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Pokémon Casting Off

Chapter 1: Enlisted
  • Virgil134

    PMD Writer
    1. sylveon
    2. weavile
    3. kommo-o
    4. noivern
    5. mothim
    Hey there everyone. I originally posted this story between 2017 and 2018 on Serebii, but I figured I'd publish it here as well! If you like PMD, oceanpunk, and Cranidos, I think you'll enjoy this story. It's part of a shared universe with another fic written by a good friend of mine, but he hasn't posted his story on this forum. I wrote this fic as a "three-shot" of sorts, meaning that while there will only be 3 chapters, each chapter will be a bit longer than you'd expect from most other fics. I'm currently planning on publishing a new chapter every 2 weeks.

    Without further ado, let's get into it:


    Since the days humans had disappeared into the ages of myth, much had changed in the world they left behind. The sprawling plains and mountain ranges had grown choked with sterile ash and distortions of Mystery Dungeons, the livable world retracting to a sea full of islands called the Cradle. On the islands, Pokémon had retreated from the shattered world outside to settle where Mystery Dungeons were sparse and few in number. Some maintained the natural rhythms of their elders, while others - those who were said to be more touched by the humans and their presence - carried on facsimiles of the great civilizations their companions once ruled, with the help of the gifts and order left behind by Arceus, the Original One. In the ages since the great migrations, these bearers of the humans' torches spread their presence across the islands, flecking the coasts with settlements ranging from petty hamlets to great cities.

    From its place amid sunken coastal lowlands, Polderfield Town occupied a middle ground as a hamlet that was built in the shadow of the great capital of the once-great Empire of Anyilla. Few visitors came past the hustle and bustle of Tidemill City and to the sleepy farming town in the fringes of Giotto Island, but even so, among the levee-surrounded fields reclaimed from the sea and the mills that kept them dry, there was still a sufficient body of Pokémon willing to ply the nearby Mystery Dungeon for the treasures of the Distortion (and to rescue those who had gotten in over their heads in the process). Their haunt was the local guild, a ring-shaped complex of shacks anchored by a tent shaped like a Farfetch'd head, neighbored by the empty field immediately north where the guild's teleporters would fetch its teams from the ever shifting maze inside when summoned.


    The most recent arrivals were a trio consisting of a Cranidos, a Chikorita, and a Jangmo-o bedecked with scarves and laden with wooden chests. The three appeared in the field with a flash of light latched tightly onto a Jynx. As they let go, the trio took in their surroundings as the Chikorita gave a satisfied shake of her head.

    "Whew, looks like we're finally back."

    How Pokémon like the Jynx performed the feat of finding Pokémon through the Guild Badges they pinned to their scarves was a mystery to those not already versed in the practice. Some said they bent space and time to reach out to a heart they'd sensed. Others said they slipped between the worlds that bled together in the Mystery Dungeon's Distortion. One thing was for certain, though: the Jynx had gotten them out of the Mystery Dungeon, and she had done so at a speed that couldn't be beat. Reason enough for the Cranidos to dust off his light blue scarf, running his claws past the pattern of a gray silhouette of a Rampardos head, before turning to extend his thanks to the Jynx.

    "Thanks Yama," the Fossil Pokémon said as he turned to the Jynx. "'Mons like you sure make doing work inside Mystery Dungeons easier."

    "Well, that's why we're here to-"

    "Yeah, yeah, to help," the Chikorita interrupted. "Come on Cabot, these chests aren't gonna bring themselves back to the tailor shop."

    As the Grass-Type walked off with a chest strapped to her back, her two teammates gave awkward smiles as the Jynx narrowed her eyes, unimpressed at the Leaf Pokémon's haste to leave the guild.

    "Well... you heard her," the Jangmo-o offered. "Let's finish this mission so we can take the rest of the day off."

    The Dragon-Type hurried after his teammate, leaving their Cranidos partner behind to snatch up the remaining chests before hurrying along off the teleporter's pad after his companions. The wooden boxes had been brought to the Dungeon by another team from the guild so that their contents could be exposed to the Distortion's changing effects. The altered contents, given new properties by the Dungeon, would then be turned around and resold at a higher price... after he and his teammates returned them to the client who sought for them, that was. The Cranidos ducked down a hallway, finally catching up with his teammates near the mess hall where his presence turned the heads of the other Pokémon. The Chikorita twirled her head leaf as she smiled a little at her teammate's haste to catch up, and called out to him.

    "You know Cabot, you did a pretty good job helping us out there."

    "Yeah, I'm surprised you haven't settled down in a team yet," her Jangmo-o teammate chimed in. "You're a good help against ferals."

    "Well, I do my best to help others if I can, but…"

    The Cranidos trailed off and fidgeted his claws awkwardly. It wasn't that he didn't like working with Team Resolve and his other client teams as a freelance Guild Apprentice, but he did hope to eventually explore beyond the local Mystery Dungeon…

    "Why hello there, Team Resolve."

    Cabot and his companions turned back at the sound of a quacking voice to see a Farfetch'd in a white scarf with green stripes waddle up. It was none other than Akka, the Guildmaster in Polderfield Town… Had something come up?

    "Ah, Cabot," she greeted. "I see you're helping them today?"

    "Yeah, they needed some extra claws to carry these exposure chests out of the Mystery Dungeon." the Cranidos piped up.

    "Oh? Where to?" the Guildmaster asked.

    "To Sara!" the Jangmo-o exclaimed. "She said she needed some more scarves for the fair tomorrow."

    "Ah, well I won't get in your way," the Farfetch'd said. "Carry on."

    The team pattered along for the guild exit, coming to the mouth of the Farfetch'd-shaped tent. As the three stepped out into the sunlight, they entered a small village of whitewashed huts and spindly windmills flecked by tents and buildings shaped after Pokémon heads. Cabot and Team Resolve's course took them along a winding route through the streets, passing the Kecleon shop staffed by a youthful Kecleon and a violet, pudgy-faced Meowth assistant. Across the street from the chameleon's shop was the Bellossom florist, the Grass-Type arranging freshly displayed batches of lilies outside her shop. A little further ahead was a card shop with Jamie the Marshtomp from the Post Office gawking at a large display of colorful Pokémon-covered cards behind the counter, a few younger Pokémon playing some matches under the shade of a reed awning.

    A turn left and a few blocks later took them past the four lanterns and stone plinth that was the shrine of Tapu Fini, the Pokémon said to watch over Giotto. It was built by Poldefield's founders some thirty years prior… only for the town be settled primarily from Pokémon drawn from other islands, leaving the shrine mostly unused. Beyond that was the main square, with a tall windmill standing in the center and ringed with half-built wooden booths that caught Cabot's attention. The sight made the Rock-Type slow his pace as his friends drifted ahead a few steps, much to his Chikorita teammate's puzzlement.

    "So what were you saying earlier, Cabot?" she asked him, taking advantage of the quiet situation.

    "Oh," the Cranidos answered, dragging a foot anxiously at the dirt of the lane. "Er... well it's just that I'm still not sure yet if I want to stay at the guild."

    The Chikorita and Jangmo-o stopped and blinked at each other incredulously. Since when had Cabot made plans to leave the guild?

    "Eh?" the Dragon-Type asked. "But what sort of job are you looking for then?"

    "Well, something that'll let me get out there! To see the world!" Cabot exclaimed. "It's a big Cradle out there, and I'd like to see more of it than just Giotto here."

    "Someone is dreamy," his Grass-Type teammate teased.

    "Ah! That's not what I meant!" the little dinosaur cried. "It's just that there are so many adventures to be had in new places! You understand, don't you?"

    "Well, I suppose it would be a bigger adventure than fetching some exposure chests," the Jangmo-o chortled, giving a playful wag of his tail. "Who knows? Maybe you'll luck out and find a job to take you to the other end of the Cradle at the trade fair tomorrow."

    "But first things first! We've gotta finish our mission and upgrade our team's rank!" the Chikorita proclaimed. "The shop's right there, so we're already one step closer to Bronze!"

    The three continued down the lane filled with the trade fair’s booths and reached a large tent styled after a Galvantula with scarves dangling from display racks. The Chikorita leader spotted a Surskit at the back of the storefront pawing through a stack of scarves, prompting her to clear her throat and call out to the Bug-Type.

    "Hey! We got the exposure chests you asked for!" the Chikorita called.

    "Oh, I'm surprised you guys brought it after all," the Surskit said as he slided over to the counter. "I was starting to think we wouldn't get those chests back before the fair."

    Cabot and his partners gave sheepish smiles before passing the exposure chests over the counter one after the other. They were a bit on the late side, but even so, the Surskit seemed reasonably satisfied. A job well done… or well enough to pass.

    "Well, always glad to be of ser-"

    "But wait, where is Sara?" the Chikorita asked as she interrupted Cabot. "She's the one who posted the mission."

    "She already went home for the day," the Bug-Type answered.

    The three Pokémon jumped back and blanched out of surprise. They'd gone through all that trouble getting Sara's crates out of the dungeon only to miss her in town?!

    "Eh?!" the Grass-Type cried. "But we need her signature to tell the guild we completed the mission. We won't get any points towards our rank otherwise!"

    "Well, she lives in a burrow under a tree in the fringes that she keeps decorated with her in-progress projects," the Surskit offered. "If you go there and tell her you brought the chests, I'm sure she'll be happy to give you her signature."

    The guild Pokémon's surprise faded and was displaced with groaning resignation at the prospect of more work so late in the day, the Jangmo-o of the group being the first to voice his disappointment.

    "We gotta walk all the way to the fringes of town after already going through the Mystery Dungeon...?"

    "Looks like we'll have to wait on those points…" the Chikorita murmured.

    "Oh, I can do it!"

    The Chikorita and Jangmo-o looked up in a start to discover that their Cranidos assist had volunteered for the task with a raised claw. The pair looked at each other surprisedly, before turning back to their temporary teammate to make sure he wasn't overexerting himself.

    "You will?"

    "You know me," Cabot replied. "I don't need any excuse to get out and around a bit. Besides, we were only in that dungeon for a few hours."

    Team Resolve caught themselves as they mentally processed Cranidos' offer, their demeanors visibly brightening up at the realization that their evenings were spared. Looked like fate had dealt them a favorable hand this time after all!

    "Well I won't say no to that!" the Chikorita cheered.

    The Leaf Pokémon hastily fished out a rune-covered paper from her bag with a picture of a Galvantula and passed it over to the Cranidos with the shop's receipt. Cabot grasped the paper with his claw and stored it in his own bag, his teammates breathing grateful sighs of relief that they didn't have to go on an unscheduled hike into the fringes.

    "Thanks for the help, Cabot," the Grass-Type said, giving a thankful bow as her Jangmo-o partner did the same.

    "Yeah, we owe you one."

    "It's alright," Cabot answered, playfully waving away the matter with a claw. The Cranidos lowered his head and charged on, leaving his temporary teammates behind as he ran along for the town's fringes, glad to see some scenery beyond the Mystery Dungeon's same patina of floors. Who knew? Perhaps he could even make an adventure out of this detour!


    "Thanks for the signature Sara!"

    The fringes of towns such as Polderfield were always easy enough to discern from their centers. The further out one went from town, the scarcer huts and other buildings became, with nests and burrows taking their places amid thinned undergrowth. And so it was that Cabot's journey took him out into the hills above Polderfield, coming to a burrow where the Galvantula owner of the tailor shop lived. Much to Cabot's pleasant surprise, the Bug-Type was more understanding than anticipated about his tardiness, and quickly gave Cabot the signature he and his clients needed through an inky footprint.

    "Sorry we kept you waiting for so long though," the Cranidos offered.

    "It's alright," the tarantula said. "Just be a bit more careful with time in the future, okay?"

    "Right, will do."

    The Cranidos gave a grateful bow and set off away from Sara's place under the treetops. He made his way down the path past mats with attending mailboxes denoting spaces claimed by local Pokémon. Some of the mats sat directly in front of nests in tree limbs or burrows in the earth, while others were laid out in the open in clearings. The Rock-Type came to a fork in the road, and after seeing that one path was visibly sparse on mailboxes and mats, he turned north and made a detour, the spirit of adventure swelling in his heart.


    Cabot carried along, humming ditties that he'd heard floating around his parents' shop since his hatchling days as he moved along the hillside path. He passed shade-giving trees, flowers in bloom, and the rustling of a feral here or there in the distant undergrowth as he came to his favorite viewing point over Polderfield. From above, one could see the entire town, now clogged with stands for tomorrow's fair. Further beyond was the surrounding farmland, ringed with polders filled with fields of grain and berries that were hemmed in from the sea by levees with windmills churning lazily with the town's rhythms. Guarding the fringe between the town and the fields was the fortified manor of the local Earl who ruled over the area, the stately residence watching over Polderfield from its foothills.

    In spite of the view, Cabot's thoughts kept turning to the trade fair tomorrow. There'd definitely be food, drink, and performers… but more importantly there were bound to be adventurers looking for a helping claw. Perhaps he'd join a team headed off to the far north of the Empire. Or who knew, perhaps even outside of the Empire to Garanza or Linglan! The Rock-Type contentedly looked over the hill as the possibilities swirled in his head, playing through daydream after daydream…


    … only to be broken by the sound of a nearby whinny, slightly startling the young dinosaur as he realized he wasn't alone. Cabot braced himself, looking around his surroundings tensely. The noise didn't sound like any the local ferals made, so…


    Cabot turned around, and saw the form of a Ponyta in an emerald green scarf with an inverted silver trefoil design trotting over to a stream, lowering his head to lap up the water. The Cranidos watched as the stranger drank, noticing that the design of his scarf seemed to be of a tier above the simple cloth cuts used around town. Perhaps he was a merchant's child? They always seemed to be more ready to part with their money on frivolous things such as fancy scarves… After letting curiosity get the better of him, the little dinosaur decided that perhaps it would be best to greet the stranger, and paced forward in order to give a welcoming call.

    "Oh hi there!"

    The Ponyta jerked his head back from the stream with a start and looked around in surprise. The Fire-Type's gaze settled upon the sight of the stranger Cranidos in the clearing with him, causing a curious but skeptical expression to spread over the horse's snout.

    "Uh... hello?" the Fire-Type asked. " Who are you?"

    "I'm Cabot!" the dinosaur exclaimed. "I live here in Polderfield Town, though I don't think I've ever seen you before."

    The fire horse tilted his head and pawed at the ground uneasily, sizing up the new Pokémon in front of him. He was obviously not a feral since he had a scarf, and he seemed friendly enough, so it couldn't hurt to at least introduce himself back.

    "It's Berecien," the Ponyta answered. "But I'm from Tidemill City, so that might explain that."

    "Oh, you came to visit our town?" Cabot wondered. "How come?"

    "I didn't actually," Berecien responded. "I just took a quick break from my usual run."

    "Eh? You run all the way here from Tidemill on a regular basis?!" the Cranidos cried. "But that's at least three hours away when walking!"

    Cabot's exclamation prompted the Ponyta to give a dismissive snort and a shake of his fiery mane. Hike or not, the Fire-Type didn't seem to think much of the distance.

    "Well it doesn't take that long if you're fast enough," Berecien offered. "Besides, I could use the space to run. Beats being stuck inside some dworek all day..."

    The Cranidos tilted his head and glanced puzzledly at the Ponyta. He had heard his fair share of what was called Giottani from the Pokémon who had further-reaching roots on the island than his own family, but he'd never heard that word before. So then, what exactly was a...

    "Dworek...? Are you from another island or something?" Cabot asked. "I mean, I know they have their own language in Tidemill which ferals and a few Pokémon in town also speak, but it doesn't really sound like that."

    "That's because the word is from the language that Pokémon speak on Nagrobek Island," Berecien said. "My family was originally from there before the Company chased them out and turned the island into some horrible prison."

    "Oh?" the Cranidos murmured "But… did Pokémon from there generally like running around?"

    "Well I'm not sure if all Pokémon do but... my dad said the island had some great open fields he ran around in with his father when he was about my age," the Ponyta insisted. "I figured by running around here on Giotto I'd keep the memories alive somewhat."

    "Uh... huh."

    Cabot blinked and wagged his tail uneasily, watching the Fire-Type paw at the ground. The horse was a strange being, speaking a strange tongue and familiar with strange things... But on the other hand, part of him seemed just like him, always yearning to go out further for adventure.

    "But I admit I may have gone a little bit farther than usual," Berecien continued. "This is one of the last chances I have to run around like this for a while anyway."

    "Oh? How come?"

    "I signed up for the navy not too long ago," the Ponyta said. "Service to the Empire has been a point of honor in my family, and I didn't want to be the first 'mon to break that tradition."

    The Cranidos blinked and tilted his head at the horse in surprise. Family traditions or not, the navy sure seemed like an odd profession for a Fire-Type, especially for a creature who liked running enough to run here all the way over from Tidemill...

    "But if you like running so much, why would you want to go into the navy so badly?" the Rock-Type questioned. "I mean you'd be stuck on a small ship on the water all day!"

    "Because the navy has a place for all kinds of Pokémon," Berecien began. "Besides, I wouldn't spend all my time on a ship. The Empire may be a lot smaller than it used to be nowadays, but there's still plenty of ports of call to see while on the job."

    Cabot tilted his head curiously. He had always seen the navy as a job stuck aboard some cramped and dusty ship with nothing to see beyond waves and the sky for long stretches... But the way Berecien described it made it sound like an adventure in its own right, and a gateway to seeing more places than he could ever dream of doing normally.

    "Anyway... I should probably get going soon or else my family is gonna notice I'm gone."

    The Cranidos paused, and realized that the sun was already starting to set over the horizon. The detour to Sara's house had already taken longer than he'd expected, and sticking around to chat with the Ponyta would delay him even further, and he still had both the Guild and his parents to worry about.

    "Right…" Cabot murmured. "I've got paperwork to drop off at the guild, I guess I ought to hurry it up if I don't want my parents to think something happened in the Mystery Dungeon."

    The Ponyta gave a quizzical tilt of his head at the Cranidos' words, but decided to shrug the matter off. After all, while Cabot had his own matters to get into order, he too had places to be, and dilly-dallying around wouldn't help him get to them any faster.

    "It was nice talking to you, Cabot."

    "Yeah, same," the Cranidos responded with a nod.

    "I'm not leaving for Basic Training until the end of the week, so who knows? Maybe we'll meet again sometime soon."

    "I would look forward to that."

    The two Pokémon bid each other farewell, before they turned around and shuffled off in their own directions. As Cabot made his way back down the wooded hillside towards Polderfield's huts, he kept finding himself staring beyond the sunken fields and out at the sea again and again, picturing himself sailing away into a world full of adventure.


    The sun was setting down by the time Cabot made it back into Polderfield Town, and the town had started settling into a more sedentary rhythm. The booths were largely completed by now, and some stores had already begun shuttering their doors for the evening. There were the expected holdouts: the inn, the tavern along the river, and a shack whose roof had been built into the shape of a Rampardos... 'Galton & Julia's Box Busters', the finest (and only) such operation in town as well as home sweet home for the little Cranidos.

    Cabot paced forward to the shop and propped himself up on the counter to peer behind it, only to hear a loud crash and feel the counter shake under his claws. Even so, the young dinosaur didn't flinch, as it was merely the normal sign of normal work by his parents, followed by the normal sight of a male Rampardos raising his head up and walking in from the breaking room. The Box Buster shook loose some broken wooden planks behind the counter before noticing his child and giving a cheery wave.

    "Hey there boy!" the larger dinosaur greeted. "How was your day?"

    "It went great!" the Cranidos exclaimed. "We got the chests Sara needed for the trade fair. She already left for home though, so I went to her house for her signature."

    "I'm surprised you didn't just wait until tomorrow," the Rampardos said. "You're home a bit later than usual after all."

    "Well, the trade fair is tomorrow!" Cabot replied. "I wouldn't want to make a detour to Sara's shop first for her signature, or go to the guild to deliver it."

    Galton gave a bemused shake of his head at his son's enthusiasm. It was always nice to see his child in high spirits, even if he had to be kept from getting too far ahead of himself every now and then.

    "Heh, you've been getting a bit worked up over that thing for a while now," the father dinosaur chuckled. "Are you excited for tomorrow?"

    "Yeah I am!" the Cranidos cheered. "I just know that I'll find something interesting there!"

    "Well even if you don't, you know you can always just come work with me at the shop," the Rampardos said.


    Cabot pouted at his father, prompting Galton to give a playfully reassuring pat to his child's head. His dad had suggested numerous times he take over the box busting shop at some point in the future, but spending the rest of his life in the same place opening boxes was the last thing Cabot wanted.

    "Relax, I'm sure you'll have a chance to find something," the larger dinosaur reassured. "Go tell your mom you're home so she can start with dinner."

    "Alright, I'll go do that."

    Cabot went around the shop, passing a small pile of shattered wood heaped out in the alley next to the tent that covered the shopfront. At the back was the family residence, a simple two-level hut that had been built into the rear of the tent with the front door left ajar. The Cranidos pushed the door open to come to the main room, where the simple table and its quartet of blocky stools where the family dined and entertained guests was set out. As the Rock-Type entered his home, he could hear humming coming from a room further to the right.

    "Hey mom! I'm home!"

    As soon as the words left his mouth, the bulky form of a female Rampardos came from the backroom. Evidently his mother was handling housework tonight and leaving the surplus boxes to his father, though Cabot didn't remember her demeanor seeming this puzzled on past nights where she took the lead keeping the house in order.

    "Eh? So late?" his mother answered. "You're usually home about an hour earlier than this."

    "Oh it's because I went to Sara's house to get her signature after the mission," Cabot explained. "She had already left for home after we came back from the dungeon."

    The Rampardos sighed and shook her head, much as she had done so many times before for her child's more reckless episodes.

    "You know, me and your dad do worry about you if you come home late without us knowing about it."

    "But it's not that big of a deal," the Cranidos reassured. "And I just wanted to get it done before the trade fair tomorrow."

    "The world has many dangerous places Cabot, including that Mystery Dungeon you crawl through," the larger dinosaur said. "I just don't want to see you get hurt."

    Cabot paused and looked away uneasily, pawing at the ground with his feet. The Cranidos scratched himself behind his head, fumbling with his words before he found an response that sat well with him.

    "I guess I just didn't really think about it like that," Cabot muttered.

    Julia shook her head and murmured disapprovingly under her breath at her child's antics. Even so, the matter had all worked out in the end, so perhaps it was best to not badger him too much over the issue.

    "Well you're home now at least…" the mother Rampardos sighed. "I'll go start preparing dinner."

    "Okay, I'll be in my room."

    Cabot clambered up the crude stairway to the second floor, where a simple table and stool along with fresh straw bedding awaited him. The Cranidos threw his bag aside and flopped down into the fresh straw, rolling over to stare up at the ceiling with a contented sigh.

    "Whelp, this is it," the little dinosaur murmured to himself. "Hopefully there's a nice traveling job available at the fair."

    The Cranidos pawed at his straw bedding, fluffing it up for more cushioning as the view of the town from outside his window caught his attention. Cabot paused, and looked out at the sight of booths being decorated in the main square, prompting him to give an anticipatory wag of his tail.

    "It's a big world out there, and starting tomorrow, I'm gonna see every bit of it!"


    The sun set over the horizon, whisking Cabot off into a world of dreams where tantalizing visions of crawling through faraway vistas and sailing over clear waters played out in his mind. The general motif was the same: in his dreams he was the explorer, the dashing hero, ever pushing out into the unknown for the next horizon…


    Until his dreams abruptly stopped. His eyes flickered, letting in morning sunlight. The Rock-Type stirred against his straw bedding, rubbing his eyes as he lethargically put his scarf on.

    "I thought you said that you wanted to go to the fair!" a voice downstairs called. "It started an hour ago!"

    At his mother's words, the Cranidos jolted upright and noticed that the sun was higher in the sky than he'd thought it would be. The Rock-Type yelped and hastily ran down the stairs, grabbing a berry off the table as he quickly greeted and bade farewell to his mother before slipping out the door.

    Cabot charged ahead for the main square, where he saw a horde of Pokémon milling about amidst a kaleidoscope of gaily-colored booths attended by various vendors. There were faces he recognized from the guild and around town such as Sara and the Kecleon merchant, along with a host of strangers that were new to him such as an energetic angular duck that floated above the ground chirping happily at passers-by.

    "Broaden your horizons with Alcon's move tutoring. It takes just one easy session to unlock more of your full potential!"

    The Cranidos blinked and watched as the Porygon nosed out a glinting disc in a strange clear sheath. Ah, that must be a 'tee-yem'… But there would be time to gawk later, he had a job to find! Undaunted, the Fossil Pokémon pranced ahead, passing a Turtonator claiming to sell the Cradle's finest charcoal, and a Smeargle painter looking for a new apprentice. He also noticed a Fraxure, Servine, and Raichu in white scarves with waterspout patterns hawking crates of tropical fruits and berries at unusually low prices… Why, it was as if the fair had brought a whole second town over to Polderfield!

    "There sure are a lot of Pokémon around town…" Cabot murmured to himself. Yes, there was undoubtedly quite the selection of booths to choose from. But some of these Pokémon were clearly just here to ply their wares and trades, so then, where would he start looking for a job…?

    "Heh, welcome aboard! You'll fit right in with us as a roadie for our travel circuit!"

    Cabot looked to the left, where he noticed a Simisage shaking hands with an Aipom from behind a booth. With the Grass-Type were a Gothorita and a Donphan, who chattered idly about their 'next stop'. Cabot paused and scratched his chin in thought at their conversation. It did sound promising, but what exactly was the group doing that would attract so much attention from the Aipom? After mulling it over a little, the Cranidos decided the best way to know for sure was to simply ask, and made his way over to the booth.

    "Sorry, but did you say something about a travel circuit?"

    The three Pokémon perked their ears up and turned to the little Rock-Type as the Aipom scurried off. Feeling a little on-the-spot, Cabot pawed his feet against the ground, clearing his throat to try and press the matter.

    "Do you have any spots left?" the Cranidos asked. "And what would you need from a new hire?"

    "Why yes, we do!" the Simisage cheered. "You're lucky you came to us this early, Cranidos. After all, many Pokémon would love to get a job that involves helping the great Thalez with his performances!"

    At once, Cabot's excitement evaporated into blinking and a flummoxed pause. 'Performances' certainly didn't sound like the kind of adventure he was looking for...

    "Wait, performances?" the Rock-Type spluttered. "But you just talked about a travel circuit."

    "That's right," the Gothorita said. "For this job you'd travel all over Giotto to get the right supplies to locations Thalez performs."

    "Once there, you'd help set up the stage and do the groundwork that allows Thalez to work his magic on the crowds!" the Donphan continued.


    Cabot slowly shifted his gaze to the ground out of disappointment. The more he heard about this job, the less it sounded like an actual adventure around the Cradle and more like the drudgery of being a pack mule. Seeing other towns on Giotto would be nice, he supposed... but beyond that, how would this be any different than simply just dragging crates up to his father's shop?

    "So what do you say Cranidos?" the Simisage prodded. "Do you still think you got what it takes?"

    "I... uh…" Cabot began. "I think I should probably look around a bit more first before I sign up for anything."

    The little dinosaur turned around and hastily moved along, leaving the stage hands to trade surprised looks with one another. After Cabot had put enough distance between himself and the trio, he finally stopped and gave a disappointed glance around the surrounding fair.

    "Well that was certainly a lot different from what I expected…" the Cranidos sighed.

    The Rock-Type continued his track throughout the fair, passing stands full of food and handicrafts along with groups of chattering Pokémon, as he searched around for any interesting-sounding opportunities. He stopped again when he noticed an empty stand with a Gallade, a Blastoise, and a Goodra all wearing rescue team badges loitering in front of the counter, disappointment visibly etched on their faces.


    Cabot gave a puzzled tilt of his head at the sight of the booth. The team didn't look like they were running any business out of the booth... So why were they just hovering around one like they were selling stuff from it? It certainly seemed a matter worth investigating, prompting the Cranidos to pace over closer to the stand.

    "Bah, fine time for that Wigglytuff to take a break!" the Gallade groaned. "Feels like we've been standing here all morning, and we still haven't found any workable teammates!

    "I'm honestly starting to think nobody in this town has any real wish to go on a traveling team," the Goodra murmured.

    "Excuse me, but do you guys travel to other islands or something...?"

    The three Pokémon scanned their surroundings looking left and right, before looking down to find the source of the voice: a young Cranidos curiously eyeing them, his tail wagging amiably. The group looked at each other puzzledly, before the Blastoise gave a shrug and knelt down to address the little dinosaur more on his level.

    "Yup, it comes with the territory for the members of Team Surveyor," the turtle replied. "There's no challenge too great for us!"

    "And… you were looking for a new teammate?" Cabot asked.

    "That's right," the Goodra said. "Why, do you know someone who'd be interested in joining us little one?"

    "Well, yeah. I'd be really interested!" the dinosaur exclaimed.

    The atmosphere suddenly changed as the smiles on the trio's faces became markedly less enthusiastic and an awkward silence filled the air. The Blastoise stared at the Rock-Type hesitantly, before clearing his throat to speak.

    "You wanted to join us...?" the Blastoise prodded.

    "Uh... yeah?"

    Cabot tensed up, and started to shift uneasily. He'd encountered Pokémon in all sorts of states of minds during his work as a Guild Apprentice, and he knew all too well that the sort of attitude the trio had was the same sort the higher-ranked teams at the Guild had when they only had low-level missions to pick from..

    "Kid, do you have any experience exploring Mystery Dungeons and the like?" the Gallade demanded.

    "Yeah I do!" the Cranidos answered. "I graduated to Normal Rank almost a year ago and have been helping different Rescue Teams ever since."

    "Almost a year huh...?" the Goodra asked, giving a sigh.

    "Look kid, our team has a Gold Rank. We're not some rookies who explore the first few floors of a dungeon looking for apples and bail out," the Gallade snarled. "When we go to an island we explore the nearby dungeon until the very last floor, sometimes fighting through multiple Monster Houses along the way. Do you really think you can keep up with us?"

    Cabot grimaced and backpedaled uneasily at the Psychic-Type's words. Sensing the little dinosaur's visibly shaken demeanor, the Blastoise sighed and spoke up.

    "I suppose what we're trying to get at is… We're looking for someone a bit more… experienced," the Water-Type said.

    "I... see…" Cabot muttered.

    "Look unless you know someone as experienced as us, just move along okay?" the Goodra insisted. "I'm sure there's something else at this trade fair more suitable for you."

    "O... kay," the Cranidos stammered.

    The Fossil Pokémon turned around and began trudging off with a deflated hang of his head, leaving Team Surveyor's Pokémon to scoff in the background and return to their still-fruitless search for a fourth teammate.

    "That didn't go well…"

    Cabot sighed and drooped his head, giving a kick at a small pebble at the ground. He had expected to find multiple jobs that would allow him to go on adventure throughout the Cradle by now, but here he couldn't even find one...

    Then again... what adventure did start off smoothly? Didn't they all have some first hurdle to get around? The thought helped to lift the little dinosaur's spirit, prompting him shake his head and recollect himself.

    "But I can't give up here!" the Rock-Type said to himself. "There has to be something!"

    The little Cranidos made his way around the crowded stalls, looking for any leads for a suitably adventurous job. There certainly wasn't a shortage of potential jobs to be filled... There was someone looking for a courier in Tidemill, a carpenter looking for an understudy, an accountant looking for a bookkeeper... But the only remotely travel-oriented job he'd found was a spot aboard a merchant ship that maintained a fixed route to and from Boisocéan. A grand adventure the first time, but to do it over and over again...?

    "This is harder than I thought…" the Cranidos murmured.

    "Have you ever wanted to sail the Cradle's seas?"


    Cabot looked towards the sea, where he saw a small crowd gathering around a podium crudely fashioned out of a crate and decorated with a indigo cloth with a leaf design on it. On it was a Swanna, with a few Pokémon behind him idling and poring over some blank papers. The bird fanned out his wings to gesture at his audience, enthusiastically speaking with the curious faces arrayed around him.

    "Then you can put your mind at ease, once you're in the navy!" the Flying-Type exclaimed.

    "The navy?"

    Cabot tilted his head curiously at the recruiter's words. He remembered how Berecien had talked about it the other day, how the Ponyta had insisted there was more to it than just being stuck on a ship all the time. He reasoned that it couldn't hurt to listen a little more, so the Cranidos walked over to the podium for a closer look.

    "Of course you'd do more than just sail around and visit places, you would help to keep our own Giotto safe!" the Swanna continued. "Pirates and corporatist traitors lurk these waters, and it's because of Pokémon like us that they don't just come in and invade towns such as these!"

    As soon as the Swanna's words left his beak, the crowd quickly thinned out of disinterest, a few more vocally braggadocious Pokémon excusing themselves to tend to stomachaches. Word of the dangers of the job quickly exacted their toll, leaving behind the Swanna along with a small party of exasperated-looking clerks behind the counter.

    "… You probably would've been better off talking about the different ports of call they'd see," a Furfrou murmured from the rear of the podium.

    "Oh? What are they?"

    The Swanna and his colleagues looked around for the source of the voice, seeing no apparent speaker at first. After a flummoxed blink, they looked down and saw that in front of the podium was a small Cranidos, curiously moving a claw to his mouth.

    "Eh?! You still haven't run off- I mean, er… Tons of places!" the Swanna hastily replied.

    "Magmapool Town with its hot springs, the sandy beaches of Copperband Village, the beautiful mountains overlooking Starpeak Square…" the Furfrou added. "One of the perks of being on the front lines defending the Empire!"

    Cabot moved a claw over his chin as thoughts of what naval life might be like swirled in his head. It would undoubtedly involve a good deal of sailing, but it would also take him far and wide throughout the Cradle, with a good deal of bad guys to headbutt out of the way in order to get stronger. The recruiters hadn't mentioned anything about pay, but they had already illustrated that it would be quite the adventure...

    And that was what he wanted most from his job anyways.

    "It sounds interesting... but what does a Pokémon need to do to join the navy anyways?" the Cranidos asked.

    "Assuming you're above the age of seven," the Swanna began, "all you have to do is give us some information about yourself like your name and where you live, and we'll sign you up."

    "Oh! That's easy!" the Rock-Type exclaimed. "How do I do that?"

    "Let me get the paperwork!" the Furfrou cheerily responded.

    The poodle went to the back to the podium and fetched several papers and a small inkpad. The dog slid the papers over to Cabot along with a charcoal nub, which the Rock-Type began to gingerly fill out: name, species, hatching date... all details that ought to have felt tedious to fill out, but that melted away with his giddy anticipation. Before he knew it, it came time to place his pawprint on the paper to sign; Cabot pressed his claw into the inkpad, and pressed it down hard onto the paper, giving a small excited wag of his tail. It was the first step in a new adventure, and he just knew his parents were going to love hearing about it.


    "You did what?!"

    A tense silence fell over the dusty dining room in Polderfield Town's Box Buster shop. On one end was Cabot, still tired from a brisk run back to the shop after filling out his paperwork with the naval recruiters; and on the other were his parents, staring at him much as if he'd just spat on the table. The pair's startled and exasperated outburst was a far cry from the excited and happy atmosphere that Cabot expected would follow his revelation, the Cranidos stammering and stumbling over what to say next.

    "I... signed up for the navy?" the Cranidos hesitantly repeated, only to be answered by a low growl from his father and a scolding question from his mother.

    "Cabot, how on earth could you do that?!"

    "B-But what do you mean?!" the little dinosaur stammered. "Why are you upset? I thought you guys wanted me to find something at the trade fair…"

    Cabot visibly blanched as he looked at his parents' faces. This- This wasn't how mom and dad were supposed to react! He'd finally found work that would fill his yearning for adventure, and here his parents were treating it as if it was all a big mistake!

    "Because working for the navy is dangerous, Cabot," the mother Rampardos said. "Life on a boat is already unsafe, and then you have pirates and the Company on top of it!"

    "How did you expect us to react hearing you signed up for that out of the blue?!" Galton exclaimed.

    The Cranidos shrank back a moment, taken aback by his parents' protest. This was everything that he'd hoped for from a job, a chance to go on adventures far and wide, and they weren't okay with it...

    … No, they would be okay with it, just as soon as he made them understand.

    "But it's finally a way for me to see the world!" Cabot began. "And the Empire is really strong so I'm sure I'll be fine! We can take on any pirates! The Company too... I think."

    "This isn't a decision to be taken lightly!" his mother shouted. "You should have come and talked to us!"


    "Listen to your mother Cabot."

    The Cranidos went silent as he noticed his father was now too giving him a stern glare, Cabot's gaze drifting down to the table uneasily. Why were his parents doing this to him? Didn't they understand that this was the sort of job he'd been yearning for all this time?

    "If you would have come to us and used your head instead, maybe you would have realized that it's a bad idea to impulsively sign up for something like that," the Rampardos harrumphed. "There are plenty of other jobs that would have suited you much better, like taking over the shop for instance."

    Cabot gritted his teeth and seethed at the mention of running the shop. He'd been talking on and on about wanting to go off on adventure, the entire reason why he bothered joining the guild in the first place. Had dad been listening? Did he even care what he wanted?

    "So that's what this is all about?!" the Cranidos shouted, slamming his claws against the table. "You don't care at all whether I find something I like! You just want me to take over your stupid shop!"

    The father Rampardos stomped against the earthen floor, jolting the table and the surrounding ground as his mother's face turned into a hardened scowl. Cabot eased himself, and saw that his parents were both glaring at him, both clearly unpleased with his new attitude.

    "Don't you dare speak to your father like that!" his mother hissed.

    "That stupid shop put food on the table for this family since before you hatched!" his father roared. "And if you've got such a problem with it, you can get out and go take care of yourself!"

    "Fine! I'll go do that!" Cabot yelled back. "I'll sleep at the guild tonight!"

    The Cranidos turned around and angrily stormed out of the house, leaving his parents to glare after him as the dust still swirled in the air. Once the silence had returned to the room, Julia's countenance eased, as the Rampardos softly spoke up.

    "... Did we do the right thing?"

    "... He just needs some time to come to his senses," the father Rampardos grunted. "Let him blow off some steam tonight. He'll be back soon enough."

    Julia looked at the ground and she shook her head with a sigh. Cabot was always a headstrong one, and undoubtedly needed to be reeled in from his less cautious tendencies from time to time, but even so, his acrimonious exit left her feeling unsettled.

    "I hope you're right…"


    True to his word, after storming out of the family home, Cabot spent the night at the Guild, sleeping in the common accommodations. Night came and went, the Cranidos waking late in the morning after a tumultuous sleep. Cabot wandered about the grounds to attempt to find a team to work with, only to find he had trouble focusing or working up the motivation to do much of anything after yesterday's fight.

    The Rock-Type left the guild, hoping a short walk around town would clear his mind. But the minutes turned into hours that stretched into the afternoon, as the surrounding huts and shops gave way to the hill overlooking Polderfield. Once there, he laid down doing little other than staring off at the town and thinking uncomfortably about what happened between him and his parents.

    "Why couldn't things just have gone a little smoother...?"

    The little dinosaur gave out a sigh and lowered his head against the ground, peering down at the town below. He was so happy after being accepted by the recruiters yesterday, but everything afterwards had gone completely wrong! It was supposed to be the best day of his life... so why did his parents have to react like this...?

    "Cabot...? Didn't think I'd run into you again so soon."

    Cabot jolted upright and whirled around at the sound of the voice, only to come face to face with the familiar Ponyta from the day before. The Cranidos blinked and pinched himself to make sure he wasn't seeing things, before stammering out a response to the Fire-Type.

    "Huh?! Berecien?!" the Rock-Type exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

    "I just wanted to see your town after our talk the other day," the horse said. "Figured I might as well go here once before I leave for Basic Training."

    The Ponyta shook his head and paced over beside the Cranidos, lying down on the grass. The Fire-Type looked ahead at the village and fields of below, before casting a prodding glance at Cabot, thick with curiosity as to why the dinosaur had crossed paths with him again.

    "So why are you lying here all by yourself anyway?" Berecien asked.

    "Oh... just taking a break from stuff, that's all…" Cabot murmured.

    "Hm? What do you mean?"

    "Well... you see, I signed up for the navy," the Cranidos began.

    Berecien blinked and perked up his fiery tail. Much to Cabot's surprise, the Ponyta was staring at him as if he'd suddenly turned a bright pink before his eyes. Had he said something wrong?

    "Wait, you did what?"

    "Uh... well you made it sound kinda nice," Cabot offered. "... Is it a bad thing?"

    "... You didn't sign up for the navy just because some stranger said it was nice, did you?" the Ponyta questioned. "I mean, it's a serious profession."

    "Oh, it's not like that! I'm serious about it!" the little dinosaur spluttered back, waving his claws hastily. The Rock-Type then put a claw up to the corner of his mouth, trailing off pensively.

    "It's just that I've always wanted to go on adventures, see different places…"

    The Cranidos looked down and slowy tapped his claws together. When Berecien had put it that way, it really did make things sound kinda silly... but being able to make a job of adventuring was what he'd wanted for years!

    "Work at the guild just gets so repetitive after a while, and we had this trade fair in town yesterday where a bunch of recruiters made it sound like the navy would have plenty of adventure," Cabot explained. "And when I heard them about talk about it and remembered what you told me, it just seemed like the kind of thing I wanted to do."

    "I see…" Berecien said. "Though I still don't understand why you're lying around here."

    "… After I got home and told my parents, I got into a fight with them," the Rock-Type admitted. "They didn't really like that I signed up without talking to them first."

    "Well... that's kinda understandable."

    The Cranidos jolted upright and stared at the Ponyta as if he had suddenly sprouted a pair of wings. Berecien was joining the navy and he'd made it sound like a grand adventure... And now here he was telling him that he was wrong and that his parents were right about it?


    "I mean, I trust that you already knew about it going in, but life on a ship isn't a game," Berecien began. "Naval service might be an opportunity to have an adventure, but in the times that we live in, it can also be your grave."

    Cabot faltered, slowly shifting his gaze down to the ground and rubbing his claws uneasily. He... hadn't thought about any of that when Berecien mentioned the navy yesterday, but it was hard to say that the Fire-Type was wrong about any of this. But it couldn't have been that bad if the Ponyta was still joining... right?

    "If it weren't for the family tradition, my parents would freak out too if I signed up out of the blue for a job where fighting pirates and the Company is an expectation," the Fire-Type said.

    "I… see."

    The Cranidos shifted uneasily at Berecien's words. The call of adventure meant more to him than anything in the whole world, and he'd always been chomping at the bit to go beyond his little corner of Giotto... But when the Ponyta put things that way, maybe his parents hadn't overreacted after all...

    "Anyway, regardless of what you do, I suggest trying to make up with your parents," the Fire-Type offered. "If you're really gonna go through with this, you don't want to leave the island with a fight with them."

    "I suppose you're right…" Cabot murmured.

    "I know it's probably not an easy thing for you to sort out, but I really don't think that they're trying to spoil your fun," Berecien added. "Look, you said your mom got worried something happened in the Mystery Dungeon if you stayed away too long right?"


    "I'm pretty sure this is just the same sort of thing," the Ponyta insisted. "You really can get messed up in the navy, much moreso than during your average guild mission."

    Cabot paused in thought and shifted uncomfortably at Berecien's reminder. He didn't particularly like dwelling on the risks of adventures… but he couldn't rightfully say that the Fire-Type was wrong.

    "I just hadn't thought about it like that…" the Cranidos muttered. "But okay. Thanks Berecien."

    "Well, you're welcome," the fire horse replied. "Just know that while I didn't have much choice with my parents, you do."

    Berecien looked at the sky, and noticed that the sun had moved far to the west, its reddening rays indicating the onset of evening. The Fire-Type gave an irked snort and stomped at the ground, before turning back to his companion with a sigh.

    "Well, I should probably get going," the Ponyta said. "I should get back before anyone notices I'm missing."

    "Oh... right," Cabot murmured.

    "Just take it easy on your parents, and give joining the navy some careful thought okay?" Berecien asked. The Ponyta began to trot off a few paces, only to abruptly slow down and stop. Much to Cabot's surprise, the Fire-Type paused and looked back over his shoulder, evidently wanting to say something else

    "But if you do end up joining," the fire horse began. "I'll look forward to seeing you in Basic Training."

    "Hm right," the Rock-Type nodded. "I'll look forward to it as well."

    Berecien nodded back and lowered his head, heading off into a faster and faster gallop away from the clearing. Cabot listened to the Fire-Type's hoofbeats as they faded further and further into the distance, until they vanished entirely, leaving him alone with the town beneath him and the idle sounds of life in the surrounding forest.

    The Cranidos paused and mulled, finding both angles to Berecien's argument to be more compelling than he'd like. On the one hand, adventure surely awaited him if he went through and joined the navy… But on the other, if things fell through or if something went wrong, what would it do to his parents?

    The dome-headed Pokémon thought, and thought, before rising up to his feet uneasily. He wasn't sure about it, but after mulling it over, there seemed to be one logical choice to make.

    "I think I know what to do..."

    Cabot began trudging down the hill, a lingering unease hanging about him like a cloud all the while. Even so, in spite of his misgivings, he knew what had to be done...

    He just hoped that things wouldn't turn out into another mess.


    "Cabot! Cabot! Are you here?"

    Cabot's parents had wandered into Polderfield's guild in their search, the complex having settled into the sleepy equilibrium most guilds do a few hours after updating their postings. The pair tried asking all the Pokémon they could find on their way in if they'd seen Cabot: the Siglyph who updated the mission listings, the Dragonite medic, the Marshtomp mailmon, and the Phanpy apprentice who worked at the storage shop just outside of the complex… only for all of them to answer back with negatives and shakes of their heads. At the entrance, the Rampardos pair burst into the main foyer and scanned the surroundings, their search turning up naught but a number of puzzled stares from passing Rescue Teams.

    "I don't see him anywhere..." Galton murmured.

    "He's always here normally!" Julia insisted. "Why would he suddenly vanish like this?"

    "Well it is a bit crowded in here," the father Rampardos offered. "Maybe he's busy and doesn't notice us."

    Galton's wife scanned the guild hall once more, looking here and there among the passing Pokémon when a familiar yellow heart-shaped crest caught her eye. The Rampardos looked ahead and saw it belonged to a Jangmo-o pawing at a mission board accompanied by a Chikorita.

    "Wait, those are the Pokémon Cabot worked with the other day," Julia said. "Maybe they've seen him around."

    Galton and Julia made their way over to the mission board as the Jangmo-o and Chikorita looked over the day's listings on the board. The pair appeared to be deep in thought, evidently having trouble finding a listing which suited their fancy.

    "What about this mission?" the Jangmo-o asked.

    "Eh... we'll get barely any points towards our rank for that," the Chikorita murmured.

    "Excuse me, but you worked with Cabot two days ago, did you not?"

    The two Pokémon looked up with a start from the mission board and peered over their shoulders. Much to their surprise, there was a pair of worried-looking Rampardos standing behind them, weren't these...?

    "Oh, you're Cabot's parents right?" the Grass-Type wondered.

    "That's correct," Galton answered. "We wanted to talk to him but we can't find him."

    "Do you know where he is?" Julia added, only to be answered by a shake of the Jangmo-o's head.

    "I haven't see him today actually," the Dragon-Type replied. "I know he was here last night though."

    Galton and Julia grimaced at the Jangmo-o's answer. Cabot was always one to plunge himself back into what he considered 'adventure' whenever he wanted to get out of the house... Why wouldn't that be with Rescue Teams? Had he wandered off on his own?

    "Are you sure you haven't seen him?" the mother Rampardos questioned. "Or did he at least mention where he would go to today?"

    "Do you mind giving us a moment, children?"

    The four Pokémon looked over and saw a Farfetch'd in a white scarf with green stripes heading over, her leek slung over her shoulder. The duck waddled along and looked up at the unnerved Rampardos, before turning towards the younger Pokémon.

    "I just need a moment with Julia and Galton here," the Flying-Type said. "How about you two pick that mission asking for an escort to the dungeon's seventh floor?"

    Team Resolve looked at each other uneasily, sensing that something was amiss. Even so, the Guildmaster seemed to be fairly insistent that she could handle things... perhaps it would be best to take that escort mission after all.

    "Er... I mean, if you're sure about that," the Jangmo-o began.

    "Yeah, a Rescue Team's first duty is to come to the aid of Pokémon in need," his Chikorita teammate added.

    "Bón, I'll handle things from here," the Farfetch'd reassured.

    The two young Pokémon hesitated for a bit, before taking the mission posting off the board and walking off. After Team Resolve was sufficiently far out of earshot, the two Rampardos turned worriedly towards the Farfetch'd who peered up at them curiously.

    "Guildmaster Akka, do you know where Cabot is?" the mother Rampardos asked.

    "We've been looking all over town for him, but we can't find so much as a scale!" Galton exclaimed.

    "He did stay here during the night, however, he left earlier this morning," Akka answered.

    The hope in the Rampardos' eyes abruptly evaporated at the Flying-Type's reply. After spending half the day looking for their son, to hear that even the local Guildmaster didn't know where he was hit them like a Mega Kick in the gut

    "Oh I see..." Julia murmured.

    Akka paused and moved a wing uneasily towards her bill. She hadn't expected a simple answer to affect Galton and Julia so much… Perhaps she was overthinking the matter, but…

    "Has something happened?" the Farfetch'd wondered.

    "He went to that trade fair yesterday and signed up for the navy out of the blue," Galton explained.

    The Guildmaster ruffled her feathers and glanced at the parents in stunned surprise. Cabot had always been on the bolder side as an adventurer, but that certainly seemed to be a cut above what she'd expect him to do on a spur of the moment decision.

    "That's... certainly something," Akka said. "How did you two react exactly when he got home?"

    "We were upset of course!" the father Rampardos responded. "How else were we supposed to react to that sort of news?"

    "After we disapproved of his choice to sign up for something so dangerous just like that, he got mad himself," Julia added. "He even lashed out at us and called the family shop stupid..."

    "Hrm... I see," the Guildmaster mulled as she shifted her leek against the shoulder of her wing.

    The two parents paused and drooped, their account of the whole episode dredging up unwelcome hurts. Julia looked at the ground worriedly, shaking her head with a sigh.

    "I just don't understand how he could do this," the mother Rampardos murmured. "Doesn't he know we're just trying to keep him safe?"

    "Well... isn't he already in harm's way on a regular basis?" Akka asked.

    Galton blinked and shifted uneasily at the Farfetch'd question. Was Cabot getting into other dangerous things he was hiding from him? Akka wasn't suggesting that, was she?

    "What do you mean, Guildmaster Akka?"

    "Well, missions inside the Mystery Dungeon always brings risks with them," the Farfetch'd explained. "Whether it's a territorial feral or a trap, there's no shortage of things that can become treacherous inside a Dungeon if one isn't careful."

    "But I do worry about those things," Julia said. "I sometimes just wish he'd stay in town where it is safe."

    "But even the town isn't always safe, Julia," the Guildmaster countered.

    "What are you talking about?" Galton questioned. "If he stayed here he wouldn't be fighting pirates on a regular basis!"

    "Perhaps not, but would that protect him from the times that they do come?" Akka replied. "Wasn't that what happened to your shop two years ago?"

    The father Rampardos opened his mouth to reply, only to pause and trail off. The incident in question Akka spoke of was a pirate raid about two years ago, which had torn through Polderfield in a whirlwind of fire and smoke. Most of the shops on the block had been burned up in the attack, with only a lucky headbutt helping to keep his own along with Julia and Cabot from getting swept up in the chaos. He had to admit that in that particular case Akka had a point, but…

    "I mean… I suppose, but that's not the same, and-"

    "I know it. But you can't keep Cabot perfectly safe no matter what you have him do," the Flying-Type interrupted. "If that's the case, wouldn't it be worth considering letting him spread his wings a bit and sating his thirst for adventure?"

    "I... guess…" Galton murmured.

    "As his guildmaster I noticed he always wanted to go out on adventure," Akka continued. "Working for the navy isn't safe, but perhaps it really is the kind of job Cabot has been looking for all this time."

    The two Rampardos faltered and went silent at Akka's words. All this time, they'd been so concerned about the dangers that Cabot would face in the navy that they hadn't considered the possibility that he'd already taken them into account when making up his mind. He admittedly already took more risks than they'd like, but... could it be that this was what he really wanted for himself?

    "I… I guess we never thought about it that way..." Julia began.

    "In the end it's not really up to me to judge your decisions," the Guildmaster remarked. "But put some thought into the matter, and do whatever you feel will work out best for you and your child."

    Akka slung her leek over her wing and looked expectantly at the Rampardos couple, waiting for an answer. Galton and Julia both paused and looked at each other, both seemingly struggling in thought, before giving shakes of their head and turning back to the Farfetch'd.

    "We'll think about it a bit more…" Galton said. "Thanks for your advice, Akka."

    "It's my pleasure," Akka replied. "I'm sure everything will work out fine in the end."

    Cabot's parents gave the Guildmaster a wave before they turned around and exited the guild's entrance. The pair shuffled along onto Polderfield's winding lanes, their minds preoccupied with where Cabot could be... and what was best to say to him once they met again.


    The walk back into Polderfield Town felt longer that time, each step feeling more tiring and slower than what Cabot remembered coming home from the night before. Then again, with the butterflies dancing in his stomach, it was hard to feel otherwise. During the entire walk through Polderfield's winding lanes, Cabot had been dreading meeting his parents again. Would they still be angry? The Cranidos' nagging doubts kept surfacing one after the other, until he reached the front door of the Box Buster shop. The little dinosaur shook his head to dismiss the thought, before taking a deep breath and pushing the door open.

    "Mom? Dad? Are you there?"

    Cabot looked around the barren common room, waiting for a response and bracing for the worst, only to be answered by the sound of village life outside. Barring a little dust swirling here or there, there was no life to be seen in the shop. His parents ought to have been hard at work at this time… Why had they left? Were they upset with him? Did they not want anything to do with him right now? The Cranidos drooped and began shuffling back for the door in low spirits, only to hear his mother's voice call from the door.


    The young Rock-Type looked up just in time to see his parents entering through the door. The pair seemed not to be angry as he had feared, but instead worried and visibly tired, as if they'd just come from a long and arduous day of work.

    "We've been looking for you all over town," Galton said. "Were you feeling alright?"

    "Oh... er... I..."

    Cabot trailed off, tapping his claws together as he found himself at a flustered loss for how to begin. After a shake of his head, the Cranidos cleared his throat, finally collecting his thoughts enough to speak up.

    "Mom…? Dad...?" the little dinosaur began. "I'm sorry for signing up for the navy."

    The Rampardos pair jolted upright and blinked at the Cranidos, both surprised to hear such an apology come from their child. This was what he'd wanted... and he was apologizing for it?

    "I didn't mean to worry you so much," Cabot continued. "I just thought it sounded fun and like a nice adventure, but if you guys really want me to quit then-"

    "Cabot, it's alright," his mother interrupted.


    "We know how you feel about it and how you really want something like this," Julia explained.

    "If you're sure you want to do it, we won't stand in your way," Galton concurred. A blinking silence hung in the air following the Box Busters' words, Cabot staring blankly back at his parents. They… they were okay with him going into the navy?

    "Really?" Cabot asked.

    "We talked with your Guildmaster and she explained how much you've been wanting something more adventurous for a while," the mother Rampardos answered.

    "It wouldn't be right for us to stop you from chasing your dreams like that," his father added.

    Cabot blinked, half-tempted to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't just in a dream. As the shock wore off, a smile began to spread over the Cranidos' mouth, and his tail wagged out of barely bridled enthusiasm.

    "I... ah…" the little dinosaur uttered. "Thank you all so much."

    "It's okay," his mother reassured. "Come here."

    The Rampardos motioned for her child to draw near, and pulled her son into a loving embrace along with his father. The pair gave a tight squeeze, and let their child go, the young Rock-Type looking around at a loss of what he ought to do next.

    "So.. what now?" Cabot wondered. "The recruiters said that Basic Training started in a week and-"

    "Well, me and your mother actually got something for you," Galton replied.

    The father Rampardos passed over a flat, misshapen parcel that was wrapped in cheap and unbleached paper. Its unseen contents felt soft to the touch even through the paper, making Cabot pause and wonder just what sort of item could be inside.

    "We ran into Jamie as he was delivering mail." Julia said. "He had this package addressed to you."

    The Cranidos didn't see any markings on the package, only for his claw to run up against something that felt solid and waxy on the back. He flipped it over, and saw a wax seal with the leaf sigil of the Empire on it, marked with 'Office of the Admiralty' on it.

    "Oh, it's from the navy!" the Cranidos cried.

    "Why don't you open it?" his mother asked.

    The Cranidos tore off the seal and opened the package, pulling an indigo cloth out of the parcel. The Rock-Type unfurled it and saw that it was marked with a leaf design on it, the same mark the recruiters the day before had worn. Then, that meant that this was…

    "It's a navy scarf!" the little dinosaur exclaimed. "I thought they wouldn't give me one until Basic Training!"

    "Why don't you try it on?" Julia proposed.

    Cabot carefully undid his scarf and slipped the indigo garment around his neck, tying a loose knot behind his head. The Cranidos paced over to the mirror, casually sizing himself up as he peered into it to see his reflection.

    "What do you think of it?"

    "Ah! I think it looks great!" Cabot cheered.

    The Cranidos wagged his tail, and blushed a little at seeing himself with the navy scarf. For a such a plain cloth, it seemed to fit him well. Its color stood out well against his hide, and the fabric was comfortable and easy to wear, perfect attire for an adventure on the waves beyond.

    "Good luck with that adventure of yours son," Galton said.

    "I'm sure you'll do great," the mother Rampardos added.

    "Thanks dad! Thanks mom! I'll make the most of it!" Cabot exclaimed. The Cranidos gave a jubilant pump of his claws in the air, his spirits higher than he'd remembered them being in years.

    "I'll show you how a real adventurer handles things!"


    Author's Notes:

    - dworek - Polish: "estate" / "manor" (diminutive)
    - Giottani - Venetian: "Giottan"
    - Bón - Venetian: "It's fine" / "It's good" (Used as an interjection here)
    Last edited:
    Chapter 2: Processing Days
  • Virgil134

    PMD Writer
    1. sylveon
    2. weavile
    3. kommo-o
    4. noivern
    5. mothim
    And as promised, here's Casting Off's second chapter! Originally this was posted on January 27 2018.


    In the days following the arrival of his naval scarf, life at Cabot's shop-home had taken a busy turn. There were items to be packed up, last-minute purchases to be made, and farewells to friends and colleagues to be had; all up until the actual day the young Cranidos was due to report for Basic Training. Cabot and his parents woke early that fateful day, making the trek out at first light northwards for the foothills of Giotto.

    The family's course took them along a well-trodden path past carts laden with goods and travellers, as the fields gave way to denser and denser clusters of shacks and buildings. The three continued on through the outskirts of Tidemill City until they reached its walls, the city's monuments within poking out over the stone fortifications. Despite the allure of the city, the family's journey led them to follow the contours of the walls, continuing north along the stony edifice through the outskirts.

    After another hour of travel, they made it towards a shroud of fog spilling over a beachside ridge. From the charts back in Polderfield's guild, Cabot recognized the fog to be from one of the branch paths that linked up with the dungeon where Tapu Fini's egg was said to slumber. But instead of a visible cave entrance, there at the base of the fog was a stone wall with a gate that had been constructed, the site teeming with Pokémon in indigo scarves.

    "Looks like this is where we part ways, son," Galton murmured. "Take care of yourself in there?"

    "I will!" Cabot answered the father Rampardos. "I'll show 'em just how we Polderfield 'mons handle trouble!"

    The Cranidos' exclamation was cut off by the sensation of his feet leaving the ground, and being pulled into an embrace by his mother. The female Rampardos gave a nuzzle, before setting her child back down onto the ground with a worried look.

    "Just be careful, okay?" Julia insisted. "Your father and I want to see you just as healthy as you are now when you come back, you hear?"


    The little dinosaur turned and darted off, giving a last wave to his parents as he got to the gates of the naval facility. At the front stood a Shiftry and a Golem with black crags that danced with static, the pair eying the new arrival suspiciously.

    "Got some papers, bùxaro?" the Golem questioned. "I can't say I've seen you around here before."

    "Erm… yes, I'm here to report for Basic Training…"

    Cabot fished around in the shoulder satchel he had brought along, passing a piece of folded paper over. The gatekeepers unfurled it, and eyed the smudged runes carefully before handing it back.

    "Looks like everything here checks out," Shiftry said. "You'll want to head in and for the bluff. The place which you'll be training in has been built into the Mystery Dungeon's side path."

    "That's right," the Golem added. "They're holding an initial assembly in just a few minutes at the entrance."

    "Okay! Thanks for the heads-up," the Cranidos answered. The Rock-Type cracked a grin back as he put the paper back into his bag, and waved farewell before carrying on.

    The Fossil Pokémon darted ahead and slipped on into the base, finding a cluster of buildings that was teeming with activity as if it were a town in its own right. As Cabot walked forward, he spotted several groups of Pokémon in indigo scarves: some marching together in neat formation, others eating small bites over a game of cards with flowers on them. There was a small dock, though strangely enough there didn't seem to be too many ships around… He had signed up for the Royal Navy… right?

    "Hey, Domehead! It's that way! You'll miss the assembly!"

    Cabot flinched at the sound of a loud growl, looking up and jumping back with a yelp as he saw a glaring Granbull with a twinleaf scarf glowering over him. The Cranidos looked around hastily and noticed that his course while touring the base had led him towards the seaside… the exact opposite direction of where the gatekeepers had told him to go.

    "Ack, sorry!" the dinosaur hastily apologized. "I just got my directions mixed up a bit!"

    "Well, get them straight and get going already!" the Granbull yelled.

    The Fossil Pokémon turned on his heels and ran inland for the bluff, going as fast as his feet would allow. That sort of embarrassment wasn't exactly how he'd hoped to start off Basic Training… but even so, it wasn't as if one little mishap was predictive of how the rest of training would go, right?

    The Cranidos' sprint took him past a clearing with a gate blocking a foggy passage. In front of it, a stage and podium had been set up, with the forms of dozens of Pokémon in naval scarves like his crowding around. The little dinosaur looked around blankly at the gathering, before making his way to the fringes of the crowd where his eyes settled on a Ferroseed disinterestedly chattering with a few others.

    "Uh… hello?" Cabot asked. "Do you know where everyone is sitting for this assembly?"

    "Right here," the Ferroseed answered. "I guess just take a spot somewhere and wait until one of the higher ups holds his opening speech."

    "Oh, okay," the Cranidos murmured.

    The Ferroseed shifted his attention towards his comrades, drifting back into a conversation about battle cards as Cabot's gaze in turn shifted to the rest of the assembly. The young dinosaur looked around, as a realization came to him… These were all the recruits, weren't they? If so…


    … then anyone who he heard would be entering training would also be here… including Berecien! Cabot wandered around the gathering, carefully scanning it, until he finally spotted a fiery horse in the middle of the crowd, his tail lazily flicking back and forth.

    "Hey! Berecien!"

    The Ponyta looked up with a surprised flick of his ears, discovering much to his astonishment that the Cranidos he'd encountered in his travels was here, waving at him. The Fire-Type blinked incredulously for a moment, before shaking some sense into his head and clearing his throat to speak.

    "Cabot? I see you decided to join after all."

    "Uh huh!" the Cranidos nodded. "I talked things over with my parents, and it's all good now!"

    "Well, I'm glad to hear it all worked out for you," Berecien said.

    "I know!" the Rock-Type exclaimed. "It'll be so much fun to work with you!"

    The Ponyta blinked at the little dinosaur's enthusiasm, giving an awkward shuffle of his hooves. While the recruiters certainly would've been pleased to enter such a gung ho Pokémon into the service, it was barely the first day, and Cabot seemed to be getting just a little ahead of himself here.

    "Well, I wouldn't be too sure of that."

    "Huh? What do you mean?" Cabot asked.

    "Well, we might end up working together, but there's no guarantee," Berecien explained. "We don't even know if we'll get assigned together."


    The Cranidos' cheery smile faded away into an uneasy grimace at the horse's words. He… he wouldn't be able to work with Berecien? But he'd been counting on it all this time! How was he supposed to know what was going on if-

    "Alright, everybody quiet down and listen up!"

    Cabot jolted upright and looked up, the nearby cadets hastily stilling their tongues and turning their attention back to the podium. There on the podium was the same Granbull from earlier, looking around the amassed recruits and giving an impatient scowl to the audience.

    "We've got a visitor from Headquarters, Admiral Coil," the dog barked.

    The mention of 'Admiral Coil' caught the attention of the gathered recruits, spurring a torrent of excited murmurs and chattering among the gathered Pokémon. Cabot knew he'd heard the name before in passing a few times, but what exactly had he done to be so special…?

    "Wait, the Admiral Coil?" a Pidgey wondered.

    "The famous pirate hunter?!" a Timburr cried.

    Evidently so, as the revelation by the Granbull that the admiral was coming to visit certainly electrified the atmosphere… perhaps a little too effectively for the dog's liking given the impatient scowl on her face.

    "Yes I know you've heard of him too," the Fairy-Type grunted. "So simmer down and shut up, he's got a few words to share with you whelps."

    The gathering quieted down as the sound of static crackling filled the air faintly, their eyes turning to the side of the podium where a pitted and scuffed Magnezone floated up. The Electric-Type settled down on the podium and pivoted in the air, turning his eyes towards the audience with a hardened, serious look before giving a shake of his magnets.

    "Good afternoon, cadets," the admiral greeted. "I welcome you all to the opening of Basic Training."

    The Magnezone bobbed a little, spinning his magnets and steadying his body to peer down at his audience. The Electric-Type gave a crackling sound, perhaps to clear his throat (if Magnezone even had throats) and continued on, a serious gaze coming over his eyes.

    "As you all know, our beloved Empire has seen much better times since the Company's betrayal," Coil began. "Anyilla has been fractured and half the Empire is either occupied by them or other rogues, and pirates now openly attack ports. Every day, me and my peers in the Admiralty wake up to new challenges for securing what remains under the Imperial banner and stretching our budget to accommodate our needs."

    The admiral looked about the gathering, basking in his audience's rapt attention. The Electric-Type paused a moment and briefly closed his outer eyes, before continuing on with his speech.

    "However, seeing you all here gives me hope for a brighter, better future," the Magnezone said. "A future where Anyilla is restored to its former self, one that will ultimately rely on the courage and bravery of Pokémon like you to accomplish."

    The Electric-Type's buzzing drew murmurs from the crowd, some flattered by his praise, others filled with some unease as to what expectations were being placed on them. The growing burble of chatter stopped as the audience watched Coil motion for silence with a magnet, before continuing on speaking.

    "But to achieve that future, you must equip yourself with the right tools and skills," the admiral continued. "Although this facility and the Mystery Dungeon beyond might be simple, it is the first step along that journey, to train and prepare you for the challenges you face ahead."

    Cabot looked with visible disappointment around the gathering and let out a small sigh. He had been looking forward to starting naval training since his scarf came in the mail, but he never thought about how he'd be training with a bunch of Pokémon he didn't know. Admiral Coil made training sound like quite the ordeal, and nobody from the guild back in Polderfield had joined along with him… If Berecien wasn't there to help him, would he really be able to pull through…?

    "For the next four weeks you will be split into four groups," Coil explained. "Each group will be assigned to an instructor, who will train you and push you to your limits until you're ready to serve the navy in the field."

    The Magnezone's commentary prompted the gathered Pokémon to start looking around their surroundings at their potential teammates. Most of the recruits seemed to find the process exciting, playing through fantasies of their ideal set of partners. Even so, the lively atmosphere failed to lift Cabot's spirits, as he looked around anxiously tapping his claws together all the while.

    "And with that, I will be bowing out of your way to let you start training," the Electric-Type concluded. "But remember, in this service you'll sometimes be forced to do things that might be… difficult to explain to others. But in the end, to get the results you want, your objectives will require you to take liberties with your judgements beyond established protocol."

    Cabot's gaze shifted from the speaker and the surrounding cadets, his head drooping as his initial enthusiasm had been replaced with an uneasy sinking feeling in his stomach. A buzz from the podium reached his ears, prompting him to glance up and see that Admiral Coil had adjusted himself and glanced at the exit before turning back to his audience.

    "Good luck, cadets," the Magnezone said. "We're counting on you."

    Admiral Coil gave the bobbing approximation of a bow before floating off, leaving his audience to chatter amongst themselves. Amidst the excitement and smalltalk, Cabot continued to stare at the ground blankly, his upbeat mood having been completely displaced by overwhelming feelings of dread. A soft whinny caught the ears of the Rock-Type, prompting him to look up and see that Berecien had sidled up beside him, pawing impatiently at the ground.

    "Hrm?" the Ponyta wondered. "Something the matter?"

    "It's just… I thought we'd be working together for sure," Cabot muttered. "I mean the Admiral makes it sound like navy life would be tough, and I thought for sure that I'd work with a partner I knew to get through it…"

    Berecien watched as the Cranidos trailed off and his eyes drifted gloomily to the ground. The Ponyta swished his tail uneasily and fumbled for words a little, torn as to how to reassure the Rock-Type without filling him with false hope.

    "Look, don't worry too much about it okay?" the fire horse insisted. "It's true that we might get put into different groups, but that's just a possibility. It might very well not happen."

    "I guess…"

    "And after training, we could still be assigned together regardless of what group we train in," Berecien reassured. "Besides, we're still going to have downtime here. It's not as if we can't meet up during it."

    Cabot blinked his eyes in surprise before looking up at his Ponyta companion. Berecien seemed like he was very serious about joining the navy when they first met… He would really go through the trouble of meeting up with him regularly even if it wasn't convenient?

    "You'd… really do that?" the Cranidos asked.

    "Yeah, I would," the Ponyta nodded. "Cadets like us have got to look out for each other!"

    "I mean, when you put it that way… it doesn't sound so bad," the Rock-Type murmured, giving a nod back at the Ponyta.

    "Thanks for that, Berecien," Cabot said. "I'd been worried through the entire speech about how I'd make it through training."

    "Mind you, you still should," the Ponyta chided. "But at least you can worry more about the actual training itself."

    Cabot lifted his head, his enthusiasm returning to him with a weak smile and a chipper wag of his tail. A little training might be tough but with a friend it was bound to be something he could overcome.

    "Heh, I'm sure it's nothing we can't tackle together! Let's do this!"


    After the assembly concluded, groups were assigned by a Delibird who went around passing out colored cards, breaking the pool of recruits into four training groups. Much to Cabot's relief, he discovered that both he and Berecien received blue cards from the Ice-Type, the Cranidos turning to his Ponyta partner in high spirits.

    "Maybe I should have you talk about possibilities more often, Berecien," Cabot cheered. "For a while I didn't think we'd be together!"

    "Well, let's not get too excited here," the Ponyta replied back. "It's Basic Training, and there's still a lot of work ahead of us. Let's start by finding out what instructor-"

    "Blue Group, on me!"

    The pair's attention shifted over to the gate, where much to Cabot's horror, there holding a blue sign was none other than the Granbull who'd introduced Admiral Coil to the audience… and the very same one who chewed him out for straying off earlier.


    "Eh?" Berecien murmured. "Something the matter, Cabot?"

    "Alright, listen up cadets!" the dog barked. "We're going into the dungeon, and I'm not backtracking to find lost cadets. You either stick with the group, or you get kicked off-base whenever you get fished out! Are we clear?"

    "Yes ma'am!"

    The gathered recruits around the Fairy-Type marched off after their instructor, prompting Cabot and Berecien to hurry along after the lot as they followed single-file through the dungeon fog. The journey through the Distortion's disorienting haze took them to a chamber that appeared to consist of rocky passages riddled with stony walls, the group following their instructor through a winding set of corridors and up a flight of stairs. After passing through the stairs and onto the next level, the Granbull paused and eyed her surroundings, noticing a fog-filled passage in a rocky alcove ahead.

    Encountering the fog for a second time in a Mystery Dungeon was a certain sign of finding a place that was not affected by its continuous shifting. It didn't seem logical that the dog would lead her group to an exit so quickly, which seemed to indicate she'd lead them to a stable zone: one of the islands of stability that naturally maintained its place amidst the shifting floors around it. The Fairy-Type then pressed forward, leading the group into a water-ringed islet with a wooden gate flanked with blockhouses at the entrance. The group filed in, coming to a flat, open space with lines marking battlefields, prompting the dog to clap for attention back at the gate.

    "And here we are, where you'll be spending most of your time during training. While some of you might have already run into me on-base…" the Fairy-Type began as her gaze drifted off to Cabot, much to his displeasure. "Let me formally introduce myself. My name is Petty Officer Trixie, and for the next four weeks I will be your instructor."

    The Granbull's introduction drew a small chorus of skeptical mumbles and whispers from the cadets, evidently not finding the Fairy-Type's claim to be terribly impressive. Sensing the lack of enthusiasm, Trixie stamped her foot against the ground to jolt the crowd to attention, before continuing on in a stern tone and glancing down at some notes.

    "Hrmph, I see we've got the expected field hands, some layabouts, a Duke's kid, and more characters in this group than I'd care to get into right now," the Granbull said. "But none of that matters while you're training here. Let there be no mistake, being in the navy is not for the faint of heart, and I'll be training you day in and out until you're sailors worthy of fighting in your queen's name."

    The recruits' murmuring died down under the withering glare of the Granbull and her large fangs. Satisfied with the attention, the dog gave an impatient harrumph before continuing on.

    "This is Basic Training, not a day trip around the outskirts of your home villages," Trixie harrumphed. "While you are under my command, you will do as you are instructed without back-sass or debating me in the field. I expect you to do your duty and to do it promptly-"

    "Hey, this is the Blue Group, right?"

    Cabot blinked and turned with his fellow cadets to the stable zone's edge, where they saw about a dozen Pokémon standing there. The lot of them were garbed in dark khaki scarves with a pair of red fang-like slashes on it, that had been offset to appear as a pair of horns. The group shifted lazily, wholly unconcerned they'd interrupted Trixie's speech much to her glaring displeasure.

    "It is, and you're late," the instructor growled. "What took you all so long?"

    "Err… our ship ran late," a Cacnea with a khaki scarf offered. "No biggie, right?"

    The Grass-Type's flippant answer drew a low growl from the Granbull instructor. Her audience meanwhile exchanged confused looks, wondering aloud about the new strangers, and why it was that they'd been allowed in without donning naval scarves much as they had.

    "Uh… who are these guys?" a Ferroseed asked.

    "These Pokémon are from the Dune Devils," Trixie replied. "They're a group of mercenaries who will be training alongside this unit."

    The Granbull's explanation drew blinks and puzzled murmurs from the gathering. After some awkward hemming and hawing, a Togetic raised an arm and asked the question that had been collectively lingering over the audience.

    "… But aren't they already supposed to know how to fight?" the Togetic questioned.

    "Like any combatant, they have to get used to the environment and structure they will be operating in," the Fairy-Type explained. "While rowdy and undisciplined battles may suffice in some cases, it won't within Her Majesty's forces, much less for the assignments that they will be sharing with you."

    "Yeah, yeah, we get the point," a khaki-scarved Sandshrew grumbled.

    Trixie shot a piercing glare at the Ground-Type, who reflexively shifted back. The Dune Devils drifted off into the crowd, the Fairy-Type's gaze moving them along a little faster than they might have liked before she turned her attention back to the audience at large.

    "Anyway, I have supplies to fetch for your training," the Granbull huffed. "I'll be back within 15 minutes, and then we'll be starting off with some sparring matches to see how strong you lot are. I suggest you try and get to know each other in the meantime."

    The Granbull gave a stern harrumph before setting off, walking past the small blockhouses at the wooden gate straddling the entrance to slip off into the foggy path back into the Mystery Dungeon. As the Fairy-Type departed, the cadets quietly looked around among themselves, before drifting off into small cliques to converse with each other. In the midst of the self-sorting, Cabot and Berecien sidled up to each other, the Ponyta giving a puzzled tilt of his head back to the Cranidos.

    "So why did the instructor glare at you when she said some had already ran into her?" the Fire-Type questioned.

    "Oh, I just got a little lost earlier," Cabot sheepishly admitted.

    The Cranidos closed his eyes and scratched his head bashfully; he supposed it was a little bit embarrassing… As he opened his eyes, he saw the mercenaries from earlier at the edge of his vision, noticing they had drifted away from the rest of their fellow cadets.

    "Those 'mons with the different scarves seem a little alone," the Rock-Type murmured. "Aren't they going to go around meeting others like the rest of us?"

    Berecien followed Cabot's gaze over to the Dune Devils, before narrowing his eyes and turning back to the Fossil Pokémon with a dismissive snort.

    "Hmph, best to just leave them be," the Ponyta huffed. "Mercenaries aren't exactly the most trustworthy Pokémon."

    "But we'll have to work with them, won't we?" Cabot asked.

    "Doesn't mean we can't avoid interacting with them," Berecien said.

    "But they can't be that bad," the little dinosaur replied. "I mean, I didn't want to train alone, so I'm sure they wouldn't mind some new friends either."

    The Ponyta frowned and flattened his ears out at Cabot's response. Even without saying a word, it was clear the Cranidos' argument had not been convincing.

    "Eh, I dunno."

    "Come on, let's at least go see what they're like," Cabot proposed.

    The Rock-Type shook his tail and began to make his way over to the group of mercenaries. At once Berecien went wide-eyed, and spluttered after his departing partner.

    "No Cabot, wait-"

    "Hey there!" the Fossil Pokémon cheered.

    The khaki-scarved Pokémon halted their conversations and looked up to see their interrupter. After spotting Cabot ahead of them, the group looked at each other unsure of how to respond, before giving the Cranidos skeptical glances.

    "Eh? Who are you supposed to be?" a Numel asked.

    "I'm Cabot, and this is Berecien!" the Cranidos answered, pointing at his Ponyta friend. "I figured if we're gonna work together we might as well get to know each other."

    The mercenaries traded sidelong looks with one another, evidently unimpressed with the Cranidos' overly enthusiastic welcome. Eventually, a Sandshrew from the head of the group stepped forward, and brushed some dust off his scaly hide and puffed his chest out before replying.

    "Hm, well I'm Niilo," the pangolin said. "Proud member of the best and most elite mercenary force of Sormus Island."

    "You're the only mercenary group in Sormus," Berecien retorted.

    "Hey, don't knock the Dune Devils!" a Cacnea huffed in response. "We're the finest claws that money can buy in Anyilla!"

    "If that's the case, then it's nigh time the Empire was put out of its misery," the Ponyta muttered under his breath as he rolled his eyes.

    The khaki-scarved Pokémon clearly had better hearing than the Ponyta expected, as growls went out and some of the mercenaries adopted aggressive stances. Sensing that things were going into a different direction than he intended, Cabot gave a hasty wave of his claws for calm, trying desperately to change the subject.

    "So what exactly does a mercenary do?" the Cranidos asked.

    "We lend our strength to fighters with a good cause and good pay," Niilo explained. "We basically do the same job, but get paid more for it!"

    "W-What? No you don't!" Cabot spluttered, before slowly turning to his Ponyta companion. "… Do they, Berecien?"

    "Grr… it doesn't matter!" the horse snapped, angrily stomping the ground with one of his hooves. "Fighting for the Empire is supposed to be about fighting for a good cause and securing a better tomorrow, not how much money you earn!"

    "Tch, you're in no position to be picky about your allies, cupcake," a Numel scoffed.

    "Pah, some 'allies'! If it weren't for us training in a group, I'd rather take a dunk in the sea than work with 'mons as beneath me as you!" the Fire-Type snarled. "What's the difference between a sellclaw and a common pirate anyways these days? A week without pay?"

    Berecien's retort at once hardened the gazes of the mercenaries into fierce glares, shifting into battle-ready poses. Cabot grimaced at the realization that Berecien had picked a fight with a group that outnumbered them, and watched the Sandshrew in their number lead the group forward and stare him and Cabot down.

    "Alright tough guy, you wanna be like that?" Niilo growled. "Let's make things a bit more interesting."

    "Eh? What do you mean?" Cabot wondered.

    "We're about to do some sparring matches when the instructor gets back," the Sandshrew explained. "Let's see which of the two groups is more useful here."

    The Cranidos began to stammer, unsure how to deescalate the standoff. This was hardly the first impression he was hoping to make, and fighting would certainly not do anything to make it better.

    "Erm… I mean-"

    "Humph, forget it," Berecien huffed. "We've got better things to-"

    Bwok bwok bwok

    The Ponyta stopped and stamped a hoof into the dirt at the sound of Niilo clucking ahead of him. The Fire-Type looked up to see the sand rat miming a Torchic's wings and the other mercenaries guffawing in the background, prompting him to angrily paw at the ground and lower his head as if he were ready to charge.

    "Fine, you've got yourself a match, Sandshrew," the horse hissed. "I hope you like being trampled into the dirt."

    "Trust me, you'll be learning a very valuable lesson by time we're through with you," Niilo said confidently.

    "Erm… what would that be?" Cabot hesitantly asked. The Cranidos was answered by a smug grin from the pangolin, the Ground-Type leaning in and giving a prodding poke at Cabot's chest with his claw.

    "You get what you pay for."

    The mercenaries broke into jeering laughter, before turning and heading off leaving their still-stunned new acquaintances behind. As the Pokémon slipped away, Berecien scoffed dismissively at the threat, while Cabot grew increasingly doubtful that this challenge was really such a good idea. The commotion drew the attention of some of their fellow cadets from the sidelines, debating among each other as to whether it would be Cabot and Berecien or their mercenary foes who would need to be dragged off the battlefield.

    "Whelp, that went well," a passing Salandit remarked.


    About ten minutes later, Trixie returned with a bale of straw along with a Vivillon and an Audino. The Fairy-Type spread the straw out at the back of the stable zone to create a mat of bedding as the two Pokémon readied healing implements, evidently medics for the coming bout of training. The gathered cadets whispered among each other, some speculating over just what their impending battles might entail, as Cabot and Berecien waited for their fight with Niilo, an uncomfortable, nagging thought bothering the Cranidos all the while.

    "Are you sure this is a good idea, Berecien…?" the dinosaur asked.

    "Yes," the Ponyta insisted. "That Sandshrew is the one who started it, and I'm not gonna sit here and let those riff-raffs call us cowards."

    "But I tried to make friends and all we got were rivals instead…" the Rock-Type murmured as he lowered his head.

    "Simmer down, maggots!"

    The audience abruptly quieted down at the Trixie's shout, leaving her to pace back and forth, sizing up the group. The Granbull trained a skeptical glare on the group, mentally noting who the most unruly-seeming of her charges were and continued speaking.

    "As I mentioned before I left, we're gonna start off with some sparring matches to see what you're all made of," the Fairy-Type began.

    While the instructor scanned the crowd of cadets, she quickly noticed there was a division. Even after a chance to interact with, the Dune Devils continued to sit separately from their indigo-scarved peers. The Fairy-Type frowned a moment at the continued separation, only for an idea to flash over mind, and a small smile to creep up onto her muzzle.

    "And what better way is there than seeing how each of your little cliques here in the Blue Group perform as a team?" Trixie proposed. "We'll start with a triple battle with three members of each group. The rest of you can watch before we get into your own battles."

    The dog's instructions were met with murmurs, some eager for the chance to prove themselves, others more uneasy about being put on the spot. Before the chatter could grow overly vocal, the bulldog motioned for silence, before loudly grunting out a question to the group at large:

    "So, which of you new recruits would like to volunteer?"

    "I do!"

    The cadets' gaze turned to the center of the group as a Ponyta in their midst proudly trotted forward before the Granbull instructor. Satisfied with the swiftness of her first volunteer, Trixie turned her attention back to the crowd for a second to round out the first team.

    "Alright then, anybody else?"

    Cabot uneasily fidgeted in place, unsure if going along with Berecien's new rivalry was really the best idea. After a moment's unease, the Cranidos eventually reasoned that at the very least the encounter would help with training, prompting him to slowly raise his claw and speak up.

    "I'll volunteer too," the dinosaur said.

    "Hmph, hope you know your way better around the battlefield than around our base, pipsqueak," Trixie scoffed.

    The Fossil Pokémon blanched and flusteredly pawed at the ground, before making his way grudgingly up to the battlefield. The Granbull grumbled, giving an unimpressed shake of her head before she turned to the rest of the recruits.

    "And who is gonna be the third?" the Fairy-Type asked.

    An awkward silence followed, punctuated by the occasional cough. Trixie waited, tapping her foot impatiently for anyone to follow the Ponyta and Cranidos' example, only to be left waiting by the other recruits.

    "Anyone?" the Granbull insisted. "If no one volunteers, I'll be picking someone to fill the role."

    "We'll do it!"

    The gathering's attention turned towards the back of the crowd, where a Combee bubbling with enthusiasm flew up. Down at the ground, a surprised-looking Salandit grimaced, casting a startled look up at the energetic Bug-Type.

    "Eh, Melli?!" the lizard beside her cried out. "What are you-?!"

    "'We'?" Trixie questioned. "What do you think you are, royalty?"

    "Oh, not at all!" the Combee exclaimed. "We're simply a trio of sisters who share the same mind, body, and-"

    "Okay, spare me the lecture," the Granbull harrumphed. "You're a 'we'. Just hurry up and get on the field."

    The Bug-Type flew over to the instructor, flitting down to join Cabot and Berecien with a cheerful buzz. Trixie rolled her eyes at the little handful of a Combee, before turning towards the khaki-scarved Pokémon in the crowd with a gruff look.

    "Alright, so who is gonna represent you mercenaries?" the Fairy-Type grunted.

    "I'll do it, and Chalco and Orcutt will be my teammates," Niilo responded, before looking back at his companions. "All of us from the Dune Devils have just been dying for a chance to show our skills, isn't that right, kaverit?"

    "Heh heh heh, that's right!" a khaki-scarved Mudkip next to him laughed.

    "Yeah, it'll be a cakewalk!" a Cacnea exclaimed. "I'd bet Chalco herself could sweep that joke of a team!"

    The three mercenaries sauntered onto the battlefield, prompting Cabot, Berecien, and their newfound Combee teammate to take positions at the opposing end of the field. Satisfied with the arrangements, Trixie walked out to the midpoint to the right of the battlefield, where she raised a paw before giving serious looks at the opposing teams.

    "You all know the drill," the instructor said. "First team that knocks out the other three wins, simple as that."

    Cabot looked around the battlefield and gulped nervously. It wasn't that he hadn't been in his fair share of battles during his time at the guild, but he never got roped into some bet like this! The dinosaur breathed in and out uneasily, trying and failing to focus on his surroundings only for the sound of Trixie's voice to jolt him back to attention.

    "Ready? … Then go!"

    The Granbull moved her arm down with her shout, prompting Cabot and Berecien to dart ahead towards their foes. Much to their astonishment, Niilo used the opportunity to spring forward… and promptly pivot his backside towards the Cranidos and Ponyta.

    "Oi, Ponyta!" the Sandshrew shouted as he tauntingly shook his tail at Berecien. "Bet you can't even hit the broadside of a Wailord!"

    "Grr, we'll see about that!"

    The Ponyta's mane began to flare up, spreading fire over the horse's hide as he lowered his head in a charge. The Fire Horse Pokémon sprang forward into a fiery somersault, aiming to strike the sand rat hooves-first…

    …only for a damp, painful jet to strike his flank in midair.


    Cabot watched as Berecien lost his balance and tumbled to the ground unceremoniously, drenched in the aftereffects of a Water Gun from Niilo's Mudkip teammate up ahead to the right. The Cranidos went wide-eyed as he saw her spring around, readying herself to spit up another jet at the Ponyta as the horse stumbled back up to his feet.

    "Ah! Leave him alone!" the Fossil Pokémon cried out.

    The Rock-Type lowered his head and bolted for the Mudkip, charging along until he felt his head strike her body with a loud smack. As the Water-Type flew back along the battlefield, her Cacnea teammate took notice and readied his arm at Cabot as needles began to poke through his waxy skin, the clear beginnings of a Pin Missile.

    "Oh no you don't!"

    Before the Cacnea could react, he was cut off by a cutting gust of wind that sent him tumbling back along the battlefield. Cabot jumped at the sight and sound of his surprise attacker being beaten back, looking back to see that the gust's creator was none other than the Combee on his team. The Cranidos breathed a sigh of relief, but before he had any chance to thank his Bug-Type teammate, a sudden piercing pain shot through his side.


    The Cranidos recoiled, running his claws along his flank to find a freshly-lodged Poison Sting. Cabot whirled to the side, just in time to see its Sandshrew owner waving tauntingly over at him.

    "Better pay attention, rookie!" Niilo taunted.

    Cabot pressed his claws against the scaly spike and yanked it out with a visible wince, his eyes following Niilo as the Ground-Type fell back. The Cranidos was about to follow when the sound of hoofbeats reached his ears, the dinosaur looking over his shoulder to see Berecien running up.

    "Let's take out that Sandshrew first," the Ponyta proposed. "His Ground-Type attacks could be a problem for us both, but we can take him out easily if we work together."

    "Right," Cabot nodded.

    The Cranidos lowered his head and charged ahead for the Sandshrew, his partner following suit hoping to flank him. The pair swooped down upon their Ground-Type foe, only for him to curl into a ball, and abruptly roll out of the way. Cabot and Berecien skidded along the battlefield tackling air, hastily righting themselves to change direction and continue pursuing the errant pangolin.

    "You can't flee from us forever, desert rat!" Berecien snarled.

    "I'm not trying to flee at all!" the Sandshrew jeered. "Just teaching you lot a lesson why you really should pay attention to your surroundings during battle."


    Cabot and Berecien whirled around just in time to see their Combee teammate flying about in a panic as their Cacnea foe shot needles at her. At once, the Cranidos darted over to come to his Bug-Type teammate's aid, only to see her get struck by a rock lobbed by the Mudkip, sending her crashing to earth limply.

    The Fossil Pokémon froze slack-jawed for a moment, paralyzed with shock over seeing his teammate felled so quickly. The Cranidos' stupor was quickly broken by a needle sailing by his face, prompting him to hastily retreat back to his Ponyta partner.

    "Ack! What do we do now?!" Cabot cried.

    Berecien grit his teeth as their opponents regrouped as well, irritated at the sight of the mercenaries' obvious satisfaction about how the fight was unfolding. The Fire-Type ducked as a jet of water zipped past him, the horse desperately trying to figure out a way to turn the tide of battle. The Ponyta's glance shifted to his Cacnea opponent and after a brief pause, Berecien's ears pricked up with a flash of inspiration.

    "We play to our strengths."

    "Huh, what do you mean?" the Cranidos asked.

    "One of them is a Grass-Type," the Ponyta explained. "If you can distract them like they did to us, I can get a clear shot at that Cacnea and hit him with a fire move. If he's not down after that, you can quickly shift targets and finish him off."

    Cabot grimaced at the suggestion of distracting the other Pokémon on his own. All of them were Pokémon who knew moves that could hit him rather painfully… but at the same time, with just two Pokémon against three, it was hard to see how they had any hope of winning at all if they didn't break their foes' focus. The Rock-Type hastily nodded in agreement and planted his feet, turning his attention to the Mudkip.

    "Hey you! We're not giving up just yet!" Cabot exclaimed.

    The Cranidos lowered his head and charged towards the Mudkip, prompting the Mud Fish Pokémon to leap out of the way and spit up a stream of water to try and trip up her foe. The commotion quickly caught Niilo's attention, prompting him to join by flicking poisoned scales at Cabot's feet, the Fossil Pokémon darting wildly to and fro to avoid his opponents.


    Niilo and Chalco looked up from their attacks, just in time to see Berecien wreathing himself in flames, halfway into a sprinting charge that barreled facefirst into their Cacnea teammate with a loud thud.


    The cactus flew back from the Ponyta's blow, coming to a dazed, tumbling stop on the ground. After his bearings started to return to him, the Grass-Type hastily rolled over, stumbling to his feet in a hurried retreat as Berecien called back to his teammate.

    "Cabot, now!"

    The Cacnea looked back and went wide-eyed as he watched the Cranidos lunge at him. The Grass-Type ran along, only for the dinosaur to pick up more speed in pursuit and strike him in the back. The blow sent the cactus pinwheeling, flopping head over heels until he came to a rest on his face, twitching and groaning incoherently.

    "Ah, we got him!" Cabot cheered.

    For a fleeting moment as he changed directions underfoot, the little dinosaur brimmed with excitement. The scent of victory within their grasp hung in the air, driving him and his partner on as they tracked their foes' movements.

    "Let's finish this!" Berecien said.

    "Tch, I wouldn't get so confident if I were you," Niilo huffed.

    The Ponyta charged ahead, his gallops coming faster from the lingering effects of his prior Flame Charge as he rushed towards the Sandshrew. Berecien closed in, flames sprouting along his hide as he sprinted towards his Ground-Type foe, only for a plume of dirt to suddenly erupt as Niilo slipped into the ground with a flurry of digging claws, sending the Ponyta skidding to a stop with a startled whinny.

    "H-Hey what the-?!"

    "Oi, Ponyta! Have a drink!" a gurgling voice jeered. Before Berecien could look up, he was cut off by a torrent of water striking his face, sending the Ponyta stumbling back and faceplanting limply to the ground, much to Cabot's horror.


    The Rock-Type froze for a stunned moment, before a Water Gun came at him and prompted him to roll out of the way. The Cranidos quickly realized that his path to victory was quickly closing, his best chance of winning the battle for Berecien's sake at this point would be to put his Mudkip foe down for the count. Cabot charged ahead, weaving back and forth in a zig-zag pattern around the Mudkip's watery jets, his course bringing him within lunging, where he lowered his head, and stormed forward…



    Before Cabot could react, the ground around him erupted and he felt a jabbing tackle to his gut, sending him flying up before tumbling back to earth with a thud. The dinosaur panted out of exhaustion, groping against the ground as he struggled to get back up. Halfway into getting back onto his feet, the Rock-Type felt his arms and legs go numb, and the world faded to white as he flopped to the ground in front of the entire assembly of cadets.

    "And stop!" Trixie shouted. "Looks like the Dune Devils win."

    The Granbull's announcement drew a mixed reaction from the gathered Pokémon, as they tried to parse the result. A few grimaced out of sympathy for Cabot and Berecien's resounding defeat, while others with primarily khaki garb reveled in Niilo's victory. On the whole, disappointed murmurs filtered around the match, either with the outcome, or as in the case of Niilo's fellow Dune Devils, with a self-satisfied dismissiveness over the lack of challenge in the battle.

    "Heh, knew we'd win," Niilo said smugly as he gave a high five to his Mudkip teammate.

    The group's instructor groaned as she put a paw against her face and shook her head, muttering to herself about what the defeat of the Cranidos and his teammates portended for her current batch of cadets.

    "Looks like I'm gonna have a lot of work on my paws these next few weeks," the Granbull grumbled under her breath.

    Cabot and Berecien groaned from their places on the ground, weakly craning their heads up as soft footsteps neared. The pair glanced up to see that it was none other than Niilo, a smug grin plastered over the Sandshrew's face.

    "You know for someone who claimed he was going to 'trample me into the dirt', you sure seem to have eaten a lot of it yourself," the Sandshrew sneered.

    "Grr… you lucked out and you know it!" Berecien growled.

    "Someone's a glutton for punishment," the pangolin scoffed. "Care to make it a best out of three then?"

    "Uh, Berecien…" Cabot began. "I really think we should-"


    Niilo paused a moment before folding his arms and giving a disbelieving scoff back. He hadn't expected the dandy and his buddy to have it in them to ask for another beatdown… but who was he to deny a 'mon his wishes?

    "Alright then, prinsessa," the Sandshrew said. "You've got yourself a rematch."

    The pangolin harrumphed and turned around to take his leave, starting to pace off before stopping in his tracks. The Ground-Type looked over his shoulder with a smirking sneer, opting to rub salt into his rivals' wounds one last time.

    "By the way, you might want to get up and let the next teams take the field," Niilo snickered.

    Berecien and Cabot blinked and struggled to get onto their feet… only for the Ponyta promptly flop back down as sharp jolts of pain wracked his body. Cabot blinked as the horse laid there for a moment, panting heavily from his injuries and loss of energy. After a groaning pause, the Fire-Type grudgingly craned his head up to raise a coughing call for aid.

    "Nrgh… medic!"


    The events after Cabot and his teammates' defeat went by in a blur for the Rock-Type and his peers. The next most coherent memory the dinosaur remembered having was laying down on a straw bed and glancing up to see a ball of a vaguely pinkish aura coming from an Audino's paws. The Cranidos sat up, and quickly found the Normal-Type pawing at his wounds, dabbing it with the juices of an Oran Berry. The Fossil Pokémon winced, groaning weakly and groggily pawing at his shoulder and arm where the Audino shooed his claws away to apply a few bandages. Cabot sighed and sniffed the air, his nostrils catching a sweet smell in the air that prompted him to look over just in time to see a bandaged Berecien being showered in a loose mist of green powder by a Vivillon and breathing in deep.

    "Now just take it easy for a little and you should be able to continue your training tomorrow morning," the Audino instructed.

    "Alright, will do," the Cranidos responded.

    The Audino and Vivillon took their leave, leaving the patch of the stable zone and letting their patients sink into their straw bedding. As the edge of the chamber quieted down, Berecien grumbled, turning his attention to his Cranidos partner with a disgusted sigh.

    "Bah, if only I'd noticed that Mudkip sooner," the Ponyta complained.

    "Maybe we shouldn't worry too much about it," Cabot proposed.

    "Hm?" the Fire-Type asked. "What do you mean?"

    "It's just that because of this bet it seems like we're making more enemies than friends," the little dinosaur muttered. "Do we really wanna do that for all of Basic Training?"

    The Ponyta snorted before giving a bat of his tail and flattening his ears. How on earth was it their fault those blasted sellclaws decided to impugn their honor not even a day into Basic Training?

    "Well, you already tried making friends with them, but-"

    "Hey Melli, you okay?"

    Berecien and Cabot craned their heads at the sound of a worried voice and scuttling footsteps, turning to see a Salandit darting over to a bed with their Combee teammate from earlier resting on it. The pair watched as the Poison-Type prodded uneasily at the injured bee, who shifted and batted her wings feebly from her bed.

    "Yeah, we're fine…" the Bug-Type weakly replied. The Combee, sensing her companion's palpable worry, tried to flutter up to try and reassure him, only to fall out of the sky after a short hop, much to the Salandit's visible skepticism. From his bed, Cabot peered over at his Ponyta companion, tugging at his shoulder for attention.

    "Berecien…" he murmured. "We didn't talk to that Combee earlier, did we?"

    "No…? Why do you ask?" the horse answered, which prompted Cabot to pull himself upright and shuffle to his feet.

    "Maybe that's something we should fix."

    The Rock-Type began to pace to the Combee's bed, his steps coming falteringly and uneven as he walked over. All the while, the Cranidos tried and fumbled around with greetings in his head, until finally latching on the idea of greeting with a compliment.

    "Er… hey. Thanks for helping us with the battle," Cabot said.

    The Combee and Salandit blinked out of surprise before looking up at the Cranidos. A moment of silent surprise passed between the two and the newfound stranger, before the Combee gave a sharp buzz along with a cheery, if tired reply.

    "Well, we were happy to help," she answered.

    "Who are you two anyways?" the Salandit asked. "I saw that you had a thing with those mercenaries earlier."

    "I'm Cabot, and this is Berecien," the Cranidos responded as he pointed at the Ponyta who trotted over.

    "Pleased to meet you."

    The Salandit and Combee traded glances with one another, before turning their attention back to Cabot and Berecien. The lizard moved his neck flaps a little, and cleared his throat to speak up.

    "Hm, well I'm Tegu and this is Melli here," the Poison-Type explained.

    "Hi!" the Combee cheered.

    "We both signed up together after we got… tired of our previous job," the Salandit continued. "We were hoping our friends would've enlisted with us, but they got cold feet. So we've been off on our own for the most part."

    "Ah, I know the feeling," Cabot replied. "I worked at a guild before signing up for the navy since I wanted something more adventurous. Berecien and I… well, we haven't had much luck with friends here either."

    The Salandit shifted uneasily at the Cranidos' words. After a tense pause, the lizard eased up, keeping a wary eye on the Rock-Type all the while.

    "Uh huh…" the Poison-Type said. "So why'd you guys bother challenging those mercenaries again anyway?"

    "Hmph, we're not just letting those ruffians dishonor us because they got a lucky break," Berecien scoffed.

    "Eh?" Tegu asked. "Don't see why you'd set yourself up for more headaches, but good luck with it, I guess."

    "But shouldn't we help them Tegu?"

    The Salandit turned to his Combee partner and blinked out of surprise. As the Bug-Type's request sank in, a skeptical frown spread over the lizard's face.

    "Huh? What do you mean, Melli?" the Poison-Type questioned. "We weren't the ones who challenged those desert bumpkins to a contest."

    "But didn't you say we should try to fit in now with our new crew?" the Combee countered. "Isn't working as a team part of that?"

    "But there's more to the crew than just these two Pokémon-"


    Melli did her best to flit closer to her Salandit partner, and looked at him with pleading eyes from all three of her faces. The lizard blinked, fidgeting uncomfortably a moment before eventually giving a reluctant sigh. It was always hard for him to say 'no' to her when she gave him that look…

    "Alright, alright… I guess those mercenaries are a smug bunch anyway," Tegu sighed. "Wiping those stupid grins off their faces wouldn't hurt…"

    "I think we would've managed fine, but I can't say more allies would disadvantage us…" Berecien murmured.

    "Yeah, we're going to need all the help we can get," Cabot added as he scratched himself behind his head.

    "Alright, next groups get onto your field!"

    Tegu looked over his shoulder at the sound of Trixie's shout, seeing the scowling Granbull stomping her foot impatiently as Pokémon began to make their way onto the fields. The Poison-Type turned back to Cabot and Berecien with a sigh, giving an annoyed shake of his head.

    "Alright, think that's my cue to fight," the Salandit said. "I'm sure we'll see you two again later."

    "Good luck!" Cabot exclaimed.

    The lizard scuttled off, his Combee partner doing her best to follow behind him despite her injuries. After the two slipped off, Berecien turned towards Cabot, folding his ears back with a snort.

    "… Let's start training as soon as we're out of bed rest," the Ponyta proposed. "We don't want to be letting our new partners down."

    Cabot put a claw to his mouth as he mulled Berecien's suggestion over. Going back to take on the Dune Devils would not be easy… but it always felt bad to have to quit on something halfway through, and they did just get two partners that would help them compete on equal footing. Cabot shook his head before giving a reluctant nod back to the Fire-Type, their odds of winning now were as good as they could hope for, so it only made sense to try and give them as much of an edge as possible by training.

    "Right… let's do our best."


    After Cabot and Berecien were released from treatment at the rear of the stable zone, they drifted along with the rest of Blue Group to the mess hall for dinner. Once they finished their meals, they had to go to the docks where a Bibarel gave primers in front of a blackboard about sailing ships, giving terminology that was apparently intended for a later session with a mock ship. The lesson dragged on into the night, until the Pokémon of Blue Group trudged into a barracks where a long hall filled with hay piles and hammocks had been set aside. There, the group flopped down for the night, eager for rest after such a tiring day… only for the morning to come back sooner than expected with the rays of dawn and the sound of Trixie's harsh barking jolting them awake.

    One hasty breakfast and shambling trek back into the dungeon later, Cabot and his group found themselves assigned to a relay race using the Mystery Dungeon as an obstacle course. In it, runners were to go from one point to the other by any means necessary, evidently one of the day's primary training activities. A huge chunk of the morning flew by in a confusion of trying to hunt down spots to wait within the maze of the Mystery Dungeon… followed by the common but deeply disliked part of any tour of service within the Royal Navy…

    "Bah… sitting and waiting here in this cave sure is an exciting part of the training…"

    Namely idling, with Tegu giving an irritated bat of his tail as he rested in a room with rugs and torches spread out. The room was barren beyond Tegu, Cabot, and a small handful of other cadets who busied themselves with cards, the lot waiting on their relay partners to show up and hand off batons. All the while, Cabot patted the back of his head awkwardly, hoping to try and lift the Salandit's mood a bit.

    "But it's not that bad, and the Mystery Dungeon should be a pretty fun place to navigate," Cabot offered.

    "Or the Empire is just too low on funds to build a proper obstacle course themselves…" the Salandit grumbled. "Besides, couldn't they at least have given us something to do while we waited on our partners?"

    "Oh? But rest is good too, isn't it?" the Cranidos asked. "I mean, it's not like you can just go through life constantly on the offensive, headbutting everything all the time."

    Tegu blinked and tilted his head in confusion, settling into an uneasy stance. Cabot might be a Cranidos, but he certainly didn't seem like the rough and tumble type, so what did he mean by…?

    "… 'Headbutting everything all the time'?" the lizard wondered. "But this is a relay race? What brings that on?"

    "Oh. Er… sorry, part of me still thinks I'm back at home," Cabot sheepishly admitted.

    "What sort of home would that be if someone's constantly headbutting things?" Tegu questioned.

    "A Box Busting shop!" the little dinosaur exclaimed. "My parents own one."

    The Poison-Type's neck flaps waved out of reflexive surprise, prompting him to eye the Cranidos curiously.

    "Eh? You broke open boxes before joining the navy?" the Salandit said. "But I thought you said you worked at a guild!"

    "Er… well I was an apprentice at one, but I still had to help out with my parents' shop," the Rock-Type explained. "I wanted to see more than just crates and the local mystery dungeon, so that's why I joined the navy."


    Cabot caught himself as he noticed Tegu nodding along disinterestedly. The Cranidos thought to himself and figured that he must have said an awful lot about his own life already, and it did get a bit old for a 'mon to keep prattling on. Though that made him curious about something else.

    "So what did you do before you signed up?" the Fossil Pokémon asked.

    Tegu hesitated and shifted around uneasily, clearly reluctant to broach the topic. Cabot tilted his head, about to open his mouth to ask what was wrong, only for the Salandit to pre-empt him with an answer.

    "I used to be a pirate," the Salandit admitted.

    "Wha- wait, you're a pirate?!" Cabot cried out.

    "Former pirate," the lizard emphasized. "I'm not one anymore."

    Cabot blinked and jolted back out of surprise. Tegu, a pirate? But pirates were bullying thieves, and Tegu… well he did have a shifty air about him, but he seemed much friendlier than that. But, if he really was a pirate once, how did he get into the navy of all places?

    "Er… isn't that a bit of a jump job-wise?" the Fossil Pokémon murmured.

    "Oh no, not at all," Tegu insisted. "It may be the other side of the law, but there's a lot more in common between the two than you'd expect."

    "… What do you mean by that?" Cabot questioned.

    "You'll see soon enough," the Poison-Type said as a small smile formed on his muzzle.

    As soon as the words left the Salandit's mouth, the sound of hoofbeats clattered behind the two Pokémon. Cabot and Tegu whirled around, and much to the Poison-Type's dismay, saw none other than Berecien running up with a baton in his mouth with no sign of Melli to be seen.

    "Bah, not how I would have liked to start my part of the race," the lizard grumbled. Much to Tegu's dismay, Berecien closed the distance in a flash and over-vigorously passed his baton off to Cabot's claws.

    "Cabot, take the baton!" the horse shouted.

    "Right! I'm going!" the Cranidos nodded.

    At once, Cabot tightened his claws around the baton and turned to face the exit. Before anyone could say anything, the Rock-Type took off with a running start through the dungeon, the dinosaur reaching the end of a corridor when the faint sound of a buzz reached his ears. Cabot blinked and looked back, seeing that the buzz was from none other than Melli flying to the checkpoint he had just run from and passing her baton to Tegu, prompting the Cranidos to lower his head and charge on.

    "I have to find the stairs quick," Cabot murmured to himself.

    As the Fossil Pokémon ran ahead, he passed a mostly barren room, with the visible exception of a glassy orb glowing flecks of greenish light in the corner of the chamber. Cabot started to instinctively make his way for the Luminous Orb, before shaking his head and moving on. He was in a race against time, so it wouldn't do any good stopping to pick up everything like in a normal trip through a Mystery Dungeon… The Rock-Type hurried along, his running eventually taking him to an intersection that forked between a path going to the left and and another to the right.

    "Hm, which way should I-?"

    "Oi, Cabot! Heads up!"

    The Cranidos whirled around just in time to see the Luminous Orb he spotted earlier leave Tegu's claws. The dinosaur flinched at the sound of glass shattering, his vision flooding with a blinding light that made him stumble backwards in a daze.

    "Ack! What are you doing?!" Rock-Type cried out. "You can't just throw an orb at me!"

    "I sure can!" the Salandit corrected. "The instructor said we could use anything in our environment, remember?"

    Cabot paused at the lizard's retort as he rubbed at his blinded eyes. Now that he thought about it, Trixie did say they were supposed to run the relay by 'any means necessary'… But he didn't think that that extended to openly sabotaging each other with the Mystery Dungeon's items on the way!

    "See you at the finish line, Slowpoke!" Tegu jeered.

    Cabot looked up just in time to see the faint outline of a Salandit's body scuttle ahead, the lizard craning his head down to sniff at the ground before darting off for the right. Eventually, the Poison-Type's body faded, leaving Cabot to lurch around as his vision remained filled with white and his surroundings muddied and indistinct.


    The Cranidos blinked and kept rubbing his eyes as his surroundings and the corridor returned to its normal mountainous appearance. The Rock-Type began to turn right, only to stop and pause after noticing a pile of rocks in a rough line in the passage behind him.

    The Fossil Pokémon moved a claw thoughtfully to his chin, realizing that rocks generally didn't scatter like this unless there was some place for them to fall from. In the floors of a Mystery Dungeon, those places to fall from usually came from some sort of connection leading higher above the floor… so odds were that his way out had to be closer to the left than the right. The little dinosaur turned in his tracks and ran along, following the winding corridor until…


    He looked up and saw a stony set of stairs going up to the next level. The dinosaur charged ahead and looked around his surroundings and saw that he'd come to a room full of small streams. He picked one going to the left and started to follow it, winding through corridors and chambers until…


    He glanced off to the right, where he noticed a huge waterfall coming down into a large pool of water. The Cranidos blinked a moment, before pacing forward and cautiously kicking a pebble into the pool's water.

    "I didn't know that there were waterfalls in this dungeon," the Fossil Pokémon muttered.

    Cabot looked and saw that in the pool was a narrow path of ankle-deep water that coiled over to the waterfall. The Cranidos began making his way over cautiously, only to see an indigo-scarved Palpitoad suddenly pop out from behind the waterfall and soak in the cooling cascade before going back in.

    "Aha! That's it!"

    Why, this had to be the next spot for the relay race and that was the Pokémon he was supposed to hand his baton off to! The Fossil Pokémon lowered his head and charged up to the waterfall, noticing a small path going behind it to a darkened chamber. Cabot hurried ahead, coming across a small alcove where some rugs had been spread out and a small group of cadets chattered among themselves, looking up to see their new interloper. The still-dripping Palpitoad in the group hopped up to the Cranidos with an irritated ribbit.

    "About time you showed up," the Water-Type huffed. "I almost fell asleep waiting on you!"

    Cabot hastily held out the baton, prompting the Palpitoad to launch his tongue out and snatch up the baton, hopping out through the waterfall at the end just as Tegu came in and scuttled in from the detouring path. The Salandit gave a hiss, flicking some water off his feet in disgust, before looking over at the group of cadets and going wide-eyed out of shock.


    The Poison-Type stood there dumbfounded, spluttering and struggling to figure out if he was seeing things. There in front of him was Cabot, who'd somehow beaten him here even after being hit by that Luminous Orb!

    "Oi, lizard! Hurry up and give me the baton!"

    Tegu looked over to see a Timburr impatiently batting at the ground with his wooden plank, prompting the still-incredulous Poison-Type to hastily hand over his baton. As the Timburr snatched it up and left, Tegu scuttled up to Cabot, clearing his throat impatiently for an explanation.

    "How'd you beat me here?!" the Salandit asked. "I threw an orb at you just the floor below!"

    "It's the rocks. I noticed that there was a pile of rocks neatly lined up on the path you didn't take," Cabot explained. "It only could have happened if they fell down from something, like for example stairs having opened up recently."

    The Salandit blinked out of stunned silence at Cabot's explanation. He'd seen those rocks too, but he hadn't thought anything of it at first. For a literal rock-head, he had to admit the Cranidos had a sharp mind.

    "That's… actually kinda clever. Thought for sure I had you beaten there for a sec," the Poison-Type admitted. "Guess you did learn some useful things bashing your head against things after all."

    "Well, I try," the little dinosaur said, proudly puffing out his chest.

    "Who knows, you might be able to give those mercs a run for their money after all!" Tegu exclaimed.

    Cabot blinked as a flustered grimace crept over his face. The Rock-Type pawed at the ground awkwardly, letting his gaze drift towards his toes.

    "Uh… I mean, I guess I might be able to…" the Cranidos murmured. "But I don't see how anything would turn out different."

    "You just need a solid strategy going in," the lizard insisted. "Melli and I sit together at the mess hall. Why don't you stop by during the next meal with your pal and we'll talk it through a bit."

    The little dinosaur looked up as a small smile spread on his face. He still had his doubts, but maybe alongside his friends… maybe he could win after all.

    "Heh, sure."


    After the end of the relay race, Cabot reunited with Berecien back at the training grounds, and the two discovered much to their pleasure that their team had managed to beat out Tegu's thanks to Cabot's leg of the race. True to their word, Tegu and Melli invited him and Berecien in the cafeteria during lunch, sharing a table the pair had made their own towards the back of the room. The four whiled away their break together chattering in between nibbles at the mess hall's Gummis and berry juice, the group finding themselves increasingly stuffed from their meal…


    "Whelp, that certainly hit the spot," Tegu said satisfiedly. "Navy food ain't as bad as I thought."

    Berecien shot a sidelong glance at the Salandit, obviously unimpressed with his table manners… if they could be called that. Even Grumpig usually had more propriety than that! The fire horse gave a dismissive snort, before responding to the uncouth lizard.

    "Blegh. Just try to be more professional on the field," the Ponyta huffed. "I'd have thought that you'd have left habits like those behind after you enlisted in Her Majesty's navy."

    The Poison-Type gave a dismissive wave of his claw back at the Fire-Type, paying his scolding little heed. From the sly grin on his face, it almost seemed as if he'd taken the horse's complaints as a compliment.

    "Well, good thing I'm helping to break a few molds then," the lizard replied. "Don't wanna be too predictable after all."

    Berecien narrowed his eyes at Tegu's nonchalant answer, clearly less-than-enthused with the Salandit's attitude. Sensing the tension in the air, Cabot cleared his throat eager to try and shift the conversation into a less confrontational subject.

    "Well, it's not that big of a deal right? I mean, it's not like our table manners will really matter for our training," the Cranidos offered. "What do you guys think our next exercise will be anyway?"

    "Maybe we'll have a battle where one team has to push the other team off a ledge," Melli wondered. "Like on a ship!"

    "I take it you two have some experience with that given your old jobs?" Berecien asked. "I can see how you'd have plenty of opportunities to hone your skills with it being so rough and tumble."

    Tegu blinked and jolted upright at the Ponyta's comment, his expression and body language evidencing that he had been caught off guard. The Poison-Type looked around the room uneasily, before turning back to Berecien with a hushed voice.

    "Wait how would you-?"

    "Melli told me earlier," the fire horse explained.

    The Salandit gave his Combee partner a flustered look, who nodded back in affirmation.

    "We figured it wouldn't hurt," the Bug-Type admitted. Melli's explanation drew an uneasy flutter of the flaps on Tegu's neck, before the Salandit leaned in and replied in a whispered tone.

    "Well… it's true," Tegu began. "We have fought battles like that yeah."

    "What made you decide to quit that life and join the navy anyway?" the Ponyta questioned.

    "Well we didn't exactly plan on it…" the Salandit muttered. "Our crew got busted last summer."

    "And we got sentenced to Community Service," Melli added. "Which was… an experience we'd rather not repeat."

    "Tch, I'll say. After cleaning scum off the piers in Tidemill for almost a year with some friends of ours, we got the offer to enlist in the navy instead," the Poison-Type explained. "Certainly seemed like the better option, or at least to the two of us."

    "Hrm, I see," Berecien murmured, turning his head away. The Ponyta's reaction instantly made Tegu tense up defensively, the Poison-Type glaring back at his questioner perceived hostility.

    "Got a problem with it, horseface?" the Salandit growled.

    "… Hardly. In the navy, your background takes a back seat to how well you operate with your fellow cadets," Berecien said. "We might not be on the waves just yet, but assuming you're as earnest as you sound about reforming, I don't see a reason to deviate from that."

    "He did seem pretty understanding when we told him about it, Tegu," Melli insisted.

    "Yeah, you've been really helpful to us so far too!" Cabot exclaimed. "We're still looking forward to beating those mercenaries alongside you."

    Tegu blinked as he looked at them in surprise, still tensing his body up warily. Cabot seemed like a really nice Pokémon and sincere enough back in the relay race, so if Melli was certain that prissy Ponyta would also be understanding… surely things would work out.

    "Well alright then, maybe I jumped the gun a little," the lizard sighed as his posture became more relaxed. "Our next training session should be starting in ten minutes anyways, so we should prepare ourselves."

    "Right!" Cabot nodded.

    The four collected their plates and got up to drop them off to be washed, making their way past various groups of cadets eating. The quartet carried on, only to suddenly bump into a group of Pokémon coming from the side, drawing collective yelps as both sides hastily fought to keep their balance.

    "Hey! Watch-"

    Cabot's group looked to the side, and saw that the Pokémon they'd accidentally bumped into were none other than Niilo and his buddies from the Dune Devils. The four Khaki-scarved Pokémon blinked a moment, before giving fierce glares back at the group, with especial ire trained towards Cabot an Berecien.

    "Oh, it's you again," Niilo huffed. "Hope you're all ready to lose your little best of three. We're facing each other again next session."

    "Hmrph, that's wishful thinking if I've ever heard it," Berecien harrumphed. "Lightning doesn't strike twice."

    "Yeah, we're gonna win!" Cabot cried. "You won't catch us off guard this time!"

    "Good luck with that!" the Cacnea jeered. "It'll be fun wiping the floor with you again."

    "Yeah, after that we can move onto some real battles!" the Mudkip exclaimed.

    "Tch. Shame this isn't a real battle," the Numel said. "We'd take your stuff to compensate us for the time you've been wasting on this stupid bet of yours."

    Cabot and his friends jolted back at the Numel's comments, the little Cranidos appearing particularly startled by the camel's comment. Did- Did she just say they casually robbed Pokémon they beat up?!

    "Wait, what?!"

    "Hrmph, I see that it doesn't even take a full week for your group to turn to open theft," Berecien scoffed.

    "Grr… talk is cheap, loser," Tegu growled. "The only thing that matters is the result in the ring."

    "Well hey, I don't just talk!" Niilo protested. "I'm no ordinary Sandshrew you see, and if you hadn't noticed it last match, you certainly will soon."

    Cabot's eyes widened out of startled surprise at the Sandshrew's boasting, finding himself caught off guard yet again. They already had such a tough time fighting Niilo during their first battle, and now there was something special that made him even stronger?!

    "Eh?!" the Cranidos cried. "What are you talking about?"

    "Why, I'm this close to evolving to a Sandslash!" the pangolin insisted, pinching the air with his claws. "I'm much stronger than most other Sandshrew you'd run into."

    A disbelieving silence hang in the air at Niilo's words. The quiet lingered a moment, before Cabot and his companions shot back unamused stares. What were the odds that the Sandshrew really had anything like that going on?

    "Yeah, right…" Tegu said as he rolled his eyes.

    "Well believe what you want, you'll still lose either way!" Niilo jeered. "See you in a bit!"

    The Dune Devils turned and left, trading laughter with one another over their foes' overconfidence. All the while, Tegu glowered after the group as they departed, giving an irritated whip of his tail.

    "Hrmph! Like evolving would really make that much of a difference for him!" the lizard huffed.

    "Oh?" Melli asked. "But it makes you bigger and stronger and-"

    "Yeah, yeah, whatever," the Salandit grumbled. "We're not talking about it."

    "You sure it's not just because you can't evol-"

    "Not. Talking. About. It."

    Cabot and Berecien shifted around and laughed awkwardly as Tegu glared back in annoyance at the two. Sensing that a change of topic was long overdue, Cabot cleared his throat and attempted to divert the conversation back to their training.

    "Well… the next session is starting soon and we probably don't wanna anger the instructor," the Rock-Type began. "Maybe we should go back into the Mystery Dungeon ourselves?"

    "Sounds like a plan to me," Tegu nodded.

    At that, the Salandit shuffled off ahead, prompting the others at the table to follow, depositing their plates at the counter. The four carried on out of the mess hall, making their way for the Mystery Dungeon. All the while, Cabot's mind was preoccupied by thoughts about Tegu and Melli. He certainly hadn't expected them to have such checkered pasts, but in spite of it, they seemed to be nice enough Pokémon…

    Perhaps that was true the time he'd spent in the navy as a whole so far. A lot of things in Basic Training had caught him off guard: the rough start, the fierce rivalry from the first day of training… And yet, in spite of it all, with friends like these it seemed to all be worth it.


    "Ma'am? Why are we playing games instead of training?"

    Back in Blue Group's training grounds, a Togetic's question hung in the air as Cabot and Berecien found themselves staring down Niilo along with his Numel teammate. At the Cranidos' end was the misshapen, ruddy form of a Bisharp's Substitute. At the other, was a purple Nidoking doll. The same arrangement was repeated across a handful of other battlefields, including one where Melli and Tegu stared down Orcutt and Chalco. Meanwhile, a large body of the Blue Group's cadets watched bewildered from the sidelines, waiting intently on Trixie for an explanation.

    "Because this is helping you test your ability to defend and attack vulnerable objects even when guarded," the bulldog explained.

    "Eh? But Substitute Battling is the sort of game that Pokémon in school play!" Cabot exclaimed.

    "Yes, and as I mentioned it also teaches some of the skills you're gonna need," the Granbull scowled. "With a Substitute Battle the team whose Substitute gets destroyed first loses. In the navy, there will be situations where you will need to operate under comparable constraints."

    Melli flitted her wings and shot the instructor a curious glance from the sidelines. Could Substitute Battling really be that useful to learn for the navy?

    "Oh? How so?" the Combee asked. "Will we be playing with Substitutes aboard navy ships?"

    "No. You'll be defending those ships from being sunk right under you from pirates and the Company," the Fairy-Type growled. "The last time I checked, ship sails are not very resilient to Flamethrowers."

    "Oh, we get it then!" the Bug-Type cheered.

    Trixie rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh, the Granbull pinching her brow before waving Melli away with a paw.

    "Yeah, yeah, just get back to your own fight."

    "Pah, that should be no problem for us at least," Niilo scoffed. "Come on, let's get this fight started!"

    "Very well," Trixie said. "You're all ready?"

    The Granbull's question was met with eager nods from all four Pokémon on the battlefield, each of them itching to kick off their battle. Content with the response, the Fairy-Type raised her paw into the air, and after a brief moment's pause, brought it down with forceful vigor.

    "Then go!"

    Cabot lunged ahead, hearing a fierce whinny from behind as Berecien reared up before bringing his front hooves down. The fire horse tore along the ground for his opponents, calling out to his teammate as he slipped past him.

    "Just stay there and guard the Substitute!" the Ponyta cried. "I'll go after theirs!"

    As the horse kept on running, he looked up just in time to see Niilo curled up into a tight ball and barreling towards him. The Fire-Type hastily leapt out of the way, leaving the pangolin to come to a stop in front of Cabot. The Cranidos hastily rushed forward and knocked the Ground-Type back with a Headbutt, sprawling him out on the ground. Niilo quickly righted himself, hopping back up to his feet, only for his eyes to drift off behind Cabot, and for a devious smile to spread over his face.

    "Hey thanks for the open angle, rookie!" the Sandshrew jeered. "Say goodbye to your Substitute!"

    Niilo curled up as a violet liquid began to dribble between his scales in scattered patches along his back, the Sandshrew spinning forward in place to shake the poisoned scales off as poisonous flechettes. As he flicked them forward, one of the poison-coated scales shot straight for the unattended Bisharp doll, only for Cabot to catch it with his rock-hard head, sending it bouncing off into the dirt. The Sandshrew blinked, prompting Cabot to charge on towards the Ground-Type with his head lowered once again, only for the Sandshrew to abruptly burrow below the surface.


    Cabot coughed at the dirt plume that had been kicked up, peering as the earth settled to reveal that Niilo had burrowed into the ground. The Rock-Type looked around wildly, trying to determine where the slippery Sandshrew had gone off to only to notice a trail of disturbed dirt moving in the ground, headed straight for his team's mock Bisharp.

    "Oh no! The Substitute!"

    The Cranidos ran ahead in a blind panic for the Substitute, watching the dirt trail come nearer and nearer. As he reached the Bisharp doll, he noticed Niilo was almost upon it, prompting him to leap and yank the doll out of the way from its place on the battlefield as a dirt plume erupted behind him. The Cranidos rolled along the ground, holding the Substitute in his claws for dear life as he came to a tumbling stop, discovering that much to his relief the Substitute had merely been dirtied a bit.


    Cabot began to pick himself up when he heard a sharp shout; the Rock-Type looked up in alarm and saw Niilo charging him. The Fossil Pokémon whirled and made a mad dash as the Sandshrew charged along, in the process noticing hearing agitated shouts from Niilo's Numel teammate down the field. A quick glance over revealed the reason, there in front of her was none other than Berecien, trying to charge past the beleaguered camel to get at the Nidoking substitute she was defending!

    "Hey Niilo!" Cabot exclaimed. "Maybe you should look back at your own Substitute!"

    The Sandshrew looked over to his own Substitute, and saw that much to his alarm, the Ponyta had spat up a few embers at the Nidoking doll. Fortunately for him, the doll didn't break just yet, and his Numel teammate began to drive the Ponyta away with a hail of rocks drawn from out of the ground. In spite of the camel's Rock Slide, before she knew it the horse was already trying to swing back by simply darting around her to try and get at the substitute again from the other side

    "Molina, I'm falling ba- Argh!"

    Niilo yelped and was sent sprawling once again by a Headbutt from Cabot. The pangolin balled up and righted himself in a daze, just in time to see Berecien swoop down upon his team's Substitute.

    Much to his and Molina's alarm, the Ponyta craned his neck down and bit into the Substitute's head, yanking it up and taking off with it still in his mouth. As Berecien began to charge ahead, Molina made a failing attempt to keep pace with the fleet-footed horse, prompting the camel spit up some bursts of flames in frustration at his hooves without much effect.

    "Grr, I've had it with you, hevonen!" the Numel snarled. "Take this!"

    The camel stomped down on the ground, creating a tremor that sent a rumbling wave of dirt and stones along the ground. At the sound of the incoming Magnitude, Berecien lowered his head and charged forwards, flinging the Substitute backwards…


    … directly into the shockwave of disturbed earth and stone, shredding the Nidoking doll and causing it to begin to melt into purple mist.

    "We did it! We did it!" Cabot cheered.

    He and Berecien ran up to each other, trading pats between their forelimbs and reveling in their hard-won victory. In the background, Niilo and Molina glowered and sulked away, the pair's demeanor catching Berecien's eye as the Fire-Type took visible relish in their opponents' deflated enthusiasm.

    "That should teach them," the Ponyta harrumphed.


    Berecien and Cabot turned around where they saw Melli and Tegu quickly making their way over. The pair were brimming with enthusiasm, both visibly pleased to see their new friends in such high spirits.

    "Good job out there!" the Salandit exclaimed. "You almost did as good as we did!"

    "We popped their Substitute right before you guys did," the Combee explained.

    "Good, now let's remind those mercenaries who won," Berecien said.

    Cabot, Melli, and Tegu watched as Berecien trotted off before following after, the group making their way over to Niilo and Molina as the pair hovered among their normal cohort of khaki-scarved companions. The Ponyta carried over with his head held high and the muzzle of his long face curved into a visibly smug grin on the way over, soaking up the visible annoyance the Sandshrew and his companions had with his demeanor.

    "Hey Sandshrew, it looks like you lost after all," Berecien snorted. "That's two Substitute Battles you and your fellow chuligani have been defeated in. Looks like that best of three is done."

    "As if!" Niilo snapped. "I made that bet with you, not that lizard and that bug!"

    Melli and Tegu jolted up and glared back at the Sandshrew's retort, only for the Ground-Type to pay their annoyance no heed. The pangolin growled, visibly irritated from his defeat, before crossing his arms and scowling back at the accosting group.

    "Besides, unlike last time, this fight was clearly a fluke," the pangolin harrumphed.

    "But we beat you totally fair and square!" Cabot cried.

    "Yeah right," Niilo's Numel teammate scoffed. "Your friend only won thanks to a dirty trick!"

    "Hmph, guess we'll just have to settle this tomorrow then," Berecien huffed.

    "That's right," Niilo snarled. "Hope you're looking forward to losing, cinders."

    The Sandshrew whistled and bade his buddies to follow, prompting a few jeers to come out towards Berecien and his companions as the khaki-scarved Pokémon left. As the training grounds quieted down, the Ponyta watched as the other Pokémon in their wave of training teams began to file over towards a waiting Vivillon and Audino. The Fire-Type heard Trixie calling up the next batch of cadets for their own Substitute Battles, prompting him to turn his own attention towards the medic duo.

    "First things first, we should get a good healing," Berecien proposed. "Every day is its own battle."

    Cabot answered back with a nod as he shuffled off for the line of recruits in front of the medics along with his teammates. It was nice to still be in the running, and to finally get a victory over Niilo and his buddies after how much of an attitude he'd had since the last battle, but there was still one last match that had to be settled…

    The young dinosaur looked down and pawed at a sore patch of scales on his flank. Their training must've thrown them around a bit harder than he thought. Perhaps for now, it was best to just hang back and wait on worrying about coming out on top with Niilo again. At least until after he had a chance to be patched up again.


    The Substitute Battles came and went before the Pokémon of the Blue Group drifted one by one back out of the Mystery Dungeon for dinner at the mess hall, followed by their ship training for the day. Much to their surprise, the cadets discovered that their Bibarel sailing instructor had prepared two 'mock ships' overnight. For Cabot and his companions, 'mock' seemed to be selling them awfully short, as the ships were retired old sloops that for all their age still floated properly and carried a full set of sails…

    "Bah, why do I have to take part in this? I have hooves!"

    And much to Berecien's loud, complaining displeasure, proved to be every bit as burdensome to hoist as a real ship's. The Fire-Type pulled at the rope with his mouth, his legs and rump showing a few marks from times when he'd lost his footing and pratfallen. Meanwhile, Cabot tugged from ahead with his claw, only for the sail to still be at half-mast despite his and the Ponyta's best efforts.

    "They said that it was something that we all had to learn as part of training," Cabot murmured. "Maybe we're just doing something wrong?"

    The sound of a shout reached the pair's ears, prompting them to turn to the mast behind them to see that Niilo and his companions had made much more progress on hoisting their sail. There, the two watched as Niilo's Mudkip teammate went back and forth with the rigging in her mouth, hopping up onto the railing and back down onto the deck to pull the sail up in large jumps. Cabot and Berecien's jaws dropped, Orcutt taking obvious relish in their stunned silence.

    "Hah!" the Cacnea jeered. "Hurry it up, buttercup-!"


    The mercenaries collectively flinched as a shout rang out and the sound of stomping footsteps pounded against the mock ship's deck. Cabot and Berecien looked over and found the culprit was none other than the Bibarel serving as instructor for the lesson, the water rodent making a livid beeline directly for Chalco as she grimaced from her spot on the railing.

    "Do you want to fall into the sea after graduating?!" the Bibarel shouted. "Get off that railing!"

    "… But I have gills," the Mudkip muttered.

    "Now, Mudkip!" the beaver bellowed.

    The Mud Fish Pokémon hastily jumped off, giving a flustered look. The Bibarel shook his head before storming along, prompting Niilo to try and lighten the mood with some inaudible comment that made his teammates chuckle.

    "Hmph, what a reckless bunch," Berecien scoffed.

    "Well… at least we learned something from it," Cabot offered.

    The Cranidos looked over and spotted a small unattended box, setting the rope down to move the crate over. The little dinosaur hopped onto the box and pulled the rope, jumping down to help tug it up with extra force. Berecien's eyes lit up after watching the sail lurch up, prompting him their fellow sail-tuggers to keep pulling, some others going to get objects of their own to hop off of, which tugged the sail along until it reached the top and was tied down, just in time for the Bibarel instructor's voice to reach their ears.

    "Alright everyone, that should be enough!" the Bibarel exclaimed. "Let's pick this up again tomorrow with an exercise covering turning and steering."

    The beaver's comments prompted the gathered cadets to set down their ropes and begin filing off the ship for the docks. As Cabot and Berecien made their way down the gangplank, the little dinosaur dusted himself off at the bottom, giving a playful wag of his tail as he turned to Berecien.

    "I think that went alright for a first session," the Cranidos said.

    "Eh, I still would have preferred a task I could actually do with my hooves," the Ponyta murmured.


    Cabot and Berecien whirled around, and saw Tegu and Melli behind them. The two made their way over to their teammates, the pair carrying along a surprisingly chipper air all the while.

    "So tomorrow's the big day, huh?" the Salandit asked. "You ready for it?"

    "Uh-huh," Cabot nodded. "I just wonder what we're gonna do this time."

    "I tried asking Trixie but she wouldn't tell," the lizard replied. "She said that learning how to deal with the unexpected is part of our training."

    "Maybe we'll have that battle where one team has to push the other team off a ledge after all!" Melli cheered.

    The Combee's cheery commentary prompted Tegu to narrow his eyes and give an unamused stare. Somehow this all seemed just a little too familiar…

    "Melli you already said that last time…"

    "But it might be different now!" the Combee insisted.

    "Well regardless, it will probably be some sort of battle," Berecien offered. "We've had at least one battle on each day so far, and it is important for Pokémon in the navy to be strong in battle."

    "Right. So whatever happens tomorrow, it's probably the battle that'll make or break your little bet," Tegu mulled.

    The Poison-Type was caught off guard by the sound of a bell tolling in the background, marking the start of a new hour in the evening. The Salandit and Combee paused and looked off in the distance, before turning their attention back to Cabot and Berecien.

    "We should get going, there were some errands we were asked to take care of before bed," Melli said. "Good luck with your preparations and see you on the field tomorrow?"

    "Right, you too," Cabot responded.

    Melli and Tegu shuffled off the pier, prompting the Cranidos and his Ponyta partner to go their own way back to the barracks. Cabot stretched his arms and yawned, his body aching dully after a long, exciting day… Hopefully a good night's rest would put those aches to bed, after all it wouldn't be any good to walk into battle in this shape. As stiff a battle as the showdown tomorrow was sure to be, with his friends' help surely they'd be able to pull it off. Who knew, perhaps it would even be enough to put this silly little spat with the Dune Devils aside, and give a chance to turn over a new leaf with them.

    But for now, there was a straw bed calling out with his name on it. Tomorrow's battles would have to wait for tonight's shuteye first.


    The next day, the Pokémon of Blue Group trudged their way back to their training grounds, their path having gone on much longer that day thanks to the Mystery Dungeon shifting their stable zone a full eight floors higher than the day before. By the time the cadets made their way past the wooden gate, they looked ahead to see raised wooden platforms set up, drawing audible groans from the lot of them as they knew that it was portending another set of battles. The Granbull instructor rolled her eyes annoyedly at her charges' audible complaining, before clearing her throat to speak.

    "Alright, I want to get this over with as much as the rest of you, so we'll keep this short and to the point," Trixie harrumphed.

    The Fairy-Type impatiently tapped her foot as she sized up her group to make sure everyone was there, before continuing with her instructions.

    "Today we're gonna start off with a ring-out exercise," the Granbull began. "The rules are simple: you get pushed off this platform, you're out."

    "… A ring-out fight? Really?" a Pidgey asked. "Just when are we ever going to need to do that in the navy?"

    "When you're in a tight environment with raised ledges. Like the ships that most of you will be assigned to," the dog explained. "As such, we added a railing to the platform to simulate a ship."

    "Oh! We were right, we were right!" Melli cheered. The Combee's cheer was met by an unimpressed flick of Tegu's tail, the Poison-Type wondering why the fates deigned to have her eccentric guess pan out this time.

    "Eh, I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day," he muttered under his breath.

    "So… are we gonna fight in groups again?" a Ferroseed wondered.

    "Yes. It will be done in two groups of four," Trixie responded. "The first set will consist of…"

    The Granbull trailed off as she noticed the sound of laughter coming from the gathering, and looked over to discover that not everyone was paying attention to her. Amidst the khaki-scarved Pokémon of the group a few laughs and snickers swirled around at the sight of the Sandshrew doing a mocking impression of their instructor. The dog hardened her eyes into a glare, and decided that this insult was best not to leave unanswered.

    "You know what, perhaps we're moving a little too fast with this exercise," the Fairy-Type growled. "Why don't we start with an exhibition match so some can show the rest how to do it? Sandshrew!"

    Niilo looked up from his impression, his body frozen in place and his jaw hung open in surprise. The Numel, Cacnea, and Mudkip similarly grimaced at the surprise announcements, beginning to open their mouths to protest when they were abruptly shut down by a growling shout from their instructor.

    "Get over here with your buddies!" Trixie snapped. "You four are part of the first match."

    The mercenary quartet grudgingly shuffled over, doing their best to try and sweep their earlier mockery under the rug with forced smiles. The attempt failed to yield any appreciable effect as Trixie continued scowling all the while, before shaking her head in disapproval and turning to the other recruits.

    "So which of you cadets would like to show these sellclaws what you've learned so far?" the Granbull asked.

    "I would!" Berecien exclaimed.

    "Same here!" Cabot added.

    "Me too!" Melli cheered.

    "Yeah I'll join too," Tegu said.

    The instructor rolled her eyes at the cadets' over enthusiasm and muttered under her breath. Did she really need the first match of the session to be a score-settling between these two cliques? Even so, they did volunteer, and it would save her the trouble of picking out cadets from the crowd…

    "Hmph, I see someone is desperate for a rematch," the Granbull scoffed. "But fine. Get onto the platform."

    Cabot and his companions stepped forward, clambering onto the wooden platform where they took opposing sides to Niilo and his team. The two groups stared each other down, trading determined looks and scowls as Trixie came up and began to count down, bringing her arms down at the end with a forceful…


    At the Granbull's shout, Cabot and Berecien led the charge for their team, dashing ahead towards their opponents. At the same time, Tegu and Melli supported their teammates from behind by shooting respectively a few purple globs and a cutting gust of wind up ahead to try and give their teammates cover. In spite of the bold opening, the khaki-scarved Pokémon were quick to respond, as the Mudkip and Cacnea charged forward… diagonally, quickly sweeping in to flank Cabot and Berecien from opposing sides.


    Before he could react, Cabot was cut off by a thorny arm striking him from behind, sending him flopping forward. The Cranidos hastily rolled out of the way as his Cacnea foe attempted to hit him again on the ground, looking up just in time to see Berecien get thrown off his feet by a Water Gun from their Mudkip opponent. The two hastily fell back, and much to their horror watched Niilo and Molina charge ahead, the Numel continuing on for Tegu and Melli as Niilo traded places with the Cacnea who rushed after his Numel teammate. From his vantage point, Cabot grimaced, realizing that in that one fell swoop, Niilo's team had managed to take the center of the platform and pushed them all to the front and back edges of it!

    "A-Ah! They got us cut off!" Cabot cried out.

    "I told you that last match was a fluke!" Niilo jeered.

    "Yeah! You guys are going down!" his Mudkip teammate added.

    "Grr, we'll see about that!" Berecien growled.

    The Ponyta rushed at the Mudkip, head and shoulders readied for a crushing tackle. As the horse charged ahead, the Mudkip tried to spit up a jet of water, only for the Fire-Type to weave out of the way and keep charging forward, his Cranidos teammate running in to assist.

    "Hang in there, Berecien!" Cabot cried. "I'll draw her fi- Agh!"

    The Fossil Pokémon's endeavors were quickly thwarted by a yellow, scaly ball zipping towards him, prompting him to leap and roll on the ground to dodge the incoming Rollout. As the Cranidos hastily picked himself up, Berecien had closed the gap with his foe, tensing his feet along the ground.


    The Ponyta raised his forehooves, attempting to bring them down onto the Mudkip with a forceful stomp, only for the Mud Fish Pokémon to jump back and perch on the railing. Berecien's feet impotently hit the wood of the platform with an audible clatter, much to the Water-Type's jeering amusement.

    "Hah! Let's see you hit me from up here!" the Water-Type taunted.

    "That's not the only attack I- Argh!"

    Before Berecien got a chance to finish his retort, he yelped in pain as he got hit from the side by Niilo's Rollout. From her spot on the railing, Chalco readied a Water Gun in an attempt to finish off the horse, only to suddenly hear the sound of footsteps followed by a loud crash and the railing violently shaking underneath.

    "Wu- Aaaaaah!"

    The Mudkip toppled off the railing, looking up for a split second to see Cabot pull his head away from the railing before she struck a straw-padded mat with her rump and sprawled out. For a fleeting moment, Niilo and Berecien looked stunned over at the Cranidos' handiwork, only to be snapped back to attention by Trixie announcing the outcome.

    "And, you're out!" she shouted.

    Cabot paused out of surprise at how easy it had been to push Chalco out. He hadn't really put any thought into it; he'd just seen her on the railing and remembered the Bibarel instructor's scolding from the other day and here they were now with an early lead in the fight! Before Cabot could enjoy his accomplishment, he quickly darted ahead after feeling Niilo's Rollout brush by his tail, hearing an apprehensive whine from Tegu at the other end of the field.


    The Salandit was teetering over the edge, holding onto the platform with a single claw for dear life and desperately trying to climb back up. Meanwhile, Molina seethed at the Poison-Type from a little further away, trying to brush some vile-looking purple liquid off her hide as her Cacnea teammate walked over to the dangling Poison-Type.

    "Time to say goodbye, lizard," the Cacnea sneered, as he raised his arm.


    The Grass-Type turned around, just in time to see Melli send a cutting gust of wind at him. The wind picked up Orcutt, and sent him flying back with a yelp over the railing, falling onto the mat below. As soon as the cactus hit the mat, Trixie gave a shout and pronounced the Cacnea out, prompting Melli to fly under the railing and push Tegu back up onto the platform.

    "Don't worry Tegu! We'll help-"

    "And you're out too, Combee!"

    Just as Tegu scuttled back up onto the platform, the Combee turned back towards Trixie and buzzed out of disbelief. Was the Granbull pulling some sort of prank on her?! Nobody had knocked her out of the ring!

    "Wha-?! But We-"

    "Were out of the platform's boundaries without making contact," the Granbull growled. "Now get over here."

    The Combee blinked and stared blankly, shifting her glance around to discover everyone was staring at her. After realizing that there would be no success contesting Trixie's ruling, Melli's faces sank into a moping pout, prompting her to give a deflated buzz before flitting away from the platform.

    "Aww… this is so unfair…" the Combee muttered as she flew off.

    Tegu stared awkwardly at the whole affair, before deciding to shake his head and focus on the ring-out for the time being. He shifted his attention back to his Numel opponent, who traded a mutual glare with him. The Salandit looked at his surroundings, keenly aware that Molina had backed him up against an edge. He'd be hard pressed to do anything about the Numel as long as she had more freedom of movement to dodge…

    The Salandit's neck folds suddenly jolted upright as a spark of inspiration flickered in his mind and a small smile appeared on his face. Numel weren't that good at turning in a run, so what if Molina helped make herself an easier target?

    "Hey camel, you're gonna come over here or are you too scared now?" the Salandit jeered.

    "Grr, you'll see!" the Numel snarled.

    Molina flew into a rage, the Numel lowering her head, and charging forward for the Salandit snorting embers. All the while, Tegu waited patiently, until the Numel leapt up, prompting him to disgorge a torrent of fiery blue light that struck the Numel and drew a pained shriek. The camel shuddered as she lapsed out of consciousness, leaving her body to sail along in the air as Tegu jeered back at his defeated foe.

    "Ha! I can't believe you were dumb enough to fall for-!"

    The Salandit cut himself off and went wide eyed as he noticed Molina's unconscious body hit the platform and tumbled straight for him. The lizard hastily tried to leap out of the way, only for the Numel to roll into him and for the two to fall off the platform and onto the mat below, the Numel landing atop the unfortunate Poison-Type.


    "Both of you are out!" Trixie yelled.

    Back on the platform, Niilo's demeanor had become tense, as the Sandshrew realized he was the last 'mon still standing from his team. Aware that he was fighting an uphill battle, the still-balled up Sandshrew rolled away from Cabot and Berecien, prompting the Ponyta to give chase and Cabot to lower his head and try to flank the Sandshrew with a headbutt.

    "I got him! I-"

    Much to the Cranidos' dismay, his attempts to flank Niilo were thwarted by the Sandshrew outrolling him, leaving the Fossil Pokémon headbutting the air. Glimpsing his chance to counterattack, the rolling pangolin quickly circled around and bounced towards Cabot.

    "Argh, Cabot watch out!" Berecien shouted.

    The Ponyta hastily shoved Cabot out of the way of Niilo's incoming Rollout, only to be struck by the Sandshrew's rolling attack and sent flying over the railing with a shriek. The Ponyta hit the mat with an audible yelp, just in time for Niilo to bounce off the railing and barrel straight for Cabot.

    "You're mine, rock-head!"

    The Sandshrew barreled forward, and seeing that he had nowhere to run, Cabot lowered his head and charged forward, dashing towards the oncoming pangolin with a Headbutt. The two struck each other and flew back. As Cabot stumbled back up to his feet, he looked across the platform to see that the Sandshrew's Rollout had been broken, the pangolin tottering up in a daze as he shook his head to try and regain his bearings.

    "Hah… hah… looks like it's just you and me, rookie," the Sandshrew jeered. "You ready to go down like the rest of your friends?"

    "No, I'm gonna win this!" Cabot cried.

    The Cranidos charged towards Niilo, prompting him to throw poisonous darts at the dinosaur's feet to try and slow his pace. Much to the pangolin's alarm, the Fossil Pokémon didn't slow at all and drew closer and closer. The Sandshrew went wide eyed and turned to run, expecting to feel the crushing blow of a Headbutt on his back, only to instead feel claws grabbing his tail and yanking him off the ground.

    "Hey, lemme- Aaaaaah!"

    Before Niilo knew it, the Rock-Type had thrown him into the air and over the platform's railing. The Ground-Type sailed through the air, falling with a flailing scream before hitting the mat headfirst with a loud thud.

    Cabot paused and panted as he saw the Sandshrew slowly getting up down below, before realizing that this meant…

    "The match is over!" Trixie shouted. "Looks like our own recruits win!"

    Cabot stood on the platform as cheers broke out in the audience, an increasingly wide smile breaking out over his face. The Rock-Type looked around, soaking in the attention as he noticed his teammates making their way back onto the platform and nearing him.

    "Cabot, we did it!" Berecien exclaimed.

    "Heh, looks like you actually won your best out of three after all," Tegu chuckled.

    "Yeah, you did great!" Melli cheered.

    As Cabot and his teammates indulged in their cheer and elation, the sound of groaning reached their ears. Behind them, Molina was being helped up from the ground, her teammates grudgingly looking up at their opponents. Relishing the mercenaries' obvious chagrin, Berecien's muzzle curled up into a smug grin, as he let out a taunting whinny.

    "So what was that again about getting what you pay for, Sandshrew?"

    "Yeah, with those skills, I think it's time you guys lower your hiring price!" Tegu jeered.

    The Dune Devils grumbled at the taunts, before sulkily slinking off away from the platform. All the while, Cabot watched after the group and much to his surprise, saw Niilo briefly stop and look back, before turning and continuing on. The Cranidos gave a curious tilt of his head at the whole episode, wondering if there was something more to it than the Sandshrew let on.

    "I wonder why Niilo looked back at me like that…" the Cranidos murmured.

    "He's probably just bitter he lost to you," Berecien harrumphed. "Let's not worry about it and just enjoy this victory."

    "Hm, I guess you're right," the Fossil Pokémon said. "Let's go celebrate!"

    "Hey! Enough dawdling already! There's other groups that need to start practice!"

    Cabot and his companions blinked, looking over to find Trixie scowling impatiently at them. The four sheepishly smiled back, before climbing down the platform and making their way for the edge of the assembly. All the while, the quartet traded cheerful chatter with each other, their spirits livened by their victory in their challenge with the Dune Devils and their minds turning towards what seemed to be a bright future working together as teammates.



    The clink of clay cups went up around a wooden block-table at the mess-hall, intermingling with the cafetaria's normal burble of activity at mealtimes under the hall's high wooden roof. From their spots about the table, Cabot and his companions pulled their cups back (Berecien and Melli with the aid of twine holders) and drank the berry juice inside, a well-needed refreshment from the events of their day.

    "A toast to our victory!" Berecien cheered.

    "Yeah, you really pulled through for us there, Cabot!" Melli exclaimed. "For a while I didn't think we'd make it."

    "I mean, it wasn't that big of a deal…" the Cranidos insisted, before blushing and giving a scratch at the back of his head.

    "Hey, you gotta give yourself some credit," Tegu said. "You should have seen the look on that Sandshrew's face after he got up!"

    "Well regardless, it should be fun to train together for the rest of Basic Training," Berecien concluded.

    "Heh, you certainly know how to make a 'mon look forward to stuff," Tegu chuckled.

    "Yeah! It sounds like it would be a lot of-!"

    Melli trailed off as her gaze drifted over a few tables ahead of her. There, a trio consisting of a Psyduck, Bronzor, and Rockruff sat together chattering and laughing over drinks. At once a flash of recognition crossed the Combee's widening eyes, prompting her to flit up from her seat enthusiastically.

    "Oh, Tegu! Look!" the Bug-Type cried.

    The Salandit gave a quizzical tilt of his head, before he followed his partner's gesture and turned around. Upon noticing the three Pokémon as well, he jumped up and went wide-eyed out of surprise.

    "Wait, they signed up after all?!" the lizard exclaimed

    "Let's go talk to them!" Melli cheered.

    The Combee zipped along and flew off for her friends' table, giving a buzzing greeting on the way. Tegu watched as the Bug-Type joined the company of the surprised trio, before begrudgingly looking back at Cabot and Berecien.

    "Eh… so yeah those guys over there are the friends we told you about," the Salandit explained.

    "The ones you said were still doing Community Service?" Cabot wondered, prompting Tegu to nod.

    "They must have signed up after us and got assigned to a different group," the Poison-Type murmured. "You don't mind if we spend some time with them, right?"

    Cabot and Berecien grimaced in hesitation at Tegu's request. The two fumbled with their words before the Ponyta finally managed to string together a reluctant response.

    "I mean, I suppose it wouldn't-"

    "Sweet! We'll catch up with you guys later!" Tegu said.

    The Salandit hopped off the seat and darted along the ground for his old companions. Cabot and Berecien watched as the lizard joined Melli and the other Pokémon about the table, the group quickly slipping into a cheerful circle of chatter over snacks. All the while, Berecien and Cabot couldn't help but have their focus hover on the two freshly-vacated seats, prompting the duo to trade uneasy glaces with each other before hanging their heads.

    "Looks like we're back to where we started," the Ponyta muttered.

    An uneasy pause hung in the air before the pair sighed disappointedly. After everything they'd been through the past few days with Tegu and Melli, they didn't expect the two to just walk off so casually…

    "… So now what?" Cabot asked.


    Cabot and Berecien looked up from the table at the sound of a voice at the end. Much to their surprise, there in front of them was none other than Niilo, shifting awkwardly as he awaited a response.

    "What do you want, najemnik?" Berecien questioned. "Don't you have your own table? Or that evolution 'just around the corner' to get to?"

    "Hey, I told you it's 'Niilo'!" the Sandshrew huffed. "… But uh, I just wanted to say nice match earlier. You two fight better than I gave you credit for."

    The pair blinked and traded surprised glances with each other. After his attitude the past few days, Niilo's newfound soft-spokenness was… unexpected, to say the least. But even so, a compliment was a compliment, and it was only proper that the two return the thanks.

    "I mean, you guys fought hard too," Cabot offered. "And it was pretty close."

    "Well still. You're not as bad as I initially thought despite your lack of training," the pangolin admitted. "If I'd known that, I wouldn't have given you such a hard time when we first met."

    "Thanks I suppose," Berecien murmured. An awkward moment of silence followed, Niilo dragging a claw idly on the table while waiting for further commentary. After sensing that none would be forthcoming, the Sandshrew cleared his throat and opted to try and drive the conversation forward himself.

    "Anyway, I was wondering if you guys would be down to spar more in the future," the Ground-Type said. "Basic Training has just barely started, so I'm gonna need someone to help me toughen up a bit."

    "We'd love that actually…" Cabot replied. "Did you already get a table? If you haven't, there's plenty of space for another 'mon."

    "Heh, I'll take you up on that," Niilo chuckled. "Gotta get you two used to seeing me around, because I'm not letting you get off that easily!"

    The Sandshrew sidled over to one of the seats around the block-table and began to idly chatter with his former rivals. The three continued on, the lunch hour wiling away around the little table in between food, drinks, and cheerful camaraderie. All the while, Cabot found a warm smile etching itself onto his face. Through all the twists and turns, he'd met Tegu and Melli, and he'd managed to befriend one of the mercenaries after all!

    And with any luck, perhaps his new friend would stick around for a while.


    Author's Notes:

    - bùxaro - Venetian: "kid" / "sprog"
    - kaverit - Finnish: "pals" / "mates"
    - prinsessa - Finnish: "princess"
    - hevonen - Finnish: "horse"
    - chuligani - Polish: "hooligans"
    - najemnik - Polish: "mercenary"
    Chapter 3: Anchors Aweigh!
  • Virgil134

    PMD Writer
    1. sylveon
    2. weavile
    3. kommo-o
    4. noivern
    5. mothim
    Alright, here's Casting Off's final chapter. Originally this was posted on July 15 2018.


    As the weeks passed, Basic Training went by in a hazy, lengthy blur for Cabot. There were exercises to be done, a rekindled (if friendlier) rivalry with Niilo and his companions to indulge in, and Trixie's stern, ever-present barking of orders. A mere four weeks later, all of that had come to an end, which much to Niilo's dismay meant trading in his beloved dark khaki scarf for a naval indigo. The cadets that had managed to hold out through training were graduated and scattered across the various ports of call about the Empire's territory.

    Some received postings in and around the capital, while others - like Niilo's buddies in the Dune Devils - were posted to guard Anyilla's fringes on Haipheh Island. As for Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo, the three were posted on the high sea, slated to tend the front lines of defending what remained of the Empire on the waves. Before they knew it, the three found themselves early in the morning at the piers of the naval facility in Tidemill City's eastern district, making their way down docks lined with proud, indigo-sailed ships as the three scanned high and low for the one that they would call their own.

    "I can't believe we're actually getting our very first assignments for the navy today!" Cabot exclaimed. "For a while, I thought Basic Training was never going to end!"

    "Hmrph, would it have killed them to give us some proper instructions, though?" Niilo asked. "I can't see hide or scale of this 'Captain Nugget' we're supposed to be working for."

    "Again, we're looking for the Vasilek," Berecien said. "It's a three masted frigate with Imperial sails, so just keep your eyes peeled."

    "That's easier said than done!" the Sandshrew protested. "These entire docks are full of ships with Imperial sails!"

    "But… isn't that ship over there the only one nearby with three masts?" Cabot murmured.

    The Cranidos pointed off a few docks over at the sight of a frigate with indigo sails. Much to Berecien and Niilo's embarrassment, sure enough, the vessel was the only one of its kind with three masts at the docks, the description they'd been given for finding their new ship.

    "… I suppose that would narrow it down, yeah," Niilo admitted. "Come on, let's go."

    The trio carried past a few ships on the way down the docks, walking by a Poliwrath and a Throh moving some crates onto a ship, a yellow-eared Raichu that was floating on his tail tying down another ship, and in a sign that not everyone here was terribly busy, a Murkrow, a Persian, and a Gible huddled around a crate playing cards. As the group neared the Vasilek's dock, they noticed a Tentacruel and Sharpedo swimming past a small group of Pokémon clambering the gangplank where there was a Beedrill in an indigo scarf bearing a twinleaf design… the very same that Trixie had.

    "Hoy!" the Bug-Type greeted. "Are you three also new recruits for the Vasilek?"

    "Uh-huh! We were just looking for it," Cabot nodded. "You're from the crew, I take it?"

    "That's right, and welcome aboard," the Beedrill replied. "My name is Jun, and I'm the ship's first mate. Just proceed onto the gangplank and wait on deck with the others. The Captain will address you all shortly."

    "Right," the Cranidos said. "Thanks for the heads-up."

    The three made their way up the gangplank, clambering up onto the deck as it buzzed with Pokémon crowding together near the bridge. Cabot looked around, recognizing a few faces from Basic Training like the Pidgey and Togetic near the railing, when his eyes caught the sight of a familiar Salandit and Combee waiting in the distance. Seeing Tegu and Melli prompted Cabot to give a cheerful wag of his tail as he realized that he'd have more friends than expected for this maiden voyage…

    "Tsk, look what the tide brought in."

    … along with more detractors than he'd hoped, it sounded. Cabot peered over at a section of the railing near the stern where he saw an Accelgor, a Lilligant, and a Primeape with visible scuffs shooting unimpressed glares over at him and his teammates before drifting off. The dinosaur shifted uncomfortably a moment over the encounter, wondering if perhaps it was a sign of things to come while working as part of the crew.

    "They don't seem too happy with us…" the Cranidos murmured.

    "Meh, just ignore them," Niilo scoffed dismissively. "They'll change their minds once they see how well we can hold our own."

    "With an overconfident attitude like that we're definitely not changing their minds," Berecien harrumphed.

    "Hey, maybe you two look like typical rookies, but once I evolve during our first mission that won't apply to me!" the Sandshrew huffed back.

    Cabot and Berecien narrowed their eyes into unamused stares. All through Basic Training, Niilo had gone on and on about him being on the verge of evolving, yet it never happened. Well, here they were about to go on their first mission and he was still the same scaly ball he always was. Was he really going to keep this up for his entire deployment?

    "Tch," the Ponyta snorted. "If you say so…"

    Before Berecien could say anything further, he was cut off by the sound of a wet slosh and a blast from above, followed by the sensation of water pouring down on him. The Ponyta and the other Pokémon on deck yelped, recoiling from the unpleasant feeling of droplets falling against their bodies and looked around for the culprit, only for a chittering hiss to reach their ears.

    "Alright everyone, sit down and shut up!"

    The freshly graduated cadets looked up at the stern's railing where the form of a Clawitzer lowering her big claw caught their attention. The pistol shrimp's thorax was wrapped in an indigo scarf with three white leaves, and her shell was worn and scuffed with age, the mark of a 'mon who'd been in the navy for some time. Judging from the piercing scowl she was shooting back at the Pokémon around her, she was the type who would not easily let it be forgotten.

    "This is your captain speaking, Captain Nagant," the Water-Type said. "I'm aware that 'mons tend to have issues with remembering it, so I'll make this very clear: it's not 'Nougat', it's not 'Nugget', it's 'Nagant'. Are we clear?"

    Some awkward coughs went about the deck as the gathered Pokémon shifted glances away uneasily. Satisfied her point had been made, the Clawitzer gave a dismissive scoff, before clicking her claws impatiently.

    "Fantastic, then I'll get to the real reason why I gathered you here instead of throwing you straight into work," Nagant harrumphed.

    Cabot shrank back and fidgeted uneasily with his claws. A superior with a gruff attitude was nothing new with his experiences with Trixie, but this Nagant was something else entirely. She almost seemed like the type to throw Pokémon that annoyed her overboard!

    "Unlike most crews, mine sails closer to the fringes of the Empire's waters," the shrimp began. "As a result, on this ship, you can expect to deal with more hostile encounters than you would on some skiff with the coast guard."

    The mention of there being more hostile encounters than normal made a few faces in the crowd visibly waver and nervous murmuring began to float about. With the seas of Anyilla as turbulent as they were nowadays, trouble at sea was already a constant danger in the background. Undeterred, the Clawitzer continued on, giving an expectant scowl at the sailors in front of her.

    "Because of this, I expect each and every one of you to do your duties and follow your orders as given," Nagant added. "A crew working in concert out in contested waters can mean the difference between us accomplishing a mission or having the hull shot out from under us."

    "Someone's a crabby one, huh?" Niilo whispered to Cabot. As soon as the words left his tongue, the Sandshrew heard a chitinous click, looking up and flushing pale as he saw Nagant's large claw cracked open wide and ready to disgorge a jet of water square at his face.

    "And you'll follow those orders without back-sass or any other shenanigans," the crustacean hissed. "If you bring trouble to my ship, I'll shoot you overboard myself so you can swim back to port. Understand?"

    The Clawitzer's threat drew a gulp and an overhasty nod back from Niilo and the nearby recruits around him. Satisfied that she'd made her point, the shrimp pulled her claw away.

    "Good. Your first mission with this ship should be simple enough for all of you rookies," the Water-Type explained. "I've received sailing orders from Admiral Coil to escort a ship laden with copper ore from Sormus to Buyeom. Learn the ropes while you can, since we won't be getting breather assignments forever."

    Nagant motioned with her small claw at a flitting Beedrill beside her, who perked up with a buzz at the attention.

    "Jun will hand out your individual assignments while we're pulling out of port," she said. "That's all that I have for now. Just get to work and don't let me catch you slacking!"

    The Clawitzer turned away and began to hop off for the ship's inner decks as the gathered crew turned and traded murmurs with one another. At the doorway leading below deck, Nagant whirled back with a hissing glare.

    "You heard me!" the shrimp exclaimed. "Bring up the anchor and hoist the sails! We're moving out!"

    A chorus of hasty affirmations rose up at the Water-Type's orders, as some of the more experienced crewmembers set off pulling the sails up and the stone anchor out of the water. Niilo and his companions felt the boat jolt underfoot and begin to drift off, their gaze moving over to Jun as a group of Pokémon gathered around him for instructions. The Sandshrew let out a disgusted sigh, before shaking his head and turning back to his teammates.

    "Bah, couldn't we have gotten a captain who's a little more relaxed than that?" Niilo asked.

    "Oh, stop complaining already," Berecien said. "Everything will be fine as long as we just stick to our duties and follow her orders."

    "But she barely noticed us…" Cabot murmured. "How would everything be fine if she'd fail to notice us missing if we fell overboard?"

    "This is a frigate, Cabot. Between us on the deck, and the escorts in the sky and sea who help defend it, she likely has to manage over 200 Pokémon as part of her crew," the Ponyta chided. "It's only logical that she wouldn't be familiar with every new face that comes aboard her ship. Especially on day one."

    "I mean I guess so… " the Cranidos mulled. "Though, even if we're new… do you suppose our first assignment will still be a fun one?"

    The Cranidos moved a claw to his mouth as his mind drifted off to the potential jobs they might do on their maiden voyage. Maybe they'd start with something mundane like being one of the ship's lookouts… or maybe the Captain would aim to wow them and they'd get to do something like steering the ship! Whatever their assignment would be, the thoughts of the different possibilities couldn't help but get Cabot worked up with fantasies and what-ifs that would surely make their first mission memorable.

    "Heh, guess I'll just have to wait and see!"


    "This wasn't what I was expecting…"

    About half an hour later, the Vasilek was powering through the waves on the high sea. The sun shone down brightly and the deck was alive with activity, including Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo who worked on their first assignment… namely to clean the frigate's main deck. The trio carried out their job as ordered, moving damp mops along the deck under the clear skies. But there'd been precious little of interest during their work beyond a sighting of a passing Honchkrow in the distance, and much like their visibly dismayed Cranidos teammate, Niilo and Berecien had proven incapable of hiding their disappointment with their assignment.

    "Well, we gotta start somewhere I suppose," Berecien sighed.

    "We didn't go through four weeks of Basic Training just to swab decks all the time!" Niilo huffed. "I'm not getting paid enough for something so boring!"

    "Oi! At least you guys don't have to constantly move supplies back and forth!"

    The three turned around just in time to see Tegu and Melli coming up from below deck. The pair approached each carrying a wooden bucket, the Salandit of the pair sporting a sour frown while his Combee teammate was as upbeat as ever.

    "We got some clean water!" Melli cheered.

    "Heh heh! Sounds great!" Niilo exclaimed. "We were waiting on a drink!"

    Tegu and Melli both gave each other confused looks at the mention of a 'drink'. The Salandit shifted uncomfortably a moment, before clearing his throat and turning back to deflate the Sandshrew's enthusiasm.

    "Er… this is for the deck," the lizard said. "Pretty sure you don't want to be drinking seawater anyways."

    "If you're thirsty, maybe try asking someone from the galley for some water after your job is done?" Melli proposed.

    The two dropped their buckets on the deck, leaving their contents to slosh up and splash onto the wood underfoot. Cabot and his companions watched as Tegu and Melli disappeared again below deck, leaving Niilo to grumble in disappointment.


    "Well, it does make finishing cleaning easier," Cabot offered.

    The Cranidos walked over to one of the buckets and dipped his mop in it before continuing to swab the deck. His teammates came along to do likewise, when a sharp a buzzing sound rang out behind them. The trio turned around and saw the ship's Beedrill first mate flitting up to them with an curious gaze.

    "So how's work going for our new recruits?" Jun asked.

    "Meh, could have used something more exciti- Ow!"

    Niilo was cut off by a hoof stomping down his tail, prompting him yank it away and nurse it as Berecien shot him a stern glare. Jun gave a skeptical glance at the whole episode, prompting Berecien to hastily cut in to try and salvage the first mate's first impression of them.

    "What he means is that it's going great, sir," the Ponyta corrected. "We already did the stern deck."

    "That's good to hear, it looks like you rookies are off to a great start!" Jun buzzed. "I can't wait to see how you'll do during the second pass in the evening."

    The three stared slack-jawed at the Beedrill as soon as his words left his mouth. Did- Did he just say they had to do all this work again on the same day?!

    "Wait, second pass?!" Niilo cried out.

    "Majayo. To properly keep a ship like this clean the decks need to be fully swabbed at least twice a day," the Bug-Type explained. "A clean working environment is important for the crew to function well after all!"

    A trio of groans rang out in response to the first mate's answer. They supposed swabbing the deck was necessary… but still, there was something about their first assignment that didn't sit quite right with Cabot…

    "How come we were assigned to cleaning the deck?" the Cranidos wondered as he uneasily tapped his claws. "I guess… I was just expecting our first job to be something more related to the stuff we learned in Basic Training."

    "Well, all recruits have to start somewhere. Captain Nagant isn't the type to fully trust strangers in her crew easily," Jun said. "But if you work hard and do your tasks well, I guarantee you can earn that trust."

    "I mean that does make sense…"

    The Cranidos hung his head disappointedly, before balling his claws up and looking back up to the Beedrill. The Rock-Type seemed to find a sudden spark of excitement, as a newfound boldness came over him.

    "It's just that I thought it would be like the start of a grand adventure!" the little dinosaur exclaimed. "Where we'd explore new islands, fight bad guys, and save lots of Pokémon!"

    "Well, I wouldn't get too overexcited," Jun insisted. "We're here to escort a copper ship after all, not save the world."

    "Yeah I know…" Cabot murmured with a weak smile.

    "But if you rookies keep your work, you can at least see another island soon," the Beedrill offered. "We should arrive at Sormus within the next three hours."

    Cabot looked up and gave the Bug-Type a content wag of his tail at the mention of 'another island'. Even though his first assignment aboard the Vasilek had failed meet his expectations, it was nice to hear that there'd be some excitement on his maiden voyage after all. Satisfied with Cabot's turn of demeanor, the Beedrill flitted up, giving a cheerful buzz before continuing on.

    "Besides, it's better to start off your career with something simple anyway," Jun added. "After all, you can't really argue with a peaceful mission, can you?"


    As the Vasilek carried on towards Sormus, a Honchkrow with a black scarf sporting a golden frond design beat his wings, flying in an easterly course away from the Imperial frigate. The Dark-Type flew along until the sight of a trio of ships bearing black sails and golden designs much like the one on his scarf came into view, swooping down towards a large frigate in the center. There, a group of scruffy, grumbling Pokémon had gathered on the deck, with a sizeable number sporting blotches shaped like five-tailed comets. All the while, a Cofagrigus waited expectantly against the railing on the stern, watching as the Honchkrow settled to a stop in front of him before giving an expectant grunt.

    "Ah, Marcus, you're back," the Ghost-Type began. "What do you have to report from your reconnaissance?"

    "I found the navy ship you were talking about, Captain Sibich," the Honchkrow replied. "They're on course to arrive at Sormus in about two hours."

    "Excellent! It's time we finished preparations for this raid then," the Cofagrigus said with a grin.

    The wraith floated over to the railing overlooking the deck, nodding to a nearby Bronzong. The Steel-Type floated up and let out a loud, metallic screech that prompted most of the Pokémon on deck to cover their ears, quickly turning their attention to the waiting Cofagrigus.

    "Let's keep this short so we can get down to business," Sibich harrumphed. "My source from within the Admiralty has told me there will be a copper shipment today between Sormus and Buyeom."

    The Cofagrigus bobbed in the air above his ship's deck floating back and forth pensively before turning his attention back to his audience.

    "Since it's guarded by a navy vessel, we'll need to employ more strategy than our normal smash-and-grabs," the Ghost-Type continued. "More specifically, we'll be changing into Imperial sails so we can sail up close to it and ambush it at sea."

    The wraith's announcement drew a chorus of uneasy murmurs from the gathered pirates. An ore ship's cargo was a major haul to be had… but with such a well-armed escort?

    "Uh… is it really a good idea to just attack a navy ship like that?" a blotch-headed Grotle asked.

    "Yeah, every time we've done a job involving an Imp vessel, they've always been a huge pain to fight!" a Scraggy with a similar marking added.

    Sibich's red eyes lit up with a smoldering glare, prompting the Grotle and Scraggy to hastily bite their tongues. The Ghost-Type floated over, leaning down over the now-quieted pair with an irritated flash of his teeth.

    "My source also informed me this navy ship is full of rookies on their first mission," the Cofagrigus growled. "As such, pushing them out of the way to take our share of copper and prisoners to ransom should not be an issue for anyone worth being on the Shadow Brigade."

    The two Pokémon overhastily nodded back and stammered nervous agreements along with the rest of the crew. Satisfied enough with the response, the Ghost-Type pivoted his body, turning his gaze back to the Honchkrow scout perched on his ship's railing.

    "Tell the rest of the fleet to change their sails," the pirate captain instructed. "We'll leave as soon as every ship has changed into indigo."

    "Aye, captain," Marcus said. The Honchkrow straightened his feathers and leapt from the railing, taking flight towards another black-sailed ship as Sibich turned back to the rest of his crew.

    "That applies to the rest of you as well!" the Cofagrigus snapped. "Get the ship into Imperial sails!"

    The gathered Pokémon hastily leapt back into action, taking down the ship's black sails and dragging out indigo-colored replacements to take their stead. All the while, Sibich looked at the ocean with a malevolent grin and tented his fingers with anticipation. With the element of secrecy torn away, all the imperfections and inadequacies of the Imps' ore shipment were bared to see, and for a captain of his caliber, no ship full of neophytes could hope to stand a chance against his Shadow Brigade.


    "And there she is! The best island in the entire Cradle! Sormus Island!"

    Before Cabot and his companions knew it, their work on the deck wrapped up as the air grew hotter and the Vasilek continued on its course further and further northeast. Sandy mounds on the horizon caught their attention, drawing the three over to the railing. The trio watched as the mounds grew taller and discernible as sand dunes, followed by the form of a seaside town of adobe buildings with the occasional building made entirely out of timbers. Their Sandshrew companion stood there beaming, leaving Berecien to peer off in the distance, before giving a dismissive snort and shake of his head.

    "Meh, it looks to me like some giant sandbox-"

    "Ah it looks amazing!" Cabot cheered. "It's like one giant beach!"

    The Cranidos hung over the railing and gawked at the different sights the desert island had to offer. Niilo for his part shot a smug smile at Berecien, who flattened out his ears and let out an annoyed groan. Satisfied with the Poynta's reaction, Niilo turned back to address Cabot.

    "Heh, I'm sure you'll love the town too," the Sandshrew said. "Copperband Village is full of great stuff. There's the market, the taverns, our Protector's shrine… why, with all its metalwork, Hoopa's would totally put any other shrine in the Cradle to shame!"

    The pangolin continued on, giddily prattling about the greatness of his island's Protector before his audience. The Ground-Type's exuberance drew an eye roll from Berecien, only for the sound of a sharp buzz to cut off Niilo's storytelling.

    "Everyone make your way to the front of the stern!" Jun cried out. "The Captain wants to go over docking instructions before pulling into port."

    "Hmph, let's go see what the Captain has to say," Berecien proposed.

    The Ponyta trotted along, his teammates following after until they reached the front of the stern where a small crowd began to gather on deck. There peering down was the wizened form of a Clawitzer who gave a bat of her small claw against a railing for silence before clearing her throat.

    "Alright, let's keep this simple and short. Once we pull into port, I will be occupied planning out a route and schedule with the captain of the ore ship we're escorting," Nagant began. "While the two of us are hashing that out, the rest of you will be loading up provisions onto the ship. I expect the job to be done quickly and without incident. Are we clear?"

    A smattering of nods and 'ayes' went back at the Clawitzer's question. Satisfied with the response, Nagant pivoted on her tail, casting a sidelong glance back at the sailors below.

    "Good, then return to your posts," the shrimp instructed. "I want that ship docked before the water's dry on my carapace in port!"

    Nagant hopped towards the ship's railing, perching on it before leaping forward into the sea with a splash. Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo looked on, watching the shrimp surface and power along for Copperband's docks, prompting Cabot to turn to his teammates.

    "Come on, let's get ready," the Cranidos said. "If we do well with those provisions, maybe the Captain will start giving us some better assignments!"

    The Cranidos motioned to his friends, prompting them to push off from the railing and towards the middle of the deck where Jun was already buzzing out assignments to the gathered sailors. With rapid succession, orders were handed down: the fliers and swimmers were tasked with helping to guide the ship in, as different teams of deckhands - including Cabot and his companions - were set to work on the ship and on the docks. With a stern buzz from Jun, the three went down below deck, pawing through the cargo hold in search of empty crates and barrels to offload. The frigate lurched along, coming to a dusty harbor lined with warehouses and a line of squat adobe buildings teeming with visiting sailors.

    The Vasilek was pulled to a pier at the far end of the harbor, where it was quickly tied down and the gangplanks lowered for the crew to disembark. One after the other, Pokémon filed down, and set about moving cargo to and from the ship… including Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo. The Cranidos brimmed with excitement at the thought of finally having set foot on a different island. His path took him past ships with sails in every conceivable color, past taverns and shops where sailors traded gossip of their encounters on the high sea, a far cry from Polderfield's more inland and sleepy nature. The three along with their crewmates carried on until they reached a yard where some crates and barrels had been set out waiting for them, where they took some of the cargo and began to carry it back to the Vasilek's to be hoisted up to the deck… before returning back to the cargo yard again and again, encumbered all the while with weighty crates and barrels under the scorching sun.

    "Ugh, this is so not an upgrade over swabbing the deck…" Niilo whined. "When do we actually get to do something that actually matters?"

    As Cabot continued on moving his crate, he noticed Nagant at a nearby dock from the corner of his eye. There, the wizened shrimp was talking to a Beheeyem in front of a caravel with emerald-green sails… though the pair seemed to be strangely covert about the matter. The Cranidos curiously tilted his head, wondering what could be going on between the two captains.

    "But, the Captain certainly seems to think it matters," the Rock-Type countered. "With the way she's focused on that Beheeyem, it seems like the mission is really important."

    "Well, obviously. Copper is used to make Bezants and there's only so much mined every moon," Berecien explained. "If an entire shipment would fall into the hands of pirates, it would cause chaos for the Imperial mint at Buyeom Island and anyone who works copper for a living."

    Cabot blinked in surprise at Berecien's comment. What the Ponyta said made sense for the most part, but not everything about his description seemed to add up…

    "Wait… but if this mission's so important for the Empire's money, why did a bunch of rookies like us get it for our first one?" the Fossil Pokémon questioned.

    "It's because pirates rarely ever attack shipments like these."


    Cabot and his friends looked around, only to see that their only companions on their portion of the docks were some scattered crates and barrels. Cabot furrowed his brow puzzledly, until Niilo tugged at his shoulder and pointed down at the water, where they they saw a Tentacruel alongside a Sharpedo bobbing in the water wearing the same indigo scarves they did.

    "Oh, but how come?" Cabot wondered.

    "It's because none of them know when these shipments are," the Tentacruel insisted. "The schedules and routes are kept top secret, so when pirates do encounter a shipment on accident, they'll just think it's an ordinary merchant vessel."

    "Yeah, and without knowing what's in it, there's no way they'll bother attacking a ship that has escorts with indigo sails!" the Sharpedo added. The three rookies paused at Sharpedo's explanation, before Cabot gave a sheepish rub at the back of his head and flusteredly replied.

    "That… makes quite a bit of sense actually," the Cranidos murmured. "Thanks for that, er…"

    "Cyanea," the Tentacruel said. "And the Sharpedo's Katyusha."

    "Yeah, good luck with those crates, rookies," the shark chuckled. "Who knows, maybe we'll catch up later."

    The two Water-Types swam off with an audible splash, leaving Cabot and his friends to look on after them. With his ego still smarting from the Sharpedo's words, Niilo curled his face into a disgusted frown before mimicking the shark's voice.

    "'Nyeh, good luck with those crates, rookies.' Would it have killed them to actually help before leaving?" the Sandshrew complained.

    "But wouldn't getting crates into the ship have been harder for them since they're in the water?" Cabot asked.

    "Hey, they at least could have done something!" the pangolin huffed, only to be cut off by a shout from the end of the docks.

    "Ow! Watch where you're going, blotch-head!"

    The three looked down towards the shore and spotted a Krokorok lugging a barrel being snarled at by a glowering Drapion and Darmanitan. The creature wavered a bit before slinking away, Cabot chancing to notice the form of a five-tailed comet on the retreating Krokorok's head.

    "… He's a Marked," Cabot murmured.

    "You suppose he did something to rile those two up?" Niilo asked.

    It was hard for Cabot to tell from just a passing encounter. He'd never run into any Marked in Polderfield since it was a newer settlement, though they could be found in older ones where Marked kept to themselves in their own neighborhoods. From the tales he'd heard, it seemed as if few Pokémon really needed a whole lot to be riled up by Marked Pokémon such as the Krokorok. It was said that they were descendants of the Pokémon who helped slay the Old Gods, the Legendaries who watched over the world back when it extended far beyond the Cradle and the Veil that protected it from the surrounding Wastes. Whatever their involvement had been, it hadn't gone forgotten among the Cradle's Pokémon, to the point where ferals were said to single out Marked for attacks… not that encounters such as the one with the Drapion and the Darmanitan seemed to be much of an improvement.

    The Cranidos stared off uneasily, only for the sound of a snort and the scrape of a hoof on timber to catch his ears, prompting him to turn and see Berecien shaking his head with a sigh.

    "It doesn't concern us. Let's just hurry up and get these crates loaded," he said. "We don't wanna just stand around once the Captain is-"

    "Sailors, we're done here!" Nagant exclaimed. "Get the last of the provisions onto the ship so we can get moving! I don't like sitting around and waiting, and I'm not giving any free passes for inexperience today!"

    Cabot, Niilo, and Berecien jolted up in surprise and whirled their heads towards their captain as she headed back for her ship, staring after her with slack-jawed incredulity. That old Clawitzer expected them to already be nearly finished with loading an entire frigate?

    "Wha- But we just started!" Berecien spluttered.

    "Well like you said, I guess we'll have to hurry if we wanna make the Captain happy," Cabot offered.

    "Ugh, I just hope all of our assignments won't be like this," Niilo grumbled.

    The trio sighed and returned to their crates, quickening their pace as the other sailors on the dock similarly hurried their work along under the baking sun. Although his current assignment was far from exciting and the desert heat was wearing on him, Cabot carried on, determined not to let his first mission get the better of him. If he stuck through it, surely Captain Nugget would give him some more exciting tasks in the future… wouldn't she?


    The answer to Cabot's wonderings came swifter than expected to the young Cranidos and his teammates as the Vasilek sailed along with the green-sailed copper ship on its port side. About half an hour after leaving Sormus, he and his companions found themselves sitting back on the deck, clustered around a tangled pile of worn-down ropes, picking through and unknotting them as an air of annoyed disappointment lingered among them.

    "I can't believe I got assigned to do this of all things!" Berecien huffed.

    "Pbbt," Niilo scoffed. "So now you finally agree that our assignments suck?"

    "At least our last assignments were ones I could do!" the Ponyta protested. "How am I supposed to untie knots with hooves?!"

    "Just stay positive?" Cabot suggested. "We can't possibly be kept on these beginner tasks forever!"

    The Cranidos watched as glowering frowns came over his teammates' faces, prompting him to hem and haw with an uneasy grimace.

    "… Right?"

    "Lunch is ready! Come down to the galley if you want some!"

    The three turned their heads to see a Lurantis with a cloth slung around her front waving from the entrance below deck. One by one, sailors all around them began to sidle off for the entrance as Cabot perked up at the sound of a faint growl from his stomach. The mantis evidently had quite some experience as a cook, as her call for food had come just when he'd needed it.

    "Well, at least we don't have to worry about it for now," Cabot said. "Looks like it's breaktime."

    The Cranidos let the rope in his claws drop onto the deck, his companions doing likewise as they made their way below deck. The three carried on, where they came to a line that snaked out of a cramped galley where the smell of freshly prepared Gummis and fruit hung in the air. Cabot and his friends inched forward, taking crude clay plates from a stack on a makeshift counter by the door as they carried along with the sailors in line. The group eventually made their way to a Lurantis and a Torkoal behind a counter who bade them to set their plates down to recieve their meals. The three obliged one after the other, watching as a pawful of gummis, a lump of bread, an Apple, and a Nomel Berry were unceremoniously dumped on their plates before taking them and slipping off into the rest of the mess hall.

    "… Quality service there," Berecien harrumphed.

    "Well, at least the food looks good… aside from the Nomel Berry," Cabot sighed. "Let's just find a place to sit."

    "Er…" Niilo began. "About that…"

    The Sandshrew motioned ahead with his claw, prompting Cabot and Berecien to notice that the mess hall was already packed to the gills with sailors clustered around ramshackle tables. Every stool and barrel that passed for a seat already seemed to have someone on it.

    "Where exactly are we supposed to sit? This room looks pretty full."

    Cabot tilted his head and brought a claw to his mouth as he mulled over what they should do. The ship was teeming full of faces they weren't familiar with and it was unlikely they'd want to make room on their table for three strangers when there was already so limited space to eat. Perhaps… they could try their luck with someone they already knew?

    "Maybe we can look for Tegu and Melli?" the Cranidos proposed. "We haven't had lunch with them since the early days of Basic Training."

    "That works for me," Berecien responded. "Maybe they managed to grab a table and still have some spots left."

    The trio started to mill about the mess hall, looking around for any sign of their old companions from Basic Training. Unfortunately for them, their search proved fruitless, turning up stranger after stranger from the crew with the occasional unfamiliar face they remembered in passing from their training.

    "Looks like they got beat to the tables here," Niilo grumbled. "Where exactly would they go if they couldn't eat at a table?"

    "Maybe they went up to the deck?" Cabot offered. "I mean, the weather is pretty nice today."

    "It's worth checking out," Berecien agreed. "Let's go."

    The three sailors shuffled off with their dishes, retracing their steps along the ship's corridors back up to the deck where the sun beamed down with the faint cry of passing Wingull in the background. Cabot looked around, noticing that the deck seemed to have Pokémon who were already present with food, evidently having failed to find seats much as they had. The Rock-Type walked around the deck with his companions, until the sight of movement from the bow caught the Cranidos' eye. There at the bow was none other than Melli and Tegu settling down near the ship's prow, peering off at the waves passing under the ship's hull, prompting Cabot to wave a claw and call out.


    The Salandit and Combee looked up from the sea, and after a moment's realization, cheerily waved back at their three teammates to draw nearer. Cabot and his companions hurried over, stooping down to sit at the bow of the ship alongside their friends as they set their food down and began to eat.

    "I see you guys couldn't find a place in the mess hall either," Cabot said.

    "Hmph, I'm pretty sure some of the veteran crewmembers were hogging seats down there even before the lunch call went out," Tegu huffed.

    "I guess knowing when lunch is usually served does come in handy…" Berecien sighed.

    "But at least it's really nice up here!" Melli insisted.

    "Well, it is nice to finally be able to enjoy the scenery without some tedious task to attend to…" Niilo admitted, his comment making Cabot pause and wonder what the Salandit and Combee had been up to so far.

    "So what sort of assignments have you guys been getting anyway?" the Cranidos asked.

    "Well as you saw earlier we first had to move around cleaning supplies," Tegu answered. "At Sormus we moved crates and Jun assigned us to doing inventory not too long ago."

    "Inventory certainly sounds better than what we just got assigned to," Berecien complained. "I have to untie knots from ropes even though I have hooves!"

    "Hey, I'd trade. At least you don't have a babysitter hovering over your shoulder the entire time to make sure you're counting right," the Salandit retorted. "Almost makes me wish me and Melli got assigned to guard that cold navy base on Haipheh Island along with our other friends."

    "Everyone starts off with these sort of tasks though."

    The group blinked in confusion and looked around trying to find the source of the voice. After feeling a peculiar sense of déjà vu, Cabot looked down towards the sea, his companions following his gaze to the Tentacruel and Sharpedo from earlier swimming along in the water.

    "Oh, it's you two again," Niilo grumbled.

    "Hi!" Cabot cheered as he waved at the two Water-Types.

    "Eh? Who are these 'mons?" Tegu questioned.

    "The Tentacruel said her name was Cyanea and her friend's called Katyusha," Berecien explained. "We talked to them when moving crates at Sormus."

    "That's right!" Cyanea replied. "Since we only spoke so briefly and didn't get to know each other, we thought we'd check up on you guys!"

    The Tentacruel's burbling prompted her Sharpedo companion to bob her fins in confusion, before turning to her partner with a puzzled look.

    "Eh? But I thought Jun assigned us to make some of the rookies feel more wel- hrmpmph!"

    Katyusha was cut off by Cyanea's tentacles wrapping around her snout, prompting the group to give awkward looks at the duo as Cyanea looked back with what appeared to be a forced smile.

    "Er… so maybe you guys can tell something about yourselves?" the jellyfish asked.

    "Well, my name is Cabot! I'm from Polderfield Town on Giotto," Cabot began. "I worked at a guild and helped my parents with their box buster shop before wanting something more adventurous and signed up for the navy."

    "It's Niilo. I'm part of the Dune Devils: Sormus' elite mercenary force," Niilo beamed. "Your navy contracted us for our service and we generously obliged them!"

    Berecien rolled his eyes at the Sandshrew's introduction, wondering just how long Niilo would continue overinflating his mercenary company's prestige in front of new acquaintances. The Ponyta shook his head and opened his mouth to introduce himself, only to be cut off by a buzzing cry.

    "I'm Melli!" the Combee exclaimed. "Me and Tegu signed up because we got tired of our Community Service on Giotto."

    The Bug-Type proudly nudged at the Salandit beside her, prompting Cyanea to fall silent and narrow her eyes into an unimpressed scowl.

    "Pirates, huh…?"

    Tegu gulped and squirmed uneasily under the Tentacruel's glare. The lizard hemmed and hawed a moment, before clearing his throat, hoping to try and brush his teammate's comment back under the deck.

    "Er… former pirates now…" the Salandit corrected, before hastily changing the subject. "How about you two tell something about yourselves, huh?"

    "Well, my father used to be part of a sea rod. He met my mother during a trading day at Tidemill City's harbor and fell for her," Katyusha responded. "He left the rod and settled down there, which is where me and my siblings hatched."

    Cabot curiously tilted his head at the Sharpedo's story. What was a sea rod? He had heard about ocean clans when he was still with the guild; nomadic groups of Water Pokémon who traveled freely across the Cradle's waters and occasionally stopped by ports to trade goods. Could that be what Katyusha was talking about? The Cranidos fumbled with his words a moment to ask further, only to be cut off by a burble from the water.

    "As for me, I also grew up in Tidemill City," Cyanea said. "But it's not where my family's originally from."

    "Oh, where are they from then?" Cabot wondered.

    "My grandparents used to live in the harbors of Fensedge Village," the Tentacruel explained. "After the Company took over and the situation worsened, they migrated to Giotto."

    The jellyfish's words seemed to bring a dark cloud around Berecien, the horse lowering his gaze towards the ground with a low mutter, giving his head a disgusted shake.

    "Their treachery against the Empire really did throw a lot of lives into turmoil…"

    "Exactly! After hearing stories from my grandparents about how things used to be, I just knew I had to do something to help restore Anyilla to its former glory!" Cyanea exclaimed, waving her tentacles agitatedly. "That's when I signed up for the navy alongside Katyusha."

    The Tentacruel went quiet, letting her tentacles slink off into the water with a wistful sigh. Sensing that it was better to move the topic along for her partner's sake, Katyusha turned her body in the water, peering up to see Berecien was staring off in the horizon with a stern-looking gaze.

    "So what about you, Ponyta?" the Sharpedo asked. "You're the only one who hasn't introduced himself yet."

    Berecien flicked his ears and paused at the question. Sensing the gathered Pokémon were beginning to stare, he shook his head and hesitantly spoke up in response.

    "My name is Berecien and… I'm the son of the former Duke of Nagrobek Island."

    The group jolted back out of surprise, both the veterans and neophytes in the gathering shooting slack-jawed stares at Berecien. This Ponyta… was a noble?

    "Hold on here, are you serious?" Niilo questioned.


    Tegu blinked at Berecien's response to the Sandshrew, and thought back to Basic Training. He'd always pegged the 'mon as a merchant's kid, but with how much of a stuck-up dandy he'd been, perhaps it shouldn't have been such a surprise to him that Berecien would turn out to be nobility.

    "… I guess I should have known it was you when Trixie said there was a Duke's kid in our group," the Salandit murmured.

    "Eh?!" Cabot cried. "But why have you never told us before?"

    "Well, none of you ever asked," Berecien said. "Besides, it's not something everyone needs to know."

    An awkward silence fell over the group, as the surprise of Berecien's revelation continued to smother the conversation. After a few beats against the water, Cyanea burbled up, raising her voice with an uneasy question.

    "So… I suppose that's your motivation for being here?" she began. "Since the Company built a giant prison complex onto your island."

    "That's right. I will never forgive those square-necks for what they did to our island after driving my family out," Berecien harrumphed. "Serving in the navy has always been a tradition in our family, but I'm hoping that by being here, someday I can get our island back from the Company."

    "Whelp, best of luck with that. Family heritage or not, there's no way I would want to have anything to do with that hellhole," Tegu replied. "The things I've heard about that place make the ghost stories of Pioppo Island look like nothing."

    "Hmph, it wasn't always like that!" the Ponyta huffed. "The villagers there lived good lives and there are great open fields for running!"

    As Berecien carried on with his retort, he insistently told stories of a better Nagrobek from times gone by that bore little resemblance to the one Anyilla knew today. The fire horse continued prattling, prompting Niilo to give a curious, yet skeptical look back. All this time, he'd felt as if something about Berecien's tale didn't quite add up…

    "Wait a minute, so if you're a noble, then why did you train with the rest of us?" the Sandshrew asked. "I was pretty sure that the navy fast-tracked 'mons like you into officer positions."

    "I purposely chose to do the same training as everyone else," Berecien answered. "If I want to get strong enough to take on the Company, I can't rely on special treatment as a crutch to take me further than where I rightfully ought to be."

    "Do you have any regrets?" Katyusha wondered. "Since you could have already had a higher rank than the two of us!"

    The Ponyta stopped and pondered a moment, as the nearby Pokémon continued looking at him. Thoughts of Basic Training filtered back into the horse's mind, of the trials he, Cabot, and Niilo had overcome together. He looked over to his friends and a small smile spread over his face before he shook his head, with that in mind he knew exactly how to answer the Sharpedo's question.

    "No, not at all."

    Berecien's attention moved past Cabot and Niilo as his smile began to slowly fade away. Cabot tilted his head puzzledly, before turning around to follow the Ponyta's gaze.

    "Huh, Berecien? Is something the matter-?"

    The Cranidos abruptly trailed off and jumped back out of surprise as he noticed the sight of three indigo-sailed ships coming up from behind them. The group blinked and went up to the railing to stare off puzzledly at the ships, before Melli broke the silence with a startled buzz.

    "Eh? But I thought there wouldn't be any other ships on our route!"


    From the deck of the middle pirate ship, Sibich floated above the bow peering through a wooden scope, his toothy mouth curling into a widening malevolent smile as his fleet neared their unsuspecting target. The Ghost-Type set the scope aside and playfully let a wisp of blackish haze curl from one of his fingers, before turning back to the deck with a stern shout.

    "This is it!" Sibich barked. "Everyone who doesn't have an indigo scarf on get below deck! I do not want to lose the element of surprise because someone slips up!"

    "You heard the 'mon!" a Bouffalant bellowed. "Get a move on!"

    A chorus of affirmations went up as Pokémon hurried to their tasks. From his place on the bow, Sibich watched as Pokémon in freshly dyed indigo scarves took their places on the deck, while their counterparts still in black scarves scurried along to make themselves scarce. The Cofagrigus scanned their movements, inspecting his crew carefully before motioning again for attention.

    "And remember, once I give the sign to approach, slow us down and let the other ships go first!" Sibich instructed. "We need to sail right of the Imperial vessel so we can focus on holding off the navy crew while the other ships grab the copper."

    As the black-scarved Pokémon on the ship made their way for the entrances below deck, a Combusken among them visibly hesitated a moment, before she turned to the Cofagrigus captain with a skeptical glance.

    "But Captain, how do we know for sure we can get close without them being onto us?" the Fire-Type questioned. "They can't possibly think that no 'mon has ever faked Imp sails before in the past."

    "Because I'll be sending Marcus ahead as a messenger," Sibich explained. "Once he gives them the proper identification codes, those fools will allow us to sail up to them without suspecting as much as a thing."

    The Cofagrigus motioned over to a Honchkrow resting on a nearby railing before giving a nod. The Dark-Type shifted the brim of his head feathers down and took wing, flying off for the Vasilek as Sibich tented his fingers and watched the Honchkrow scout slip off for his targets in the distance.

    "Let's see how much my source's intel will pay off this time," the Ghost-Type said.


    Back on the Vasilek, the crew was of two minds of the approaching ships in the water. The first camp consisted of sailors who regarded the whole matter with indifference, and waved off the ships' appearance in order to return to their meals and tasks. The others, including Cabot and his companions, were lined up apprehensively at the railing, trading murmurs with each other as to what the unexpected vessels portended for their mission.

    "I thought we were the only crew assigned to defend the copper ship," the Fossil Pokémon murmured. "So why are there three other navy ships…?"

    The group paused and puzzled over the Cranidos' question, none of them finding satisfying answers come to mind. Berecien narrowed his eyes at the ships, before turning towards Cyanea and Katyusha.

    "Have you two ever gotten reinforcements mid-mission like this?" the Ponyta asked.

    "None that we didn't ask for," Katyusha replied as she shook her head. "We've had a few times where things changed at the last second before it, but we never got surprise reinforcements in the middle of a simple escort mission when everything was going smoothly."

    "Maybe there's something dangerous up ahead?" Cabot wondered. "I mean, we would've been a bit slow to hear about anything outside of Sormus…"

    Tegu bit his tongue as a troubled air seemed to settle on the lizard. Cabot tilted his head curiously, only for the Poison-Type to explain his unease.

    "Uh… not to jump the gun here," the Salandit began, "but I did hear stories that some of the tougher pirate crews would sometimes use false sails to perform ambushes."

    "… Three ships at once? Are there even crews outside of the pirates' so-called 'Council' who could do that?" Cyanea questioned. "They don't seriously go around prowling in a pack like that for random ships to attack, do they?"

    An uneasy silence came over the group. Although Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo weren't fully sure what Cyanea meant by this 'Council', it would be unusual for a group of pirates ships to prowl together like this.. But even with their friendly colors, something felt amiss about the approaching ships… but why?

    "But I suppose it might be best to play things safe," the Tentacruel sighed. "Katyusha, let's take position near the stern. Just in case."


    Cyanea and Katyusha lowered themselves into the water, before swimming off for the back of the ship. The lot watched as the pair slipped off, prompting Tegu to turn to the rest and speak up.

    "I saw a whole stack of Seeds and Wands below deck when doing inventory," the Salandit said. "I'm gonna go grab some. Better safe than sorry, right?"

    Tegu scuttled off for the entrance below deck, drawing a startled buzz from his Combee teammate as she flitted off after him.

    "Tegu, wait for me!" Melli cried.

    Cabot and his companions looked on as the pair slipped below deck, the Ponyta and Cranidos watching uneasily when the sound of a dismissive snort caught their ears.

    "Pah, it can't be that bad, can it?" Niilo asked.

    "… I think we're about to find out," Berecien responded, as he motioned with a hoof at the form of a Honchkrow in an indigo scarf flitting down to the deck before Nagant and Jun.

    "I don't recall asking for any reinforcements," the Clawitzer snapped as she aimed her large claw at the Honchkrow. "Who are you lot and why are there suddenly three additional ships to escort a single merchant vessel?"

    Marcus flapped back in surprise at the Clawitzer's aggressive posture, only to catch himself and give a ruffle of his feathers to soothe his nerves. The Honchkrow shook his head and drew a wingtip over his beak, clearing his throat to speak up in reply.

    "Aherm. We're reinforcements sent by Admiral Coil," the Dark-Type began. "We were told your ship has a lot of freshly graduated cadets and you needed the extra assistance."

    The shrimp mulled the matter over, her eyes hardening with a dubious scowl. Even if the Admiralty decided that she'd need additional backup, three ships was surely overkill for a simple escort mission. On the other claw, the Honchkrow knew about the freshly graduated cadets on her crew, which ought to have been impossible for a 'mon without some sort of connection to the Royal Navy. The crustacean frowned, clicking her claws idly before deciding that were the Honchkrow legitimate, there would be a fairly simple way for him to dispel her misgivings…

    "Hmph, what's the identification code, then?"

    "Alto, Soprano, Bass, Bass."

    Nagant paused and twitched her barbels in silence before lowering her claw with a loud sigh. As ridiculous as it was, that was the code per the new standard Queen Aleria introduced last month. Whatever had compelled her to base it around operatic terms was beyond her, but it didn't really matter now.

    "Ugh… I would have expected Coil to be a bit more trustful of me," the shrimp groaned.

    "Wait, she expected the Admiral to trust her with her hair-trigger temper…?" a Butterfree asked.

    Nagant whirled around with a glare and saw the Butterfree alongside a Drifblim and a Minior whistling and hastily looking the other way. In an attempt to regain the irritated Clawitzer's attention, the Honchkrow cleared his throat and prompted Nagant to turn back to him.

    "Well, we're just following orders," Marcus said. "Does this mean we have permission to come over?"

    "Yeah, yeah, go ahead and tell the other ships," Nagant grumbled.

    The Honchkrow beat his wings and set off back for the three ships in the water. A calm began to come over the gathered sailors as some of the more antsy members drifted off to their posts. Satisfied with the explanation, Niilo turned back to his teammates with a self-assured fold of his arms.

    "See? Told you it was nothing," the Sandshrew insisted.

    "I guess so…" Berecien murmured. Cabot paused quietly at the Ponyta's dissatisfied answer, unable to help but feel a stubborn twinge of unease. On the one claw, it did feel strange that they would suddenly get reinforcements like this when they'd been allowed to sail off alone without incident… on the other, he was new to the navy, so perhaps moments like these weren't as uncommon as it seemed?

    The Rock-Type shook his head, rationalizing that if the Captain had decided that the Honchkrow was trustworthy, then there was surely nothing to be worried about. The Cranidos and a few of his crewmates turned their attention back to the ships, watching as the smaller vessels darted ahead of the central frigate and slipped along to the port and starboard ends of the copper ship, the largest ship of the trio turning to sail right of the Vasilek.

    "Eh? Why are they moving so weird?" a Litwick wondered.

    "Maybe it's some sort of tactic to give protection from more angles?" an Aipom offered.

    "But if they want to cover more angles, then why are none of them covering the front and back of the copper ship?" the Ghost-Type countered.

    Cabot paused, realizing that it was strange that reinforcements so preoccupied with defending the copper ship would have such a glaring oversight. The Rock-Type looked up, seeing the largest of the three ships approaching them when a woosh rang out followed by a pained shout.


    The Cranidos whirled around and saw a Bewear fall to the deck from a gout of fire from the larger ship. The dinosaur went wide-eyed, as a malevolent, sneering cackle filled the air.

    "Myah-ha-ha! You Imperial fools make this too easy!"

    Cabot's blood ran cold as he looked up and saw a Cofagrigus floating over the railing of the attacking frigate with a malicious grin. The Ghost-Type motioned with his hands, prompting the ship to unfurl black sails with frond-like designs that covered up their indigoes they'd used to approach. The deck of the black ship suddenly exploded with activity with glaring and snarling Pokémon taking their places, as a sinking realization came upon the Vasilek's crew…

    "Gah, pirates!" Jun exclaimed. "We're under attack!"

    "That's right! You fell into my trap just as planned!" Sibich taunted. "And here I was wasting my time making contingency plans for you simple-minded Imps!"

    "Time to give you rookies a crash course on the real law of the sea out here!" a Magmar on the pirate ship sneered. The Fire-Type slipped behind a readied cannon with a harpoon lodged in it, as two other harpoons on flanking ends were turned to train on the frigate's hull along with a number of wooden tubes. The Vasilek's crew ran up, hastily lobbing a volley of attacks to stop their attackers, when a deafening blast cut them off.



    A wave of panic went up among the Vasilek's sailors as cannon blasts rang out and Apricorns sailed through the air, a few swallowing up sailors with flashes of light. Although they were overlooked by most in the chaos, the sound of harpoons' metal tips finding their marks and lodging into the frigate's hull were also present in the din, with the sound's culprit made clear as the sailors felt the deck lurch underfoot and the Vasilek started to be drawn in towards the pirate ship.

    The deckhands redoubled their attempts to try and ward off their assailants, only to be met with a withering hail of beams and blasts. From her spot on the bridge, Nagant pulled her claw back from a freshly disgorged Aura Sphere, clicking her mandibles irritably before turning to face the deck.

    "Get some Protects up to keep those ship-burners off of us and form a perimeter!" the Clawitzer barked. "I didn't come this far just to get my hull shot out by some scum-sucking box with arms!"

    Nagant's cry was answered with Pokémon rushing up and throwing up barriers of light along the railings. The incoming attacks began to bounce off the Protects as crewmembers on deck and in the water dug into attack positions to try and drive off Sibich's frigate as it drew nearer and nearer.

    "Agh! They've got the copper ship surrounded!"

    Cabot turned his head at the cry of one of the Vasilek's lookouts, where he noticed smoke curling up from the deck of the green-sailed caravel in thick black plumes and Pokémon storming aboard from the flanking pirate vessels. The sound of a loud clatter drew Cabot's attention back towards the attacking frigate, where much to his horror, it had come up right next to the Vasilek and its Cofagrigus captain was nearing a freshly-lowered gangplank. The Ghost-Type floated across as an Accelgor and a Primeape ran up to dislodge the gangplank, only for the Accelgor to be sent flying headlong into a wall from a shadowy orb flung out from Sibich's right hand, and the Primeape to be flung aside by a Shadow Ball from the Ghost-Type's opposing hand as he crossed over onto the Vasilek's deck.

    "Take positions and give those Imps the full taste of the might of the Shadow Brigade!" Sibich ordered. "I want that overgrown crab and her crew swimming back to their home port!"

    The Cofagrigus was followed by a mob of black-scarved pirates, with the clunk of wood revealing further gangplanks lowered near the stern and bow of the Vasilek. Cabot looked around in a panic as the pirates forced their way onto the deck, falling back as attacks zipped by overhead.

    "A-Agh! Tegu! Where are you?!" the Cranidos cried. "And where are those items you said you wou-?!"

    Cabot went wide-eyed as he saw a Scraggy with a black scarf and a comet-shaped blotch on his head leap in in front of him with a low kick. The Cranidos jumped back as the pirate's foot swung by and narrowly missed his legs, before tumbling onto his rump as the Scraggy readied himself with raised fists.

    "You're mine now, Imp dweeb!" the Dark-Type jeered. The pirate rushed ahead and flattened out a hand, bringing it down with a crushing chop, only for Cabot to hastily roll out of the way in a panic.

    "Hrmph, I see you found a new friend, Eric."

    As Cabot came to a stop, he looked up and saw the Marked Scraggy was joined by a similarly-garbed Combusken and Grotle with alike blotches on their heads. The Cranidos got up and backpedaled uneasily, only for the sound of footsteps to join him from behind, signaling the presence of arriving reinforcements.

    "Ah good, Cabot! You've got them with their backs to the railing!" Berecien exclaimed. "All the better for us to push these pirate scum back into the water where they belong!"

    "Do you think Captain Nugget gives any bonuses for speedy victories?" Niilo chimed in.

    "Hrmph, let's see you push this into the water!" the Combusken pirate harrumphed.

    The Young Fowl Pokémon turned her attention to a nearby barrel and breathed a small gout of fire onto it, setting it ablaze much to the sailors' panic. Visions of fire spreading to the rest of the ship flickered before their eyes, prompting Berecien to hastily charge forward and kick the barrel over the railing and into the sea.

    "Thanks for falling for that, horseface!"

    The Ponyta was rewarded for his effort by a pair of swift kicks to his side, sending Berecien stumbling back with a yelp. His Combusken attacker raised her right claw to prepare another attack, only to be cut off mid-blow by a scaly ball sailing into her.

    Feeling a call of duty, Cabot rushed in to assist his teammates. The Cranidos' attention was drawn to the Grotle among the pirates, leading him to lower his head and charge into the turtle with a ramming headbutt that drew a pained bellow.

    "Get off of him, Imp dweeb!"

    Cabot saw the Scraggy of the pirate trio approaching with his hands readied from the corner of his eye. The Dark-Type lunged and struck the top of Cabot's head with a crushing blow with the side of his hand. The Fossil Pokémon yelped and stumbled back, wobbling in a daze as his focus returned and made his eyes widen with shock after seeing the Grotle flinging a hail of sharp leaves towards him.


    The Cranidos hastily leapt out of the way of the incoming leaves, feeling them zip by his hide.

    "Bah, that stupid Imp dodged my Razor Leaf!" the Grotle complained.

    "Oh yeah? Well let's see him dodge thi- Ack!"

    A fiery tackle cut the Scraggy off mid-sentence, launching him back into the railing with a yelp. There in his former place on the deck was the form of a snorting Ponyta, who turned to his Cranidos teammate with a shout.

    "Cabot, don't let them pin you down!" Berecien yelled. A low growl rang out from behind as the Grotle lunged forward with his jaws opened for a bite. Before the Grass-Type could clamp down, he was intercepted by a scaly ball plowing into his side, sending him tumbling head over shell into Eric against the railing with a pained yelp.


    The turtle heard a snapping noise and felt the railing lean back and give way under his weight. The pair frantically tried to dig into the ship's hull only to feel their bodies slipping off and air passing by underfoot.



    The two pirates hit the water, going under the waves with a burbling glug before surfacing with a gasp. On the deck, the scaly ball uncurled itself into Niilo who peered over at the flailing pirates before shooting back a proud grin to his teammates..

    "Ha! Two down, one to-"

    The Sandshrew trailed off as he suddenly felt a surge of energy come over him and his body erupted in a bright, white glow. Cabot and Berecien gazed over in a surprised shock, watching as the features of the Sandshrew melted away and began to grow taller and larger.

    "Is he…?" Cabot gasped.

    The two watched as the white figure's back erupted with long spines, his tail and limbs stretching as two arms formed with tapered, sharp claws. The figure's growth settled and stopped, the light draining away afterwards to reveal the form of a newly-evolved Sandslash. He stood disoriented for a moment, only for his daze to be swiftly replaced with a giddy wide-eyed realization as he stared excitedly at his body's new features.

    "I- I did it!" Niilo exclaimed. "I finally evolved!"

    As Niilo and his companions were focused on his newfound transformation, the remaining pirate had been backpedalling away from the three sailors. The Combusken glanced with a grimace at her friends in the water, and then back at her newly-evolved foe, only for her nerves to fail her and prompt her to run off.

    "Yeah, screw you Imps! I'm out of-"

    "Have a nice trip with your buddies!"

    The Combusken looked back and went wide-eyed as the Cranidos charged her with the dome of his head covered in a sheen of blue light. The Fire-Type hastily tried to jump out of the way, her attempts to evade failing as the Zen Headbutt connected and launched her screaming through the air until she pinwheeled into the water next to her teammates. Back on the deck, Cabot stared out to the sea and smiled weakly at the team's victory, Niilo turning to Cabot and Berecien with a bemused expression.

    "So what was that about me not evolving soon?" the Sandslash asked.

    Berecien rolled his eyes and let out an unimpressed snort at his teammate's boast. Couldn't Niilo at least keep his priorities straight in the middle of an ongoing raid?

    "Yeah, yeah, whatever," the Ponyta grumbled. "You can celebrate after we've driven off the rest of these pira-"

    The horse and his companions dove out of the way of a jet of water that suddenly zipped overhead. The three looked wildly around the Vasilek's deck, where they saw a general sense of chaos and disorder aboard the frigate. The Sandslash bit his tongue, deciding that his merry-making could wait when it was hard to decide where to even start driving these pirates off. Off by the bow, Cabot could see Jun weaving around a Bouffalant's charge and jabbing back with a stinger. The stern was every bit as chaotic, with the little dinosaur catching the sight of the Litwick and Aipom he overheard earlier jumping out of the way of an electrified cloud of haze from a Koffing and a Charjabug. The Cranidos felt the deck lurch underfoot and went wide eyed after hearing Melli buzz with a start as she attempted to elude a pursuing Rhydon.

    "Guys, Melli is-!"

    Cabot stopped talking as he, Berecien, and Niilo watched Melli lead the Rhydon right towards a barrel where Tegu popped out with a stick with a glassy knob at its end that appeared to be filled with silky threads. The Salandit flicked the wand, cracking the outer glassy layer as a glob of silk burst out and entangled the rhino, forcing the pirate to struggle to keep his balance. Newly freed from her pursuer, Melli flew up and whipped up a wind behind the Rock-Type that sent him tottering forward towards the ship's railing. The pirate caught himself and began to turn back with a furious growl, only to be cut off by Tegu hastily throwing an orange seed at the Rhydon's face. A loud blast rang out, followed by the sound of a bellowing scream as the Rhydon pitched overboard. Cabot heard a loud splash, prompting the Cranidos to look ahead and see the Salandit peer over the railing, before pulling an eyelid down at a bubbling patch of sea below.

    "Seems like she and Tegu are doing alright," Niilo chuckled.

    The three began to go over to their companions, when the sudden sound of a loud splash prompted them to turn their heads. Off to the side, the three saw the form of a black-scarved Ninjask twitching and groaning on the deck in a puddle of water as Nagant pulled her large claw down to her side with a harrumph, bidding good riddance to the thieving bug. Cabot's attention began to drift back to the stern and he started to head off, only to turn back to Nagant after noticing shadowy movements from her direction. The Rock-Type's eyes widened, realizing the shadows were coming from the attacking ship's Cofagrigus captain suddenly floating up behind her.

    "Ah, Captain! Look out behind you!"

    Nagant whirled around at Cabot's cry, going wide-eyed and hastily leveling her large claw when Sibich abruptly cut her off by spewing a purple mist into her face.


    The Clawitzer writhed and recoiled back from the venomous haze as she tried to regain her balance. The shrimp hissed, before reflexively shooting forth an orb of pressurized water back from her large claw. The Water Pulse sailed along and splattered against a barrier of light, its Cofagrigus creator curling his mouth up into a malevolent grin.

    "Foolish crab!" Sibich sneered. "You really think you stand a chance against my Shadow Brigade?!"

    Cabot and his companions watched as the mist condensed and dribbled violet droplets down the shrimp's shell, noticing the seething Water-Type's movements grew noticeably more labored and sluggish. The crustacean fired off a spray of black orbs with a loud hiss, only for the Cofagrigus to slip away to the side and allow a black-scarved Linoone and Whirlipede to rush in. From his position, the Cranidos blanched, turning to his teammates and waving his arms in alarm.

    "We've gotta help the Captain!" the Rock-Type exclaimed.

    "How?!" Berecien cried. "She's poisoned and where are we supposed to get a Pecha Berry in the middle of all of this?!"

    "We've got a stash of those below deck," Niilo said. "Finding one shouldn't be an issue…"

    A sharp cry rang out, the three's attention turning back to Nagant just in time to see the Linoone get sent skidding back by a jet of water. The Normal-Type dug in his heels as his Whirlipede teammate zipped forward and slammed into the shrimp, giving the Linoone a moment to regather his focus and retaliate with a tackle that sent the Howitzer Pokémon tumbling backward. Nagant recomposed herself and hopped clear of her attackers, when she saw a clear line of sight between her and Sibich. With one swift motion, she leveled her claw and shot forth another Dark Pulse that - like her Water Pulse earlier - dashed up against a barrier of light.

    "I'm more worried about getting it to her," the Sandslash explained. "There's no way that Cofagrigus will just let us run up and apply it!"

    Cabot bit his tongue and racked his mind as the battle raged around them. They had little hope of lasting in a battle against that Cofagrigus, something he was bound to drag them into the moment he spotted them approaching. How could they apply medicine onto the Captain before he punted them clear across the deck? The dinosaur thought and thought, coming to the realization there was no workaround so long as the Cofagrigus spotted them… unless… there was something to divert his attention elsewhere.

    "You guys go and find that berry!" the Cranidos declared. "I'll try to keep that Cofagrigus away!"

    Cabot ran ahead as Nagant continued to struggle with the Linoone and Whirlipede, the Rock-Type looking up and going wide-eyed in alarm as he saw a orb of greenish energy collect in between Sibich's hands. The Cranidos lowered his head and lunged forward with a swift, pursuing tackle that rammed square into the pirate captain's coffin-like body.


    The Energy Ball sailed off harmlessly in the air as Cabot and Sibich bounced off each other. The Cofagrigus skidded back and shook off the attack, easing his body and shooting a fierce glare back at his visibly paling Cranidos challenger through blood-red eyes.

    "Y-You're not getting away with this, you bully!" Cabot stammered.

    Sibich scowled skeptically at the little dinosaur, and noted the sailor was visibly quaking. The Ghost-Type gave a dismissive scoff, his mouth curling into an unimpressed frown..

    "And what are you supposed to do about it?" the Cofagrigus sneered. "Ha! I'm Captain Sibich of the Shadow Brigade! A little runt like you is no match against me!"

    "I-I'll find a way to stop you somehow!" Cabot insisted.

    "As if!" Sibich snarled. "Time to send rookies like you back to the Day Care!"

    The Cofagrigus hurled a shadowy orb towards Cabot, prompting the Rock-Type to hastily charge forward as blue aura trailed off his bony skull. The Cranidos felt the attack strike the dome of his head, which send him staggering back along the deck panting haggardly. Much to his amazement, he'd been able to stay on his feet the whole time, the Zen Headbutt's efficacy drawing an annoyed growl back from the pirate captain.

    "Tsk, aren't you an annoying little brat?" Sibich said.

    "That's… the plan…" Cabot panted.

    The Ghost-Type blinked for a second, before turning around to follow the dinosaur's gaze and grit his teeth in frustration. There he saw both of his underlings sprawled out on the deck unconscious, along with a Ponyta and Sandslash giving a Pecha Berry to his Clawitzer foe from a bag slung around the sand-rat's shoulder. The Cofagrigus billowed out haze in frustration, only to feel a painful slam from behind, its Cranidos culprit dashing past him to join his teammates, leaving Sibich behind to seethe as he righted himself.

    "Grr… you little…"

    "Seems like you're the fool for thinking you can overcome the Royal Navy so easily, pirate scum!" Nagant shouted.

    The Clawitzer shot forth a barrage of black orbs, prompting Sibich to throw up another barrier of light with a harrumph. Behind the group, the Ghost-Type could see in the background how his other ships had surrounded the copper vessel and black-scarved Pokémon swarmed all over the deck. The Cofagrigus smirked and floated up, deciding that he'd accomplished what he needed here on the crab's ship, before turning his attention to an indigo-scarved Honchkrow leading a group of black-scarved fliers overhead.

    "Marcus! You and your team go take care of these pests!" Sibich ordered. "I've got more important matters to attend to…"

    The pirate captain turned and began to float off for the copper ship, leaving the Honchkrow to surround Cabot and his teammates alongside a Sigilyph, a Pelipper and a Tranquill. Nagant aimed her large claw at Sibich in an attempt to stop him, only for the Honchkrow to shoot out a spray of black orbs at her, the sudden Dark Pulse forcing her to hop back. With her attempts to stop Sibich thwarted, Nagant turned to Cabot and his friends with a frustrated chitter.

    "Hmph, let's get these birds out of the way first," the Clawitzer scoffed.

    The shrimp aimed her large claw in the air at Marcus and shot a white frigid beam at him. The Ice Beam zipped along, only for the Honchkrow to weave around it with a cawing jeer, prompting Nagant to hiss in annoyance and fire wildly after the elusive Dark-Type. Back on the deck, Niilo ran up to Cabot with a claw wrapped around a Petrify Wand as the other fliers neared, hastily rifling through his bag and pulling out a second wand.

    "Here," the Sandslash offered. "We got some items from Tegu when we fetched that Pecha Berry."

    The Cranidos looked at the stick, noticing its glassy knob consisted of several layers each filled with cream-colored mist: the unmistakable form of a Slumber Wand. The Rock-Type reached out a claw in order to grab it, only for the sound of a sharp whinny to reach his ears.

    "Watch out!"

    Cabot and Niilo looked to their right and saw the Pelipper spitting up a stream of briny water their way. The two hastily jumped out of the Brine's path and fell onto the deck, both dropping their wands in the process. Berecien hastily ran for Niilo's Petrify Wand, before scooping it up with his mouth and swinging it at the Pelipper. A crack rang out as the outer glassy layer at the tip broke and disgorged a shower of sparks onto the bird. The pelican squawked with a start, his body suddenly going rigid before it pitched forward and into the ocean like a brick. Satisfied with the Petrify Wand's effect, Berecien turned towards his two teammates with an impatient snort.

    "Look alithe oo tw- Ack!"

    The Ponyta was cut off by the Sigilyph shooting out a beam of rainbow light from his third eye square into the Fire-Type's flank, prompting him to yelp and drop his Petrify Wand to the deck. Sensing an opportunity to strike, the pirate's Tranquill partner hastily dove down, aiming to dive-bomb the stricken horse when a sharp cry rang out.

    "Oh no, you don't!"

    Niilo pulled another wand from his bag and swung it at the Tranquill. The top layer shattered into shards and spilled a spray of yellow balls of light towards the pheasant. The orbs enveloped the Tranquill, prompting the flier lurch in a disoriented daze and miss Berecien entirely as he crashed headfirst into the deck. As his confused foe lay stunned on the wooden planks, Cabot hastily charged into the bird with his head lowered, sending him flying into a mast with a loud squawk, followed by a pained groan as the Flying-Type flopped over unconscious.

    "Alright, that's two down!" the Cranidos piped up, only to hear a screech. There off to the side was Nagant, reeling from a Dark Pulse followed by a swift Psybeam from a Honchkrow and Sigilyph flying away from her. The shrimp hissed and hastily vaulted herself upright, bracing her firing claw before shooting out a pulse of water after the Sigilyph, drawing a pained squawk as her shot found its mark on the joint of his left wing.


    The Psychic-Type pinwheeled through the air and hit the deck with an audible crash. There, near the foremast was the Sigilyph pirate, staggering up and beating his wings in a daze to try and right himself as a beam of light began to form around his third eye, prompting Niilo to jump up and run in with his claws drawn.

    "Time to put these new claws to work!"

    The Sandslash leapt forward, bringing his claws down on the Sigilyph with a crushing overhead swipe that pinned the Psychic-Type against the mast with a loud shriek. Niilo pulled his claws back, letting the Psychic-Type flop forward unconsciously as the Sandslash proudly flashed his claws in victory.

    "Heh, not bad if I say so myself," the Ground-Type said.

    With three of the fliers down, the pangolin and his companions turned back to the remaining Honchkrow. In the air, Marcus fell back, growling in frustration at his teammates' defeat as Nagant hopped forward with her claw leveled and a fierce scowl etched into her face.

    "Know when you're beat, vorona!" she hissed. "If you surrender, perhaps I'll put in a good word for you!"

    The Clawitzer shot another orb of pressurized water at the Honchkrow, only to be thwarted by the bird banking out of the way. The bird zipped past on the right, coming up behind the shrimp and her lackeys with a jeering caw.

    "I'll give up once our crew has that copper!"

    As the group turned around, Marcus launched a spray of black orbs at them, striking Niilo square into his face and launching him spikes-first into Berecien. As Cabot scrambled to close the distance with the attacking bird, the Rock-Type tightened his grip around the Slumber Wand in his claws and swung it at the Honchkrow.

    A shattering sound rang out as one of the glassy layers cracked and spewed forth a cloud of peach mist at the bird. The Dark-Type went wide-eyed and batted his wings to try and blow the mist away, only for it to envelop his head and his movements to suddenly become lethargic, before his wings gave way and he plummeted to the deck asleep. Not giving her foe any chance to wake up and escape, Nagant fired a white frigid beam at Marcus, the Ice Beam freezing the dozing Honchkrow solid and firmly to the deck in a lump of ice, much to the Clawitzer's satisfaction.

    "Hrmph! That'll clip their wings!" the shrimp chittered. Berecien looked over at the Howitzer Pokémon, and then back to the frozen-over Honchkrow, the sight of the frozen bird sending a chill down his back.

    "Yeesh, remind me not to make her angry," the Fire-Type murmured.


    Berecien looked over to see Niilo extending his right arm to him, pinching an Oran Berry in between his claws. A quick gander at the background revealed the Sandslash had already passed one on to Cabot, who was greedily devouring his. Berecien frowned a bit at the Cranidos' loud munching, only for a look at his own legs to reveal they'd been buffeted with scrapes and lacerations… and were in sore need of the berry's healing properties as well.

    "… Thanks."

    Niilo gave Berecien the Oran Berry, who craned his head down to dig in himself. The Sandslash moved along and made his way over to Nagant - snatching up and returning Berecien's dropped Petrify Wand to his bag in the process - to offer her an Oran Berry as well, only for his captain to hold up her small claw to motion for a stop.

    "I'm fine," the shrimp grunted. "Just save it for when one of you three need it."

    Niilo blinked out of surprise, before putting the Oran Berry back into his satchel. The Ground-Type noticed that the sounds of battle had started to fade away, prompting him to look around and see that the pirates had largely been cleared from the Vasilek's deck. The Sandslash cast a glance over towards the copper ship, which made his eyes widen from shock. There, from the bow to the quarter deck, the ship was completely overrun by black-scarved Pokémon, with plundered crates being visibly pulled off the vessel and onto the two ships flanking it.

    "Gah!" Niilo exclaimed. "Looks like those 'mons on that merchant vessel skimped out on their combat training!"

    "Hmph," Nagant began. "Let's make our way over there and-"

    "Argh! The front sails are on fire!"

    "Somebody put it out quick!"

    Cabot and his companions turned at the sound of a panicked Pidgey and Togetic's cries towards the Vasilek's bow, where much to their shock they saw the sails on the forward mast were engulfed in flames. The three were about to run for it, only for Nagant to hold out her large claw and block their way with a gruff hiss.

    "Grr, I'll take care of this," the Clawitzer snapped. "You three focus on getting the copper ship secure."

    The Water-Type began to quickly hop over to the burning sail, leaving Cabot to call after her in a fruitless effort to steer her attention back.

    "But Captain, wait!"

    The little Cranidos' cry fell on deaf ears as Nagant hopped away and busied herself dousing the frigate's front sails. Cabot looked back at the copper ship with a grimace, realizing that its crew desperately needed help right here and now. But a quick lean over the railing and a glance down at the churning sea revealed one hurdle that he couldn't figure out how to surmount…

    "… How are we supposed to get all the way over to the copper ship from here?" the Rock-Type questioned.


    Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo perked up at the sound of sloshing water and a burbling shout. There below them, they spotted a familiar Sharpedo and Tentacruel swimming up and staring up at them.

    "You rookies needed a way over?" Katyusha asked.

    "It's a little hectic down here, but we can take you across!" Cyanea insisted. The jellyfish's words brightened Cabot and his companions' expressions, prompting them to trade relieved looks with one another.

    "That would be great!" the Cranidos replied. "But how do we get down?"

    "There's a ladder just over to your right that's still in one piece!" Cyanea explained as she pointed at a crude ladder made of planks strung together with rope draped over the side of the ship. "Captain Nugget uses it a lot when she decides to swim with the ship, and it should handle all of you just fine."

    At once, Cabot and Niilo darted over and began clambering down the ladder, only for Berecien to near and look down uneasily at the sea and the unsteady-looking ropeway below.

    "Er… but what about me?" the Ponyta wondered. "That ladder's obviously not made for four-legged Pokémon!"

    "Just jump?" Katyusha proposed. "I promise we won't let you drown."

    The Ponyta folded his ears back and inched away from the ship's railing with a wary snort, before shooting a scowl at the shark.

    "I don't know if you can see it from over there, but my body is on fire!" the horse cried. "Jumping in the ocean sounds like a terrible idea."

    "But it's not like you'll die or something, right?" Cabot asked.

    "That's besides the point!"

    Berecien grimaced and looked at the sea, before hesitantly turning his attention further off at the copper ship and the pirate vessel in between it and the Vasilek. The Ponyta stamped his feet and swished his tail agitatedly as he tried to muster a retort back to his teammates.

    "I'll try my luck jumping, thanks," Berecien snorted. "We Ponyta are known to be exceptionally good jumpers."

    "What?! Are you crazy?!" Niilo exclaimed. "With how far we've drifted from that pirate ship, there's no way you'll make that jump!"

    "And even if you did, you'd still have to run across the deck of that schooner and then jump again to get to the copper ship. On your own," Cabot added. "They'll gang up on you in no time!"

    "And that's assuming a flier won't hit you mid air…" Katyusha murmured.

    Berecien flattened out his ears and shifted uncomfortably, visibly hesitating between his two options. After casting a glance impatiently at the copper ship, Cyanea splashed the water with two of her tentacles in annoyance.

    "Look, we don't have time for your crazy fantasies!" the Tentacruel huffed. "That copper ship is getting into more and more trouble by the second. So take the option you know that works or park your butt on deck! What's it gonna be?"

    The Fire-Type wavered and looked down grudgingly at the deck. Taking a dunk in the sea was one of the last things he wanted, but deep down he knew there was no way jumping that far out was gonna work. He could always sit out the fight… but if he couldn't muster the resolve to carry out his mission and help the Pokémon he was assigned to protect over some seawater, what hope did he ever have of trying to bring justice on the Company for his family?

    "Nie mogę uwierzyć, że to robię…" the Ponyta groaned. "Let's just hurry up and get over there already."

    Berecien jumped off the deck and hit the water, prompting Katyusha to swim up and ease the horse onto her. The Fire-Type staggered up with a much-diminished mane of fire, spitting up water and disgustedly trying to shake some of the unwelcome dampness off. At the same time, Cabot and Niilo lowered themselves down the rope ladder and onto the back of Cyanea's bell, the Poison-Type pushing herself away from the hull and looking up at her passengers.

    "Just be sure to hold on, since this is gonna be a bumpy ride!" the Tentacruel said.

    "Right!" Cabot piped up.

    Cyanea and Katyusha jetted off, bolting across the water as Pokémon in indigo and black scarves churned up the waters around them with fierce battles. Every so often, an errant attack would near, kicking up seawater from impact or forcing Cyanea and Katyusha to swerve out of the way.

    "Oi! Those Imps are trying to carry reinfor- Argh!"

    Or as in the case of an hapless black-scarved Golduck reeling from a fresh Sludge Bomb: swat would-be attackers out of their path. The duck's cry quickly drew the attention of some of his nearby peers, prompting a Frillish, Seaking, and Basculin in black scarves to swim up and zero in on the party from their right.

    "Great, we got company," Niilo grumbled.

    "Just try to get them off our tail!" Cyanea exclaimed as she swam out of the way of a shadowy ball in the nick of time. "If we stop to fight them ourselves, they're more likely to knock you three off!"

    The Sandslash rooted through his bag and fished out his Confuse Wand from earlier. The Ground-Type swung the wand at his pursuers, shooting out a barrage of yellow orbs that enveloped the Seaking. The fish lurched in a daze, shooting out a pressurized orb at the back of his Frillish teammate's head and stopping her cold with a yelp. In spite of that, the Basculin kept going, and sprung in the air with an open-jawed lunge for Berecien…

    "Should have stayed on your ship, Imp- ARGH!"

    … only for the Ponyta to kick him in the jaw with his hindlegs. The fish flew up into the air with a loud scream, before falling back into the water with a loud splash.

    "Fat'll deach yu!" the horse said as he tightly held onto Katyusha's fin.

    Cyanea and Katyusha pressed on, cutting through the water until they finally came closer to the copper ship. Cabot looked around for a spot they could embark, only to be interrupted by a shout, prompting him to go wide-eyed at the sight of another group of black-scarved swimmers coming their way.

    "Ah, there's even more up ahead!" the Cranidos cried out.

    The three braced themselves on their swimmers as the attackers neared, feeling Cyanea and Katyusha lurch under them as they prepared to engage their attackers. Much to their surprise, before the pirates could get any further, a large wave swept in as a group of swimmers in emerald-green scarves brought a Surf down on the pirates, turning back to an astonished Cabot and his companions.

    "Hurry it up!" an Alomomola from the copper ship's escorts yelled. "We can't keep these waters clear forever!"

    "Hey, looks like someone on that crew's managing to hold their own!" Katyusha remarked.

    "Good!" Cyanea responded. "We'll use this moment to get the three of them onto the ship!"

    The Tentacruel bolted ahead towards the stern for a dangling rope ladder, bringing Cabot and Niilo up in time for them to scrabble up it. All the while, Katyusha hung back, leaving Berecien to shoot a puzzled frown down at his carrier. Before he had a chance to speak up, the Sharpedo looked up and suddenly cut him off.

    "Alright, are you ready to jump off when I give the signal, Berecien?" Katyusha asked.


    "You obviously can't climb that ladder, so I'll jump in the air instead," the shark explained. "When I give the signal, you jump off my back to get onto the ship."


    "Alright, here we go!"

    Katyusha suddenly shot forth through the water for the hull, prompting Berecien to brace himself and bite down onto her fin even more tightly as his pupils shrank to pins. The Sharpedo swang out parallel to the ship, beelining for the stern as she churned the water up to form a wave ahead and launched herself into the air with a cry.

    "Okay, now!"

    Berecien let go of Katyusha's fin and sprang up for the copper ship. For a fleeting moment, the horse took in his surroundings with awe, watching the green sails of the copper ship grow larger as he closed the distance, only to look down and see the waves of the sea underneath… approaching and growing closer by the moment.


    The Fire-Type sailed along through the air, flailing his legs in a panic as the deck neared. The horse threw out his front legs over the railing and felt it strike his chest, knocking the wind out of him as he started to slide back. Berecien desperately tried to cling to the railings with his forelegs, when he saw Cabot and Niilo's claws suddenly latch onto them. The two tugged the Ponyta over the railing, sending him faceplanting onto the deck when a splash from the sea behind them rang out, revealing Cyanea waving from the water.

    "Alright, you rookies see what you can do up there!" the Tentacruel exclaimed. "We'll try to bring more reinforcements from the Vasilek over!"

    "Got it!" Cabot replied.

    The three watched as Cyanea and Katyusha slipped off, the sound of shouts and blows being traded on the deck turning their attention back to the battles aboard the ship. There, the situation with the pirates was every bit as dire as earlier, with the crew of the ship pinned down as the attacking pirates continued to control the bow and slip off with ore-laden crates. The sight drew a snort from Niilo, who flashed his claws and readied his feet to spring ahead, calling back to his teammates

    "Let's show these pirates who's boss on these waves!" he shouted.

    "But where do we even start?" Cabot asked. "There's fights going on everywhere!"

    Berecien looked around, trying to make sense of the mass of melees when he caught sight of a Golbat launching a Clefable in an emerald-green scarf back along the deck. The Ponyta grimaced as he noticed the Beheeyem captain from earlier run in to come to the Fairy-Type's aid, only to be cut off by a Haunter as a Machoke slipped off behind lugging along a large wooden crate towards a gangplank.

    "Let's start by stopping that group over there with the copper crate," the Fire-Type proposed. "I'll help the ship's captain and the Clefable take down the Golbat and the Haunter covering for the Machoke, while you two get that roughneck."

    "Hmph, works for me!" Niilo responded.

    Berecien ran ahead, wreathing his body in flames as he launched himself into a burning tackle at the Haunter. Cabot and Niilo bolted for the Machoke as the the sound of the Haunter's pained yelp reached the Machoke's ears, prompting the Fighting-Type to turn back at the commotion.

    "Hands off the crate, pirate!" the Cranidos snapped. The Rock-Type flicked his Slumber Wand, breaking the outermost of two remaining layers of his wand and enveloping the Machoke's head with a peach mist. The Fighting-Type shouted out of surprise and fought to keep his balance, only for his eyes to slip shut as the pirate pitched forward face-first with the crate onto the deck.

    "Let's get rid of this guy before he wakes up!" Niilo cried.

    Cabot and Niilo both grabbed one of the Machoke's legs and dragged him towards the railing. There, the two heaved the Fighting-Type up and unceremoniously shoved him over the railing with a loud splash. A ghostly shriek rang out, prompting the two to whirl around and see Berecien slamming into the Haunter pirate with another Flame Charge, sending the wraith flopping down unconscious onto the deck. The Ponyta let out a satisfied whinny, the sound of moving air and footsteps evidencing the arrival of the copper ship's Beheeyem and Clefable approaching from behind, a quick glance revealing their black-scarved Golbat attacker sprawled out fainted in the background.

    "That's more like it!" the Ponyta exclaimed.

    "Where have you escorts been all this time?" the Beheeyem demanded. "My First Mate and I haven't seen so much as a flier from your ship!"

    "Yeah! You navy 'mons are supposed to protect us from attacks like these!" the Clefable huffed.

    "Er… sorry, we just had some trouble defending our ship," Cabot murmured.

    "But we're here now and ready to help turn the tide!" Berecien declared. The Ponyta held his head up proudly, only for his brimming confidence to be cut off by the sound of a pained scream in the background. The group whirled around, watching as an alight Parasect was pitched overboard from the deck by a tackling pirate Heatmor. A look about the ship revealed other fights in the background, most of them faring poorly for the members of the copper ship's crew, prompting the Beheeyem captain to narrow his eyes at his lacking reinforcements.

    "… Just the three of you?" the merchant captain questioned.


    A squeaky, ghostly voice cried out, prompting the party to look back towards the rope ladder to see a Litwick, an Aipom, a Togedemaru, and a Brionne climb up. The Brionne and the Togedemaru hastily laid down a suppressing stream of bubbles coupled with bolts of electricity respectively, allowing the Litwick and the Aipom to beeline for their waiting compatriots.

    "Captain Nugget's sending reinforcements as fast as she can," the Aipom explained. "You guys just need to hold on for a little longer!"

    As if on cue, an icy beam zipped by, prompting the Clefable First Mate to dive to the deck. The Fairy Pokémon got up, scowling back at the Aipom as she brushed some dust off her body.

    "Well that's great, but what do we do next?" the Fairy-Type asked. "In case you haven't noticed, we're all bottled up on the stern right now!"

    "They're taking copper crates from all over the ship," Berecien began. "If we spread out and approach things the same way we just did with those pirates earlier, we can take the ship back piece by piece."

    "And how do you propose we do that when our reinforcements have to swim out from an entire ship's length to get here and these pirates' don't?" Niilo wondered.

    Cabot's gaze turned to the sides of the ship where he noticed how every so often a group of pirates would dart off under covering fire with a crate for one of the black-sailed ships. A cursory glance revealed that the gangplanks seemed to shift around a fair bit, with closer examination revealing that they were held in place with nothing more than some rope ties.

    If their supports were that flimsy, then maybe…

    "What if we destroy their gangplanks?" the Fossil Pokémon proposed. "That way other pirates can't just stroll over from their ships and it would keep them from making off with more copper."

    "… That's not a bad plan actually," the copper ship's Beheeyem captain admitted.

    "Great! What are we waiting for then?" the Brionne asked.

    "Yeah! Let's go kick those pirates' butts!" the Togedemaru added.

    "On it!" Berecien cried. "We'll take the gangplanks at port, you take the starboard!"

    "We'll try to give you all suppressing fire and pass the plan along to the rest of the crew," the Beheeyem said. "You just get out there and cut those gangplanks off!"

    The two teams darted towards opposing sides of the ship, Cabot and his companions bobbing and weaving past attacks flying around them for an unattended gangplank tied down halfway to the ship's midpoint on the port side.

    "Let's not waste any time here!" Niilo exclaimed. "They'll be onto what we're doing in any second!"

    The Sandslash brought his claws down in a swooping arc, slicing through the bindings with a single blow and sending the gangplank toppling into the sea. The wood hit the surface of the sea and bobbed at an angle, drawing a commotion on the pirate ship on the opposing end as Pokémon in black scarves attempted to hoist and reattach it. Before the plank could be raised back up, Berecien spat out an Ember onto the part still above the surface of the water, setting it alight and prompting the pirates at the other end to startledly drop the gangplank back into the sea out of alarm.

    "Okay, that's one down!" Cabot piped up.

    "Oi! What are you lot doing?!"

    The three sailors turned around and saw a black-scarved Mareanie escorting a a Furfrou and a Marked Quilladin carrying a heavy looking crate. The three pirates glared fiercely at their unexpected interlopers, prompting Cabot to stamp the deck and lower his head.

    "Taking this ship back from bullies like you!" he snapped. The Cranidos lunged at the Mareanie with a forceful Zen Headbutt, prompting Niilo to fish into his bag for his Petrify Wand as the Quilladin and Furfrou attempted to set the crate down. The Sandslash swung the stick, breaking its last glassy layer as it spat up a shower of sparks onto the Quilladin, stiffening the Grass-Type's body and making the crate slip out of his grip and onto the two pirates' toes with a loud slam.


    "We can't get bogged down!" Berecien yelled. "Let's keep moving!"

    The Ponyta and his companions charged off for another gangplank further down the deck, the Mareanie staggering up and limping after the trio. The Poison-Type readied a jet of scalding water, only to catch a glimpse of a Beheeyem's palm lights and get sent flying into the sea with a Psybeam. Up ahead, Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo made their way to the gangplank, Niilo darting in with his claws ready, only to hop back with a startled cry as the deck rocked underfoot, with the form of a glaring Seismitoad rushing across the gangplank.

    "Grr, how did you Imps even get on here?!" the Water-Type demanded. "No matter, I'll be sure to give you a nice fall overboard!"

    The Seismitoad opened his mouth and spewed out a wide torrent of muddy water, prompting Cabot and his teammates to dive wildly out of the way in opposing directions. Niilo hit the deck with a bump, hastily righting himself as he fished out a Confuse Wand from his bag. The pangolin whirled and readied the wand for a swing, only for a heavy punch trailing a greenish-yellow aura from the Seismitoad to knock him flat on his back, sending the wand clattering away.

    Satisfied with the dazed state of his foe, the toad rushed up and readied a second Drain Punch, only for the sound of stomping hooves to reach his ears. The Seismitoad turned and watched as Berecien picked the wand off the ground, giving it a sharp shake that shattered the last glassy knob on its end and send out a hail of yellow orbs of light that enveloped the pirate. The three watched as the Water-Type tottered about in a daze, Berecien flinging his spent wand aside and whirling towards Cabot with shout.

    "Cabot, now!"

    The Cranidos ran ahead and caught the Seismitoad in the stomach with a headbutt, sending the Water-Type flopping back onto the deck near a small group of Pokémon in black scarves. The toad groaned in a daze for a moment, only to ready a torrent of Muddy Water… and spew it all over the nearby pirates, their pained screams drawing winces from Cabot and Niilo as Berecien shook his head and snorted impatiently.

    "Okay, let's take care of this gangplank and go!"

    Niilo slashed the rope holding the gangplank to the copper ship, sending the end of the planks tumbling into the sea with a loud splash. Eager to beat any would-be pirates from attempting to hoist it back up, Berecien spat out a cone of embers, which struck the ropes on the other end of the plank and and set them afire.

    "And that's it for our side!" Niilo exclaimed.

    The Ground-Type's celebratory mood was cut short by a slicing gust of wind that zipped into his flank. A hail of hard seeds followed towards the three's direction, along with a bolt of lightning, a Gravelerock, and an errant Apple, forcing Niilo and his companions to dive and take cover behind an upended barrel as the Sandslash hastily scarfed his remaining Oran Berry.

    "Agh! We need to fall back before they gang up on us!" Cabot cried.

    The three hastily got up and bolted for the stern as fast as their legs could carry them, passing pirates along the way. Much to their surprise, as they neared to the stern, they noticed the pirates were falling back to the bow as a green-scarved Clefable charged to the front lines and flung a large orb of pinkish light after some of the retreating brigands.

    "Good work out there!" the Fairy-Type said. "We'll take it from here!"

    Cabot and his companions looked around the ship and noticed that the deck now had a good deal of indigo-scarved Pokémon aboard it, and the pirates had been pushed all the way back to the ship's midpoint. The trio looked around in surprise, only for footsteps to announce the arrival of the team of four sailors from earlier.

    "We took care of the gangplanks on our side!" the Litwick of the group began. "What about you guys? Did you manage?"

    "Uh-huh!" Cabot nodded. "We sure did!"

    "Not a moment too soon, it seems," Niilo remarked. "Looks like the cavalry's already turning the tide here."

    The Sandslash motioned with his claw towards the bow, where more and more pirates fell back as indigo and green-scarved Pokémon kept pushing forward. A few of the pirates already jumped back for the relative safety of their ships, the Seismitoad from earlier barking orders in an increasingly frantic hurry after being freshly snapped out of his confusion.

    "Nrgh… everyone fall back to your ship!" the Water-Type shouted. "Our work here is done!"

    "Hmph, let's not give them any chance to escape!" Berecien exclaimed.

    The indigo-scarved Pokemon shouted back a chorus of affirmations, before charging after the fleeing pirates. Berecien pawed his feet and called for his companions to follow, only to be cut off by a jeering cry from the pirate ship to their right.

    "Here, have a parting gift, you stupid Imps!"

    The three turned to the side, where they saw a Metang floating above the pirate ship's railing with glowing blue eyes. The Steel-Type brought his right arm up, telekinetically lifting a barrel off the deck and into the air, before swinging his arm forward and sending the barrel flying through the air in an arcing path directly for them. The group hastily dove out of the way as the projectile struck the deck with a loud slam, prompting them to look back at the barrel as a faint whiff of smoke reached their nostrils.

    "What the… ?"

    Niilo and his companions eyed the barrel where they noticed a hissing noise with straw poking out from a gap between planks formed from impact. Mixed in among them were scaly orange objects, which made the three scratch their heads puzzledly, until they looked down and went wide-eyed at the sight of a burning fuse and a moment of sudden realization:

    "Th-This entire barrel is filled with Blast Seeds!" Cabot cried out.

    Niilo hastily leapt forward and swiped at the fuse with his claws. The pangolin felt the satisfying snap of rope, and turned back beaming… only for the sound of burning to return. Much to the lot's alarm, the fire from the severed tip of the fuse had spilled embers on the rest, setting it afire much closer to the barrel's tip. Berecien rushed ahead, lowering the flames on his body and trampled on the fuse for dear life… only to see the burnt length of the fuse continue on past his hooves.

    "The fuse isn't going out!" the Ponyta shouted. "Those pirates must have done something to it!"

    "A-Aah! We don't have time for this!" Cabot yelped. The Cranidos' panic prompted Niilo to look around hastily, when his eyes noticed a section of charred and tottering railing behind them, prompting him to cry out for his teammates' attention.

    "There's a weak spot in the railing over there!" Niilo said as he pointed at the damaged railing. "Let's hurry up and roll this thing off!"

    The three sailors shoved the barrel along forcefully, sending it rolling for the charred railing. The barrel hit the wooden barrier with a loud crack and sagged outward, but much to their alarm failed to move forward, leaving the bomb and its still burning fuse stuck on deck.

    "Gah! It didn't break through!" Berecien yelled.

    "Let me try something!" Cabot piped up.

    The Cranidos lowered his head and dashed forward, blue flecks of light dancing past his eyes from the dome of the head. Cabot braced himself and felt the barrel dash off his bony head, pausing and screwing his eyes shut, half-expecting the barrel to blow up in his face. The Headbutt Pokémon heard a loud crack and looked up to discover his Zen Headbutt had launched the barrel through the railing, propelling it and a few mangled chunks of wood high up into the air until it landed in the sea right near the pirate ship.


    A deafening blast rang out, followed by a shockwave and flash of heat that nearly knocked Cabot off his feet. The Cranidos struggled as he felt the deck lurch underfoot, bracing himself against the railing where he looked ahead and saw flames and smoke curling up from the schooner directly across. The Rock-Type watched as the pirate ship began to list, Pokémon in black scarves diving overboard in a panic as the schooner tipped over and floated on its side, bringing its masts onto the copper ship with a loud crash. The world seemed to go by in a daze as the black-sailed masts snapped and lay on the deck near the bow, the air filling with the sounds of panicked yelps and shouts as Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo stared ahead in slack-jawed amazement.

    "We… we took out one of their ships!" Cabot gasped.

    "Heh, well that certainly makes our job easier," Niilo said satisfiedly.


    Cabot and his companions looked up towards the shout, and hastily dove in different directions with yelps as a shadowy orb struck the place they stood. The three got up and looked back at where the Shadow Ball had landed, where much to their horror they saw Sibich descending with his eyes filled with burning hatred.

    "That was my fleet's chaser, you worthless little runts!" the Ghost-Type seethed. "I had to raid Fensedge Village to get it!"

    In a panic, Cabot brought his Slumber Wand up for a swing at the Cofagrigus, only for Sibich to quickly notice the wand and throw a Shadow Ball at Cabot's right claw. The orb struck Cabot, knocking the wand clear over the railing and making the Cranidos wince in pain as he pulled his claw towards his body to nurse it.

    "Did you honestly think some cheap little trinket would save you?!" the Cofagrigus snapped. "For the amount of pain you've caused me, I'll be sure to kill you slowly so your screams can linger a while! Perhaps I'll start with keelhauling you under my ship!"

    "T-That's not gonna happen!" Cabot stammered. "We'll beat you just like your lackeys!"

    "Without that crab to hide behind?" Sibich snarled. "Ha! We'll see about that!"

    The Cofagrigus formed a bubbling, green ball of light between his two upper hands and threw it at Cabot. The Cranidos attempted to dodge it by jumping to the side, only for the Energy Ball to brush his side, sending him tumbling back towards the railing.

    "Well I'm definitely not gonna sit and wait for you to kill us!" Niilo shouted.

    "Me neither!" Berecien added. "If you want our hides so badly, you're going to have to work for them!"

    Berecien and Niilo charged forward, the Sandslash curling up in a spiky ball and rolling himself forward in a curving arc that slammed into Sibich from behind. The Cofagrigus turned around with a growl, only to be knocked back by a flaming tackle from Berecien.

    "You little pests will regret the day you crossed the Shadow Brigade!" Sibich hissed.

    The Ghost-Type flung a shadowy orb at Berecien, sending the Ponyta tumbling away from him with a pained yelp. The Cofagrigus moved in to pounce on the stunned horse, when he suddenly noticed Niilo rolling for him again and hastily formed a second Shadow Ball…


    … only to get hit by a painful slam from behind, sending his attack wildly off course. Sibich noticed Cabot darting away behind him while rubbing at a fresh dent in his sarcophagus, seething at how the dinosaur had managed to strike him in the same fashion once again. Before the Ghost-Type could react further, he was struck in the face by another Rollout from Niilo, knocking him to the ground and making him billow out shadowy haze in a seething rage.

    "Grr, I've had enough of this!" Sibich bellowed.

    The Cofagrigus floated up and formed a green ball of energy, hurling it in a forceful drive at Niilo as the Sandslash attempted to hit Sibich with a third Rollout. The Energy Ball struck the Sandslash with a yelp, sending him flying and crashing down onto the deck unconscious. Cabot and Berecien blanched as the shock of their friend's sudden defeat sank in, their stunned fright fueling a malevolent, widening grin on Sibich's face.

    "Fools! Did you really think you stood a chance against me?" the Ghost-Type sneered. "I'm Captain Sibich of the Shadow Brigade! I don't lose to some random Imps!"

    The Cranidos and Ponyta both flushed pale as they realized just how dire their present circumstances were. Here they were, with their backup on the other side of the ship, facing down an opponent who was out for their heads and was strong enough to make good on his threat. Judging from the Cofagrigus' expression, he too seemed to be aware of his advantage, as his malicious smirk widened and flashed his saw-like teeth.

    "Myah-ha-ha! You Imps are nothing but weaklings without somebody else to hide behind!" Sibich snarled. "But now you're all alone, with nobody from the rest of your precious navy to save you!"

    "Except they're not alone!"

    Sibich's teeth gritted at the sound of a chittering cry, prompting him to whirl around just in time for an orb of pressurized water to strike him between his eyes.


    The Ghost-Type tumbled back from the Water Pulse, before shaking off the attack and brushing water off of his face. The pirate captain glared angrily, his gaze quickly settling on Nagant perched on the railing with her large claw aimed at him.

    "Grr, you should learn to just give up, you overgrown crab!" the Cofagrigus seethed.

    Sibich formed another Energy Ball and threw it at Nagant in rage, prompting the Clawitzer to counter the attack with a Dark Pulse. As the two Pokémon traded blows with each other, Cabot turned to Berecien, sensing the two now had an opportunity to change the course of battle.

    "Come on! We can turn this around!" the Cranidos cried.

    The Rock-Type lowered his head as blue light began to gather on his dome and charged into Sibich, Berecien following suit with a burning tackle. The pair's attacks made the Ghost-Type audibly wince, throwing his arms out wide as his voice came out in a hateful hiss.

    "I've had it with you brats!" Sibich shrieked.

    The Cofagrigus whirled around and flung a Shadow Ball at where Cabot and Berecien stood, prompting the two to hastily jump out of the way into different directions as a spray of splinters filled the air.


    Sibich flinched and tottered forward as Nagant shot a spray of dark orbs at his back, making him stop and rest against the deck on his knuckles a moment to catch his breath.

    "This is our chance to finish it!" Berecien yelled.

    The Ponyta lunged and jumped into Sibich with a fiery somersault, his Flame Wheel knocking the pirate in the railing with an audible crack. Seizing his opportunity, Cabot lowered his head and charged towards Sibich with a Zen Headbutt once more.

    "It's over!" the Cranidos shouted.

    Sibich went wide-eyed as Cabot jumped at him, the dome of his skull striking him square in the face. The railing abruptly cracked under the force of the blow, launching Sibich through it and off the deck of the ship.


    Cabot, Berecien, and Nagant looked over the railing and saw Sibich floating still and facedown in the water. The three stared in silence only to notice the ship had similarly gone quiet, with a quick glance around revealing the remaining pirates had collectively flushed unhealthily pale at the sight of their routed superior.

    "A-Aah! They got the captain!"

    "Retreat! Retreat!"

    All semblance of organization among the pirates melted away as their strategic retreat quickly devolved into a rout. Pokémon flew and swam away from the copper ship in a panic, with black-scarved Pokémon on the bow leaping into the water in a desperate bid to escape the mob of green and indigo-scarved Pokémon charging forward. Cabot turned and began to dart ahead, only for the sound of splashing from the water to reach his earholes, making him look down and see Sibich dazedly latch onto a passing Milotic who hurriedly tugged him away and swam after a pair of hastily departing ships.

    "Aah! He's getting away!" Cabot cried.

    Nagant hopped onto the railing and fired a series of orbs after the Milotic, only for the fish to weave away from each one. The shrimp hissed and readied a dive into the sea to pursue, only for a fleeing Mandibuzz to fly past and knock her to the deck with a cutting gust of wind. The shrimp staggered up in a hurry, looking back towards the sea where she discovered her target had slipped away. The captain chittered angrily, slamming her claw against the railing with a loud thunk as Berecien shook his head.

    "Psiakrew…" the Ponyta groaned. "On the positive side, I don't think there's much of a fight left for us here on deck."

    "A-Aah! You stupid clods! You left me behind!"

    "H-Help! I can't swim!"

    The three peered over and saw a Sudowoodo flailing in the water along with a few other pirates of his ilk. Back on deck, a number of Pokémon in black scarves were slumped over on deck, while a handful of shaken stragglers inched back, slowly raising their paws and appendages up in surrender as Nagant clicked her large claw in annoyance.

    "Hrmph, there's nothing else we can do here," the Howitzer Pokémon huffed. "Go and tend to the wounded, I've got a lot on my claws right now with those thugs at the bow."

    "Aye aye!" Cabot exclaimed.

    The Clawitzer hopped off the railing and began to make her way over to the bow, leaving Cabot and Berecien to turn to each other with tired, but beaming expressions.

    "We… really did it," the Cranidos began. "We saved the ship!"

    "Heh, we did," Berecien replied, only for a woozy groan to cut him off. The pair blinked and looked behind them, where they saw Niilo's form twitching weakly further along the deck. The Ponyta shifted a bit and pawed at the deck awkwardly before sheepishly speaking up.

    "Right. Let's just help out Niilo and the other wounded for now so we can go back to our own ship," the Fire-Type said. "I could use a long rest after that fight."

    Cabot looked at Niilo, grimacing a bit from his injured state. Even in spite of his present condition, the Sandslash would certainly have a lot to be happy about once he was lucid again…


    … but that could wait. For now, it was best to focus on getting their friend patched up.



    Half an hour after the attempted ambush of the copper ship, the forms of a battered frigate and brigantine with black sails limped along in the seas southwest of Sormus. The deck of the frigate was more crowded than normal, as a sorry-looking cohort of pirates gathered around a mob of their compatriots who'd fled the capsized ship. The group from the sunken ship was short about a third of its members, the bulk soaked in seawater while others were bruised, burnt, or covered in mud. An air of trepidation surrounded the ship-deprived pirates, especially around a visibly unnerved Seismitoad who stared down a bandaged Cofagrigus floating up to him in a rage.

    "You blithering fool!" Sibich seethed. "How could you have let this happen?! I trusted you to captain that schooner!"

    The Seismitoad audibly gulped, backpedaling along the deck as the Ghost-Type advanced on him until he felt the wood of the mast prod his back. The toad fumbled with his fingers, hastily stammering out the beginnings of an explanation.

    "Er… well you see Captain Sibich… those Imps-"

    "Don't give me that!" the Ghost-Type bellowed. "You were made captain with the job to lead one of my ships and ensure it comes back in one piece! And now it's gone!"

    "B-But Captain I wasn't there when the barrel was thrown back!" the Seismitoad stuttered. "If anything my crewmembers should be blamed for not being competent enough to- Ack!"

    Before the toad could finish his explanation, he was hit by a shadowy orb that knocked his head against the mast and sent him slumping face-first onto the deck. The Water-Type wheezed from the wind being knocked out of him, as satisfied growls floated among the gathered pirates, a visibly singed Metang in particular murmuring how the Seismitoad's predicament 'serves him right'. The amphibian laid there groaning in pain, feebly trying to get up, only to flinch at the sight of Sibich's floating body looming over him

    "I'm not interested in your excuses!" the Cofagrigus hissed. "You failed me, and there will be consequences for it!"

    The Seismitoad's pupils shrank to pins at the Ghost-Type's mention of 'consequences'. Captain Sibich was well-known among the pirates of Anyilla to suffer failure poorly, and with how severe his own had been, all the treasure in Tidemill City would likely prove insufficient to ransom his life.

    "H-Hold on a moment!" the Water-Type stammered. "I've done an excellent job as a captain so far! W-We can work this out!"

    "Yes, by putting an end to the grief you've caused me!" Sibich snarled. In a panic, the Seismitoad hastily readied a jet of water, only to suddenly feel a crushing grip on his throat that bottled the water up in his body. The toad flailed and struggled, before feeling his feet lift off the ground and see Sibich's red eyes boring into his.


    The Water-Type screwed his eyes shut, bracing himself for the sudden blow that would mark his end as a pirate, only to abruptly feel the hands gripping his neck jerk him up and throw him down. The Seismitoad captain hit the deck, twitching his legs numbly as he realized he still heard the sounds of the rolling waves and of jeering pirates, prompting him to look up and discover that he was very much still alive, with Sibich glaring down at him.

    "Effective immediately, you're relieved of duty," the Cofagrigus growled. "Since you don't have a ship to captain anymore, I'll have to put you to use for more practical tasks like cleaning my ship!"


    "You can start with the heads," a Bouffalant riddled with welts poking out from his fur ordered. "They haven't been flushed out properly since we were last in port and some of the crew have been complaining about the air around it."

    "B-But… I…"

    "Get out of my sight!" Sibich shouted. "Now!"

    The Seismitoad hastily got up and clambered off as fast as his injured body allowed. A few members of the crew threw in taunts as the now-disgraced captain fled, prompting Sibich to turn to the rest of his crew in annoyance.

    "Don't just stand there and jeer like a bunch of spectators!" the Ghost-Type barked. "Get back to work!"

    The pirates drifted off to tend to various tasks, leaving their captain alone with his Bouffalant first mate. Sibich floated back and forth fuming impatiently on the deck, before whirling and throwing a Shadow Ball at a nearby barrel in frustration, reducing the container into a pile of splinters.

    "Grr, this shouldn't have happened!" the Ghost-Type seethed. "I'm Captain Sibich of the Shadow Brigade! My plans are always perfect! This plan was perfect!"

    "It seems like your Imperial source was wrong about how strong that crew was," the Bouffalant sighed.

    "He promised me an easy score!" Sibich growled. "This was supposed to be like taking Gummis from a hatchling!"

    "Do you think we've been set up…?"

    The Cofagrigus angrily breathed in and out at his first mate's answer, before his breaths quieted and his temper slowly ebbed away. The Ghost-Type raised a hand to his mouth, before shaking his head.

    "… No," Sibich answered. "He still needs me for a few raids and he wouldn't have supplied me with those eggs last time if that was the case."

    "So what do we do now then…?" the Bouffalant asked.

    "We get back to Orleigh and recover from this… incident," the Cofagrigus said. We'll see where we go from there."

    The Ghost-Type harrumphed and floated for his cabin, loudly slamming the door behind him as the Bouffalant shook his head and turned back to bark orders at the newly-crowded deck. The black-sailed ships carried on, lumbering over the waves as grumbles and curses lingered over their defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.


    Back at the Vasilek, the crew of the frigate worked under the burnt light of the setting sun, tending towards what seemed to be a never-ending list of problems that had risen since the Shadow Brigade fled. There was plenty of ship damage to be repaired to the Vasilek from bow to stern, to say nothing of the even more tattered copper ship. There were also wounded to be tended to in the sick bay, and when its space ran out, in hallways and on the deck. In the midst of it all, there were the captives taken from the Shadow Brigade that needed to be bound and restrained wherever the battered ship could accommodate them, leading to the small amount of space aboard the ship being prioritized for the stronger swimmers. When space ran short, a few of their more sinking-prone peers were unceremoniously dumped in some netting hung over the side of the ship, the churning waves below daring them to try and struggle against their otherwise completely inadequate prison.

    During the hectic buzz of work, Cabot and Berecien had been kept busy lugging supplies up and down from the hold and deck. The duo made their way up, dropping off a few buckets of pitch at a gangplank lowered to the copper ship, before they noticed a Sandslash with a bandaged stomach leaning against a railing on the other side of the deck. The two paused a moment, looking back to see that Jun was preoccupied with managing prisoners, before opting to take a break from their duties and go over and join Niilo with tired sighs.

    "Yeesh, the ship certainly has seen better days," Niilo said.

    "Well, at least things still ended on a mostly high note," Cabot insisted. "We managed to beat those pirates and save most of the copper!"

    "It would have been even better if that Cofagrigus hadn't gotten away," Berecien sighed. "Then again, we should probably be happy with every victory we can get."


    The three turned around and saw Tegu and Melli nearing their place on the railing. The pair shifted a bit, casting a close eye on Niilo before speaking up.

    "I see you're finally back from the medics," the Salandit began.

    "We'd heard that you'd gotten thrown around earlier," Melli added. "So we wanted to see how you were doing."

    "We're doing alright…" Cabot replied. "Though it took a bit longer for Niilo to get healed enough to get back on his feet."

    Tegu looked at Niilo with a puzzled tilt of his head, before a smug smile spread over his face. For all the times Niilo kept bragging about how tough he'd be once he evolved, out of all his friends he was the only one to get put down for the count.

    "Heh, sounds like that evolution's working out just like you said it would during Basic Training," the lizard snickered.

    "Hey, that Cofagrigus was pretty damn hard to fight!" Niilo protested. The Sandslash's comment brought a stunned silence over the pair, prompting Melli to blink out of surprise with all three of her heads.

    "Wait, you really fought against Sibich?" the Combee wondered. "But he's supposed to be one of the toughest pirates!"

    Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo traded confused looks with one another. That Cofagrigus was a strong foe and did almost get the better of them… but could he really have been as big a deal as Melli made him out to be…?

    "He is…?" Cabot asked, prompting Tegu to nod in response.

    "Yeah. The pirates in Anyilla are led by a council of four and Sibich's one of them," the Salandit explained. "If you managed to get the better of him, then you've got to be some of the luckiest Pokémon on board right now."

    Cabot's eyes widened at the Salandit's explanation. Was Tegu really saying he just fought one of the toughest pirates in Anyilla and won? The dinosaur stood there in stunned silence, before realizing that his first mission had had every sort of adventure he'd been daydreaming of earlier to Jun.. Yes, it was far from preferable for the Shadow Brigade to have raided the copper ship, but he'd gotten a chance to come to the aid of Pokémon in need and fight off their would-be attackers… why, by time the day ended he'd even have gotten to see two islands outside of Giotto! However unlikely it had seemed earlier, he'd truly gotten the start to his grand adventure he'd longed for after all.

    The Cranidos smiled quietly and basked contentedly at his realization, only for the sound of a snort to jolt him back to attention. Cabot turned his head to see Berecien giving a humble shake back, his demeanor far more subdued than he'd expected for a 'mon with as much pride as him.

    "Well, the Captain did help us out in the end," Berecien said. "We wouldn't have been able to defeat him if it wasn't for her."

    "Actually, it wasn't just her either," Cabot insisted. "If it wasn't for you two, we never would have had those wands and we might have never gotten to that fight against Sibich."

    Tegu blinked in surprise for a moment, before giving the Cranidos a proud, yet sly grin.

    "Heh, well you're welcome," the Salandit chuckled. "Nothing makes a battle fairer than when you have an item on you and your opponent doesn't."

    The lizard's comment made Berecien roll his eyes with a sigh. As useful as items were, having a Pokémon with such a… peculiar definition of fairness praising their utility in battle was enough to make a 'mon feel dirty and dishonorable.

    "For a certain definition of fair…"

    "Ow! Watch it with those stingers!"

    The group looked over to the other side of the deck, where they saw the black-scarved Honchkrow from earlier being prodded by Jun to join a group of tied up pirates guarded by several Pokémon in indigo scarves. The crow was forced to the ground where his legs were tied together, batting his wings out in flailing protest when it became evident his flight feathers had been freshly sliced. Marcus shifted against his bonds as a nearby Machoke complained loudly about rope burns, prompting the bird to give an irritated growl and shake of his head at his fellow pirate's whining.

    As Cabot looked closer, he noticed that a curiously large amount of the pirates had a five-tailed blotch on their head. What would lead to a pirate crew having so many Marked among its rank? And with how hostilely they were received by Pokémon back on land…

    "What's going to happen to those Pokémon anyways?" the Cranidos wondered.

    "A judge will take their case, and based off what's presented in front of him, he'll hand down a sentence that he sees fitting," Berecien answered.

    "Uh… but what if he doesn't like a Pokémon that's on trial?" Cabot asked.

    "Well, tough for them, I guess," Niilo shrugged, prompting his Cranidos ally to shift uncomfortably. Yes, the Marked along with the rest of the Pokémon they'd captured from the Shadow Brigade were pirates and deserving of punishment… but on the other claw, if a judge could go out of his way to give a harsher punishment for what they were, could they really get a fair trial?

    "Oh, it's the swimmers from lunch!"

    The group turned around at Melli's cry, and looked down at the sea. There, cutting through the briny surface, they spotted Cyanea and Katyusha coming up from underwater, sidling up against the ship with wide grins.

    "Hey, we heard you rookies did great!" the Sharpedo cheered.

    "Yeah, a few more fights like that, and you'll almost be as good as us!" Cyanea insisted.

    "… Niin…" Niilo said as he rolled his eyes. "I suppose we should thank you for the lift out to that copper ship. We wouldn't have fought much of anything there without it."

    The Sandslash's reply drew a cheery burble back from the Tentacruel, who waved a tentacle with affected modesty.

    "Well, you're welcome," the Tentacruel beamed. "Why, if we'd stuck around just a bit longer, that Cofagrigus never would've gotten away with how well we can move around in the water!"

    "Are you talking about moving around your bodies or your mouths?"

    The group turned around and saw Nagant approaching them from behind. The shrimp hopped on her tail, clambering onto the ship's railing and looking down at the sea. From her place in the water, Cyanea had a moment of realization: this was the perfect chance to tell Captain Nugget how well she'd done during the fight! The Poison-Type bobbed up and down in the water for attention enthusiastically burbling and waving her tentacles.

    "Oh, Captain! I was just telling the rookies about-"

    "How you're supposed to be diving for the copper that was in that sunken pirate ship," Nagant grunted. "Is there a reason why I can see you here on the surface, Cyanea?"

    As quickly as Cyanea's enthusiasm had come, the jellyfish found herself blinking in stunned silence. The Poison-Type looked around awkwardly a moment, before sheepishly lowering her body further into the water.

    "Er… right," the Tentacruel muttered. "Let's go Katyusha."

    The two Water Pokémon began to swim off and dove back under the surface, slipping off into the deep blue to return to their work salvaging sunken crates. Satisfied to see her two more senior subordinates making themselves useful once again, Nagant turned to Cabot and his companions.

    "As for the five of you…"

    Cabot wagged his tail out of excited anticipation. After they helped fight off those pirates, managed to sink one of their ships, and helped defeat Sibich, the Captain now had something she felt was important enough to tell them personally! Perhaps it was a reward, or a promotion, or at the least an assignment more glamorous than the menial tasks they'd received so far!

    "I want you to clean the deck," Nagant instructed. "There's still debris everywhere and the crew won't be able to work well in these conditions."

    The five Pokémon stared at the Clawitzer slack jawed, with Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo in particular seeming particularly stunned. After risking life and limb fighting with a feared pirate captain, that's all she had to say to them?! Niilo shook his head in disbelief, spluttering out the beginnings of a heated protest.


    "I don't want to hear it, Sandslash!" the Clawitzer snapped. "I just gave you an order, and I expect to see you follow it! So get to work!"

    The group flinched, before grudgingly hurrying back to work. Nagant shook her head, before hopping off the railing and making her way over to her Beedrill first mate with a tense expression.

    "Jun. Do you have a moment?" the shrimp chittered.

    "Of course, Captain!" the Beedrill replied.

    Nagant carried on, leading her first mate off towards the bow of the ship. Jun followed along as the sounds of the crew faded out, prompting him to wait a moment as he and Nagant scanned their surroundings. After finding the rest of the crew suitably far out of earshot, the wasp beat his wings and gave a curious buzz to his superior.

    "Is something the matter?" the first mate wondered.

    "It's this raid, Jun," Nagant said. "A lot of things aren't adding up here."

    "What do you mean, Captain?" the Beedrill responded.

    "I mean that those pirates knew things that shouldn't have been possible for them to know," the Clawitzer explained. "They knew that we were escorting a copper ship, they knew about our route, the right code to signal us… they even knew we just added a bunch of freshly graduated cadets to the crew!"

    Jun rubbed his stingers together uncomfortably as an unwelcome realization came over him. The Captain was definitely right that normal pirates shouldn't have known any of that information… surely she couldn't be suggesting that…?

    "… Do you think somebody leaked the details of our mission to them?" the wasp asked.

    "No other explanation would make sense," Nagant insisted. "There's a mole somewhere in the Admiralty, probably a clerk with contact to internal records. If he's willing to pass information onto pirates, then we should assume that anyone could learn anything through him."

    "What do you think we should do about it?" Jun murmured. A long silence hung in the air, with Nagant twitching her barbels tensely, before finally speaking up.

    "I don't think that we have a lot of options," the Clawitzer sighed. "Let's just let the Admiralty know about there being a potential mole among their ranks and try to be more cautious. If we avoid dealing with middlemons when we can, it's bound to help the mole make a mistake that would get him caught."

    "And what about us in the interim?" Jun buzzed.

    "Focus on getting the ship to Buyeom," the Water-Type answered. "I'll be busy writing up reports about these pirates to the local court, and the less time I have to spend away from a nice stiff bottle of vodka after we pull into port, the better."

    The Beedrill frowned a bit at his superior's mention of 'vodka', but decided to shrug the matter off. She and the crew had been through a lot, and a stiff drink couldn't possibly slow down reprovisioning that much when they had bigger things to worry about first.

    "Aye, Captain."

    Jun gave a salute, before flitting off, leaving Nagant behind to turn around and clamber down into the sea, sinking in and letting the saltwater flow over her gills. The mission today was far more of a clawful than she'd imagined for a training mission, and it was a miracle they were still completing it in some form at all after everything that had happened. In spite of that, she couldn't help but smile at how things had turned out….

    Even if they were a bit rough around the edges, she was now confident the new recruits from Giotto would fit right in with her crew.


    The Vasilek continued its course southeast for Buyeom Island well after the sun set and the moon poked over the horizon. After the moon reached its high point in the sky and began to drift west, the island's presence was announced by faint vein-like lights off in the horizon and a newfound excitedness about Jun who remarked about how it was 'nice to be home again'. The frigate followed along dutifully after the lights, pulling into port in a town filled with tightly-bunched buildings with curved slate-tiled roofs and hulking black stone walls that ringed the settlement. The Vasilek was quickly tied down, leaving the crew of the frigate to tiredly unload the ship, before shuffling off under the glow of lanternlight for a squat set of barracks built next to a shipyard at the end of the harbor.

    Daybreak and a good night's rest served to piece together in much of what had been lost in the blur of arrival, filling in details that had been lost about the town in the initial night as the Vasilek's crew woke up and drifted into it. The settlement was called 'Magmapool Town', and a quick glance revealed it to be far larger than Polderfield, with a busyness about it that made it feel like Tidemill City in miniature. The walls of the town's buildings were revealed to be done up in whites and pastel colors, with gaudy gates watching over the entrances to the black walls. The veins of light they saw earlier that night were streams of lava that slowly ebbed off the top of a volcanic peak that trailed a wispy plume of ash, while puffs of steam billowed up from bubbling pools of water scattered around the town, including one located directly next to the barracks by the shipyard.

    And so it was that at noon, with the hubbub of the town at its midday lull, that Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo found themselves at the Vasilek's moorings, stretching and yawning contentedly from a night's rest and morning spent lounging and sightseeing about town with a newfound vigor and freshness about them.

    "I didn't think it was possible after that raid, but that break in town really turned that day around," Berecien said.

    "Yeah, the hot sand was really amazing!" Cabot cheered.

    "Well, it was certainly a lot better than the hot springs," the Ponyta chuckled.

    "Eh, the sand was alright, but I enjoyed just getting the view from up here now that I'm taller than the two of you," Niilo remarked. "Though our downtime would've been really great if we had it in Copperband Village. The hot sand here's got nothing on a whole island full of it!"

    The Sandslash's declaration drew a long frown from his Ponyta teammate, with his Cranidos peer joining in with a flustered scratch at the back of his head. The Rock-Type hemmed and hawed a bit, before giving a disarming wag of his tail and speaking up.

    "Well, I'm sure we'll get a chance someday," the Cranidos insisted. "But let's just try and enjoy where we're at for now?"

    "I doubt there will be a whole lot more we can do," Berecien responded. "After what happened, I'm sure Captain Nugget wants to get out of port as soon as she can to put this mission behind her."

    "But that can be exciting!" the Rock-Type beamed. "Who knows what our next mission will be?"

    "We get to clean below deck this time?" Niilo snarked.

    Cabot gave a sour frown back at the Sandslash's retort as a wry smile came over Niilo's face, drawing a stifled laugh from his Ponyta companion only for him to abruptly stop and realize that getting stuck cleaning again was hardly funny at all. The Cranidos shook his head and continued on with his companions, making their way up the gangplank and onto the Vasilek's deck, which curiously was mostly devoid of activity with only a Pokémon here or there on it.

    "Eh? Where is everyone?" Cabot wondered.

    "Oh, there you three are!"

    The three paused and turned around at the sound of a sharp buzz. There behind them was none other than Jun flitting up to them with a firm, expectant gaze.

    "The Captain wanted to speak to you rookies," the Beedrill said, before gesturing with one of his stingers. "Come, she's been waiting!"

    Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo watched as Jun flitted off, giving each other curious looks before hesitantly following after the wasp. All the while, Niilo shifted uncomfortably, wondering just what sort of trouble they could've gotten into just by relaxing with the rest of their peers in the morning.

    "Er… we didn't do anything wrong right?" he asked.

    "No, not at all!" Jun insisted. "The Captain just wanted to talk with you about yesterday's mission."

    The three followed as the Beedrill carried on, mulling over what Nagant wanted to talk about with them. Before Cabot and his companions knew it, they had arrived at the Vasilek's stern, where Nagant was idly looking out at sea. Jun waved for attention, only to find the shrimp unresponsive, prompting the Bug-Type to make his way over and draw her attention with a buzz, which made her turn around and notice her guests.

    "Oh, you're finally here."

    "You wanted to talk to us, Captain…?" Berecien said.

    "Da. I wanted to say I noticed what you were up to during the pirate attack yesterday, especially when it came to fighting that Cofagrigus," Nagant responded. "I wanted to thank you three for the hard work. It's not easy for a lot of rookies to keep their nerves in such a situation on their first mission."

    The three blinked out of surprise, wondering under their breaths for a moment if they were dreaming. After how brusquely she'd brushed them off yesterday, they thought that the Captain had completely overlooked their help in yesterday's fight, but all along she'd remembered them enough to pull them aside to praise them!

    "Oh! Er… well you're welcome, Captain!" Cabot replied as he wagged his tail.

    "Just keep up the good work," Nagant continued. "I'm sure we'll be running into each other in the future, and I'll keep you three in mind when giving out assignments for our next mission."

    Cabot, Berecien, and Niilo's expressions brightened up at their captain's words. Their work yesterday really had paid off if Captain Nugget was thinking of giving them things to do other than swabbing the deck! Though, with the Vasilek still firmly moored and the ship not in any obvious shape to leave, it did make Cabot wonder…

    "So what do we do next?" the Cranidos wondered.

    "We're not receiving any sailing orders until the evening, so feel free to do whatever you like," Jun answered.

    "Maybe enjoy the sights around town a bit here," Nagant suggested. "Jun told me you had a thing for seeing new islands."

    "Heh, now that sounds more like it!" Niilo exclaimed.

    The Sandslash and his companions turned to take their leave, only for Nagant's voice to suddenly call out beside them.

    "One last thing," Nagant said. "What are your names?"

    "Oh?" Cabot responded as he curiously tilted his head. "It's Cabot."


    "And I'm Niilo."

    "Hmph, I'll be sure to remember them," Nagant grunted. "Carry on."

    The trio moved along to the ship's gangplank and clambered down it for Magmapool's docks. There, the three continued on a little ways until they were sure they were out of earshot, where the lot broke into giddy hurrahs.

    "Ah, I can't believe it just really happened!" Cabot cheered. "We impressed Captain Nugget and she knows our names now!"

    "Well, it was certainly a pleasant surprise after her response right after the raid," Berecien replied. "Let's just hope this actually results into less deck swabbing."

    "Eh, let's worry about that later," Niilo insisted as he gave a dismissive wave with one of his claws. "Let's just enjoy Magmapool Town a bit more for now!"

    "Right!" Cabot piped up.

    The group carried on down the docks, making their way for the gates leading back to the town. All the while, Cabot couldn't help but brim with energy over how Nagant had finally recognized them, his mind racing with excited thoughts about what the future held in store. Maybe they'd run into more pirates… or maybe they'd have a big battle against a Company ship! Who knew, with how much his first mission had exceeded his expectations, perhaps something really dramatic would happen. Why, maybe he'd even get to a meet a Protector!

    … Perhaps that was a little too wishful of a thought. With the Protectors of Anyilla slumbering for centuries, there was surely no way that would ever happen…



    Author's Notes:

    - Majayo (맞아요) - Korean: "Exactly" (South Korean Revised Romanization)
    - rod (род) - Russian: "clan" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - vorona (ворона) - Russian: "crow" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
    - Nie mogę uwierzyć, że to robię - Polish: "I can't believe I'm doing this"
    - Psiakrew - Polish: "Damn", lit. "dog's blood"
    - Niin - Finnish: "Right" (used sarcastically in context)
    - Da (Да) - Russian: "Yes" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
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