without you."

The silence lasted a little too long for Chimera's liking. And yet, there was not a single break in Binair's demeanor, not one indication that the walls around them would crumble if the Girafarig packed his bags and left the very next day. There was only a single deep breath. Binair cleared his throat, gazing down to Chimera; if they were playing poker, Chimera would guess he'd been stacking his cards for a while.

"I believe this brings us back to your original question, old chum. A quick trip down memory lane if you wouldn't mind: What exactly happened, when you first arrived in this world?"

Chimera closed his eyes, rubbing a stubby hand just barely against the start of his rocky forehead. It had felt like… ages ago, and yet, the monotony of yesterday's Chimera seemed only brief flashes in comparison.

"Well… I met Argon, of course. We got to talking, I found out I was a three foot tall lizard with blue scales. Did my first cliff jump, she agreed to let me join the guild as her team member. Met you and had that first game of—"

"Apologies, but before that," Binair said. "The very beginning."

The stubby hand moved from Chimera's forehead, while the mind underneath worked to parse the Girafarig's meaning.

"I remember mostly that I was in the water," Chimera continued. "Couldn't see a damn thing because a blinker seed got in my mouth. After getting to the surface, I-I… I think I heard a voice. Damn, what did it say?"

The hand moved to his chin. It was like paddling against the waves even trying to remember the words. The Bagon cringed, desperately trying to find a voice matching the scenery filling his black vision.

"'I apologize for the shock'," Chimera recited, "but for this whole endeavor to work, for me to ever get to see—"

All at once, it hit him. Chimera's heart skipped a beat. His hands trembled against his scales. It… it couldn't be. How could—

"—Her again, my identity must be kept a secret. I hope you understand."

Opening his eyes, Chimera couldn't tell whether they were more in disbelief than his ears. Before him stood Binair, his smirk hidden by a large speaker levitated from the desk to his maw. The synthetic voice was unmistakable.

"I will say, old chum," Binair said, speaker falling to the floor, "you certainly made true on my request to show conviction in your path. I am sorry for the water and blinker seed; I presumed our first meeting would be much more awkward otherwise."

Chimera's left eye twitched. His muscles tensed, his whole being filled with… something. Shock? Confusion? Anger? Perhaps some, though mostly drowned out by the former. The Bagon racked his mind, recalling more and more what happened on his fateful first days. With every second, his incredulous stare waned, while his hands stammered even more.

"Wait," Chimera blurted out," so… the first time we met, t-the tour guide we got off the island, even meeting Argon?! Was it all planned?"

"Argon was a fortunate happenstance," Binair replied, "though you can rest assured I would have pulled you to the shore had she not been there. The smoke and mirrors are something I regret, but in spite of everything, I hope you can understand why I chose them."

His hands clenched. How? Why?! A faint glow again took to Binair's horns, the desk cupboard behind him starting to open. Everything around Chimera seemed cast into a confusing menagerie. Binair. Himself. The very world before him. The Bagon could have taken a thunderbolt to the chest and not been fazed in the least. Around and around his mind spun, desperately trying to piece together the sounds and sights of the last few months into something correhent.

For some reason or another, Chimera could not help but think of the island that had been his home. The monolithic steamboats he spent every day overseeing that delivered their cargo to the winding railways of Faire. Even the drive from port had put him on an innovation the Bagon of prior thought he'd only see in his dreams. A world so different, yet almost unnervingly similar.

And right before him, the Girafarig who knew exactly that. Chimera shook his head; it was a shot in the dark, but could it be?

"It wasn't the acts of any god or legendies that brought me here, was it?" Chimera asked.

Ever so slightly, Binair pursed his maw. The half second of silence was all Chimera needed. The answer was there. They both knew it. All he had to do was press on.

"If not that, old chum," Binair asked, "then what was it?"

An object levitated out of the cupboard just out of Chimera's sight. The Bagon flinched, though settled seeing Binair's loose posture; he looked more like hiding a christmas present than anything malicious. Shutting his eyes, Chimera was lost in thought. His hands continued to shake, not from a lack of evidence in his theory, but an abundance. He'd been ignorant for way too long.

"It was… man."

An almost imperceivable flick sounded right before him. Right after a faint flash of light invaded his shut vision. A few seconds prior, he thought himself numb to anything new, but that chiptune music… he knew it well.

"You're correct, Mr. Droverson. By the way, the cartridge itself was a little corrupted from the water before I brought you over, but I hope you won't mind a little souvenir."

It levitated down, greeting Chimera's hands with the blue plastic sheen of a DS, looking as new as the day he'd bought it.

"I-I… I don't…"

A single question racked the Bagon's mind. It'd stuck in the back of his mind since the beginning, even after he'd thought the device before him, and everything it stood for gone and drowned. His head craned, looking back up to Binair with a face that asked before his maw had even opened.

"Who are you?"

"Me?" Binair replied. "Right now, I'm a talking giraffe with two heads that can levitate objects with his mind. In days prior, however, I'd say I wasn't unlike the human who fell into that icy lake. Neither of us have time for my life story, but a short synopsis…"

It was only then that Chimera got a good look at the large shelves to the left and right of the desk. Working his way up the jumble of books, there wasn't anything that would surprise him from Binair's persona. A worn novel on the bottom row covering economics. An equally dilapidated guide in the middle covering the inner workings of steam engines. As he squinted, however, the authors emblazoning the many spines seemed vaguely… familiar. What type of pokemon was named Edmund Cartwright?!

"I began as little more than an unassuming librarian among impoverished, metropolitan outskirts. The 'bad neighborhoods' drivers take twenty minute detours to avoid, sandwiched between gunshots and gentrification. Subsisting on canned goods and fast food at the end of each work day, I spent years upon decades having barely a dime to spare at the end of each month, but in the end, I had something far greater."

A shudder of familiarity ran down Chimera's spine. Still, going over distant memories made the prospect of monotonous cubicle walls and 70 hour work weeks seem privileged by comparison. A pang of realization hit him as Binair's horns glowed, and a textbook from the top shelf floated between them. Fine dust lurched off the cover with the psychic flick of its pages opening. From the scratched, brownish tinge of the locomotive design before them, it must have been nearly a century old.

"I-It was knowledge then, wasn't it?" Chimera asked, noting the nearly verbatim design to the car they'd driven not twenty minutes ago.

Binair's smile only grew.

"Centuries of foresight that not a single other pokemon knew when my hooves set on this wonderful region. Enough innovation to relieve centuries of trial and error in Faire's populace with a twenty year golden age."

In hindsight, the Bagon cursed himself. The thought had always nagged just how the Girafarig before him could not only know, but create a world so familiar to his own. It was no secret his boss had a fascination with humans, but this?

"W-wait," Chimera stammered, "but how did I—how did you even get here in the first place?! You'd need more than history novels and isekai magical powers to get to a world where the pixels on this screen breath and talk."

"But I did, old chum," Binair replied. "With an entire lifetime to tinker and test my theories, I'm sure even the decrepit Binair that walked on two feet could agree my wager paid dividends."

The crimson shroud covering the monolithic structure behind Binair fell. Chimera backpedaled, shirking as if staring at a giant. Lumbering brass pistons lurched from the floor to the ceiling at every corner of the hexagon. Bridging the gap between each corner were thick metallic walls, bolted in place with circular windows that seemed more at home in a submarine. Closest to himself was the ovular entrance to the conglomeration, a convex door built like a tank, with a small wheel below the window serving as the doorknob. It was only after a tap from Binair's hoof that Chimera snapped out of his trance.

"The perfect entrance to a new world, and a new body to boot. A chance to indulge in everything my prior life had denied; success, companionship, and bringing prosperity to those I held dear. Sound familiar?"

A strange feeling of intensity brewed in Chimera's chest the longer he stared at the device, compounded tenfold knowing who was at his side. True, between the lake spirits, he was no stranger to beings that had lived more than one lifetime, but… was the fountain of youth really just a few feet away? Had the path to fulfill every aspiration really been based on the half gigabyte cartridge in his hand?

"W-wait," Chimera said, "if this really is the portal that bought you from the human world, what's it doing here?"

"I can assure you, the original in our old world was destroyed decades ago as a precaution against being followed, " Binair replied. "This lovely mechanism, as well as its counterpart currently rusting just below where you had your watery entrance were the product of a somewhat more… creative plan, formed perhaps half a year ago."

Well oiled pistons huffed and puffed, bringing up brief bits of steam in their wake. The door itself lay ajar, and through the window Chimera could see a large copper coil hanging from the top. With every second, blue sparks crackled from its surface. Taking a few steps forward, the Bagon set his hand against the door, staring towards the brass, cramped insides of the mechanism; a portal to another world, and he couldn't decide whether to stare in awe, or slam his head against its surface.

"So… that's it then," Chimera said, leaning forward against the door as the pieces slowly started to come together. "I-It was you who brought me over. You who took me to a world where I have nearly everything I could ever want."

"With neither consent nor warning," Binair added, horns drooping in tandem with his ears. "I admit given the circumstances, it was a somewhat self-centered venture. After irreparably altering your life, and putting on a mask to conceal my stake in it, there is only one thing I can offer that I believe would suit a fitting apology."

Though his hand stayed clenched, Chimera could not find the heart to lash out his anger to the Girafarig behind him. Contemplation replaced furry, as a single word panged through his conscious.


The answer was right in front of him, yet a steel wall of disbelief stopped the Bagon from saying it. That same cynical tinge shouted back from its burial at the beach. It didn't make sense. It was too good to be true. It couldn't happen to him. In spite of it all, however, what he couldn't deny was that from the device that had been the key to both his entrance, and the Girafarig behind, was the one trait they both shared. The explanation was right there, with more force than a Rampardos' headbutt could hope to match.

"I-I've been training with you and the guild from almost day one," Chimera whispered. "You took me in, gave me all the opportunities leading that I could ever need. A revolution comes to our doorstep, you show me the pleasant little condo you plan on retiring to, a-and after everything, I think I've realized… you wouldn't trust leading the guild to any pokemon, would you?"

A beat of silence, while Chimera cringed waiting for a rebuke. What made him deserving of this?

"You've figured it out, old chum," Binair replied, his own elation already bursting forth. "I have no doubt of the guild's competence, but for the legacy of the largest institution of Faire to carry on past my time, I knew it would need a certain… human touch to it."

The Girafarig's words were enough to knock Chimera off his feet. He lurched forward, gasping as his forehead slammed against the steel door, slamming it closed. The faint pain of hitting the floor fell on deaf scales. It couldn't be. It was impossible. He was in an especially severe coma. Any minute now, he'd wake up in a cold sweet with a nurse telling him seventy years had passed while flying cars soared past the window.

Somehow, Chimera cackled. A strange, foreign cackle of a 404 error of the mind. Just a few months ago, he'd been less than nothing. A depressed, down on his luck wage slave grasping for a future that couldn't be. Now it was right there. Right in front of—


The robotic speaker briefly shot Chimera from his delirium. More than a few swears left Binair's breath, before he let out a long sigh.

"Apologies, old chum. The device can be a bit finicky, but I hope our old world enjoys the empty air we're sending them. In any case, I think we have something to discuss."

Chimera gave a wordless nod, turning to face Binair. It was all on autopilot now. Ever more electronic crackles sounded behind him through metal walls. Binair's smile, while doubtless full of pride, held a more serious tinge than its bright-eyed beginning.

"Y-you mean—"

"Yes," Binair replied. "Every resource, coin, and faculty of the West Faire Guild shall be placed in your capable hands. It comes with only one condition, old chum. One final test that I have no doubt you'll stand tall against as you always have. Given current events, I presume you know what."

A hasty 'no I don't' stopped just short of leaving Chimera's open maw. The shock and elation that coursed through his being pounded against a sudden tinge of dread up his spine. The answer went unsaid, but not unknown to either. There was only one sole event that had dominated his attention until now.

The brown eyes staring back at Binair went wide open. For long, he'd stood as a bystander. A willfully ignorant Bagon hoping it would all sort itself out. Something in his chest sunk.

"The… the pallids? The revolution?"

"Correct," Binair replied, his own eyes sharpening. "I give this to you as my final request; stop this revolution, so the pokemon of Faire may enjoy the prosperity and stability that they always have. Do this, and the culmination of my, and thousands of other pokemon's efforts on this wondrous island shall be yours."

The die had been cast. The beginnings of a migraine shuddered though Chimera's mind as his thoughts went to war. Everything he could ever need, everything he could ever want was right before him. A legacy ripe for the taking. A future assured once thought lost among the clouds. And yet…

They were out there. Raichu and Charmander. Pokemon he'd only known for perhaps a few months, yet their voices rang as clear through his conscious as if it'd been a lifetime. Even with decent enough justification from an impaled Zorua, by reporting the revolution, he'd gone against their efforts. It was a Bagon who had lit the spark, and now it was his responsibility to stomp out the fire burning through Faire. Against burning ambition, who would get caught in its flames?

"I-I… I understand, Sir," Chimera finally stammered out. "But how are we going to? We've got probably minutes until they're at the guild's doorstep. E-Even with all the soldiers in the world, I'm not sure I can do that without a river of blood."

"A fair point, old chum," Binair replied. "But we must remember that throughout the course of history, very few revolutions stand the test of time."

It seemed that Binair's penchant for secret doors had not faded. A psychic flick of a distant switch, and the brief floorspace between Bagon and Girafarig retracted. It was only looking down that Chimera broke through his revelation to remember why they were there; in a cubby no more than a few feet across, was the familiar azure glow of a time gear. It spun seemingly of its own fruition, with a metallic axle running through its center. Two more axles jutted out in a line, as if begging for the artifacts that until now seemed of no more use than a dead battery.

"After all, I don't think you assumed I sent you through raging waves and chilling mountains all for a new hood ornament," Binair said, giving a lighthearted clomp to the gear's surface. "The research and development division has been very busy with your recent discoveries. A quick inquiry… what is your knowledge of these artifacts?"

They had their own pixel art and a theme song that jingled clear from his memory, but something told Chimera that was less relevant. The Bagon stood in silence, lost in the azure glow of the rotating gear as if it were a metronome.

"Well, from what Eoin told me when he had his lake spirit seminar, they're tools that keep the flow of time in order. Three lake spirits protect—protected them, and they're fueled by the beings of pallids that get remade every time a dungeon resets."

"All true, old chum," Binair replied. "What interests us most in this time of need is a mechanism the gods emplaced, that should save the West Faire Guild just as it saved your team on that mountain."

Recalling the cursory details was like jogging his brain on a test for material crammed the day before, but at Binair's words a memory panged all too quickly. The seething crunch before horrific pain from a Rampardos' skull. The distant numbness of being shocked back to consciousness by his companion. And, directly after that…

He'd seen that same face in more than a few dreams. The feral, malicious snarl of a Rampardos frozen just inches from the killing blow.

"I-I didn't know it at the time," Chimera said, hugging himself as a shudder coursed through his being, "but when the time gear was removed, it sucked up the souls from every pallid in the mountain. Was like time had frozen for them when we walked."

His head raised, rocky forehead smashing the metaphorical lightbulb that had appeared above. Binair's nod was all he needed. All this time, had he really thought the key to all of this no more useful than an especially large nightlight?

"But… but we saw that it only really works in the mystery dungeon the gear is from, Sir," Chimera continued. "How could we use it here?"

"What neither the lake spirits nor Eoin told you, old chum," Binair replied, "is that the time gears have a habit of amplification to them. In their former isolation, the range of the freezing effect extends no larger than their mystery dungeon's perimeter. But when two are conjoined, the pulse is increased, and at three—"

There was a resounding clang as Binair's hoof slammed next to the rotating time gear. It was only then that Chimera noticed the small analogue meter mounted beside the three axles, and the large button at its side.

"—It can be controlled."

Not a word needed to be said to show the gravity of what laid before them. Chimera clutched the bag at his side, the gears to what would freeze the fire overtaking Faire.

"Y-you mean—"

"We bring that third time gear here, old chum," Binair replied, "and every single pallid across Faire will be suspended where they stand. The revolution will end, the pallids will be returned whence they came, and the pokemon of Faire will breathe happily under the capable leadership of their newest guildmaster. I'll be sure to invite you to some beachside cookouts in the Idyll."

In the disarrayed battlefield of Chimera's mind, something shifted. His claws dug into the time gear, blinking again and again as the barrage of questions over the 'why' of the plan were routed. All that mattered now, was the execution; fortune favored the bold.

"I understand, Sir. I'm just… a bit worried is all. Cerise gave me her time gear, but we'd need years to scour all of Faire for the third. We have minutes."

"I can only put my faith in you to expedite attaining the time gear," Binair replied. "But if you could install the one my daughter gifted, finding the third should be a relatively simple affair."

Wordlessly, Chimera complied, tilting his head as he got another good view of the compartment. The gear already in place spun slow but steady, all the while the needle of the meter above jittered as if showing an engine one third's full. His own hands were no less steady taking hold of the time gear, and placing it just over the axle.

"All set, Sir. If you don't mind me saying, I'm not sure how this'll give us an X marks the spot."

"A bit more mental arithmetic is required," Binair replied, tapping his hoof against the glass meter, "but it should be no less simple. This dial will work wonders telling the exact range of the time gear's effect. As it amplifies as the gears are brought closer, and we already know two of three are conjoined like an old married couple, cross referencing the range reading we get should tell us how far the third gear is. Straightforward enough?"

The vast majority of the Bagon's work with numbers usually had far more dollar signs, but he nodded nonetheless. The pull of the axle grew ever more powerful as he inched the gear closer, tugging at his hands until nearly ripping the gear from his grip. There was a loud ting once the axle slid through, and the spokes of the artifacts both Mespirit and Azelf guarded were aligned. Blue sparks crackled from their surface, spinning the gears faster and faster. Binair watched unflinchingly, eyes glued to the needle slamming back and forth from zero to full. A stray spark cracked against Chimera's scales, sending the Bagon back.

Once the static had cleared, and Chimera was rubbing his scales muttering every curse under the sun, it was hard to tell who was more bewildered. Binair blinked, staring at the meter in one of the few moments Chimera had seen his poise falter. The meter itself had settled, only a sliver or two past the two-thirds mark.



Both the front and back of the Girafarig furrowed their brow, lost in thought. Biting his lip, Binair tapped the meter, as if the needle would suddenly jolt to something a bit more comforting.

"Either the artifacts are not as powerful as the best of the guild's calculations, or something has gone wrong," Binair mused. "Even if the gear was at the far end of East Faire, there should be more. Scouts have already checked any other stray islands. If it's not here, then where could it—"

It was Binair's turn for his eyes to shoot wide. Chimera shuffled back, his own mind well at work. If it wasn't anywhere he could walk on either East or West Faire, then the time gear was either at the bottom of the ocean, or…

"It's down," Binair whispered

The Girafarig's eyes trained to the floor. Chimera's tongue stumbled to object, the imagery of a familiar office fading away to an undersea cavern washing over his sight.

"One of West Faire's few underground caves, that's the only option," Binair continued, getting faster by the second. "There's only a few even known, less so suited to house a time gear. I can get to work cross referencing the distance with likely locations. It shouldn't take more than… than…"

A pause, with a look at Chimera like a player called to the field. The Bagon didn't say a word as his own scales tensed; he could hear it too. Even where they were, in an isolated bunker well under the dirt, Girafarig and Bagon could catch the vague sounds of… chanting?

Chimera froze, as if deep under his blue tinge was a being that the time gears could chill. There was only one group who numbered enough for their song to be heard even there. With a turn to the elevator, Binair glanced back.

"Well old chum, it seems you're up. There are names the pokemon of Faire will never know. Henry Ford. John D. Rockefeller. Tonight however, we make history."


Well-Known Member
Chapter 36: The Pallids Sing
The streets of Pith Town ran grey that day. Even as close as Eoin was, the Pallid felt his claw pinching his scales. Months of preparation, deception, and sacrifice all culminating in one cloudy afternoon. They would either walk away victors bathed in the once impossible light of liberty, or colorless stains to the pavement.

It was all or nothing now. Time waited for no one.

Again and again, pokemon of all shapes and sizes poured out of the convey of steamboats parked against Pith Town harbor. Cohesion of any size or shape was nonexistent. Above the endless sea of grey behind him, an Arcinane stepped out from a gangplank, its chest as bare as the Infernape before him. An Oddish was next, nearly shoved out from the force of the pallids behind. Even a Dugtrio (carried by a Golduck with the lack of dirt) made its way across, another trio of eyes staring back at Eoin.

The Charmander could feel his flame blazing as adrenaline wrestled with anxiety. They'd only a single hue to unite them. It was up to him to do the rest. With bated, tepid steps, he went forward, clearing his throat with his claw raised to the sky. Slowly but surely, the constant roar of their collected murmurs drew to a halt.

"Is… is everybody ready?!" Eoin shouted.

A crescendo of caws, yelps, and cheers was the response. Eoin sucked in a breath, his tail flame rustling in the breeze as he turned to face the streets. Fangs grinded while butterfree swam in his stomach; he'd been practising in the mirror for weeks, but it never came any easier.

"W-what do we march for?!"


A step forward, while his maw opened just a bit easier.

"What do we march for?!"


One foot in front of the other. His eyes narrowed, stride steadfast towards the streets ahead. He couldn't stop this. Nobody could.

"What do we march for?!"


Any soul watching above couldn't even catch a glimpse of Pith Town's normally cobblestone amber roads. A constant monochrome mass moved through the streets, various forms blending together like a wall of combee. He'd walked these streets many times before, after all. Not even a week ago he'd sipped a red gummi smoothie at the quaint little outdoor restaurant across the way. And yet… with his tail cover and goggles in the trash, and scale paint long washed off, it seemed almost a different world.

"Pokemon of Faire," Eoin proclaimed, his voice raising in tune with his ember, "we walk through these streets today as friends, and as equals! We ask only your ears, to hear the tragedies that have gone without justice."

A thundering echo of corroboration cheered behind the Charmander.

"You have all been lied to for too long!" an Exploud yelled.

"Your guild masters swept our suffering under the rug for decades!" a Rampardos replied.

"We will be heard!" a Rattata continued, just barely audible against the rest. "And we won't back down!"

Few pallid nor pokemon could ever see a more energetic gathering, yet Eoin's pace faltered just a bit at what he saw; for all the life behind him, the streets that lay before were all but dead. Shut doors and curtained windows greeted them at left and right. For every hurrah, the march's sides seemed only more silent. Eoin blinked to the sky, catching a brief glimpse of a Pancham just before the window shutters slammed. The fear in its eyes was obvious, though… with a tinge of something else underneath. After all, even seeing the grey beings before them speak cognitive sentences was but yesterday a myth.

Rounding a wide corner, their odds fared just as well. On one claw, were the first polychrome pokemon that had stepped out of their homes. A Samurott, Mudsdale, and especially purple Slowpoke to name a few were the first to greet the march from perhaps a dozen feet away. Making up the other claw, were the brandished swords, hooves, and poisonous shell that accompanied their scowls. With a raise of his claw, the Pallid's march crept to a halt.

"Greetings," Eoin opened, putting on a gentle smile. "We apologize for interrupting your morning routine. Our purpose for being here is to inform the citizens of Faire of the grave injustices that have—"

"Leave," the Samurott responded. "I… I don't know how thousands of pallids that can speak got into Pith Town, but we're not going to let these streets or our private property become a giant mystery dungeon."

Any calls of agreeance from the pokemon beside the Samurott were instantly drowned out from their grey opposites.

"What right do you have to say that?!"

"This island is ours as much as yours!"

"Move! Or you'll be moved."

Hollers, countercries, and chants fluctuated back between the two sides like an ever increasing pinball. Eoin's scales flinched, nearly overloaded from the sheer noise between them. Again, his claw raised, only finding moderate success as the shouts on one side dulled to piercing murmurs.

"Please!" Eoin yelled. "We come with the best intentions. I offer my guarantee neither your, nor any pokemon of Faire's property has anything to fear. We want only to establish a dialogue! We… we…"

"I-I know you."

It was barely a whisper against the dozen interjections, yet Eoin's eyes shot wide. That voice, where was it?

With his gaze craning like a Venonat, Eoin saw it. Nestled behind the Samurott, tucked against a door just open enough to peek out of, stood an unassuming Oshawott. Nestled close with her flippers hugged loosely around was a motherly Empoleon, seemingly ready at the slightest provocation to tug the otter back inside.

"You're… you're that Cha—"

Eoin blinked, craning his head to try and hear the Oshawott.

"I-I remember! You were there whe—"

"We need to get to the Guild Hall!"

"They'll box us in if we stop here!"

"You're not going anywhere! I'll sooner drop dead than let the creatures I fought on the daily tread through our streets like they own the pla—"


Eoin maw laid agape, somehow even more surprised at his shout than the pallids and pokemon surrounding. He certainly couldn't fault the results. Save for a few dissonant whispers, the populated streets of Pith Town fell silent. The Oshawott fell back into her mother's flippers as Eoin met her gaze, suddenly realizing the spotlight she had earned.

"I'm… I am sorry for that," Eoin continued, holding a pensive smile to the otter. "Please, what were you saying?"

"W-well, it's just… I just…" the Oshawott replied. "T-the library, when you had those funny goggles and that tail thingy."

The past few weeks had fallen upon him like a blur. A seemingly endless flow of tense meetings, high stakes missions, punctuated with each crawl through five hundred yards of waste. The Pallid had very few times for respite in the past months, but when he did…

Eoin blinked, the memory falling before him.

"You," Eoin stammered, claw raising to his chin, "you said your name was Emma, correct? The Oshawott last week that asked me where the aviation section was?"

A hasty nod. The Empoleon squinted, sizing up the Pallid as if trying to match an alien to a memory. A few seconds of thought had her eyes draw as wide as saucers. It… it couldn't be.

"R-right," Emma replied. "It's so cool seeing pokemon swimming through the air like flying types, isn't it? I-I remember I was just about to leave, but then I saw you had that book with the Alomomola on the title. Was it a sports book? W-what was the title again? Courts? Courting? Something like that."

That single comment made Eoin's flame swirl more than leading a revolution ever could. He looked away, not noticing the befuddled crinkle of the Samurott's muzzle.

"Wait, you like planes? What's your favorite type?"

Both Charmander and Oshawott jumped up at the third voice. Eoin glanced behind him, spotting the grey beak of a Fledgling peaking from behind his legs. Even as hidden as it was, Emma sucked in a gasp spotting the Pallid's ragged appearance. His feathers were torn every which way. Stress bars ran uniformly through each quill. Most distinct were the clean cuts on each side of the Fletchling's wing; he wasn't flying anywhere anytime soon.

"Well I," Emma stammered, fiddling with her flippers, "I-I guess the CG-4, those gliders they have flying over both islands. I-I was just about to start building a model when all these grey pokemon showed up."

The monochrome Fletchling's eyes lit up. He pecked at himself, blinking fast with a question just on the tip of his beek.

"Can… can I help?"

Pallid and pokemon alike stared between the two. It was like a pack of wolves had just burst into suburbia, with fangs no different than yesterday yet suddenly speaking like any neighbor. A soft breeze flowed between Oshawott and Fletchinder, their stares curious, yet as fragile as any leaf.

"W-well," Emma replied, turning to the Samurott, "Dad?"

The Samurott's claw clenched around his sword, nose crinkling. A blaze of inspiration shot through Eoin at his hesitation. Without a doubt, he and the pokemon behind remained no more trustworthy than any wolves to the pokemon in front. But that pause, with the Samurott's sword to the floor… it was all they needed.

"Your daughter will have that playdate, and many more with your approval," Eoin said. "We don't ask for the pokemon of Faire to immediately welcome with open arms beings they've often fought the aggression of, but is it too much to ask to share the streets for one day? We need only that to prove ourselves worthy of partnership."

The pokemon before Eoin looked about as trusting as a Zangoose against a Seviper's tail. However, the innocuous gaze of Fletchling and Oshawott kept neither him nor any pokemon across the street from releasing a blast of water or obscenities. His sizable beard drooped while he gave a tepid nod, the other pokemon likewise stepping aside. It was a long way to companionship, but no pallid was in the mood to be picky. The gleam of swords, claws, and cannons against the sun was enough to get the message across; they'd be on best behavior.

With a hearty thanks to Oshawott and Fletchling, the pallids were on the move. While the opening minutes turned to nearly a half hour, once scarcely opened windows and doors unlocked to reveal the pokemon behind. Bewilderment picked up where fear of life and limb had subsided. How did the deadly tormentors of mystery dungeons learn to sing?!

"Will our songs ring true through Faire?"

A chorus ran through the streets with every step. A bard he was not, but it would do.

"Will our chains break everywhere?"

Another corner rounded brought the final challenge ahead. In shining marble, across the vast expanse of Pith Town center, stood the monolithic West Faire Guild Hall. Even with it but a tiny view at its distance, Eoin could see the long line of barricades that stood before them. With a cough that betrayed his bated tone, the Charmander raised his voice.

"Our colors fly, abuse deny. With a guild corrupt, who will stand up?"

They certainly weren't alone anymore. Dozens, if not hundreds of pokemon were on the opposite ends of the barricade. Some stood sentry with piercing eyes, others rushed back and forth stacking sandbags, bricks, and even loose pieces of furniture to cover the gaps. More and more residents of Pith Town had left their homes to watch the unprecedented movement. Some looked with held breaths from the shops and homes of the western side, others sat on or around the newly constructed stage on the Eastern half, craning for better views of the grey wave approaching across no man's land.

"Through strife and ache, our wills remain. Will you go forth, if we are—"

A volley of piercing water jetted out towards the grey sea, crashing just a few feet before the pallids. Eoin stumbled back, a once faint voice pounding at his subconscious to turn tail and run. Vines, claws, and feathers alike helped him back up, just as he spotted the source; water types dotted the barricaded, the foremost a Carracosta with his maw still dripping. Perhaps equally surprising were the other pokemon manning the sentry stations. The Marowak, Graveler, and Palossand were expected, but the Deerling at their side looked two pallid steps away from a nervous breakdown.

"T-that's far enough!" Flora shouted, peeking her head just above the barricade.

"The Guild Hall and its perimeter are closed off, today," Helios continued. "You all can march around Pith Town till sundown for all we care, but one foot closer and you'll get more than a warning shot."

Eoin gritted his teeth, wiping the loose drops of water from his scales. His feet wavered, tail waving back and forth in thought. Open claws and maws gleamed in the barricade ahead. Could they back down? Months of planning had all relied on holding around the center of their grievances. They'd only one day to make a statement. One day to show the pokemon of Faire their will was firm. Wordlessly, Eoin glanced back, searching his kin for options. The ragged yet burning faces that stared back answered true. It was decades too late to back down now.

The Charmander raised both claws, a single foot inching forward. Flora inched back seemingly in tandem, while the cannons beside her took aim. They… they wouldn't.

"We mean no one any harm," Eoin replied, his first foot hitting the cobblestone ahead. "Our experiences have led us to believe only assembling around the Guild's center will bring required change. We will not strike first, but should the need arise…we will defend ourselves."

Inch by inch, the pallids behind matched his steps. Helios and Eoin stared at each other across the town square with chips in place. A game of chicken, deadlier than any crash if bluffs fell.

"This is your last warning! We're under orders."

"We want a life of peace and stability as much as you do!" Eoin shot back, pallids moving ever closer. "We'll stop twenty paces before the barricade. If you want us to halt, simply bring out the guildmaster and we can show the pokemon of Faire what he's been—"

Eoin couldn't get in another word before a jet of water shot against his chest. He gasped mid fall, crashing to the floor with every bit of air sucked away. It was like a Crabrawler had just punched him with a fistful of acid. Gasps and yells erupted every which way while he stared to the blurry sky. Greeting him once he'd regained some sense were the shuffling feet of pallids about to charge. Claws lit up with fire. Fangs sparked with volts. Eoin lurched up in a clumsy stupor, eyes wide with his claw to the air.

"Wait!" Eoin sputtered, in a vain attempt to quell the wave of pallids. "N-no, don't…"

"Hold your fire!"

Eoin couldn't look. His eyes shut, waiting for the inevitable war cries… that never came. That voice—Amidst the chaos, he couldn't be certain, but only one hard headed pokemon matched.

"For God's sake," Chimera shouted, "hold your fire."

Again and again Eoin blinked, Psyducks swimming in a circle around his head. What greeted him looking up was what could only be described as a blue and grey torpedo hurdling down from the top of the Guild Hall to in front of the barricade. Pokemon and Pallid alike flinched with the resounded crash of forehead against cobblestone. Dusting himself off (not exactly his best landing), Chimera shot Eoin a toothy grin. The wink that followed drew as many butterfrees as reassurance in the Pallid's chest.

"Sir?" Flora asked.

Chimera turned back to the troops, a hand lowering to his exploration bag. He felt around, as if trying to make sure a certain something hadn't broken in the crash.

"I'm… I'm sorry for being late to the party," Chimera replied. "The Presider has sent me to oversee the situation. Your orders are out of date."

Even under his mask, the furrow in Helios' brow was obvious. Eoin's just barely matched it. Charging pallids slowed to a halt, eyeing the new piece on the board.

"He," Helios said, "he made it pretty clear we're to keep them outside of the perimeter. By any means necessary. What's changed?"

Chimera's forehead drooped. He turned to the side, so both barricades and pallids were in view. A low roar of murmurs drifted from each.

"That's on a need to know basis, soldier," Chimera replied. "The important thing is that Binair will be busy for the next couple hours, and until further notice, our grey guests will have the run of Pith Town and the perimeter. No attacks of any kind unless they strike first. Is that clear?"

A jolt of pain shot through Eoin as he tried to stand. At what was before him though, it was an afterthought. Could… could it be? It was the Bagon ahead that was the reason they'd risked life and limb rushing a march months ahead of schedule. The Bagon before them that was, at best, ambiguous between distinction in the guild and his kin's liberty. Was it all an act? A double agent playing the conformist? He knew well enough the Bagon wore masks well.

The ethereal flame around Helios' bone slowly grew, waving in the wind. He looked to Chimera, then to the tidal wave of pallids ahead. Then to Chimera. Then to the pallids.

"Sir," Helios continued, voice taking its time with each word. "You know the risk we all have being knee-deep in this, don't you? It might not end well for 'mons like us if the pallids get what they want. Memories don't fade away that easy."

Flora wasn't the only pokemon who jerked up at the connotation. Sandslash grinded their claws together. Typhlosion and Magmortar felt ashes dancing in their chests. Murmurs grew to strained chatter, all focused on the ever so small Bagon between them and the pallids. Against it all, however, a fire lit in Chimera's eyes. One hand raised to the barricade, while his other drifted down to his weapon, keeping it at his side.

"That is not for us to decide," Chimera shot back. "They're here now, and the politics of it all isn't our responsibility. Our job right now is protecting the pokemon of Faire. If that means letting the mystery dungeon pokemon have a crowd throughout Pith Town, so be it."

He stepped out, in a careful march across the barricade. One by one Chimera met each guild member with a piercing gaze while his grey cape fluttered. Some stared back, others mumbled nervous or not so flattering words, but they all listened.

"Any member of the guild blasts that Charmander again, or gives those pallids any more reason to so much as throw a rock this way, they'll answer to me."

A beat of silence, with weary looks this way and that. The Bagon turned to face them all, his platinum badge glinting in the sun.

"The Presider will hear. Won't take more than a few line report once this is all over to show any loose cannons what it's like on the other side of the fence. Do I make myself clear?"

"... You," Helios said, "you can't be seriously—"

A sharp thwack cut through the air. Chimera looked back, a bolt from his crossbow soaring straight up.

"Do I make myself clear?!"

The tentative nods that followed were high contenders for the greatest sight Eoin had seen that day. The Pallid risked letting out a high pitched yip smiling to Chimera. He smiled back, of course, though… a bit less than he'd seen before. A hand raised to shield his eyes from the sun, blocking his face all the while.

"Then… what's keeping us from seeing the two-face himself?" A grey Drednaw in the crowd yelled. "The high and mighty Presider couldn't be arsed to face his demons? We're not worth his time?!"

"You'll get to see him soon!" Chimera replied, beating even the concurring salvo of questions from the pallids. "The Presider… he has family matters to deal with. There's a Zorua in this very hall that's yet to fully recover."

"He really can't step outside for two minutes?!"

"There are hundreds that have suffered much worse while he turned a blind eye!"

"He can't put this off forever!"

The Bagon's countenance softened in a silent plea to Eoin. Pallids looked ahead, expecting a chant of agreeance from the Charmander. With his own nod, however, one that not a single other pallid could fully understand, he stood still.

"Please!" Chimera implored. "These things take time. This is all I ask. A few hours, and then we can sort out this decades-long clusterfu—"

Chimera had a very hard time speaking with a slip of paper slammed against his face. It fluttered haphazardly against his forehead, until a stubby hand raised to grip the very edge. The paper stayed in Chimera's hand for a dead second, just long enough to catch a glimpse of the photographs inside. His grip loosened, letting it flutter away in the wind. Not like he needed to worry. Not like Eoin, Flora, Helios, or any other being pallid or pokemon had to worry.

On that day, the skies of Pith Town rained down with many more where that came from.

Eoin's claw raised, shielding his eyes from the sun to see the heavens dotted with every flying type under the sun. Paper rained down like snow, with a singular, large silhouette on fast approach. Steading himself to his feet, Eoin's tail burned an inferno.

"Right on time," the Charmander whispered.


"Ya sure this is a good idea?!"

The wind flapping across Argon's ears turned her Mantine transport's shout into a whisper. With every foot closer to terra firma, the grey wave ahead gained more detail. She could almost make out individual faces now, from both them and the long barricade stretching from end to end. Of course where she stood, that was the least of her concerns.

"I-I… I think so. Yes," Argon replied, taking a deep breath to sooth her mind. "I've been practising a lot with my dad. Should be the easiest thing to do today."

Catalina merely shrugged, the movement of her sizable flipper wings diving them down over the crowd. Her eyes craned to the floor, until a crosshair set over the large stage between Guild Hall and pallids.

"Alrighty. Your funeral."

One flipper went up. One went down. Catalina's body craned, twirling in a roll to put even the most experienced fox to shame. Once right side up, there was no longer any Raichu at her back.

Dozens, hundreds of pokemon gasped, some covering their eyes seeing the orange, yellow, and pink blur speeding down to the stage. Most waited for the inevitable crash of the Raichu soaring to the floor. Waited. Waited. Waited…

A few dared to look, shooting back with faces of equal or greater shock. The pink aura around her manifested further, turning a formula one race to the ground into a brisk drive, then a hearty run, until—

Argon hit the stage, tucking and rolling with gritted teeth. She'd… certainly be feeling her knee in the morning, but landings prior had been worse. Once his rapid blinks had slowed, and his shock with it, Chimera couldn't help but chuckle; it was a better entrance than his.

It was only after dusting herself off that Argon got a full glimpse of her audience. Thousands of grey pupils stared up to her with renewed vigor, while thousands more of their tinged counterparts held a mix of shock and incredulity. For better or worse it had worked. All eyes were on her.

"A-Argon?!" Flora stammered. "How are you… why are you…"

A pit formed in the Deerling's throat, seeing they weren't the only ones that had noticed the paper rain scattering the floor. Nearby the stage a Buizel stood in the surrounding crowd, picking up one of the pamphlets.

The first thing that greeted her was a black and white photo, showing an equally monochrome Blitzle, hauling a plow behind through the dirt with barbed wire fences in the background. A flip, and there was an Ivysaur, its back left foot cut clean off in some long past accident. The Buizel looked over, spotting a decidedly more colorful Ivysaur in a thousand yard stare, seemingly about to gag at the sight. She couldn't blame them.

One more showed a dozen pallids sleeping in what could only be described as a shelf. A single glance up with wide, frozen eyes revealed the Eevee, Tyrogue, and Charmander in the photo being the very ones before them.

Hundreds of pokemon at the Buizel's left, right, back, and front followed the trend. The photos, they just kept coming.

"What… what is the meaning of this?!" the Buizel asked, glaring back up at Argon.

Electrons crackled down Argon's cheeks through her body, from tail to floor. She took a deep breath, paws clenched.

"Y-you've… "

She'd had weeks upon months to plan this very moment. Every word had been said ten times over in her head. An until now silent debate that she had to win. Yet it never came any easier. The Pichu of prior years, the Raichu of prior months would have sooner frozen to death than face the eyes and responsibility ahead. Yet here she was.

"You've all been deceived," Argon said, her stance firming as a crackle of light sparked from her tail. "We've all been deceived! The pallids we all thought only a ceaseless aggression… they deserve so much more, but hidden in the depths of East Faire, all we've given them is pain and compulsion."

A murmur of debate drifted across the crowd, suddenly hearing the news from a form far harder to dismiss. Could it be true? Who's to say the photos weren't faked? Even if it was, what responsibility did they have in the politics of it all? Whether in shock, horror, or morbid curiosity, most stayed, though at very edges the crowd started to disperse. A current of stress began to build. One by one families walked back to their houses, faces just a tad drooped. This wasn't worth the stress nor the confusion.

"Wait!" Argon called. "I… I know what it's like to be where you're standing. None of us blame you for it. From one pokemon to another, all I ask is that you take a good long look at what's happened today. Please, ask yourself, why did this happen?"

It certainly wasn't hard to meet her request. The evidence was right before their eyes, in flesh and ink. Wary faces looked up to the Raichu, more curious of her story than she'd imagined any pokemon would ever be. Families halted, turning back just a tad to the sudden orator.

"Thank you," Argon continued, sucking in a breath. "Thank you so much. I let this happen just as much as any other pokemon. It's so… reassuring to pull back and focus on you and your own. If this had happened a year earlier, and another pokemon was on this stage, I'd probably be in my apartment sipping tea."

It was hard to tell whether any lingering guilt over the crowd had gone up or down. It ebbed and flowed, all the while the Raichu on stage hoped and prayed her voice was loud enough to reach the back. For years shouting had always seemed a foreign concept, but tomorrow would not forgive a tepid tongue.

"But," Argon said, "b-but there came a point where I couldn't avoid it any longer. It was months ago the day I saw cruelty too great to ignore. For Faire, that day is today. This day affects all of us, one way or another. It will next week. Next month. Next year. I—"

A faint tick of the mind locked her tongue. Dozens of pokemon blinked, seeing the Raichu mumble something under her breath.

"Why now?!" her thoughts pinged back. "Don't panic. Don't… panic. Deep breaths. Deep... breaths.

"I-I came to Faire," Argon continued, a paw hitting her chest while a new vigor ran through her. "I came to Faire because I was told it was a place where anyone who puts in the effort can have a comforting life. That tree hasn't rotted yet, but it's up to us to make it bear fruit."

Her eyes nearly closed, bracing for a deadly silence. What she found however was a single tentative nod from the Buizel below, slowly growing to a dozen more while hushed whispers grew.

"I mean, it couldn't hurt, could it?"

"Would be pretty friggin weird seeing the grey 'mons I fought years ago walking the streets. Unthinkable almost."

"It'd be like a refugee crisis trying to integrate them across Faire."

"Won't ever be perfect. Nothing is, but it's a heck of a lot better than inciting chaos through the streets."

"I… I never questioned it before, but if the the same beings that we eat can talk like any other pokemon, what else have they been hiding from us?"

"Can't exactly send'em all back after today… can we?"

Across the way, Argon's ears perked up, catching a glimpse of a certain Charmander. He'd seen better days (a little bed rest afterwards couldn't hurt for the both of them), but something about that wide-eyed smile always had a way of helping her from the brink. She cleared her throat, beaming back with nothing to hide.

"Not everything will change overnight," Argon replied. "It'll be a long, cold process even with everyone's help, but… that's a small price for everything we'll gain. Each and every one of us will make history today. I'm sure of it."


She turned, more than a little taken aback by the Bagon walking onto stage. He held a smile, no doubt, though... every step seemed a bit perturbed, as if he were walking up to the gallows.

"It's," Chimera continued, "it's good to see you. You all put on a hell of a show. I know a song and dance academy that could give Eoin's chops some good lessons. Could make a pleasant evening for you two."

Argon suppressed a chuckle, walking up to meet the Bagon. A long silence held between the two, the chatter of the crowd fading away. There'd been a pit forming in her stomach ever since he'd burst into that shed, knowing they'd end up on opposite sides of the barricade. Yet… were they?

"It's good to see you too," Argon replied, just a tinge of solemn to her voice. "I'm honestly surprised it went as well as it did. It looked bleak at times for all of us, but I don't think Faire will ever look the same after today."

"R-right," Chimera whispered, his gaze craned to the floor. "And… Argon—"

The Bagon nearly bit his tongue, hiding his shaking hands just a second too late from Argon. She tilted her head. It was only natural to be nervous today, but there was something in her partner's tell Argon couldn't put her paw on. Brown irises met blue as Chimera looked up. There was a tension in them, like a rat trapped in a maze, looking everywhere for the way out.

"I-I… I wish you the best for the future," Chimera finally got out. "You're up here, fighting for what you believe in. Come what may, that's all any of us can ever do..."

Argon couldn't get in another word before her partner did an about-face, heading off the stage.


No response. The Bagon's hands clenched each other behind his back. A long line of shade fell upon the stage as a cloud drifted by, only making clearer his trepidation. With a few second's pause, Argon took her own step forward.

Something was different about the Bagon she'd first found upon Faire's waves, but what?


Well-Known Member
Chapter 37: A Tea Party Prelude
What she was doing was just a precaution, of course. It had to be. There very well could have been a river of blood through Pith Town if it weren't for a certain Bagon's actions. Had it all been an act since he'd burst into the shed? The necessary sacrifice of a double agent to protect their march? Every bit of her being was quick to shout yes, but the voice remained. This… a discrete check on her partner couldn't hurt.

A familiar tension ran through Argon's body stepping off from Catalina's wing. Paws and feet hit ceramic shingles, saving her from a twenty foot plummet to the streets below. It was just on the outskirts of the town square, more than secluded enough to not bat an eye from the grey sea or barricades in the distance.

Argon was quiet as a mouse making her way across the adjacent rooftops. With every step, crawl, or jump she got closer, until the walls of the Guild Hall towered just a single street away. It was easy enough to look down behind the barricades, where not a pokemon nor pallid outside could see. Shifts of guild members moved to and from the front lines, where the faint chatter of doubts clashed with dogged determination. Tense as ever, yet business as usual. Except…

Bingo. There he was. A lone blue silhouette behind the Guild Hall, nearly blending into an innocuous little corner of the defenses. Even from here she could tell his hands were still shaking. Argon's own breaths chittered getting up.

"P-please," Argon whispered. "Prove me wrong. We're in this together."

Before long Argon was crouched down behind another slanted rooftop, barely more noticeable than the clouds to any pokemon below, yet just close enough to hear behind the walls. Chimera was clear as day now, his foot tapping like it was the end of the world. He leaned against the guild wall, clenching his cape just a few feet away from an emergency exit that had seen better days. Could he really be—

Argon's ears perked up, nearly jumping out of her fur while the rusted door peered open. Chimera was no less startled, dashing back to give a salute. There he was.

"It's good to see you, old chum. I… I don't… today could have certainly gone better, but I believe we have everything in place."

From the Girafarig's appearance, that was the understatement of the century. He stood up straight, of course, yet there was a certain shallowness in Binair's eyes. His breaths were quick, horns glowing faintly as if perpetually stuck in check.

"I apologize, Sir," Chimera replied, "It's just with how things went today I didn't see any other option that would—"

A hoof raised.

"You did everything right," Binair replied. "No one can take back what's happened, and it'll take much time and effort to bring even some sense of normalcy back to Faire. In spite of everything, however… with what's developed, I'm confident that this revolution will conclude with no bloodshed to either side. I trust we both know what must happen next?"

Chimera's silence spoke volumes. Binair's tail shifted left and right with every second, on constant watch to what lay beyond the barricades. The Girafarig's wording could go either way, yet Argon could feel her tail crackle in anticipation.

"I… I don't envy your position," Binair continued, setting a hoof to the Bagon's shoulder. "Your conflicts of interest are warranted, old chum, but I will not mince words when I say this is our most pressing hour. Thousands of pokemon, both inside and out of this guild are relying on us to ensure their safe and prosperous future. We get through today, and a lifetime of competent leadership under the West Faire Guild's newest presider will follow."

Argon's paws scraped against the shingles. Things had gone from bad to worse. Some hidden part of the Raichu had expected her old boss would have some ace up his sleeve to stop reform, but that ending note… he couldn't possibly be talking about—

Nothing Argon did could stop her gasp. The answer was right in front of her. Binair's tail darted up from the faint noise, just barely missing a silhouette duck behind the roof. It was just enough to snap the Bagon from his mulling. He stood still, as if trying to weather the storm of two voices shouting into each of his eardrums.

"I-I understand, Sir," Chimera replied, "I really do, I-I just don't—there's this damn sinking feeling in my stomach that I can't get rid of. I know what I have to do, but I'm not sure I'll be able to live with it."

The hoof set off his shoulder, before holding itself before Chimera. It was a strange gesture, yet one strangely familiar to the Raichu. From the way Chimera stared at the hoof, while his own hands seemed locked neither forward nor back, he seemed to agree.

"I know that feeling all too well, old chum," Binair said. "This path is yours to choose and yours alone. The responsibilities of leadership are never easy, but whichever way you step, I've always held you'll be the one to leave their mark on the world. With all the time we have known each other, I have only one question."

A second passed, while one wary pokemon looked to another. If it weren't for the shock of dread coursing through her fur, Argon would have almost found it touching.

"From one human to another, do I have your confidence that our offer stands?"

Please don't. By Arceus don't. There's a better way.

Binair's eyes widened as Chimera's hand reached forth, only to stop not an inch from his hoof. He turned back, half tempted to smash his forehead against the marble.

"I'll do my best," Chimera replied. "That's all I can offer. Please, just… do you have a map?"

Girafarig and Raichu alike held their breath. Binair's horns glowed a dull pink, as a hastily drawn piece of parchment levitated forth.

"That is all I ask, old chum. I've finished cross referencing our findings with expected caverns under West Faire. There's only one that should fit the description of Mespirit's Lake. A few hours' journey, and once you're back we can bring these trials and tribulations to a close. Until then, I shall maintain that Cerise is in good health."

All Chimera could offer back was a simple nod before he stepped off, map in hand. His walk soon turned into a run, purely on instinct. He could do little else, with only inner voices to stop and think through an unending march.

Argon was split between melancholy and uttering a barrage of curses at herself getting up. She should have seen this coming sooner. She should have done something sooner, but there they were. A human with only vaulting ambition to prick the spurs of his intent, a pokemon who'd been too content to stop him. She set her eyes on the Bagon's back, keeping a safe distance for now. There would only be one chance to find out what this ace in the hole was. One chance to stop him.

One chance to see how human her partner truly was.


"Just what the hell am I doing?"

No matter what Chimera did, he couldn't stop that damn question from pinging through his head. Time blended together into a menagerie of arguments, interjections, and migraines with every step down. He'd been spelunking for… how long now? His legs were numb from duckwalking since the past three stalactite clusters, that was for sure. The underground river that soaked cape and foot alike a silty brown couldn't have been earlier than the two hour mark. A thin gash sliced across his knee, a reminder of the rappel that had been just a bit too reckless, but he pushed on.

"Time waits for no man," Chimera repeated, smashing his forehead into the wall of sediment covering a dead end. "Certainly doesn't wait for a friggin Bagon."

This was wrong. By every contemporary standpoint this was wrong. He'd picked up a textbook, he knew what side of history he was on. Thousands of beings, as well as the closest thing he had to friends in this strange new world were crying for change, and where was he? Crawling like a rat through a tunnel, scrambling for the only thing that could stop it. What a joke.

The fates seemed to be in similar good humor. With eyes glazed over, and thoughts of a similar fog, Chimera made it another few steps before tripping on a small stalagmite just under the river line. Cold mullings met colder water. The lantern he'd held, whose faint amber glow reflected against shining rocks and minerals fell to pitch black. His labored breaths soon turned panicked.

A quick, morbid chuckle left Chimera's maw. Here he was, a so-called adventurer stuck in a seemingly endless cavern with nobody but a Giratina on his shoulder to occupy. Exhausted. Very little food and a bit of seeds. At least he still had the thermos. No source of li—

Wait. Except…

And to think, just a few short months ago he'd thrown his salvation into the depths. A stubby, numb hand reached into his bag, retrieving a once forgotten piece of plastic. One flick later, and two shining screens lit the way. His steps weren't exactly lighter, but he was back on track.

It could have been a couple hours, or a couple minutes before Chimera noticed. It'd been a long time since he'd glanced at two screens, after all, whilst squeezing between two jagged outcrops of stone. While the calendar and settings stared back at him, however, it dawned on the Bagon the innocuous black circle in between the two screens. It took a second of thought to even remember what it was; a brass lens with a wooden box large enough to be a table was far more common in this new world.

"Never really should have sprung for the DSi," Chimera mumbled, "but, if that's there…"

A bit of the Bagon didn't want to look, but buried thoughts and curiosity got the better of him. It'd be weird to say the least, after waking up every day to see a creature looking back in the mirror that couldn't even reach the upper cupboard, though the novelty was undeniable.

A few clicks (a bit more than necessary with big, meaty claws), and he was there. Chimera's hands clenched, walking forward even with his eyes glued to the screen.

Brown eyes met each other. A face tucked into the past, brought back in glorious 256 by 192 resolution. In the faint light of the screen, Chimera could see his Bagon reflection faintly above his human visage. It certainly wasn't his most flattering look.

"And there he is," Chimera said, letting out a slow chuckle, "the two-bit, down on his luck human that couldn't keep a stable job to save his life. Literally."

The thin plastic creaked against Chimera's clenched hands. The Bagon could hear his breaths seethe with every memory that came flushing back. Even that dense, human face made him want to look away.

He really could have made it. At least, if he'd tried a little harder. Sure, he'd had ten times the memories sitting at a desk chair than any couch, but a little bit more effort… an approach just a bit more studied, and he could have gone down in his prior world as something more than a wage slave. Something more than nothing.

And now… where was he? That was simple enough. He was a two-foot tall creature from a video game walking down a precipice. A Bagon with wealth, renown, and hundreds upon thousands of others under his responsibility. A pokemon one day more from… from...

For no particular reason, Chimera smashed a nearby rock to bits. There was the rub. He stood alone, with an offer before him he knew damn well he would have killed for yesteryear. Just one day more, and he could become more than that human ever would. Someone that would not be forgotten. Someone that wouldn't have to beg and labor to push the boulder up one more day.

Something in Chimera's glare hardened staring at his past. This was his second chance. Could… could he live with himself not to take it?

He almost didn't notice when a faint, yet ever so familiar blue light shined around the corner. Fear, excitement and adrenaline all coalesced. It was like reaching the top of a rollercoaster. Only one way to go from here.

The lake spirits were certainly minimalist decorators. Cyan light poured up from the seemingly endless chamber, lighting up every corner of the high, jagged ceiling like stars on a clear sky. Where was Mespirit? Probably off playing Dungeons and Dragons with her siblings, if what Eoin said was true.

Only experience stopped Chimera from falling flat on his ass when his foot met the ice. After a fumbled recovery Chimera dropped to his knees, looking upon the vast, frozen lake that covered every inch of the cave's floor. Instinctively the Bagon bundled his cape around him, the only protection he had against air somehow even more chilling. Every breath brought another cloud of fog. It was more than nervousness that made him quake.

"T-t-that's one step down at least."

Next was the more pressing. Where exactly was it? It had always been clearer in prior caverns. Obviously the gear was this cavern's makeshift night light, but where exactly was the light—there!

Now for the easy part. He sped off across the ice, to where underwater light refracted off the lake in a familiar pattern. Brownish grey stalagmites in the distance grew easier to see with every step. They jutted upward to the ceiling, like skyscrapers against a distant plain. Somewhere in Chimera's mind, he chuckled; no harm in a little irony.

There it was. Murky below its few inches of glacial covering, but there nonetheless. Frost covered Chimera's claws wiping for a clearer view. His entire future, laid out before him.

The faint reflection of Chimera against the ice was smashed to bits with the first hit. Thundering crunches reverberated through the ceilings, as a forehead shaped dimple cut further and further. A final crack punctuated the break. Emerald light poured up through the water, from a time gear just a grasp away from even a Bagon's stubby hands. A chilling shock coursed through him feeling it's sleek, metallic surface.

He had it. The gear that would put the nail in that human's coffin. All that was left was…


A call rang out. Every bit of Chimera's blood ran cold. H-how did… no, she couldn't be—

It took much of the Bagon's willpower to even turn around. It wasn't a mirage. At the entrance, perhaps a couple dozen feet away, stood Argon. Her fur was sullied with silt, paws raw from crawling through rock and river. She hid the cold well, but the jitters of her maw gave her away. There was a weariness in Argon's face he hadn't seen since the mountain. Raichu and Bagon, stares unbroken in a silent realization of where the other stood.

"H-how—so that was… how much did you hear?" Chimera asked.

Argon sucked in a breath, nose crinkling. She stepped on her tail, in an uneven levitation across the ice. From where she was, the Raichu looked pretty tall.

"I heard enough," Argon replied. "Please, I have to know… why are you doing this? Is Binair's position really worth all the suffering? We both know the pallids deserve so much more."

The Bagon's teeth grinded together. Here he was, red handed. No more playing the impartial, the unaligned. There was only one path he could take.

"I'm," Chimera whispered, voice slowly raising, "I'm… I'm doing this because I don't know if I can risk going back. You know who I was when we met on the beach. Every single day of my goddamn life I'd wasted beating my head against a wall. The unnamed, unknown accountant that risked not making rent if I took a **** at the wrong office hours."

It… it wasn't like it'd be doom and gloom if he did get the position, right? He could wait a few years till Binair got complacent once the revolution ended, sign a few bills that'd shut the farms down. Have their cake and eat it too. Would Binair allow it from his retirement? Would all the pallids mind—

Argon's azure eyes, and his own memories told the truth. Who was he kidding? There were only two ways this could end. His partner stood silent, waiting for him to finish.

"I-I think back to all that," Chimera continued, "and here I am now. With the opportunity right in front of me. I know I shouldn't, i-it's just… there's this damn voice in my head saying that if I get this position, I can die a happy man."

Ever so faintly, Argon's ears drooped. She hopped off her tail, not a foot from her partner. Under the rebuttal forming in her mind, a small part of the Raichu appreciated the irony; even from the beginning, their heavens had been each other's hell.

"I'm sorry, Chimera," Argon replied, "but there's more at stake, more that matters here than just you or me. You were the one that helped me get out of my rut and have some ambition in life, but… there's a limit. What means everything to us isn't any more important than every single pallid above. We have a responsibility to them."

"I-I know," Chimera stammered back, just a bit too fast. "I really do, but I'm not… I can't… god ****ing dammit."

He reeled back, kicking a chunk of stray ice across the lake. The Bagon had nowhere near the clear head to stop his trip this time. It was only Argon's fast mind that kept his rump from hitting the lake. Something deep in her chest sunk seeing her partner sitting on the ice, head down as if contemplating whether to give it another headbutt. She never could approve, not with the fate of all of Faire on the line, but… she could understand.

"You know," Chimera said, letting out a slow, numb chuckle. "I really did have visions of grandeur when you fished me onto Faire, when I saw what had been built. Guess I was stuck on the high of thinking this would be a utopia. The perfect world for the human and partner to make legends of themselves, with a world to save rated E for everyone. N-now… now I'm just tired. Some things never change."

"Arceus knows I am too," Argon replied. "But it's not too late."

He looked up, blinking once more at the empty air where a Raichu once stood. She wasn't there, of course. She'd taken a seat, right on the ice next to him. Something behind Chimera's silent stare chuckled; he should have expected nothing less. It felt… nice, to have her at his side. A bit fleeting, sure, but no less warm.

"I-I know you," Argon said. "Just like you know me. You're a good pokemon at heart. No one can take that away. It's not too late, Chimera. To have those adventures. You and me. Nothing is ever perfect, but… the revolution could use a guild member to help them through this. N-not to mention that toothy grin of yours."

Silently, Chimera cursed. That damned smile of hers was making this way harder than it already was. Where was a Rampardos to knock you unconscious when you needed one?

Not a word needed to be said between human and partner for what both knew. The choice was his. Argon looked ahead, paws tucked in against the ever present frost while Chimera turned away to collect what was left of his thoughts.

There was no sky for the Bagon to gaze upon. Only a dark and jagged ceiling greeted, where faint blue lights shined. He couldn't help but let out a dull huff at the sight. Every old ambition gleaned up ahead, always out of reach for his stubby grasp, but its source…

A claw rubbed against its cold, metallic surface. Its source couldn't be closer. A gear within one arm's reach, and a friend in another. Chimera sat deadened through his task, yet even in the cold, his hands stopped shaking. What other choice did he have?

"You know what?" Chimera said, looking to Argon. "Lets… lets just put this all on hold for a bit. The revolution. Tomorrow. I-I've been a real **** dragging you down into a freezing cave, a-and if you're up for it, I've got something to try and make it up a little."

Argon's ears perked up, in equal parts shock, relief, and suspicious at the hospitality. She gave a chittering breath, eyeing the steaming thermos her partner had produced. It… it was a bit nippy. Arceus knew they both had more important things, but what were a few hours, a few minutes to just be friends? The day was still young to see how much of that human was left.

A tiny voice in the Raichu's mind knew all it would take was a paw to his foot and a quick shock to leave her partner paralyzed and out of the game, but a hasty rebuttal squashed that thought. The lines hadn't been drawn yet, and the look of remorse in her partner's eyes couldn't be more genuine.

Argon's nose crinkled at the smell. A strange wave of nostalgia washed through her. She knew that drink anywhere.

"Grepa berry tea?" Argon asked, letting out a faint giggle. "There was a day you hated it."

"A mon with particularly uneducated taste buds once said it tasted like ****," Chimera replied, his signature grin back in full force. "A wiser Bagon now knows it pairs delightfully with a stack of reports to file. Wouldn't have ever learned if it wasn't for you. It means a lot."

Chimera had her cup poured almost a bit too quick. Raichu and Bagon smiled, the drink levitated from claw to paw.

Somehow, against a cavern big enough to house even the most fastidious Groudon, Argon couldn't help but feel cramped plaster walls surrounding. It felt like a lifetime ago when she'd crawled out of that rickety bunk bed, with two mugs and an unsure future between them.

"Y-you know," Argon whispered, "the last thing dad told me before I left was to make my own fate. Not sure what that quiet Pikachu would have done if she knew I'd end up here. Run back and hug him? Shock him?"


A beat, while Argon surprised herself with a chuckle.

"Y-yeah, both. Come on, let's have that drink. Gotta warm up before we go delirious again."

Chimera raised his thermos, fighting to hold his smile. He looked down to ice, unable to avoid his partner's reflection in the cracks. His tongue held, as if unwilling to let the moment pass.

"A little toast then," Chimera said, "for the human and pokemon that met on the beach. To finding lake spirits and thieves. To watching a Charmander go from feral to leader and boyfriend. To getting our asses handed to us by a raging Rampardos. To getting caught up in a revolution to change Faire forever. To… to…"

A moment of silence, as days gone by washed over Bagon and Raichu. This hour would pass, and they might never share a drink like this again, but one thought was shared.

"To memories."

The glasses clinked. Paw and claw raised, gulping down every drop of warmth from their cups. Argon was almost sad eyeing the bottom of her mug. She licked her lips, soaking in the residual flavor. Smooth and tangy, with that same tinge of zest she knew every morning. Except—

Argon's eyes widened just a tad, tongue circling. That aftertaste… it was ever so faintly different than usual. A bit bitter. A flavor that had no business in a cup of tea. One second passed, then another before it clicked. Argon's fur bristled with shock as her gaze shot to Chimera. That look. He couldn't…

"I-I… I'm sorry, Argon," Chimera said, "but I think we both know what happens next."

Her paw shot out to him, falling halfway with a single jitter, then another. Soon her whole arm was trembling, her legs likewise limping to a useless shudder. She slumped over, helpless to resist a collapse to the icy floor. She tried, Arceus knew she tried, but even Argon knew it was a wasted effort, with every limb asleep at once. That… that two faced, piece of—

"Sean's not the only one proud you've made your own fate," Chimera said, a numb look in his eyes as he stood up. "Now it's time to make mine and mine alone. It's a shame it's come to this. You've been a better partner, a better friend than I deserve."

He turned back, unable to meet the most potent mix of shock and seething anger Argon had ever held. Her tongue chattered, held still as Chimera made his way to the exit. At the last step she saw, he looked back. For how he looked, you'd think the bastard had just pulled the trigger.

"That stun seed should wear off in a few minutes," Chimera said. "With any luck, all the head start I'll need. I'll make sure you and Eoin get out of this alright, Argon. Even if this is goodbye. Have a good life, and… "

One step, and he was gone.

"Thanks for the memories."


Well-Known Member
Chapter 38: The Chimeric End
She'd really been blind this whole time, hadn't she? That was the only explanation. Anything else and the revolution would be safe and sound, with a certain Bagon lying paralyzed on the icy floor and not herself.

It would have been easy. Really. Just… a quick zap, a melodramatic one liner about this being for his own good, and her former boss would have no choice but to step down. It was the sentiment, wasn't it? It blinded. Delayed. Made a confrontation at the revolution's most decisive moment that should have been in an apartment.

Now all she could do was think.

She had plenty of time, of course. Perhaps knowing he faced a slightly less stubby-legged opposition, the Bagon's estimates for the stun seed were conservative. Again and again Argon's muscles clenched, desperately trying to fight through the worst case of sleep paralysis. Her very fur gave a revolting jolt at even lifting a paw. A stiff grunt was all her tongue could make, followed by a lazy roll to her side. With a mind so muddled, even lifting up that mug felt like a herculean effort.

Seconds turned to minutes, stewing up electricity and tension alike that had no ground. Had the Bagon who'd dragged her up from a chilly death always been like this? A selfish, two-faced reptile who wouldn't sacrifice a comfy desk chair to let his grey scaled counterpart have a piece of that pie?

His ambitions blinded him. It has since the beginning. Chimera's on the wrong side of this, but… a pokemon still deserves a chance to change. Eoin's proved that well enough.

A part of Argon scoffed at even the thought, the rest gave a quiet whimper. He had his chance, he had every chance, but there was no more luxury to give the benefit of the doubt. Arceus knew what would befall thousands of innocents if she did.

Her ears shot up, a thought panging. That cocksure smile of his, so reassuring behind its humor… they truly were enemies now, weren't they?

It took you long enough. No more talk. No more compromise. Find out what that despot with a bowtie is planning. Chase that Bagon across every corner of Faire if you have to. And if push comes to shove, if he doesn't give you another choice-

A jolt shot out from her tail, whipping across the lake. Now wasn't the time to think about that. Not now, not ever. She was better than that. If he really was following a path of destruction, then she wouldn't be the one to do it.

With another minute passed, and her thoughts as chilled as the lake underneath, it took the Raichu a moment to realize a more… physical chill that joined it.

One paw shook, feeling the lake's touch replace that encompassing numb tingle. Another soon followed. With a great deal of effort, Argon lurched to her feet, paws wobbling as if they'd just run a marathon. Blue eyes shot to the cavernous exit. Paws tapped, ever so slowly breaking out of their trance. It'd been… what, ten minutes? Fifteen? He was probably all the way to the first precipice by now. No time left.

Argon's leg buckled like a Slakoth's with the first step, but the Raichu held too much adrenaline to stop. Sparks crackled off her cheeks as she gave chase. Her one chance had failed, and all that was left was to pick up the pieces.

The pieces left by a partner who had ended up too human.

Not even Argon knew for sure what pushed her back up that cavern every hour. Was it the drive to save her partner from himself that lifted her up when a steep, rocky incline turned to sheer cliff? Maybe the thousands of grey eyes staring over her shoulder led her to press on after a loose rock sent her tumbling back into yet another icy puddle. Or perhaps it was a singular anger that drove her path, so burning righteousness countered burning lungs.

With respite for neither body nor mind, Argon needed to blink more than once when the faint amber glow of sunset finally dawned. A stumble nearly sent the Raichu to her knees, but she pressed on, eyeing the towering walls of marble in the distance, above Pith Town's orange shingles. Whatever last ditch plan Chimera was following, it ended at the Guild Hall.

By the time Argon had made her way to the edges of the square, a bright moon filled the ghostly streets of Pith Town. Even so, omnipresent chatter filled the streets. Between labored breaths, the Raichu smiled. The Pallids had made industrious use of their time. Some conversed with the occasional pokemon still outside, hearing gasps and apologies at their stories. Others grumbled, waiting for a presider that would never come.

"It's," Argon murmured, gasping, "it's all over now. Binair just doesn't know it."

Were it not for the urgency Argon would have been pulled away at every corner. A few steps forward, and an Oshawott tugged at her arm, asking if she wanted to see the newest plane her new friends had helped build. The Oshawott's parents stood a few feet away, tense yet… accepting of the grayscale beings that mixed into the color.

A look to the barricades, and the guild members seemed of similar demeanor. A few still watched with guarded eyes, against a sea of tepid contentment that had washed through their ranks. Even Flora seemed to breath an easy breath as the hours had passed. There was no destruction to prevent, no guillotines to fear.

A new age dawning, and where was Binair? Argon almost chuckled; his absence spoke volumes. Probably watching pale from some hidden window, speechless to his ivory castle falling apart.


Moonlight shined all too clear against marble. Argon's paw clenched, gaze unwavering to the one above that met it. There he was. A Bagon frozen to stoicism at his partner's sight, looking down from the Guild Hall's roof with his hand against what Argon could only assume was a trapdoor.

Chatter, footsteps, and breaths faded into silence. The two were a good hundred feet away, yet their faces couldn't seem closer. As if by mutual agreement, Raichu and Bagon paused, with no more will to deny the obvious.

This was the end.

Argon bolted, retracing her steps up to the roofs, while Chimera's hands stumbled in a desperate attempt to remember the password. She was on all fours on the rooftop, a rat out of hell that could see the brown in Chimera's eyes by the time he'd jumped into the bunker elevator.

A good dozen feet risking a very painful fall was between one rooftop and another, but a Raichu of experience was undeterred. A running start, and psychic press off her feet that would make a Ninetales applaud, and Argon's paws hit the marble ledge. All that was left was the trapdoor, now just a narrow, seemingly endless hole where the elevator had been. Bracing paws and legs against each corner, Argon sucked in a quivering breath. He'd always been the better with heights, but if Arceus was willing the Bagon's head start would not be enough.

By the time she'd slid down, Chimera's breaths were equally gasping. He was on his knees, maybe a dozen feet from the elevator entrance with that oh-so-important time gear in his hand, and his gaze craned to the concrete floor. Argon sucked in a gasp at the sight of the two other spinning gears in their endless grind. So that's where-didn't matter. Only one thing left to do.

Chimera's eyes glinted in a sharp stare like nothing before. His very world seemed before him preparing to set the final time gear in place. Just one little press, and this whole nightmare would all be over.

Except… it didn't move. A push towards the empty slot had the time gear push back, then pull itself forward. Almost as if—

It was Chimera's turn to gasp. By the time he saw the pink aura surrounding, it'd already rocketed from his grasp. The Bagon's head jumped up in a desperate track of the gear's path, ending with a sharp thud at a Raichu's paw. There she was.

Chimera's hand was a blur, drawing his crossbow like a western gunslinger to Argon. Sparks crackled from the Raichu's cheeks, defiant to the glint of the bolt against the overhead light. There was no more tea to drink today.

"Don't make me do this," Chimera said, crossbow jittering with every word. "P-Please, don't make me do this."

"You've made your choice!" Argon replied. "And… and I've made mine. I'm not taking any more chances."

Bagon and Raichu stood, fur and scales tensing while each dared the other to break the impasse. Argon certainly couldn't think of a stranger place for a final confrontation. Desks, shelves, and haphazard papers scattered the walls, while on each corner of the small room stood a narrow support pillar. At the chipped and worn state of the concrete, it was anyone's guess how long the guild had kept this close to the chest.

Perhaps most perplexing was the strange contraption behind Chimera. Massive pistons pulsed, heavy steel creaked, and faint sparks crackled from the high up coil. Even just the open door looked like it could balance a Golem. Some classified science experiment? A cruel, heavy duty prison? Perhaps…

A shot rang out. All Argon saw was Chimera's weapon, centered down at the last second, before a searing pain erupted from her knee. Something felt wet.

"F-****!" Argon cried, clutching the inch of bolt poking from her joint. "You p-piece of—"

The Raichu practically fell onto her now floating tail, but she wasn't stopping. It was all adrenaline now. Chimera's eyes widened from the almost feral growl his foe gave. She snarled with her target set, one goal in mind to send a few thousand volts through his spine.

An orange and yellow blur sped right before centering on Chimera's form. Yellow static spewed from her cheeks almost too quick to track, encompassing the Raichu like an electric bonfire. Chimera hadn't even drawn his second bolt before Argon plowed into him.

Everything burned. His very scales crackled being sent through the air, superheated from the impact. A sharp crack of Bagon against concrete pillar added insult to injury. His chest felt like it'd hit burning wax, but Chimera's forehead had absorbed most of the back impact. She wasn't done yet.

He never hit the floor, stuck against what was left of the pillar, a fly to a windshield. A look crossed Chimera's face that he hadn't had since the Rampardos attack. His stubby hands stood in place from nonexistent handcuffs. Argon's seething mind, and telepathic aura made sure of that.

"You selfish, stilted prick!" Argon cried, pushing him further to the stone. "Do you really think you're gonna come out of this on top?! The uncaring human who helped enslave thousands of pallids?!"

A stammered, quiet attempt at reply fell on deaf ears. Psychic aura pulsed from Argon's form with every seething breath. Matching it were Chimera's hyperventilations, suddenly feeling his arm bend of its own free will. Argon gave little sympathy to the Bagon. To a self-serving, despot appeasing, lying sack of—

A crack pierced her ears, with a shrill cry. Argon blinked, seeing the Bagon's stubby hand bent at a right angle backwards.

"G-god ****ing dammit," Chimera fumed, fighting through the tears to look Argon in the eye. "You… you don't know what it's like!"

Argon got in half a word before Chimera's free hand had tossed the orb. The bunker erupted in a blinding light, assaulting the Raichu's eyes and taking her concentration with it. The second's delay was all he needed, charging forth with an adrenaline fueled numbness to his arm. She dashed back in a stumble, rubbing with a paw only to gasp from a crossbow stock crashing against her chest. Two ribs snapped and Argon cried out. The cold concrete of the opposite pillar greeted the back of her head.

"I wasn't born with your world!" Chimera shouted. "I didn't come from a place where you could work six hours a day and not have to choose between rent and food. Where gold and silver grows on trees. Where success is the rule, not the exception. This is my chance, Argon, a-and... between us, you've had it good from this system far longer than I have!"

One look up, and Chimera's forehead was maybe three feet from bashing her chest. With no time to think Argon braced herself on her bad leg, gritting her teeth through a surge of pain to dash away. With not an inch to spare she dodged the charge, while her Bagon foe crashed against the pillar, sending chunks of stone across the floor. She glanced down, only just eyeing the bits of blood seeping from her wound.

"But I'm trying to make things better," Argon cried back, lurching up to her feet. "T-the pallids never had that world either. The one stopping them right now is you. N-not Binair. Not 'the system.' You."

A half second hesitation did Chimera in. The Bagon reached for his weapon while Argon limped forth, one hand on the crossbow prod and a single tooth pulling back the string. A morbid sense of deja vu took to Argon while she primed her paw, sparks glistening with each finger. She'd knocked him out once, she could do it again.

The thunder punch soared, and with eyes shot wide Chimera raised the first thing he had to block the blow. Wood splintered against the impact, shooting the Bagon back with only a broken stock in his hand. The rest fell to the floor in a husk of wood and steel broken beyond repair.

"I," Chimera gasped, throwing the remnants aside, "I know that. I'm not running from that. B-but… I also know in a couple short decades you and I are gonna be buried ten feet below no matter what we do here."

Argon tilted her head, watching any stray move from the Bagon once the two began to circle, just a few feet apart. The Raichu's half limp was matched by the Bagon's chittering wince at any touch of his arm.

"What does that matter?" Argon asked. "We shouldn't help others with the time we have? You having a good life is worth more than—"

"I've already had my second chance!" Chimera shot back. "I'm not going to get a third. One body, one mind. Then… nothing."

A thunderbolt crackled from Argon's tail, earning a singe on Chimera's scales before he'd dashed away. The rest charred against the ceiling, while the bunker itself seemed to give a revolting shake at the impact. Bits of concrete rained down around them.

"I've already spent one life in the gutter," Chimera declared. "I'm not gonna risk another. I-I can't. I…"

He charged. Thunder clashed, hitting like a title wave against the Bagon's lowered head. He wasn't stopping.

"I won't!"

Argon's gasp was drowned out by a defiant yell. Her back hit the floor, while blue scales pinned her down. The Raichu's pupils dilated, in a fight or flight surge like never before. It couldn't end like this. Not now. Not here.

Not with her former partner holding a sharpened bolt to her throat.

"Stay down!" Chimera shouted.

His voice cracked, all power gone. He was a beggar.

"P-please… stay down."

He wouldn't do it. He… he couldn't, could he? Argon's maw stammered in numb silence. A finely honed edge glinted against her neck. Bagon and Raichu lied with hushed breaths, while the bunker lurched with another rumble.

Was there anything? Anything at all to turn this around? She couldn't shock him, at least not before he'd have all the time in the world to carve up her throat. In the silence, the rest of the bunker seemed to come into view. The disheveled crossbow prod just out of reach. The two time gears spinning constant as ever a few feet behind her head. And just behind Chimera…

Her eyes darted up. That strange contraption stood, bulky as ever to the Bagon's back. Arceus knew what its use was prior, but it'd work. One problem solved, but before?

Argon's teeth grinded while Chimera awaited her answer, scaly hand constant near her neck. Ever so faintly a paw lowered to her bloodied knee. It was morbid, but…

"Chimera," Argon whispered, sharing one last look at her partner, "I won't be the one to bury you."

She bit down. With the force of Drednaw Argon's fangs slammed down against Chimera's hand. He barely had time to scream. One second more and her bloodied paw struck right between his eyes. The Bagon stumbled, shouting swear after swear, balancing himself against an open steel door. This was it.

A psychic push, and single kick to his chest sealed the deal. One blink followed another as the Bagon careened back, only seeing a red daze. It wasn't until the clang of his forehead hitting the hexagonal metal wall that Chimera realized where he was. Suddenly, the punctures on his hand seemed an afterthought.

"... Wait."

He charged, in vain. Argon was already to her feet, and slammed the bulkhead door just in time for Chimera to cave in a small dent. Motors whirred, and tumblers shut. For the first time in days Argon felt relief; not even he could escape this.

"W-wait no!" Chimera stammered, trying once more to wipe the blood off. "Please don't-"


What? Argon stepped back, while the pistons pushed in full force, and the coil above Chimera took on a faint glow. From the abject horror on the Bagon's face, she'd just signed his death warrant.

Two more headbutts against the thick glass windows were predictably null, sending Chimera crashing back into the center of the machine. At the third, limp attempt Chimera slumped over, forehead against the glass. There couldn't have been more than a foot between them on opposite sides of the machine, but he looked a world away. Hands shook. Teeth chattered. A single thought crossed him, the final words of a cornered animal.

"I-I'm going back," Chimera said.

It was a plain statement. No doubt about it. Argon's ears drooped all the same.

"Wait, what do you mean?" Argon asked. "What is—"

"I'm going back."

With the second time, he'd convinced himself it was true. Argon's cheeks sparked, in a rare opportunity to make sense of the barrage of the last day. What had her old boss said? 'From one human to another'? Binair had obviously kept this a secret. If Chimera had been here, and there were no Legendary shenanigans to how he they'd both arrived, then—

Oh ****.

Chimera's bloodied, thousand yard stare confirmed it. He stood unmoving, with one realization after another seeping into his consciousness. His jaw stammered.

"I… "

A few minutes at best, and everything would be gone. There was no out from this. The thousands of pokemon that had looked to him for answers. Any sense of meaning to the shiny platinum badge pinned to his bag. Even the private ****ing office with the newton cradle. One push, and it was dust.

"H-how— no…"

Human again. He didn't have long here. The Bagon across Argon gave a slow, morbid laugh. He knew it well. It all set in. All this time, and the boulder had rolled right back down.

"So that's how it ends," Chimera said. "After every choice, that's how I'll go down. The stilted, jaded prick who betrayed everyone who ever loved him for nothing. The fool who amounted to jack ****, at the price of everything."

"Would it have mattered any other way?"

Chimera froze at Argon's question. He looked up, bracing for her venom, yet behind it was something else. She'd held enough bile to slam him across the room minutes ago, and yet… their fates had been decided. The plot was over. The revolution would go on. It was just them now. Human and partner. Melancholy diluted the Raichu's anger, as if she'd left her own trance.

"What if our places were reversed?" Argon asked. "What meaning would that life have, after causing so much pain to others? Would it really have been worth it? I-If this is how it ends, if you're really going to leave… I want to know."

All too quickly his gut shouted a morbid yes. He couldn't weep in these final moments. Beg. Admit himself the bloodied fool in an idiot's tale. But despite every effort Chimera's voice fell. Something in the Bagon's being had dammed that answer. With every spark, crumble, and slam of pistons a strange fog cleared, with only one thing left to find.

All he could see was black. Yet Argon was across the glass, nothing on this world or another could block out what he'd see. The last few seconds seemed to flash before him. The piercing cries of his partner. The blood that had oozed from her knee with every step.

That was the world he was building, wasn't it? He couldn't lie to himself any longer. No ambitious half truths or convenient justifications could cover that blood. How much had gone unseen? How many others would share Argon's fate to crown his success? She held her breath, a few messy tears starting to form. They'd have only one chance for the truth.

"I…. " Chimera said, letting out one last, glum sigh, "no. No it wouldn't. I've been bullshitting myself for too long. Walking a path that's brought nothing but pain and misery for everyone. Nothing I can say now will change that."

The coil charged, with faint flickers of blue static crackling across the Bagon's skin. A few seconds more, and Argon gasped. Ever so faintly, a bit of Chimera's arm seemed to flicker. He gave it no thought, staring back as a thin mix of red dripped from his eyes. Blind as a bat, it all seemed the same.

"And to top off that smoldering shitfest of mistakes," Chimera whispered, "I ended my time in this world by stabbing and betraying the one person I should have trusted most. I-I… god, I'm sorry."

Not all wounds healed overnight. Argon gritted her teeth, just a tad short of acceptance while a jolt of pain hit from her knee. The silence spoke volumes. With all her being she wanted to believe, but he'd lied once before. Chimera's heart sank with a silent, yet morbid chuckle. She was right, of course. He'd made his bed.

Even so, there had to be something. One way to undo a bit of the damage he'd caused. Anything to show his partner that it wasn't all in vain. Nothing else mattered.

He had nothing left in hand to give. Perhaps… a promise?

"It's not much," Chimera said, "but I want you to know I'm going to be better when I get back. I-I'm gonna try and be more than the gloomy human that went to this world, or the self serving Bagon that came back. That path starts now, a-and— in fact…"

He motioned past Argon, pointing to, of all things, the time gears. At their azure glow a pit formed in Argon's stomach. Just a few feet away, the relics that had helped bring them together and tore them apart. She should have dropped them when she had the chance.

"If Faire really is going to change forever, then you have to show them," Chimera continued. "The gears we were gonna use to freeze every single Pallid here. 'A habit of amplification' is what Binair called it."

One blink, and Argon could almost see that from the mountain Rampardos again, unflinching as time itself before them.

"So that's—"

It was obvious enough they'd planned some way to end the revolution, but this?! Mass capture then enslavement, tantamount to genocide. She turned back, sharing a look with her blind partner that told well enough. The pokemon would see now. Binair wouldn't have a choice.

He wasn't the only one. An intangible feeling of lightness crossed Chimera's chest, while the coil above had turned a vibrant blue. With a gasp the Bagon pounded against the glass, his arm growing just a bit fainter through the static.

"Please!" he begged. "I-I want you to know it wasn't all for nothing between us. Even if you don't believe me. I wouldn't blame you, b-but… I just need to say it. You have my word I'll be a better man. One that can live for more than just myself."

His very being blinked like an image out of sync. That same voice from the cavern was in full force to Argon. Turning her back on the pragmatic had screwed her before, and right now that choice was collecting those gears and leaving him to his fate. Sentimentality kept her, sure, but there was something more than that. Something deeper.

Before her stood a Bagon bloodied with nothing left. As flawed or more so than any other pokemon. Overambitious. Arrogant. Couldn't paddle across a river if his life depended on it. Even so his words left the same heart and mind. The human that came into her life, introduced her to a world like never before and, in the end, had the will to atone for his own mistakes. Inch by inch her tepid paw raised to the glass. There was only one thing to say.

"Chimera, I believe you."

He shot back, as if slapped with a fish. Upon realizing her words hadn't been the delirious delusions of a Bagon's fading mind, Chimera held a faint smile. The echoes of that same, toothy grin. It took a bit, but Argon was happy to oblige with her own.

"T-that's all I need, Argon," Chimera replied. "Thank you. Thank you so—"

He fell back, that billowing lightness growing ever stronger. Argon slammed her paw against the door when what was left of two support columns crumpled apart, taking a corner of the ceiling with it. Chimera's gasp at Argon's danger was louder than her own, though the cave-in was a few feet away. Their breaths grew no softer.

"It's not safe here," Chimera said, before slumping back. "And… I don't think I have much longer."

The coil above fizzed with a soft whir, preparing for one last shock. With heavy steps, Argon turned back. She couldn't object.

"So it is," Argon replied with a sniffle. "Chimera, I-I'm sorry things went the way they did. I wish we could have been partners for so much longer. Even with everything that's happened, I… I'll be glad to have had you as a friend."

A simple nod from Chimera said enough. Energy crackled with finality across his scales. Only one chance left to say it.

"The feeling couldn't be more mutual," Chimera replied. "And—"

He bit his lip. A bit of old pride nipped at the Bagon's thoughts but he fought it off.

"Looking back, I can say without a doubt you were the friend I needed coming here. You stuck by my side in the worst of moments, but knew when I needed someone to call me out on my bullshit."

The energy through the coil condensed, forming a glowing sphere at the center. Argon flinched, while Chimera let out a deep breath.

"I'll never forget that," Chimera said, looking to Argon with one last, wary smile. "You know, it's a bit ironic. The Raichu that wanted nothing more than to help her fellow man, that ended up meaning more to Faire than any other pokemon could."

A bolt shot down, encompassing Chimera in an aura of light. Through the thundering crash, Argon could faintly hear a chuckle.

"Decent story to tell."

The smoke cleared, and he was gone. Argon sat staring at the empty chamber for a few more seconds, as old memories flowed tandem with new aspirations. A lingering silence filled the room, while her paw set from the glass. With a vigor in her heart long thought buried, the Raichu turned. Three gears floated, heavy and smooth in one paw. In the other, laid a wooden stock, splintered across the grain yet whole nonetheless.

It was that moment the two souls departed. Human and Pokemon, intertwined through the crossing fates of a thread that diverged to new tapestries. The revolution would close, the beings in its wake would emerge wiser upon a new world, and tomorrow would come.

The sun rose bright across Faire, for a path long traveled had reached its end.


Final Author's Notes: And… that's a wrap, folks. At least, for the most part. It's been a long, winding journey that the young high schooler I was could never imagine its challenges and rewards, but Pathways of Aspiration has reached its tentative end.

I know as well as anyone there is still a decent amount to be resolved. Cerise and Binair's fate. The true extent of Faire's change. Argon and Eoin's final words in their shared future. My true plan is to bring those lingering threads to a close in an epilogue chapter. If I'd had the time for more regular updates, I'd have put in a couple more chapters, but a pandemic continues, and in just a few days I'll be starting a new chapter of my own life in college.

That's not to say I'll be silent until then. In truth, I've wanted an opportunity like this to go over and/or rewrite some of the earlier chapters that didn't age as well past the initial rewrites. This'll also give a chance for me to do a sweeping check to fix… some of the more embarrassing typos that have accumulated over my writing. Not to mention some more flexibility to work with other oneshots and story concepts. Once any rewrites or major edits have been done, I'll be sure to edit in a message at the end of this note.

In the meantime, I'd like to take this opportunity to give my wholehearted appreciation for all the fine folks that have helped me get this far.

Starting up, Pathways of Aspiration Beta Readers: Namohysip, author of Hands of Creation, and MadderJacker, author of A Home Far Away.

Namo, I won't mince words saying the support you gave me during and after the opening months of my story are a major reason I've gone on this long. You're astute, hardworking, and the likes of the Pallid worldbuilding and Eoin's characterization wouldn't be half of what it was without your input. Thank you for everything, and I wish you the best on your writing endeavors.

MJ, since the day you offered to beta my story you've held a keen eye and talent for editing that I only hope I'll someday match. Since day one you've saved my hide more than a few times. 'Locomobile'. 'Reviced Chapter'. Cringeworthy on my part even now, but as you said, 'Cringe ages like fine wine'. It was your input and the standard you set combing over my chapters that helped light a fire under my ass and grow as an author. Best wishes with your story, and thanks a ton.

As a final note for the both of you, I appreciate you encouraging my writing, yet also telling me what I might not have wanted, but nonetheless needed to hear. Thank you both for always being there when I needed someone, writing or otherwise.

As for smaller yet no less important appreciation, thank you Snapinator, artist of Seeds of Dissonance for drawing the wonderful artwork of Argon and Chimera. Thank you to all the wonderful folks of the PMD Writers United discord server, for giving the community, advice, and friendship I'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

Lastly, perhaps the most important of all, my sincerest thanks to every single reader who decided to give my story a chance! I cannot stress enough how much knowing there were folks out there waiting for where Pathways of Aspiration would go helped pull me back to the keyboard. I know PMD stories nowadays aren't exactly scarce, and I hope I made your time reading my story worth it.

I'll certainly try not to be a stranger! As some parting words, I thought I'd use a phrase I read once at a story's end, from a PMD fanfiction that helped inspire my journey into writing. When the world closes in, and you can't decide which path to choose, remember…

Smiles go for miles.

Au Revoir Everyone, but not goodbye.