Chapter 36: It's a Trap!
Back in Mengir Island's Mystery Dungeon, Team Traveller continued their mission to search for the murals. Starting from the seventh floor, the team kept their eyes peeled, remembering Salvini's words about how the stable zone that held the paintings was at most two floors from them. Guardia walked slightly ahead of everyone because of her past experience ferreting out such zones on Kenobi, and surprisingly enough, Elty seemed to have a sharp nose for them himself...
Except, the seventh floor only had a small stable zone while the eighth floor had no stable zone at all! They were now on the last floor, with not a hint of fog to be seen.
"I think we've been had," Elty grumbled. "No stable zone is this hard to find!"
"This is the last floor it could be on, Elty," Nida said. "Maybe we just aren't looking hard enough?"
"Then… does that mean that we passed it?" Pleo nervously asked.
Both Nida and Elty blanched for a moment as they realized that the little Protector might be onto something. If the stable zone was this hard to find, then it was entirely possible that they had passed it earlier! Then they'd be forced to choose between finding a way to backtrack, spending the Escape Orb they'd bought from the Kecleon shop, or clearing the whole dungeon and return later...
"Hey! I found something over here!" Guardia's voice suddenly rang out.
Or it could be right in front of them. After poking a bit at a mat of vines, Guardia swatted it down with her club, revealing a thick fog which swirled and ebbed out slightly.
"Bah, knowing our luck, it'll be another dead end," Elty grunted.
"Elty, think positive," Nida snapped. "The third time's the charm, right?"
"Whatever, let's just get this over with," he sighed, rolling his eyes. "Pleo, you stay on my tail while I follow the bonehead."
"But what about Nida-?" Pleo began, only to squawk with a start as he felt a weight land against his back.
"Heh, being on top of you does give a better view, right?" the Nidoran chuckled. "It couldn't hurt once we come out the other end."
"Oh!" Pleo chirped. "I guess that makes sense."
The four Pokémon formed a line and began to make their way into the fog. Guardia was first, followed by Elty, who had latched onto Guardia's club with his mouth (much to her growling displeasure). At the end of the line was Pleo with Nida on his shoulders, his beak gently grabbing Elty's tail for guidance as the team carried on. The group continued trudging along as the fog started to thicken, when Pleo noticed a stone spire in the distance that looked much like the ones back in Fensedge Village. The sight made Pleo's mind turn back to the day they arrived on Mengir Island…
"Nida?" He asked muffledly.
"What does it mean to be 'dead'?"
The Nidoran froze and twitched her whiskers uncomfortably. What on earth had lead Pleo to bring up such a morbid topic now of all times?
"Er… why do you ask?" Nida replied.
"Well, Guardia said that Fensedge reminded her of a graveyard. And a graveyard is supposed to have 'dead' Pokémon in it," he mumbled. "But Fensedge had a bunch of Pokémon and the 'graveyard' place didn't."
The Lugia waited expectantly for Nida to give an explanation clearing the mystery up, only to be answered by a long and awkward silence, punctuated by the sounds of the team's footsteps.
"Nida…? How come you aren't saying anything?"
"It means that you aren't here anymore, but your body stays and won't move or breathe or talk again," Elty suddenly answered. Nida shook her head and shot a glare at the obscured Growlithe.
"What, he was going to have to find out eventually anyways!"
"Maybe that's how your dead work, Gardie," Guardia chimed in. "But for Karakara and Garagara like me, their spirits guide us, much like the Travellers-"
The fog grew thick enough to muddle the sounds of their voices from that point, which caused Guardia's lecture to come in erratic snatches before fading entirely. As Pleo continued on, he thought and realized that being 'dead' sounded an awful lot like being a Substitute…
It couldn't move… It couldn't breathe... It couldn't talk…
And it couldn't keep itself from being broken apart…
The sound of a flowing stream pricked Pleo's ears, followed by the sight of desiccated leaves and flowers on the ground. They must have gotten through the worst of the fog already, which brought another question to his mind…
"How does a Pokémon become 'dead' then?" he asked.
There was a deathly silence, and had it not been for the thinning fog, Pleo would have thought that Guardia had led them back deeper into the fog. Finally, her voice answered from the front.
"It can happen in many ways," the Cubone explained. "Sometimes it happens when a Pokémon lives long enough… Other times, it happens when a Pokémon gets really sick or hurt."
Pleo trembled. He remembered the team's escape from Lyn's ship and the harrowing crawl through the Mystery Dungeon afterwards, and how everyone had gotten hurt. Could they have stopped moving... forever? And Nida had said the Crom was badly hurt... what if he-
"Hey, I think I see it!" Elty barked.
The Growlithe nosed off ahead, where there was a mural of a blackened, dead forest ringing a white, stone-like tree in the center. The four carried on a little, where there was another painting of a blue deerlike creature springing from the tree with a flash of light, followed by one where the stony tree in the center was absent and the deer roamed freely about a now lush and verdant forest.
"What's this island's Protector supposed to be?" Guardia scoffed. "Aside from the color and the bigger horns, it looks just like that cart-pulling yajū we saw back in the village!"
"Protectors are supposed to come in all sorts of shapes and sizes," Nida replied. "Maybe this one is just a little different."
"L-Look!" Pleo exclaimed. "There's more!"
The team stopped to take rubbings of the murals and labeling the different sectors for colors before carrying along. Nida, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia passed a few more murals with the blue Protector and repeated the process of taking rubbings as the fog started to thin. Eventually, the team came to a painting of a waterfall set against a burning sky. In it, there was a depiction of the deer being pierced with a pillar of burning light coming from a blood-red star in the sky. To the side, another mural showed the Protector falling dead to the ground in a burning forest.
The fog grew thinner and thinner with the next few murals the team recorded, going from the Old World's death to scenes from the new one. There came paintings of figures flying and swimming alongside a ship for an island with needle-like peaks surrounded with mist, and of Pokémon beginning to settle among tender-looking trees. As the team came out of the last stretch of foggy trail, they came before a final mural depicting Pokémon with scarves and without scarves moving an egg into a fog-surrounded clearing filled with tender saplings.
"Wait, this Protector…" Guardia murmured to herself. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say that it has something to do with giving life."
"It makes sense though," Nida said. "With the Wastes as dead as they are, wouldn't it be faster for them to be restored after the Protectors started to wake up if a few of them could give life?"
As she pondered what a restoration of the Wastes might look like, her teammates pulled ahead of her. Pleo noticed her fall behind, and turned back to wave at her to move on.
"Eh? Nida, there's still more paintings up ahead!" Pleo squawked.
The team drew closer to the pillars, where they saw that the shapes were crude and forceful strokes of various scenes. One showed Pokémon with purple scarves coming into a grove of tall trees and driving various moth and worm-like creatures away from an egg. There was another one showing the purple-scarved Pokémon exiting a cave's maw with the egg, the bugs from the earlier scene lying in disarray on the ground.
At the sight of the third pillar, Nida, Elty, and Guardia began to flush pale. In it were pictures of various Pokémon with scarves being attacked by the Bug-Types from the prior steles, some shown lying on the ground. One of the paintings was still fresh, of a Roserade being set upon in a crude depiction of Mengir's wrecked shrine.
"Why are these pictures so different?" Pleo asked. "And why do you all look so scared? What's wrong?"
"What's wrong is you having the nerve to come here, Inkfoot!"
Team Traveller looked up and watched as three Beautifly and a Dustox swooped down from above and ringed the team. The four bugs were obviously agitated and erratic, their voices coming out in hateful chitters.
"E-Esperen un momento!" Nida squeaked. "We didn't come here to cause trouble!"
"Yeah, we just wanted to look at some pictures for Salvini's friend back in the town!" Pleo cried.
"We've come to learn more about your Protector!" Guardia shot in.
The young Pokémon's earnest pleas drew bitter and derisive laughter from the Bug-Types, who started to flutter around their trapped foes, glaring and sneering all the while.
"'Come to learn about our Protector', huh?" one of the Beautifly, the apparent leader of the group, hissed. "Oh, that's rich coming from an Inkfoot like you."
"Wh-Why's that?" Elty stammered.
"You all stole our Protector from us!" the Bug-Type shouted. "Your vile village broke the Pact so you could take it all for yourselves!"
"And you didn't just move it into town either!" a lighter-colored Beautifly angrily chittered. "You sent its egg over the sea to a faraway island that we couldn't find!"
Wait- this island's Protector's egg had already been found?! Then- those paintings… they were of the Company? But then why hadn't anybody heard about-?
"And now you've come to wreck our grounds again on top of all that!" the Dustox spat.
"That's- That's not-" Elty stuttered, looking around desperately for some way to escape. "L-Look, th-this is all a big misunderstanding! Isn't there something we can do to show you that we don't mean you any trouble?"
"There is," the last Beautifly, a grizzled individual with tattered wings, growled back. "You can die!"
The color drained from Team Traveller’s members as they shrank away from the encroaching Bug-Types. Nida, Pleo, Elty, and Guardia wound up backing into each other, the four Bug-Types surrounding them and flitting their wings more and more aggressively, leaving Pleo to turn nervously to his Nidoran companion.
"N-Nida?!" he cried. "Wh-What do we do?!"
The Nidoran froze, her eyes widening and her mind running blank as she saw no way to escape. She attempted to stammer something back, only to notice that orange and purple powder was beginning to accumulate on their assailants' wings.
"What are you waiting for?!" Guardia shouted. "Rush them before they dump that powder on us!"
The Cubone leapt at one of the Beautifly and swung at him with her club. As the sound of a scuffle rang out, Nida, Pleo, and Elty likewise rushed ahead. Blindly sending spikes, gusts of wind, and cones of cinders at their assailants as they charged on.
Pleo felt a chitinous body tumble against his, and swatted desperately at the presence with his wings, only to feel air.
Pleo, Nida, and Elty heard a loud scream come from back towards the entrance, where Guardia had been covered in orange powder and then knocked to the ground by one of the Beautifly. Her assailant had jabbed her with a long proboscis, which retracted from an ugly-looking mark on her left shoulder dribbling ruddy fluid at the end. To everyone's horror, a Dustox and a second Beautifly were closing in on her position.
"G-Guardia!" Pleo squawked.
"Ack!" Elty yelped. "Trzymaj się!"
Nida watched as the dog spat out a cone of cinders, which drove the Beautifly off Guardia with a pained screech and cleared the way for Elty to rush to the Cubone's side. Pleo disgorged a glowing ball of light which caught the other Beautifly and sent him tumbling to the ground with a yelp, as Nida ran for the Dustox to fend her off from the Ground-Type...
… only to pratfall as a sticky thread shot out and enveloped her body. The Poison-Type hastily stumbled back to her feet, only for a cry to come from behind.
"Where do you think you're going?!"
Much to Nida's shock, a third Beautifly dove at her from behind. The Nidoran hastily flicked a spike at the diving bug, only for him to blow it away with a cutting gust of wind, which carried on straight for her.
The spike ball went tumbling head over heels, her satchel opening and spilling a pawful of items all over the ground. Before she could get up, Nida felt a heavy weight pin her down and chitinous claws grabbing at her pelt. The Poison-Type raised her barbs in a panic, drawing a pained yelp from the Bug-Type above her. Nida felt her attacker fall off of her and darted forward, where down at her feet, she saw a scaled, orange seed. She hastily picked it up with her mouth, turned back as the sound of angry wingbeats fluttered towards her…
And bit down.
The sound of pained screeching rang out, followed by a dull thud as the Beautifly crashed into the earth, twitch and groaning. The Nidoran shook her head, panting, when the sound of Elty's cries came from further back.
Back at Elty and Guardia position, the Fire-Type reeled from a fresh spike in his flank still dribbling venom. His Ground-Type teammate was in similarly bad shape, struggling against unresponsive limbs to keep fighting while a Beautifly and Dustox circled and harried them with narrowly-missing cutting gusts of wind.
"P-Pay more attention, Gardie!" the Cubone huffed tiredly. "You'll get us wiped out like that!"
"Worry about yourself, alright!" the Growlithe snapped back. "I'm fighting for two of us here-!"
"You're done for, lizard!"
The Growlithe turned and watched as the Dustox dove for Guardia. Reflexively, Elty ran in between them, and spat out a cone of embers, only for them to get blown back by a gust of wind. As the Growlithe watched the sparks fall back to the ground, he charged on undeterred as they fell on his body and kicked up flames along his pelt. Without thinking, the little dog somersaulted forward and vaulted his flaming body feet-first directly towards the moth's face.
The sound of a loud smack followed by chittering screams rang out, as the Dustox attempted to flee, only to stall in midair and flop to the ground, unconscious. Guardia stared wide-eyed at Elty as he came to a gasping, skidding stop along the ground, the fire on his pelt finally dying down.
"Wh-What was that?!" she cried. "You never told me you knew how to do that!"
"I didn't know that I did," he panted. "But it works great!"
Back towards the entrance, Pleo had managed to get himself chased and boxed in against the fog by one of the Beautifly. The Bug-Type fluttered here and there, his erratic flight thwarting many of the little Lugia's attempts to strike back at him. The Beautifly beat his wings together and sent a cutting gust along the top of Pleo's left wing, sending the young Protector tumbling out of the air with a squawking thud, landing hard on his wing against a sharp stone.
The bird cried out and writhed as pain shot through his wing. He attempted to get back in the air, only for his wing to ache and grow unresponsive, leading him to pratfall as wingbeats approached him.
"Pleo! Stay down!" Nida's voice suddenly called.
The little Protector pulled his head low to the ground as an object sailed overhead and struck something with a thwip and a yelp. The white bird watched as the Beautifly pursuing him staggered up the ground, a spike lodged in between segments of his exoskeleton…
"L-Leave us alone!"
And spat up a glowing ball of light, which sent the butterfly tumbling out of the air and falling limply against the ground. As the dust settled around the fallen bug, Nida and Pleo panted tiredly, looking around frantically to try and place where their fourth assailant might be.
Following the sound of a loud smack from the sound of Guardia's club swatting chitin, all became clear. The last Beautifly came to a pinwheeling, panting stop along the ground. The creature tried his best to get up, but staggered and flopped forward after discovering that his right wing was unresponsive and hurt to move.
"Ha! And you said you were fighting for two!" Guardia jeered, tiredly poking a tongue out at Elty. "That was my hit there!"
"Yeah, yeah, enough," the dog growled, shaking a weary head. Back closer to the entrance, Pleo raised his head warily, turning to Nida.
"Is… is it over?" he asked.
"Almost, Pleo," she sighed. Before raising her barbs and shouting over to the winded Bug-Type.
"Before you slink off!" she hissed. "Why did you attack us like that?!"
"I'm… I'm not slinking anywhere," the Beautifly spluttered back. "This is our territory…"
"Sure you aren't," Elty growled. "We're not the ones limping off with our tails between our legs here!"
"A-All the better," the bug coughed.
The four's breaths came out in ragged pants as they looked over at the felled Bug-Types, relieved that their ordeal was behind them. Just then, a humming sound began to roll in from the treeline.
"Wh-What's that noise?!"
It got louder, and louder, and louder, and with the sight of yellow and purple bodies tearing through the canopy, it became clear that they were not dealing with a few reinforcements, but a massive swarm.
A cutting gust of wind suddenly flew out, sending Guardia sprawled out over the ground. Elty's fur bristled, his tail folded tight against his legs, and likewise pinned his ears along his head. The Growlithe turned and bolted blindly back for the fog, only to be caught by a dark purple blob from behind and flop forward limply.
"A-Ah!" Pleo squawked. "Elty! Guardia!"
"Pleo! Quick! My bag!" Nida squeaked. "There's an Esca-"
The duo was interrupted by a cutting, cross-shaped gust striking the two and sending them tumbling along the ground. As Pleo struggled to get on his feet, he saw that Nida wasn't getting up, and worse still, the horde was nearly upon them.
"A-Aah! Wait! Stop!" the Protector pleaded. "If my friends get hurt too much, they might become 'dead'!"
"You should have run while you had the chance, Inkfoot!" the wounded Beautifly sneered. "It's over for all of you kirlivi paraziti!"
In the midst of the din and Pleo's frenzied attempts to evade the Bug-Types, Pleo heard the sound of soft voices piercing through. There was a tired-sounding voice that wished for the olden days where the shrine was there to visit… Exhausted groans from haggard Pokémon wishing that the Apricorn fields didn't exist… And voice after voice that wished for a Protector to watch over them again…
All of them wished for an end to the disturbed state of affairs that loomed over the island, the same state of affairs that was about to take his friends' lives. Unless, no matter how futile it seemed…
He didn't give up.
"St-Stop! You can't do this!" Pleo cried. "We didn't take your Protector! We came to look at pictures!"
In spite of his pleas, the only answers the little Lugia received were ugly taunts. A number of the Bug-Types were preparing sickly-looking globs and cutting gusts of wind, ready to shut up their intruder for good. Their attacks zipped towards the stricken bird when all of a sudden, a forceful burst of air forced the charging creatures back with yelps and cries. As the swarm focused back at the entrance near the fog, they saw that the white-plumed bird's markings were now glowing bright, and his voice had become a feral shriek.
"I won't let you make my friends 'dead'!" he shouted. The bird then brought his wings together, and a roaring column of air shot forth and swept up the Bug-Types. Their jeers and threats became panicked cries and screams, intermixed with the sounds of tree branches rending and bending. As Pleo drew back his wings, pain shot through his left wing, leaving him painting and flinching, expecting his assailants to swoop down upon him at any second.
"F-Fly away! Fly away!"
Only to see that the shapes in the trees were fleeing as fast as they could. From deeper on, Pleo could hear frightened crying from younger-sounding Pokémon. The leader Beautifly with the wounded right wing had been blown up against a tree trunk and curled up, and was whimpering and shuddering out of fright at the sight of the strange white bird.
Did he... just really do that...? Was- Was that what evoking his true powers would do to other Pokémon?
Pleo craned his head, where he saw Nida groaning, stretched out before a glassy, black Escape Orb. The light was glowing bright, much brighter than it had when they bought it… Did- Did that mean it would work here? Then Nida must have been trying to use it to get them out! She, Elty, and Guardia weren't moving much. If they stopped moving… then- then they'd be dead!
"Nida! Elty! Guardia!" he begged. "P-Please! Just hold on a moment!"
The little Lugia limped over to the Escape Orb, picked it up with his beak... and then threw it against the ground with all his might as the sound of shattering glass rang out.
A bright, white light exploded from the shards, and enveloped the young Protector and his teammates in an overpowering gleam. There was a faint blip as the horrid clearing faded in front of his eyes, followed by the sound of branches gently swaying in the wind...
Joined with a long and pregnant absence of his friend's voices.
The prior night, Crom, Kiran, Ander and Pladur were at the Andaku Docks, continuing a fruitless search for clues of where Team Traveller had flown off to. Somewhere in this wretched hive of scum and villainy, there were the Yanmega, Manectric, and Marowak who had last sighted their blue-scarved friends.
After asking Pladur about the places he remembered of the district during the Siglo Swellow's last visit as free traders, the team figured this district's guild would be a good starting point for their search. Except… things did not go according to plan, with the night's search devolving into aimless wandering around in the shifty district. After a few hours of fruitless search and noticing that the locals were thinning out into ever more menacing-looking characters, the group chose to return to the Siglo Swellow to try their luck again after a safer rest.
Their attempt to resume their search the following morning had thus far been just as fruitless. Unfortunately the Fraxure seemed to be less familiar with the neighborhood than his words let on, especially when entering the district from the bluffs and not the docks.
"Pladur, what direction was that guild again? We couldn't find it last night, and we've been wandering around in this place for about an hour now!" Kiran squawked.
The Fraxure hesitated with answering, before his son interrupted with a tug at his father's shoulder and a question of his own.
"Dad… are we lost?" Crom prodded.
"I- I know it's supposed to be around here somewhere… I know it's in a group of buildings right along the sea," Pladur murmured as he scanned his surroundings puzzledly.
"Then why aren't we walking by the water?" Ander asked skeptically.
"Because that's where all the pirate crews hang out! You don't want to get too close to any of them!" Pladur quickly countered before pointing a claw off down past some ramshackle shops. "Uh… pretty sure it was this way!"
The three sighed and followed after the Fraxure down a lane lined with seedy-looking shops. Now that they walked through Andaku during the day, they noticed how much of a contrast the district was from the rest of Aisle Town. The buildings in this district were noticeably gaudier than the ones they had seen in the rest of the town, and their clientele was similarly more… 'colorful'. Even some of mundane shops had a noticeably rougher crowd, as a Ledian with a golden scarf ordering at a "sushi" stand was chatting up a rather gruff looking Pangoro with leaflets.
The group continued on until the Scyther of the bunch noticed the scarf design of the Ledian looked awfully familiar… and then quickly pushed his teammates down a back alley.
"Gwark! Ander?! What's the big idea?!" Kiran demanded. "This is 60% rougher than you need to be to get us to go someplace!"
"Más bajo!" the mantis hissed. "You'll give us away!"
The four Pokémon watched as the Ledian flicked out his elytra and flew off, the unmistakable Aggron-head pattern of the Iron Fleet on the scarf around his neck.
"Those pirates who raided the town are here as well," the Scyther buzzed. "And the last thing we need is for one of them to recognize us."
The young Druddigon paused, gears turning in his head as he realized how close they all had come to a nasty encounter.
"Right, we'll be more careful-" Crom began, only to be cut off by a sudden chirp.
"Pladur? Didn't you say that the guild was a group of buildings by the sea with a canvas-covered courtyard?" Kiran asked, before gesturing ahead and to the right. "Like that one over there?"
The team poked their heads around a corner, where sure enough, there was a collection of stilted shacks by the sea with canvas roofing over a corner. Pladur's eyes lit up immediately at the sight of the sorry collection of shanties, as he recognized them from his prior time in port.
"Ah!" He cried. "That's it, come on!"
The four hurried along the lane and ducked down the entrance of the seaside guild into a courtyard that had been dimly lit by candles in jars. The courtyard was still mostly empty due to the early hour, but even so, a few scruffy and shifty-looking characters roamed about. There was a Zubat and Stunky who chattered about a team that had come back soaked after failed attempt to drill through a ship hull. Over in a corner, a Lucario audibly fumed about comrades who took the fact that local Pokémon were exempted from the three-day limit on visitation in Andaku as an excuse to leave him behind. Crom chanced to look down a gap in the wooden planks and into the water below, which revealed a Tentacruel with a white and red scarf passing by, muttering about 'what's taking the captain so long?'…
"I'm telling you, Eeden, we need to lay low for a while! Those square-necks have been coming around and asking questions ever since we got Valatos and his buddies out of the dungeon!"
In addition, there was a Drowzee and Beheeyem by a mission board, who both looked unsettled and deeply agitated.
"Yeah, well whose fault is that, Zamora? I say you'll look more suspicious if you bolt!" the Drowzee shot back. "Really, this wouldn't have been a problem in the first place if you didn't let that accursed dragonfly and the rest of those dweebs arm-twist you!"
Wait a minute, dragonfly? 'Valatos'? Then...
"Ack! Those two know the Pokémon that ran into Pleo earlier!" Crom exclaimed, pointing a claw off at Zamora and Eeden.
The Druddigon's shout caused several Pokémon nearby to turn to see what the ruckus was all about, only to see a party of four Company grunts and two startled-looking Psychic-Types. The two teleporters blanched and then soon closed their eyes and started making the sweeping motions of a teleport…
"Wait! Wait!" Pladur cried out. "You met a 'mon called 'Valatos,' right? Do you know where we can find him or the Pokémon with him?"
The two Psychics abruptly froze and turned to each other, blinking incredulously. Their expressions notably relaxed, as if a great weight had been removed from both their shoulders before Zamora began to speak back.
"Oh! You just wanted to know about them," the Beheeyem said, sighing out of relief. "And here I thought you were here to-"
The Beheeyem was cut off with a yelp as an unseen force knocked him down against the ground. Crom and his companions whirled their heads just in time to see a glow fade from the Beheeyem and his Drowzee companion, clearly displeased at the Cerebral Pokémon's talkativeness.
"Shut up, Zamora!" The Drowzee growled, before turning to the four lavender-scarved Pokémon. "Look, I don't know what your game is, but there's no way-"
"We'll give you immunity for whatever you two have been up to if you tell us where to find these Pokémon," Ander cut in. Almost immediately, the Drowzee's demeanor became more amicable, as he hastily amended his words.
"Er… that we wouldn't tell you where to find them!" he chuckled. As the tension thinned, the prying eyes of the other Pokémon in the courtyard shifted away and back to their various busywork, leaving the Drowzee to grunt and then pry a bit into his interrogators.
"So, what is it you need from them?"
Ander opened his mouth only to freeze and blanch. The mantis had been in such a hurry to find out where Valatos and his friends were that he hadn't thought through an excuse as to why they were looking for them! The Bug-Type stammered and fumbled with his words, only for Crom to come to his aid with a hasty interjection.
"Uh, well," Crom began. "They're in big trouble because, er…"
"They've been withholding evidence! Evidence about a witness for a trial!" Kiran interjected. "So we need them to cough it up!"
"Wait, those three helped with legal proceedings?" Eeden asked. "I thought all they did was shove crates ar-"
"Eeden, not now!" Zamora hissed. "Look, if you're looking for Valatos and his friends, you might as well try out that dump of a bar they like hanging out at. It's called 'bokuya or something like that."
"Ryūbokuya," the Drowzee corrected. "It's a little ways inland and to the north from here. You'll know as soon as you see it, like its name it's pretty much a lump of driftwood."
The two were answered by an agitated buzz, as Ander raised a scythe and pointed it accusingly at the two Psychic-Types.
"N-Now hold on here!" Ander interrupted. "What sort of lead is that?! What are we supposed to do if we head to the bar and Valatos and the Pokémon with him are already gone?"
There was a noticeable pause as the two Psychic-Types traded looks with each other, before turning back to their questioners and quickly attempting to wave away their fears.
"Well, that barkeep over there has a bit of an axe to grind against them," the Beheeyem explained. "And he is a bit of a neutral type, so if you wanted to say, pass on a bounty…"
"A bounty?" Pladur murmured. "He wouldn't happen to be able to take in other ones, would he?"
"I mean, if you make it worth his while, sure," Eeden said. "Though not sure who else you'd need to get at those backstabbing dimwits…"
"That's confidential," Kiran replied. "But thanks for the tip, we'll make sure it's worth your while."
The four turned and made their way out of the ramshackle guild complex. Crom briefly looked back and saw relieved expressions on the two teleporters' faces, which made the little dragon grow uneasy and turn a wary eye to his father.
"Do you think we can trust them?" Crom asked.
"We don't have any other leads right now," Pladur answered, shaking his head. "I think it's as good a shot as any."
The four trudged on, vanishing down the winding alleys of Andaku in their search of this 'bokuya', looking here and there for the 'pile of driftwood' the teleporters spoke of.
Outside Mengir's Mystery Dungeon, the foggy approach was its normal, eerily quiet self with branches and leaves swaying in gentle breezes. This all changed when suddenly, a bright white flash appeared, depositing the forms of a Lugia, a Nidoran, a Growlithe, and a Cubone onto the ground. Once the burst of light faded, Pleo flopped forward against the ground, panting. As his senses began to attune to their surroundings, Pleo slowly began to piece together that the Escape Orb had deposited him in front of the misty entrance to the dungeon.
The place was eerily silent, with the only companions being the mist, the jagged rock formations that formed the spires in between the dungeon... and of course the unconscious forms of a Nidoran, a Growlithe, and a Cubone up ahead.
"A-Aah! Nida! Elty! Guardia!"
The young Lugia tried to beat his wings and fly over, only to wince and gasp as he felt pain shoot through his left wing. The bird uneasily pulled his wounded wing back to his side, and darted along to the prone bodies ahead.
"G-Guys? W-Wake up," he pleaded, nosing at the unconscious Pokémon. "We're out of the dungeon now, we can go back…"
No matter how he pushed or pecked at them, there didn't seem to be any reaction from any of his friends. Pleo began to grow uneasy as he started to realize that his friends were surely badly hurt- Wait a minute! He had something that could help them!
"H-Hang on!" he chirped. "I'll- I'll heal you, and then you'll be all better!"
The Lugia searched through Nida's bag, and came across an Oran Berry. After some clumsy attempts at peeling away the rind, the little Protector remembered that Crom had just eaten them in the past.
Pleo quickly stuffed the berry into Nida's mouth, waiting for her to bite down on the berry… except she never did. The berry just flopped out, with a faint coating of spittle attached. The bird tried moving the berry over to Elty's mouth, and then to Guardia's, but none of them seemed to get any better.
Wh-Why hadn't it done anything?! Wh-Why hadn't the berry made any of them better like in the past times when the team was hurt?! The little Guardian then remembered that Guardia had said that Pokémon became 'dead' when they were hurt very badly… What had Elty said about being 'dead' again?
Your body couldn't move, couldn't talk back...
D-Did this mean that…? Nida… Elty… Guardia… They were all...
"N-No! You can't be 'dead'! You can't!" Pleo cried. The little bird futilely tried to rouse his teammates, as his fears began to mount and tears started to well in his eyes. "W-We were gonna go home together! We- We were-"
The Lugia's voice hitched as he began to sob. He tried to save them! Why weren't they fine now? He was supposed to be a Protector... but he failed at protecting them… If he wasn't a Protector... what was he then? And what would he do without his friends?
Pleo quickly turned around upon hearing a squawking voice behind him. In the distance he could see the shape of a large, metallic bird flying towards him, the light of the lowering sun reflecting of his metal feathers. This was a 'Skarmory', like the one Nida was afraid of the other day…
Wait a minute, this was the Skarmory Nida was afraid of the other day! The one who was the 'Warrior of Life'!
"Thank gods I ran into you before you-" the Skarmory began, only to clamp his beak shut as he noticed "Wait, what happened to your friends?"
"T-Those bug thingies!" Pleo sniffled. "They attacked, and now Nida, Elty and Guardia t-they're d-d-dea..."
"Calmo! Calmo!" The Steel-Type reassured, before gesturing at the fallen Pokémon. "Nobody's dead yet! Your friends are still breathing, don't you see their chests rising and falling?"
Pleo turned and saw that true enough, his teammates' were still breathing, if barely. So- So they weren't dead! Then that meant…
"Then- Then they can get better?!" he cried. Trizano nodded before giving the young Lugia a reassuring pat with one of his wings.
"They should, but it looks like they've been hurt rather badly," the Skarmory answered. "Can you fly, little one?"
Pleo looked uneasily at his left wing, and attempted to bat it out to take flight. The little Protector grimaced as his wing began to throb, but still stubbornly hopped up and beat his wings. The Lugia gave a few beats, before the pain overcame him and caused him to cry out, tumbling to the ground with a pained squawk as Trizano fluttered over.
"It's alright! It's alright! Don't force a bad wing!" the Steel-Type squawked as he inspected Pleo's wounded wing. "Hopefully it's just a sprain, but I think it's probably safest to try and walk back."
The Steel-Type looked at Pleo's unconscious teammates. "We'll have to carry them," he determined, before he set off for Nida and began to hoist her limp body onto his shoulders.
"Looks like you're not in good shape yourself," Trizano muttered as he slung Elty and then Guardia one by one onto his back. "What happened earlier?"
"We were doing our mission when we came to this stable zone full of trees and paintings," Pleo explained. "Then all these Pokémon came and hurt us like this!"
Trizano paused as he stooped to grab Guardia's bone from the ground. So Administrator Darzin's trap had caught the children up...
"Ah, I see… but then how did you all get away?" the Skarmory asked.
"Well, I remember there being a glow, and then when I beat my wings, all of the mean bugs got blown back," Pleo answered. "Then I took the the Escape Orb from Nida's bag and-"
Pleo noticed that the Skarmory had abruptly stopped in his tracks and beaten his wings out in surprise. The creature tilted his head, with a wide-eyed curiosity as if he had just heard Pleo say that the Travellers were falling from the sky.
"Did- Did I say something wrong?" the little Lugia murmured, only to be answered with a wing spread over his right shoulder.
"... Don't worry about it, little one," the Skarmory reassured. "Let's just get you and your friends patched up for now."
As the two limped off down the path back to Fensedge, Trizano pondered what he had just observed. This Pokémon had to be something special...
The kind of special that he knew, from personal experience, would need a guarding eye to see him out of this Pyroar's den.
Back on Kenobi, while Crom and his peers from the Siglo Swellow looked around for this 'bokuya, other ne'er-do-wells were busy going about their routines in port. One of those was the Ledian the group noticed earlier, still wearing the familiar gold and silver patterned scarf of the Iron Fleet. The beetle fluttered throughout Andaku, zipping here and there until he came near a stretch of sandy shoreline where some ships had been shoved ashore.
The Bug-Type landed on the beach and folded his wings behind his elytra before making his way down the beach for a large, two masted caravel with golden sails surrounded by a flurry of activity. There were crewmates hard at work swabbing the deck and repainting some scuffed sections of the ships' trim, others set about examining the hull for any signs of damage or rotted timbers. The bulk of the activity however, focused around the stump of a mast that was being torn out, with a small crew of Pokémon waiting impatiently with a new mast that had been 'borrowed' on short order from a local shipyard.
"Where have you been, Kichiro?!"
And of course the ship's captain was also there right behind him, thumping his tail impatiently and glaring at the Ledian. A rough looking Aggron wearing the same kind of golden scarf as most of the other Pokémon currently tending to the stricken Mistral Marauder's repairs, and clearly in a less-than-chipper mood.
"It's Keiichiro, and give this 'recruiting' thing a little time!" the Ledian buzzed back defensively. "I'm sure that something will turn up eventually once the rookies here forget about us pulling in with a missing mast… twice."
Hess growled and fumed at the Bug-Type's response, before stamping his feet angrily against the sand.
"Don't give me that, Kichiro! My ship needs more recruits than a solitary Hoppip and we need them today!" he bellowed. "It's the third day and not all of us have residence papers for this island to hide behind like you!"
The Aggron's shout drew the attention and quizzical stares of his laboring subordinates, including a Pawniard and a Voltorb who were hoisting several buckets of paint with ropes and pulleys up the ship.
"Eh? But it's only the second day!" the Pawniard protested. "We've only been here two days since we came back after that ocean clan broke the front mast again!"
"Wait, then why are we in such a rush?" the Voltorb added. "If we're allowed to stay here for three days in a row- Aaah!"
The duo were swiftly cut off by a number of rocks flung from under the sand, sending the pair tumbling along the beach along with the contents of the paint buckets. As the pair staggered up groaning and dripping pigment, the Aggron captain gave an irked stamp of his feet and glared at the Pokémon.
"Because we only get three days a month to work with, you morons!" Hess growled, before stomping back over in the direction of an increasingly-nervous-looking Ledian who was backpedaling along the sand.
"N-Now hold on here! Just what am I supposed to do, huh?!" Kichiro buzzed. "I can't just magically make potential recruits change their minds, and the last time this crew tried press-ganging anyone, it was a total debacle!"
"He does have a point there, captain," a Floatzel's voice added, its owner giving a sighing roll of his eyes at the whole exchange. Hess muttered under his breath, complaining about 'Couldn't you back me up this time, Rodion?' before turning back to the Bug-Type before him.
"I don't care what you do, Kichiro, just get me someone!" the Steel-Type demanded. "Or if you need something else to keep you busy, you can get started on scraping the ship's hull!"
Kichiro hastily darted off and took wing, buzzing up into the air and away from the beach. After losing his line of sight with the Aggron, the Bug-Type sighed, and came to a rest on a roof eave overlapping an alleyway.
"'I don't care what you do, Kichiro, just get me someone!' Bah, who does that useless debutcho think he is? He can't even get my name right!" the beetle angrily buzzed. "So what if I've been taking it a little easy? It's not like a recruit would just fall into my lap!"
"I don't believe this, how did we get rejected by the Strongjaw Gang?!"
The Ledian twitched his antennae and looked around after hearing a yipping voice from below. After a puzzled "Huh?" and failing to see any sign of Pokémon around him, Kichiro realized the conversation was coming from below. Down there he saw a Yanmega, a Manectric, and a Marowak in lavender scarves talking amongst each other in hushed tones
"We're tough enough to hold our own on a crew like that!" Alvise complained. "What gives?!"
"I told you we should've done something about these Company scarves," Nori muttered, shaking his head.
"Well what are we supposed to do, huh?" Valatos snapped. "Administrator Farn's out for our heads, and the moment we get caught by another Company grunt, we're through!"
Wasn't that the group that had been hogging the stools at Ryūbokuya a couple nights ago? What were they doing here? Kichiro paused and flicked his antennae as a devious smirk began to spread over his face with a dawning realization...
Maybe he had gotten some recruits that had fallen into his lap. And the Garagara in particular would surely be just the sort that Hess needed after shoving him around like that earlier!
"Oi, you three down there!" the Ledian cried.
"G-Gih!" Alvise gulped. The three whirled their heads up to see the eavesdropping Bug-Type from above, who cheerily waved and carried on.
"You're looking to join a crew, right?"
The three blinked and began to shoot incredulous looks at one another, wondering all the while what this strange Pokémon wanted from them.
"Er… yeah? Why?" Valatos asked.
"Funny thing, because my crew's actually in need of some extra hands right now," Kichiro answered, before fluttering down into the alleyway. As soon as the Ledian landed, Valatos quickly pulled his friends aside to discuss what they should do here. After some hastily-whispered strategizing, the three decided to press further on Kichiro's offer, the Marowak of the group leading the charge.
"Wait, what crew is that?" Nori asked.
"The Iron Fleet," Kichiro chittered back, adding a pair of emphatic punches with his right arms into the air. "The gold-threaded crew with fists of iron!"
"Wait, the Iron Fleet?" Alvise muttered. "Weren't those the losers that pulled in with the missing ma- Ow!"
Before the Manectric could continue he was cut off by a sharp gust from his Yanmega teammate. The dragonfly irkedly shook his head, and turned back to address Kichiro.
"As Alvise here was saying, we'd be thrilled to come aboard," Valatos hastily interjected. "Really, it's quite the lucky draw for both of us, we were looking for a change of pace."
"Oh, I know," Kichiro said. "And the Captain has been looking forward to getting a crewmate just like your friend there."
The beetle adamantly pointed out the Marowak of the three, a wide, somewhat unsettling grin starting to creep across his face. Valatos and his companions blinked and traded looks with each other, before Nori cleared his throat and tried to respond.
"Er… like me? What do you mean by that?" Nori replied. "And what's with that grin on your face?"
After shooing Kichiro off, the repairs of the Mistral Marauder had finally wrapped up, and the process of bringing the ship back into the water started. The Iron Fleet's more terrestrial members shoved the ship from the bow along with their captain, while the sea escorts tugged from the water. Except, as Hess' panting and labored breaths evidenced, something about today's pushoff seemed more tiring than normal...
"Hah, hah… what are those swimmers doing?! It's never this much work pushing the ship back into the surf!"
"I'm telling you, we need to put more backbone into this!" a Seadra's voice cried. The seahorse's call was answered with a snorting "some of us don't have backbones!" along an indistinct mass of squabbling.
The muddy sound of the voices chattering off ahead reached the Aggron's ears, which prompted him to leave his place at the bow. The Steel-Type ignored the protesting grumbles from some nearby lackeys as he paced over towards the water.
There, he saw the bulk of his sea escorts squabbling with one another. Their group was split into two camps: one who weren't tugging at their tow ropes… and another one that also was not tugging at their tow ropes and berating the others for not helping.
"You know what I meant!" the Seadra huffed. "If the Captain finds out about this, we're in for a world of hurt!"
"Relax, the ship is barely out of the water anyway!" an Octillery answered back, "No point in wearing ourselves out this early in the game!"
Suddenly, the Seadra and the other Pokémon gathered around the octopus went wide-eyed, and began to dart off in the water in a hurry. The Octillery looked around, puzzled at his colleagues' sudden change of demeanor...
"Uh... why are you all swimming aw- Argh!"
A change that was quickly felt after the octopus was swept up in a sudden wave, which drew a few yelps from some other unfortunates that had not swum out of its path in time. One by one, the sea Pokémon turned and came face to face with the culprit, the glaring form of their captain, lurking in the water.
"Get back to work!"
The sea escorts hastily went back to their tow ropes, and even invertebrate Pokémon such as the now-bruised Octillery discovered that they indeed had a newfound backbone for their work. The ship tugged along a bit quicker now, as Hess left the water, still dripping along the beach sand as he made his way back to the ship's bow, growling all the while.
"The things I have to put up with from this crew..."
"Captain, I'm back! And I've got some recruits!"
The Aggron paused after hearing a Ledian's chittering voice. That must be Kichiro, and it sounded like all he needed to do his job properly was a good kick in the rear.
"Hrmph, about time!" he grunted. "Let's see who we've-"
Hess turned back, and saw that waiting for him was the expected Ledian, along with a Yanmega, a Manectric… and a Marowak. The Aggron and the three Company Pokémon went wide-eyed and stumbled back, recoiling from each other as a mutual cry filled the air.
"A-AAAH! You again!"
The four Pokémon traded incredulous glances with each other, until finally, after gulping and shaking his head, Hess turned his attention to a bemused-looking Ledian. The Steel-Type attempted a bellowing roar, only for it to come out instead as a whining squeak.
"Ki-Kichiro?!" he demanded. "Wh-What is the meaning of this?!"
"Well, you said that you needed new recruits, right?" the Bug-Type answered, crossing his arms with a smug, satisfied smile. "Whelp, I got us a better batch than we've seen in ages!"
While the beetle and his captain began to argue heatedly with each other, Nori uneasily fidgeted around with his bone as the Aggron seemed all too familiar to him..
"Valatos," the Marowak whispered. "This is that 'mon who was glaring at me the other-"
"Nori, shut up!" the dragonfly hissed, before dusting his exoskeleton's segments off and flitting up to the golden-scarved Aggron. "Aherm, as your friend was saying… we've seen our share of action on the seas before."
"Yeah, so you won't be going wrong taking us aboard!" Alvise chimed in. Valatos gave a strong beat of his wings as his partners puffed their chests a bit, hoping to make a positive impression on this… unexpected potential employer.
"N-No way! I don't need the likes of you on my crew! Take a hike!"
Only for their confident expressions to melt into wide-eyed panic as the Aggron shot back with a stammering rejection.
"Oh, but didn't you say you needed more recruits than just a Hoppip by today, Captain?" Kichiro demanded. "Are we really going to shut them out when the only other recruit we've gotten was that loser Wilhelm?"
"Hey! I'm right here!" a Hoppip protested. Some other murmurs started going around the gathered crew such as "is he daft?" and "he can't be serious about turning away help, right?" Hess bit his tongue as he realized that no, he couldn't very well turn away help in front of his crew for no reason, but even so...
"Rgh… I'll take the bug and the wolf," he conceded. "I'm not taking that lizard on board though-!"
"Um, Hess? Need I remind you that we'd still be around ten heads short from our losses back on Tromba?" Rodion interrupted, tapping at the armored lizard's flank for attention. "I mean, the extra strength offsets that a bit, but still."
The Aggron's eyes went wide and he gritted his teeth uneasily as he realized that these newcomers had put him into a bind with his crew. One which his Ledian subordinate was all too keen to spell out.
"So, as you can see Captain," Kichiro continued, a smug, satisfied look creeping over the creature's face. "Like Rodion pointed out, it looks like we're not in any shape to be turning down any extra hands, doesn't it?"
Hess shot a piercing glare at the Ledian, growling and grinding his teeth. That miserable bug knew that those awful bone lizards made him nervous, and had done this on purpose! How could he?! That ungrateful louse-!
Hess recoiled as he felt a Marowak's bone prodding at him, which made him jump and backpedal against the side of his ship. After looking down, the Aggron saw Nori waiting, curiously tilting his head a short distance away.
"So, uh… we're on, right?" The Ground-Type asked.
Hess looked around, and became acutely aware that everyone around him was staring at him, with a few snickers starting to go about. There wasn't really a good excuse for rejecting the little monster in front of him… let alone one that wouldn't make him sound pathetic in front of his crew. The Aggron closed his eyes, shook his head, and resigned himself to the fact that he would be stuck with this Marowak until he could find a convenient raid to be rid of him.
"Ugh… fine, you're on," Hess groaned, putting a claw over his face.
Valatos, Alvise, and Nori collectively exhaled a sigh of relief. After all this digging and searching, they finally got a way off this accursed island... and even a way back into the old business! …
Sort of. But those details could be sweated later, and any port in a storm would do for now...
"Right, so… looks like we're pushing a ship out?" Valatos asked.
"Yeah, we can do that!" Alvise added.
"We'll finish that later, I need a break," Hess said, quickly making his way up the beach before turning back to his crew from a safely distant spot. "And a nice, stiff drink at Shuho's…"
The mention of 'Shuho' instantly electrified the Steel-Type's crew, as cheers and whoops broke out among the gathered golden-scarved Pokémon.
"Woo hoo! Break time!"
"Dibs on the counter stool at 'bokuya!"
"I call the corner booth!"
Hess screwed his eyes shut and shook his head before shuffling off for the crew's haunt, most of the other members of the Iron Fleet eagerly following after their captain. Valatos and his friends stayed behind as Rodion passed the trio a set of new, golden-threaded scarves from his satchel. After a quick 'Welcome to the team' the first mate followed after his captain, leaving three newly-minted recruits behind on the beach to slip into more appropriate attire.
As the three set to work replacing their Company garb, the crowd of crewmates thinned down to a handful of sea escorts who didn´t feel like making the trip on land. The beach settled down as the Aggron and his mob of cronies slipped off, emboldening the three to begin to chatter about their new superior.
"I think the new boss doesn't like you, Nori," Alvise said.
"Gee, you think?" the Marowak grumbled, putting a claw over his face.
"Mrph, whatever," Valatos buzzed. "We've got our way out of here, let's just go get that drink."
The three finished tying up their scarves, leaving Nori to grab and ball up the group's Company lavenders and stuff them into their bag. The Yanmega and his comrades then set off after the Iron Fleet. There would be safety in numbers if other guards came for them, and besides, after such a long day, the lot of them could stand for a well-deserved drink at 'bokuya.
Back in Mengir, Pleo had managed to make his way to the medic's hut in Fensedge Village along with the Skarmory who had aided him. The little bird and his unconscious teammates were quickly whisked to a windowed room on the second floor where berries and bandages were applied, and a Luxio carefully examined each of the four members of Team Traveller, going on about "doesn't look like anything's broken".
After a while, things began to die down as Nida, Elty, and Guardia's bandaged forms were moved into freshly prepared bedding, and the Electric-Type applied the last few bandages to Pleo's wounded wing.
"You've all gotten roughed up a bit more than normal," the medic murmured. "But I don't see any wounds that can't be fixed by a few days of bed rest."
The corners of Pleo's mouth lifted, and hope returned to his eyes at the Luxio's words… Then… did that mean?
"Th-They'll be alright?" the Lugia asked.
"If they don't exert themselves. And that includes you, little bird," the Luxio instructed. "Your wounds might be less severe than your friends', but I don't want you stressing yourself if you can help it. Do you hear me?"
Pleo looked at his now-bandaged left wing and reluctantly nodded, it wasn't like he wanted to make his wing hurt more…
The lion made his way past the doorway, where after a few indistinct words outside, the metal-feathered form of a Skarmory came into the room. Trizano sidled up against the young Lugia's form and ruffled his feathers before speaking to the little bird.
"You and your friends really ought to be more careful next time," Trizano sighed. "That mission of yours wasn't something that a band of rookies like you should've accepted."
"It… wasn't?" Pleo asked.
"No, and I'm not sure who put it in your heads it was a good idea to head into feral grounds on this island," the Skarmory squawked, shaking his head indignantly. "It was quite irresponsible of him!"
It… was? But if this mission was that dangerous, why didn't Salvini tell them? She just wanted to help her friend!
... didn't she?
"But- But Salvini said that it was to help the town fix their shrine!" Pleo cried.
The Lugia's outburst made the Steel-Type jerk his head back and ruffle his feathers uneasily. The little Protector nosed with his beak at a satchel that rested on the back of a softly breathing Nidoran, which made Trizano pause and blink uneasily as he realized there was another explanation for how Team Traveller could have been duped...
Could it be that Darzin and the Company's scheming had exploited the goodwill of a bunch of unwitting pawns?
"She said it meant a lot to her friend…" Pleo murmured, his head beginning to droop. "We even got all the pictures…"
"What pictures?" Trizano pressed. Pleo paced over uneasily and stuck his beak into Nida's bag, fishing out the rubbings they had taken along with the team's mission listing and placed them on the floor.
"These ones," he answered. "The ones we got for our mission…"
Pleo's eyes widened and his expression sank as he realized that if he were to stay in bed like the Luxio wanted him to… then they'd never be able to get their mission done! Unless...
"W-Wait! Could- Could you help deliver it for us?" Pleo asked.
Trizano cocked a brow and raised a wing in protest, only to see the white bird's pleading gaze. Now that he thought about it… if he were to have the listing delivered now it would be safer to do it in person…
And the guild wasn't that far away...
"It's not that much of a hassle. Just take it easy for now, okay?" the Skarmory reassured, giving a soft pat at Pleo's head. "I'll come back afterward to keep an eye on you and your friends until you get back on your wings."
The young Protector's anxieties eased a bit, and he settled down into his bedding. While it was comforting to hear that Trizano would be there to help for a little while, something nagged at him about the matter...
Trizano paused a moment, and seemed to be ready to say something only to close his beak. After shaking his head, the creature sported a small, reassuring smile on the corners of his mouth, and gave a reassuring wave of his wings.
"I suppose you could say it's because I sensed that you're a bit like me," the Skarmory said. "That we both have something a bit different than normal about ourselves."
Pleo blinked and tilted his head curiously. Something… different about themselves? The little Lugia wondered if perhaps the Skarmory knew about his nature, but then if he did…
What was different than normal about him? Was he also a Protector?
"Er… thank you," Pleo replied. "But, I don't really understand-"
Pleo's words were cut off by a weak groan and the sound of stirring. The two birds turned, and saw that Nida was shifting, her little red eyes starting to open.
"Ah! Nida! Nida! You're awake! You're awake!" Pleo chirped excitedly. Trizano for his part sized up the little Poison-Type, and after pausing in thought, turned to the little Protector.
"I'll explain another time, but it looks like I should get going for now," the Skarmory answered, before shaking a feather loose onto the ground. "Ciao, little one. Though do explain the calling card before I come back, alright?"
Before Pleo could squawk in protest, the Skarmory hopped along and quickly ducked out of the room just as Nida started to open her eyes. Trizano hastily slipped into the hallway, but not fast enough for the Nidoran to miss the glimpse of something metal passing by the door and go wide-eyed.
"H-Huh?!" the Nidoran squeaked, jolting up with a start. "Pleo, who was that?!"
"Oh? It was Trizano!" Pleo said. "The Skarmory that helped us all get here!"
"The- The what?" Nida exclaimed. The Poison-Type looked ahead and saw that on the floor was the unmistakable, jagged plume of a Skarmory resting on the ground. A- A Skarmory helped them?
"He was really nice and everything! He even said that he'd be keeping an eye on us!" Pleo replied. "But… I don't know why he left so suddenly…"
Nida stared ahead blankly at the feather, trying to make sense of Pleo's words. Before she could think about it for too long, her train of thought was disrupted by the tired groans of a nearby Growlithe and Cubone.
"Urgh, keep it down, you two…"
"Yeah, the noise isn't helping this killer headache…"
Their teammates had roused as well, making for a complete, if sorry-looking team of sore and battered Pokémon once more. As Elty and Guardia chattered on about idle nothings trying to piece together what had happened, the Nidoran shifted and turned to Pleo, folding her ears back uneasily.
"Pleo, I don't know if that was a good idea," she said.
"Huh?" Pleo asked. "Why not?"
"B-Because you don't know if you can trust him!" she cried out. "What if he comes back to hurt us while we're still weak?!"
"But he helped us, Nida!" Pleo squawked. "Why would he hurt us?!"
A dead silence fell over the room as Nida and Pleo traded fixed, uneasy gazes with each other. Guardia and Elty looked at each other, before turning their attention to their teammates.
"Eh? What are you two going on about?" the Cubone asked.
"Yeah, I think I'm a little lost here-" Elty added, only to freeze and flare his ears as the sounds of heavy footsteps and a commotion in the hallway broke out.
The sounds lead up to the entrance of the room, where a Leafeon with a Company scarf and the telltale blotch of a Marked burst in growling.
"Alright, pirate scum!" the fox exclaimed. "You're under ar-ah-ahh-"
The Grass-Type's eyes widened in terror and her fur bristled, her words coming out as incoherent stammers. The fox backpedaled a few steps at the sight of the white bird in the room, before turning and bolting for the door with a frightened whine, headlong into a group of three lavender-scarved Pokémon.
The Leafeon bowled the Company Pokémon over, sending them tumbling over one another into the room in a rough pile, drawing a chorus of yelps and cries.
"Phyllis, kakvo pravish?! You're supposed to run towards them!"
"Agh… my nose…"
"H-Huh?! What's-?!" Pleo squawked. As he sized up the groaning Company Pokémon who were getting back up from the floor, he noticed that among them was none other than Salvini.
"S-Salvini?! Wh-What's going on here?!"
The Protector noticed that Nida and Elty's fur was standing on end, and that Guardia was grabbing for her club. As the lot of them attempted to stumble out of their bedding, the sound of heavy, lumbering footsteps coming into the room made the four freeze and go wide-eyed.
"Sit down!" a voice interrupted. After looking up, the four saw that the hulking form of an Armaldo entering the room. The anomalocaris made his way over to the increasingly pallid members of Team Traveller, before giving a satisfied smirk.
"To answer your question, little bird. They're here to put an end to your little adventure."
- (¡)Esperen un momento! - Spanish: "Wait a moment!"
- Trzymaj się! - Polish: "Hang in there!", can also be used as an expression analogous to "Take care"
- kirlivi paraziti (кирливи паразити) - Bulgarian: "filthy parasites" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)
- (¡)Más bajo! - Spanish: "Keep it down!", lit. "more low"
- Calmo! - Italian: "Calm down!", "Take it easy!"
- debutcho (でぶっちょ) - Japanese: "fatty" (Hepburn Romanization)
- kakvo pravish?! (Какво правиш?!) - Bulgarian: "What are you doing?!" (BGN/PCGN 2013 Romanization)