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Pokémon Fledglings

Chapter 65: False Moves New


PMD Writer
  1. sylveon
  2. weavile
  3. kommo-o
  4. noivern
  5. mothim

In the chambers that served as the Siglo Swellow's sleeping quarters, day and night knew the same darkness, disturbed only by the faint bluish light of glow-moss gathered in glass jars hung from the rafters. From the sleeping room that lay closest to the stern, the sounds of the ship gently creaking and rocking rang out, mixed with muffled footsteps and chatter from sailors wrapping up their last shifts of work for the day, a sign that the night was still young enough that the deckhands hadn't retired for rest.

A tired sigh cut through the air, revealing the lone occupant of the room to be a haggard Fraxure lying on his side with a stomach bandaged with dirty, ruddy linens. Pladur cast a glance over at a plate set with a small portion of gummis and Nomel Berries that had still gone untouched, his appetite having shriveled with the lack of company to partake it with.

Perhaps it wouldn't have made much of a difference anyways… At every turn since he'd remembered waking up, the hapless Fraxure had found himself plagued by stubborn memories of his defeat in the arena. Time and time again, he heard the Weavile's sneering voice, felt the chill of his icy wind, and the slashing pain of his claws as he sat helplessly in bed. The Dragon-Type stirred restlessly, groping his red claws under his bedding where they latched onto a smooth stone, which he brought up to his tusks and began to rub along their edges much as he had numerous times earlier that day, sharpening it little by little in a futile attempt to bring some reassurance, when a sharp pain shot through his abdomen.


Pladur winced and his grip slackened, letting the stone drop against the wood of the ship with a loud clatter. The dragon grimaced and whined before flopping back down into the straw, laying there attempting to catch his breath, and feeling all the more alone and impotent than he had before.

"… Dad?"

The Fraxure turned his head at the sound of a familiar voice from the door, where the ruddy crest of a young Druddigon caught the light of the room's lanterns. Pladur's expression eased, a small smile settling over his mouth as he carefully propped his body up, sitting upright to address his child the best his injured frame would allow.

"Ah… hola, mijo," the Fraxure said. "Did you eat well at dinner tonight?"

"I… wasn't that hungry earlier, and I wanted to check up on how you were doing," Crom answered, drawing an uneasy tilt of his father's head in reply.

"I… er… uh… think I'm doing fine?" Pladur insisted. "A few aches, but nothing your papí can't handle with a little rest!"

The Fraxure forced a toothy smile over his face, giving a weak wag of his tail hoping to cheer Crom up, only for his forced smile to melt away as his son drooped his head.

"… Did something happen while you were out today?" he asked.


The Druddigon started off explaining how they'd encountered Xerneas at the docks interacting with a local crowd, only for the deer to vanish on them after Ander had made a scene. He continued on, telling how the team had split up to find him, and of what Kiran had told him about how the encounter with Xerneas had gone and of his plans to try and meet up tomorrow alongside Pleo to salvage their initial impressions.

On top of that disappointment, he and Nida had gone off with Dimitri and Pleo into the fringes where by a stroke of fate they'd encountered another Protector who proclaimed himself to be 'Zygarde: the Keeper of Balance'. He didn't know what to think of the green serpent, but whatever the truth of the matter was, they had gotten little from their meeting with the snake other than a pointed berating that left Pleo in a poor mood for most of the day. At that portion of the Crom's tale, Pladur blinked in astonishment, as he quickly raised his voice to inquire further on the topic.

"Two Protectors? Natrix and Philips told me about the venado, but the other one sure sounds strange… Perhaps they're related?" Pladur mulled. "Why, if there's really two other Protectors here and you could get them to work together, we'd be able to turn things around with those Company rotters in no time!"

"But they rejected us! They didn't think that we were worth helping!" Crom protested. "If we're really that insignificant, how are we supposed to manage to get Pleo home?"

"I… mean, hasn't that been what we've all been doing all this time?" the Fraxure reassured. "It can't be that much harder-"

"Also the guards are going to discover who we are eventually," the Druddigon added. "And to top it all off, Lyn's waiting to ambush us outside of town!"

Pladur's eyes widened and his body went rigid at Crom's words, the Fraxure's confident demeanor fading as he stammered back for a clarification.

"Wh-What was that last part?"

"Lyn was looking for us in town earlier," the Druddigon said. "A Rescue Team we ran into pointed out that there's too many guards here for him to attack us directly, so he's most likely waiting to attack us right as we sail out."

Pladur's face flushed pale at his child's explanation and wobbled as he began to feel faint. He knew that the Siglo Swellow would need to hurry to beat the news of their escape with the Protector from Tidemill, and he'd heard from the other sailors who'd come to see him earlier in the day that Lyn was also in port plotting against them, but this was far worse than anything he'd imagined! H-How was he supposed to deal with the guards, let alone stand up to Lyn or his horrid first mate in this state?! And if Captain Beatrix leaned on him for hitting hard, what were the others supposed to do?!

"I… I just don't know what we can do anymore," Crom muttered.

The Fraxure wavered a moment, before noticing his son's glum and defeated expression. The dragon gulped, forcing back his worries as he put on a brave face and rested a claw on his child's shoulder.

"… We're all looking out for each other, aren't we?" Pladur asked. "No matter what happens, we'll all be together for it and do our best to try and work something out."

Crom fell silent, raising his head and peering intently back into his father's red eyes. As faltering and uncertain as it was, the Fraxure smiled back, hopeful that somehow, the Travellers above would help turn the tide… only for Pladur's moment of serenity to abruptly go ajar as he pulled his arm back and cringed in pain from his stomach.



Pladur slouched over, gasping for air before peering up and shaking his head back to his son.

"It's alright! It's alright! I… I just need some time to rest," the Fraxure reassured. "You should do the same, mijo. You've got a big day ahead of you finding that 'Xerneas' again-"

"Actually, I wanted to stay here tonight," Crom insisted, prompting Pladur to trail off and blink in surprise.

"… Huh?"

"You said that we're all looking out for each other, right?" the Druddigon began. "Well, that includes you, and I think that you need it a bit more than Nida does right now."

Pladur paused, before a warm smile crept over his face, the dragon breathing a quiet thanks for his son's presence.

"… Alright, but be warned that we'll have to share a space," the Fraxure replied. "And I am a little smaller than you…"

"I wouldn't want it any other way."

Crom shuffled over, stretching his arms and wings with a yawn before he laid down on the straw. Crom arced his body, curling up beside his father as he shifted his wings to find a comfortable resting experience until he settled down, letting the sound of distant chatter and waves carry on as his eyelids drooped and the Dragon-Types drifted off into slumber.

As Crom and his father dozed off below the deck, the rhythms of life in Magmapool Town similarly ebbed as Pokémon went to sleep, what little life in the town remaining being kept up by more nocturnal locals who carried on amidst the thinned lanternlight. Among the remaining lanterns were a set of paper lanterns hung from poles leading up to a spacious villa built overlooking the sea at the edge of town, where Xerneas and his companions had gathered at the front. The Nuzleaf among them put his hands on the frame of a sliding door, pulling it aside to reveal a chamber lit up by candles, occupied by wooden furniture and silken cushions that ringed a table with a bottle of champagne in an icy bucket set out for them. The Eevee and Riolu's eyes lit up, prompting them to dash in excitedly and marvel at the furnishings as their teammates followed.

"This place is amazing!" the Eevee yipped. "I can't believe we've got it all to ourselves!"

"It sure is nice that the Duke let us stay here for free for the night," the Riolu added. "I don't think we've ever stayed somewhere like this before!"

"But of course! Only the best for the Voice of Life and his entourage!" Xerneas exclaimed, prompting the Nuzleaf to blink before giving a dismissive scoff.

"Ha, ha, very funny," the Grass-Type said. "You're not gonna keep up that form all night, are you David?"

"… What do you think?"

Xerneas snickered as his body and horns suddenly began to flare with a pinkish light, the deer's body collapsing in on itself into a smaller and smaller blob. The light dissipated, revealing the beady-eyed form of a Ditto, who gave a proud bow back to his Nuzleaf partner.

"Would I really be the type to pass up having a bed big enough to roll around in?" David asked.

"Heh! Let's jump around in it!" the Riolu exclaimed. "Even if they make us pay for it afterwards, we'd have the money to buy a new one!"

"Pah, you're so boring, Charlie!" the Eevee giggled. "I say let's sleep on all the coins we collected instead! Just like a Garchomp on a treasure pile!"

The Nuzleaf of the group smiled, giving the drawstring bag on his shoulder a satisfying, clinking shake before pacing over to the table and grabbing the champagne bottle by its neck just above a label reading 'Moët du Boisocéan'. He popped the cork, pouring out portions for himself and his teammates into a quartet of glazed cups with twine holders wrapped around them. One by one, the four each took their cups up from the table in high spirits, as the Grass-Type held his cup out for a toast.

"To Buyeom!" the Nuzleaf cheered. "And all the gullible idiots who made this night possible!"

The four dissolved into laughter, clinking their cups together before they gulped down their helpings of champagne. As the drink warmed her body, Marilyn swished her tail satisfiedly, turning to her teammates with a curious tilt of her head.

"So… what do we do when we wake up?" the Eevee wondered. "We've played this 'Voice of Life' thing up quite a bit already."

"We get out while the going is good and move onto the next place," her Nuzleaf teammate responded. "We might need to do something a bit lower key once the locals figured out that this Xerneas was a fake, but we've made enough to get us by for a while."

"Pah! You're leaving money on the table, Albert!" David scoffed. "Let's at least visit the Rescue Guild first! The Pokémon in those places are all a bunch of gullible losers who think they're gonna save the world."

"Are you sure about that?"

The four at once jumped up with a start at the sound of an unknown voice, whirling around as they realized it was coming from the front door to the villa. There, the lot saw the form of a Weavile leaning against the wall, picking at his claws in seeming disinterest of the four's visible alarm.

"W-Who are you?!" Charlie yelped. "And how did you even get in here?!"

"Through a window upstairs. Really, most Pokémon are so careless by leaving those open," Ketu answered, stepping away from the wall with a sneering grin. "Anyway, I'm just someone who couldn't help but overhear that you wanted to meet up with teams from the guild. So how about I give you a private meeting with the best of the best?"

The Weavile threw his claws onto the frame of the front door and slid it open, prompting Team Sentinel to storm in with Ellsberg following on their heels. The four came to a stop in the room, glaring daggers at the wide-eyed tricksters as they shrank back uneasily.

"Uh… er… hi? We're the Voice of Life's entourage," the Nuzleaf began. "This Ditto here's… well, he's a friend we chanced to run into and-"

"Save it!" Sorge snapped. "Do you really think that we're dense enough that we can't see an obvious scam when it's right in front of us?!"

"That's right! You've got a lot to answer for to this town over this game you've been pulling!" Aldrich snarled.

"So… are you going to come quietly?" Zelle growled. "Or do we need to get forceful to bring you in?"

"Albert, Charlie, Marilyn!" David shouted. "Time to go!"

The Ditto transformed into an Eevee and zipped ahead, his teammates each bolting for the windows and side exits of the villa. From the corner of his eye, David caught sight of Sorge knocking Albert over, pinning him down with a startled cry, as the Ditto dashed madly for the opened window in his new Eevee form. The changeling heard Marilyn, and then Charlie scream out of fright, prompting him to desperately scrabble up a shelf by the window and leap for it, only for a cutting gust to knock him down to the ground. David's form melted back to his normal pink lump, leaving him fidgeting on the floor in a daze as he saw his bag lying aside on the ground, making a desperate grab as Ketu scooped it up and Ellsberg cut him off, holding the Ditto aloft with a telekinetic lift of his tarsi.

"Hrmph, I was expecting more resistance from Pokémon impersonating a Protector," the Mothim scoffed.

Ketu fumbled with his claws through David's bag, throwing out one useless bauble after the next onto the floor. The Weavile felt his claws brush up against something soft and light, prompting him to fish out a brilliant red-and white feather with a green bottom. The Dark-Type paused, giving a raise of his brow as he inspected the feather closely, only to notice that there were uneven patches of white showing all along the feather's quill much like the edge of a stain on a cloth, prompting him to shoot a mocking gaze at David and his companions.

"Hah! Considering the quality of their work, that's not that surprising," Ketu snickered. "Seriously, you four had trouble choosing which disguise to pick?"

The Weavile flicked away the feather and threw David's bag aside, before he and his teammates helped themselves to Albert's drawstring bag of coins and hemmed in David and his companions. Charlie and Marilyn quivered, their voices coming out in low, frightened whimpers as they tried to hide behind their Nuzleaf teammate. In a panic, the Ditto of the group hastily waved his nubby hands, hoping to prevent whatever designs Team Sentinel had for him and his companions.

"L-Look! This is all just a big misunderstanding!" David stammered. "What do you want? A cut of our take?"

"Pah! Do you think we're interested in your dirty money?" Aldrich spat. "Your act is through!"

"Just think of all those poor, innocent Pokémon that you swindled!" Zelle exclaimed as she moved a feeler to her forehead with a swooning motion. The Fairy-Type threw her head back dramatically before flicking her feeler aside and letting her face harden into a cruel sneer. "And what they'll do to you when they find out they've been deceived like this!"

The Sylveon's jeer brought a cringing pause from David and his team, followed by a cold shudder. Pokémon that engaged in confidence tricks already had a tendency to be suffered poorly when discovered by their marks over simple things like shell games and fake fur growth tonics. If their imaginations were anything to go by, what the townsfolk would do over discovering they were taken in by false gods would be far, far worse. The four were called back to the situation at hand when Ketu cleared his throat and spoke up with a predatory smirk.

"That said… if you were willing to do us a little favor, we might be willing to change our minds," he said.

"A… favor?" Marilyn asked.

"W-What would that be?" Albert stammered.

"There's another group of criminals on this island who have been going around pretending they have a Protector among them just like you have," Sorge replied. "We need you to lure them out for us."

The Kommo-o's answer made the four blink and trade hesitant looks with each other. Who among all the Pokémon they'd met so far could possibly be attempting their same gambit? Unless…

"You mean… that group with the Marked Scyther…?" Charlie asked.

"Sounds like you've already met them," Ketu harrumphed. "Now, out with it. What do you know about them?"

"I mean… we didn't think much of them since it didn't seem like they were putting on that good of an act," the Riolu explained. "But we saw them near the docks this afternoon after they asked why David wasn't in Mengir, and they wound up following us around town and invited us to visit their ship they came in on."

"And you accepted?" Aldrich pressed, drawing an uneasy squirm back from the Eevee of the group.

"Well… no," Marilyn answered. "But it was an open invitation so-"

"It's good enough for what we need," the Noivern finished. "You're going down to their ship first thing tomorrow, and you'll tell them to meet you someplace outside of town. Once they agree to that, we'll take over things."

"They're far more dangerous than they let on, so I doubt you'd want to get your claws involved in the matter anyways," Sorge said. "If everything goes to plan, we'll repay you by giving back your belongings and a chance to get out of town before the guards find out."

"S-Sounds fair to me!" David exclaimed. "What do you all say?"

Albert, Charlie, and Marilyn hastily chimed in with forced, overeager agreement, breathing sighs of relief as Team Sentinel seemed to back off afterwards. Albert dusted himself off, warily raising his voice to ask what they were to do next, when Zelle raised a feeler to interrupt him.

"Good! Now, there's just one other part of the favor we need you to do," the Sylveon added.

"W-What do you mean?" the Nuzleaf demanded. "You just gave us an open and shut task here!"

"That's because it's a second task," Zelle answered. "Your leader's a shapeshifter, and there's a Company ship chasing after those other scammers."

The Fairy-Type neared with a relaxed trot, curling her feeler around Albert's chin and pulling his head up to face her.

"He's gonna take the identity of the 'Legendary' with them, and trick those Company 'mons into capturing him while we get the real one," Zelle said, giving the Nuzleaf a wink. "'Kay?"

The Sylveon drew her feeler back, leaving the Nuzleaf and his companions to splutter stunned at this sudden surprise demand forced upon them, before they managed to squeak out their protests.

"N-Now hold on a minute!" Albert stammered. "That wasn't part of the deal!"

"Yeah, David's the backbone of our team!" Marilyn cried. "How are we supposed to do anything without him?!"

Charlie paused, quietly closing his eyes and fanning out the feelers on his head, before turning nervously to his Ditto teammate.

"I… I really don't like what I'm sensing from their auras, David," the Riolu gulped. "What if this is some sort of trap?"

"Tch, do you honestly think that we don't have a way of helping him escape?" Ketu scoffed. "Just do as you're instructed and everything will work out fine… unless you prefer the alternative…"

"No! No! That's fine! I just need to hang tight and you'll spring me!" David insisted. "I can deal with that!"

Zelle smiled, walking up to David and circling him with a predatory gaze. The Ditto followed her movements back and forth, before she suddenly gave a sharp jab with a feeler that made him shrink back uneasily.

"But I'm warning you…" she sneered. "We can't afford any complications from you wanting to play games with us. If you do, things will not end well for you. Are we clear?"

"Perfectly," the Ditto gulped.

"Excellent! Then let's go over this in plan in detail," Zelle said. "We wouldn't want your big day tomorrow running into a hitch, now would we?"

Zelle and Aldrich neared, starting to spell out the indistinct beginnings of the plan for the next day from just outside of Ellsberg's range of hearing. The Mothim watched the pair as their new recruits overeagerly nodded back, before noticing Sorge and Ketu drifting off for the villa's entrance remarking disgustedly over the fraudsters' 'human' impersonations, and deciding to follow along from behind.

"Ketu, shouldn't we be pressing them to do something now?" Ellsberg insisted. "Our scarf patterns are wanted back in Tidemill and it takes at most a day for word to travel from there to Buyeom."

Ketu furrowed his brow at the Mothim's question, before frowning and shaking his head back.

"Look, I'm all for getting results quickly, but there's just some things you can't rush, Ellsberg." Ketu said. "If those bums ask Team Traveller in the dead of night to meet them outside of town, they're bound to suspect something's amiss."

"But then what are we supposed to do?" the moth buzzed. "We're already on borrowed time in this town and getting the Protector means precious little if we're mobbed the moment we set foot back into Magmapool!"

"My team and I will do something about it," Sorge offered. "The Pokémon that carry in messages usually pass over the gate at the harbor on their way in, so we'll see if we can intercept those notices, or at least slip in some disinfo to buy you some time."

Ellsberg paused, flitting in place quietly. Sorge and his team clearly weren't amateurs, but this plan felt… improvised to him, to say the least. Though, with the sort of situation they were dealing with, it surely wasn't realistic to expect carefully planned contingencies either.

"If you're sure about this…" he murmured.

"The alternatives aren't any less risky. As long as we all do what's needed tomorrow, we should be able to get that Protector en route to Administrator Elilan, and Lyn out of port with his bogey," Sorge reassured. "Just set up that ambush with Ketu and don't let that Lugia get away."

"Wait… just me and Ketu?!"

"I can already tell it's going to be a long night," Ketu sighed, as a tired smile spread over his mouth. "Come on, Ellsberg. We've got only one shot at this, so we better talk through some battle strategies after briefing those scammers."

The Weavile began to pace off back for Zelle and Aldrich, turning back for the Mothim as his smile hardened into a devious smirk.

"After all, there's not going to be any consolation prizes tomorrow," he said. "So let's make sure we get this right."

The next morning, Team Traveller woke up on the Siglo Swellow as the Sun Chaser's traveller crossed the sky. With Pladur still injured, the duty of preparing breakfast for the Siglo Swellow's crew fell to Crom after their leftovers were depleted and Natrix and Philip's attempts the day before had been found to be roundly inadequate by the crew. The Druddigon's initial anxieties of his task ebbed after his teammates eagerly volunteered to lend helping paws, leaving him to teach his friends on the job how to prepare gummi mix and keep the galley just clean and free enough to ready the crew's portions.

The youngsters' efforts carried on with a few mishaps and false starts, along with an occasional swat by Guardia at Elty to thwart his attempts at stealing food before it even left the galley. In the end, after what felt like an eternity of work, the group managed to put out a passable meal for their hungry audience in the mess hall. Team Traveller sat and ate before hastily tidying the galley and dining area. Upon finishing, the lot shuffled up above the deck, where they could smell the salty air, and the sound of Pokémon at work in the harbor reached their ears as they stretched their limbs from their hard work.

"Those Gummis were great, Crom!" Pleo chirped. "I didn't know you knew so much about cooking!"

"Well… it’s just because my dad taught me," the Druddigon answered, rubbing the back of his head bashfully. "And if I was bad at cooking, I don't think mom would want me helping back in the shop."

"You all certainly did a great job helping him as well," Kiran added. "It takes a lot to learn on the fly like that."

"Eh, I was perfectly content with those provisions the other day," Guardia said. "But your fellows seemed to appreciate the difference."

Nida flicked her ears uncomfortably, her attention drifting out towards the collection of unassuming buildings among the black stone walls back on shore. She heard a buzzing shout come from behind, seeing Ander and Dimitri arriving with a wave as she mulled a moment before turning back to her companions.

"So… how are we gonna do this?" Nida asked. "It was a huge pain in the butt to just find Xerneas yesterday, and I don't know what we'd do if he still refuses to help us…"

"Well we'd better figure out something fast," Elty grumbled. "Those guards are eventually going to figure out that we're from the same crew that trashed Tidemill's harbor on the way out, and I doubt they'll just let us loaf around port after that."

The others on the team hemmed and hawed, evidently all short on ideas of what other options they had that could be used to sway Xerneas' opinion. After a moment of awkward silence, the group heard the sound of nearing footsteps, turning to see Natrix and Philips approaching and waving for attention.

"Oi! Kiran!" Natrix cried.


"There's a Nuzleaf at the docks who says he's been looking for you," the Servine said.

"Yeah, you two apparently ran into each other yesterday?" Philips murmured. "He says he wanted to talk a moment."

A… Nuzleaf they'd met yesterday? Why that must've been the Nuzleaf that was with Xerneas! Sensing opportunity in the air, Kiran gave a ruffle of his feathers followed by a thankful bow, as he beat his wings to start making his way off the ship.

"Thanks for the tip," the Swellow said. "We'll be right over."

The Flying-Type flitted off, settling down in front of the gangplank where his teammates hurried over to rejoin him. There, they made their way down to the pier, where the Nuzleaf was waiting for them at the bottom, shifting uneasily.

"Well, I certainly didn't expect you to just come over after what I heard yesterday," Dimitri remarked. "What's going on and what did you want from us?"

"I… think we kinda got off on the wrong foot earlier. The name's Albert, and I wanted to apologize for yesterday, we were a bit ruder than we ought to have been," the Nuzleaf said. "We've… been going through a lot lately, and Xerneas felt that it was for the best to meet up with you anyways in spite of our misgivings."

A stunned silence fell over Team Traveller, as each member traded disbelieving stares with each other. Guardia stood mystified for a moment, tripping over her tongue before spluttering back incredulously at the Grass-Type.

"Huh?!" she exclaimed. "But you completely blew us off yesterday!"

"What made you suddenly change your mind?" Kiran pressed. "You didn't sound like you believed us at all yesterday."

Albert paused, moving his left hand over his right arm and giving an uneasy rub. The Nuzleaf looked away a moment, before giving a shake of his head and answering in a low tone.

"We just had to be careful and make sure we weren't being deceived," Albert insisted. "You see, our own journey hasn't been going as smoothly as we let on."

"What do you mean?" Nida asked, lifting an ear curiously.

"Well, after we came into Anyilla, we passed through Mengir and Xerneas wound up catching the attention of the Company there," the Nuzleaf explained. "They've been chasing after us ever since, and one of their ships is even in town with its Samurott captain looking for us."

The Nidoran and her companions jumped back with a start at the Grass-Type's answer. A Company Samurott? But that could only mean that…

"E-Eh?! Lyn's chasing you too?!" Pleo cried.

Albert glumly nodded back, lowering his head-leaf apologetically as he continued on.

"I see you know him as well, Protector. But that's why Xerneas wanted to meet you," the Grass-Type said. "That Samurott's set up an ambush in the waters outside town, and we wanted to work with you to see what could be done to get past it. The fate of the world depends on it!"

"Well, I mean, we're right here," Elty replied. "Just have Xerneas come over and-"


Team Traveller jolted up with a start at Albert's outburst as his eyes widened and his body tensed up. The Grass-Type looked around anxiously at his surroundings, before breathing in deeply and leaning in towards the team.

"There's too many eyes that could be watching us here," he insisted. "We'll meet you at noon in the midpoint of the Mystery Dungeon. Time is of the essence, so don't come late."

"Right, we'll be sure to do that," Kiran answered. "Good luck?"

"… Yeah, you too."

With that, the Nuzleaf turned and hurried off down the pier, leaving Team Traveller to trade glances with each other.

"… Is this really a good idea?" Ander asked. "Being all alone with that thing in a dungeon?"

"Ander, we don't have any other options," Nida said. "And if Xerneas is in as much trouble as that, we shouldn't assume that he can remain here for too long."

Kiran paused, looking down the pier where Albert had departed, before up at the veil of fog near the base of the volcano in the distance. After a moment's silence, the bird shook his head and beat his wings, speaking up in a low voice.

"… Let's go back to the ship and pack up our stuff," he said. "We're pressed for time, and this might be the only chance we have to deal with Xerneas before we're forced to leave."

Shortly after Albert left, Team Traveller set about preparing for their trip into Buyeom's Mystery Dungeon. They quickly threw together their remaining items from their stints in Sormus and Tidemill, only to discover they were a bit short, prompting a quick visit to the local Kecleon Shop for some healing berries, and the all-important Escape Orb to get back out without the help of the local guild. The team carried on, leaving the black-walled city and following a course inland, where the vegetation thinned and gave way to rocky landscapes of red and black stone, punctuated by an occasional column of steam or ashy smoke. The party followed their winding path all the way up to the shadow of a tall peak trailing clouds above where thick fog swirled out the entrance to a yawning cave. In spite of the fog, an uncomfortably hot wind came out from the cave's mouth, with a pungent, sulfurous odor that made Nida wrinkle her nose in displeasure.

"I'm not sure if I'm really liking this volcano," the Nidoran murmured. "Is it even safe to go in there?"

"Looks perfectly fine to me!" Elty yipped. "If every Mystery Dungeon we were in was hot and toasty like this, I'd be right at home taking missions inside!"

Elty's teammates groaned and rolled their eyes at the Growlithe's comment, clearly lacking the same enthusiasm for their scorched surroundings. Dimitri shook his head before looking off ahead into the fog in front of him, casting glances around the other parts of the volcano before reluctantly turning back to his peers.

"Well, I don't see tuman anywhere else on this volcano," the Kabutops sighed. "Given that there's is eight of us, how do we want to handle going in?"

"I say we stick together," Guardia replied. "There's strength in numbers and we know that Lyn is waiting for us to slip up."

"Eh? But don't we need to get to the midpoint as fast as possible?" Crom asked. "If we take too long, the guards might catch on to Captain Beatrix!"

The Cubone and Druddigon's conflicting suggestions drew hems and haws from their teammates, each struggling to decide between the two options. If Pleo were caught off-guard by Lyn without enough strength to defend him, their mission to find the Knights' Ledger would be as good as lost… and yet, the same would be true if they couldn't get off Buyeom in the first place thanks to the Empire! The group agonized over the two unpalatable choices, until Kiran cleared his throat and raised a wing in suggestion.

"Why don't we split off into our same groups from yesterday? We can each cover half of the floor, and regroup back in the middle to report what we found," Kiran said. "That way we can find the stairs quicker, while we'd also be able to get to each other soon enough if either of our groups wound up in over their heads."

"I suppose I could see the advantages of that…" Ander mulled.

The group debated with one another, quickly settling around the consensus that Kiran's plan represented the best hedge against both sets of risks. All the while, Pleo drifted away from the group, shifting uneasily as a nagging doubt kept creeping back into his mind:

After all the trouble they'd had with Xerneas yesterday, why did it feel like his change of heart had been too sudden? To persuade a Pokémon that had laughed them off just by waiting a night on the Siglo Swellow felt unusually easy… only for a sharp rap of Guardia's club against the ground to make him raise his head back to attention.

"Hrm, I guess that works for me," the Cubone grunted. "The sooner we can get to Xerneas, the sooner we can get the lore we need and work with him to get past that ambush!"

Guardia slung her club over her shoulder, sauntering over towards Kiran, Elty, and Ander, leaving Pleo to ponder before shaking his head and opting to brush the matter off. As Kiran and his teammates gathered, the Swellow ruffled his feathers, before giving a cheery wave of his wing.

"Alright, we'll see you all inside," Kiran replied.

The Swellow paced ahead, Elty, Guardia, and Ander latching onto each other as they marched into the swirling fog, leaving Pleo to stare afterwards. The young Lugia felt a prod at his leg, looking down to see Nida peering up at him with a curious look on her face.

"Are you ready, Pleo?"

The Lugia paused, gazing uneasily into the fog before turning his head back, giving his tail a reassuring shake.

"Yeah," the young Protector answered back. "I think so."

Pleo watched as Nida clambered atop Crom's crest, before grabbing hold of the Druddigon's tail with his wings as Crom latched onto Dimitri's shoulder. One by one, the four made their way into the fog, the blue skies above fading away as they stepped into the Distortion's haze, and on towards the help they'd so desperately needed in their mission.

In the Company's headquarters on Vollezee, the thick aura of tension had dissipated as workers and guards went back to their business and the passing streets were filled with their normal crowds of hawkers and passerbys. From the top level, a Nidoking peered down at the scene below from a covered hallway, his hide nicked with fresh scuffs from a recent sparring session as he passed down the hall, which wrapped around the perimeter of a rooftop garden planted with trees and Berry plants. The Poison-Type's course took him to one of the roof's corners, where an enclosed office had been built, leaving him to walk up and push the door open where he was promptly greeted by a wooden desk with a large stack of paperwork waiting for him.

"… Of course," he sighed.

Inler shook his head with an annoyed grumble, sitting on a padded ottoman as he pawed through the papers, including an already-opened letter from Ellsberg outlining the Nektar Weide's latest update from infiltrating Buyeom. His thoughts turned back to unwelcome memories of the meeting from the prior day and the confrontation with Elilan. The Nidoking's mouth curled down sourly for a moment, prompting him to push the papers he had taken back into the pile and his eyes to drift off into the garden towards its flora when the sound of his office's doors creaking open pricked his ears.

"Opa, we zijn er!"

The Director peered over, seeing the form of a female Nidoran bounding in, followed by two males. The trio hopped up to the front of the desk expectantly as Inler shuffled up from his seat and gave a pleased wag of his tail at the youngsters' presence.

"Ahh, I wasn't expecting you all to come here," the Nidoking smiled back. "But no 'dyado'? I would've thought your parents would've finally gotten around to teaching you a bit of Mengirski by now."

The Nidoran trio shifted awkwardly a moment, and folded back their ears as they pawed at the ground uneasily. One of the purple Nidoran gave a soft kick at a chink in the floor, before hemming and hawing out a reply.

"I mean… they say that we should talk more like the Pokémon around us," he said. "And they don't really speak it other than when they used to talk with you."

A disappointed frown crept over Inler's face, prompting him to look away and shake his head bitterly at his grandson's explanation.

"Hrmph, so nothing's changed. As usual," he grumbled. "I'm surprised they even let you come here."

"I mean, we're in the Academy now, so we're able to do more of what we want," the female Nidoran declared proudly. "But… did you ever try to fix things after that fight with them, opa?"

"Tsk. I don't see how that's really possible when they can't be bothered to respond to any letters I send them, but there's no sense in worrying about it right now," Inler answered. "What about you? How have you been doing at the Academy?"

The Nidoking's question drew a reaction much like suddenly splattering the suds of a BubbleBeam atop the Nidoran, the lot's moods souring as their eyes hardened into annoyed glares. One of the purple Nidoran grumbled under his breath alongside his sister, while the other stomped the floor and spoke up to voice their shared complaints.

"Professor Gerhard made me look like an idiot in front of the whole class!" he fumed. "I came into the room slightly late and he then asked me a bunch of questions that weren't even related to what we were supposed to study the night before!"

Inler blinked a moment at his grandson's outburst, before sighing and craning down to pat the back of the youngster's head.

"I know that must not have been fun, but you have to understand that Professor Gerhard's job is to help raise Pokémon like you to be tough enough to take over the Company when you're older," the Nidoking explained. "If he never makes things a little hard on you, how will you handle tough moments in your life?"

"Hrmph, then why aren't we allowed to work together to give that Professor Gerhard a good Poison Jab without getting expelled?" the female Nidoran harrumphed. "The 'mons who graduated from the Academy never let a single 'mon humiliate them like Gerhard does! So why does he get to hide behind some lame rank he probably tail-kissed to get anyways?"

The suggestion prompted Inler to furrow his brow and throw a claw over his face in dismay, letting it set there a moment before he breathed out and slowly brought it back to his side.

"… Let's change the subject a bit. I don't think now's the time to explain why there's ranks in the Company," he sighed. "Was there anything you wanted to ask me?"

"Well… how did your day go, opa?" one of the purple Nidoran asked. "You seemed a bit frustrated when we came in earlier."

Inler paused a moment, before folding back his ears with a low grumble.

"I've… had to deal with a lot more lately than I'd would've liked," the Nidoking said. "Lots of sudden changes coming up, and not all of my subordinates seem to be handling things the way they need to be."

"Oh…? Well, I know that we're still going through the Academy and all… but is there anything we can do to help?" his other grandson wondered.

The spike ball's insistence drew a puzzled tilt of Inler's head, before he shook his head back 'no'.

"Don't get too ahead of yourself. Part of running the Company is knowing knowing what problem needs to be dealt with first," the elderly Nidoking replied. "If that weren't the case, the Company wouldn't be what it is today, and there probably wouldn't be an Academy for you to attend."

"Wait," one of the male Nidoran began. "That's a bad thing-? Ow!"

The purple spike ball was cut off by a stomp on his toes by his sister, prompting the pair to trade glares with each other as their brother shifted uneasily.

"I… guess," he murmured. "But is there really nothing we can do?"

Inler paused, swishing his tail back and forth until a small smile crept over his mouth, the Nidoking feeling a sense of contentment that had eluded him for much of the past few weeks.

"Just stay here awhile and put a smile on your old dyado's face," he replied. "It's taking a while, but everything's finally starting to work out the way that we need it to."

The Mistral Marauder's flight from Giotto had taken it on a wild, zigzagging path to and fro in the open sea, the pursuing ships peeling off one by one as the caravel skimmed a current here, swept past a sandbar there, until their foes had been sufficiently bogged down for Hess and his crew to lose sight of them the following day. Once the dust had settled, the Aggron captain found him and his ship adrift in the open sea in choppy waters sporting fresh pockmarks from their escape from Tidemill and its vessels. Out there, he peered through his scope with nary a sea rock around or anything else to orient him beyond a wave of dark, tall clouds poking over the horizon to the west that drew a worried stare from his first mate.

"Any luck, Captain?" Rodion asked. "I'm not liking the look of those clouds on the horizon."

Hess lowered his scope and fidgeted, hemming and hawing at the Floatzel's words. The standard operating procedure in a storm was to try and find a safe port or breakwater to put down anchor and wait it out, but…

"Uhm… well…"

"You know, you can just say that we're lost!" Kichiro snapped.


The three pirates squinted and shielded their faces as a stormy gust kicked up and whistled past. The sails rippled from the gust, joined by startled yelps from several crewmembers, along with the sound of a piercing scream that cut above everything else. Hess and his companions braced themselves, whirling around to see the racket was coming from a flailing Wilhelm being blown out to sea.

"Aaaaah! Help! Help! It's carrying me overboard!" the Hoppip shouted, his cries fading as the winds carried him off for the horizon, leaving Hess to throw a claw over his face with a low grumble.

"Again?" the Aggron groaned. "Kichiro, go after him and bring him back."

"… Do I really have to?" the Ledian grumbled. "This is the fourth time this has happened already!"

"You're the one in charge of bringing him up to speed with the rest of the fliers," Rodion snapped. "You're getting him back."

Kichiro gave a fuming buzz, before hopping up and taking wing, flying off after the fast-disappearing Hoppip. As the beetle departed, Hess raised his scope again, scanning the horizon when he noted a patch of foam in the distance to his left. The Steel-Type's eyes lit up, hopeful that he'd finally found some sign of land nearby… only to discover the bream was coming from a gyre of seaweed, prompting him to pound the railing in frustration.

"Bah! I don't get it!" the Aggron fumed. "There's no beacons, no land, not even a clump of sea rocks in sight! How am I supposed to work with this?"

The pirate captain let out a disgusted huff, when the sound of buzzing wingbeats prompted him to look over his shoulder. There, flying up was an audibly displeased Kichiro, with Wilhelm held firmly in his arms breathing a sigh of relief. The Ledian settled down, before letting the Grass-Type flit up, who circled happily around his rescuer.

"Thank you, Keiichiro!" the Hoppip cheered. "You're a lifesaver!"

"Yeah, yeah, just get it together already!" Kichiro hissed. "If I have to fly after you again, I'm tying you to the mast with a rope!"

"Eh? But if it wasn't for the wind, I'd be able to stick around fine!" Wilhelm insisted. "Why I would've even been able to see those reefs from the ship if I could make it to the crow's nest without getting blown away!"

Kichiro grumbled under his breath as Hess shook his head with an unamused sigh at Wilhelm's perpetual struggles to stay grounded, only for the two to notice Rodion pausing and tilting his head curiously at the Hoppip.

"Those reefs?"

Wilhelm nodded back insistently, prompting Rodion to go over towards the stern and paw through a chest left near an entrance below deck, where he fished out a rolled up sheet of parchment. Hess and Kichiro gave the Floatzel a curious look as he cast a quick glance back out to sea and walked over to a crude table and spread out the parchment, revealing it to be a large map of Anyilla. The two walked over as Rodion set down several small stones at the edges, and picked up a small jar of needles fashioned from Iron Thorns. One after the other, Rodion pinned the barbs to various patches of water on the map, before stepping back and turning to his onlooking companions.

"Well, it's not much to work with, but if that's really what Wilhelm saw, I think that based on the direction of the potok we're on, that we're in one of these places," the Floatzel said.

"And how do we actually get back to land based off of that?" Kichiro demanded. "We didn't reprovision in Tidemill the whole time we were in port, and if this voyage takes too long, we'll be eating our own scarves to get by!"

Hess paused and glanced over the map, agonizing over which of the pins could possibly be their own, before noting that one of them seemed to be near a labeled current that carried on past a small island, as did the pin immediately above it, and the one above that. The Aggron paused and pawed at the parchment, realizing that all of the pins seemed to be within spitting distance of one sea current or another, and that so long as one went along with their course, they were bound to pass by some manner of anchorable land…

"Looks like we just need to find the current near here and follow it. No matter what spot on the map we're on right now, as long as we follow it, we'll find someplace to take shelter," Hess said, prompting Kichiro to let out an annoyed hiss and click his elytra.

"Are we seriously just sailing blindly until we hit something? One of those currents goes directly into the Dead Zone!" the Ledian cried. "What are we supposed to do if that's the current we find?"

"All of the more dangerous routes have unsettled islands on the way we can stop at first," the Aggron retorted. "And if you have such a problem with it, do you have any alternatives?"

Hess and Rodion cast intent, impatient stares, joined in by a curious Wilhelm as Kichiro opened his mandibles to speak… only to hang wordlessly and look down at the deck as he found himself struggling to think of any other alternatives that were less asinine he could offer.

"… Katte ni shiro," Kichiro groaned, before looking back up. "But for the record this still isn't a good solution!"

Hess rolled his eyes at the Ledian's retort, before lumbering up to the bridge and giving a stomp of the deck that drew the attention of the various deckclaws lazing about on deck.

"Take us to the west!" Hess bellowed. "It's going to be a stormy voyage and the sooner we find land, the better!"

At once, the pirate crew swung into action, the escorts whipping up currents to guide the ship as their counterparts on deck tugged the sails to catch the new tailwind. Hess hurried back to the stern, leaning hard against the tiller and sending the ship off westward, sailing off for the horizon as the black clouds rolled in from ahead.

Beyond the fog of Buyeom's Mystery Dungeon, Team Traveller had methodically worked their way up one floor after another of the Distortion's maze, splitting into two groups and rejoining at the stairs before moving onto the next. The floors were composed of reddish-black stone, wedged in between craggy walls and pools of molten rock that made the air above them waver from the heat. On their current floor, Pleo, Nida, Crom, and Dimitri carried along a passageway snaking between two patches of lava as a sheet of magma flowed overhead in the far distance, leaving the young Protector to pant from the air's oppressive temperature.

"Agh… it's so hot in here!" Pleo complained. "I thought that the island just made things warm and comfortable like the springs!"

"It's coming from the lava around us," Nida explained. "If you stay towards the middle, the air will already feel a bit cooler."

"You shouldn't be getting too close to that anyways," Dimitri said. "Touch it, and you're bound to get a nasty burn for your trouble."

"Huh? But how hot could it be?" Pleo asked. "Didn't we see Elty running across it just a bit earlier?"

"I mean, he is a Fire-Type," Crom offered. "Though I thought he said something earlier about not wanting to stand still in i-"

The Druddigon's answer was cut off by an audible thump and sharp tremor that shook the quartet and forced them to fight to maintain their balance. The four looked around when Pleo chanced to catch a glassy glint, spotting a blue orb with swirling bubbles inside roll down an incline and hit a patch of lava, where it wavered a moment before sprouting black along its surface, catching fire and melting. The Lugia grimaced, mentally substituting himself for the former Cleanse Orb and shuddering a moment at the imagined outcome.

"… Meep."

"Thankfully whatever sorcery leads to these 'upside-down' floors in Mystery Dungeons is keeping the lava overhead stuck up there," Dimitri murmured. "If it started falling down on us, I think the local medics would have their work cut out for them patching us up."

"Let's… think about more positive things," Crom muttered. "Though… that Cleanse Orb… Where exactly did that come from?"

The young dragon crept along, carefully keeping his distance from the lava as he clambered up a small outcropping. After cresting it, he saw a wooden stick lying out in an opening, with a glassy knob swirling with yellowish balls of light at one end.

"Ah! A Confuse Wand!" he cried. "We could always use another one of those!"

Crom shuffled off, going over and craning down to scoop up the wand as his teammates followed along into the opening. As the others neared, Nida suddenly paused and tensed up as an uneasy realization dawned on her.

"… We hadn't felt a thump like that on any of the earlier floors," Nida said. "Then, what could've caused-?"


A stream of fire suddenly zipped in and swept up Crom from the left, sending the Druddigon tumbling back with a pained yelp. Trails of smoke curled up from the left as a Turtonator and Heatmor stared each other down with a snarl, before noticing a wide-eyed Team Traveller staring at them.

"Nice going, babo," the Heatmor growled. "You led a bunch of hut-dwellers straight to my den!"

"Your den?!" the Turtonator spat. "After I smack you and those meddling knot-necks aside, I'll be resting in my den!"

The two ferals crouched and sprang in with fierce bellows, leaving Crom to flinch as the Heatmor beelined for him, readying a gout of fire, only for a hail of rocks to abruptly cut her off. Crom hastily bolted away from the anteater, looking up in a panic and seeing Dimitri running for him.

"Hang in there Crom, I'm comi- Augh!"

A stream of fire zipped by, settling on the Dimitri's exoskeleton and leaving a patch charred. The Turtonator culprit let a little trail of smoke wisp up from the ends of his snout, giving a taunting jeer back at the interloping Kabutops.

"Hah! Try that on for size, crab!"

The Turtonator charged after the stricken Water-Type as Nida and Pleo ran in, hastily taking positions alongside Crom when a low growl cut through the air. The three grimaced, looking over to see the Heatmor righting herself and glaring at them.

"You!" the Heatmor snarled. "Time to teach you to keep your snouts out from where they don't belong!"

"W-We'll just see about that!" Crom piped. The Druddigon steeled himself and ran forward, pulling an arm back for a punch and throwing it forward, only for it to land with an inert thud as the Heatmor brushed it aside.


"Get out of my face, you little pest!"

Crom went wide-eyed realizing that he was face-to-face with his foe, as Nida and Pleo frantically ran after him readying a Poison Sting and a Weather Ball. The Dragon-Type desperately swung with his claws for the Heatmor's belly, only for the creature to spit up a spray of fireballs, one finding its mark on his chest, leaving him to yelp in pain as another fireball pegged Nida in the face, and a third found its mark on the joint of Pleo's right wing.

"That's right!" the anteater snorted. "By time I'm through with you, you'll all- gah!"

The Heatmor's jeer was cut off by Pleo sending forth a swirling gust of wind that swept the anteater up, sending her tumbling head over heels for a rocky wall where the Fire-Type crashed against it with a yelp. From the other end, Pleo called out to his teammates as he flapped his wings, flying for the stunned anteater.

"Quick!" the Lugia squawked. "Before she gets back up!"

Crom lunged, raking his claws over the Heatmor's exposed belly as Nida quickly dashed in, poisonous drops building up along her right forepaw, before forcefully running it into the Fire-Type's flank with a sharp jab. The Heatmor bellowed in pain as Nida dashed away, leaving the anteater to stagger from the wall weakly in a feeble attempt to give chase, only for her feet to wobble and then abruptly lose their footing.


The Heatmor slumped over and tumbled against the stony floor with a limp thud, the air cut by sharp pants from a winded Nida and Crom when a pained cry rang out. There, behind them, Dimitri shoved the Turtonator back with a watery tackle, toppling the tortoise onto the back of his shell unconscious. The pair paused a moment, before watching Pleo shuffle over for Dimitri. Nida started to follow along after him, when she looked down and widened her eyes out of excitement after poison dribbling down her right forepaw, the one part of her attempts to learn Poison Jab that had eluded her again and again the day before.

"I… I did it! I finally got my tutored move together!" she cried. "Ha! Just wait until Elty hears about how I learned my move when it actually mattered!"

Crom and Pleo looked over at their Nidoran friend as she threw her head back proudly, before turning back to each other with dubious frowns.

"Was it really so bad that Elty learned his move before her?" Pleo murmured.

"Just let her have her moment," Crom insisted, only for a pained wince to prick his ears as Dimitri stumbled forward with an exhausted sigh.

"Gah… I wasn't expecting a Fire-Type to give me so much trouble," the Kabutops grumbled. "Are you all doing alright? I could use a Rawst Berry right about now."

"I think we're fine-" Nida began, only to notice Crom had brought his left wing close against his body, where she spotted a ruddy burn near its carpal joint.

"… Er… right. The berries."

The Nidoran rifled through the team bag, quickly fishing out a pawful of berries that were promptly divided up, the fruits peeled and pressed against their wounds before consuming the remaining pulp. As Dimitri tore at the pulpy remains of his Rawst Berry, he peered over and noticed Pleo looking down and pecking uneasily at a barely-touched wedge of an Oran Berry.

"Eh? Something the matter, Pleo?" Dimitri asked. "I don't know of too many Pokemon who would pass up an Oran Berry after being scuffed."

The Lugia craned his head up, shifting his wings uneasily a moment as he began to speak up hesitantly.

"No. I'm fine, it's just…"

Pleo trailed off, seemingly overcome with indecision over whether to continue or stay silent. Dimitri tilted his head puzzledly, waiting as the bird began to hem and haw under his breath, when he suddenly shook his head and piped up.

"I'm not really feeling good about this," the young Protector said. "What if we're making a big mistake by coming here?"

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

"It's just that things seemed so bad yesterday after we found out that Lyn was waiting for us just outside the harbor, and both Xerneas and Kline rejected us afterwards," Pleo began. "But then this morning Xerneas suddenly changed his mind and wants to meet up with us to help fight Lyn, when Kiran said he laughed him off just yesterday…"

"I mean… it wouldn't be unexpected that Xerneas would be trying to figure out if it's safe to move on," Nida replied. "And sometimes things just unexpectedly change for the better."

"I know, but… Kline said Xerneas only seemed to care about money and that there are Pokémon on this island more dangerous than Lyn," he murmured. "What if Xerneas is helping those Pokemon for money, and we're walking into a trap right now…?"

Nida, Crom, and Dimitri shifted uncomfortably at Pleo's question. A Legendary working with the Company?! It was unimaginable! No Protector would willfully reduce itself to a mere tool like that!

Though on the other hand… Kline had warned them there were other dangerous Pokémon they had to be wary of, and Xerneas' sudden change of heart did seem suspiciously well-timed. After all the unexpected twists and turns of their current journey, was there really any possibility that was safe to dismiss out of hand…?


The four turned off towards the lava where they saw the form of a pudgy Growlithe darting ahead, dashing over the lava patch for the clearing. Elty stepped up onto the stony earth, giving his feet a shaking pat against the ground before giving a sharp wag of his tail.

"We found the stairs! It looks like the midpoint is only a few floors ahead!" he yipped. "Meet us over at the end of the corridor at the second left from here and we'll head up!"

The Growlithe turned and left much the way he came, leaving Pleo and his companions to look amongst themselves. With everything they'd realized, could they really just carry on deeper into the dungeon? But… if they didn't…

"… What do we do now?" Pleo asked.

"… We press on, and keep our eyes open," Dimitri said. "We'll never get anything if we don't take risks, but after everything you've brought up, it can't hurt to be careful."

The rest of the team mulled a moment before nodding back in agreement, only for the sound of shifting bodies to reach their ears. The group froze and looked back, seeing that the Turtonator and Heatmor from earlier had begun to stir, groping clumsily against the ground.

"Oww… my head…" the Heatmor groaned.

"Urgh… why are you still here?" the Turtonator demanded. "I thought those knot-necks kicked you around!"

"Er… if we're being careful, I say we get out of here before those two fully wake up," Crom offered.

"Agreed," Nida piped. "Come on, let's get going."

The Nidoran hurried off in Elty's direction, followed by Crom, Pleo, and Dimitri as the four took a more circuitous path away from the burning lava. All the while, a lingering unease clung about them, each of the lot wondering whether Xerneas really did have some manner of unpleasant surprise for them…

And if he did, what was it?

Author's Notes:

- venado - Spanish (Latin American): "deer"
- tuman (туман) - Russian: "fog" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
- Opa, we zijn er! - Dutch: "Grandpa, we're here!"
- dyado (дядо) - Bulgarian: "grandfather" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
- Mengirski (Менгирски) - Bulgarian: "Mengirese" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
- potok (поток) - Russian: "current" (BGN/PCGN Romanization)
- Katte ni shiro (勝手にしろ) - Japanese: "Whatever", "Have it your way" (Hepburn Romanization)
- babo (바보) - Korean: "idiot" (South Korean Revised Romanization)
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